Saturday, 10 October 2009

'Horrific yet gripping'

....says The Skinny....

Monday, 10 August 2009

New review in Highland News

...thanks again to Margaret Chrystal:


THERE’S a real thrill about seeing your own city turned into the setting for a violent life or death struggle.

It’s not an experience Invernessians have enjoyed too much to date.

But as the first of a planned series, Tom Morton’s thriller SERPENTINE (Mainstream, £9.99) sets the heart racing and the pages turning as dark deeds from Ireland’s Troubles resurface and bring secret lives bobbing to the surface on the streets of Inverness.

Mike Murricane – these days a well-paid but bored consultant mercenary in the Gaza Strip – is called in to help ex-lover and former colleague Millie Jones when their past in Northern Ireland brutally catches up with her quiet retirement.

Ruthless violence is on their trail. And somehow it all leads back to the mysterious Serpentine and a black operation from decades ago with the plot neatly twisting Ireland’s past and the present troubles of the Middle East into a hell-for-leather race for survival.

Murricane is a tough guy with a hatred of salmon farmers and a love of life’s finest gadgets, guns and motors, while Millie is a thorn in his side he can’t ignore. But also dragged into the affair is Northern Constabulary’s disgraced sergeant, Zander Flaws. Happily whiling away his time – when not having hot sex with a motorbike-riding pathologist – by quietly running his ‘department of lost causes’, he spends his time looking into the deaths of forgotten corpses. Until, that is, a horrific killing ties him into the race to track down Serpentine.

Impressive on music references – each chapter is named by a song title – and the everyday detail of real lives, the book has the trick of keeping the plot racing while finding enough time to flesh out the people who make the whole device tick. Each page has more than its fair share of black jokes and pithy one-liners, such as Millie getting her own back on an American colleague: "Always the American way, Clara. Neutral until it starts to put the price of petrol up."

And another boon is that there are plenty of useful, well-researched tips for would-be spies and assassins to pick up along the way.

You’ll never look at a razor blade or a cable tie the same again, after

Or Inverness, for that matter.

Serpentine sets it in stone – the Highlands is the new dark heart of Scotland.

Just follow the satnav up the A9 for the Scottish thriller’s hottest new destination – a hotbed of teuchter noir. MC

Friday, 31 July 2009

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Monday, 29 June 2009

Big Issue - four star review!

Better known as the smooth voice of Radio Scotland's afternoon show, but here Morton proves his renaissance-man credentials with a rattlingly good dark comedy thriller. Murricane is our flawed hero, searching for rogue terrorist Serpentine in the Gaza Strip, the Scottish Highlands and Northern Ireland.

Smooth voice? All those years smoking Golden Virginia, wasted!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Serpentine reviewed in The Scotsman...and one reader's 'first book for 30 years' Lesley McDowell. I suppose it was inevitable that Serpentine would be coupled with Alan Clements' Rogue Nation (same publisher, both authors working in the Scottish media, although I'm not the zillionaire boss of STV.) Fair points made, I think, though obviously as a writer you don't really want intelligent objectivity, you want TOTAL AND BREATHLESS ENTHUSIASM.
Read the review here:
My favourite extract would have to be:
I never knew Inverness was such a hive of secret government and anti-government activity, where not even retired lesbian agents can enjoy their peaceful Sapphic idyll without being captured or beaten to death by Irish Unionist thugs

Which only goes to show what a sheltered life Ms McDowell has led. It must be said that both Rogue Nation and Serpentine are treated with the same unwillingness to suspend disbelief. Ah well.

Meanwhile, I received an email this week from a woman who'd bought the book for her husband who, she said "had not read a book in 30 years." At the end of the first chapter he apparently said "this is hopeful" and proceeded to finish it in double quick time. Result!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

To the book signing! Or perhaps not...

I'm not sure about local book signings. On the one hand, you get a chance to meet fine folk who like you. Or the idea of you. Or the idea of your book. On the other hand, nobody may turn up. Or even worse, you can have competitive book signings with other authors, at festivals, where you're constantly assessing whether their queue is bigger than your queue...or worrying about the facft they have a queue and you don't...

