1 – Let’s get you fed and watered before we begin, Alfie. Have a shufty at the menu and state your poison. Healthy or unhealthy? I’m afraid the healthy option is restricted to half a carrot, the other half being reserved for Rudolph.
AR - To be honest with you I think I’ll have a cuppa soup if you have any, and a bread roll, it was nithering being kept waiting out there with moles. What’s with the candles, has your electric been cut off? Cuppa soup! Ahem, only homemade scrummy stuff on these premises, Mr Robins.
2 – Alfie, I’ve already let slip that you hail from Hull, but I’m sure everyone would like to know a little more about you and how you know so much about criminal types and dodgy goings on. Are you a full time writer with a good imagination or do you have a stripey jumper and a bag marked swag in the bottom of your wardrobe? If you have a secret skill or hobby we want to hear about it...we really do, as long as it’s legal!
AR - I can’t really answer the first part of the question, on grounds that I may incriminate myself. Let’s just say I was brought up in a part of the city where the people were tough and so was life, beside I don’t want a hit squad looking for me. As for the stripey jumper, I’ve never worn one. I always preferred the black jumper, trousers, shoes and never went on a job without a balaclava, you know the type with just the eye holes. Apart from being quite an expert in Lee Style Tai Chi, my main hobby is grifting, can’t beat pulling off a good con. Full time writer? Well if you call being retired enabling me to write full time then yes, but earning enough to get a decent income from it then no.
3 – How did you initially get into writing? What does your family think of your writing and all the time you devote to your fictional characters? As you already know, Alfie, I love your writing, with its black northern humour and twisty plots, but who in your family is your biggest fan?
AR - At school I was not what you could call very academic, I was always better at athletics, it came in handy being a fast runner on Hessle Road. In later life, In 1994 I went back into education as a mature student and took a degree, Special Economic & Social History at the University of Hull. I think that encouraged me to take more of an interest in writing. A few years later, after I suffered a work injury and had quite a lot of time on my hands was when I thought maybe I could write fiction, in-between my evening job of breaking and entering. All of my family have been a great support in my writing, but none more so than my son Lee, who is learning disabled and who loves being a character in two of my books, he’s always asking when he’s getting promoted from Detective Constable!
4 – Can you remember the first thing you had published? Did you run the gauntlet of the query letter? Enter a competition or decide to self publish?
AR - I’ve never been one for entering competitions and oh yes, I did the usual trawl of agent and publishes. I gathered quite a selection of, “thank you, but no thank you letters”. Then I approach Tim Roux, who at the time was running the social network site Night Reading and fortunately for me he agreed to publish my first novel “Reprisal”, which I am pleased to say reached the dizzy heights of No 8 in the Amazon UK kindle charts. Well done! I think we’d all like that kind of success.
5 – From your own experience as a writer do you have any tips for those not yet published? Is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
AR - I think the best advice has already been said in previous interviews, never give up and never be afraid to ask for advice from your peers. To be honest in answer to the second part of the question, I wish I’d started creative writing years ago. But saying that, maybe the time wasn’t right for me then.
6 – I know you write police procedural, crime fiction, and you certainly know your way around the nick, does this entail much research and if so, how do you go about it? Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
AR - I have to be honest, the bulk of my research comes from reading, the television and my own experience of the police interview room from the wrong side of the table. However, a book I would recommend is, “The Crime Writer’s Guide To Police Practice and Procedure” by Michael O’Bryne. I have that book too. I was fortunate to meet with Michael at last year’s Yeovil Literary Festival. He certainly knows his stuff.
There is no way at all that I could write a romance or love scene. I’d be too embarrassed in case my wife read it and then I would be for the high jump.
7 – Where does your inspiration come from, Alfie? Do you listen to music while you write? Is there a song or artist that you feel is significant to your writing.
AR - Yes music plays a big part in my writing, I’m not a music snob I listen to nearly everything. Country, classical and throw in a bit of Elvis, but the sixties music still takes some beating, I suppose that’s because I’m an old git.
I think the following youtube link sums me up! You’ll probably agree. Very apt, Alfie!
'They're coming to take me away'
8 - Were you brought up in a house full of books, or did you sneak off to the library at every opportunity as I did. As a child which was your favourite book? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
AR - Books have always been important to me. My father was a fisherman, away at sea for three weeks at a time with only books and the radio for company when they weren’t working, the fishermen would listen to the American forces stations transmitting from Iceland, hence my liking for country. When he came home there was always a bag full of paperbacks, “The Saint”, Dennis Wheatley’s black magic and Raymond Chandler, whose character name Philip Marlowe who I pinched! There used to be second-hand book shops along Hessle Road were you could do a swop, I was always swopping. At present I’m having a change from the usual and reading an autobiography, ‘My Life’ by David Jason, cushty.
