7th Oct – Meeting @policecommander

Blue a memoirCrickhowell-Literary-Festival-2017

On 7th October 2017, at 6pm, courtesy of Crickhowell Literary Festival, I will have the privilege of being in conversation with a hero of mine.

We will be talking ‘21st Century policing – fact and fiction‘. The title reflects the alternative routes taken by John and me when it came to choosing a publishing medium through which to tell our stories. The evening event will last for about an hour and a half and will be introduced by Chief Constable Mark Collins, Dyfed-Powys Police.

If you’ve never been to Crickhowell, then what better excuse could you have to come and spend a day in the shade of the incredible Brecon Beacons. You can secure a ticket for the event here.

For now, let’s get back to John’s book.

I was already an inspector at Stoke Newington in North London when John Sutherland joined the police. The subtitle to his book – Keeping the peace and falling to pieces – was something I was starting to experience just as he entered the world of London policing. And so, for reasons that may be apparent, I approached this book with some trepidation.

I’ve followed John’s @policecommander twitter feed and his blog for some time and we have been in touch many times. His blog, in particular, is simply brilliant. Eighteen months ago, he came to the London launch of my debut novel and was kind enough to bring me a present. It was a simple gift, but full of meaning. John brought me a tie, a Hostage Negotiator tie, from the Hendon course that he and I had both attended. Me, in 1991, John many years later. My original tie was lost, something I had mentioned to him and, without being asked, John sourced a replacement.

That thoughtful side to John’s character comes across clearly in this, his first book. He is a man who cares, a man who builds bridges.

‘Blue’ is John’s account of his 25-year policing career in the Metropolis, of his experiences and the challenges he faced, and of the eventual toll it took on his mental health. Reading ‘Blue’ took me back, long-forgotten memories returned, and I felt a sense of re-connecting with my past. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Much of ‘Blue’ is written in the form of anecdotes, short stories of incidents, of people and of issues facing the police service. The writing style is that of a narrator, and it very quickly draws you in, to the point where you are soon fully engaged. For me, it felt like a warm blanket, comforting and, at the same time, reassuring that our police service is being run by people like John, who clearly care a great deal for the public they serve.

Cricklitfest 1‘Blue’ made me smile, it made me laugh. It made me cry out in frustration and sympathy and, just near the end, it brought a tear to my eye. I won’t tell you where, but I suspect you will recognise the moment when you read it for yourself. And, I use that word ‘when’ quite deliberately, because I feel this book is essential reading for anyone interested in policing, whether it be as a serving or retired officer, or as a person who is interested in what happens behind the scenes of an organisation charged with preserving peace in our society.

‘Blue’ is a memoir, a one-off account of one man’s police career. But it is far more than that. It is an insight into how the pressures and stresses of the high-paced, career-focussed lives of our senior executives can place unacceptable and unsustainable responsibilities upon them.

A ‘must read’, if ever there was one.

Shoeboxes for Our Heroes

A few years ago, I was approached by a chap called Chris Webster and asked if I would consider becoming a patron to an organisation he had started up which he told me was soon to become a charity.

The organisation was called ‘Shoeboxes for Our heroes‘ and, I was told, worked by employing a network of fundraiser and gift donators who assembled shoeboxes filled with goodies to be sent to members of the armed services deployed abroad.

To me, this seemed a very good cause and I was happy to be involved with it. I even raised some funds for the group by auctioning a rare bottle of port and arranging for the proceeds to be sent to them.

Over time, I became aware of issues with ‘Shoeboxes’. Webster always seemed to be in dispute with one person of another – exclusively on Facebook, it seemed – and there were, it appeared, rather a lot of people who had problems with him. Webster assured me this was due to jealousy of the groups success and disputes where people who got involved would want to do things differently, take over etc.

I was also concerned that the charity status never seemed to materialise and there was always excuses for this when I asked about it. And then, last year, a group of people got involved who appeared to be more organised and, at last, trustees were identified – including a Chairman – and it looked like charity status was near.

