Why Blonde became Dust

In the mid-90s I read all five of Derek Raymond’s pitch black Factory novels: He Died with His Eyes Open, The Devil’s Home on Leave, How the Dead Live, I Was Dora Suarez and Dead Man Upright*. I’d been of a mind to write a crime novel of my own for some time, and had dabbled with the odd short story here and there, but I wasn’t sure how to attack it. Reading Raymond unlocked the handcuffs. His nameless, profane (but intensely compassionate) Detective Sergeant was the grit in the grease of the police force, but he ground out results, identifying with the victims and immersing himself in the psychology of their killers to an uncomfortable degree.

Illustration by Paul Millner

Illustration by Paul Millner

I didn’t want to get bogged down in the politics of police procedurals, and decided my rogue element would be an ex-copper with a weakness for missing persons. I wanted it to be gritty and grimy, harrowing and horrific, and Derek dark.

I wrote Blonde on a Stick in 2003, the first in a planned series in which my protagonist would come to terms with the violent death of his wife and the subsequent disappearance of his teenage daughter.

I struggled though, to find a publisher, despite the enthusiasm of my then agent. The rejections were full of encouragement, however, and one or two houses had almost bitten, which kept me optimistic. But it wasn’t until my wife noticed a Facebook post by Maxim Jakubowski referring to the news that he was overseeing the launch of a new crime imprint – MaxCrime – at John Blake Publishing, that I felt my confidence return. Maxim had known Derek Raymond; indeed he had acted as Raymond’s agent for a spell (and still represents his estate). The stars were in alignment, it seemed.

I was thrilled when Maxim bought Blonde for his list and my mind turned to future books. At last Joel Sorrell was on his way…

blondeAlas, more bad fortune was to follow. John Blake is a publisher of repute, but its bread and butter is in non fiction. This first foray into novels lasted less than eighteen months before the list was cancelled. However, they had only purchased UK rights so it was not inconceivable I might be able to resurrect the series with another publisher. Luckily Titan Books showed an interest in Joel Sorrell towards the end of 2013. They agreed to publish two more books in the series, but they also wanted to reprint book one, albeit under a new title.

I was very attached to that original title, but Titan’s argument was that it didn’t quite sit comfortably with the content. It needed a more elegant name, so I came up with one and they produced a striking cover to go with it. I was happy with the decision (all three novels in the series so far are quotes from literary sources – William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett and William Shakespeare) and excited that finally, over ten years on from his conception, Joel would be able to reopen the file on his missing daughter.

I worry a little that people who have read Blonde will pick up Dust and Desire thinking it is a new book. It is not. It has been revisited, spruced up, modernised, but it is not substantially different. A brand new Joel Sorrell story – Do Not Resuscitate – set shortly after the events in Dust and Desire is included, along with a Q&A. Not that many people would have chanced upon the initial MaxCrime version – I only ever saw one copy in one bookshop and that was positioned ‘spine on’ – so I doubt much confusion can arise given that there was no worldwide or e-book release.

I believe the novel deserves a second chance and I’m grateful to Titan Books for granting it.


007 – My Top 5 Novels


Fanboy alert…

The good people over at Forces of Geek are hosting a blog of mine listing my top 5 James Bond novels. You can read it here. I restricted myself to the Ian Fleming series. A tough job, this one, as there are so many great stories to choose from.

My dad bought the original paperbacks when they were published, annually, during the ’50s and ’60s. I read them all one summer in my early teens. Until then, my understanding of James Bond was shaped only by the films that were shown each Christmas on ITV. So it came as some shock to discover that Ian Fleming’s creation was quite different to the sardonic, laconic, cat-who-got-the-cream version I was used to. The two films Timothy Dalton made, and the back-to-basics Bond Daniel Craig has given us are closer to the literary 007: the wine-educated thug, the blunt instrument, the cruel bastard.

Anyway, I’m grateful to FoG for the opportunity to write about one of my passions!

Chess, gloves and ‘up your nose’…


Thanks to Litro Magazine for running a Q&A with me recently. You can read it here.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know…

Detail from 'Red Dragon'

Detail from ‘Red Dragon’

Thanks to the excellent My Bookish Ways, who agreed to host a blog by me this week on the heels of Dust and Desire‘s publication. You can read it here, a little piece about creating a memorable villain.

Dust and Desire: OUT NOW!

Today marks the publication of Dust and Desire. Thanks to Titan for producing a beautiful book. I hope you enjoy Joel Sorrell’s first outing, and the exclusive short story Do Not Resuscitate.

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When he opened his mouth to speak, fire flew from between his teeth. His clothes were burnt off him and he had the girl’s body. I went to him and twisted his head off, as easily as loosening the screw-cap on a bottle of pop. Inside his head were the words MADE IN CHINA. When I looked at his face, he was the girl from the mag. She winked at us and peeled herself open. I stepped inside her and fell asleep for a thousand years.

‘This is the real deal: crime writing of a flint-edged, visceral nature that may initially appear to foreground narrative momentum, but is really about character; character, that is, which is delivered on the hoof. This is writing of real authority, and Williams is a genuine talent.’
Barry Forshaw, Crime Time

‘I loved this book, great ending. It accompanied me on a long swing through New York, Boston and Philadelphia.’ – James Sallis, author of Drive