9 – I’d love you to tell me a little about the books you currently have published.
AR - Reprisal, a straight forward police procedural was the first. Featuring the above mentioned Philip Marlowe, only this time he’s a DCI not a PI. Reprisal may have been the first but it isn’t necessarily my favourite, this has to be Just Whistle, published by the leading British crime publisher Caffiene Nights Publishing. Ok, it’s still a crime novel but it’s out of the ordinary and has a surreal twist. Snakes and Loser is the third, this time once again featuring DCI Marlowe and its out now as am ebook, the paperback should be available early in the New Year. Must admit, Just Whistle is my favourite, if you haven’t read it folks, I‘d highly recommend it if you like crime with a twist.
10 – If it’s not a closely guarded secret, and won’t spoil the plot, can you give me a hint at what you have planned next? I won’t tell anyone...promise.
AR - Then next planned novel is Funeral Rites, a follow up to Just Whistle but that’s a closely guarded secret at the moment and hopefully should be published in the second half of 2014. However I am also working on something different, there’s still the crime element but also it’s a bit spooky, at present the working title is The Dead Talk Back. Sounds like my kind of book.
11 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
AR - DS Harry ‘H’ Blackburn, easy going, dry sense of humour, good at his job and like a drink or two, just like me.
12 –Please introduce the book you’ve brought with you, Alfie, and while I go and top up your coffee, would you like to read a short excerpt?
AR - No problem, Babs, I’ve brought the new one with me Snakes and Losers, featuring DCI Philip Marlowe and his team. I hope you’re not squeamish.
Disclaimer – The following excerpt does contain adult language and a rather gruesome scene. If you’re of a nervous disposition, or easily offended ... please look away now. If you like your crime gritty ... please carry on.
Fatty heard the Range Rover door open and close again. Keane came back inside carrying a large heavy canvas hold-haul. He set the bag on the floor and locked the stable door behind him. The bouncer watched with interest, the bag was unzipped and Keane took out what was inside.
‘Oh no, you must be fucking joking! I’m not having any of that! For fucks sake Chainsaw Massacre ain't for me, I’m off.’ He started to unfasten the suit; this was not what he’d signed up for.
‘No you fucking don’t, you’re already in this up to your bloody neck, and what does it matter he’s FUCKING DEAD! Not going to be bothered is he!’ If Keane was honest about it, he wasn’t really relishing the task himself. He’d already had a similar conversation with his Uncle and was told he’d do “as he was feckin told”.
‘Well I’m not using the fucking saw.’
‘For such a tough looking bloke you can be a right tart at times. Just get the fucker down while I see how this thing works.’
The bouncer looked at the limp figure dangling like a marionette at the end of the rope and shook his head. ‘It was your own bleedin’ fault,’ he said to the corpse as if expecting an answer. He adjusted the plastic sheet until it was centrally placed underneath the swaying figure. He walked to where end of the rope was tied fast, unwound it from the cleat and took the weight. The pulley fixed to the roof rafter squeaked as it was placed under the duress of the full weight of the body. ‘Shit,’ the bouncer called out as he lost his footing on the shiny plastic sheet and let go of the rope and the body dropped to the floor in a broken heap.
13- Can you let us know where we can find it?
14 - And let us know where we can find you, Alfie.
Alfie Robins Blogspot
Eastcoast crime fiction
15 - Finally before you leave, a test for your imaginative, story weaving skills. We’re playing a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this last line from Juliet B Madison? Your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on: (the story so far can be found here)
...darkness overwhelmed her and she sank to the floor in a dead faint...
When she regained her composure, Isabella looked up, it was gone. She couldn’t believe it, who would do such a thing? It was a dastardly thing to do. On hands and knees she checked everywhere, under the sofa, behind the television, it wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
The more she thought about, the more obvious it became, there was only one person she knew evil enough to do such a thing.
She stood, hands on hips and shouted at the top of her voice. ‘You bleedin’ little elf, bring back my fairy, the Christmas tree looks naked without it.
Right well, that’s certainly added a twist to the story. Let’s see what the next guest does with that! Thanks so much for stopping by, Alfie. It’s been a pleasure to chat with you and find out more about you, your unique brand of humour (breaking and entering indeed...) and of course about your books. Snakes and Losers is a great read and as it’s hot off the press, I’d recommend it to all you crime buffs.