This handsome fellow here is Paul Waters, a friend of mine since we reported together in Belfast in the early ‘90s, one of the best editors the BBC has ever had - and shortly to become a best-selling author, with his first novel Blackwatertown.
It’s the tale of a maverick cop, in Northern Ireland, who is sent in disgrace to a small village - where he falls in love, and then accidentally starts a war!
Like any good writer, Paul has taken stories from his own family background and elsewhere to make this great work of fiction.
You can hear extracts from his book below - and also pre-order it here…
…pre-order it is probably the correct modern verb here, because the book is as yet unprinted.
But it soon will be. Because Paul has garnered a host of support through a fairly unique publishing experience : offered by Unbound.
They won’t give you an advance, but they will get your books into the shops and online vendors - they have that vital link with bookshops big and small.
For some reason I was reading the author Fay Weldon’s speech to the Booker Prize gala audience in 1982 the other day. And the criticisms she made of how authors were treated poorly still rings true - according to conversations I’ve had over the years with writers…
Sometimes unfair contracts, often indifferent marketing, low rates of return. At NUJ gatherings, successful but not star authors admit they find it hard to make ends meet.
Since the ‘80s of course, things have got complicated. Publishers face increasing competition at the same time as they face a deluge of new writing.
There’s a joke about a couple of journalists that happen upon each other in a coffee shop - both wielding a nice new laptop. “What are you doing”, says one. “I’m writing a book”, says the second.
“Neither am I”, responds the first.
The truth is that far more people are sitting down to tap out a piece of writing. I suspect a lot of them think they’ll be yet another JK Rowling, making millions over a cappuccino.
(By the way, in Edinburgh, Porto and Paris - how many coffee shops are there that claim to be “where JK Rowling wrote her Harry Potter books”? She must have been on a permanent caffeine high).
In large part, those budding authors are encouraged by the new platforms out there. If they can’t do it the old-fashioned way, they can self-publish. Physically, or electronically.
So I asked Paul Waters why he went for this hybrid route… Not quite traditional publishing, but much more select than paying a printer to churn out your work.
Now for a bit of fun - a couple of days later.
Sergeant Macken has turned the tables on a couple of men who were trying to rob him, while he was swimming naked in a lake.
But then he himself is taken by surprise…