Monday 25th August
Justice For All Rocks Up At Reading
Following on from the debut appearance of the Justice For All Road Show at the V Festival (for those of you wondering what I’m talking about, check out last week’s blog), we hit the big leagues over the bank holiday weekend when we rocked up at Reading. The Reading Festival is my favourite three days of the year, and while this was the thirteenth time I’ve attended, it had extra resonance this year as it was my first time there as a published author. The t-shirts, featuring the JFA cover on the rear, once again went down a storm, drumming up lots of interest in the book, and while there are countless stories to tell, I’ll regale you with just a couple.
Firstly, the tale of when I met a be-suited young guy who was a picture of sartorial elegance (you get the lot at Reading, ranging from the height of outsider fashion to virtual nakedness – the biggest example of the latter was a man wearing wellie boots and a lacy thong – not a sight I ever wish to see again). On spotting the cluster of JFA t-shirts by the speaker stack, my well-dressed friend hurried over waving a tatty looking JFA business card in their air. After getting more drunk than he’d ever been the day before, he’d woken up that morning with nothing but the card in his pocket, and with no recollection of how he’d got it. Once I’d filled in the gaps in his memory, we posed for a couple of pictures together, then he promised to buy the book before bidding a fond farewell. Good work fella!
And secondly, the group of friends who were stood in front of us near the set of relay speakers on the right. They couldn’t believe it when they clocked the t-shirts, as one of them had just bought Justice For All and had been reading it back at the campsite. Come to a rock festival and meet the author – I think I’ve started a new trend! It was great to talk to you guys, and thanks for your support.
And now for my Reading Festival highlights, in no particular order:
Biffy Clyro – are a band that I’ve kind of watched grow up. I first saw them third on the bill at the Norwich Arts Centre a few years ago (they went on to play the venue three times in six months, leading me to think they were a local act – it wasn’t until I spoke to the drummer that I realised they were from Scotland!). Their performance at Reading 2007 was one of the best I’d ever seen, so I was really looking forward to catching them on the main stage this time around, and while they were never going to recapture the magnificence of twelve months earlier, they rocked the Fest nevertheless. Highlight of the set? The incredible ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’.
Manic Street Preachers – a tough call for me to attend this one, as they clashed with The Killers (another firm favourite of mine), but I opted for the Manics on the basis of their superior back catalogue, and the fact that they were headlining the second stage (which has far better acoustics than the main stage). For an hour it was one classic after another, including some oldies like ‘Faster’ and ‘Motown Junk’, not to mention a great cover of Nirvana’s ‘Pennyroyal Tea’. The band was in fine form and so was the crowd, and all in all it was the perfect way to end a Saturday night.
Tenacious D – Less of a rock band, more of a ‘Gods of Rock’ show, Hollywood film star Jack Black’s outfit drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. An absolute riot from start to finish, they had half of us moshing and the other half dying with laughter – the shock of Kyle quitting the band live on stage, the outpouring of joy following his return, the fear induced by the cyborg known only as Metal, the wizard’s cape, the lizard costume – all as nuts as it sounds, this was entertainment on a grand scale, with their best song, ‘Tribute’ going down a storm.
The Music – no, not the music in general (although that did indeed rock) but the Leeds band that are simply called ‘The Music’. Coming over like a dance Led Zeppelin (in a good way) they had me grooving like a loon on Sunday, which was no small feat given the injuries I’d sustained the day before (more on that later). Best song – ‘Welcome to the North’.
We Are Scientists – Main stage glory beckoned for these American alt-pop rockers and they grabbed their chance with both hands. With two great albums under their belt they had the set-list to back up their winning stage personas and this was probably the best I’ve ever seen them, which given that they’ve never been anything less than great was some achievement.
