Thursday, 29 September 2011


I sent the hardcopy edit of The Demi-Monde: Spring back to Quercus on Wednesday and because it represented about 60 hours of bloody hard work I decided to do two things - take a copy (£26 up my shirt) and send it by the Post Office's super-dooper ParcelForce system which GUARANTEES next day delivery (another £16!).

You guessed it, the package has gone AWOL but the most aggravating thing is that the supposedly foolproof tracking system has turned out to be USELESS. All it can tell me is that it was picked up at the Hatton post office on Wednesday at 13:58 and thereafter ... NOTHING. I've tried ringing ... what a joke: all I get is automated gibberish.

I am not impressed. Roll on privatisation.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Today the UK paperback version of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' is launched! I got a few copies sent to me by Quercus yesterday and I have to say that it looks terrific, the embossed cover being especially nice. Quercus also seem intent on doing some advertising to support the launch. This is the advert carried in this month's SFX magazine:

Obviously 'The Vampire Shrink' ain't nothing to do with me!

Friday, 23 September 2011


Publishing contracts should come with a health warning. Just like cigarettes there should be a sticker on them somewhere which says something like:


The Rees Coefficient of Editing states that for every hour you spend writing, you'll spend at least six editing.

Now I ain't moaning (I'm just so pleased that I've won the Great Prize in Life, that is getting a contract) but it's something every novice writer should be prepared for. You write your book (and by the time it's finished I bet it's gone thru at least four iterations: edits #1, 2, 3 & 4) and you've had your beta-readers plough thru it (it's a great book but ...) and given their two-pennyworth (which you've dutifully incorporated as edit # 5). Then your agent gives his opinion (which you listen to 'cos he/she will be selling the bloody thing) and so you do another edit (that's # 6). Then a publisher buys the thing and you think ... phew ... great ... that's it ... what am I gonna write next. That's when the publisher comes back and says something like 'great book, but wouldn't it be better if this character was a woman and you brought this chapter to the beginning and what do you think about flashbacks and could we crop it by 20,000 words and, by the way, how to you feel about a new title ...'

That's edits # 7, 8 & 9. And they're BIG edits, BIG time-consuming edits, edits you take MONTHS over. But you do them and then the book goes off and you think ... phew ... great ... what am I gonna write next. And that's when you get the copy edit where the publisher lets the Copy Proof editor (whose sole purpose in life is to protect the English language from philistines like you) have a go at your book and he corrects the grammar/spelling/impression you had that you were literate, covering your opus in Rain Forest destroying quantities of red ink in the process. That's edit # 10.

But it ain't over. Once this is done it goes off to be typeset, which is the process that takes your gibberish and making it look like a book. And you've got to edit that - CAREFULLY - 'cos this is absolutely the last chance you'll have to make sure that you haven't done something stupid (and you have, betcha money on it!), so that's edit # 11.

But you do that and then you think, phew ...great ... what am I gonna write next. And then your agent phones and says 'Great news, the book's sold to the Americans'. And you think 'WOW' and then you get an e-mail from New York which starts 'great book but ...'

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Went to see the latest film version of John le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' on Sunday. I was quite looking forward: Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors, the buzz was good and the source material impeccable. I came away disappointed.

Oh, all the elements were there: the cinematography was superb (I loved all those shots of documents going up and down in a lift), Oldman captured the stillness of the Smiley character brilliantly, and the Director' portrayal of a seedy, deflated 70's Britain excellent (made me quite nostalgic). The lighting was terrific too.

But ... but ... but ...

As is so often the case it was the script that let it down. I should have known what to expect when I read an interview with Gary Oldman when he said that he'd been regularly consulting with John le Carre in order to get his performance right. I am always suspicious of writers who get too closely involved with film adaptations of their work: novels and films are two completely separate mediums and in moving from one to the other the director/scriptwriter needs to be brutal with books. I think this is why the Bourne films were successful .. they were inspired by the source material, not enslaved by it.

In the case of Tinker they seem to have forgotten that what they were dealing with was, in essence, a whodunit, and to make these work the audience has to be party to the deliberations of the sleuth so they can pit their wits against him. In Tinker all the deliberation of Smiley as he tried to track down the mole were internalised and I've gotta tell you that shots of railway junctions symbolising the workings of his little grey cells don't cut it.

