This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Phil will be awarding a $40 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to My World of Dreams!
What do you do when you are not writing?
Well, at the moment it seems that most of my spare time is taken up with marketing Mask of the Verdoy, but I do still have a ‘day-job’ – running a small company in London specializing in the electronic security of works of art, which is extremely interesting—and often challenging! But if I do find myself with any spare time I like to cook, play music (I was a musician, performing in bands and writing/recording songs for a good few years in my earlier life), read, have friends over for extended meals … and I’ve also been known to take the odd glass of Scotch and enjoy a decent cigar.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I think an early influence to cite would have to be the immortal Charles Dickens. When he gets it right it’s as though you have an old entertaining friend spinning you a yarn. In A Christmas Carol he says: “… as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow …” and that’s exactly what he does, his work is suffused with his voice, as though he’s whispering it in your ear ... that’s a tough trick to pull off without getting in the way of the narrative; and then, of course there’s his great characterization achieved through the idiosyncrasies of dialogue—something I definitely aspire to.
As for my delve into 1930s fiction – well, I’ve been greatly influenced by the writings of authors such as Patrick Hamilton, Gerald Kersh and Graham Greene, who are all expert at capturing the often stark reality of life in Britain between the wars.
There are also authors who have inspired me to write: Angela Carter, Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Russell Hoban … I’m not quite sure where to stop with such a list.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, the challenges in getting a traditional publishing deal were actually insurmountable! I’m still getting rejection letters from pitches to literary agents that I made over six months ago, which would be extraordinary if applied to any other field (imagine not hearing about a job application for over six months). So, when I decided this summer to enter the fascinating world of indie publishing I must admit it was a steep learning curve. I think the biggest challenge was in researching what was relevant advice—there’s so much info out there on the net that it’s often difficult sifting the wheat from the chaff. But once I’d written myself a little manifesto on the way forward I threw myself into the challenge with great gusto.
I think the most important thing for indie authors to do (after creating a good book, of course) is to give great attention to detail, and to try to approach every aspect in the most professional way possible. A striking cover, a great blurb, editorial assessment and proofreading – these are all extremely important to get right if you want your book to succeed.
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
Blimey! Where did that one come from? Erm … maybe waking up one day with the instant ability to be able to play jazz piano like Bill Evans?
What was your first job?
Labouring on a construction site. I subsequently went on to wear many different hats – steel-fixer, stained-glass designer, musician, company director ... and now—author!
What types of books do you write?
Period thrillers set in the seedy underbelly of 1930s London.
Who's your main audience?
I think anyone who enjoys allowing a novel to draw them into another world for a while, populated with characters that they can begin to think of as actual acquaintances—good and bad alike. And those that like the twist and turn of a good mystery plot—and, of course, the smoggy backstreets in Mask of the Verdoy should appeal to fans of Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and the others denizens of Old London Town.
Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite? Why?
I think my favourite would have to be George Harley himself. I’ve lived with him for a few years now, and can hear his voice in my head. In fact, once you’ve fleshed out your character well enough to know them inside out you only have to place them in a situation and then just watch them react. George has many laudable attributes: although he fraternizes with criminals he also has a strong set of personal morals and always strives to ‘do the right thing’. He’s intelligent, autodidactic, loyal and diligent, and once committed to a cause will see it through to the end. And with all the stories he has to tell he’d make a good drinking partner.
After that it would have to be Vi Coleridge – Harley’s formidable next-door-neighbour; I’ve got a soft spot for Vi. I tried hard to create strong female characters in the book; personalities that were well-rounded and essential to the plot—rather than just props. Hopefully, I think I might have succeeded with Mrs Coleridge.
What does your writing schedule look like?
Well, the majority of Mask of the Verdoy was written on a train during my daily four hour commute to London and back; and that was after around three years of researching the 1930s. This research will serve for the other books in the series, and I’ve now cut down on the travel; so, in the New Year I should be settling down to a writing schedule which is a little more normal, I guess. Generally I tend to plot and create new chapters in the morning (when my brain is more creative) and re-write and edit in the afternoon; and remember—writing is all about the re-writing!
