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Preview: Hauling Like a Brooligan

Hauling Like a Brooligan

Go to the circus, laugh at the clowns, and then go home and have nightmares about them. That's entertainment.

Updated: 2018-01-15T16:32:11.320+00:00


The Spirit Box, first time in paperback


This is kind of exciting... following on from the mass-market publication of The Authentic William James comes the first paperback appearance of The Spirit Box, previously available in this gorgeously boxed format with a cover by Chris Moore:

The Spirit Box is closely followed by the paperback debut of The Painted Bride and then, for the first time ever, my backlist titles gathered together in a uniform edition. Not reprints, but new settings.

Available now. You can find all these titles, plus links to the ebook editions, here.

Now in Paperback from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble... you name it


As the Special Investigator to the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, Sebastian Becker delivers justice to those dangerous madmen whose fortunes might otherwise place them above the law.

But in William James he faces a different challenge; to prove a man sane, so that he may hang. Did the reluctant showman really burn down a crowded pavilion with the audience inside? And if not, why is this British sideshow cowboy so determined to shoulder the blame?

The Authentic William James is the third novel to feature ex-police detective and former Pinkerton Man Sebastian Becker, joining The Kingdom of Bones and The Bedlam Detective.

Praising "this superbly crafted thriller", Kirkus Reviews named The Bedlam Detective one of their 100 Best of the Year and called it "that rare beast, a literary page turner".

MysteryTribune.Com described it as "a rare literary masterpiece for lovers of historical crime fiction."

Of The Authentic William James, author and screenwriter Stephen Volk (Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Parts We Play) says:

"It's a blinding novel... the acerbic wit, the brilliant dialogue - the sheer spot-on elegance of the writing: the plot turns, the pin sharp beats. Always authoritative and convincing, never showy. Magnificently realised characters in a living breathing world... Absolutely stunning."
In their starred review of The Authentic William James, Publishers Weekly wrote:
"Gallagher gives Sebastian Becker another puzzle worthy of his quirky sleuth’s acumen in this outstanding third pre-WW1 mystery."
"Only bad thing about his books is that they eventually end. Brilliant.”
—Jonny Lee Miller

Five Questions


Towering insights. Answers to the great questions of life. My short interview with Lucy Hay on her Criminally Good blog.

Winter Draws On


The Goodreads people have drawn five names from their virtual hat and it's congratulations to Stephanie, Betty, Antoinette, Beryl, and Courtney.

Signed copies of The Authentic William James are on their way.

More Brooligan Press titles and promotions will be coming soon.

Goodreads Book Giveaway


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Authentic William James

by Stephen Gallagher

Giveaway ends November 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Next Week's Freebie


As the $1.99 Bedlam Detective ebook promotion from Crown continues until the end of the week, here's another story download offer for the coming weekend.

Crown's promotion is restricted to its own territories but the Kindle story offer will be worldwide.

This one includes two short stories. Out of Bedlam is a Becker story originally written for Random House's Dead Good Books online magazine. The Plot is a standalone which, taken together with the novella In Gethsemane, represents one of my earliest ventures into historical fiction.

Click here for the 2 stories

Click here for The Bedlam Detective promotion

This Weekend's Offer


(image) The Random House $1.99 price-cut promotion on The Bedlam Detective ebook applies across all platforms but not, as far as I can see, in all territories... if you're in the UK, for example, the links will take you to the Ebury Press ebook at a (still very modest) £3.99.

So over the weekend, by way of compensation, you can get this Becker short story for nothing in an Amazon free ebook promotion.

Of course, some of you can get the cut-price book and the free story... in which case, yay, Go You.

There's another free Becker story scheduled for the following weekend. More on that soon. In the meantime click here or on the cover in the right-hand column for the story link.

The Authentic William James: the paperback


For a limited period from October 22nd, and backed by an ad campaign on Bookbub, Random House will be cutting the price of The Bedlam Detective ebook edition to $1.99.

No a bad curtain-raiser for this:

Publication of The Authentic William James trade paperback edition is set for December in all territories. Copies for review were dispatched last month, but I can tell you that some of the books are escaping out into the wild ahead of the date.

