Latest news 2024-03-02: Ebook sale (3rd–9th March 2024): short story cybercrime fiction Unsocial Media free; short story noir crime fiction I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing free; crime fiction novel The Private Enemy US$1.99; illustrated children’s story The Foolish Hedgehog US$0.99. For further details, see latest blog post.

Dickimaw Books Blog RSS feed

Crime and SF 🔗

image of crime story book covers

[Originally posted on Goodreads 2016-06-27.] I’ve written about my children’s books in a post about The Foolish Hedgehog and a post about Quack, Quack, Quack. Give My Hat Back! but I haven’t really said much about my adult fiction, so I thought it was about time to write about my published fiction and a pending novel.

I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing is a short story ebook (approximately 2,500 words) set in 1928 about a yegg (thief) from St Louis who’s fleeing to Europe on the RMS Aquitania after a jewellery shop heist turned to murder when an off-duty policeman happened to turn up to get a bracelet repaired at the wrong moment. The story is written in 1920s vernacular, but although I was aiming to reproduce the style of that era some slang doesn’t age well. There was one phrase in particular that I had to cut when my writing friends advised against it as they said it conjured up an inappropriate image, and it wasn’t the image I had intended. As much as I wanted an authentic feel, there’s no escaping the fact that anyone reading it is living in the twenty-first century.

The Private Enemy is my first published novel, although it isn’t the first novel that I wrote. The first draft dates back to the early 1990s (possibly 1992, although I can’t remember exactly) but I completely rewrote it after going on the online creative writing course I’ve previously mentioned and the first 10,000 words formed the majority of my portfolio for my later diploma in creative writing. It’s a crime/thriller story set in a technologically-regressed future where the world has been divided into numbered sectors, each with a governing city called Central City, which is located in roughly the geographical centre of the sector. The back story is that 32 years before the events in the first chapter, a fuel crisis triggered global anarchy that lasted for two years before order was restored. The aim of those restructuring the newly established peace was that by removing national identities wars could be averted, but human nature being what it is this merely papered over deep resentments and corruption. The regression in technology is publicly justified by the fuel limitations and the lobbying of anti-technology groups, but privately the restrictions on technology allows greater control over communications. This isn’t a whodunnit mystery, but a story about one person’s private quest to prove that murder has been committed and ensure that justice is done in an increasingly volatile world. The novel is approximately 136,000 words. The paperback (revised first) edition is 140mm (5.5in) wide by 216mm (8.5in) high with a 32mm (1.3in) spine. The text is 11pt on cream paper. It’s also available as an ebook which, without the hefty print costs, is a lot cheaper. [Update 2019-09-18: there’s now a second edition paperback.]

The Fourth Protectorate is actually the first novel that I wrote, although it has had many titles and undergone many revisions. I wrote the first version in the early 1980s when I was probably around eleven or twelve years old, and it was heavily influenced by science fiction stories I was reading at the time, in particular Doctor Who and the Cybermen. (Before the proliferation of videos, the novelisations were the only way to access those old Dr Who stories, and they had the added advantage of not suffering from low-budget props.) As I grew older, I became more interested in politics, so by the time I went to the University of Essex in my late teens, the science fiction elements of the story had been toned down, with a totalitarian government rather than futuristic machines as the antagonist. I put the story on the back burner and returned to a fantasy story that I had started when I was seventeen. My third novel was The Private Enemy. I wrote a few other stories after that and from time to time switched attention back to the earlier novels, but after I rewrote The Private Enemy, having improved my writing style on the creative writing course, I decided to revisit that first novel and I rewrote it from scratch. It still has a residual science fiction device echoing back to that first draft, and it still has a police state from that second draft, but (I hope) it’s much better written. (It also now has a supernatural element that wasn’t present in the earliest drafts.) The 1980s have been and gone, and the novel is now set in an alternate history from 1984 to 1995 that charts the rise of a Cromwell-style Protectorate in Britain that becomes a dictatorship. Britain in the real 1980s was fairly turbulent, with plenty of strikes and riots, but the alternative 1980s in the story notches this up. How does the Protectorate establish itself? Through a referendum. Hmm. Yes, seriously, I wrote that before the recent [2016] referendum was proposed.

On a side note, if you’re at all interested, I voted to remain last week. While I’m disappointed with the result, we need to move on or we may, like those sci-fi stories where attempts are made to change some past event, make a bad thing worse, but I hope that, at the very least, people will learn from it. However, recent events have taught me that I was wrong to think that just because my novel is set in an alternative history from 1984 to 1995 it can’t be affected by current events, so I’ve decided that I really ought to crack on and get it finished before life overtakes it. It’s currently around 133,000 words, so it will probably be around the same size as The Private Enemy. It’s going through the final tuning stages at the moment. Are there any plot holes? Does the topology of the world in the story make sense? (That is, if characters go from A to B, does their route make sense? A few rough sketches can help here.) Are any scenes too dialect heavy or too wordy? These things usually require an impartial reading by someone experienced in the art of creative writing. How much more work needs to be done will depend on the feedback. The final task is proof-reading to pick up any spelling mistakes or typos that have been missed in earlier readings.

