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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Why I Love Autumn in England - even at the end of November

I saw what the sun was up to. Busy as I was with this editing task, I just had to pop my coat on and take a 45-minute walk along the old railway line and back across the fields. You can see why:

Heading south along the disused railway line, oak trees glowing.

Scots pine and larch

Just larch. Not the greatest definition via my phone lens, but ... the colour!

Winter barley, emerald green.

Friday, 11 November 2016

100,000 hits

Well. Five years, over 400 posts, and my blog has just received its 100,000th hit. Perhaps some reflections are in order.

I started this in 2011 just before taking off for Nebraska, where I spent six months, mostly alone, in a hunting lodge on a cattle ranch. That was a fantastic learning experience. It satisfied my curiosity about life on the Great Plains as a pioneer might have experienced it, and yielded a book that has been very well received, The Red House on the Niobrara (

Right now I am waiting to receive proof pages of my novel, Cody, The Medicine and Me. I first wrote it 20-plus years ago, sold it once, had the plug pulled, shelved it, then re-wrote it completely while resident at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, last year. I am  also waiting for the proofs of the brewery history (provisionally titled, A Piss-Up in a Brewery - yes, it's not as dry as your average company history; it even  has cartoons). The bounty hunter manuscript is out and about, and I am now up to my neck in the life of the man who wrote Lassie (or, more correctly, Lassie, Come-Home).

When all those projects are brought to rest I plan to heave a big sigh, and have a few weeks away from the keyboard. After 12 books in seven years I think I've earned it. I'm planning to indulge myself, putting together a photo-book based on the many road trips I've taken in the American West over the past thirty years. A lot of the material is already in electronic form - I bought my first digital camera in 2004 when I was appointed Jack Kerouac Writer in Residence in Orlando, Florida. Previously to that, I used a conventional camera and collected transparencies. I have tracked down an outfit which converts them, and when they're done I shall enjoy compiling a single volume, for my own satisfaction, chronicling over a dozen journeys and some 50,000 miles.

On the road, Nevada, 2006


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Now available in the USA, an incredible story of fortunes made and fortunes lost

It's taken a little while, but this remarkable story is now available in the USA via the following:

Amazon (,

Barnes and Noble (

Books a Million (

...and in Canada from Chapters Indigo (

I had the pleasure of working with Robert over several years, firstly to nail down this story, then to write it, and finally to get it to publication. We are already looking at a follow-up, which will go deeper into his smuggling, treasure-hunting and deep-sea fishing activities.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Not Exactly Twiddling My Thumbs

A cheery picture taken at Hartlepool to get us on our way. More on that later

A few weeks ago I put up a post here saying that I had an uncluttered landscape around me. [] Three books in their post-production stage and all that. Well, it never pans out the way you expect it to. Here I am, five or six weeks later, still fussing around with final edits, agent packages and lists of possible publishers. Someone has to do it.

However, I do at least have time to get out and about before the clocks go back and crowd us in with darkness falling at five, then four and, on a bad day, three-thirty in the p.m. Last week I took two trips, one to the races at Redcar, where I managed a short stroll on the beach before getting down to business.

Redcar: not the most picturesque place on a damp autumn day, but at least you have room to yourself

Places like Redcar - depressed by the closure of the steel works, in decline ever since cheap holidays abroad became the norm - have to try harder than most, and I have to say I liked their giant sand-sculptures along the front. Not sure how long they'll last, mind.


The visit to Hartlepool - forever doomed to be remembered, by football fans of a certain age, as the home of England's worst football team - was to celebrate a friend's completion of her PhD. On an afternoon as bright as this, it seemed criminal not to stroll around the Battery and remember the bombardment by the German Navy in 1914.

This gun actually has nothing to do with the 1914 exchanges but was captured from the Russians at Sebastopol in 1854. Still...

While I try to complete after-care on the various projects that have kept me busy over the last year or so, the next project is already occupying desk space. I'll talk about that in a few days.

The Tees estuary


Thursday, 22 September 2016

A nice 100-mile stroll along the West Highland Way

Looking back at Loch Lomond from the north

I've just had a week away from my desk, hiking the full length of the West Highland Way. It's a route of about 100 miles that starts just outside Glasgow and takes you mostly along an old military road, occasionally an equally old drovers' road,. It runs the full length of Loch Lomond and on to Fort William. Most days we walked 14-15 miles, but there was one exceptionally long section, the 20 miles from Tyndrum to the isolated Kings House pub, about eight miles short of Kinlochleven.

We found the path so well maintained that even that long slog didn't truly exhaust us. Better still - and how I wish this was always the case with these long-distance paths - it was very well marked, to the extent that we didn't have to make all those irritating stops to check the map, and as a consequence managed an average walking speed of 2.5 to 3.0 miles an hour.

There's plenty of accommodation along the Way, and there needs to be: one of our local sources told us that between 50 and 60,000 people make the trip every year, which suggests an average of 2-300 a day during the lighter part of the year. We certainly found we had a fair bit of company during the early part of each day - and soon started to recognise a few familiar German, French, American or Canadian groups who seemed to make up a sizeable proportion of the hikers. Some were young, and camped in the wild; others were more our age and booked into hotels and guest houses. Mostly we were in bed-and-breakfast places, but at  Rowardennan (day two) we put up at the delightful Youth Hostel.

Rowardennan - surely one of Britain's most attractive Youth Hostels

All things considered, we were extremely lucky with the weather. After an unusually wet summer in the Highlands ('usual' up there means around 80 inches of rainfall per year), we had seven consecutive dry days, most of them on the sunny side with very little wind. It could have been an awful lot worse. There were just a few times when mist closed in and a light drizzle had us reaching for our waterproofs - but we almost welcomed it, for the atmosphere it generated.

This was as close as we got to a wet spell, on the climb from the Kings House (tucked in amongst those trees) towards Kinlochleven

The scenery was wild in places, even barren, but we were rarely more than an hour or two from a stream or river.

Alder trees crowding in on a tranquil Highland stream

We arrived at Fort William on the seventh day and next morning caught the train back to Glasgow, along with a hundred or two fellow-hikers.

So now it's back to the desk, to finish off the bounty hunter project and prepare for another major piece of work which will fill the autumn months.