Category Archives: A Fistful of Seaweed


I’ve done an interview, all about my new book, A Fistful of Seaweed. You can find it on Sonya Alford’s book site, A Lover of Books.

If there’s anyone out there in the mighty Blogosphere who’d like to interview me or write an honest review of A Fistful of Seaweed, then please get in touch by leaving a comment or via twitter: @johnbayliss5 .


Filed under A Fistful of Seaweed, Fiction, Publishing, Springer, Uncategorized

Westerby Gazette, 7th October 1962


Detective Inspector Willis of the Westerby constabulary later made the following statement:

I can’t really say much about this case, as it is still under investigation. I can tell you that we have now identified the body under the pier, but for operational reasons I cannot release that information to the press just yet. What I can tell you is that we are definitely treating this incident as murder. The post-mortem did give the cause of death as drowning, but there is additional evidence that indicates that we have something here that is rather more than a tragic accident. We now believe that the victim either fell from or was thrown from a ship in the Bristol Channel somewhere in the vicinity of Avonmouth docks, possibly following an altercation, and his body was then carried by the tide until it became entangled with the struts of the pier.

I would like to make it clear that any reports that you have heard that this incident is connected to organised crime are complete speculation, and I would particularly ask the press if they could keep to the facts of the case and not repeat these any of these unfounded accusations. Some of the wilder stories that have been circulating recently are not helping our on-going investigations.

A Fistful of Seaweed is published by Grey Cells Press on 15th September 2014.

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Correcting Proofs

Back in those innocent days when I was merely an aspiring writer, I often heard about ‘real’ authors (that’s authors with books in bookshops) having to face the task of correcting galley proofs. This was the last input that the author made into the publishing process before the book was printed and sold to the public, the last chance that they had to correct mistakes (whether their own or those introduced by the typesetter) and the last chance they had to make any changes to the text. Back in those days, I thought that correcting galley proofs must be a rather exciting phase for the author. After all, this was the first glimpse that they had of seeing their own words actually set in the typeface of the finished book – the moment when the author gets an inkling of what their story is going to look like in print.

In this modern, electronic age, printed galley proofs are a thing of the past. Publishers now send out proofs as PDFs or as e-book files, but they still need correcting, of course – modern digital publishing hasn’t abolished typos yet, and the human eye is still the best technology to hunt them out. This past week I have been correcting the proof of the second of the Springer novels, A Fistful of Seaweed, and it has been an experience of mixed emotions.

First of all, it’s nice to see that my manuscript is now well on the way to becoming a real book. I mean, it actually looks like a book, with a proper title page and everything. On the other hand, it’s not so nice to find so many mistakes. I can cope with the little things – little slips of the fingers, slightly dodgy punctuation. They are to be expected and all can be corrected, easily enough. Some of the mistakes, however, must have been there in the original manuscript, despite the fact that I checked it so many times before submitting it. Perhaps I can be forgiven for writing ‘lead’ when I really meant ‘led’ but did I really write ‘severally’ when I really meant ‘severely’? Did I really use the word ‘place’ three times in the space of two sentences? How could I have written such clumsy sentences, and (more the point) why didn’t I notice any of this before?

So I go though the proof, line by line, noting every one of the little changes that need to be made. This takes more concentration than I was expecting, because I find myself getting caught up in the story (even though I know what’s going to happen) and I forget to check the things I’m supposed to be checking, like punctuation. Is everything quoted correctly? Are all the commas and full stops in the right places. Oh no, I’ve said ‘Mr Ackerman’ in one place and ‘Mr. Ackerman’ on the very next line. Why didn’t I spot that before?

You reach a point where you think: I must have found all the mistakes by now. But then you find another one. There can’t be any more, surely? But then there is another one. That must be the last, but you still have to carry on checking, just in case there’s another…

That’s the biggest problem of all: how do I know that I have found all the errors? I certainly spotted quite a few on the first pass, but I still found plenty on the second pass that I must have missed the first time round. Now on the third pass, I’m still finding mistakes. Is that it? Or are there even more?

Will I ever make this story perfect?

