May 4

Guest Post – Alan Jones: Serial Heroes

Day Three of Serial Heroes and after Steven Dunne and Caroline Mitchell both discussed authors that have had success in print and on the silver screen I find that my latest guest is keeping that trend running.

When I first asked Alan Jones if he would like to contribute to my Serial Heroes feature his first response was that he didn’t really follow any series of books or characters . However, I don’t think 60 seconds had passed before he suggested a name – possibly one of the most famous names from literature – and from that point I don’t think I gave him the option to back out. Thanks Alan, it’s over to you to explain:


The series of books I love most may be a surprise to many. If I tell you that they are action stories based loosely around crime and the cold war, and involve a lot of  shooting, car chases and beautiful  women with  a cool and sophisticated protagonist, you’ve probably narrowed the list down a bit.

But if I told you that at one point in the series, the main character suffers the death of a loved one in violent circumstances and has mental health issues because of it, culminating in a breakdown and a period in his life when he goes completely off the rails and works for the other side of the ‘law’, would that make you think again. Maybe something Scandinavian or old school American Noir?You Only Live Twice

The books have all been made into films; tremendously successful but each one in the series getting further and further away from the books, which would make those unlikely.

To confuse you further, the author of this series also wrote a very successful children’s book, published after his death, that also led to a major blockbuster when it hit the big screen.

The lead character is an English gentleman and manners play a big part in all the books of the series.

The series?

Casino RoyaleWhen Ian Fleming penned ‘Casino Royale.’, the first of the series of sixteen books that introduced James Bond to the world, he could have no idea that he would spawn on of the longest running and most successful screen franchises ever, with each film outdoing the one before in terms of gadgets, stunts and humour.

And yet, the books themselves are a great read, giving an insight into how the establishment in the post war period saw themselves. Bond, an Englishman in the books, is ever so well mannered, even when he is killing his villains. The books are partly a throwback to the days of the British Empire but underneath it all, they are short detective stories set in exotic locations, usually with world peace and prosperity at stake.

They’re deeper than you would think, and Bond even gets married in one of them. And he has that nervous breakdown, starts working for the Russians and even goes back to nature, living as a fisherman for a year on a Japanese Island.

There is an element of gadgetry, fast cars and gorgeous ladies, but the storylines are grounded enough to make you believe they could almost have happened, and read incredibly well. Bond on paper, in contrast to his screen persona, is darker. He still has that cruel, ruthless streak, he’s decadent, with a  lack of ethics, he’s sadistic and he’s a snob. But Ian Fleming injects a little bit of glamour and a hint of humanity into him, and the reader ends up rooting for this flawed but fascinating and exciting character. OHMSS

My personal favourites are On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,  where Bond is at his most human, and the next one after that, ‘You Only Live Twice, which tells of Bond’s descent to probably his lowest point in the whole series.

But they’re all good. Short, succinct, exciting and clever. And if you can find copies with covers from the fifties and sixties, they look bloody great in your bookcase!



And that children’s book?

It surprised me to find out, years after I’d read both it and The James Bond series, that Ian Fleming had also written ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’!




BloqAlan Jones’s Amazon page is here: where you can order copies of all his books.


Alan’s latest book BLOQ scored a 5/5 when I reviewed it recently, you can order a copy here:


You can find Alan on Twitter @alanjonesbooks or at his own website:

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March 31

London Locations. Researching ’Bloq’ – Alan Jones

BloqOn my blog tour for Blue Wicked, Gordon asked me to do a post about the locations I’d used in the book, so for my second visit to GrabThisBook, I suggested a follow up post on how I found the London locations for Bloq.

Bloq is the story of a Glasgow man, Bill Ingram, a very ordinary husband and father who lives in a pleasant suburb of the city. He’s a civil engineer; a man who does his job well and lives a quiet life.

On Christmas Eve, he’s waiting in Glasgow’s Central Station for his daughter, Carol, a journalist working in London, who’s returning home to spend Christmas with him. When she doesn’t get off the last train, he knows something is badly wrong. He returns home, but sitting by the telephone, waiting for her to call, he makes the decision to drive to London to find out what has happened to her.

