Friday, December 30, 2011

2011

2011 was a year of surprises. Most of them pleasant. The third book in the Ryan Lock series, Gridlock, was published in hardcover over the summer, and so far it seems to be performing even stronger, especially in e-book, than the first two books in the series – a good omen for this summer when it's released in paperback.

Initial sales of the paperback of Deadlock were, per the usual sophomore slump, a bit down on Lockdown's numbers but it still made the top 50 in its first full week on sale and its sell-through (the percentage of copies sold in relation to numbers that went into stores) was as good, and, in the cases of the big supermarkets, even better, than before. It also had staying power and hung in there well enough that it made the top 1,000 bestselling books of 2011 (see the link below - it's No. 886).


In my professional life, there were a few goodbyes, including a parting of ways with my agent, Luigi Bonomi. A lovely man and rightfully voted Agent of the Year, I wish him all the very best. I also said goodbye to my editor, Selina Walker, who left Transworld to head up the Arrow and Century imprints at Random House UK. No one in publishing was more deserving of such a promotion, and those close to me know just how much I admired and valued Selina's advice and championing of my career.

But alongside those departures came some exciting new arrivals, including the very talented Transworld editor Simon Thorogood, and my new agent, Scott Miller of Trident Media in New York. CAA in Los Angeles also came on board to help the doughty Luke Speed at Marjacq in London with film/TV rights to the Lock series.

Fans of the Lock books will be glad to know that I also signed a deal for one more book, which will be published in August 2012. It's being edited as I write and I am at work on a new thriller, also set in the States.

I wish everyone who has supported my work a happy, healthy and productive 2012.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lee And Me

Wednesday night saw me on stage in Dublin with Lee Child as he dropped by on his whirlwind promotional tour for the new Jack Reacher thriller, The Affair. Incidentally, if you haven't read it yet, you should. It's the big man at the top of his game, and you just know he had fun writing it, which is the guarantee of a cracking read.


Lee is a model professional, and despite the fact that he'd had an extremely long day he was both entertaining and engaging. There were the inevitable questions about Tom Cruise's casting as Reacher, which he dealt with honestly. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours so thanks to Easons for organising it and to everyone who came along.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

News

A quick news update:

Work continues apace on Lock 4, and it's starting to vaguely resemble a novel.

Next month I'll be appearing alongside Lee Child at the Easons store on O'Connell Street in Dublin. Details here: http://www.seanblackbooks.com/events.php

The audiobook of Gridlock is on the way, and I am delighted to tell you that the narrator is Jeff Harding, who also narrated The Da Vinci Code, The Bourne series, and, yes, Lee's Reacher books.

Finally, the agency that reps my books, Trident Media in New York, have announced a new e-book division. A great move by them and one that this client welcomes. It's going to make my life a lot easier.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tess Gerritsen Is Stalking Me

...or perhaps it's the other way around?
I give you Exhibit A, where Ms. Gerritsen is to be found strategically placed next to a whole dump bin of paperbacks of Lockdown. By the way, that small child has the look of a man gathering forensic science tips in order to pull off the perfect murder at a later date.




Exhibit B: Who is the first author who should appear in the 'Also Boughts' next to the Kindle version of Lockdown on Amazon.com?
Lockdown (Ryan Lock 1)
Yes, you guessed it. What is the loveliest woman in crime fiction slumming it next to me for? One can only guess.
Restraining orders on the back of a postcard carved from human flesh to Sean Black, Black Towers, Dublin, Ireland.

Lock Comes Home

All three of the Lock books are now available for Kindle in the USA and Canada. They'll be rolling out to Barnes and Noble Nook, the Apple Store (US and Canada) and Kobo soon. But for now Amazon is the place to go for the ebooks, which are very reasonably priced compared to the UK, German, Dutch and Russian paper editions.
If you are in the US or Canada, would like a hardcover or paperback, and are having trouble finding one, please contact me via the website or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/seanblackthrillers), and I will try to point you in the right direction.
If you have stumbled across this blog post and are thinking 'huh?', 'what?' then check the website to find out more about the books and their author.
If you would like a signed first edition you can contact me via the website, and I will try and accommodate your request.
In the meantime, here are some links:


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Early Reviews Are In

Gridlock is now available for pre-order on Amazon (at a very reasonable price). It will also, so I'm told, be available for sale in hardback (again at a good price) at Asda.





As ARCs have rolled out and Amazon Vine reviews have rolled in, it's been gratifying to see the overwhelmingly positive response. All I can is say that writing it, I felt like I was getting closer to what I wanted than with the previous two books. A lot of that is down to my editor and friend, Selina Walker, who is moving from her post at Transworld to head up the Arrow and Century imprints at Random House UK (they have some writers you may be vaguely aware of. Somebody Grisham. Oh, and some Patterson guy. James, I think the first name is.)


