• Brief Encounters of the Story Kind

    25 April 2016 : Sleuthsayers

    Writing a book or a short story is like a relationship. You meet a pretty girl (you think of a cool idea for a plot). You discover the girl is super smart and intelligent (the idea has depth and resonance, and is compelling), and you become even more attracted to her. You start on page one (you ask her out), and there begins your relationship in earnest...

  • Architecture of Decay

    23 April 2016 : Visual Squirrels

    J.G. Ballard’s novel High-Rise had been on my radar to read for many years, and I finally did so over the last month when I learnt it had been made into a movie by a film director whose movies I tend to seek out and watch (more on that in a moment)...

  • The Queen of Crime

    24 August 2015 : Sleuthsayers

    Ngaio Marsh sold four stories to the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and I mention this upfront, because it's the only other connection (albeit tenuous) that I can claim to her...

  • The Function of a Title

    28 June 2015 : Medium

    Every story you’ve ever read has probably had a title. Be it a short story, a novel, a novella, novelette, or paragraph of flash fiction (even this little article has a title)...

  • The Long White Cloud

    20 January 2015 : Sleuthsayers

    You probably didn't expect to read an entry from me in this slot. I'm in New Zealand house-sitting for the kid (Stephen Ross); he's gone on vacation to work on his book. I suspect he's really gone on vacation to catch up on his reading; he's a prince among procrastinators, and there's a gap on the bookshelf where his collection of Perry Mason mysteries used to reside...

  • The Ponsonby Post Office Murder

    30 December 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    On the evening of Saturday, March 13, a person or persons unknown entered the house of Mr. Augustus Braithwaite, the postmaster of Ponsonby. Braithwaite was shot dead and the keys to his post office stolen from his pocket...

  • Adapting (to the conditions)

    9 December 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    I'm writing this on a bus, on a laptop. I have a 75 minute commute to the office each morning, and home again in the evening. Auckland is a spread-out city (think LA, but without the permafrost cloud of pollution). I live in a nice neighborhood, and I work in a nice neighborhood; unfortunately there's about 40 kilometers of road in between...

  • Postcards from the River

    18 November 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    A couple of years ago, I was living in a city called Hamilton. It's one of New Zealand's few inland cities; New Zealand is a long, thin slice of country and the ocean (Pacific Ocean to the right, Tasman Sea to the left) is never more than an hour or two's drive away. Although inland, Hamilton is not without water frontage, as the Waikato River flows through the center of the city and effectively splits it into two...

  • Why do you write Crime Fiction?

    28 October 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    Friday afternoons drag. If you work in an office, it can feel like the devil has planted one of his hooves down on the minute hand of the clock, slowing down time to the point where it starts to hurt. The happiness you felt earlier in the week has gone, the bright colors of life have faded, and all that remains is a seemingly endless, black and white, nothingness. Punctuated by the random antics of work colleagues, who are even more insane than you are (miniature remote-controlled helicopter racing, anyone?). Friday afternoons are a good time to start thinking about the next SleuthSayers article...

  • Stealing People

    7 October 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    Christopher Isherwood wrote, in his novel Goodbye to Berlin, "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." I don't live in the world Isherwood inhabited (I'm not living in 1930s Germany, to start with), but I like the analogy and readily apply it to myself; with a slight modification: I am a vacuum cleaner, on full speed, actively inhaling all that is around me, quietly storing it away for future use... And what I find of most particular value in the dust bag are the people...

  • Rangitoto Island, etc.

    16 September 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    It's Friday. I'm reclining on an orange sofa in the lunch room (so orange in color, it's probably radioactive). I've got my iPhone open to Google Docs and my wireless keyboard Bluetoothed in. It's my lunch break and I'm trying to think of something to write about, as two of the ideas I had for this week's article have lately been written about...

  • The Long of the Short of It

    26 August 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    The above might give you the impression this little piece is about opening sentences in books. Nope, it was just a nice way to start. This is about book beginnings, but it's only about the beginning of one book: my book. Like many writers of short stories, I too am working on a long story. I've been working on it for several years, and part of the reason I've been working on it all that time is because it started life as a short story...

  • Making Movies

    29 July 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    I'm making a movie. No, that doesn't mean I've relocated to Hollywood. I'm making a short, no budget movie here in Auckland City, New Zealand. Short means 5-10 minutes, no budget means just that. Nada. The movie is a mystery story being shot on digital video, and its destination, once completed, will be a film festival or two (one day, it'll eventually wind up on YouTube -- the final resting place of all things video)...

  • Friends & Influences

    8 July 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    In the late summer of 1988, I spent a week living inside a novel. I was staying with a friend (Albert), who himself was staying with a friend (Victoria), at a dilapidated farmhouse on the edge of a town that didn't seem to have anyone in it or even a name. There was a school house, closed for the summer (or maybe forever), and a general store that had a CLOSED sign in its door (also probably forever). The town was about forty minutes out of Hamilton, in a direction I couldn't tell you...

  • Pictures and Words

    8 July 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    One of my fantasies is to be a painter. Oil on canvas. I have this vision of myself in a New York loft: A large room with a bare wooden floor, sofa, an open window with traffic sounds from the street below, open bottle of red wine, no glasses. No wall clock. And what would I paint? People. I like a good landscape, I like a good abstract, but what moves me are paintings of people. A picture tells a thousand words, but in every face there are a million...