Then, everything imploded. The proposed trustee chair resigned and allegations started to appear on social media that Webster had been failing to responsibly record finances and had, in fact, been using the group to approach and engage in inappropriate on-line sexual activity with a large number of females.

I contacted the resigning Chair and asked what was going on. As a result, I saw some examples of the activities Webster had engaged in. I immediately contacted my two fellow patrons and we agreed that we would all resign immediately. This we did.

Thereafter, I distanced myself from Webster – despite his attempts to contact me – and from the numerous on-line communications that started, including when Webster was made the subject of an investigation by the Walter Mitty Hunters Club (TWMHC). For his part, Webster denied the allegations made and yet, the evidence seemed to be growing.

And now, it appears he has decided to confess – albeit with excuses – to his wholly inappropriate behaviour on many counts.

But he seems intent on continuing to run ‘Shoeboxes’ in the same way as before and has now registered it as a ‘Community Interest Company’.

Below, is Webster’s admission, posted on the ‘Shoeboxes’ facebook page a couple of days a go but since removed. In it, he admits to some very unsavoury behaviour which I believe makes him an unsuitable man to be involved in running a company that supports troops by sending gifts to them on deployment. He has demonstrated a predisposition to use contacts established through such a group to further his particular sexual activities and, as such, I believe every effort should be made to ensure he no longer is able to do this.

To this end, I would urge you to sign this petition which is aimed at asking those with the power and influence to stop Mr Webster, to do so. It is worthy of note – when reading the following admission – that the claims relating to his family upbringing have since been refuted by his family and that the claims regarding no contact with wives/partners of serving members of the armed services is also refuted by those who have created the petition.

Matt Johnson

Author, Wicked Game.