Up until that point, I was great with the locations. I’ve been in Central station thousands of times; I know the suburb in Glasgow where Bill lives. I can see him driving home up the switchback, sick with worry.

But I’ve been to London maybe half a dozen times in my life and I really didn’t know it well at all.  I pretty much had the plot in my head, and I knew that I needed five or six key locations at least. I’d used google earth to find those I needed for my last book, Blue Wicked, but I was looking for very specific spots in an area that I was much more familiar with, so I knew where to look. This was different.

The first one wasn’t too difficult. I’d stayed in London thirty years ago with friends in Camden, and I remembered it as an ideal location for Carol’s flat. Google maps proved to be much better than google earth in a city environment, and street view has improved to the point where I could almost feel that I was walking about the streets of London, but with the ability to teleport myself to anywhere in on the map at the touch of a mouse. Within a short while, I’d found a street that matched the one in my mind’s eye.

The next bit blew me away; I was looking for a bar where Bill would have gone to grab something to eat and have a couple of pints after a long day treading the streets looking for his daughter, so in Streetview, I made my way from carol’s flat down to Camden High Street, and walked along it looking for a traditional bar. I had in my mind that it would be the sort of place that Bill would choose. I found one, The Elephants Head, situated only 10 minutes’ walk from the flat, as calculated by the Google maps, and had a closer look at it. To my amazement, when I clicked on the doorway, I was inside the bar, looking at the interior. It was like something out of Alice in wonderland! Not only was I in the bar, but I could move around inside, checking out the layout as if I was there. I even tried going up to the bar to see if I could order a pint, but it wasn’t that good!


Bloq image 1I hadn’t realised that this was available in Streetview, so I wasted the next hour finding places to go into, just for the fun of it. Check it out yourself; it’s phenomenal. Just enter ‘The Elephants Head, Camden’ into google maps and drop the little Streetview man outside it.

For the nightclub that gives the book its title, I had a converted warehouse in my mind, and I wanted it to be in one of the less fashionable areas of London. I’d already written some of the scenes that happen at the nightclub, so I had a much longer list of specific requirements that needed to be just right. Why didn’t I just make the place a complete figment of my imagination, I hear you ask, and it’s a fair question.Bloq image 2

I find it easier to write if I can totally immerse myself in the story, and having real locations definitely helps. If I believe the narrative one hundred percent, I hope the reader will too, but I do tinker sometimes with the detail a bit, to make it fit in with the plot.

After looking at seven or eight places in Bethnal Green, and finding nothing suitable, I moved my search south of the river. It was time consuming, but worth it, because I eventually found the perfect place in Walworth. It had all the right attributes, and I could see the changes that the builders would make to transform it into the nightclub of my imagination. A tarted up exterior with a new ostentatious doorway that had a certain look about it would make it perfect for the job, and it had a car park wedged between it and the church next door that ran the whole length of the building, just as I wanted.

I always imagined Alexander Gjebrea, one of the main characters, living in an uber-modern Grand Designs style house in one of the more affluent boroughs of London, so I checked on Google to see which areas were the most desirable. Islington seemed to fit the bill, and I did a Google search for modern houses in the area and came up with a development that was just perfect. It even had an online brochure from the developer with detailed plans and pictures of the interior.

Bloq Image 3For the story, I altered these a little and added some bling, to fit in with the story and the character.

I emailed Martin Stanley, a London author who I’d been introduced to, mentioning two or three of the key locations and asking him if they made sense. According to him they did.

I meant to get to London myself to check out all the locations, and physically travel between them to get the feel of what the characters would have to put up with, getting from one to another, but work and life got in the way, and it just didn’t happen, so I decided that I needed a couple of proof readers who knew London well to check out the first draft for authenticity in its setting.

I had a friend in London, Nick Short, who’d read my first two books, and he generously agreed to read Bloq for me and check out its London credentials. For the other proofreader, I asked the members of The Crime Book Club on Facebook (I’m a member there) if anyone fancied helping out, and I got a quick reply from an extremely nice lady, Rowena Hoseasons, who said she was a book blogger at and she was willing to read it through for me.

Both my London beta-readers were a godsend. They said that, on the whole, I’d got it almost right, but they came back with a list of tweaks about living in London that they thought would enhance the realism of the book, all of which I incorporated into my first edit.