Which leads on to an even deeper philosophical question: Is there ever such a thing as a perfect piece of writing? One that can never be improved, whatever the author does to it?

That’s a question I think I will leave for others to answer.


Filed under A Fistful of Seaweed, Fiction, Publishing, Springer

The Struggles of a Serial Novelist

Once, I fondly believed that writing a series of books would mean that I would write one book, publish it, then forget all about it so that I could settle down to write the second.

Strangely enough, it hasn’t worked out like that at all.

The first Springer book, Five and a Half Tons, is published and in the bookshops. It’s received some wonderful reviews, and has also been nominated for the CWA John Creasey Dagger for Best First Novel. It’s in the lap of the gods whether or not it gets shortlisted, and even if it doesn’t there may be interviews to deal with, promotional events to get involved with, so on and so forth…

The second book, A Fistful of Seaweed, has been delivered to my publisher and editing will start soon—I need to wait my turn until he’s finished with some of the other highly talented authors that are currently published by Holland House Books. At the moment, the schedule is to publish some time in the second half of 2014.

The third book (it has a working title that may change before publication, so I won’t share it here) was, I thought, finished too—all but crossing a few ‘tees’ and dotting a few ‘eyes’. I did need to make a few small changes, however—based on the fact that I decided (rather late in the day) to set the novel in January 1963, which was one of the worst winters in the UK for decades. However, those few small changes avalanched (pun intended) into much bigger changes and at the moment I am re-writing the ending. Completely re-writing the ending, in the sense that I have deleted more than ten thousand words from the original manuscript and I am starting over with a completely blank page. The identity of the perpetrator won’t change (although that is not completely guaranteed) but how he is unmasked is still a mystery to me, let alone Springer. As I write this I have left Springer trudging around in ankle-deep snow, looking for a piece of wire from which to fashion an improvised lock-pick. When I’ve finished writing this I really ought to go back and give him a hand.

The fourth book in the series already exists too, largely as a collection of scenes and episodes that loosely hang together around the themes of shady dealings in the world of Indian restaurants and secretive, high stakes poker games. At some point all this needs to be put together to form something like a coherent story (or what passes for coherent in Springer’s world). It also needs a solution to the mystery, because although I have a crime and several suspects, just at the moment I have even less idea than Springer who the actual villain is.

To cap it all, last night I was lying awake thinking about the opening of a new Springer story, one which (if all goes to plan) should be the fifth book in the sequence. I could tell you all about it, but too many spoilers in one blog post is not good for the digestion. Let’s just say this one is Springer’s answer to the classic locked room mystery.

Nor will I mention the fact that I have two other novels at the Work in Progress stage, too. Neither of them are anything to do with Springer, but I do tinker with them from time to time and one of them is definitely threatening to dominate my attention, if I allowed it to do so.

So how many different novels am I having to deal with now? Er… Hang on a minute: I seem to have run out of fingers…


Filed under A Fistful of Seaweed, Fiction, Five and a Half Tons, Springer


Yes, yes, I know. It’s been weeks and weeks since I posted anything to the ‘News From Westerby’ blog. And no, I haven’t forgotten that I had a blog; nor have I been kidnapped by aliens or gone walkabout in a region that lacks a reliable internet connection. What I have been doing is writing the sequel to Five and a Half Tons. The new book is called A Fistful of Seaweed and it follows detective J.F. Springer as he tries to track down a missing teenage girl. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan, and Springer soon finds himself out of his depth and struggling to make sense of the case. He’s just as strapped for cash as before, so he’s rather eager that his client should pay up promptly — though that doesn’t quite go to plan, either.

I delivered the manuscript to my editor at Grey Cells Press in November, but there are still a few tweaks to be made before it can go off to the typesetters. My aim is to make the story as good as it can possibly be before I commit to print (or e-ink), so there will be some discussions and editing to be done over the next few months. Consequently, it’s far too early to give a publication date, but I’m hoping that it will be available in Spring or Summer 2014.

And what about Springer’s future? Well, a third story already exists in draft form (but it’s much too early to talk about that!)


Filed under A Fistful of Seaweed, Springer