At the end of October Goodreads will be running a giveaway promotion, with five signed copies in a free-to-enter draw.

Here's a taster:

The ebook's been on sale in the US from Subterranean since last September, but the exclusivity period is now over. Which means that The Authentic William James will be available digitally in all territories and on all platforms as of November 2nd.

Remembrance of Things Pasted


Among the stuff that migrated to my loft after my father died: four scrapbooks of my press cuttings, compiled by my mother in those loose-leaf photo albums, the kind with a sticky page and a transparent overlay. She kept everything. Everything that her thoughtless son remembered to pass along, anyway.

This morning I took them down to give them a dusting. The sticky's dried out and it was all I could do to contain all those clips and snips before they made a snowstorm on the study floor.

Many of them have yellowed, and more than a few have faded. I started wondering whether I should at least consider scanning and digitising them in my Copious Spare Time; an impulse that wore off fairly quickly as I looked at the volume of stuff and the amount of pernickity effort that would be involved. Nothing here will mean much to posterity; and as a collection it can never mean as much to anyone as it meant to her.

And the scanning of ephemera... well, that's a tricky issue. When I started research on The Kingdom of Bones I got a lot of my detail and atmosphere from old newspapers at the New Orleans public library. They'd been transferred to microfiche and the originals, I would assume, disposed of or destroyed.

The only good thing you could say about microfiche was that it was better than microfilm. Both were, at best, hit-and-miss for legibility. Now there's high-resolution scanning with OCR recognition - too late for those pages if the originals are gone, and now we have the issue of evolving formats and digital obsolescence. I already have stuff on compressed discs that can't be accessed by anything later than Windows 98. And at the other end of the scale, there are movies being shot in digital formats that are out of date before the edit's completed.

Digital's great for convenience and accessibility. But for permanence... well, ironically, it seems that ephemera has the edge. So for now it's just close up the pages, and handle with care.

Here's one of them. Neil Gaiman interviewing me for Time Out in March 1989. I wonder whatever became of him.

And no, my head was never actually that shape...

Apologies, Edgar


I did a meme

Simon Templar and Me


DigitalSpy reports that the unaired 2013 pilot for a modern reboot of The Saint will be available for streaming next month, although the site doesn't yet specify where. It also attributes Simon West's directing credit to Ernie Barbarash, for reasons that lie shrouded in mystery.I've known about this for a while, and I've been wondering when we might see it get a release.The pilot was financed and made without a network on board, which is always a risky strategy. Networks and cable companies like to put their stamp on every show they air, while distributors who simply buy in product rarely have the means to finance it. But the trailer's fun and the show looks pretty entertaining, if you can get past the notion of a designer-stubble Simon Templar.A couple of years before its making I had a three-week series of phone conversations with the producer who'd acquired screen rights to the character. He was a deal-maker with a long track record of getting high production values on limited budgets, mainly with action movies shot in Eastern Europe. The budgetary element may explain why the phone stopped ringing the day after my agent became involved, but over those three weeks I had time to think about the material and begin to form a 'take'. I reckon enough water's passed under the bridge for me to be able to share my first, exploratory memo on the character, written a couple of weeks in. Followers of the blog may recall that I was once asked to offer a similar take on Danger Man. Before the conversation ended I took The Saint a step further with a couple of follow-up pages – nothing like a fully-fledged treatment, just the necessary bones of a story.But as Laurence Olivier used to say to avoid performing in interviews, you have to pay money for that.How I'd do THE SAINT (not in that sense) I'd argue that The Saint is to TV what Bond is to film; a classy British export that gradually lost its oomph as it moved further away from its origins. The key to a successful reboot of the Bonds was a return to the underlying material. The key to a rebooted Saint will lie in a return to Charteris' character and story choices. There were a zillion 'Gentleman Outlaws' in 30s fiction and none of them had the genes for survival we find in The Saint. It shouldn't be rocket science – LC's own description of 'the Robin Hood of modern crime' pretty much tells you all you need to know.He's a guy with a complete disregard for authority and a rigorous code of personal fairness. He lives high on money he takes from thieves and the greedy rich. He appears to seek a life of luxury and entertainment, and nothing entertains him more than righting an injustice done to an innocent. But every now and again, we get a glimpse of the utter steel underneath. We may get the sense that something really bad happened to him early in life, and it made him who he is. We'll never find out what it was, and it's important that we don't.The most recent screen incarnations have ignored all that. They've treated The Saint as an ordinary hero and they've flopped.There's an artistic case to be made for taking The Saint right back to the 30s as a period piece, but not a commercial one. The new show needs to feature his timeless nature in the modern world. Yes, he's British, but it's the kind of Britishness that goes for export. They want the guy in good clothes with the manners and taste and the accent.We may think of the Saint as a rootless figure wandering the world and encountering random adventures, but he isn't. Some of the ITC episodes presented him that way but Charteris gave him a precinct and a supporting cast, and the old show made frequent, though inconsistent, use of them.I'm coming to this with a blank slate. I don't know what anyone's expecting to see. But it's been emphasised that the [...]

