Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Vinyl Detective on Audio Books

Not long ago I caught a train to the English Midlands city of Leicester. There waiting for me was my friend Alan Ross. 

I hopped into his van and we set off, leaving the city behind and speeding for the countryside. 

Alan's van has a rather nice picture of John Coltrane on it. This is partly because, like me, Alan is a jazz nut. 

But, much more importantly, it's because he runs a superb record store in Leicester — Jazz House Records. It was an appropriate vehicle, because our mission today was very definitely vinyl related.
 
We drove down winding sun-splashed country roads under the green canopies of trees until we reached a small village called Syston. 

Here we parked outside a pair of tall white buildings — sort of overgrown cottages — with a kind of Moorish courtyard between them. This was the headquarters of White House Sound.

After being greeted at reception we were led through a series of large rooms where men and women sat at desks, listening on headphones as they read through large stacks of print out. On each desk was a wooden spindle running through the central holes of a stack of silver discs — CDs.

Down carpeted corridors we went to a small room packed with recording gear and computer screens, attended by an affable sound engineer. In an adjoining booth a large window allowed us to see walls covered with acoustic-baffle foam panels, a hanging microphone, and a dedicated actor intently reading the words of my novel.

All the words of my novel. W.F. Howes, the company that is doing the Vinyl Detective audio books, prides itself on recording unabridged versions. In fact, they go under the name Whole Story Audio Books.

That's what those men and women were doing with their headphones — those stacks of paper were the entire text of the books which had been recorded. They were diligently checking that every single word had been accurately captured.

I'm a lucky fellow to have my Vinyl Detective novels being produced by these guys. The first one, Written in Dead Wax was narrated by Ben Allen, the second, The Run-Out Groove has just been completed with Finlay Robertson doing the narration. Ben was a terrific choice, Finlay better still.

Written in Dead Wax on audio is available here in the UK and here in the US. The Run Out Groove will be unleashed on the world in ten days time, available here and here.

Thank you for listening.

(Image credits: The CD covers for the audio books are from Whole Story Audio Books for Written in Dead Wax, and Amazon for The Run Out Groove. The shots of White House Sound are from their website. The pic of Alan and his trusty van is by me.)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel

This week saw publication of my second Vinyl Detective novel, The Run-Out Groove. Normally I would have been far too modest to blog about it, but my friend, who just happens to be a bestselling novelist, insisted I should. So, since he knows his stuff.

In case you haven't read my first book, this series follows the adventures of a record collector turned sleuth. (And be warned, this post contains spoilers about Written in Dead Wax.) If you have read the first one, there are a couple of differences this time around...

For a start, the previous adventure recounted the search for a rare jazz record, so it was immersed in that particular musical world. This time around it's rock music, in particular the British psychedelic or "prog" (for progressive) rock of the 1960s.

In fact, when I began working on The Run-Out Groove I had a very specific inspiration in mind from that scene. The brilliant and ill-fated Syd Barrett, a founder member of Pink Floyd. Barrett was a fascinating and tragic figure and I knew this was potentially powerful material.

So I reached for the biography of Syd Barrett I'd had knocking around the house for several years... and realised I'd donated it to a charity shop just the previous week. Ah well.

This was no bad thing. The notion of a musical genius who became an acid casualty was all I really needed. It was enough of a seed for that element of the story.

But the really big difference between The Run-Out Groove and Written in Dead Wax is that Nevada, the fun loving femme fatale from the first book, has now moved in with our hero and they are an item.

Was this a risk? Changing the Vinyl Detective from an archetypical loner shamus to half of a detective duo? Not really, I knew this could work because I was following in the footsteps of giants. Specifically the footsteps of the wonderful Dashiell Hammett.

Hammett was one of the greatest crime novelists of them all. And among his finest creations are the urbane Nick and Nora Charles, a husband and wife mystery-solving team. They featured in Hammett's 1934 novel The Thin Man and thereafter in an enduring and wildly popular series of movies.

Let's hope the Vinyl Detective and Nevada have some of that longevity and durability...

Oh, and since my friend is insisting I promote my new book, you can buy it here if you're in the USA, or here if you're in the UK. 

Or, indeed, if you'd like a signed copy, leave a message for me in the comment section of this post and we'll see if we can work something out.

Happy reading.

(Image credits: The rather lovely and elegant Thin Man cover is from a little known internet book seller called Amazon. All the other images are from my own collection. The gorgeously gaudy pink and blue creations were commissioned by me from a very talented designer called James King before I got my book deal with Titan, and was toying with the idea of self-publishing.)

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Elle by Verhoeven, Birke & Dijan

Paul Verhoven’s latest movie is a very strange affair. I like Verhoven's work a great deal. Indeed, to my mind, he is one of our greatest living directors. 

It's a great shame that his career stalled with Showgirls, a film that could have been a hit if only he and his screenwriter Joe Eszterhas — one of the most talented writers in the industry — had bothered to make us care about their characters.

But they didn't, and Showgirls pretty much put paid to their careers, at least in America. After some years of decline, both men found work in European films, though Verhoeven has very much had the best of it, with his excellent World War 2 drama Black Book (2006).

Now Verhoven is back with a film made in France called Elle. It is written for the screen by the American David Birke, based on the novel by Philippe Dijan — who also wrote the book on which Betty Blue was based.

As I said, Elle is a curious item. I have become used to defending Verhoven against the critical establishment who loathe his mainstream films like Basic Instinct, Robocop (masterpieces), Total Recall (a near masterpiece masterpiece) and Starship Troopers (hilarious and audacious).

Now I find that the critical establishment is embracing Verhoven and celebrating him for a film which I loathe. The situation is almost surreal. But I went to see my Elle anticipating that it would be something terrific, and it was a staggering disappointment. 

The film is being touted as an Hitchcockian thriller but really it’s a badly judged black comedy with a heavy line in sexual violence.  It’s dull, it’s pointless, and it goes on forever. I felt ashamed of myself for wasting my time in a darkened cinema. And it was a beautiful day, too… 

There is a really lovely grey cat in it, though, called Marty. But even Marty can’t rescue this.

(Image credits: Imp Awards.)