But where there was a paucity of information regarding Smiley's investigations, we were bombarded with a mass of irrelevant noise about characters (who cared that Benedict Cumberbatch's was homosexual; it had no relevance to the story); the Cold War (it doesn't help to be sitting next to Nelli as she mutters in your ear, enumerating the gaffs made regarding the Russians); and the protagonists' back-stories (all that angst by Tom Hardy's character about 'Irina' was a total waste of screen time). And what all this noise did was derive the major players a chance to establish their characters in any meaningful way: at the end of the film the only ones we could name were Smiley, 'C' (John Hurt so far over the top that he had sprouted wings) and er, that's it.

The girls pronounced themselves 'baffled'. I have to agree: if you haven't read the book, don't bother.

My rating: 6/10 (and Gary Oldman earned 3 of those!)

Oddly though

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Okay, so two weeks behind schedule I've finished the beta version of the final Demi-Monde book, 'The Demi-Monde: Fall'. It's still a little rough around the edges and I haven't interlaced the final chapters (I've done this in the other three books to add pace and tension) because its easier to edit them when they're separate but the story's there, the denouement is in place and I think the resolve of all the plot lines is okay.


Now I'm gonna let it lie for a few weeks so I can hit it renewed and refreshed (anyway I've got the US edit of Spring to attend to). I think I'm gonna need all the energy I can muster; the final edit of Fall is going to be a beast. It's come in at just north of 196,000 (say, 200,000 with a 'Story So Far' and a Glossary) and I want to be sure it doesn't include 30,000 words of self-indulgence. Pace is everything!

But anyway, the back of the thing is broken and I really like some of the new characters.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I had one of those odd juxtapositions of thoughts today. I read the article on Nick Broomfield's documentary about Sarah Palin ('You Betcha' - I've got to get to the BFI Film Festival on the 14th October!) in The Guardian and then this evening sat down to watch both the original and the (fucking awful) remake of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' on TV and I was struck by a terrible thought:

What if Gort came to call and Sarah Palin was President of the USA!!!

The answer to the question, is there intelligent life on Earth would be really worth eavesdropping in on.


Last up (for now!) is the song Nelli and I wrote called 'At Night I Burn'. I think this would be especially appropriate for the scene where Josephine Baker (great, great star) is dancing in Club Resi. We'll need something up-beat and pretty sensuous and this fits the bill. I'm desperately trying to remember the name of the violin player we drafted in ... but old age has beaten me.
Anyway enjoy:


For the scene when Vanka and Ella get smoochie there's only one choice of music: Nelli's take on the song 'Dancing'. 'Dancing' was written by the late, great Race Newton who played piano for Nelli for almost three years. Race had earned his chops playing in New York after the war and there wasn't ANYTHING he didn't know about jazz. He was a very special pianist and one of the few musicians I've ever met who knew that silence in music was as importaant as the notes.

Check out 'Dancing' on

Monday, 12 September 2011


The track to accompany Ella's dance in the hounfo at Dashwood Manor was always going to be tricky mainly because it was meant to have been accompnaied by drums - by rada music. Fortunately Nelli and I had a time when we were really into dub music (the more earthy cousin of reggae) so we'd had mix of one of our songs from Nelli's first album 'Jazz Noir' re-mixed dub style.

So this is 'Struggle Dance (JubDub) Mix' which is one of my favorite of all Nelli's recordings. Hope you like it.


Second track up on the 'The Demi-Monde:Winter' sountrack is the Marlene Dietrich classic 'Falling In Love Again'. Nelli had included this in her set and it always went down a storm so I had ideas of updating it and releasing it as a single. It didn't come to anything but when I was casting around for a number for Ella to do when she first comes to the Prancing Pig this was an obvious candidate.

The video is one I produced (and did the camera work for). Never quite as sexy as I wanted but still, considering it was made for £400 not too scruffy.

Check the song out on


Okay, prompted by Kimberley at HarperCollins idea for a soundtrack for 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' I dusted off the tracks from Nelli's never-released album that had been tentatively entitled 'Sex&Bile.'

This number 'I Don't Do Good' was written by Nelli and me and was intended to put a bit of 'oomph' in her live shows - nuJazz is all very well but it is a bit cerebral. This is the d'nb mix done by Bob and Paul. I think it would sit wonderfully at the beginning of the book when Norma is trying to escape from Clements thru the back streets of the Rookeries.