I am obviously gutted, as everyone at Transworld is, to see her leave, but I am looking forward to working with my new editor, the highly-rated Simon Thorogood.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

News

Happy to report that the paperback of Deadlock made the UK's official Top 50 Bestselling Books chart. So I'm now two for two as Lockdown achieved the same feat. Thanks to everyone who went out and bought the books and made it all possible.

I think everyone in publishing was happy to see a deal to secure the future of Waterstones. I have visited quite a few branches as an author and the one thing I will say is that the staff are unfailingly excellent. From what I gather they've not had the easiest time of it over the past few years but this is one author who really appreciates their dedication and hard work.

Last but not least, congratulations to fellow thriller writer Barry Eisler on his deal with Amazon's new crime imprint. There is no doubt we are living through interesting times. Agents are setting up as publishers. Publishers are doing deals without agents. Amazon are signing up writers. Amidst all that sound and fury, this writer has decided to focus on getting on with his next book. Reading Robert Twigger's wonderful book 'Angry White Pyjamas' last night, I came across this great quote from Japanese martial artist and philosopher, Tesshu, which neatly summed up my current approach: "It is best to keep one's heart clear, face the work at hand directly, and act boldly.' Sage advice indeed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Readers

With the release of Deadlock, I've had quite a bit of email and Facebook messages from readers. Some are just discovering Ryan Lock and some have been eagerly awaiting the release of the second book. I can't begin to describe how much it means to me when people get in touch to share their enjoyment of the books. Doing media, swanky publishing events, book launches, all of these pale in comparison to someone taking a few minutes of their time to drop me a line. It's a massive buzz for me and I really appreciate it.

And, on that note, here's my favorite Facebook status update of the week:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Million Dollar Riot

To research the first book in the series, which was also my debut, I underwent an intensive three and a half week bodyguard training course in the UK and Eastern Europe. Living in barracks with over a dozen other men, as well as the rigors of learning the close protection game, took me well outside my comfort zone. DEADLOCK would take me even further outside those boundaries.

In January, 2009, after an extended period of negotiation with the California Department of Corrections, I arrived at Pelican Bay. The statistics surrounding this institution tell you all you need to know about the environment I was entering.

The Bay holds three and a half thousand men. Somewhere between seventy five and eighty percent of those men are serving sentences of life without possibility of parole. It has no death row, that's at San Quentin, but it does have a Secure Housing Unit which is home to around twelve hundred men who are locked down for twenty three out of twenty four hours.

I was already aware of the prison's no hostages policy before I drove the seven hours north from San Francisco. My permission to visit was granted at the last moment. I was told not to, under any circumstances, wear anything blue in colour. The inmates wear blue and so it would be an escape risk for me to wear it. Also, if there was an incident on the yard, sometimes live rounds are fired, so it was important for me to be visible. I promptly went out and bought the reddest shirt I could find.

Part of the reason for the hesitation in allowing me access was that the week before there had been a riot on the main yard. Riots are not infrequent at Pelican Bay. Racial tensions, powerful prison gangs, and a healthy commerce in all range of goods and services conspire to create a lively atmosphere among men who are especially articulate with their fists and spend large amounts of time either working out or fashioning makeshift weapons.

This time the flash point had been a white inmate who on the outside was a member of the Crips, which is a predominantly African-American street gang. On arrival he had been advised to associate not with his fellow gang members but with other white inmates. As I was told by a guard, as far as the white inmates are concerned a white man who associates with black men 'is lower than a child molester' in the prison pecking order.

Having ignored some well meaning advice, the end result was inevitable and they showed me the footage. There is no pavement dancing as a prelude to an attack on the yard; no veiled threat; not even a succession of body language signals. There is only brute and brutal violence, swift and without warning. Violence on the yard doesn't so much break out as descend.

There was an almost comedic pause in the first few seconds after the young Crip was attacked. You could almost hear the wheels of his African American compatriots turning over. He was one of their own and yet he was other. Finally, they piled in to aid their fallen brother and it descended into a scene from Braveheart with tear gas taking the place of a misty moor.

Then came the puff of dust. Tiny. Barely perceptible. The first gunshot from the tower signaling that playtime was over, the point had been made, and now it was time for everyone to kiss the dirt or face the consequences.

