And the last shall be first.

And the last shall be first.

Burke in Ireland is the fifth book so far in the James Burke series but it is an account of Burke’s first adventures in espionage.

Burke in the Land of Silver, thefirst of the James Burke books, starts in Saint-Domingue where Burke is fighting in the French army. France and England weren’t at war at the time and many Irishmen fought under the French Crown. The real James Burke was one of them, which explained his excellent French. By the end of the first chapter, though, France and England are at war and Burke’s regiment (almost all Irishmen) is beaten by the English and, as was quite common at the time, they simply changed sides and joined the British Army. Burke is detached for espionage activities and Chapter 2 starts with him about to start on his mission to Argentina, twelve years later. This makes perfect sense for a story that is based closely on the adventures of the real James Burke.

We have no idea what he was doing in those 12 years and I have had fun filling them out. I’ve put him in Egypt in 1798 (Burke and the Bedouin) but that still leaves a few years. Burke in Ireland fills a bit more of the gap.

The action of Burke in Ireland takes place immediately on his return to England after the surrender of his regiment. (In fact, in order to accommodate the actual historical events that happen in Burke in Ireland I’ve nudged his surrender back a few months. The real James Burke was still in the West Indies as the story starts. Don’t tell anybody.)

Burke in Ireland is thus Burke’s first adventure as a spy. All the Burke stories stand alone but if you haven’t read any of the others and, for whatever reason, don’t fancy starting with Burke in the Land of Silver, this is an excellent introduction to the character.

The Burke of Burke in Ireland is noticeably younger than the Burke of the later stories. Although he doesn’t want to be a spy, he still thinks that he can behave honourably in the service of his country doing undercover work. It’s unfortunate, then, that his first mission takes him to Dublin, where the English have been behaving dishonourably for centuries. Things are slowly improving, but Burke is still up to his neck in a very dirty little war. The cynicism that we see in the later books has its origins in his experiences here.

Clement Cruttwell Map of Ireland 1799

He’s also more innocent in his attitude to women. Burke in Ireland finds a young Burke falling in love and learning the hard way that love does not necessarily conquer all.

What else is different? Well, it’s the first book that doesn’t feature any actual battles, although it has its share of violence and sudden death. And, notably, Burke has to work alone without the estimable William Brown to back him up.

Burke in Ireland, then, shows a different Burke from the earlier books and it has a darker tone. The history of British involvement in Ireland deserves a more sombre plot.

I hope you enjoy the adventures of the younger Burke and, never fear, the next book is shaping up to be a much more light-hearted affair – but I’m afraid it’s not going to arrive for quite a while. Until then, pour yourself a drink and settle down to Burke’s return to his homeland.

Buy links

The universal link for the Kindle edition of Burke in Ireland (ie one which should take you to the appropriate Amazon page wherever you are in the world) is https://mybook.to/Ireland.

Burke in Ireland is also available in paperback. The UK link is: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1838397515.

In the UK the Kindle edition costs £3.99 and the paperback £6.99.

I hope you enjoy it.

Burke in Ireland cover reveal

Burke in Ireland cover reveal

So here it is:

No stirring military imagery on this one. This story is Burke’s first adventure in espionage — before he went to Egypt (Burke and the Bedouin) or Argentina (Burke in the Land of Silver). Seconded from the Army to assist the Alien Office in its dirty work spying on French sympathisers in Britain, Burke is sent undercover to Ireland.

It’s 1793. Ireland is just five years off an armed uprising against the British Crown, but for now resistance is underground. While the Nationalists print their pamphlets and talk of revolution and burn the occasional barn, the English respond by infiltrating their ranks and picking off their leaders. It’s dirty work in a dirty war. There’s no room here for an officer and a gentleman. Burke has to grow up quickly.

Burke in Ireland publishes on Kindle next Friday (19 March) and is available to pre-order now at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08YMMG4YH. A paperback will follow soon.

Burke is back!

