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In a long ago and far away time, before the internet changed the world, I joined a writing folio called SCRIBO. Having been allocated a place in a portfolio, about eight of us submitted a chapter each, posted it on and received feedback from the rest of the group. Debate was lively, informative and sometimes a tad controversial! And I think for most of us it was the first time we’d either given or received an opinion of our work from our peers.

 SCRIBO had a number of portfolio groups and thought I don’t know what happened to most of the writers, our group did score quite a bit of success. I turned to a life of Crime, my friend Stuart Hill now writes YA fantasy  (The Icemark Series), David Amerland write books on SEO, marketing and other techie subjects…… and then there’s Gary William Murning and he’s a bit harder to categorise.

Gary writes slippery books. Just when you think you’ve figured out where he belongs, into what little box you might be able to post him, he changes direction and you’re lost again.

I suppose, if I’m going to assign a label, I’d call him a Literary Writer, in part because of his style, but also because of the way he makes so free with property usually claimed by other genre.

Now, let’s be clear. I hate the snobbery that surrounds this Literary/Other genre divide ( and it cuts both ways; writers of popular genre can be just as guilty). I don’t believe that so called ‘Literary’ writing rises above all other genre in that kind of aspirational way some critics would have us believe, but what I do find interesting is the freedom the Literary novelist has to borrow from all the rest, to use the tropes and memes and expectations of whatever genre they choose and throw them into the pot. This is pretty much what Gary does.

Gary’s books are hard to categorise. His first, published by Legend was ‘If I Never’. It focuses on a dangerously dysfunctional relationship, which is both horrifying and involving to watch as it unfolds, develops and shifts. It is also darkly funny, multi layered and kind of epic in a weird way.

Having achieved conventional publication he decided that he’d go it alone and founded GWM Publications. The response from publishers with his follow up book had been ‘love your book; have no idea what to do with it’ so in many ways this was a wise move. The next book was Children of the Resolution and was based loosely on Gary’s own experiences of disability, labelling and educational reforms – though that makes it sound dull, and it’s not. Uncomfortable at times, funny, outrageous and often very moving, it is a book that challenges us all to question what we really think and feel, not just about disability but also how and where any of us fit into the world.

 The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts is a hymn of praise to the horror genre – before it became schlocky. In my opinion there are influences of early Stephen King, it is possessed of that same cool, calm, detached tone that creeps into your unconsciousness – until you suddenly realise you are actually just a tad scared and would quite like to put the lights on…but that would mean leaving the safety of your chair and crossing the room.

And then there’s The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost. I’ve got to admit I read this with extreme nervousness. The premise looked too saccharine sweet to work; I was sure that I was going to hate the smaltzy, romantic heart of it. And it is sweet and it is sad and romantic, but it’s also funny, unexpected and challenging….and I wanted to slap Bob more than once (and I’m not really given to violence, despite the sort of thing I write about.)

Lorna is a book about loss and memory and love and redemption – to use an overused and clichéd word. Love really does conquer all, but does so with grace and style and sex and humour and in the end subverts not just the readers’ expectations, but Lorna’s too. I’ll be writing in more depth about Lorna soon – and interviewing the author here, on the blog, just before the book is published. The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost will be published in early October and I think Gary’s many fans will be very happy.

Gary and I once tried to collaborate on a novel – or was it a screen play…. that was half the problem, we couldn’t quite decide which way we wanted to go and so developed both at once. The other half of the problem was that we were having far too much fun – ‘can’t we have just one more werewolf. Surely another one can’t hurt. Or a hovercraft; you don’t get many of those in London…’

Ok, so I’m lying about the hovercraft, but that was the flavour of the conversations we were indulging in.

Actually, what we did manage to produce reads well and I now don’t have the slightest idea who wrote what because the deal was, we wrote 300 odd words (often very odd words), the other person edited it and then carried on. – and we were not allowed to object to the editing.

It was fun, but if we ever get back to it, I think we’ll need an external editor, armed with a Big Red Pen – and probably a whip and a chair to keep the pair of us in order.

 That wasn’t the only daft idea we had. Misguidedly, we once thought it would be a good idea to start a small press magazine…that resolution lasted for one issue, by which time we’d worked out just what hard work it was and how little time it left us for anything else. Our intention was to fill it with short stories, artwork, interviews, photographs and anything else that took our fancy. Ironically, I think it would be a much easier proposition now…but no, Gary, I’m not about to suggest it.

 The thing is, Lorna Lovelost really had her genesis back then. Gary wrote a short story, Broken Angel, about a woman falling, which we included in the magazine. It was sad and haunting and incomplete – not in a bad way, but because it left hints of untold stories and lost backstory. This now becomes an arc in the novel. It has evolved and developed and the missing elements are woven into the structure. And I’m glad of that. I hope Gary promotes the short story alongside the novel, because it is a part of its genesis and history and readers like to get the complete picture.

The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost is available from October 5th and I’m planning on interviewing Gary for this blog just before the release. In the meantime, go and check him out.