From ‘Shoeboxes for Our Heroes CIC’ Facebook page;
Statement of fact by Christopher Webster, Director Shoeboxes for our Heroes CIC – company number 10832763 – Former director of Shoeboxes for our Heroes Ltd company number – 0981 9505
2) Admission of inappropriate communication with females via email, skype and SMS
I am both deeply sorry and ashamed to admit that I did engage in sexual chat, send unsolicited, inappropriate & explicit pictures and videos of myself to a number of Ladies all of whom were above the age of consent.
I fully accept that my historic conduct in relation to me sending unsolicited sexual messages, ” sexting” and sending explicit pictures of myself to some 14 females over a period of time, (often when they were at low points emotionally and emotionally vulnerable). However, none of the ladies were married to men from any deployed or serving forces and none were aged under 18.
I fully accept this was totally inappropriate, morally and ethically wrong, spiritually wrong and I am deeply ashamed of the hurt I caused to these ladies, their Partners , their families and to my own Wife and family given the shame I have brought upon myself and vicariously on my family.
My conduct was driven by a compulsive sexual addiction, which I am now receiving treatment for by means of therapy and attending a 12 step group. I have been told this was a caused by a direct result of the severe mental and emotional abuse I suffered as a small child. This in no way excuses my conduct, but goes some way to explaining the compulsion behind it.
I can honestly say that I would never have participated in this inappropriate conduct if I had been emotionally well, sane and working a recovery programme. I am deeply ashamed of the hurt and pain I caused these ladies (who had no part to play in it). Moreover, I am deeply ashamed and totally repentant relating to the manner in which I have dealt with denying this and attempting to blame my victims for which I have no excuses, my conduct was abhorrent and something which will haunt me for a very long time.
I am truly sorry for the harm, hurt and pain I caused and want to offer my apologies and make amends for these harms. Naturally, I would like to say sorry in person, however, it has been suggested to me that part of my ongoing amend will be to not contact any of these ladies again, ever.
As such my apology is being made public and I am truly sorry for the hurt, harm, pain and shame I caused each of these ladies and my own Wife who has been impacted by this old conduct. I am now receiving therapy, working a recovery programme and will not repeat this ever again.
I want to do more than say sorry and as such I will make my amend to these ladies as follows.
I will donate to 25 pounds a month from my salary for 12 months too a Women’s refuge in Derby which is funded by voluntary donations.
2. Claiming to suffer from service related PTSD and seeking help from Combat Stress.
I am again deeply ashamed & embarrassed by these acts and again, it is something which will haunt me for a very long time.
Whilst I do suffer from diagnosed PTSD and other emotional and mental disorders, they were sustained in childhood given I had a dysfunctional childhood and came from a broken and dysfunctional home, which resulted in me developing emotional, compulsive and addiction issues as a coping strategy.
I have always suffered from incredibly low self-esteem and have constantly looked for approval from others and tried to look for ways to “fit in” I cannot quantify why I acted in this manner, I simply did without ever thinking of the consequences. I can neither condone how I acted given the amount of actual veterans suffering from service related PTSD. I simply wanted to “fit in” I did have a session with the Combat Stress triage nurse who was fantastic and gave me plenty of help and explained a lot what was going on also they passed me on to somebody that could help me.. also I was attacked by my next door neighbour and have constant problems with him to the day its over 2 years since the attack but living next door to somebody who makes your families life hell almost everyday
In relation to the posts I made about fireworks and seeing dead soldiers it was at the same time my dad passed away and remembrance week. I guess I was trying to adapt my own mental illnesses to those I heard others discussing I guess when you talk to so many people you absorb some of what they say and I foolishly saw their trauma and pain as being more “glamourous” than my own and for this I am again both sorry for the hurt caused and deeply ashamed.
I am truly sorry if my actions offended some wounded veterans or the families of veterans and I confirm it wasn’t my intention to hurt or harm I was simply acting as I had always done before seeking help which was impulsively and often pathologically. I have always admired the British Armed Forces hence my charity efforts, but I was unable to complete my own training in the Reserve Forces and this again was another form of almost childish emulation of individuals I deeply admire.
In order to make an amend for this I will donate a sum of 10.00 a month to combat stress for a period of one year and offer to assist them in any fundraising efforts they need to execute.
3. The wearing of items of military clothing, beret, combat trousers etc.
as outlined above, I have always, since childhood, admired the British Armed Forces and as a child joined the cadets. However, due to the nature of my own emotional and mental disorder I was unable to complete my reserve service,due to doing a craft apprencticeship at the railway so , serving some 1 year and 149 days in total. I was discharged at my own request when my own emotional and mental health became problematic and this caused me to massively disenfranchise with my life and I often withdrew into a fantasy world.
I accept that I have “dressed up” as a soldier on many occasions and I truly and sincerely intended to harm, disrespect or hurt from my actions. I can see now that this was wrong and could be construed that I was trying to deceive the public, which I absolutely assure everyone I was not.
I again offer my wholehearted apology to those I have offended both serving soldiers, veterans and the families of veterans or serving forces.
In order to make an amend for this I will cease and desist wearing any form of military clothing at future events and wear my SBFOH Polo Shirts and continue with my charity service via SBFOH.
4. The wearing of a HM Forces Veteran Pin
I again intended no harm or disrespect by wearing this pin which I am legally entitled to wear given the MOD provided me with it on the strength of my service in the reserve forces.
I do however accept it has offended certain individuals given they served in hostile environments and been on numerous deployments which I greatly admire and respect them for.
I honestly didn’t mean to offend anyone and again I simply wanted to fit in with an organisation and people I have admired since childhood. Again, if I’m being honest, I was simply being childish and trying to emulate individuals I greatly admire.
My amend here is that I will cease wearing this pin on all SBFOH events
5) My conduct relating to how I have historically responded to these allegations and for the aggressive manner in which I have conducted myself
I am again deeply sorry for the manner in which I originally responded to these allegations. I reverted in many cases to “child” and lashed out and acted in an immature, sometimes aggressive and often regressive manner. For example the video of me ridiculing the individual who had every right to ask me questions relating to the commercial activities of SBFOH.
Whilst I understand how my aggression and prevarication was construed as me being evasive I was simply acting in pure emotion and I now understand that I acted inappropriately and emotionally and often aggressively when I should have responded in a more measured manner given commercially I have nothing to hide.
The amend here is that I have openly admitted to my shortcomings and misdeeds, have offered to make restitutive amends and I will shortly host an on line Q&A to close this situation in a transparent and dignified manner. I will also apologies to anyone in person that I have abused on line and will not repeat this again. That said I will not accept abuse directed at me moving forward.
Over the coming days I will host an on-line Q&A and take any questions any of you may have relating to the above. I will have also agreed to work with a member of “TWMHC group” , Mr Paul Anwyll who has informed me that he is a forensic auditor and he is happy to examine the finances for me. I would respectfully request that Mr Anwyll contact me and we can discuss his background and then engage him once he and I are comfortable with each other.
I have nothing to hide and therefore I am not only happy to receive this offer but very grateful for it. Once this is complete, we will be able to provide a detailed commercial statement relating to the old company and the new CIC. I assure everyone that we have not misappropriated funds and often we have used our own funds to supplement the company. We do however accept we have made mistakes in our execution and administration and that we need to up our game in order to win back trust. Please be assured that I have a very well paid career at Rolls Royce which I would never gamble away by being dishonest with SBFOH. I will finish by saying that I do very well financially from my full time career with Rolls Royce meaning I do SBFOH because I want to serve those who serve in the only capacity which I can, given my own mental and emotional illnesses.
Finally I would like to thank the administrators of TWMHC for bringing this situation to a point where I had to accept the issues were real, seek help and admit to them and I would like to offer either TWMHC of Colin Eastaway the opportunity to be appointed as a non-exec of the CIC with full financial oversight of the company’s commercial affairs