The last James Burke book was published in September and then we had a break for Christmas followed by the audio book of Dark Magic and, in February, my latest contemporary story, Something Wicked. It’s been a long wait for Burke fans, but wait no more! Well, wait a little bit more: the next in the James Burke series will be out on 19 March. It’s called Burke in Ireland and it’s set in the run-up to the 1798 Irish Rebellion — so, yes, it’s set before all his other spying adventures. We meet a younger, more naïve, James Burke and learn about some of the things that may have made him just a bit more cynical in his later adventures.

I’ll be doing a cover reveal next Friday, so look out for that. Until then, just to keep you going, the first James Burke adventure (Burke in the Land of Silver) is on offer (from Monday) at 99p/99c. If you haven’t bought your copy yet (where have you been?) here’s your chance to start the series at the very beginning.

Given that Burke in Ireland takes us back to Burke’s introduction to espionage, you obviously don’t have to read the books in order so, if you’ve already read Burke in the Land of Silver, 19 March brings your chance to start his adventures at the very beginning. Confusing, isn’t it? (If you want to know why so many historical novelists end up writing series out of order, I’ve blogged about it HERE.)

So, here are the dates you need to know:

MONDAY 8th (for one week): Offer price on Burke in the Land of Silver
FRIDAY 12th: Cover reveal for Burke in Ireland
FRIDAY 19th: Publication of Burke in Ireland

And, as a thank you for reading this far, here are some photos from last weekend before the weather went back to grey and miserable.

‘Something Wicked’: Cover reveal

What do you tell people about your latest book if you are generally known for writing historical fiction and this book is very different? I tell them it’s Contemporary Urban Fantasy. I’m honestly not sure if that’s even a thing, but this is contemporary, it is urban (very firmly rooted in West London) and it’s fantasy (it’s got vampires).

What you need to know is that it’s a police procedural/vampire mash-up and, because I love tango (and so, it seems, do vampires), it’s got a lot of tango in it.

So here’s the cover. It features Brompton Cemetery, a wonderfully atmospheric 19th century creation near Earl’s Court, and two of my favourite tango dancers, Alexandra Wood and Guillermo Torrens. (You can read more about Alexandra at http://alexandrawoodtango.blogspot.com/.)

Photos are my own. Design is by the very talented Dave Slaney.

If you’ve read Dark Magic you’ll have some idea what to expect. (And if you haven’t read Dark Magic it’s on sale at 99p/99c for a week from Monday.)

Something Wicked will be on sale on Kindle from Friday 19 February with a paperback edition following shortly. It is available on pre-order at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08W2CYS68. (And also on amazon.com)

*A peer of the realm dead in his study, his body drained of blood*

*A tango club where the Undead and the living dance together*

*A 500 year old policeman*

 *Some crimes are best left unsolved*

‘Dark Magic’ – the audiobook

‘Dark Magic’ – the audiobook

I’m excited to tell you that my audiobook of ‘Dark Magic’ is now available at the following stores:

Scribdhttps://www.scribd.com/audiobook/489919335/Dark-Magic

BingeBookshttps://bingebooks.com/book/dark-magic-4

hibookshttps://www.hibooks.com/discover/audiobook/dark-magic-1

Applehttps://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/id1547410629

I recorded it myself, just to see if I could tap in to this huge market for audio books that people keep telling me about.

I wasn’t sure about doing this by myself, but I have a friend who is a voice artist and she said that it would be a useful way of spending time in lockdown. I followed her advice on what kit to use right down to the duvet – as recommended by the BBC. This recording was done in a recording studio under my desk. Here’s a photo.

And here it is in use with the duvet in place.

Does the camouflage work or can you spot me on the carpet?

 If I do this again I think I’m going to try to do it sitting up in a windowless room. Lying on your stomach while you read a book from beginning to end – even a novella – turns out to be quite hard work. It’s warm, though, so an ideal job for a winter afternoon.

Is it any good? Well, initial responses were positive. I know I’m not a professional actor and it’s not an ideal studio space, but doing it myself means I’ve been able to keep it very cheap. I have a friend who did get a professional in to do it for a percentage of the royalty and he feels guilty that it never sold enough to justify the work the actor put in. If this one fails, at least the only person to lose out is me.

