Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Revenants - a story for Halloween

I'm off to Italy now, to attend the Trevi Noir festival. I'm really looking forward to it!

As I won't be around for Halloween, I thought I'd post a Halloween story now. This was something I wrote ages ago, for a competition run by a small comic publisher called Warpton. They put some evocative images on their website and asked people to script a comic strip for those pictures. The winning story would get made as a comic book. I was lucky enough to win.

The illustrations were done by an artist called Simon Mobbs, and here's the page on his website that shows the whole of the comic strip. You can click through the story from the top, left to right.

Here's the story without the pictures:


Roger Morris

'It's strange,' said Kneale as we hovered at the bottom of the subway stairs. 'When I was alive I didn't believe in ghosts.'

We took the stairs in one bound. At the top we sensed the presence of other dead in the air, thickening the darkness. For a moment, we too dissolved and became a part of it.

'Now that I'm dead I find it hard to believe in the living.' The distant light drew us to it. Then suddenly I sensed that Kneale was gone.

I knew where he would be. Back in the subway, chasing echoes. Passing through the vibrations of drunken cries and laughter, mingling with the smell of freshly spilt piss.

I waited by the light for his return, watching the blank wall for moving shadows. 'I don't know why you torture yourself like that,' I said when I felt him back with me.

'You're not so different,' he said. 'You think the living are going to show themselves to you here, like some kind of movie.' He shot away and I followed.

'I don't need to see them to know they're there,' I protested. He led me through the city, building speed.

Now we were shooting through the empty streets like electrons in a particle accelerator. 'I mean, look around you. Who built all this if it wasn't the living?' I screamed.

'Don't try to trick me with logic,' snarled Kneale, as he sped towards a concrete pillar. 'We've gone way past logic.' As if to prove his point, he passed through the pillar, zig-zagging between its atoms with arcade precision.

'We don't have long,' I warned. 'As soon as the sun's up, we won't even be able to see the buildings.'

'It makes no difference,' said Kneale. 'I could find this place when I'm day-blinded.'

'Like I said, I don't know why you torture yourself like this. First the place where they knifed you. Now your flat.' But he had already passed through the front door.

I found him in the kitchen, mingling with the smells of her breakfast. 'No one asked you to come along,' he said glumly.

There were voices in the living room. The TV was on, but the images of the living were hidden from us, just as they were themselves.

We were alone in the flat now. 'It's not the fact that I can't see her that tortures me,' said Kneale. 'It's the fact that I can still smell her.' And for a moment we both danced in the lingering scent of her perfume.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At last, the Russian Axe (Благородный топор)!

This is a great thrill for me. The russian language edition of my St Petersburg-set novel - Благородный топор. It was one foreign rights sale I really wanted, and hardly dared hope for.

The idea of my Dostoevsky-inspired mystery being translated into the language of Dostoevsky is just mind-blowing. In many ways, I imagined the book as a translation of a lost Russian novel. It's almost as if the original has now turned up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The headless gambler

Photo Credit: The Michael Gregorio Collection.

Inspired by the Israeli cover of A Gentle Axe, Michael Jacob - who happens to be one half of crime author Michael Gregorio - sent me the headless photo above from his collection of Victorian photographs and daguerreotypes. He has very kindly given me permission to use it here.

Here's what Michael said about the image:

Double-exposure trick photography of this sort first began to appear in the 1860s. The more common examples featured men drinking, playing chess or cards, the same sitter appearing twice, and thus – to the great amusement of our Victorian forebears – playing with himself!

‘Beheaded’ portraits are extremely rare, so I thought you might like to see another one from my collection of Victorian photos.

This example was made by Enrico Andreotti, a photographer who was working in Florence in the 1860s. It portrays a card-player who has lost everything – including his head – by betting on the lowest card in the pack.

Don't forget, I'll be talking to Michael and his wife Daniela (the other half of Michael Gregorio) at the Trevi Noir Festival, on the first of November. Book your tickets now!

And I thoroughly recommend 'A Critique of Criminal Reason' - a wonderfully atmospheric and grisly tale.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

News dump.

Aaargghh! The problem with neglecting your blog is that all of a sudden there's a ton of news to report.

First off, it seems I narrowly missed making it on to the shortlist for the CWA Ellis Peters Award for historical crime fiction, though I'm pleased to see my fellow North London Historical Crime Writer, and Faber stablemate, Andrew Martin made the cut with his latest Jim Stringer novel, Death on a Branch Line.

The full short list is:
Ariana Franklin, The Death Maze, Bantam Press
Philip Kerr, A Quiet Flame, Quercus
Andrew Martin, Death on a Branch Line, faber and faber
C J Sansom, Revelation, Macmillan
Andrew Taylor, Bleeding Heart Square, Michael Joseph
Laura Wilson, Stratton’s War, Orion

If you go to the CWA site and scroll down below the excellent and well-deserving short-listees (see, I'm not bitter), you'll find this little addendum:

Longlisted novels

This year has brought an unprecedented number of excellent historical crime novels. The CWA Ellis Peters judging panel has asked for the following books from their long list to be published in recognition of their merit:

Marjorie Eccles, Last Nocturne, Allison & Busby
Ann Granger, A Mortal Curiosity, Headline
H R F Keating, Inspector Ghote’s First Case, Allison & Busby
R N Morris, A Vengeful Longing, faber and faber

That's me, that is, at the end.

Le Spie del Male

You may be interested to know that two of the short-listed authors, Andrew Taylor and Laura Wilson, will be taking part in a festival of historical noir (hey, what a great idea for a festival!) in Trevi, Umbria (what a great place to hold such a festival!), November 1-2. The festival is called Le Spie del Male, and I will be there too.

I was invited by Michael Jacob and Daniela de Gregorio, a husband and wife writing team, who pen superbly gothic historical mysteries under the name Michael Gregorio. Their series is set in Prussia in Napoleonic times and features the detective Hanno Stifeniis, with two books published so far, The Critique of Criminal Reason and Days of Atonement.

Michael and Daniela are not only great writers, they're lovely people too, so I am very much looking forward to the festival. I'll be in conversation with them on Saturday at 11.30 discussing crime in a historical context.

There's more about the festival on the Michael Gregorio website. "Mister Noir", Maxim Jacubowski, author, editor and owner of London's foremost crime fiction bookshop will be taking part too.