On New Years Day, 2000, thirteen inmates at Pelican Bay were shot during a major riot. Miraculously, only one inmate died. It took a hundred and twenty guards a full half hour to stop the violence. But as I walked the yard one statistic was pressed upon me by my guide. The medical bill had been a million bucks.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PMT

Which, in my case, stands for Pre Manuscript Tension. I suffer from it. I'm fine when I have events and promotion and media to do, but when I am between books, as I have been recently, I confess freely that I am not the happiest camper.
Last year I bumped into Brian Kennedy, the very talented Northern Irish singer and writer, while doing a radio interview in Dublin. We got chatting, as you do, and he used the word hormonal in connection with his own work and in particular his prose. In our sexist society it's a word most often associated with women, but it applies equally to writers of both genders. It definitely applies to me.
Part of it comes down to guilt associated with the infamous Protestant work ethic, which was drilled into me growing up. My Dad (who'll be 80 in a few days) was a prolific historian and scholar, and even now, with his health very bad, he is working on a new book - a biography of James Connolly, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.
My earliest and fondest memories are of waking up as a boy to the clack-clack, or, more accurately, the hammer-hammer (Dad was a labourer in a sawmill from the age of 14 long before he was an academic) of a manual typewriter being wrestled into submission.
Although writing to me is work, work is a positive thing. I was brought up to believe that one of the most important duties you had was to make a contribution to society. If you had even a small modicum of talent then you used it. So that plays a part in my unease when I am not working.
On the plus side, I am rarely happier than when I've had a good day writing. So it's with some relief that after weeks and weeks, I have finally cracked the opening of my new book. Once I get that part done it tends to flow for the next forty thousand words until I hit the mid-book blahs. But, right now, it's a voyage of discovery. I am productive, and free of guilt.
In other news, if you are in London in May then look out for this poster on the London Underground.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Paradise Lost

I'm fifty-nine-years old, man. I never thought my life was going to end up like this.

The words belong to Steve and they haunt me as I write this, a few short days after I meet him for the first time. We are standing next to Steve's home, a small tent positioned six hundred yards inside a ten foot by ten foot concrete storm drain next to one of the most famous landmarks in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steve has lived here for the past six years. He has bright blue eyes, a neatly trimmed beard and speaks with a soft, articulate desperation. I stand with Matt, my guide to the tunnels, and listen. When I leave, I slip Steve twenty dollars, and while he is grateful, I feel the inadequacy of my gesture. In some ways, I am as much a tourist as the people twenty-five feet above me having their picture taken with Elvis.

Minutes before, I was talking to Steve's neighbour, Michael, as he told me how his descent into the tunnels began with witnessing the woman he loved being killed in front of his eyes by a drunk driver. Death. Loneliness. The fragility of our existence. Never has the phrase 'there but for the grace of God go I' resonated more deeply for this atheist.

I am armed going into the tunnels. I have a big, carbon steel knife with me, sheathed and slung around my neck. The blade is dulled a little by several days use in the high desert of neighbouring Arizona, where I have been living on the land, sleeping under a Juniper tree. There, a knife keeps you alive by carving dead fall traps to trap pack rats and squirrels. Here, it may serve a more direct survival function. People worry me far more than coyotes, or bobcats or packs of wild dogs.

Junkies come down here to get high. Gangs sometimes venture into the tunnels looking for sport, with the homeless as their prey. There is talk of a Wild Man who randomly attacks the tunnel dwellers, descending on them in the darkness. Generally, the Metro police are never seen. There is no cell phone reception. If something happens, Steve tells me, you had best be able to deal with it yourself. He is thinking of getting a gun. Matt and I advise him that in a tunnel like this a gun may not be the best choice.

Despite my initial apprehension, I soon relax as I meet these men. I am old enough, and I have had enough of my own victories and screw-ups, to know that the choices they have made have played a part in their downfall.

They have alcohol issues. They have drug issues. Issues run through them like lettering through seaside rock candy. There is help available to them. Some have gotten out of the tunnels only to come back. Ricky-Lee tells me that he knows sooner or later he will end up back here, 'so why try to leave, man?' He will, in all probability (and the vast wealth of Vegas is premised on the general public's inability to understand that single concept), die here.

After more tunnels, more dragging my boots through dank standing water, past walls plastered with human excrement, and a graffitied quote from Milton's Paradise Lost (see the video), I call it a day.

video


After many hours, I get back to my hotel room. I strip off my clothes and take a long, hot shower. Looking out my window, twenty-five floors up, the neon signs of the Strip shimmer in the darkness.

In the morning there is an email on my Blackberry, bad news from my agent in New York. I'm facing a hefty cut in my income down the line. I feel deflated. It's a juvenile reaction to something, which is, after all, only business.

