Blog on the Bus pt64 (why I decided to kill Jack Vincent)

Good morning bus bloggers. Before I begin, I should warn you that this post contains spoilers. If you’ve not read but intend to read any of my work, please look away now and stop reading this post.

That’s better.

I feel troubled dear friend: there is a heaviness weighing on my mind and I feel the need to confess to you the real reason that I decided to kill off Detective Inspector Jack Vincent (in case it was troubling you too).

When I started writing Integration (my first formal foray with the written word), I wanted to create a conflict for my protagonist Mark Baines. Baines, as a character, was based very loosely on myself (write what you know, right?) and a lot of the views and emotions he felt were representative of my own. I tried to create a conflicting character that would get under my skin. Who better than the officer investigating Baines for the crimes he was blackmailed into committing?

In my head, D.I. Vincent’s physique (bald and with a ‘tash) was based on David Haig (the actor who played D.I. Derek Grim in Ben Elton’s tv series The Thin Blue Line). Bet you didn’t know that (In fact I’m curious to know how you did picture him?)! I didn’t want Vincent to be a figure of fun (not to the reader anyway). I wanted him to be a character who strived to do the right thing but inevitably got it wrong. All the time. I wanted the reader to dislike him; more for his misinterpretation of facts than anything specific he did.

When I published the story I felt pleased that he’d reached the level of dislike that I wanted.

When writing Remorse, I once again needed a police officer who would jump to the wrong conclusions and so I wheeled Vincent out once more. He delivered for me again.

When I started plotting Redemption, I had in the back of my mind that Vincent would appear but, as the majority of the plot was in London, his role would only be minor. But as I started to write his part in the final shootout at the hotel, something happened: a breakthrough.

I suddenly understood his motivation and emotional dexterity. As I wrote his farewell to Ali Jacobs I was filled with empathy for this man who had dedicated his life to striving for justice and failing more often than he succeeded.

As I started to write Snatched, I knew that this emotionally-enhanced Jack Vincent would end the story as an anti-hero, delivering unconventional justice for protagonist Sarah Jenson.

Some of you will remember that my fifth novel Shadow Line was originally called Dead Drop and only changed as a better-known author had released a story with the same title a month earlier. The original title had been a reference to a code word used by the Security Services but was also to hint at the end of Jack Vincent. But why did I decide he needed to go?

Simple: I’d grown to like him.

Jack Vincent was no longer a character that got under my skin and as such he no longer served a purpose in my writing.

He had to go.

Out of respect for this character I’d come to think of as a relative, I decided to give him an epic send off which was why he took the central role in Shadow Line (it was the least I could do).

But that left me with a void.

Who would replace DI Vincent, the only character to appear in each of my novels (and one of my short stories)? I couldn’t decide who or what I wanted to step into those size-9s. That’s why his position remains vacant in my forthcoming novel Trespass (which you’ll be able to read on 01 December – contain your excitement!)

The good news is: I’ve been interviewing several potential replacements (my imagination is an awesome place) and I can officially announce the position has been filled and D.I. Tony Hunt, one of Northumberland’s finest will make his debut in 2014’s Crosshairs, currently being written.

Anyway, I’ve taken up far too much of your time today. Until the next tie, happy reading!



Blog on theBus pt 58 (what makes a good book?)

Good day bus bloggers and train tattlers (you may define your own category), I hope your journey to work is passing slowly enough that you’ll have time to finish this post before you reach the gates of purgatory (or work, whichever comes first).

What makes a good book?

Not such an easy question when you really think about it; and I really want you to think about it. Ultimately, we’re all different (even twins like different stories) and all enjoy different stories. So how can one define what a good story is?

Impossible, right?

Well, if that’s true, how come your Rowlings, Browns and Pattersons make so much money from their manipulation of words? If we really are all different and like different stories, what makes one more popular than another?

Let’s take a step back: it’s far too early in the day to start consulting psychology reference books.

Let’s look at you.

You’re sat / stood / lying down (delete as appropriate) reading this post. You’re an individual: You work (or not), you earn money (or not), you read books (or not) and you read this blog (though I’ve no idea why!!!). You’re an individual, right?