Richard Dalby, 1949-2017


(image) A supreme scholar, a gentle soul, and a great loss to the field and all who knew him.

We met in the '90s when Richard invited me over to Scarborough to talk about my Stoker-inspired project (then called Victorian Gothic, it would later become The Kingdom of Bones and the first of the Sebastian Becker books).

Richard had produced the definitive Stoker bibliography and also had a wonderful selection of early editions and other material. These included a Dracula first, found in a West Country book shop for £8, and Stoker's personal annotated copy of The Man. Richard had discovered that one in the back of a dusty bookstore and when he took it to the desk to pay, the shop's owner thumbed through it and then knocked a couple of quid off the price "because it's been written in".

Richard had two houses, one to live in and one for his books; the book house was entirely that, as far as I saw, shelved like a library in every room. He kindly photocopied Stoker's then-unobtainable Snowbound story collection for me, and later as editor picked up some of my own stuff for his anthologies.

I don't claim we were close, and in later years we pretty much fell out of touch, but I count our meeting as one of the significant waypoints in my life.

"It's Erich. Just Erich will be fine."


Less than a week from now...


Wednesday, 15th March 2017:. NOVOCASTRIA MACABRE presents an evening with Stephen Gallagher in conversation with horror author Stephen Laws. Northern Mining Institute, Neville Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 1SE. 7pm, tickets £3

"An evening with Award Winning Screenwriter and Novelist Stephen Gallagher (DOCTOR WHO, CHIMERA, OKTOBER, BUGS, MURDER ROOMS, SILENT WITNESS, ELEVENTH HOUR, CRUSOE, STAN LEE'S LUCKY MAN, and more...) in conversation with horror author Stephen Laws. A superb writer, a great raconteur. Want to know what it's REALLY like to work in TV in the UK and US? What the differences are? Who holds the power? Which country better respects the writer? How to really make the most of your ideas? Whether you're a fan of his work of an aspiring novelist or screenwriter, this is an event for you."

What a fantastic venue. Immediately following the talk, I'll be offering to saw the leg off any willing volunteer.

The Future Boys


I've been following this series of plays since The Future Boys' 2012 debut in Dead Static at Camden's Etcetera Theatre, the classic 'playspace over a pub' where new talent and old hands get equal exposure. With Pilgrim Shadow and last year's King Chaos the company moved to the Tristan Bates Theatre in London's West End, expanding the cast, increasing their audience, and ramping up the absurdity.

Writer/director Stephen Jordan is a child of 90's SF culture, and these are character comedies bounced off science fiction tropes. Absurd, yes, but not spoofs. They employ sitcom structure with a classic pairing at its heart, an Odd Couple who both need and annoy each other in equal measure.

New material, new medium; the next outing for the company will be in the form of two new and original audio dramas recorded BBC-style before a live audience, supported by a Kickstarter campaign that's running until March 4th.

The most basic pledge will get you the downloads, while other levels bring in the usual swag options. These include tickets to the recording at the Leicester Square Theatre on Thursday March 30th at 7.15pm.

Bad Bat's previous productions include The Probleming, Global Mega Incorporated, and The Ghost Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More, an Amicus-style portmaneau show in which I had a playlet.