At this point, I should think of Steve, and find perspective. But I don't. Back home, I wake jet-lagged, and start to write this blog post. I think about how I can harness all the fear I have about being able to maintain the comfortable life I have built for my family, alongside the residue of emotions and thoughts from my research trip, to inform my central character's interior journey in the new book. It occurs to me that this reaction, this thought process, means I'm still a writer. 

Finally, I feel better.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Going Underground

Right now I am reviewing copy edits for the third Lock book, Gridlock, which will be released in hardback in August. I'm also hastily putting together a new research trip, which is going to involve learning how to survive in Arizona's bleak but stunning Painted Desert, followed up by some time exploring a side of Las Vegas which the tourists don't see.

The key to organising the research I do is to not think about it. I'll be out in The Painted Desert over at least two days and one night with a guide, and a knife, and little else. Well, that's not strictly true, there will be plenty of coyotes and snakes to keep us company.

Just as I did before I flew off to do my bodyguard training, and certainly just like the morning I woke knowing that I was going inside Pelican Bay, I'm sure I will be nervous as hell. Hence, you don't dwell, you commit.

Of course it would be more pleasant to sit at home drinking tea and eating biscuits and looking up stuff on the internet or reading books, but where is the fun in that? Also, having written three Lock books, I am in need of new details, new characters, and new experiences.*

So, flights are booked, and contacts have been made. New horizons await me. Then, when I get back, comes the really exciting and nerve-wracking part - writing that first draft of the new book - but first I have to go buy a new pair of boots.

*Don't worry, Lock, Ty and the crew will be back, although there may well be a book in between.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's great to see the success of Gregg Hurwitz's latest thriller, You're Next, in the UK. I am a huge fan of Gregg's work and it's gratifying to see that more and more people are discovering one of the great modern thriller writers whose work often eclipses much bigger names. Now all those people who loved You're Next need to go and read his fantastic backlist, including the unbelievably good Rackley series.












Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Onwards

The third book of the Lock series, Gridlock, is now with the Transworld copyeditor. It will be released in the UK and Ireland (and lots of other places) in August. Authors can be notoriously bad judges of their own work but I will say that I am intensely proud of Gridlock. It has all the action and suspense of the previous two Lock adventures but this time we go a little deeper and there is more of a psychological edge. It also has a truly shocking ending. Anyway, here is the cover for it, designed by the handsome and talented, Richard Shailer.


Not one to rest on my laurels, I am planning a new research trip to the US for next month. Then it is head down over the spring and summer as I carve out the first draft of a new book.

Along with my London film agent, Luke Speed, CAA in Los Angeles are helping us package Deadlock. Speaking of which, the paperback is out on May the 12th.

I am entering a difficult period for a new author. You no longer have the sparkle which surrounds the debut and you have yet to establish yourself on the bestseller list. It's when characters are tested. A lot of hard work lies ahead, hence my motto for this year: Dig In. Dig Deep.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. I truly appreciate it.


Sean

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cut and Run

On the 6th of January, Matt Hilton's latest Joe Hunter thriller Cut and Run goes on sale in paperback in the UK and Ireland. Matt's series is terrific fun, full of action and he gets better with every book so look out for it.






Are we there yet?

One of the most common questions I get right now is whether I have finished the third book. The answer is a less than definitive, well, kind of. It's broadly done but my editor and I are still working on it and will be for a little while more.
When I start a book I have a very broad idea as to the premise and how the beginning, middle and end will work. However I don't outline chapter by chapter because what I've found over the years is that if I know every beat of the story I tend to get bored. If I'm bored writing it then I surmise that the reader will be bored reading it. True or not, that has been my belief. I may revisit my prejudices for the next book. It's a good idea to challenge your own prejudices from time to time.
The only problem with writing as I do now is that I tend to take some wrong turns. I'll try things out and see if they work. If they don't then I'll change them. What that does though is create a lot of continuity issues, which are time consuming to fix.
On the plus side I don't get overly attached to the material. I'm quite happy to cut whole chapters or sections if it helps the story. Hell, for Lockdown, I wrote an entire first draft of 80,000 plus words, which I threw out entirely because 'pretty good' doesn't do it for me and there are certain things I want to achieve.
As anyone who has read the books will know I burn through story. Fast-paced doesn't apply to the Lock thrillers. They are lightning-paced.
I want my readers ripping through the pages. I want to leave them exhausted. I want them ignoring the phone. I want them not showering or leaving the dishes in the sink. I want them staying up until all hours even though they have work in the morning. If that happens then the book has worked.
The problem is that to achieve that, for me at least, takes a lot of work. A lot of writing material that never makes it into the book. For the 85,000 words that the reader gets I probably generate double that, most of which no one ever reads, my editor and agent included.
And on that note I had probably better get back to work.