The Amazon paperback page (now available for preorder) here

And Gary’s blog is here




‘People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ George Orwell


Some ideas are just bigger than you think they are going to be. When I first started to write Night Vision, I had various themes I wanted to explore and the desire to put Naomi and Alec in a wider, more ‘political thriller’ sort of setting – not easy when their natural home has been small town police procedural. What I didn’t intend was for Night Vision to become the start of a sort of loose trilogy, within the Naomi Blake series though that’s what seems to have happened.

Night Vision came to a very logical end, but there was a vague feeling of unfinished business, a kind of itch in the brain, that no amount of head scratching could get rid of. Then Molly Chambers appeared, complaining that there was a man with a gun, standing in her garden and I had this sort of inkling that writing Secrets, was going to get complicated. When Gregory, from Night Vision, turned up unexpectedly my suspicion was confirmed. Themes and ideas that had begun in Night Vision became threads in Secrets; threads that led back in time, decades back to when Molly was young and idealistic and the Cold War was just about to get really chilly.

I suppose, though, that the writing of Secrets really began way back in about 1994, just after my first book, The Greenway, had been accepted for publication. A relative talked to me about his time in what had been the Belgian Congo, in the early sixties, just as the country was gaining independence. The UN was still a fledgling organisation and the big players in the Cold War were turning their attention to post colonial Africa. It was clear that there were stories here, well worth telling. I even tried to write something, but couldn’t get a proper sense of what the narrative should be about or how to approach it. So the idea was shelved.

Sometimes, though, these narratives coalesce in their own time. Molly Chambers had been a character I’d invented for my original story. She was then a young woman but now, older, fiercer, maybe wiser(?) but certainly not willing to be ignored, she took up a position dead centre of my story and would not budge. Secrets isn’t the story I intended to write back in 1994, this story is framed within the Naomi Blake series and so the parameters are quite different, but the history is, in some ways, the same. The incidents that happened in Molly’s youth have sent ripples down the years, the old guard of the Cold War are mostly gone, and what intrigued me now was the sense of unfinished business as events begun so many decades ago continue to impact.

The funny thing is that suddenly the world seems to be talking about the Congo and events that happened back in the early 1960s, or maybe, as is the nature of things, I’m just suddenly aware of it. I recently came across photographs taken by a particular hero of mine, Horst Faas, taken in South Kasai, which tried to gain independence for itself as a breakaway nation. I knew his work in Vietnam and beyond, but had no idea he also photographed the Bakuba. Then there’s the Young Vic production of Aime Cesaire’s A Season in the Congo (translated by Ralph Manheim) and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and the brilliant book, ‘Who Killed Hammarskold by Susan Williams. A strange synchronicity seems to be occurring.

Secrets is about more than the Belgian Congo; more than post colonialism. That is just one thread in a story, the ripples of which will most likely continue to nudge outwards, long after the deaths of most of the participants. It does pick up directly from Night Vision, which has as part of its theme the changing of the old, Cold War guard and the new emphasis on electronic intelligence, use of drones, world war fought at a distance. The trappings have changed, but I’m not sure much else has and most of what is happening now has deep roots, a long and bloody history. Ironically, in part because colonial powers and particularly British colonial powers were so damned good at keeping records and implementing bureaucratic processes, root and branch are now so much more traceable.

And now I am writing the third in this loose trilogy. This brings events into the present moment; the ongoing ‘war against terror’ is the latest, very public face, of our secret society. Recent revelations by the likes of Edward Snowden have highlighted just how prevalent our surveillance society has become, just how technological are the battle lines drawn by governments and those opposing them. To get into the ‘one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’ argument seems to me to be simplistic and disingenuous – so I leave that to others. Instead, I’m drawn to the conclusion that there is nothing new; that however clean looking from the outside our new technologies appear to be, however disinfected the language – drone strikes that ‘take out’ ‘casualties’ that are supposedly ‘surgical’. Surveillance that looks for key words, that monitors, that intercepts, it seems that this is just the glossy cover story, beneath which the bloody mess of war doesn’t change. The ‘rough men’ as Orwell termed them, still fight, the innocent still suffer…and writers still explore those tensions.

For me, the most interesting thing about this third book has been the opportunity to develop Naomi’s character. She becomes an unwilling, but pivotal player in Gregory’s game and discovers strengths I didn’t know she had – I guess that’s the fun part about writing; discovering your characters and just what they are able to do and be and I like being surprised. I hate to know, at the start of a book, what happens in the end – though I’m getting toward the end of this new book now, so I’m hoping I figure it out sooner, rather than later!

And what next? Well, I think when this is over, my characters will deserve a rest, so I’ll let them have one and pick their story up again when they’ve had six months or so to assimilate their experiences. Hopefully, by then, they’ll have celebrated Christmas, got drunk at New Year and be planning a summer break. For now, though, it’s back to the book and figuring out how to extricate Naomi and company from the nasty corner I’ve painted them into.