The Last Shadow Puppets – just how outrageously talented is Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame)? This side project, which he fronts along with Miles Kane of The Rascals, was one of my undisputed highlights of this, or any other, Reading. Backed by a 12-piece orchestra, their set was breathtaking, featuring most of the tracks from their recent debut album, ‘The Age of the Understatement’ (which sounds like a compilation of the best Bond themes never released). Were it not for the final act I’m going to mention, they’d have been my Band Of The Festival (2007 winners – Biffy Clyro), but for 2008 that prestigious award goes to…
Rage Against The Machine – who were absolutely magnificent! One of the all time greatest gigs of my life, they blew the entire field away with their unique blend of angry, politicised funk-rock. Having come on stage wearing matching boiler suits and bags over their heads in protest of Guantanamo Bay, they launched straight into ‘Bombtrack’, and from that point on, I knew I was in for a treat. Tracks like ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’, and the immense ‘Killing In The Name Of’ caused a near riot (in a good way – trust me, you had to be there), and I loved every damn second of it!
So finally, what of those injuries that your esteemed author suffered on the first day of the Festival? Well, in honour of the achievements of our British Olympic Team, I thought I’d pay my own little tribute. It was well into Friday evening, the sun had gone down, my beer cup was empty, and the way to the bar was blocked with thousands of tightly knit festival-goers. I headed off at what I like to think of as a brisk walk (but what was probably closer to a sprint), ducking through the minute gaps in the crowd like a nimble footed running back (I say nimble footed, but clod-hopping would probably be closer to the truth), until my forward progress was brought to a rude halt by someone’s sodding camping chair that I failed to see in the darkness (and in my somewhat drunken state, it has to be said, and by the way, who brings a camping chair to a rock festival? It’s not bloody Ascot…). For a moment, I sailed gracefully heavenwards, but then gravity kicked in and I returned to earth in a hurry to land full on my head. Judging by the number of people who flocked around to see if I was OK, it must have looked pretty spectacular, so I waited five minutes until the shock had subsided, then went ten yards further forward to go straight over another chair! It was like a drunken steeplechase! I’m now off to check to see if I’ve made it on to You Tube…
Cheers (or should that be Chairs?),P.S. The JFA on tour photos from the V Festival are now up on the site – click here to check them out. Photos from Reading will follow shortly.
Monday 18th August
Justice For All Takes To The Road
As weeks go, the last seven days have been pretty special for me, as Friday saw the release of Justice For All (JFA) in the UK and Eire. Ever since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being an author, so to finally see my debut novel hit the shelves was an experience I can’t even begin to put into words (which is probably something an author shouldn’t admit to!) It’s now on sale in Asda (where it’s number 26 in their chart), Borders, Waterstones, Easons and WH Smiths amongst numerous other places, and if you’re taking the time to read this, I hope you’ll also take the time to snag yourself a copy to see what all the fuss is about!
To celebrate the launch, I headed off to the V Festival in Chelmsford with a bunch of family and friends, who as it turned out, had a few surprises in store for me. Having set up camp, I headed back to the car for our last bit of luggage (we don’t half take a lot of stuff these days – much of it 5% proof and transported in can form), and when I returned I found ‘Congratulations!’ banners strung from our tents along with an A3 colour print of JFA’s cover. I was then presented with a t-shirt that had the JFA cover on the rear, and the slogan ‘I’m the author, don’t you know!’ on the front, closely followed by a bottle of champagne. Having made a quick speech to thank everyone for making the day extra special for me, we polished off the champagne and began to attack our beer mountain in earnest (the more you drink, the less you have to carry back to the car), leaving me thinking what a great bunch they all were, but at that point, I didn’t know the half of it.
The next morning, having done my bit in the breakfast preparation stakes (I’m in charge of frying the eggs) I suddenly found myself sitting on my own in the clearing between our tents, all except for my sister, Karen, who I now realise was taking care to stay facing me at all times. Now some people might have thought that something was up when everyone disappeared like that, but I was totally oblivious. Even when Lisa asked ‘Is everyone ready’, I was still in a world of my own, then suddenly the rest of the gang appeared, all stepping out of their tents wearing t-shirts with the cover of ‘Justice For All’ emblazoned on the back. I couldn’t believe it. The fact that they’d not only organised all this, but were also prepared to help advertise my book all weekend, really knocked me for six.