Update: the Kickstarter editorial team have selected The Future Boys as one of their curated "projects we love". 

Update to the update: the campaign reached its target.

March Event, Newcastle


What a fantastic venue. Immediately following the talk, I'll be offering to saw the leg off any willing volunteer.

Snakebite Writing


Unused concept rough, New English Library
I've been catching up on a couple of home-grown TV dramas that have been lurking for far too long on the PVR - no, I won't name them - and they've reminded me of something I once heard David Puttnam say in an interview. He was contrasting British and American screenwriting practice using two exaggerated versions of the same story.

British version: a man wakes up in the morning. He goes down to breakfast. We see his house, his children are already at the breakfast table, we meet his wife. They talk about what he's going to do that day. He says he's going to the woods because of that thing they talked about last week, then he shaves, dresses, and drives the kids to school. Maybe there's something on the car radio about snakes in the woods, but the children are arguing in the back so he turns it off. He calls his boss, says he'll be late for work because of having to stop by the woods on the way. His boss chews him out about some big order they have to get fulfilled. He arrives at the woods, gets out of his car. We see him walking through the woods and then we see him carry out whatever mundane task he came here to perform. Now we see him walking back. Ouch! What was that? He catches sight of a snake slithering away. Later on...

(I've padded it more than Puttnam did, but you get the idea)

American version: A man's out walking in the woods and a snake bites him in the ass.

There's a certain breed of script editor whose notes seem to be concerned mainly with the so-called 'shoeleather' of a narrative. Why is this character in this location? How did they get there from where we saw them last? What do they do every day? Can we dig into their lives a bit more? Can we do more to explore this relationship? It's dull stuff but they always want it in. So you get literally dozens of scenes where nothing of any actual consequence happens, doggedly paving the way for an eventual story point.

I don't necessarily buy the whole English/American thing, but I do think that Puttnam's storytelling point is spot-on.

It's hard for a writer to hit the ground running. On the other hand it's not engaging for the audience to have to watch you getting up to speed as you write your way into the characters and their world.

There's a harsh but effective craft solution - write what you need to write, but then cut what the audience doesn't need to see. 

This Time of Year...


Late one December I got a surprise phone call from Brian Clemens. It was a surprise because, although we'd met a number of times over the years and shared consultancy credits on BBC1's BUGS, long phone chats weren't something we really did. I wrote about it here.

If you know my stuff at all you'll be aware of Brian's influence on my own career. In its creativity, professionalism, and sheer variety, his work set targets that I could only aim for.

In '66 I was a kid entranced by The Avengers. At the end of 2014 there we were, catching up.

About three weeks later, the news broke that Brian had died on January 10th. 

Here we are onstage at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films, back in (mumblemumble). Neither of us having a good time at all, as you can see.

Thanks to Stephen Laws for sending the picture.



Why does my heart sink at the prospect of a new Jonathan Creek?

Because it's a prime example of how the BBC doesn't know how to handle a hit.

They set out to make it good, and you think it's brilliant. When they realise that, they set out to make it brilliant. And that's when it stops being good.

Are you listening, Sherlock?

Writers on Rejection


I'm one of a series of interviewees discussing writing and rejection on A J Ashworth's blog. Contributors so far include Alison Moore and A L Kennedy.

A sample:
AA: You’ve written successfully for television (as well as for radio) many times, but I know that some of the projects you’ve worked on have failed to make it to production. Has this been hard to deal with, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time in them?

SG: I could run my own channel with my unmade projects, but you have to take a long view. Especially in British TV, where everything moves so slowly that you can hear your own hair grow. I will say that I love the American system, which is brutal, fast and full of energy. Even if you have a near-miss, you know you’re playing a championship game. Last year I had a spec TV pilot that sold to ABC Studios. We cleared all the hurdles and just needed the network president’s nod for a straight-to-series order. At that point Spielberg offered him a show, and he handed over the slots that we’d been lined up for. That was hard. But you bounce.