It was mainly issues like traffic congestion, bus lanes, Oyster cards, parking nightmares, cyclists and ways in which I could beef up the manic and multicultural nature of London life.

I’m extremely grateful for her and Nick’s help in improving Bloq’s depictions of London.

All of the locations in the book exist, although I’ve altered some details in a few of them, and one day I’ll jump on a train to London and go round and visit than all. I’ll be almost disappointed when I turn into Browning street and there’s no bright neon sign, ’BLOQ’ above a nightclub doorway half way along, next to the church.


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March 31

Bloq – Alan Jones

BloqA gritty crime thriller.

Glasgow man Bill Ingram waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why.

His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.


I received my review copy from the author in return for an honest review.

Bloq is going to be a tricky review to write.  I like to provide the official book description (as above) and in my review I generally include a personal overview of the story and explain why I liked the book I am discussing. However, I cannot tell you WHY I enjoyed Bloq as it would just mean dropping massive spoilers. I CAN tell you that I loved it and didn’t want to put it down.

For no reason I can really explain (other than that I love an ongoing crime series) I had expected Alan Jones to set his new book in Glasgow and bring back Eddie Henderson, the lead character from his fantastic thriller Blue Wicked. I met Alan at the end of 2015 and although he wouldn’t tell me anything about Bloq he was quite happy to assure me Eddie was not returning!

So I picked up Bloq with no idea of what to expect and I tried to avoid other reviews before I read the story so that I could approach the book with a totally open mind. What I found was a gripping tale of a father’s obsession over his missing daughter, a deeply disturbing ‘bad guy’ to loathe and the dark shocking twists which turn a good thriller into a great thriller.

Bloq is the name of a London nightclub. Lead character, Bill Ingram, has travelled from Glasgow to London to try and find his daughter – the only real clue he has to her whereabouts is that she was a regular visitor to the Bloq nightclub. Bill visits the club but there is no sign of his daughter, the club manager gives Bill the owner’s address but that trail leads nowhere either and Bill is stumped where to turn next. What Bill does not realise is that his enquiries have caught someone’s attention and that he is now being followed.

As I alluded to previously, everything that is good about Bloq needs to be discovered by the reader as they follow Bill around London. You cannot know too much about this book in advance – avoiding spoilers is the key to maximum enjoyment. It is not the easiest of reads at times as Alan Jones seems to enjoy being really nasty to his characters. There are tough times ahead for Bill and as he leans more about his daughter’s potential fate you begin to wonder if you actually want Bill to find her!

Bloq scores a ‘must read’ 5/5 review from me.

Bloq Blog Tour



Bloq is published on 1st April through Ailsa Publishing – you can order your copy here:

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December 8

Blue Wicked – Alan Jones – Blog Tour

Blue wicked 2Earlier this year I read the fantastic Blue Wicked by Alan Jones. Set in Glasgow it took readers to some of the less glamourous parts of the city and introduced us to some of the more ‘earthy’ types.  Words like ‘gritty’ and ‘nasty’ cropped up frequently when I talked about Blue Wicked but I absolutely loved it – a story which does not shirk away from the darker side of society.

When I heard that there would be a blog tour for Blue Wicked I knew I had to be involved. As my review had already been written (read it here) I asked Alan if he could possibly prepare a small guest post that would allow me to join in. As I live on the ‘wrong side’ of the city from where the action in Blue Wicked takes place I suggested that a walk around the locations would be fun – I am always keen to know what may inspire an author to use a particular setting.  Fortunately Alan seemed quite keen….


When Gordon suggested that I should write about some of the locations featured in Blue Wicked, I thought it was a great idea.

I spent most of my formative years on the north side of Glasgow, and I went to Glasgow University in the city’s West end so The Cabinetmaker, my first book, was set in those parts of the city that I knew so well.

But Blue Wicked is set mostly on the South side of Glasgow, so I had to do a bit more research to find suitable locations where the narrative of the book would be placed.

When I’m writing, I mostly choose a general area, then write large screeds of the book first, before finding specific suitable locations that fit in with the plot, but there are key areas where it helps to have an idea of where the action is happening before too much detail goes on to the page.

