Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 and beyond

It's been a busy year. Lockdown came out in paperback and made it into the Top 50 (No. 31 to be precise) in its first week of release, and sold 10,000 copies in the first ten days according to Bookscan. Given just how tough it is for new writers at the moment that was a real achievement, not only for me but also for the terrific sales team at Transworld.

The second Ryan Lock adventure, Deadlock, was also released in hardback and went to a second printing within a week or two of release.

While all that was going on I was busy writing the third Ryan Lock book. It will be released in August, 2011 and follow on from the paperback of Deadlock, which is out in May. It's set in Los Angeles and I think it's going to be the best book of the series by some distance.

I also did a lot of press for the books, including my first lengthy TV interview (link below).

A real highlight of the year was being invited to attend the Harrogate Crime Writers Festival where I shared a stage with Jo Nesbo, Zoe Sharp and Jeremy Duns for a panel moderated by Meg Gardiner.

It was also great to spend some time visiting with The Mark Wright Project. An amazing bunch of people, it's an absolute privilege to have been able to raise awareness of the great work they do.

2011 is going to be busy. I have to finish editing Lock 3 and then I start on a new project which I have been researching and planning for almost a year. It won't feature Lock and Ty but it is going to be another big, high-concept thriller set in the United States.

Thanks to everyone at my agency, LBA,  and my publisher, Transworld, for all their hard work and support. But most of all thanks to my readers, especially those who got in touch via email or my Facebook page.

I can only apologise for the sleepless nights and the missed tube stops.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Worth Dying For - In Praise of Lee Child

Today I received an ARC of Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher thriller, Worth Dying For. No, I won't be revealing anything about it. But I did want to talk a little about Lee as a writer.

Lee is the titanic shadow that falls across any British thriller writer bold enough to set their books Stateside. He is to borrow a phrase coined by Bono to describe Sir Paul McCartney,'the man who discovered the country we're all living in.'

There was an inevitability when I sold Lockdown to Lee's UK publisher that the writer I would be most compared to would be Lee. The parallels, from what I can gather, go beyond the books. We both wrote our first novels at the age of 40 after a career in television and when we felt ourselves at a crossroads. We both wrote them to get ourselves out of a financial hole. We're both married to Americans. Both of our central characters were military policemen. The list goes on.

Driven by the marketing, reviewers in the UK have picked up on the similarities. So have many readers. Sometimes the comparisons have been favorable, sometimes not so much. Those are the breaks.

Writing the second book in the Ryan Lock series, Dead Lock, it struck me in a way that it hadn't before just how good Lee Child really is. I had a good degree of respect for his work before but when you move from debut into series territory you really begin to appreciate just how difficult it is to achieve what Lee has achieved with Jack Reacher and how astute his choices have been.

The other thing that has struck about Lee's writing (and I admittedly came to him late) was the brilliance of that stripped down prose style. The only writer we've had that comes close in recent memory is Hemingway (Raymond Carver's complete lack of inflection renders any comparison moot). Like Hemingway, Lee Child stacks one simple declarative sentence on top of the other, building from paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter, and in the process creating in the reader a profound emotional shift.

Lee Child is our Hemingway. Not the thriller writer's Hemingway. Not the crime fiction community's Hemingway. He transcends genre. He is the most American writer, with perhaps the exception of Cormac McCarthy, working today. As such there will be no 'new' Lee Child because Lee Child stands alone.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ryan Lock - Origins

One question that comes up a lot is how I came up with the character of Ryan Lock. The answer is that in some ways, I didn’t. He came up with himself.

What I mean by that is that when I started to write the book that became Lock Down (it was originally called Extraction), Lock wasn’t called Lock and he was going to be Scottish. Except when I started to write the opening chapter where he first appears he sounded American. Not just sounded, he was American. Sometimes that happens with characters. You have it in your head what they’re going to be like but they disagree.

So, right from the get go, Ryan Lock was someone who challenged authority, and that to me is the key to him as a character. He casts a critical eye over everyone and everything, he is a sceptic without being a cynic, and above all he has no particular respect for authority.