And what great advertising it was – ten people wearing the same JFA t-shirts attracted a helluva lot of attention. I spoke to countless festivalgoers over the next two days who all said they’d go out and buy the book, posed for loads of photos, and even signed a few bits and bobs (and if you were one of the people I met, I’d love to hear from you via the link on my website). And as for the subliminal impact it must have had, I can only imagine. I’ll post some pictures on the site as soon as I’m able, but until then, my humble and heartfelt thanks go out to the following: Lisa, Karen, Jon, Andy, Michelle, Daz, Jay, Chris and Tom, who along with me comprised the JFA V-10! The best mates a guy could ever have!
And as for the Festival itself? Well here are my edited highlights in no particular order:
Muse – the first time I ever saw Muse was at the Norwich Arts Centre a few years ago, a former church that holds about five hundred people, and it’s safe to say that they’ve come a long way since then. Their headline appearance at V on the Saturday night was spectacular. Huge satellite dishes, lasers criss-crossing in the skies overhead, and space rock beyond compare – what a treat. And the encore was out of this world – Starlight, Plug In Baby, then Knights of Cydonia (with an intro that featured Harmonica’s theme from the Sergio Leone epic ‘Once Upon A Time In The West). Absolute class.
The Hold Steady – one of my all-time favourite bands, they were sadly only given a half hour slot, but they made full use of it by blasting out a mixture of old classics and great new cuts from their recent album, Stay Positive. If you’ve never come across them before, they’re the best bar band in the world, knocking out songs that sound like early Springsteen while a poet spins half-spoken tales of Americana on vocals – I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Kings of Leon – this band just gets better and better every time I see them. With three albums worth of cracking tunes to choose from, they didn’t put a foot wrong. Shame the sound was a bit quiet, but you can’t have everything.
Beerhenge – not a band as such, more a performance art practised by my fellow drinkers. It’s a lot like Stonehenge, only with added beer. Check out the photos next week for a visual treat.
Stereophonics – it’s only the second time I’ve seen these Welsh rockers play live, despite having every album they’ve released since their 1997 debut (they really should play more festivals!), and they didn’t disappoint. Big sing-along anthems, crunching guitars, rasping vocals, what more could you want.
My mate Andy’s dancing – we thought he was vogueing, turns out he was just trying to maintain his balance after copious amounts of Carling.
Drive By Truckers – discover of the weekend for me. Never heard a thing by them until this weekend. Southern rock at its finest (they’re big fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd), with three chiming electric guitars and two vocalists who take turns to sing lead, one with sugar coated tonsils, the other a raw southern drawl (which put me in mind of a young Mick Jagger).
The Verve – wow, what a comeback. Having missed their last appearance at V back in 1998 (I was busy getting my funk on with James Brown in the dance tent) I was eagerly looking forward to seeing them this time around, and I was lucky enough to catch a band at the height of their considerable powers. Ashcroft’s vocals were soaring, McCabe’s guitar work magnificent. With songs like Lucky Man, Sonnet, History, and of course Bitter Sweet Symphony, they had the crowd in the palms of their hands, and when the rain started to come down, it somehow made it even more special. What a great way to end V2008 – roll on next year!
Next week, I’ll still be in full-on music festival mode, as I take the Justice For All road show on to the Reading Rock Festival. The big draw for me is the recently reformed Rage Against the Machine, but there’s loads of other bands that I can’t wait to see. Reading is my favourite weekend of the year, and 2008 promises to be a good one. I look forward to telling you all about in seven days time!
Monday 11th August
A Face for the Radio
Last week I recorded my first ever interview for Manx Radio (who serve the Isle of Mann) to help publicise Justice For All. Their DJ, Bob Harrison, dialled through on Tuesday lunchtime, and after a brief ‘getting to know you’ chat, he hit the big red button on his mixing desk to start recording (I don’t actually know if it was a big red button, but I’ve always wanted to mention one in dispatches) and we were off. The interview lasted for ten minutes or so and it went by in a flash. The questions came thick and fast and there were a few that I wasn’t expecting, but I think I managed to string together something that resembled a coherent answer for the most part. The interview will be broadcast some time this week, and I’m hoping to get my hands on a digital copy which I’ll post on my website for your delectation.
