Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Since Foul Play came out eight months ago, I've been doing as many events as I can. So I can tell people about the book.

I like maps, so I put a dot for every event I did on a map of the UK. It looks good. I've done 139 days of events. 50 in Yorkshire. 30 in the North West. Then ten or so in the South West, South East, London, etc.

Maybe this is too much information. But sometimes I'm at a loss what to put on my blog. Maybe I shouldn't do a blog at all...

Yesterday I did my last event of the year. A school in Rotherham. And now I've got nearly a month without events*. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I can relax...

... except I can't. In that month I have to finish Football Academy 5 and start Football Academy 6. But it'll be nice to have time to write. And to be at home to be with my family.

Speaking of which... my daughter's just got home from school...

* - by the way, I enjoy doing events as much as writing... it's just I do too many...

Monday, 8 December 2008

What I've been reading

I've been reading books by children's authors - about writing.

Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo explains some of his stories and his writing life. Jackie Daydream is the story of Jacqueline Wilson's childhood, but talks about her books too. Both are good.

But the book I've loved recently is the graphic novel of Silverfin, Charlie Higson's first Young Bond book.

I don't normally read graphic novels. The only ones I can remember reading are Maus, about Nazi Germany and Safe Area Gorazde about the recent war in Bosnia.

I think I should read more graphic novels. They are like a cross between books and films.

Back in Basildon

In 2008 I've visited Basildon a lot. Not where I thought I'd end up.

I've been working with a group of lads (and now girls too) who are part of a football writers group. They're led by the genius teacher, Mrs Diane Baker, originally from Yorkshire. We've done lots of stuff - and recently they've been helping me with my books, making sure they're good enough and also helping me with plots. Tomorrow we're off to West Ham for a club tour. Then then next day we're writing a chapter of my fifth Football Academy book which includes a club tour at West Ham. It's going to be fun.

Book 5 is called The X Factor, but that might have to change if we're not allowed to call it that. It was one of the Basildon kids who came up with the idea that one of the lads would... But I'm giving too much away. I'll stop there.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Blue Peter shortlist

I'm really excited. Foul Play is on the shortlist for the Blue Peter Book Award. It's in the category I Couldn't Put It Down. It was announced today.

Thank you Blue Peter!

I'm off to celebrate...

Sunday, 9 November 2008


I've been invited to Russia - to go and talk at a conference next week.

It's good timing. I'm just doing the rewrites for the sequel to Foul Play. It's called Dead Ball and has Danny taking on a Russian oligarch football club owner.

I went to Moscow in March to research Dead Ball. But the one thing I didn't do was go in the church where Danny will be spending a bit of time - hiding. Now I can go back. I'm really excited. It's more than a church, actually. It's St Basil's Cathedral.

I like to go to the places my books are set. It makes them feel more realistic. I think it'd be hard to write well about a place you've never vistied. (Saying that, some writers manage it.)

I've had a good month in schools. I've been meeting lots of lads (and a few girls) who've been reading Foul Play. It is a really good feeling hearing them tell me what they think of it, people who've actually read it.

There's some good news about Foul Play coming up too. But I'm not allowed to talk about it yet...

Monday, 20 October 2008

A Week Off

I've been doing a lot of events since Foul Play came out. About five days a week for six months. From tomorrow I'm on holiday. At home. But not working.

I'm going to fix all the things in the house that are broken. I'm going to read lots of books. (I'm reading a book about American murder detectives. It's a true account of a year with them. It's really good.) But, best of all, I'm going to spend loads of time with my wife and daughter.

Tomorrow we're going to see an Egyptian mummy in a museum. That's down to a book too. In the latest Jake Cake book I read to my daughter, Jake made friends with a mummy in a museum. So we're off to do the same. Have you read Jake Cake by Michael Broad? They're brilliant.

Today I talked to schools in Hattersley, near Manchester. They were great. Half Man City fans: hlaf Man U fans.

And tomorrow I'm off to Leeds v Leyton Orient. Please let us win...

Friday, 10 October 2008

BBC4 Film

I did a day's filming with BBC4 yesterday. For a documentary called Why Reading Matters. The best bit was doing the Football Reading Game with 13 children in Sowerby Bridge, Calderdale.

In the morning they filmed me in the cafe where I sometimes write: The Bear in Todmorden. They had me walking up and down the canal near where I live too. It was interesting, seeing how they put a film together. I reckon it takes two hours to get five minutes worth of stuff they can show on TV. The problem in Todmorden was the lorries that kept thundering past the cafe window. But in the end we got it done.

I'm reading book two of HIVE by Mark Walden now: The Overlord Protocol. Very good stuff. After that I'm going to read Mal Peet's Exposure, a football version of Othello. If you've not read Keeper by Mal Peet, I'd recommend it. The best football novel ever written, along with The Damned United, which is for adults.

I'm also reading Jake Cake with my daughter. If you like school stories that go a bit mad - then it's one for you.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bristol Grammar School

I had a good morning at Bristol Grammar School yesterday. 130 kids.

We had a great event with 70 of them getting full marks in the football quiz I do, so I had to face 70 penalties - then 10 more - in ten minutes.

The best bit was having lunch in the Great Hall with eight girls. I was asking them about books I could read to my daughter. Very useful. Stuff on horses and ballet. They were great company and I was sorry to have to leave...

... but I had to go to the launch of the new Puffin Post in London. The magazine that lots of adults remember is back. It's really good. Lots of interviews (including one with me) and a story by Michael Morpurgo. Have a look at the Puffin Post website.

I met Chris Bradford (Young Samurai) and Maurice Gleitzman (Then). But the best bit was talking to two of the people who work in the the rights department. They try to sell Puffin books published in English to other countries. They go to big fairs in places like Germany, Italy and Russia to do it.

At the end of the party I got a goody bag - with a soft-toy Puffin in for my daughter. And a gold Puffin badge! Then I went round to my agent's house to watch a Leeds United DVD.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ghyllgrove Junior School, Basildon

Next week I'm going back to Ghyllgrove Junior School in Basildon to work with a group of children who adopted me earlier this year.

I did this thing called Adopt an Author. I worked with a group of lads, talking about reading and writing about football. Most of them were West Ham fans. But they said they liked Leeds too. We read some magazines, wrote some stories and took some penalties.

I think it's still the highlight of 2008. The day all the lads stood up in front of assembly and read their stories. They were brilliant. All of them. I'd never have been able to do that when I was their age. And their stories were great too.

So I'm going back. They're going to help me start book 5 of the Football Academy series that's out next July. Then, next month, we're off for a tour of West Ham with their parents. It should be a good laugh.

They have this brilliant teacher called Diane. She sets all these events up. And more.

Aysgarth School

Aysgarth School is in the depths of North Yorkshire. I was there yesterday, doing the Football Reading Game with about 120 lads. A lot of them were Newcastle United fans. But I was gentle with them. I don't like to see the Geordies suffer too much: especially as I am not a big fan of Dennis Wise either. (But I'd better say no more: I'm doing an event at St James Park on Saturday and I'd not like to bump into him in a lonely corridor.)

The school was down a winding country lane. A big house with a turret on top. Very nice.

After the event I drove along the valley and went to Penn Hill. I hadn't been up it for 16 years. My mum and dad's ashes are scattered up there. (Sorry to go all morbid.) It was a funny feeling. But really nice. When they died I wasn't doing so well. They'd never believe I could write books for a living. So I took them a copy and left it 1000 feet up with the sheep and the grouse and the driving rain.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Kevin Brooks and other authors

I met Kevin Brooks, author of Black Rabbit Summer, this weekend. We were sat next to each other at a library conference dinner. We talked about football and books... among other things. I liked him. Very much.

I'm also reading Black Rabbit Summer, which wasn't really a coincidence. It's an amazing book. It's hammers along, making you miss several hours of sleep in the week or so you're reading it. It also did what not many books do: made me think and behave differently to normal. My wife spotted it. She said I was being weird. But I wasn't: I was just under the influence of a great writer.

It reminded me of David Peace, my favourite author. I'm going to read a lot more Kevin Brooks books.

The conference we were at was in Lancaster. 200 librarians talking about children's books. Great. I learned a lot and met some excellent authors. Including Sophie McKenzie who writes breakneck thrillers, in both senses of the phrase. And Morris Gleitzman, a favourite of mine.

This week I will be in North Yorkshire and Newcastle. I'm looking forward to seeing my friend, the genius children's librarian, Craig Peddie, in Newcastle: to hear what he thinks about what's going on at the Newcastle United. And also to hear about the amazing work he does in the north east.

Next read: H.I.V.E. II, which I was given at the conferecne.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Croatia away

Croatia v England on Wednesday is a massive game. If we lose... our chances of getting to the World Cup finals will be much reduced. Sadly, barely any of us will be able to see it on TV.

Croatia are a bit of a nightmare team for me. I set Foul Play in the month just before the last European Championships. When I wrote the book it looked like we'd be going to Austria and Switzerland. And it looked good until Croatia scored that winner late on.

Then they scored. And while the nation was grieving our not qualifying, I had to go up to my desk and change a hundred things in Foul Play. My deadline was the next day. So I worked through the night to change the novel's setting from June 2008 to an undetermined time.

I wish I was there on Wednesday night. I've been to Zagreb and seen how fanatical they are about their football. Frankly, they make us look like a load of moaning whingers. They know how to get behind their team.

A lovely country, Croatia. My favourite place is Dubrovnik. I wrote a story about going there to remember my dad, who went there just before he died. (It's in a collection called Four Fathers, published by Yorkshire's magnificent small press, Route -

Instead of being in Zagreb I will be in Harrogate, doing an event at a library to help launch the town's Sporting Words festival - Worth a look on Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 October.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Leeds 5 Crewe 2

Today was going to be the first day I took my four year old to Elland Road to watch Leeds. But plans changed.

She's actually been to see Leeds once before. Burnley away, 2004. She was one. But, that day, she was far more interested in the Burnley mascot than Super Leeds. So we left at half time. (I was worried she'd become a Burnley fan.)

This morning she told me she didn't want to go because she knows we're a bit short of money. So we went to a scarecrow festival in Calderdale instead. And it was good.

When I heard we were 5-0 up I was happy. But sad. How good a start to her Elland Road life would that have been?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Booked Up books

I've been reading the other Booked Up books. Just to see what they're like.

They're good. Here's my top five so far (I've not read the other 6 yet and I can't really put mine in the list, can I?):

1st: H.I.V.E. - I've not even finished it yet and I love it, great characters, great action, great suspense

2nd: The Garbage King - very different to H.I.V.E., but really well written. Very moving. You get into the heads of two boys from a very different culture to ours. Superb.

3rd: Kiss of Death - good story, creepy and intriguing

4th: Arctic Hero - very interesting, about a man I knew nothing about

5th: Skullduggery Pleasant - great start to the novel, but not my cup of tea as I'm not into the more fantasy style stories (I am sure the author won't mind me saying so: Richard and Judy and millions of others love it)

I'll do a definitive top 11 wen I've finished them all.

Overall I've been loving reading them - all available at your local library!

Monday, 1 September 2008


Today is the first day after four months of doing events. From Newcastle to Cornwall. 117 events. Over 3000 people.

The last few days I've been in Surrey and Sussex and Southampton. (And Liverpool.) As I got to the end I was feeling more and more in need of a break.

The highlight of the tour came on the penultimate day. In Bognor Regis. A six year-old girl was grilling me on being an author. Why do I write books? Why do I only write about football? That sort of thing. Then she asked:

Do you ever get time to play?

And it made me think.

I was supposed to be spending the next ten event-free days writing the first draft of a book Puffin want to publish in October 2009. I was going to blitz it. But, when that girl asked what she asked, I decided I'd do something else. I called my editor at Puffin. I asked if I could submit the book a month later. She said Yes, of course.

So now I have time to play. Ten days. Here's what I'm going to do:

Monday: take my daughter swimming
Tuesday: take my wife swimming, then go for lunch
Wednesday: see a few mates in London
Thursday: go to see a film with my wife
Friday: go for a walk in the Lake District with the poet Craig Bradley ( if you're interested)
Saturday: take my daughter to her first home Leeds United game
Sunday: meet a friend and his daughter in the Lake District
Monday: ?
Tuesday: ?
Wednesday: ?

Monday, 18 August 2008


I was in Gateshead today.

In the morning doing a drop-in event at Borders Bookstore. It's a great shop: in the Team Valley Retail Park.

I spoke to the children's specialist for ages. Each Borders has a children's specialist who runs events and knows the children's book world inside out. I learned a lot. Marie Dawson is the specialist in Gateshead. She looked after me very well - and got me a cup of tea too.

Then I met the lad who works in the stockroom at Borders. He's just finished a degree in criminology: the science of crime. He made me want to do the course myself. Studying crime, why it happens and how to stop it. Why not?

After the bookshop I went to the library. We had three events over three hours. Loads of kids came. Mostly Newcastle fans. But a four year old girl in a Liverpool shirt won the penalty shoot out.

Gateshead Library are brilliant. They do excellent events. They looked after me really well too. Two cups of tea and a muffin. They have lots of event over the summer to let people know about books and their authors.

As I left the chief librarian of Gateshead arrived and went in goal. A good sport: but he shouldn't give up the day job.

Then the train home. And another cup of tea. I like the North East. Nice people.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Booked Up

The Booked Up promotion starts this autumn. Every year seven student in schools gets offered a free book - choosing from twelve. I'm proud to say Foul Play is one of the books they can choose from. If you qualify and haven't heard about it yet ask your teacher or librarian. They'll know.

I was in my local library on Friday - Todmorden - doing an event. The Booked Up boxes arrived there. Twelve books in each box. Posters. Bookmarks. Stickers. And all the books. It looked really good. I'm going to read all the other eleven books. I particualrly want to read Skulduggery Pleasant, seeing as I've seen it all over the place.

This week I'm in Gateshead and Surrey. With Liverpool sandwiched in between.

The football season started last week. Leeds have won two and lost one. Not so bad. On 6 September I'm taking my four year old to her first home game. She's excited. But not as excited as me.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Team Read

Have you joined Team Read at your library? You get stickers, freebies and a medal for reading six books over the summer.

I took my daughter to sign up for it. She read two books - Pinkie and Za Za's Brother - last week. I was with her and she read every word. I was amazed. She really wanted to get her hands on the stickers. But I think she likes reading too.

Ask at your local library.

You get a starter's pack and access to a very good website where you can design a character that looks like you to walk through a sport stadium. Then you can read and email about famous authors like Anthony Horowitz and Jeremy Strong. And me too, if you like.


I'm in Wales today. Did a session with 60 kids in Rhyl. Very nice. By the sea. We did some quizzes and penalties. I had an egg sandwich.

The library staff were great in Rhyl. Three of them went in nets. Some with more success than others. And now I'm in a very nice hotel. Any other authors reading: work in Denbighshire. They really look after you. Tomorrow I'm off to Flintshire, North Wales. Then home.

I started book 4 of my Football Academy series today. Planning. I did a flow chart of the story and tried to make sure it's exciting. I do a graph thing to help me. I mark each chapter for happiness v sadness. I like the graph to go up and down, so that the character in the book is happy, then suddenly sad. It keeps it exciting.

It's about a lad called Ben who isn;t good at reading. He struggles and bunks off school to avoid showing people he can;t write or read too well. Then the coach of the academy he plays at seps in...

But that book's not out until July 2009.

South West

I was in the South West last week. Events in Plymouth, Truro and Torbay.

Plymouth was great. We had the event at the away end of the stadium, the kids sitting in the stand, chanting and shouting at their classmates as they tried to take penalties. We weren't allowed on the grass, because they were cutting it and they like to keep it nice. It reminded me of when I went to choose a season ticket seat at Leeds United in 1984. I took my dog and was told not to go on the pitch. But my dog got away, sprinted across the grass, then did a wee in one of the goal mouths.

Truro and Torbay were good too, by the way. It was nice to go back to Torbay. I used to go on holiday there when I was 17 or 18.

There's something funny going on in the South West. Loads more people support Liverpool than any other team. Does anyone know why?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Dead Ball

I've nearly finished the sequel to Foul Play. It's called Dead Ball and takes place four months on from Danny's first adventures. I set it in Russia. Danny comes up against a menacing Russian oligarch.

(And if you're reading this, Mr Abramovich, you should know it's nothing to do with you. It's a purely fictional figure who is the baddy in Dead Ball.)

I am lucky to be a member of a writing group. Three of us meet once a month to say what we think of each others stuff. The other members are James Nash - poet and story writer, who is working on an excellent teen novel - and Sophie Hannah, who is a hell of a writer.

It's so helpful having them give me feedback. It's sometimes hard to hear people say what is wrong with my stories, but in the end it helps make them better.

Anyway, the really liked Dead Ball. I was expecting lots of extra work, acting on what they said. But they didn't say much. It's a good thing: I have to submit it to Puffin on Friday.

Then a break. A few days before I start work on book four of the Football Academy series.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Week in Warrington

Last week I spent three days in Warrington - with a short detour to London.

I was in Warrington to do events with schools for the the libraries. It was great. My mum was from Warrington and going to her home town was a real buzz. She got me into reading - and writing - so it was nice to work with the children of her town. It was a great week. Warrington Libraries know how to look after you. Thank you Warrington.

After the event, I met my aunt, my mum's sister. We had a cup of tea in Borders. That might sound trivial: but it was the highlight of my week.

In between two of the days in Warrington, I went to London one night for the Puffin Party. This is annual party where authors, librarians, children's book experts, magazines, come together. It was great!

The food and drink was great (including ice creams covered in chocloate on sticks: I had ten) - as was meeting lots of other authors. Ross Kemp was stood at the bar. I also spotted Kevin Brooks, Charlie Higson, Sue Bentley (of the Magic Kittens!), Linda Chapman and many more.

This week I'm off to London, Rotherham and ending the week at the seaside with my family: I'm doing some events at the Sunderland Kite Festival. If you're around I'll be doing a penalty shoot out and dodging the kites.

Tomorrow I'm at an event in Sandwell. I'll be on stage with Alan Ahlberg. I'm not saying this to boast. I'm saying it to say what a buzz that will be. I've spent the last 5 years reading his books to my daughter. He's the business.

This is a boast, though. Foul Play was one of the Sunday Telegraph's 50 books for the holidays in their Travel section today.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Times

I went to the Times newspaper on Monday. They very kindly let me go in to see how they work. My next Football Detective novel - Dead Ball (May 2009) is set partly in a newspaper office - and I needed to see how such a place works.

It was great. I got a tour, met journalists and sat in on a meeting to plan yesterday's Times sports pages. There's so much work that goes into preparing a newspaper. I never dreamed it'd be so complex. They've got journalists all ovet the world watching sport, interviewing people and thinking. Then writing. Once all the writing comes in it needs to be sorted and set out by writers, designers, picture editors and others.

It didn't help matters that they had to use six of their pages for the football fixtures. However, they dealt with it brilliantly.

Thank you to the Times newspaper.

At the meeting I learned that Leeds have Scunthorpe away as an opening game. I can't wait.

Team Read

I was in Rochdale Library yesterday. Only 10 miles from home. Helping them to launch their Team Read programme.

Team Read is the 2008 Summer Reading Challenge, run by the Reading Agency. The idea is that all children age 5 to 11 are challenged to read 6 books during the summer holidays. This year the theme is sport: which is why it's called Team Read.

In previous years it's been called the Reading Mission and the Big Wild Read.

Ray Stearn at Rochdale Libraries had a good idea to spread the word about Team Read. Instead of going into all the schools to tell children about it, they got the children to come into the library. Four kids from all Rochdale's schools came in with a teacher - for an event with me yesterday and poet Craig Bradley* today. Then the kids go back to their schools to act as ambassadors to their schoolmates.

Ray went in goal for the Football Reading Game. He did well. After only letting in 30 or so of 120 shots, he was re-named 'Ray the Cat.'

You can find out about Team Read at any library in the UK.

* Have a look at poet Craig Bradley's website I admit he's a friend. But everyone I've recommended him to has been extremely happy with him.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Lancashire Book Festival and another review

I did some events for the Lancashire Children's Book Festival this week, Shout About Books. They were great. I like working in Lancashire very much (even though I'm from Yorkshire). They know what they're doing. The libraries are great and they really make you feel at home. Thank you Lancashire.

Also, today I was at a library in Stoke. Most of the children were Stoke City fans. It was good to see: people supporting their local team. I had a kick about with a lad called Josh, who was really into Stoke City. We had a kick about and he kept accusing me of fouling him. As if...

I got a review in the Times today. You can read it at: When I read it I was very happy. So happy I started singing football songs. I did the same thing when I got the book deal with Puffin. Chanting about Leeds, etc. This might seem odd, but I think it's because getting good news about my books is a bit like seeing my favourite team score. A sudden burst of happiness. Either that or I'm losing my mind.

There's also a review (and video interview) on

Holland. What can I say? Amazing. I hope they win it.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Tangshan Tigers

I read Tangsan Tigers by Dan Lee. It's a series of short novels for children ages around 7-9.

It's a great series. About an academy of martial arts fighters in China. The characters are from all over the world. The main one from England.

They are great stories and the characters - especially the martial arts master - are excellent. Try them. You won't be disappointed.

(And - by the way - I am not just saying this because they're published by Puffin.)

Booked Up!

I'm really excited: Foul Play has been chosen for the national promotion, Booked Up!

I've been sitting on the news for a few weeks, but the secret's out now. It means that around half a million year-seven children (in September) will be offered one of twelve books free. Mine is one of the the twelve. The project is run by Booktrust.

Thank you Booktrust!

I did some events at the launch of Lancashire's Shout About Books festival today. At Preston North End's Football Museum. It was great. I met a lot of Liverpool, Man U and Burnley fans. The best bit was playing table football against a Blackburn fan. He won - two games to one.

The festival goes on for a few weeks and sees some big names coming to Lancashire. David Gilman. Beverley Naidoo. Meg Rosoff.

The staff at Lancashire Libraries are brilliant. All friendly. All knowing lots about children's books. I'm lucky to live on their doorstep. Have a look at the Lancashire Libraries website if you want to know more.

The football fixtures are out next week. My four-year-old has asked to come to a match at last. Who will her first trip to Leeds United's famous Elland Road stadium be against? Cheltenham? Stockport? Milton Keynes?

Monday, 2 June 2008

A Week Off

I had a week off with my wife and daughter. Camping in Devon.

It was supposed to be a restful time in between dozens of events to promote Foul Play. But it rained. And rained. And rained. In the end we were flooded out and had to take the tent down in the pouring rain.

Now I'm back on the road. I did two events with schools as part of the Derbyshire Book Festival today. They were good fun. As always, I got a lot of stick for being a Leeds fan from the Derby County fans you find in Derbyshire. But they were less cocky this time... for some reason. The Forest fans, on the other hand, were great. An intelligent lot.

I'm reading a great book about football in Russia. Football Dynamo by Marc Bennetts. All about how football in Russia is changing.

Just read The Tangshan Tigers by Dan Lee too. A kids book about a martial arts academy. I am reviewing it for Junior magazine. It is great. Even if you have no interest in Karate, etc... try it. Really well written. Exciting.

Friday, 16 May 2008


There's a new You Tube film about Foul Play put together by Andy Weir, who does work for Puffin. He's done a great job. It's at:

Leeds won 2-0 at Carlisle last night.

I let my little girl stay up for the first 15 minutes. Her first late night game. She jumped around the room when we scored our first. It took hours getting her to sleep after that. When we'd won I whispered to her 'We won'.

Doncaster now at Wembley. They just routed Southend 5-1. It's going to be a tough game.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


I've had a great couple of weeks doing events since the book came out. Hexham. Leeds. Bury. Oldham. Manchester. Shropshire. White City. Winchester.

I love it. I get to do see which parts of the country are the best at football quizzes and taking penalties.

The best penalty taker I met was in Leeds. He got his first three past me. His mum said 'You're rubbish.' That cut me up. I managed to save his next two shots.

Overall I'd say the further north you go, the more people know about football. That is, they do better in the quiz. I'm not being North-biased, but Newcastle is defintely clued up about football. They win the top prize.

Can your town do any better? See the 'Meet Tom' section and come and have a go...

Leeds lost 2-1 to Carlisle on Monday. In the play off semis. I watched it in a Brighton hotel, away with work. It was depressing - but we could get it back tomorrow night. As I sat in a massive velvet arm chair I heard a woman behind me say 'Who are LU? They're not very good, are they?'

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Sunday Times

The Sunday Times reviewed my book this week. Children's Book of the Week. If you want to see the review it's at:

On tour with Puffin

I've been out with Puffin this week. Schools in the North West, Shropshire and London. It's been amazing.

I've met 500 boys and girls and faced about 2000 penalties. Sold over 200 books too!

It's been brilliant talking to people who've read the book. I wanted to know what they thought of the book. Everyone said really positive stuff.

I had to do a filming in a London park this evening. For something that's happening later in the year. I had to say what the book was about in 30 seconds. This is what I said:

'Foul Play is about a boy who loves football. And who wants to be a private detective. While he's out investigating crimes he stumbles across the kidnap of England's leading scorer. For the rest of the book he has to investigate who has kidnapped the player, why and work out a way to rescue him.'

It feels weird doing this. But I like it. The best bit is meeting readers who have really interesting comments on the book.

I wrote two chapters of Dead Ball today. At the moment a famous keeper is cornered by three Russian gangsters and Danny is looking on from a window. Next chapter: tomorrow.

Friday, 25 April 2008

May 1st

My book comes out in a week. Foul Play. There's a launch at Puffin on 1st May. I am very excited.

I got my first finished copy in the post today. Getting it was a lovely moment. I sat down on the steps outside the Post Office to enjoy it. To relish it.

All week I've been in libraries doing Premier League Reading Stars events. Sessions with families about reading football. Facing penalties, doing quizzes. I think I like doing these events as much as I do writing.

Leeds are one up at Yeovil, five minutes in. If we win we're in the play offs. We find out if we get our 15 points back on 1st May. I've been talking to football fans all week about it - Sunderland fans, Birmingham fans, Newcastle fans, Man U fans, Bolton fans. Most of them think we should get the points back. I don't think Carlisle and Doncaster fans agree.

I met a man in his 70s this week. He was at the 1973 FA Cup Final, where Sunderland beat Leeds. Infamously. It was good to talk to him. He said he'd met a Leeds fan before the game and the Leeds fan had predicted Sunderland would win 1-0.

Roll on 1st May...

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Starting Football Detective II

I'm off to Moscow this week to research my next Football Detective novel.

I like to set my books in interesting places.

I set a book in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a few years ago. It never got published, but I had a good time there.

I think what I like about travelling to research my books is that because I feel on edge in new places, I write better. I need my character to be on edge, so it's best that I'm on edge.

Also, if I am setting a book in a place I've not been to before, I need to go there. If I wrote about what I thought Moscow would be like based on what I've read or seen on TV it'd be dishonest.

I'm getting a tour of the main stadium in the city, where the Champions League final will be this May. Then it's looking at settings like Red Square, the Kremlin and some of the backstreets.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Anthony McGowan, author

I was at a library conference in Surrey yesterday, there to speak about the National Year of Reading.

There was an author there: Anthony McGowan.

I'd heard of him, epsecially his book Henry Tumour. He did a talk - and read a bit of his stuff.

Because I do so many events myself, I can never justify to myself going to see other authors. This may seem selfish and insular, but the truth is if I'm not working, I'm at home with my wife and daughter.

But seeing this author was great. He talked about how he became a writer. Fascinating. He read from his books. Brilliant. He made people laugh, disgusted them, challenged them.

And then I found out he's from Leeds.

He's got a new book coming out called The Knife that Killed Me. It sounds good, if grim. I'm going to buy it.

Eoin Colfer and other things I've read

I've read the last of Eoin Colfer's Legend of books this week. The Legend of Captain Crow's Teeth. I love all that series. Especially The Legend of Spud Murphy, about a fierce librarian.

Now I'm reading book 3 of the Anthony Horowitz Power of Five series. Night Rise. It's good. Strong plot. Lots of suspense. Compelling characters. But they don't do it for me like Alex Rider.

I read a lot to my daughter. She's 4 and has got into stories in a big way. Rainbow Fairies. Magic Kitten. Worst Witch. I know them all.

You'd think a grown man should be reading grown man books. But I never read children's stories when I was a child. And, since I started reading children's authors like Horowitz, Higson and McNab, it's been hard to go back to adult fiction.

But to prove I sometimes read adult books... I am in Reading today. In a hotel room. Earlier I got a bus to the hotel from the station. The bus went past a house I'd lived in with a Boro fan in 1991. But also past what used to be Blackwell's Bookshop. Going past I remembered I bought my first Juan Goytisolo book in there. 1990. He became my favourite author for years. I loved him. He writes really hard to read stuff, no sentences: lots of colons: half phrases... dots: you know what I mean. I wonder if I went back and read him now, 18 years later, if I'd still be into it.

Monday, 18 February 2008


I got my first feedback about my forthcoming novel last week.

Puffin sent early copies of Football Detective: Foul Play out to people in the media, books and football. One of them emailed me to say that her son, aged 12, had read it and she wanted to let me know what he thought.

That made me nervous. What would he say? Would he hate it? What if he spotted some dreadful mistake?*

He liked it. A lot. He said:

Really, really, really good. Clever, well written. Very good for people like me who like football. Really well aimed at my sort of audience. Almost as good as Cherub.

I'm happy to be almost as good as Cherub. I like Cherub.

I admit that this blog is a boasting blog - and I am sorry. There'll be no more like this, I promise.

But to hear that the first reader has read my book - and liked it - is a good feeling.

And that it was a 12 year old boy I've never met that likes it, not a reviewer or a friend or any other adult.


* - not that that would happen... the editing and proof reading team at Puffin have been brilliant.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


The first half of the England game against the Swiss was difficult. But once the second half got going I was happier. I loved seeing Capello prowling on the side of the pitch, like a caged lion.

Most people I meet are behind him. Young and old. I think there's real hope.

To help him with his English, Puffin are sending him a proof of my new book, Foul Play.

Writers in Schools

I go into a lot of schools and libraries to talk about football and reading. I do a game called the Football Reading Game, which is part quiz, part penalty shoot out. I end up getting lots of balls hammered past me by ten and eleven year olds. But so what? I can take it.

This month I'm working at Ghyllgrove and Lee Chapel primary schools in Basildon, 250 miles of train lines from my home in Yorkshire.

I admit I was a bit depressed by the thought of going to Basildon four times in February. I'm supposed to be writing 8 books. But...

... it has been one of the best things I could have done. Talking to the boys and girls about stories, what they like and dislike, has been brilliant. I read them short bits from my manuscripts and could see immediatley where the problems were - and where I'd done a good job with the writing. Then reading what they wrote too. Really inspiring.

It made me think I must keep doing events - as much to meet the people I'm supposed to be writing for as to tell people about my books.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Full Time

This month I started life as a full time writer. I've had lots of jobs before: milkman, postman, bookseller, librarian, joy stick repairer - but now I'm a writer.

I wrote a book about a boy who loves football and wants to solve crimes.

Football Detective: Foul Play.

I tried several agents (you need to get an agent before you find a publisher, usually), but none of them liked it. Then I found out about an agent who supported the same team as me. Leeds United.

I sent it to the agent - and a month later he'd got me a book deal with Puffin.

And now I'm a full time writer. My dreams have come true.

Being a writer is not boring. Not if you write about football, anyway.

Today was not easy, though. I kept getting distracted.

For a start there's the internet. News about the football. We're still in the transfer window. There may be new players signed.

Also, it's the African Nations Cup - live on TV.

And then there's Sky Sports News.

Tomorrow I'm going out to write in the library.