Victorian Fun (2)


Well, no matter how long you've known them, your friends never lose the capacity to surprise you. Jo Armitage, with whom I worked back when I was represented by the Curtis Brown Agency, read my last entry on the British Library's Victorian Entertainments exhibition and wrote:
Well I never, just read the blog about your visit to the BL. Can’t remember if I’ve ever told you but my great grandparents (paternal side – Armitage) were a part of the George Sangers Circus. I believe that my great grandfather Armitage was a Ringmaster for them. Small world and when they left the circus he became the Manager for one of the Music Halls in SW London (think Clapham but not sure).
In dire need of some diversion on this election-dominated morning, I flipped through Sanger's autobiography Seventy Years a Showman and spent some time down the wonderful rabbit-hole of information that is the Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History site. If the Clapham association is correct, then it's quite possible that Grandpere Armitage may have been involved with Dan Leno's ventures in the area. Leno lived in nearby Clapham Park and was a partner in a business consortium that first took over Munt's Hall on St John's Hill, renaming it The Grand Hall of Varieties before going on to commission and build Clapham Junction's Grand Theatre. I turned up nothing useful that I could add to the family story, but was grateful for the excuse to go browsing.

When I asked Jo for permission to pass this along she added that the Ringmaster story came from relatives who are no longer around, so she'd no immediate means of corroborating it. But that her great grandfather worked for Sanger, and met and married her great grandmother while both were in the showman's employ, is beyond doubt.

Victorian Fun


In London for a couple of meetings last Thursday, I called by to spend a few minutes at the Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition. That's the beauty of our free museums, as I found in the 70s when I was in the capital looking for a way into film or TV; when you're broke (as I was then) and have time to fill, a regular half-hour in the National Gallery or the odd hour in the V&A can lift the spirits and leave you with a sense of the time well spent.A chap was tuning up a piano. Not something you expect to find in the foyer of a library. When I took a closer look I saw that a stage was being set for the launch of a new exhibition titled Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun. The barriers were still up but I could see enough to know right away that I'd surely find it of interest.As described on the BL's own website:Roll up to celebrate some of the most popular entertainments of Victorian times performed in a variety of venues from fairground tents to musical stages. Focusing on five colourful characters, follow their stories as we bring the worlds they inhabited to life. These Victorian A-listers include Dan Leno, the original pantomime dame and ‘funniest man on earth’, John Nevil Maskelyne, magician and manager of ‘England’s Home of Mystery’, and the great circus showman ‘Lord’ George Sanger. Also hear of those whose fame has now faded such as Annie De Montford, a mill worker turned mesmerist, and Evanion the Royal conjuror.  If you're familiar with the Becker novels you'll know that they largely play out against a backdrop of the entertainment business from the 1880s to the Edwardian era. From Music Hall touring companies to fairground boxing booths, from Wild West acts to the legitimate stage. And if you aren't familiar... well, you'll have to take my word for it.  Two of the personalities covered in the exhibition (and the live presentations scheduled to accompany it) were central to the stories' conception, with their lives and histories providing a wealth of insight and detail. 'Lord' George Sanger was a prominent showman, and John Nevile Maskelyne was probably the most eminent British illusionist of his day. Here's where Maskelyne - in spirit, rather than in person - figures in The Kingdom of Bones:  The Egyptian Hall stood in Piccadilly, and had been England's Home of Mystery for the past sixteen years. It had the frontage of an antique temple, four storeys high and with the look of something hewn from the rock of the Nile valley. Two mighty columns braced the lintel above its entranceway. Two monumental statues stood upon the lintel. All illusion, in plaster and cement. To either side of this slab of the ancient desert continued a row of sober Georgian town houses. Within the building there were two theatres. One had been taken by Maskelyne and Cooke for a three-month run of magic and deception that still showed no signs of ending, more than a decade and a half after it had begun. The other was used for exhibitions and the occasional show. A few minutes before midnight, their four-wheeler drew up outside. Edmund Whitlock stepped down to the pavement, where he turned and offered his arm to Louise. To an observer’s eye the halls were shut-up and dark, but a watchman waited to let them in. Louise moved with her eyes downcast, looking neither to left nor right. They went directly backstage, where the Silent Man waited to lead them to the auditorium. It was an intimate hous[...]

Meanwhile at Fantasycon...


