Saturday, May 28, 2011


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


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.