The return of The Sweeney

regan carter 5

With thanks to my friend and former colleague, Dorothy Williamson – ex SO13 – for this amusing tale based on the current project to re-enlist former detectives into the ranks of the Met.

Former DI Jack Regan and retired DS George Carter have answered the call for retired Detectives to return to the Met to help out and have just stepped out of a black cab looking up at the glass exterior of the New New but Old, Scotland Yard.

“Wonder what they did with the tank?” George asks as he glances around the glass walls of the entrance.
“ Hope they’ve got one here, achieved more in there than any meeting” Jack replied struggling to clip on his visitors badge.
“And this geezers name Rupert.. who calls their kids that?”

regan carter 1

A few moments later a young man walks up and introduces himself “Good morning Jack , George.. I’m Detective Supt Rupert…”

Before he could finish his sentence, Jack – having already spotted the crisp warrant card hanging around the young man’s neck interrupted, “Morning Guv, things have changed a bit around here haven’t they” nodding in the direction of the foyer.

Rupert seemed to wince on hearing the word ‘Guv’. “Please call me Rupert, we all call each other by first names now. We find Sir and such like demeans people and make them feel less equal and unable to speak out if they are offended”.

A short while later they are standing in a small office surrounded on three sides by glass walls. “I’ll think you’ll find that whilst a lot has changed, a lot of policing hasn’t, it’ll still be locking up the bad people kind of policing that you’ll remember. The Commissioner strongly encourages that as long as its ethical and we can explain each arrest to a Civil Claims Court, and Community Forums. I’m on message with that mission and will fully support you in your work” Rupert said as he reached down to pull out a small box.
“Here, one iPad and one mobile phone each. You won’t have a desk, so you’ll work from these, your team will show you how it works, but in essence when it pings you have an action to fulfil. Oh and Jack you’ll be responsible for the 2 hourly spread sheet return on tasking results”.

Jack ignored the devices and was more interested in what looked like moth balls on a plate on his desk. “What are they Guv?” he asked.

Rupert winced “those are Falafels” He continued to look down at a drawer in his desk.

Jack glanced at George and mouthed slowly “Fl a feeeell?” George shrugged his shoulders.

“Oh here we are, your oyster cards”.
“What’s an oyster card?” George asked.
“It allows free travel on the buses and trains”.
“Why do we need that when we’ve got a motor?.. in fact talking of which, where’s our driver?”
“Ha ha, nice one Jack, yes I heard about that era. No, we don’t have sole organisational transport now. We share with our partners in the local authority and other major commercial contributors”.

