Word on the Wire

Tag: SIX


No doubt about it, I have an addiction to novels by Don Winslow. It all started when my other half bought ‘The Power of The Dog.’ He raved about it while I was knee-deep in one of Gerald Seymour’s novels. Then he bought ‘The Force’ and then he bought ‘The Cartel.’ Next, ‘The Border.’ Right, I thought, let’s see what this guy has got. And oh my goodness, Mr Winslow has got the lot. 

            When critics say his work is ‘epic,’ ‘ like the Godfather,’ ‘a portrait of modern America,’ they are not wrong. There’s polemic, without bashing you over the head with it. The vast number of characters does not turn into a thinly drawn ‘cast of thousands.’  Every character is finely conceived and conveyed, and deserving of his or her place in a narrative that blows your socks off. I learnt more about the Mexican drugs trade than in any story I’ve ever read. We know from the press that Mexican cartels are cruel and barbaric and ruthless in protecting their interests. Everyone is fair game, including women and little children. Winslow is unsparing in his depiction, without being gratuitous and sensationalist. With a strong tolerance for violence in fiction, I felt chills. Other scenes evoked waves of utter despair. This is strong stuff and it elicits powerful emotions in the reader. Law enforcement in Mexico is complicated by competing organisations whose remits are often overlapping and blurred to the extent that what should be done, when a criminal line of investigation is followed, doesn’t get done. The kicker is that, if more were spent on raising ordinary Mexicans out of poverty, US governments would not have the same level of problems with migrants crossing the border to escape for a better life. Instead they are left to rot and feed the seemingly insatiable demand for cocaine and heroin in the States and beyond.  Fundamentally, there are too many vested interests in maintaining the status quo, and Winslow displays this in vivid and compelling detail. It comes as no surprise that his work has already been optioned for film. 

            I could dribble on about what I’ve been doing over the summer. Apart from mentioning the fantastic reviews SIX has garnered and saying I had a productive period of writing, that’s it. My September blog post belongs to one writer only: Mr Winslow, and I urge you to buy his thought-provoking, entertaining and utterly addictive books.  



Last summer, the wonderful John Banks narrated NEON, courtesy of Orion Fiction. This year, like buses that come along all at once, Apple released ‘A Deadly Trade and Final Target,’ both narrated with super deadly style by Ben Onwukwe. This was followed by ‘SIX’ narrated by gifted Simon Mattacks – love his northern accents. To say that all narrators bring to life my stories is an understatement. I’ve heard anecdotally that some writers aren’t keen on the way their books are portrayed in audio, but I have absolutely no complaints. I find it a bit like settling down to listen to a radio play. How narrators manage to convey as many as three different tones and pitches in a single scene leaves me awe-struck. 

Apart from this, I can report that rights to NEON have been bought by Albatros, Czech Republic, which, added to Germany, Poland and Russia, is deeply satisfying. 

Editing work continues to keep me out of mischief by day. I’m reading more for pleasure now than at any time during the pandemic. Of writing, I’d be telling fibs if I told you that I was hard at it. But that’s okay because I have a big idea bubbling and taking shape while I dig the garden, clear the cobwebs and generally do things I’ve put off for too long.  

Detective-led fiction aka police procedurals are as popular as ever. Consequently, agents and publishers are keen to have writers on their books who can deliver in what is a deeply competitive genre. And so it was with a measure of excitement that I watched  ‘GRACE,’ an adaptation of Peter James’s superlative novels, which hit the small screen this week. Originally, and somewhat confusingly, I’d thought the story was to be split into a couple of episodes but, no, some wise bod decided that it should run in its entirety over a two-hour slot; another complete story to feature later in the year. Even the commercial breaks weren’t too intrusive. 

In the lead role, John Simm (Life on Mars) plays Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. I confess that he didn’t immediately conform to my idea of James’s main protagonist, but as the story got underway, I changed my mind. Understated, slightly vulnerable and yet on top of his professional game in a way that he clearly isn’t in his personal life, his was a great performance and brought something extra to the role. No spoilers here but if you are claustrophobic, (I was positively hyperventilating in certain scenes and thinking about opening a window) you have been warned! Characterisation is cracking.  Plotting is superb. The narrative is taut, ensuring that the viewer is on the edge of his or her seat. If you haven’t watched it already, I urge you to do so. Better still, just buy the books.