Do you use your OWN experiences?
To a certain extent, especially for the characters’ motives and emotions; and I’ve had the benefit of having a number of diverse occupations over the years, most of them in London—which has been a great source of inspiration for characterization.
Was it easy to pick the title for your book?
No! I knew I wanted to choose something that would have people intrigued, and it also had to have the air of one of those old movies about it, like The Maltese Falcon and The Thirty-Nine Steps; but it took me a long time to come up with Mask of the Verdoy. And don’t worry—you’re not supposed to know what “Verdoy” means, not until you’re a good way into the book that is.
Pick one profession you would choose if you were not an author. Why?
Jazz pianist. Why? Because, strangely enough, I woke up this morning with the super-power of being able to play the piano like the great Bill Evans, and it’d be a waste if I didn’t put that to good use—right?
What are you currently working on?
The second book in the George Harley Mysteries – The Grimaldi Vaults. Here’s the setup from my website:
February 1933. With Hitler now Reichschancellor of Germany, Ilse Blau—the infamous star of erotic films and self-styled ‘Queen of Depravity’ of Weimar cabaret—adopts a pseudonym and flees Berlin to escape the cultural cleansing of the Nazi regime.
A few weeks later, whilst investigating a seemingly run-of-the-mill missing persons case, George Harley stumbles upon a clandestine decadent night-club in the vaults of the Joseph Grimaldi pub in Soho.
A child abduction … a dismembered body in a suitcase … Occultist rituals … it isn’t long before Harley is once again trawling the seedy labyrinth of the capital’s demimonde searching for clues to another sinister mystery.
And behind it all lurks the menacing shadow of his arch-enemy, Osbert Morkens—but he’s still safely locked up in his padded cell in Broadmoor … isn’t he?
And scary clowns.
It’s business as usual for Harley in … THE GRIMALDI VAULTS—the second in the George Harley Mysteries series.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Marmalade … or snail (my darling wife took me to Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Fat Duck’ restaurant once – we had a blast!)
Night owl or early bird?
Red or white wine?
Roller Coasters or Water Rides?
Swimming in the ocean or a pool?
You’re kidding, right? Have you ever swum in the ocean in Britain? It’s bloody cold, I can tell you! Saying that, I do always like to have a dip if we’re at the seaside—but it’s more like a form of masochism than an enjoyable pursuit.
Walking or fitness club?
Walking, I’m not very clubbable.
Any last words?
Thank you and goodbye – or as George would say, Abyssinia!
Thanks you for chatting with me and our readers and for allowing My World of Dreams to be part of your tour!
And then, one smoggy night …
The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.
Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.
God save the King! eh, George?
THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.
In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.
With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.
But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.
Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.
Enjoy an excerpt:
STILL CLUTCHING THE distraught Gladys close to him the Italian moved forwards and fired up at the cage, the round ricocheting off the bars, briefly illuminating the gloom with a spray of sparks. Harley hunkered down, swore, and redoubled his efforts, finally forcing the catch and dropping through the small opening just as another bullet passed inches from his head.
The cage slewed as he dropped inside, the box of dynamite shifting a little to the left.
Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness he could quite plainly make out the length of two-core cable running through a drilled hole in the side of the box of explosives and out through the cage, snaking away into the gloom. He turned to peer through the bars—and was dismayed to see the second hand of the oversized clock ticking past the three minute mark.
He quickly lay down and started to crawl towards the bomb, the cage listing dangerously to and fro.
Girardi now fired again; this time the bullet made it through the bars to clatter terrifyingly around the inside of the cage.
‘Smith! You still there?’ shouted Harley, feeling in his jacket for his penknife.
‘You betcha, guv!’ came a voice from the gloom.
‘Shine a spotlight down there on that cowson, would yer? Try and dazzle him for me. Make it sharpish, now! We’ve only got seconds before this bloody thing goes up.’
About the Author:
Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.
All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.
Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.
So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …
Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.
Buy the book at Amazon or Book Depository.
a Rafflecopter giveaway