Blue Wicked Image 1In Blue Wicked, the two parts of the book where location really mattered to the writing process were James Prentice’s murder scene and the final chapters of the book. Both of these were set in Renfrew, an industrial town just west of Glasgow itself, but on the south side of the river.

Blue Wicked Image 2I had help from Ronnie, a friend of mine, who had lived in Renfrew all his life, and who took me on a grand tour of the town. I had already spotted the Babcock Factory loading bay on Google Earth, and seeing the area, with the Inchinnan bridge and the River Cart, I knew I’d found the ideal spot for wee Jamsie Prentice’s murder.

I’ve done a fair bit of sailing in the Clyde estuary, but never further up the Clyde than Gourock, so I had to do a bit of research, studying nautical charts of the area, and tidal flows, to make the journey he made down the Clyde on the makeshift raft as realistic as possible.

Blue Wicked Image 3For the final two or three chapters, I toured the housing estates and shopping areas of Renfrew, and found just what I was looking for. It made the writing so much easier when I could place myself, in my imagination, on the streets I was writing about. The row of shops in the main street exists, but the deserted butcher’s shop is long since gone.

Google Earth, especially with street-view, is an amazing tool when researching locations for a book but there’s no substitute for walking around a place to get a feel of it, and talking to the people who live and work there.  That’s when you can sometimes pick up little stories or hidden histories that add a bit of local colour to the narrative.

Blue Wicked Image 4It’s sometimes necessary to make changes to a location to fit in with the plot. The petrol Garage where Stevie had his drinking den and the derelict industrial estate it sat in were an amalgamations of two separate locations, and the arrangement of the streets around Spencey’s house is slightly different in the book. And aside from knocking people’s doors to ask to see inside their houses, the internal layout usually involves a bit of guesswork.

I find that Glasgow and the surrounding area, while not maybe quite as iconic or eye-catching as Edinburgh, is a fantastic place for a book setting, especially if the book taps in to the grittiness and friendly humour of the city and its people.



Blue Wicked is published by Ailsa Press and is available in paperback and on Kindle:




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July 28

Blue Wicked – Alan Jones

Blue wicked 2Blue Wicked is Alan Jones’ second gritty Glasgow crime novel. The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only unlikely investigator Eddie Henderson seems to know why. When he tries to tell the police, his information is ridiculed and he’s told to stop wasting their time. One officer, junior detective Catherine Douglas, believes him, and together they set out to discover why the dregs of Glasgow’s underbelly are being found, dead and mutilated.


My thanks to Alan for providing a review copy of Blue Wicked.


Blue Wicked is dark. It is graphic and it is a brilliant read.

The lead character, Eddie Henderson, is a vet – he is a bit awkward, very career focussed and on hand at the opening of the book as the corpse is discovered. The initial description of violence was graphic and it sets out the expectation for what is to follow.

Eddie is convinced he has found a link between a series of animal attacks and wants to raise his concerns with the police. Sadly for Eddie attacks on animals are not high on the list of priorities for his local police force. He is assigned to work alongside Catherine Douglas (a young detective) who notes his concerns and warms to Eddie’s passion to protect animals but with no solid leads to follow it does not appear that the police can be of much assistance. Frustrated with their lack of support Eddie’s frustration seems to be getting the better of him.

In Glasgow’s quieter areas someone is isolating drug users and feeding them Blue Wicked – a lethal concoction which will render them unconscious and vulnerable to attack. In their weakened state the debilitated users are tortured and put to a prolonged and painful death.

Eddie hears of the deaths and believes he sees a link between the animal attacks and the murders but can he make the police take him seriously.

Blue Wicked can be quite nasty reading in places – there are some not very nice people in this book and it made for compulsive reading. Alan Jones built up the mystery and kept me guessing as to how matters may resolve themselves. The dual narrative of the killer and the police investigation was well executed and the endgame played out brilliantly, an exhilarating race against time with a couple of unexpected twists.

At the back of the book was a glossary of Glaswegian slang – lovely touch as there is a lot of Glasgow’s colourful language in Blue Wicked.

I would urge all readers that enjoy gritty crime fiction to treat themselves to Blue Wicked – one of the best I have read for quite some time.


Blue Wicked is available in paperback from Ailsa Publishing and is also available in digital format.




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