When I started writing ‘An Invisible Nemesis’ in July 2017, little did I know that three months into the process, a real life event would interrupt the project...
I had already decided to set my new conspiracy and murder thriller on the beautiful Maltese island of Gozo, a paradise I have visited frequently and somewhere I have always called my second home. The book tells the story of the calculated murder of a hard-nosed but much-loved investigative journalist called Suzanne Camilleri who was investigating a possible cover up involving the well documented death of Diana, Princess of Wales which had happened over twenty years earlier. The tale involves the Sicilian mafia and both the governments of the UK and Malta.
On Monday 16 October 2017 news came through that the popular but often controversial Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia had been assassinated in a car bomb attack near her home. Daphne was also a writer and anti-corruption activist who had reported on a number of political events in her own country. In particular, she focused on investigative reporting into government corruption, patronage, allegations of money laundering and much more.
For my part, it was time for a bit of soul-searching. Why had a real life event collided with my latest heady excursion into fiction? Indeed, like my key character in ‘An Invisible Nemesis’, Daphne had been killed just for doing her job, something which can never be acceptable. It's also worrying to think that according to recently released figures, ninety-five international journalists died in 2018 alone.
As an author of fiction and one with a conscience, I now had a dilemma. Should I shelve my new book or continue writing the story I had been harbouring for years? After all, there were so many parallels aligned with Daphne’s gruesome murder and a vital plot in my manuscript. It all felt more than just a coincidence. In the end I decided to bite the proverbial bullet, tread carefully and eventually publish.
Today, the investigation into Daphne's murder continues but without much support from the Government of Malta, the same government that is unbelievably bringing at least forty-eight libel suits against Daphne two years after her death which in a way tells it own story. To date, three men have been arrested for her killing but the person said to have ordered it, mysteriously remains at large. A cover up? - A conspiracy? I tend to think so... Daphne’s ultimate sacrifice for simply telling the truth must NOT be in vain.
You can find out more about Daphne’s life, her achievements and her untimely death @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne_Caruana_Galizia
On Thursday 5 December 2019, following the arrest of a prominent businessman for complicity for murder and suggestions that Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was implicated in a cover up, Simon Busuttil, opposition Leader, MEP and former leader of the country's PN Labour Party stated, “This is worse than a murder, worse than an assassination. It is STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM where the organs of the state, directed from Castille, aided and abetted the killing of a journalist. Then, they left NO STONE UNTURNED to make sure that the whole thing was COVERED UP!”
My third novel ‘An Invisible Nemesis’ is out ... and what a ride! - I’m talking about the whole process from concept and writing the first page right through to publication itself. I started writing the book in July 2017 and already had the main character, Jack Compton on board. He featured in my previous novel ’Fly Back and Purify’, as a fledgling journalist harbouring a mental health condition. This was in 1994 when he was just twenty-eight-years old... Fast forward twenty-five years and now, he’s a seasoned freelance reporter in his fifties.
I finished writing the book in February this year but didn't have time to relax. Patience isn't one of my virtues and I wanted the book out by the summer. February was when the serious bit, the editing and proofreading process came into play. To say that it's an arduous and tricky part of the procedure is an understatement, but we authors always seem to get through it.
Moving on, what to do with the book when published? I purposely channelled the paperback version through just one distributor. This has enabled the book to chart. Indeed it made No.1 in Lulu.com’s Top 100 Mystery and Crime chart in its first week of publication and then hit No.1 in their ALL FICTION Top 100 table for May.
What now? Well, there’s already been a very successful book launch and signing evening in my local pub and other similar events are being planned. Press Releases are going out, including to the Maltese press where the book is predominately set. I’m also looking at the possibility of launching a Facebook promo campaign with a similar event on Amazon.
People who know me will be aware I’m not in this for the money. UK publishers released more than twenty new titles every hour over the course of 2014, meaning that the country published more books per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world. UK publishers released 184,000 new and revised titles in 2013... If I manage to sell just 1,000 copies of any of my books then I consider that to be an achievement. Essentially, I write primarily for my own enjoyment and if just a few people enjoy my work along the way, then the whole journey through to publication and beyond is worth it!
The nucleus for the next novel (something completely different) is already swirling around in the grey matter!
Most books have a back story, or at least some of the sub-plots do. For me, my paranormal novel Fly Back and Purify is no exception. Pub landlady. Carol Baker, (pictured) formerly of the Royal Oak in Knaphill, Surrey is also a psychic medium and assisted me greatly with my research. The following is from a piece I did when working for the Woking News & Mail in 2016...
When most people walk into a public house and think of spirits, they are probably looking at the choice of whiskeys, rums or vodkas from the optics behind the bar. At the Royal Oak at the bottom of Anchor Hill in Knaphill, the term spirit can take on a whole new meaning as the pub’s landlady Carol Baker is also a psychic medium. Carol and her partner Mark McDermott have been running the pub since March 2015.