Next Post

image of dickimaw parrot with cookies in cloudsOnce upon a time, a little parrot decided to migrate across the vast ocean to the cloud lands, with nothing more than a handful of cookies. The Dickimaw Books site has migrated to a new web hosting provider and this is the story of its journey.
Nicola Talbot 2019-09-15 📂 Site 🔖 Migration

Previous Post

image of dickimaw parrot with cookies in cloudsOnce upon a time, a little parrot decided to migrate across the vast ocean to the cloud lands, with nothing more than a handful of cookies. The Dickimaw Books site has migrated to a new web hosting provider and this is the story of its journey.
Nicola Talbot 2019-09-15 📂 Site 🔖 Migration

Recent Posts

Read an Ebook Week Sale 2024
Ebook coversThe DRM-free ebook retailer SmashWords “Read an Ebook Week” Sale is on from 3rd–9th March 2024. My crime novel “The Private Enemy” and children’s illustrated story “The Foolish Hedgehog” both have a 50% discount and my crime fiction short story “I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing” and cybercrime fiction short story “Unsocial Media” both have a 100% discount (i.e. free!) for the duration of the sale. Did you know that you can gift ebooks on SmashWords?
End of Year Ebook Sale
Book coversThe DRM-free ebook retailer SmashWords has their end of year sale from 15th December 2023 to 1st January 2024. My crime novel “The Private Enemy” and children’s illustrated story “The Foolish Hedgehog” both have a 50% discount and my crime fiction short story “I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing” and cybercrime fiction short story “Unsocial Media” both have a 100% discount (i.e. free!) for the duration of the sale. Did you know that you can gift ebooks on SmashWords?
Ebook Sale July 2023
Book coversThe DRM-free ebook retailer SmashWords has a sale from 1st – 31st July 2023. My crime novel “The Private Enemy” and children’s illustrated story “The Foolish Hedgehog” both have a 50% discount and my crime fiction short story “I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing” and cybercrime fiction short story “Unsocial Media” both have a 100% discount (i.e. free!) for the duration of the sale. Did you know that you can gift ebooks on SmashWords?
Bug Bounty Hunters
Image of magnifying glass over a green bug.I was recently informed that dickimaw-books.com had a medium severity reflected cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the version of cPanel this website was using at the time. I solved the problem by moving to a new web-hosting provider that didn’t have the issue. The security researcher used a non-invasive probe. No data was compromised.
Nicola Talbot 2023-05-22 (updated 2023-06-17) 📂 Security Site 🔖 Migration News Online Store
Unsocial Media: a cybercrime short story
Unsocial Media book cover.Greg has unwisely accepted a friend request from “Natalie”, a stranger who starts to stalk him after failing to hook him in a scam but, unknown to either of them, Greg’s wife (the narrator) is quietly investigating Natalie, following the trail from online into the real world.
Hello E-Hedgehog
The Foolish Hedgehog Cover Image.The Foolish Hedgehog is back in print as an ebook. If you’re looking for a short illustrated story for young children to keep them entertained over the holiday, have a read of the preview on SmashWords and buy it while it’s half-price!
Search for:
Search Tips

📂 Categories

Autism
Books
Children’s Illustrated Fiction
Illustrated fiction for young children: The Foolish Hedgehog and Quack, Quack, Quack. Give My Hat Back!
Creative Writing
The art of writing fiction, inspiration and themes.
Crime Fiction
The crime fiction category covers the crime novels The Private Enemy and The Fourth Protectorate and also the crime short stories I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing and I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing.
Fiction
Fiction books and other stories.
Language
Natural languages including regional dialects.
(La)TeX
The TeX typesetting system in general or the LaTeX format in particular.
Music
Norfolk
This category is about the county of Norfolk in East Anglia (the eastern bulgy bit of England). It’s where The Private Enemy is set and is also where the author lives.
Security
Site
Information about the Dickimaw Books site.
Speculative Fiction
The speculative fiction category includes the novel The Private Enemy (set in the future), the alternative history novel The Fourth Protectorate, and the fantasy novel Muirgealia.

🔖 Tags

Account
Alternative History
Sub-genre of speculative fiction, alternative history is “what if?” fiction.
book samples
Bots
Conservation of Detail
A part of the creative writing process, conservation of detail essentially means that only significant information should be added to a work of fiction.
Cookies
Information about the site cookies.
Dialect
Regional dialects, in particular the Norfolk dialect.
Docker
Education
The education system.
Fantasy
Sub-genre of speculative fiction involving magical elements.
File formats
Hippochette
A pochette (pocket violin) with a hippo headpiece.
I’ve Heard the Mermaid Sing
A crime fiction short story (available as an ebook) set in the late 1920s on the RMS Aquitania. See the story’s main page for further details.
Inspirations
The little things that inspired the author’s stories.
Linux
Migration
Posts about the website migration.
Muirgealia
A fantasy novel. See the book’s main page for further details.
News
Notifications
Online Store
Posts about the Dickimaw Books store.
Quack, Quack, Quack. Give My Hat Back!
Information about the illustrated children’s book. See the book’s main page for further details.
Re-published
Articles that were previously published elsewhere and reproduced on this blog in order to collect them all together in one place.
Sale
Posts about sales that are running or are pending at the time of the post.
Site settings
Information about the site settings.
Story creation
The process of creating stories.
TeX Live
The Foolish Hedgehog
Information about the illustrated children’s book. See the book’s main page for further details.
The Fourth Protectorate
Alternative history novel set in 1980s/90s London. See the book’s main page for further details.
The Private Enemy
A crime/speculative fiction novel set in a future Norfolk run by gangsters. See the book’s main page for further details.
Unsocial Media
A cybercrime fiction short story (available as an ebook). See the story’s main page for further details.
World Book Day
World Book Day (UK and Ireland) is an annual charity event held in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on the first Thursday in March. It’s a local version of the global UNESCO World Book Day.