Jack shook his head in disbelief. “Then how do we get about on the hurry up to take a firm out?”
“What’s a firm?” Rupert asked.
“A gang, you know, villains.. bad people as you call them” Jack replied.
“Well, firstly, before you take a ‘firm’ out you need to risk assess that and run that by me. If you complete the RA/1 Intention to Arrest Someone spread sheet out – you’ll find it on a folder on the desk top of the iPad, once completed you send it to me. Then I’ll submit a Share Point Transport Request on form SP/T1 to utilise a car. Once its costed and we get further authority from finances to pay for it, then we’ll facilitate that operation. Now I don’t wish to appear rude, gentlemen, but I have to be at a development of career meeting with the College of Academic Policing. Your team at Notting Hill will be expecting you. The contact details are in the introduction folder on the iPad, I’ll pop by later this afternoon to see how you’re getting on. Oh and remember if you need any advice I have an open door policy”

regan carter 2

Half hour later having not worked out how to turn the iPads on, Jack and George are standing outside what was once Notting Hill nick. Now a large house, with wrought iron gates and two large Bentleys parked where the back yard used to be.

George stops an elderly black lady passing. “Err excuse me love, we’re looking for Notting Hill Police Station, it used to be here.”

She gave a smile and with a thick Jamaican accent “oh yes love, it did. Then them sold it init. They moved up to Notting Hill Gate. Go up there ma’dear, you can’t miss it. Shame though as I really liked seeing the policemen come and go from this place. Made you feel safe”

Five minutes later Jack and George are on ‘the gate’ . “You’ve got to be kidding me” Jack flicks his fag into the gutter and blows out a long puff of smoke “Jesus Christ”
Ahead of them outside Tesco’s two people dressed in large foam outfits of a police man and police woman are handing out blue balloons. Inside the foyer of Tesco’s a trestle table adorned with leaflets behind which a bearded PC wearing ear rings was sat looking down at his iPad.

George walked up to the table. After some moments, he tapped on it in an effort to get the PC’s attention. The PC still not looking up put a hand up “give me a second”.

Two minutes later the PC looked up and slipped his iPad into a large pocket on the side of his trousers. “Sorry about that, I’d be timed out and have to start again if I’d stopped submitting my report.. How can I help?”

“I’m DS Carter, that over there is DI Regan, we’re looking for the nick”
“Ah, yes, we’ve been expecting you, welcome”.
“What this is it?”
“Er, yes, what were you expecting George?”
George was taken aback “Its Sergeant or Skip to you”
The PC smiled “ Oh I’m sorry if I offended you but we don’t specify ranks now.” They were interrupted by loud ping “Ah, excuse me”. The PC reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPad. “Damn, Steve wants me to reclassify it“. “Who’s Steve?” George asked. “He’s the Ch Inspector of Ethical Crime Reporting”
“And where is he based?”
“At home in Wales is what I heard” The PC replied. “Hang about here come your team”



George looked down the milk aisle , a male and female in plain clothes approached. The female looking down at her iPad and talking.. “oh yes, they’re here now, thank you Rupert, yes see you later”
“Hi George, I’m Jenny, this is Mo” George eyed them both up and down. Jenny was about 20, Mo about 25.
“Alright love, where’s the rest of the team then?” George asked.
“Ahem, my name’s Jenny, and we are you team”
Jack walked over. “ Is this some sort of wind up?” Mo smiled “We hear things were a bit different in your day Jack, but it’s not as bad as it seems” Jack glanced over at George “Jack? I’m you DI son, let’s get that straight” Mo smiled, “yes of course, but I’m Mo and we.. ” .. “oh gawd yes, no ranks blah blah” George replied.
“Right, first things first” Jack said, “you two” pointing at Mo and Jenny, “you come with us” .

regan carter 4

They walked around to Uxbridge Road. “Where are we going?” Jenny asked. “Last time I was here there was a decent boozer down here, is it still there?”
“I’m not sure but why are we going there?” Mo asked
“To have a drink, chat to the locals and get a feel of what’s going on.. now how many snouts have you got?”
“What are snouts?” Jenny replied.