And presumably you read (that or you really have stumbled to the wrong site!). So what do you think makes a good book?

I really want to know.

For me, a good book is one that I don’t want to stop reading. I enjoy a book that compels me to keep turning the pages even when I know it’s late and I should go to sleep. I enjoy reading crime thrillers (hence why I write in this genre).

I don’t like too many characters. I absolutely loved Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code but was less keen on his Inferno. Though both were great books, there was something about the first that I enjoyed more than the second.

But what was it?

I’m not smart enough to figure it out.

But youYou… You seem to like my stories. But why?

What is it that you have enjoyed?

I need to know. If I know what my audience enjoy I’ll be able to write it.

So, this message goes out to you. You. You!

What makes a good book to you?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address (or via email if you prefer) please.

Until the next time, happy reading,


(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via

Blog on the Bus pt 53 (what’s the story, morning glory?)

Good day to you bus blog beneficiaries. You’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of spare seats on the bus this morning so we shouldn’t be disturbed. I’m also pleased to say that the bus was on time this morning, which I always see as a positive portent of a wonderful week to come (try saying that after a couple of pints!)

I’m guessing you’re wondering the meaning of today’s blog title? I know I’m not in the habit of quoting from the brothers-Gallagher when I undertake my bus-blathering, but there’s a good reason today.

Most writer-wannabes will reach a point in the prose-preparing-process (my tongue is starting to ache; it’s twisted so much) where they have to choose a title for their project. Some will have a title from the outset and stand by it even as the plot develops. Others will refuse to even think of a title until they have typed the final full stop. Some will even be struck by a flash bolt of inspiration midway through a project. When the inspiration comes doesn’t really matter so long as it comes. Alas, for some the inspiration doesn’t come…

This brings me back to Noel and Liam’s effort. What’s the story, morning glory? is a great song and I will confess to being a bit of an Oasis-officianado. I’m a big fan of their music and listening to their albums brings back good memories. That said, I don’t like a number of the titles to their songs as they are nonsensical!

It’s a pet hate of mine when those creative types come up with utter tosh and claim that those who don’t like them ‘just don’t get it!’

I’m sorry, but what’s a wonderwall anyway?

It’s the same in books and movies. Why spend so long developing a project title if you end up alienating potential consumers because we ‘just don’t get it!’ I mean, Stephen King’s IT had absolutely nothing to do with computers! As for Snakes on a Plane, don’t even get me started!!!

What is the answer, then? It’s easy really: choose a title that people will understand, which links to the plot of the book whilst maintaining an air of mystery.

Easy, right?

Okay, well maybe not but that should be the aim.

I had a working title when I commenced the current project but I knew from the outset it wouldn’t remain. I then came up with a second title that I hoped would grow on me but it just wasn’t right. This week that imaginary flash bolt struck and the perfect title dawned. I won’t tell you what it is until nearer publication but I can assure you it meets the required criteria listed above.

I can confirm that the project will not be called ‘Vichyssoise: the Temptation of Remembering the Green Cross Code‘ which would be ridiculous!

Until next time, happy reading!


P.S. feel free to plagiarise the ‘Vichyssoise…’ title.

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via

Blog on the Bus pt 48 (sun, sun, sun)

Good morning all. I hope you are making the most of the glorious sunshine and the mini heat wave we appear to be experiencing. I appreciate it’s getting to the point where we want to start complaining that “it’s too hot” and that we “wish it was cold again” but resist that urge and declare from the hills “it’s pretty good for England!

Let’s not forget that usually at this time of year it’s pissing down with rain (think of all those rainy Wimbledon interruptions down the years). But for once we are getting the summer of sun we deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt rotten yesterday, with a persistent headache that just wouldn’t dissipate, having spent the entire day in the sun on Sunday. But what’s a bit of sun stroke right? I’m sure things will be better today!

As a writer who is required to spend at least 2 hours per day in doors, hunched over a computer (typing you understand, not surfing), it is hard to maintain discipline. It would be far easier to bin it off and go and sunbathe but then I wouldn’t get anything written! If anything, this glorious weather is a good test of my writing discipline: if I can continue to type with this kind of distraction, I can beat anything!