The link is with YouTube and the rest of the tracks are shown under 'The UnFunDaMentalists featuring Nelli Rees.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

TheY WanT uS DumB

Kimberley at HarperCollins is putting a FaceBook page together to support the US launch of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' at the end of December. One of the ideas she has is putting a soundtrack together and she asked me for suggestions, which persuaded me to dust off some of the tracks that Nelli and I produced for her stillborn 2nd album and I think they stand up bloody well!

I'm going to put them up on YouTube and the first is 'They Want Us Dumb'.

Nelli and I wrote it in protest of the Anglo/US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and is, unfortunately, still pertinent four years on. I think Nelli does a great job with the Manson-esque vocals (she's more a nuJazz singer).

You can check it out on under the name 'The UnFunDaMentalists (feat. Nelli Rees)'. I'll sort out a better video when I get time!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I had hoped to have the beta-version (finished but rough) of the last Demi-Monde book completed by the end of August but things got a little backed up and it's proven to be a bigger (literally) task than I imagined.

As I think I've said I'll be dividing Fall into two books (all contained within the same cover) and the first 'The Battle of the JAD' is now with Nelli for a preliminary reading. It's better than I thought it would be but not as good as I'd like it to be (but isn't that ever the way with writing). I like the denouement and I like some of the new characters but as it weighs in at 100,000 words I think it'll need a little surgery just to inject some pace.

The second book (section, part, whatever) has the working title 'Battle for the Real World' and is proving to be an absolute bastard. It's very complex and although I've resolved all the multiple threads of the story (I wish, I hope) it's VERY convoluted and some of it's quite demanding. My target is to have it in beta-mode within a fortnight and then to go at it with an axe. It's currently weighing in at 105,000 words - way too long - and there's still a longish chaper to write.

What I've learned from all this is I will NEVER, EVER do a book this sizeable again. It's almost impossible to edit the bloody thing, almost impossible to keep track of all the ins and outs and it drains your will to live.

In future it'll be 120,000 words tops! Frank Herbert must have been a bloody masochist!


I need a puzzle in 'The Demi-Monde: Fall' which turns on deciding what the next number is in a sequence, and I'm trying to decide if the one I've come up with is too hard/easy (delete as applicable). The sequence is:

1 5 2 3 2 7 8 11

This sequece is referenced in the book by a piece of doggerel:

This is the stairway to heaven.

Salute the Trinity that is

The Nothingness …


And the Duality of Being.

So come, embrace ABBAsoluteness.

When consciousness blossoms

And flowers beyond the confines of the mind.

Then, Time will have no meaning,

No relevance.

To progress to the embracing of Ying.

To stand beyond Time

HumanKind must conquer Time

And bring the Column to its resting place.

But to err, is to die.
The clue is in the numbers 1, 2 & 3!


I was asked by Quercus for cover art for the third book in the Demi-Monde series: 'The Demi-Monde: Summer'. Quite a bit of the action takes place in the Sino-Japanese Sector of the DM - the Coven - when one of my heroines is help captive in the Forbidding City by the dastardly Empress Wu. There she is introduced to the now outlawed philosophy of Confusionism.

Based on the teachings of the mysterious Master as recorded in the two MasterWorks – the iChing and the BiAlects – Confusionism differs from all other religions in the Demi-Monde in that it is refuses to provide a definitive guide to its followers as to what Confusionists should believe and how they should act. This ‘confusion’ inherent in Confusionism is a result of the Master’s teachings being represented by the diametrically opposed views of two mythical opponents and their inability – and, it must be said, unwillingness – to fuse these views into a single teaching. The two Voices of the BiAlects – the Sages Wun Zi and Too Zi – represent contrasting and irreconcilable interpretations of human life and purpose; of the Creation; of the ultimate Fate of the Kosmos; and of the existence and role of ABBA in human affairs. It is the aim of all Confusionists to reconcile the two Voices (‘the Fusion’) and to know the Answers to the five FundaMental Questions posed by the BiAlects. The Master informs us in the Ninth and final Book of the BiAlects that the Fusion will not come until the Time of Enlightenment, when Yin and Yang are merged in the form of Ying, and all knowledge – both Self-Knowledge and Knowledge of the Kosmos – are revealed to HumanKind.

Therefore the idea I had - which Nigel so mastefully interpreted - was that we should take the usual yin/yang emlem, introduce the dragons (the symbol of Empress Wu) but have them spiralling together into Ying. I thing it works pretty good!