First Light: A Tribute to Alan Garner


I imagine you’re all heartily sick of my going on about my new book (that is, Late Checkout, out on the 9 June), so I thought, for the first time in a while, I’d post something that has nothing to do with crime fiction.

A few months back, I did my tiny bit to support the publication of a new Unbound book, First Light, a tribute to the writer Alan Garner, edited by Erica Wagner and featuring an extraordinary range of contributions.  Garner’s always occupied a special place in my literary heart, and it’s clear from the book that an awful lot of people feel the same. His books offer something unique in English literature.

Like most Garner enthusiasts, I first came across his early books as a child. His first book, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, is undoubtedly flawed (he describes it as an ‘apprentice work’) but its power is undeniable. Its successor, The Moon of Gomrath, is even more remarkable—I’d forgotten quite how remarkable until I came to re-read it to my own children, who became lost in the same magic that had gripped me thirty or more years before. Each book after that, up to the most recent Boneland, has demonstrated a continuing progression in skill and ambition which again seems unprecedented in English writers.

First Light is, perhaps against the odds, a worthy tribute. This kind of book is usually a mixed bag of the excellent and the ‘will this do?’ mediocre. But clearly Garner inspires the same excellence in his fans as he demands of his own work. The contributors range from writers clearly influenced by Garner’s work—Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman—through to those who’ve been sucked into the orbit of Garner’s wider enthusiasms and interests, such as archeologists, astronomers and historians. But, for me, almost every contribution offered a new insight into Garner’s distinctive genius.

I’ll probably write more on here about Garner, because reading First Light has prompted a number of thoughts about his books, but for the moment I’ll just recommend that you get hold of a copy of First Light yourself. If you’re a Garner enthusiast, you’ll want to read it. If you aren’t (yet), the book may well help turn you into one.


Murrain’s Truth

It’s less than a month now till LATE CHECKOUT is published. In the meantime, I thought I’d give you the chance to get to know DCI Kenny Murrain and some of his colleagues. So in the next couple of days I’ll be publishing a small collection of short stories about Murrain under the slightly ambiguous title of MURRAIN’S TRUTH.

Here’s the terrific cover again designed by those excellent people at Books Covered. If you’d like a brief sample, go here.


‘Late Checkout’ now available for pre-order

Well, the exciting news (for me, anyway) is that Late Checkout is now available for pre-order in advance of the official publication date of 9th June.

Here’s the blurb…

            “DCI Kenny Murrain sees, hears and feels things that others do not. It’s a gift but also a curse.

            When he wakes to the phantom sound of screaming he knows a murder has been committed but not where or why.

            Then a woman’s body is found in a Stockport hotel room. It’s a murder that seems both frenzied and carefully planned, the scene expertly cleansed of any evidence.

            Over the following days, more bodies are discovered, first in an upmarket spa on the Pennine moors, then in a run-down budget hotel on the outskirts of Manchester.

The same frenzied attacks, the same meticulous planning. The same killer.

            The victims all have links to one man, a police colleague with a dark past. But Murrain discovers a more unexpected connection—with Marie Donovan, a former undercover officer now part of Murrain’s own team.  

            As the killer closes in on a fourth victim, Murrain knows that time is running out. But the outcome will be more unexpected and more terrifying than even he can imagine…”

The book’s the start of a new series featuring DCI Kenny Murrain and a diverse support cast.  But Marie Donovan, the heroine of my previous Alex Walters books, plays a central role in the story and will be a continuing character in the series.  If you want to catch up with Marie’s back-story, the first two Marie Donovan books are both available – and currently at a decent bargain price on Kindle.  You can find them here and here.