Incidentally, for those with an interest (I’m sure you all are), the new writing project is up and running with 10k words on the digital page. How many of them are any good or in the right order is anyone’s guess, but they’re there.

I’ll go now and let you get on with topping up your tan. Alas, for me, my pasty white skin either remains milky or turns a bright shade of crimson, so it’s probably safer to bash away at those keys.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via

Blog on the Bus pt 47 (everything happens for a reason)

Morning bus bloggers. The nature of today’s entry, in the cataclysmic calendar of my life, is an old family motto (well, my dad says it a lot!)

Everything happens for a reason…

Okay so it’s not necessarily the most insightful expression that you’ll read this lovely Southampton morning (the sun is out and the birds are singing), it is something that I truly believe in however.

Why? I hear you ask.

I have have many experiences where things have happened and it has seemed like my life has slotted into pace like a jigsaw puzzle.

Take my wife for example (no, please, take her 😊). I met her while at work one evening. At the time, I was at University and working part time in Sainsbury’s. If I hadn’t picked to study in Southampton and I hadn’t transferred from Sainsbury’s in London to earn some extra cash while studying, I probably wouldn’t have been stood by the grapes where we met. If she hadn’t recently broken up with her boyfriend, sworn herself off boys for life and subsequently been dragged to the supermarket by her despairing mother, she wouldn’t have been stood there either.


I don’t think so. She is my soul mate!

Similarly, if my rental property hadn’t been burgled while we were on holiday in Spain in 2010, I would never have written Integration; subsequently I wouldn’t have written Remorse, Redemption, Snatched or Shadow Line.

Everything happens for a reason.

I’ve been hunting for a new job for the last 7 months without success and yet this week I’ve been offered 2 new roles (like buses, these job offers!). I have decided which one I want more, and I’m not going to lie, the proposed salary went a long way to helping me reach the decision. This new improvement in status is going to allow my soul mate and I to move to our dream house (good size and great location) and hopefully add to our clan in the not too distant future. Again, I can see the jigsaw pieces slotting seamlessly together.

In the past 7 months I have been unsuccessful in 5 interviews but I can now appreciate why and in hindsight (looking at what has happened with those roles) I was blessed not to get them. I’ll be honest again and say I was starting to question my dad’s saying (7 months is a hard slog after all!) but I can see the truth in it again.

Everything happens for a reason.

Say it aloud now. Share it with the other people on the bus, train or in the car with you.

Everything happens for a reason.

We don’t know what the reason is at first and it can take time to materialise, but there is a great plan out there for each of us. So fasten up your seat-belts, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Until the next time, happy reading,


Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via

Blog on the Bus pt 28 (a rest is as good as a change?)

Welcome back to the ‘X4’, Southampton’s premier bus service (they should be paying me commission!) I trust you are well? It’s been a couple of weeks since the last blog, I didn’t lose my hands in a tragic boating accident as some of you feared, but I have been away from the city. I’ve spent the last week in Brixham in Devon relaxing (although if the taxman asks, I was scouting locations for the setting of my next masterpiece).

It was a lovely rest and whilst I had hoped to plough on with Dead Drop, I was having too much fun with the family to write. I did manage to do typing one morning but only because I had woken at a silly time. Still, I’m 53k words in, so have finally crossed the halfway margin. It’s funny, this has been the most difficult project to complete to date, not because of the subject matter but because I’ve had so much else going on. I usually try to complete a first draft inside 3months but I’ve had to give myself till the end of April to finish (hence June as date of publication).

I have every intention of focusing on my writing over the coming weeks and will keep you posted on progress as I do.

I always try to make these blogs light-hearted or inspirational for other aspiring-authors out there who dare to dream that one day they’ll see their name in print. With that in mind here is a thought for the day:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh my,” said the writer. “Let me see heaven now.”

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” said the writer. “This is just as bad as hell!”

“Oh no, it’s not,” replied an unseen voice. “Here, your work gets published.”

On that merry note I bid you adieu and hope to catch you next time on the bus. Until next time, happy reading,


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