My two hours at The Shetland Times was pleasant, as various folk I know and don't know bought books and chatted. Interestingly for the theme of Serpentine, it was Armed Foces Day, and a military band was marching outside, providing a suitably brassy soundtrack to Murricane and Flaws' torrid adventures.

But not everyone wants a signed book, and not everyone who wants one wants to actually meet the author. I had a pile of advance requests to sign, and a number of my friends locally had already bought the book and had no desire to see me deface it. They just wanted to read it.

Linda Glanville was in the Peerie shop Cafe, and had bought a copy of Serpentine when it first came out. No signature necessary. She's one of the biggest crime thriller aficianada I've ever met, and to whom I will be forever grateful for, a few years ago, lending me copies of the then-rare Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo Beck books. Not only did she enjoy Serpentine, she was even able to read the violent bits she normally avoids in other such tomes. "Except the bit about the seagulls."

Yes, that seagull bit is a tad...extreme. But then, I told her, if she thinks that's bad, she should try The Ossians by Doug Johnstone. It's a seagull slasher novel! Or crusher...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Excellent review in Shetland Times - signing next weekend

Many thanks to Shetland Times reporter Laura Friedlander for a lengthy and enthusiastic review which reflects almost exactly my wife's opinion of the book. Can't, alas, find it online so you'll have to trust my ability to extract the most flattering bits!

Headlined "adventure story will be summer's top read in the genre", I suppose (for future publication on the cover of any reprint) I'd add:

Meticulous research proves its worth...the book is excellent in its attention to detail and meticulous research...

I found the very fast pace of the book challenging, but it made me re-read passages to make sure I had not missed out. I would even go so far as to say it is a book perhaps worth reading twice as rather like a painting, more details come out on second examination. It is not the sort of book you can read last thing at night and it certainly won't lull you to sleep through boredom, because the book is a page-turner, no doubt about that. It could give you nightmares.

Hold on tight for a real rollercoaster read...this is real boy's own stuff. If you want to read a really macho adventure story, then this might just be this summer's top read in the genre.

I'll be signing copies of the book (and hopefully people will be buying them)between noon and 2.00pm on Saturday 20th June at The Shetland Times Bookshop in Commercial Street, Lerwick.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Big Red Bathtub heading for Fort William

No news from Rob and the guys...I can only presume all went well on their marathon trek from Norwich to Orkney. Today they're heading to Glenmorangie and thence to rendezvous with me at Fort William, where we overnight before heading to Islay.

I picked up the Triumph Trophy 1200 yesterday from the Mill Garage in Bonnybridge - seems fine, and fixed very cheaply, considering an official dealer would probably have written the thing off. Patched up the smashed panel with gaffa tape, stuck on wobbly rear light lens, replaced indicator bulb. It's not pretty, it sounds like a diesel but it seems to go...No parking on the street any more...The Big Red Bathtub is over at the BBC and I'm now heading off to pick it up, pack and ride to Fort William.

So, Fort William tonight, Islay tomorrow, Bladnoch on Saturday, Glengarioch on Sunday, Crieff Monday. If you're in the vicinity, keep an eye out for a big, battered old Triumph Trophy 1200 (red) which sounds like a diesel truck. Also a brand new Triumph Bonneville and an Enfield 500. Plus TV crew. Good to hear that my old pal Dave will be meeting us in Wigtown with his yellow Triumph Daytona.

By the way: My new thriller Serpentine is officially published today...find out more and follow the links to buy a copy at the Serpentine Blog.

Serpentine is out now!

...and available to buy from the outlets in the links section, as well as from your local book retailer, which I heartily recommend. Bookshops Must Be Saved, If Only For The Browsers Among Us!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Signing session at The Shetland Times Bookshop, and the odd availability of used copies prior to publication

Mentions in this week's Shetland Times and Shetland News, and big thanks to Edna at the Shetland Times Bookshop for organising a signing on Saturday 20th June, 2-4pm. If you're in the vicinity of Coalfishreek, Queen of the Zetlandic Fleshpots, please come! It's midsummer, after all...

One odd thing. If you go to the listing for Serpentine on Amazon today, six days before the book's official publication, you will find three 'used' copies (identified as 'news/used')for sale from Amazon associates. I can only surmise that these are review copies passed on to second hand bookshops by journalists anxious, in these straitened times, to make a fast, if meagre, buck. Also, one online retailer is selling the book, brand new, for just £4.79. But plus £2.75 postage...

Monday, 25 May 2009

Serpentine in today's Herald diary

Wee piece at the end of today's Herald diary concerning the pitfalls of book signings...

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Serpentine in The Scottish Review of Books

It's funny when you see someone else's take on your book, and - while enthusiastic, thank goodness - it varies from your own perceptions. I've never seen Murricane as the hero of the book - for me it's a two-hander with Flaws, who is in many ways Murricane's deeply damaged and fumbling alter ego...anyway. See what you think yourself!

Broadcaster, writer and musician Tom Morton has created Shetland's answer to James Bond in his new novel Serpentine. Former SAS agent Mark Murricane leads the search for the elusive Serpentine, a roving terrorist involved in the 'Troubles' of Northern Ireland and now causing chaos on an international scale. Like Bond, Murricane has a facility for escaping from tight spots armed with a gun, some explosives and a quip or two. Our hero changes locations at breakneck speed. We first meet him in Gaza, where he frees a British hostage, and then follow him to the Scottish Highlands and Ireland, as he confronts ex-lovers, former RUC officers and other tough types.

Written in remarkably smooth diction, this novel walks the line between crime and literary fiction. Fast paced, lucidly narrated and featuring articulate characters, Serpentine is an addictive read. Murricane is an odd but likable protagonist, a man of great foresight which makes up for his slight, wiry build.

The novel is laced with dark humour and bound together by the real-life mystery of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, for which no-one has ever been charged.

The Scottish Review of Books, Vol 5, Number 2, 2009

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Another review (don't know what it says) but Poet Buys Book In Consequence (for partner)!

According the excellent Rachel Fox, whose poem-postcards adorn various Morton walls (I'm not just saying that):
I never know what to get my beloved for his birthday and having read a review of this today (in Scottish Review of Books) I think this might be a suitable candidate this year.
Good luck with it.

You can buy The Scottish Review of Books online (free postage) here. But don't just buy it for the review of Serpentine. That would be ridiculous. Though, admittedly and sadly, I just have.

But hey, to quote many an author: I never read reviews...

...and now, a word from my boss...

...Jeff Zycinski, who told me the other day he'd pre-ordered a copy of Serpentine and was expecting me to sign it.

Sign it? Given this very generous accolade, penned by Jeff for the cover but, alas, usurped (Mainstream's decision, Jeff, not mine)by Ian Bell, John Macleod and Margaret Chrystall (Herald, Herald and Highland News, respectively, he could have had one for...well, at a discount.

This is more than just a gripping page-turner. Morton combines his skill as a story-teller with the literary flair that readers will recognise from his other books
- Jeff Zycinski, head of BBC Radio Scotland

Cheers Jeff!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Overhearing my first review!

I was quite shocked to find myself listening to the first public comment on Serpentine, from James Lavery on BBC Radio Scotland's Book Cafe today.
"I have to say it's fantastic..." did he really say that? Well, for seven days after broadcast, you can check on the website.

I was quite overwhelmed to hear this because, although family members whose opinions I trust implicitly have been enthusiastic about the book (and indeed, I'd never have sent it off to a publisher if my eldest son hadn't approved the first draft), its arrival as a finished, bound publication in Friday quite freaked me out. I could hardly bear to open it, and the idea of reading it again filled me with despair.

Serpentine is published by Mainstream on 4 June. You can order it in advance from Amazon or Random House.

Now, well, one comment on the radio doesn't mean its going to fly off the shelves, but it's a start!

James's full comments are as follows:

"I've been reading Serpentine, and I have to say it's fantastic - I really, really like it. Now, there's one or two bones I have to pick with Tom Morton - there are some names in here are wholly inappropraite for his characters from Northern Ireland. But other than that - that's really trivial - as a thriller, this goes really well. It's epistolary - you get two or three different viewpoints. It's really, really good. I really like it."

Cheers James! And funnily enough, my wife picked up on the names thing as well. Mind you, she thinks it's a comedy...