It’s taught me a lot. Learning how to do a professional edit has been fun, so I suppose I can count that as a skill learned in lockdown. It’s not mastering a new language or writing King Lear but it’s something and right now I think we all have to award ourselves prizes for any ‘somethings’ we manage.

What do you get for your money?

It’s the full text of Dark Magic, my contemporary novella. It was my first attempt at what I think they call ‘urban fantasy’. It’s a story of two magic shows: the Maestros of Magic touring the country, playing provincial theatres and the Carnival of Conjurors  in the West End. When the Maestros learn that the Conjurors are using real magic – Black Magic – to do their tricks they decide that they must use their own, distinctly unmagical, stage skills to stop them. I was delighted that people found it both humorous and scary. (Check the reviews on Amazon.) 

The audiobook is priced in dollars, but the idea was to make it about £5 in the UK, which seems pretty reasonable for three hours of recording. It’s the full text and I do try to get the voices. I had a lot of fun recording it, so I hope you enjoy listening.

Remember that the book is still available on Kindle for a staggeringly inexpensive £1.99 (free on Kindle Unlimited) or in paperback for £4.99. (You can buy it on amazon in North America as well.)

I do hope you enjoy it. Let me know.

New Year reflections

Thiis is the time when traditionally we look back over the year just passed and ahead to the year to come.

I nearly didn’t bother this year. It has, most people would agree, been a terrible year. What is there to look back on with any pleasure?

Well, at a personal level, it did have its moments. Like many of us, I enjoyed the clean air and the stunning weather of Spring and Summer.

London from Richmond Park

 

The View from from Richmond Hill

 


Home Park, Hampton Court

 

 

The local wildlife seemed to be more relaxed with fewer cars around – or maybe we just got out more often to see them.

It was still frustrating, unable to see our friends or take a holiday abroad. We were even prohibited from visiting Wales for most of the year.

On the work front, though, it was busier than I realised at the time. I finally managed to get back the North American rights to my James Burke books. I decided that I would re-launch them, this time publishing them myself, so the three existing Burke books came out with beautiful new covers by Dave Slaney.

 

June

July

August

In September, they were joined by a new book, Burke in the Peninsula, bringing Burke into Richard Sharpe territory with adventures in Spain.

 

Self-publishing turns out to be quite a lot of work, but the rewards are considerable. The books are finding new readers and, though you won’t find any of them in the charts, they now make solid, if unspectacular, sales. And getting royalty cheques that are worth cashing makes a nice change.

So it has been an exciting year that has laid the ground for more excitement in 2021.

I celebrated New Year by pressing the button to send my audiobook of Dark Magic off for publication. It should be available to buy later this month. I’ll certainly keep you up to date with that.

Dark Magic for any of you who don’t already know, is a dramatic break with my historical writing. It’s what I think they call a contemporary urban fantasy: a story of Black Magic and murder on the London stage. I’m following this up with another book in the same genre, this time featuring vampires and tango dancers, to be called Something Wicked. Somebody said it reminded them of Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London, which I’ve never read. I had a very quick look at the opening pages and I can see the resemblance. It’s strong enough to make me glad I haven’t read it so I can honestly say it’s not a rip-off, but if you like Ben Aaronovitch, it’s likely you’ll enjoy Something Wicked.

There is another Burke on the way, originally intended to come out in February but now likely to be put off until March, what with the audiobook and Something Wicked. It’s worth waiting for, though, as it is Burke’s first adventure as a spy and sees him infiltrating the Nationalist movement in late 18th century Ireland. It’s darker than the other books in the series, but a gripping read.

Setting up as my own publisher has absorbed most of my energy, but the plot for the sixth (!) James Burke book has been growing somewhere in the dark recesses of what passes for my mind and I may finally get to put fingers to keyboard soon.

Speaking of which, I need to get on. I hope that, on reflection, you can remember good things from 2020 and that 2021 will bring better days.

Happy New Year!