Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Eight Curious Cases Of Inspector Zhang

Some time ago I started writing short locked-room mysteries featuring a detective from Singapore, Inspector Zhang, and his pretty young sidekick, Sergeant Lee.

The stories are great fun to write but a little difficult, which is why over two years I have only managed eight. I have titles (and set-ups) for several more but haven't yet managed to work through the plots!

The eight that I have are now being published by Monsoon Books in Singapore, who also publish my Thailand books Private Dancer and Bangkok Bob and the Missing Mormon.

In the UK, Amazon has just slashed the price of the eBook to £2.47.  Now that's cheap!  You can buy the eBook for the Kindle BY CLICKING HERE 

I'm off to Singapore tomorrow to attend the FI Grand Prix - research for a new Inspector Zhang story, of course!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Under Surveillance

I had a fun time yesterday being tailed around the streets of Bangkok by a surveillance team. And it taught me a lot about following people!

An old pal of mine used to run surveillance teams for the Met and for the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Now he trains surveillance teams in Bangkok.

Usually they pick a member of public at random and follow them for practice, but yesterday my mate decided to have some fun with his team and get them to follow me instead. Usually the target has no idea he's being followed, but by briefing me we were able to set up a few surprises for the team.

He had also tasked one of his more experienced guys to tail the team that were tailing me so see how clued they were up on counter surveillance. My pal in turn would hang back, watching to see how well the team tailed me. He communicated with me - and them - through text messages.

I was picked up at a Starbucks in the city, drinking coffee. My pal had sent them a photograph of me in the cafe and once they were up and running I was given the go signal.

I walked to a nearby Skytrain station and got onto the Skytrain to another part of the city. I was sure that I'd spotted one of my tails within a few minutes, a middle-aged guy in an orange t-shirt. I was also suspicious of a guy with a hearing aid and a rucksack.

I got off and walked to a shop, on the way doing a U-turn to go to an ATM. I didn't see anybody and  I spent fifteen minutes in the shop and the only person I spotted was my pal walking by.

Out of the shop I used a footbridge to cross the main Sukhumvit Road and that was when I had a definite spot of a tail, a young guy in front of me who had looked over his shoulder. Just once, but it seemed an odd thing to do and it put him on my radar At that point I remembered that (maybe) he had been outside the Starbucks, but I wasn't sure.

Down off the footbridge I pulled another U-turn to talk to a couple of time-share touts, and I saw the young guy hesitate so I was sure I had made him. I then pulled the big surprise, I hopped on a motorcycle taxi to a local park. I was fairly sure that would lose any tail.  I got to the park and waited for the exercise to end before heading off to meet the team.

The guy on the footbridge was indeed one of the team, but to be fair I only spotted him because I was looking. The two guys I had made on the Skytrain - Orange Shirt and Hearing Aid - were nothing to do with the surveillance team, they were just civilians.

It turns out that they had been with me every step of the way. There had been two of them on the Skytrain, and one of them was close enough to get a photograph of me.

They had no problems tailing me along the street, and often they were ahead of me or on the other side of the road. They managed to get a picture of me from an overhead bridge.

One of my U-turns did almost bring me on top of one of them, apparently, but he had turned and bought a lottery ticket from a pavement vendor and I missed him completely.

The big surprise was that one of the tails had managed to get himself on a motorcycle taxi and follow me to the park. He'd even managed to get a photograph of me on the bike.

Here's the scary thing. I knew I was being followed. I had counter-survellance measures in place. But I still only spotted one guy. And to be fair, I only spotted him because I was looking for tails. I was actually more certain that Orange Shirt and Hearing Aid were tails, and I was totally wrong.

The guys who where on my tail are still being trained but they were ace. They didn't spot the guy who was tailing them, though. And neither did I. But he was with us every step of the way.

The big lesson I took away from this is that if you are being followed by experts, no matter how prepared you are, you almost certainly won't know it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Number 9 In The Bestseller List!

White Lies was the ninth bestselling book in the UK last week according to the Sunday Times Bestseller list, which is good news.

My pal Peter Robinson's book Abattoir Blues is at Number 4, which is great news for our publisher Hodder and Stoughton.