With everything that’s gone on in the last few years, especially when it comes to the behaviour of politicians and their buddies in the banks, I think a hero who challenges the established order and asks awkward questions is a good hero to have on your side.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Publication Day

So today the paperback of the first Ryan Lock thriller goes on sale in the UK and Ireland. I'll be out signing copies in Dublin on Saturday, then I'll be doing some radio shows next week. An article I've written about life inside Pelican Bay Supermax should be appearing in The Sunday Express in the next few weeks.

On the 6th of July, I'll be in Birmingham talking to librarians, then appearing on stage in the evening with Simon Kernick in Ipswich. After that it's back home for a few weeks before heading to Derbyshire to appear at The Buxton Literary Festival, swiftly followed by Harrogate, then up to Scotland for the launch of Deadlock.

In between all these events I'm hard at work on book three, which is set in Los Angeles and is going to be called GRIDLOCK. In GRIDLOCK, Lock is called in to protect a woman who finds herself the target of a very determined stalker who is carving a bloody swathe across the city. When Lock is pushed past breaking point, the hunter swiftly becomes the hunted as Lock takes off on his own bloody rampage.

As I've spent more time in Los Angeles over the past fifteen years than anywhere else in the US it feels great to be finally on home turf.

Finally, thanks to everyone who's bought the first book and been so supportive. I really appreciate it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


You know you're in for a weird time of it when the man in front of you in the Ryanair queue is Shane McGowan, the one time lead singer of Irish rabble-rousers, The Pogues. Truth be told, I'd signed up for bodyguard school not thinking too closely about what it might involve. Checking in for my flight to the UK, all I could think of was what it might involve. Was Shane and the famously bad state of his teeth an omen of what I faced at an army camp in Wales?

While I was sure some of my fellow candidates might harbour fantasies of chaperoning Britney Spears around Hollywood, I was working on the assumption that the people taking this course would be seeking employment as PMCs (Private Military Contractors) in Afghanistan and Iraq. So the profile would, I imagined, be men in their twenties who were extremely physically fit and a few sandwiches short of the full picnic. In some respects, I would be proven right.

As it transpired, the candidates ranged all the way from a middle-aged American, who resembled Harry Potter a good thirty years after the films had dried up, to an ex-German special forces sniper fresh from service in Afghanistan whose only words of English were "Fuck the Taliban!" And here I was, a man at the wrong end of his thirties, who made a living writing television, about to embark on the same journey.

The course was advertised as very much 'hands on'. Rather than just sitting in a classroom we'd be putting the theory into practice. Some of the highlights from the course syllabus included:

CQC (unarmed combat) including Krav Maga and other systems of appropriate natures.

Advanced / Defensive / Offensive / Anti-Ambush Driving. The entire weekend is spent at out (sic) driver training area where you and your fellow candidates will go through (literally) many different vehicles, in a variety of ways!

Firearms training - to include Team drills. Use of 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 person teams, live fire & movement, mutual cover & evacuation drills.

So, ageing Harry Potter look-alike?

Ex-special forces sniper who's wired to the moon?

Writer wondering what mayhem lay ahead of him?

And we weren't even the strangest candidates, as you'll find out next post, when I introduce the rest of a very motley crew, along with one or two beacons of sanity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Beginning

Growing up in Scotland and spending my early twenties living in New York, when it was still very much a city gripped by the crack-cocaine epidemic, I've seen some unpleasant things.

I've seen one human being kicked unconscious by another human being. I've walked out of a neighbourhood bodega on 110th street to see dead bodies strewn across the sidewalk, victims of a gang-related drive-by shooting. I've had a knife pulled on me. I was witness to a Marine getting a bottle cracked across his skull when he tried to stop a homeless man dragging a woman into her apartment to rape her. Running down the stairs to see what was happening I actually thought he'd been shot because the crack of bottle on head was so loud, he wasn't moving and there was so much blood. (Note to readers: the would-be rapist absconded, the intended victim was very shaken but thankfully unharmed and the Marine made a full recovery.)

Beyond first hand experience, I count among my friends men who've served in some of the most dangerous places on earth. My brother-in-law started his career as a rookie patrol officer in one of the more dangerous divisions in the Los Angeles Police Department. Andy Carmichael, my technical advisor on all matters security-related, is a former member of the Royal Military Police close protection unit with service in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone.