An hour later and Jenny’s iPad pings. “oh its Rupert, he’s on his way to the station”
“Which one?” George asks downing his whisky.
“Tesco’s” Jenny replied.
“Tell me Jenny, how long has this Rupert geezer been in the job?”
“I think about 6 months- he’s on the direct entry. He did some days out with us, he investigated a shoplifter from arrest to conviction, then moved to Scotland Yard. He’s very nice.”

In next week’s episode:

regan carter 6
Rupert shows Jack how to complete a spread sheet.

Jack shows Rupert how to jump out the back of an OP Transit van whilst holding a truncheon.

Too many tears

Makes you think, doesn’t it?


This is a personal blog and as I type this I’m not yet sure if I’ll end up hitting the publish button.

Mental health is becoming a big part of modern Policing. It’s being recognised that the job we do and the stresses, strains and trauma that come from the job need some attention. I’m delighted to say that my force are pushing mental health wellbeing in a massive way.

Unfortunately this blog isn’t about my work life as such. It’s a lot more personal. I think it’s time to share.

Over the past 3-4 months my life has been turned upside down. I’ve been battered by a series of events that have knocked and bruised me. It all started when my marriage ended. Since then things seem to have gone down hill. I’m aware that when you’re down, some things that normally would just bounce off of you actually…

View original post 1,122 more words

#JusticeforRash – but not from a lynch mob

By now, many will have seen the video of a PC wrestling on the floor of a shop with a young man called Rashan Charles. It’s ugly, violent, and makes for unpleasant viewing.

For several years, I was the duty Inspector at Stoke Newington police station in North London, where this took place and where, last night, crowds of angry protestors gathered. ‘Black lives matter’ placards were popular and a lot of anger was being vented against my former colleagues.


Cries of ‘police murderers’ were to be heard and demands for the PC involved – and others – to be punished, to face ‘justice’.

On social media, mostly twitter as it is so fast, anti-police feelings had been whipped up.

For me, it was all rather familiar. This was the Stoke Newington I used to work in and which I had recently been led to believe had been ‘gentrified’. Perhaps not as much as people hoped, I fear.

‘Stokie’, as we used to call it, used to be the most socially deprived area in the whole of the UK. Poverty, crime, poor housing and commensurate sub-standard facilities were the norm. Much has been done to improve that situation, that has to be said and recognised. But old feelings run deep, and the speed with which this outcry grew makes me suspect that things are not as good as was hoped.

But what of this incident, and of the actions of the PC? Are those crying ‘murder’ correct to label what they see on a video as that most serious of crimes?

If Rashan had been trying to shoot or stab himself, we would all immediately recognise the danger he was in and this PC would be hailed a hero for trying to save him. The fact that he was -allegedly – trying to swallow drugs that could easily result in his death is not commonly seen as endangering his life – but it is just as serious, and, if this PC knew that, it’s quite possible he tried to save a young man from his own reckless action.


Still from CCTV appearing to show Rashan placing something in his mouth before police arrive

I’ve wrestled with a man trying to stab himself. And I’ve also wrestled with people trying to swallow drugs and I know how risky it is as they squirm and try to bite you. And you know that a bite could be the end of your career or, possibly, your life. People, particularly drug users, carry diseases and viruses like hepatitis and HIV. So, knowing that, ask yourself if you would prepared to stick your fingers into the mouth of someone swallowing what looks like drugs knowing the risk if they bite you?

I’ve known success and drugs recovered, but I’ve also seen PCs bitten, and I’ve sat with a man as I tried to persuade him to, at first, spit the rocks of crack from his mouth and then, as he swallowed them, to stick his fingers down his mouth to regurgitate them. I failed – he was lucky, when a hospital stomach pump did what he wouldn’t do himself. He was more afraid of what he saw as me trying to trick him into ‘bringing up’ the evidence of his crime than he was worried about the risk of dying.