In addition to my first foray onto the nation’s airwaves, I also wrote a couple more articles for two very influential websites, namely www.lovereading.co.uk and www.crimesquad.com. Lovereading have selected me as one of their debut authors of the month, and Justice For All as one of their crime books of the month, for which I am eternally grateful. Click here to read their review of the novel. The piece I wrote for them was a short Q&A where I reveal such nuggets of information as where I get my ideas from and how I create a character – click here to read it in full.
I’ve met Chris and Andrew, the guys at Crimesquad, on a couple of occasions, and if there are two bigger fans of the genre out there I’d be surprised. Check out their website for a wealth of information on what’s hot in crime fiction. The article I wrote for them explores the genesis of the three main characters in Justice For All – Zac Hunter, Rebecca Finch, and Viktor Danilov – in some detail. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope they’re pleased with my efforts. Click here to check it out.
In between feeding the ravenous demands of the publicity machine, work on my third novel ‘The Beholder’ continued apace. The writing came easy this week and a few more thousand words were added to the total. I figure I’m maybe a third of the way in now, and it looks like the book’s shaping up to be a long one.
Next week sees the official UK and Eire release of Justice For All on Friday 15th August. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here! When I first started writing the novel in my spare room a couple of years ago, publication was more of a dream than an expectation. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who’s helped me along the way – especially my wife, Lisa, my agent, Broo, and my editor, Catherine – as well as everyone else who’s given me unflinching support and encouragement (you know who you are!). So now it’s just up to the reading public to make it a resounding success…and that means you! Please help spread the word by telling everyone you now (and everyone you don’t) about JFA – from small acorns come great oaks…
In order to celebrate this auspicious event, I’m off to the V Festival next weekend. If you’re going too, and you see me wandering around with beer in hand and quiff standing proud, feel free to come over for a natter. Next week’s blog will give you a full review on who rocked and who shocked, along with a medical report on how my liver stood up to the abuse.
Monday 4th August
Last week brought some exciting news, as I discovered that Justice For All has been selected as a recommended summer read by the Daily Mirror newspaper, which has a circulation of around 1.5 million readers a day! My novel, which featured alongside the latest offerings from big-league authors Simon Kernick and Jeff Abbott, was described as ‘a debut of the highest order’, and was deemed ‘uncompromising from start to finish.’ As you can imagine, I was chuffed to bits. Pre-launch publicity doesn’t come any better than this, and hopefully it will translate into some decent sales once the book hits the high streets on the 15th August. Click here to read the full review.
On the writing front, most of last week was spent working on the third novel in the Zac Hunter series, ‘The Beholder.’ It was good to get back to it after a few days away, and while progress thus far has been of the stop-start variety, it’s been progress nevertheless, and I’m pleased with how the book’s shaping up. In addition, I was also asked to write a short piece on Justice For All for Crime Time magazine, focusing on the journey that the book underwent from genesis to publication. Click here to read the article.
Gigs are in short supply in Norwich at this time of year, as things tend to quieten down while the university students are on their summer break, but I did snag a couple of tickets to see Evan Dando (lead singer with the Lemonheads) on Friday night. Armed with just a guitar and a lengthy back catalogue, Dando put on a great show, proving himself to be one of the best singer-songwriters of modern times. Support came from punk-folk troubadour Frank Turner, who was impressive on stage and off, as he spent much of the night chatting freely with the audience. Chances are, this will be the last gig I go to before the major summer music festivals, and if it is, it was a good way to sign off.
Next week I’m expecting a call from Manx Radio (who serve the Isle of Mann) to record my first ever interview regarding Justice For All. Tune in to the 11th August blog to see how I got on!