Just back from a weekend of frolics, wine and conversation at 2016's Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough, a town of shabby-chic Edwardian charm with a fantastic coastline and some, er, interesting after-dark streetlife. The Grand Hotel made for a highly sociable venue in a spectacular clifftop location. Dining options on the doorstep, and some fine autumn sunshine for those moments where you just had to take time out and wander. I had a great time meeting up with friends old and new.There was no single dealers' room, as such, more a bazaar that spilled through small rooms and passageways off a corner of the main hall. I'm pretty sure I didn't get to see everything, but I did get my first-ever sighting of the new hardcover in its finished form. I don't even have my author copies yet, but PS Publishing regularly handles UK distribution of Subterranean titles and had rushed a stack of advance copies expressly for the convention. So, many thanks to all involved, with further thanks to those who bought out the stack!A damn handsome piece of book production, if you ask me. I couldn't be more pleased. The hardcover editions of both The Kingdom of Bones (Shaye Areheart Books) and The Bedlam Detective (Crown) were something to behold, and this new title equals and, dare I say it, surpasses them. Subterranean also holds ebook rights for US territories, details of which can be found here. I'll have paperback news in due course.poster art: Graham HumphreysThe weekend was rounded off with the news that Ellen Datlow's The Doll Collection won the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. I get to bathe in a little reflected glory because my story Heroes and Villains is in the book. That story was the basis of my short play Cheeky Boy, part of this theatrical event. You may recall me banging on about it somewhat earlier in the year. [...]

Shipping Now: The Authentic William James


The book's now shipping and preorders are being filled. They're preceded by an interview conducted by Gwenda Bond for Subterranean. It's
on the company's Facebook page; follow the link to see the whole thing.
(image) Today we’re bringing you a fascinating new interview with Stephen Gallagher about how he created the character of investigator Sebastian Becker. Gallagher is a novelist, screenwriter and director specialising in contemporary suspense. His latest novel about Becker, special investigator to the lord chancellor’s visitor in lunacy, is The Authentic William James. It earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and we expect it to start shipping soon. Get your orders in now; you’re in for a treat whether you’re already a fan of the series or this is your entry point.

Gwenda Bond: Where did the idea for this series start?

Stephen Gallagher: I suppose the first seeds were sown when I was around twelve or thirteen and I answered an ad in the back pages of a Sexton Blake paperback...



Down by the British Museum in Bloomsbury runs Montague Street, a terrace of Georgian townhouses of the classic Upstairs/Downstairs kind. They're now mostly brass-plate offices and boutique hotels, and I can never walk along it without thinking of Charlie Grant.

(image) Charles L to the literary world, Charlie to just about everyone who knew him. The Montague Street connection is tenuous - he and Kathryn stayed in one of those hotels after a British Fantasycon where Charlie was toastmaster, having been the previous year's Guest of Honour. It's just one of those details that evokes a host of other memories and (see what I'm doing here?) the evocative detail is what Charles L Grant, writer and anthologist, was all about.

The '80s was a great time to be in horror. Already a genre with a strong tradition, in the 80s it was pretty much rampant. Writers such as Ira Levin, Thomas Tryon, and John Farris had already begun to break down the wall between genre and the mainstream, and then Stephen King drove a tank through the breach.

I count myself hugely lucky to have been finding my feet at just the right time. Two personal landmark events stand out in my memory; one being my first sale to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the other Charlie picking The Jigsaw Girl for Shadows 9. Publishers were mainly buying horror novels because they were making money. But if Charles L Grant bought your story, it was because he thought it was good.

Every field needs its controversies and ours was the Quiet Horror vs Splatterpunk debate. Unlike the Sad Puppies debacle it was an enriching and enjoyable hook for panel discussions, bar chats, fan writing... the question was basically over the relative merits of showing vs suggesting. Charles was widely acknowledged as Quiet Horror's Grand Master, both in his own fiction and in the influential Shadows anthology series on which he was editor. King praised his eminence as a creator of 'small-town horror', the form that's currently been so effectively mined and celebrated in Netflix's Stranger Things.

Many of those that I count among my 'cohort' have remained friends to this day. I only wish that Charlie, who left us on this day ten years ago, were still here among them.