Fanning the flames of violence – Stoke Newington

Wrestling with people in circumstances such as this is ugly and it’s violent. An arrest of often an ‘exercise of force’, especially when an alleged perpetrator really doesn’t want to be detained.

Saving life sometimes can be mistaken for something else entirely. But as angry, prejudiced and mis-informed people jump to conclusions, their anger fanned by others who appear to actually enjoy the attention, it saddens me at their apparent lack of objectivity, their prejudice, their lack of interest in being patient and waiting for an inquest, their assumption that their views must be right, and it especially saddens me that some amongst them are trying to whip up feelings in order to further their own agendas rather that reflecting on the very, very sad death of a young man who has died in such tragic circumstances.


Rashan Charles

So, let’s take a moment to reflect. A young man lost his life in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained. Let us implore the angry protectors to wait and not to succumb to the momentum of the lynch mob. Let us accept that anger and violence never are never the solution, they only makes things worse.

And let’s remember, violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it, regardless of their justification.



On BBC Radio 4 Front Row with Kirsty Lang


front row 1At 6’3″ and 16 stone, I was always going to be a forward. I’m talking rugby football here, of course. But appearing in the front row was always for shorter, stockier lads. I was always second row, sometimes at No.8.

So, when a call came through about appearing on Front Row, I was a little slow on the uptake. But I twigged and, after some logistic arrangements, soon found myself heading down to Cardiff BBC studios to be set up on a link to record a session on ‘The Cathartic effect of writing‘ with Kirsty Lang and fellow author Johana Gustawsson.

As a fan of ‘The Archers’ I’ve often listened to Front Row as it is transmitted just afterwards. But I had never imagined the presenters would want to talk to me.

front row 2

The photo on the left includes Mark Billingham – an author I very much admire – and some other faces you may well recognise. Kirsty is at the front, on the left as you look at the photograph.


A 6 -7 minute transmission took about 40 mins to record, and included a short reading from Wicked Game and from Johana’s new book Block 46. Sadly, time limits meant the readings weren’t transmitted.

It was pretty surreal, to realise that we were being recorded and transmitted through a medium that had seen the likes of David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Val McDermid, PD James and many other ‘proper’ celebrities.

I listened in to the live transmission last night, slightly apprehensive at how I would sound and what the edited version would produce. In the event, it was ok. Johana, luckily for me, possibly, has a lovely engaging voice with a soft French accent, and she made some good points about writing things down in a way that not only helps yourself but also informs family in a way that you may not have been able to do face-to-face. Kirsty was professional and friendly and, no doubt realising we were relatively new to this experience, took time to put us at ease.

And when it had finished? I chatted to my partner and then my mum. And then I got on with the washing up, like any author should.

Normal life resumed.

My first ‘Crimefest’

With 2017 Bristol Crimefest around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on my first attendance at this amazing event.

As 2016 dawned, I had never heard of Crimefest so when Orenda Books publisher, Karen Sullivan asked me to attend and take part in a couple of interview panels, I really had no idea what I was signing up for.

I arrived at the Bristol Marriott hotel, checked in to a very comfortable room and then went to register for the festival. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I asked festival organiser how many people we coming. The answer? Five hundred and fifty! I think he saw my shocked look as he then reassured me that there would be know more than a hundred and fifty at each panel!

First evening was spent with fellow Orenda Authors when our wonderful publisher, Karen Sullivan, took us all out for a nice Italian meal. I had the chance to meet and talk to Michael GrothausMichael StanleyYusuf ToropovKati Hiekkapelto and Paul Hardisty.

Returning to the hotel, I began to notice faces that I recognised. Mari Hannah spoke to me (absolutely charming) and Rod Reynolds (looks so young). Then I saw an ‘old friend’ Michelle Davies, who I met in Glasgow in March when we did our very first interviews together. A great catch up was had.

And then it was time for bed!

Day one dawned. Breakfast – full english, of course – as you should always go into battle on a full stomach, and then off to meet the team for the first panel. Pete Adams (hilarious), Daniel Pembrey (young, talented AND handsome) and the wonderful Lisa Cutts. Lisa is a serving detective and – not a lot of people know – her father was my first DI (detective inspector). Lisa and I had spent the previous evening in the bar talking JOB, as coppers often do!

Lisa and I met up with our ‘moderator’ Caro Ramsey. Caro is from Glasgow and turned out to have a very sharp sense of humour. With another natural comedian in Pete Adams, it didn’t take long before they had our audience laughing. Lisa, Daniel and I simply followed where they led.

The hour passed very quickly, and then we headed off to sign a few books.

Then, a very strange thing happened. At 7pm I joined a large queue of people as we headed for the main hall. There were to be announcements, the Crime Writers Association were publishing the long-lists for the 2016 Dagger Awards. I was aware that my publisher had nominated Wicked Game but, well, let’s get real, there are hundreds of entries and some very talented and experienced authors in the mix. As the announcements started, I found myself chatting to some folks so I wasn’t paying as much attention to the stage as perhaps I should have been (guilty m’lord) but I then thought I heard my own name being announced. A few moments later my hand was being squeezed by more people than I could count. Wicked Game had been long-listed, for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger, along with eight other entries. My publisher gave me a kiss, my phone started buzzing. I was stunned, and speechless. Especially when I realised the text on my phone was from Peter James – news had travelled fast.

That night, I celebrated with fish n chips and a cider, at the Catch22 resturant (very good, well recommended – try the grilled fish) opposite the hotel. I met Mick Heron (Spy novelist) and, as he was also listed for another Dagger, we quietly celebrated together.

Next day, I was on the red-eye panel, the one that starts at 9am, the morning after some people were in the bar until the wee small hours. To my surprise, we had a full house again. This time we were under the guidance of Laura Wilson. On the panel were Sara WardYusuf ToropovAnja de Jager and a certain Mr James Law. James is a former submariner and the author of a best-selling book by the name of ‘Tenacity’.

JS Law starts the banter…

Put an ex-navy man and an ex-soldier together and the inevitable happened. First he took the rise out of the Army, then I remembered a navy joke, and soon the craic was well under way. What the people outside the room must have thought of the laughter, I don’t know. What our fellow authors must have thought, I dread to think!

Soon came the time to head home. All too soon as I had made some great new mates and met some fascinating people. I was really quite amazed at how friendly and welcoming the crime-fiction community is.

And this year? Just the one panel, but James Law might soon start up a double act.


Sunday Times feature.


Not a long past, but an event like this is something I just had to share. Yesterday, for the first time, I was featured in the Sunday Times. A very nice journalist called Leaf Arbuthnot came all the way from London to interview me here in Wales.

We talked about the process by which I came into writing, the new book, the passing of Martin McGuinness and the vulnerable nature of police work, in the light of the recent Westminster attack.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

The old man’s humour

Yesterday my daughter e-mailed me again asking why I didn’t do something useful with my time. Like sitting at home writing books is not a good thing. Talking about me “doing something useful” seems to be one of her favourite topic of conversation. She was “only thinking of me” and even suggested I go down to the village hall or the library and hang out with the folks there.

I did this and when I got home last night I decided to show her that I had learned one or two things in life to help keep myself busy.
I e-mailed her and told her that I had joined a parachute club.

She replied, “Are you crazy? You are in your fifties, and now you’re going to start jumping out of perfectly good planes?”

I told her that I even got a membership card and e-mailed a copy to her..

She immediately telephoned me, “Good grief, where are your glasses! This is a membership to a Prostitute Club, not a Parachute Club.”

I replied, “Oh boy, I’m in trouble again. I really don’t know what to do, I signed up for five jumps a week… and prepaid!”

The line went quiet and her friend picked up the phone and said that she had fainted.

Life as a Dad is not getting any easier, but sometimes it can be fun.