I'm a huge fan of eBooks but I have to say it always gives me a thrill to see my hardbacks selling well!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

White Lies Tops The Asda Chart

White Lies has been out for a week and is already topping the charts in Asda. It's funny how important supermarkets are for sales these days and it always surprises me how many people are keen to buy a book while they do their weekly shopping.  But it's a fact that in terms of overall sales, supermarkets sell more of my books than regular bookshops by quite a long way.

Sales-wise White Lies is selling more than the last Spider Shepherd book - True Colours. Last week it reached Number 11 in the Sunday Times hardback bestseller list, which cheered me up no end.

I already have the 12th Spider book - Black Ops - plotted out and will start work on it soon. In the meantime I am working on a new Jack Nightingale supernatural thriller which will be titled San Francisco Night. I'm having great fun with it, I love writing the Nightingale books.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Revamping The Cover Of Soft Target

It's a fact of life that, in the world of publishing at least, you CAN judge a book by its cover.

I've been asking my publisher Hodder and Stoughton to revamp some of my early covers. In my experience, revamping a cover can substantiality improve sales. It has worked for my self-published books and I hope it will be just as effective with my Hodder and Stoughton books.

They have agreed to test the water by revamping the cover of Soft Target, the second book in the bestselling Spider Shepherd series.

The existing cover is good, but it has been around for almost ten years.

Hodder came up with this cover as a replacement.

I liked it but worried that it's a bit futuristic, giving it the look of a sci-fi novel.  And I also worried that the figure - who is presumably meant to be Spider Shepherd - is left handed.  The gun is also definitely not Metropolitan Police issue. In my humble opinion the details of a cover aren't that important, what matters is the overall feel. And this feels good. I love the London skyline.

I explained my feelings to Hodder and they came back with a slightly different version.

I think this is brilliant, and it'll soon be up as the new cover. Hopefully it will lift sales. I shall keep you posted!

You can buy Soft Target on Amazon by clicking HERE

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A FREE Dan Shepherd Short Story

Hodder and Stoughton are publishing a FREE Spider Shepherd short story to coincide with the publication of White Lies, the new Spider full length novel which is out in August.

They are currently fine-tuning the cover!

The short story will be out four weeks before the novel and is already available for pre-order HERE

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Judging A Book By Its Cover

It's a cliche, of course, that you can't judge a book by its cover.  In fact, when it comes to self-publishing, a cover is a pretty good indicator of the quality of a book. Generally I've found that while it's not true that all good books have good covers, it does seem to be the case that bad books more often than not have bad covers.

When you self-publish eBooks, the cover is the first thing the potential buyer sees. If they don't like the cover at first glance, they'll just move on and you've lost a sale.

Back in June 2012, I self-published a collection of free short stories - Short Fuses. Since then it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times, which is a success in any terms. The book is a marketing tool - along with the four free short stories I have included opening chapters of half a dozen of my bestsellers, which I hope will bring in new readers.

Recently I decided to refresh the cover, and went to Derek Murphy at creativeINDIE for advice. Derek is an expert at revamping tired covers - you can see his website HERE

I told Derek I'd like something similar, but more modern, cleaner, and with more impact.

He came back with three suggestions.

I liked all three suggestions, but after I had received feedback from my Facebook friends, I settled on the one on the right, with a slight tweak. I thought that having my name on one line would look better.

Derek figured that having FOUR EXCITING SHORT STORIES above the title would have more impact, and I agreed.

So, we agreed on the cover on the left, and I posted it on Amazon and Smashwords on April 25. I think it definitely looks cleaner and more modern, the big question I needed answering was would a new cover boost sales?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Over the first three weeks of April, I averaged 55 downloads a day.

A week after putting up the new cover, I was averaging 64 downloads a day. Yesterday more than 125 copies were downloaded.

I haven't done any promotion or advertising, all I did was change the cover. The number of downloads has more than doubled and the book is now in the Top 200 on the Amazon Free list.

You can download Short Fuses for free at 

Incidentally, I am currently working on a similar anthology of free short stories plus chapters of my early books. It'll be called More Short Fuses and I'm using one of Derek's other cover ideas. Watch this space!