  • The Nothing

    18 May 2014 : Sleuthsayers

    Before the Internet, there was nothing. It was like living in a tent at an outpost at the end of the world. I'm talking about writing. Books were only in the library or at the bookstore. Finding a magazine full of fiction in my hometown (Auckland City) was like embarking on a quest to find a three-toed sloth. Finding mystery fiction in a magazine was like looking for the dodo. Other writers simply didn't exist. I wrote in isolation. There's a black and white photo of me (somewhere, I lost the print and I never owned the negative) sitting at a typewriter with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. It could have been taken in 1930. It was taken in 1988...

  • What Happens Next Is F-Sharp

    8 January 2014 : Something Is Going To Happen

    When I was thirteen, every Tuesday afternoon after school I had piano lessons. My piano teacher lived about two miles away, and to get to his house, I had to ride my bicycle down an alleyway that connected streets. The alleyway was a long, narrow strip of concrete lined with overgrown grass and the high wooden fences of suburban backyards. One day, during the summer, I noticed a dead man in that overgrown, sun-baked grass. I came to a stop, one foot on the pavement, one foot on a pedal, and stared at the body...

  • New York Story

    9 May 2011 : Criminal Brief

    Back in January of this year, I got an email that informed me I had gotten an Edgar nomination for best short story. I stared at the email, and then made a sound that fell somewhere in the vocal range around Flipper.

  • Terms & Confusion

    September 2009 : The Channel Magazine

    Shakespeare once wrote: "We understand everything we know, and everything else is fog." The average man and woman in the street has no idea what the letters PHP stand for, or ASP, or PERL, or even HTML...

  • Crime & Mystery Writing in New Zealand

    16 June 2009 : Criminal Brief

    New Zealand is at the foot of the South Pacific. We have a population of 4.3 million, we speak English, we spell colour with a u, and according to Mark Twain we are like Switzerland. I’ve often heard it said we are good readers. I don’t know if this is true or merely something put about to make us feel good. I can, however, personally confirm that most of our bookstores have decent-sized crime and mystery sections, so those that read clearly have a taste for C & M...

  • Dot the i, Cross the t

    April 2009 : The Channel Magazine

    Words are the most important part of a website. Words convey a website's crucial information to a site visitor...

  • Mother of a style killer for defiant boy racers

    25 February 2009 : Waikato Times

    In the 1960s, if you were a young man and wanted to be considered dangerous, you grew your hair long and attempted as much facial hair as possible. You wore black, you cultivated a walk that resembled a sneer, and you spoke in the deepest register your larynx would allow...

  • Top Everest saga just hasn't got what it takes

    27 February 2008 : Waikato Times

    It came up in one of the regular conversations after Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral: why hasn't a movie been made about Hillary's conquest of Everest?

  • Fireworks go against all logic

    31 October 2007 : New Zealand Herald

    The average Kiwi doesn't have ready access to a gun, and for good reason. If the spotty-faced, good for nothing "yoof" who lives down your street could easily step into a supermarket and buy a handgun and a few dozen rounds of ammunition along with their beer and fags, all hell would break loose...

  • Those in chrg @ NZQA nd thr heds red

    13 November 2006 : New Zealand Herald

    I am a qualified teacher of English. And one of the teachers who taught me to teach summed it up succinctly one morning in class. He drew a dog and a hoop on the blackboard. We the students were dogs and - metaphorically speaking - if we wanted to qualify, we had to learn how to jump through the hoop.

  • Why Not Appoint A Minister Of Silly Walks, As Well?

    7 November 2005 : Scoop

    If the National party could have their way, they'd have you believe the Labour party regularly ships in container loads of a substance known as Political Correctness, and that they routinely hose down the Beehive, policy and parliamentarians with the stuff...

  • You say tomato, I say it's all a load of baloney

    1 September 2005 : New Zealand Herald

    There have been suggestions lately that Maori isn't being spoken properly, or, as some would have it, correctly. Not the Maori language per se, but specifically, the pronunciation of Maori words by English speakers, place names, in particular...

  • Not happy here? Goodbye, good luck and good riddance

    16 March 2005 : New Zealand Herald

    I overheard a conversation in a cafe this week. An angry young man was ranting about the constant rain and wet of New Zealand. It's the middle of summer and there had been a morning's worth of rain - the first in a couple of weeks - and it had set this agitated, eyebrow-pierced man off on a right table-thumper of an argument...

  • Thud, thud, thud, the neighbours are cranking up the stereo again

    21 January 2005 : New Zealand Herald

    I have no idea what my neighbours' taste in music is, and I prefer it that way. My new neighbours are as quiet as church mice. Bless them. I have moved several times in the past couple of years, and in all of my previous homes I have been on intimate terms with my neighbours' CD collections.

  • And The Sound of Music will disappear in smoke

    28 December 2004 : New Zealand Herald

    I don’t smoke, but I sat in a bar once with someone from Ash, and had I known they were from Ash I’d have had a "serendipitous moment". I’d have lit up. And if no cigarettes had been handy, I’d have smoked a chair leg...

  • One film, and an enormous headache, to rule them all

    14 December 2004 : New Zealand Herald

    I like The Lord of the Rings. I truly do. I never read the books - I don't fancy fantasy - but I liked the films and bought the DVDs when they came out, first the cinema versions and then the extended versions.