Carol told the News & Mail, “Many psychic mediums use a spirit guide to describe an entity that may be attempting to make contact with the living. With the help of a guide I can use my ‘third eye’ to see spirits, the images can then become full apparitions; they are vivid and appear very real.”
She describes clearly seeing a couple who were previous landlords at the pub, a priest, an old man who sits in the corner at the front by the window and two children in Victorian dress who play upstairs.
It is known that in
1851 the landlord was William Collyer who ran it with his wife Sarah. By 1891 the pub was being run by Alfred and Phoebe Brighton. From 1900 to 1935 the landlords were Joseph and Minnie Searle and Minnie took sole responsibility for the establishment’s
liquor licence following Joseph’s death in December 1935. Joseph who was born in 1869 had also been a local dairyman. Could one of these couples still be living there in spirit?
Indeed, the Royal Oak has a very rich history and dates back to the 17th Century. In the mid 19th Century Wesleyan Ministers formed a Sunday school which met there until the completion of the original Methodist church in Knaphill in 1867.
Carol says that she picked up her spirit guide, a young child called Emily when she worked at the White Horse pub in Steyning in West Sussex. Emily has stayed with her ever since. She believes that the girl had been murdered by a seven-foot tall poltergeist after hiding a wallet at the White Horse.
Carol added, “Whilst many people sense or feel the presence of a spirit, most will never see them. Communicating with the spirit world is a gift that I am blessed with and very happy to talk about. My ‘third eye’ is really my mind’s eye. Behind my physical eyes there is an intuitive eye and I am able to use this for soul to soul seeing and that’s how I can interact with my friendly spirits right here in the pub.”
Carol admits that most customers at the Royal Oak are totally oblivious to its ghostly occupants, however if anyone should ever sense or see something or are perhaps even sceptical about their existence, she will always be on hand to happily talk and explain the phenomenon from her point of view.
Note: Carol has since left the Royal Oak and now runs a pub in Hampshire
If you have read The Asylum Soul you will know all about Mrs Pengelley's Knaphill Pie. One reader has asked if there was a real recipe. The answer is yes. Bacon & Leek complete with all the 'secret' family ingredients.
The recipe comes from a family who lived in Queens Road, Knaphill at the time the book is set and is known to have been a favourite among those who worked at Brookwood Lunatic Asylum.
Records show that the pie got its name simply because the bacon came from the Middle-White breed of pigs that were bought and reared at the institution. The breed was actually favoured by the asylum's bursar because of the fine quality and quantity of its pork.
ORIGINAL KNAPHILL PIE RECIPE (Bacon/Leek)
- Full stove/oven.
- Melt 2oz knob of lard in large pan.
- Add 16oz bacon (chopped) and stir for 5 minutes until beginning to slightly brown then allow cooling down slightly.
- Transfer to deep medium oven dish and add 2 finely chopped leeks.
- Add level tea spoon of grated garlic and stir again.
- Grate 8oz strong cheddar cheese and sprinkle over top.
- Whilst bashing washed King Edward potatoes in saucepan add salt, water and milk and sprinkles of white pepper.
- When fused set potato into dish on top of other ingredients and add tram-lines with fork and then sprinkle rosemary sparingly on top.
- Cooking time 1 hour 20 minutes. Check and prod with a long fork every 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven when potato is browned. Allow 10 minute rest.
- Best served with carrots and cauliflower.
Note: Quantity of ingredients based on 4 served/imperial measurements.
In July 1975 I was sitting on a platform at a railway station on the outskirts of Paris. Someone on the opposite platform had a cassette player. I could hear a voice, monotone, clear, concise, dark but the melody captured me. It was Leonard Cohen singing The Partisan from his 'Songs from a Room' album. I was hooked.
When I got back to England I bought all four of the albums which he had out at the time. There were also two novels and around six poetry books.
His deep voice with all its wisdom, love, pain and honesty consumed me. He soon became my biggest influence and source of inspiration. Indeed, his fine spectrum of work is the 'Hallelujah' of my very own personal, private religion.
On Wednesday 9 November 2016 rumours across the internet suggested that he had died the previous Monday, Indeed a formal announcement was made after his funeral by his son Adam on Thursday 10 November. Needless to say, I shed more than just one tear when everything became apparent and sadly real later that day and into Friday.
Leonard was buried privately and laid to rest in an unadorned pine coffin next to his beloved mother and father in Montreal, Canada.
My ambition was always to meet Leonard, to shake his hand, to thank him for his music and poetry. To thank him for his wisdom and his voice - a voice that has guided me through dark and difficult times and uplifted me. Of course that will never happen now.
Leonard Cohen was a true gentleman and a master of his craft. His spirit will walk with me forever. I loved him and I will continue to love all the words and music that he has blessed me with.
Leonard Cohen (21 09 1934 - 07 11 2016)
“At last, he said to himself, the spirit
has taken up some of the heavy work...”
- from ‘Death of a Lady’s Man’
Portrait by: Vincent Keeling