In other words, it takes quite a lot to send a chill down my spine.

But that's exactly what happened some four years ago after I fell into a chance conversation with a well dressed couple who were enjoying a drink in the bar of the Four Seasons hotel on the banks of the Danube in Budapest.

I was there for a long weekend with my wife and daughter, who was then four-years-old. My daughter, bored by the grown-up discussion, was hiding under our heavy winter coats which were draped over a club chair.

That was when one half of the couple my wife and I were talking to leaned over to me, her gaze fixed on my daughter, and said, 'whatever you do when you're in Budapest, don't take your eyes off her for a second.'

It struck me as strange thing to say until she, and the man who was with her, a Belgian, explained that they were part of the narco-trafficking division of the United Nations, in town for a conference. And that, while we all grow up hearing tales of children vanishing into thin air and think of them as just that, stories, child abduction is a reality. For profit in some cases. In other cases there are far darker motives.

I thanked her for her advice, we finished our drink, and left. Needless to say my poor daughter wasn't allowed more than six feet from either of her parents for the rest of the trip.

The event stayed with me and it threw up several questions, all of which were about to be explored on prime-time television when Madeleine McCann was abducted while on holiday with her parents in Portugal.

The one question that plagued me the most though was this - you're a stranger in a strange land and the unimaginable happens. Who do you turn to? The obvious answer would seem to be the local authorities, but we all saw how that went for the McCann family.

So as I researched the answer to that question, I stumbled upon the world of private close protection security. It was a world that instantly fascinated me because the more I looked into it, the more my pre-conceptions evaporated. Yes, there were plenty of what my now friends would call 'thick-necked twats' working as bodyguards to C-list celebs, but there were also companies who you could turn to if you found yourself with a problem that conventional means couldn't solve, and, of course, if you had the money.

In the months before the McCann case exploded into the public consciousness, I sat down to write a television script about a child who is spirited away while her parents are visiting Eastern Europe. It wasn't a bad effort but it had one major failing. I didn't know who the men and women charged with finding this child were. They felt like photocopies of characters that I'd seen in movies or read about in books.

I wanted to get under the skin of the so-called bullet catchers, to really understand how they could place themselves in situations where there was a clear and present risk to their lives. Where the end-game for some of them is death.

So, through a desire to know more, and a sense that reading books and trawling the internet wouldn't give me any truly satisfying answers, I enrolled on a three-week residential bodyguard training course based in the UK and Eastern Europe. My family thought I had finally cracked, my colleagues ditto, friends queried my wife about 'whether I was okay?', but in 2006 I got on a plane at Dublin airport and headed for a former army camp in Wales.

To say it was an interesting experience would be like saying that Muhammad Ali could handle himself in the ring. I was about to step further out of my comfort zone than I'd ever done before.

It was the beginning of a journey which would change my career, my life and how I look at the world...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lockdown- The Trailer

On Thursday afternoon, I began to put together this trailer for the paperback release of Lockdown, which is slated for the 24th of June. I hadn't done any editing since I was in film school back in 1990's but I found it really enjoyable.

As the date of the paperback release draws closer, I'm going to be blogging about the story of how I came to research and write Lockdown, as well as talking a little bit about the crazy few weeks leading up to its eventual sale at auction.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Judgement Day

Today sees the release of fellow LBA author Matt Hilton's book Judgement and Wrath in paperback. If it's anything like his first it will be a gasoline-doused, hundred-mile-per-hour roller coaster ride of ultra-violence.

You can buy it in the shops, or online here:



or here:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dead Lock - A Thank You

The second Ryan Lock thriller is finished and will be out in hardback and trade paperback in July. It was, like many second novels are, a brutal process involving a lot of re-writing.
Thankfully, I have the most fantastic editor in Selina Walker who really pushed me to give of my best. Selina also works with Mo Hayder, Simon Kernick and Manda Scott among many other big names. She's also the UK editor for Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerritsen.
If readers enjoy Deadlock that will be in very large part down to Selina's hard work and forbearance.

E-book news

You can now purchase the first Ryan Lock book at the Amazon Kindle store (go to Amazon and search under Sean Black Kindle) or click this link:

It's also available as an E-book at Waterstones here: