Cleethorpes or Bust

The next Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery has been a while coming, but yesterday, April 17, the script went off to my editor, the estimable Maureen Vincent-Northam so that she could exercise her red pen. It should be back to me before the end of the week, at which stage I will make the necessary corrections, send it back to Maureen for her approval, and from there it goes to darkstroke.

It’s far too early to put a release date on it, but I’ll let you know in due course.

There’s a fair bit of me in Joe Murray. He’s quite an astute man, but in other areas he’s a complete idiot. Like me, he suffers from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). In plain English, his lungs are shot. So how does he deal with it? He has his inhaler (I never go anywhere without mine) and when his chest gets tight, he takes one or two puffs. It works. But he’s stupid. He stopped smoking a few years ago, and then started again… Just as I did.

As I get older, the COPD is making life not just difficult but almost intolerable, so once again, I’m on the road to quitting. Am I going to put Joe through the same agony? That remains to be seen.

In Confusion in Cleethorpes, we find the Sanford 3rd-agers going to Cleethorpes, would you believe? They’re looking forward to a carefree weekend with a swing band, the Shoreline Swingsters, providing entertainment at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel just off the seafront of what is one of North Lincolnshire’s prettiest little resorts.

But then someone is poisoned. And then Mort Norris disappears. And Joe’s chest is getting worse. It all adds up to stress, stress, stress for Joe and his faithful friends, Sheila and Brenda, and a lot of falling out between the various factions.

As always, there’s a good deal of light-hearted banter, particularly with regard to Cleethorpes. Situated on the south side of the Humber Estuary, the place is renowned for the vast spread of sand between the promenade and the actual sea. I remember going there as a child, and I never saw the tide come in. My wife and I went back quite recently, and I still didn’t see the tide come in.

Will this bother Joe and his friends? Probably not. But the hassles of the weekend will have their effect on our heroes. Do they triumph? I’m not going to tell you (evil laugh). You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Confusion in Cleethorpes, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #22 is scheduled for release on July 19, which coincidentally, would have been my late brother’s 70th birthday, but it’s available for pre-order right now at:

What about the Sanford Mysteries?

Joe and the crew at The Lazy Luncheonette come from a world I know well. I spent most of my working life in haulage and distribution and I knew most of the truck stops in Great Britain. I created the fictitious town of Sanford, dropped Joe Murray behind the counter of The Lazy Luncheonette where he could hassle the truckers, and made him an amateur sleuth.

But it wasn’t enough. He needed another angle. One that would bring him face to face with the various mysteries.

I had to retire early through ill health, and it was sitting around the house twiddling my thumbs which made me think of oldies with nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I made Joe, Sheila Riley, and Brenda Jump the management trio of the Sanford 3rd Age Club, a bunch of financially independent crumblies savouring the delights of excursions all over the north of England, the Midlands, and occasional forays into foreign climes.

Joe is an unlikely hero. He’s short, slender to the point of emaciation, irritable and outspoken and when it comes to fighting, if he got into a scrap in a pre-school class, the children would win. But he doesn’t lack courage, and there’s something about him which makes him slightly attractive to women… including his ex-wife Alison, who now live in the Canary Islands. And he secretly hides a heart of gold and an abiding concern for law and order and defence of the innocent.

Sheila and Brenda often save his bacon. Both are widowed, both were career women who changed course when their respective husbands passed away, and they’re now kingpins in The Lazy Luncheonette and the Sanford 3rd Age Club. Both are determined women, the kind who are difficult to fool, and it happens quite often that one or other of them will make a passing remark that allows Joe to tumble the solution to the puzzle nagging at him.

The tales are filled with the kind of quirky characters you meet in everyday life, from the stuffy, military bearing of Les Tanner, to the fun-loving, beer-swilling scrapper that is George Robson. Suspects so full of airs and graces that they pronounce the word ‘pounds’ as ‘pineds’, various police officers, some of who take to Joe and co, others who hate him and his interference, an ageing billionaire captivated by heavy metal rock music, and the gormless Lee, Joe’s amiable, but clumsy nephew who, by the way, was not based on Crusher Milburn from Last of the Summer Wine. Lee fulfils a much more important role in The Lazy Luncheonette than Crusher did in Ivy’s place.

As for locations, I’m familiar with every single setting of the books, right down to the architectural eccentricities of the hotel in Palmanova, Majorca (pictured above). There is one exception, one place I’ve never been to: Sanford. That’s because it doesn’t exist. However, I grew up in an area of South Leeds not far from the boundary with Wakefield, and I know that part of West Yorkshire well. If I had to place Sanford accurately, it’s probably somewhere in the Castleford area.

There’s a strong vein of cynical, northern humour running through all the titles, but at the core of each tale, there is a murder, sometimes more than one, and Joe, as irascible with the police as he is with the truckers, finds it impossible to keep his nose out.

They’re often described as ‘cosy’ mysteries. In common with my good friend Lesley Cookman, creator of the Libby Sarjeant series, I dislike that term. Say what you like, there is nothing cosy about murder. IMHO, it’s one of the two most despicable crimes any person can commit (the other being rape) and I prefer the description ‘traditional mysteries’. No serious violence, no seriously bad language, and when it comes to sex, we stop outside the bedroom door.

And that’s about it for now. If you’re new to the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries (or even if you’re a seasoned reader) there’s a FREE TITLE available, Liquidated in Lockdown. No strings attached. Just go to the page, Free Stuff for more information, and you can find details on the individual titles HERE.

A Snowy Sunday in Mid-April?

I’ve just come through what is one of the worst weeks of my life. Nine days since I had the second Covid jab and I haven’t been right since. I’ve felt weak, shaky, generally lacking in both motivation and the energy to look for some. My sleep pattern, such as it is, is severely disrupted and my appetite shot… although, on that last point, I have managed to shed a few pounds.

A couple of times this week, I’ve insisted I’m back to 100%, but in no time at all, I go down again. So what is it?

I blame that second jab, but the truth is the problems simply coincided with that, and some of the areas I was suffering are posted as side-effects. Others aren’t, and there are several possibilities. Blood sugar slightly out of whack, increasing rheumatics and arthritis, and let’s not forget smoking. It gets blamed for everything else, so I might as well chuck it into the mix.

There’s one other candidate: the weather. Here, take a look at this.

That photograph was taken half an hour ago. It’s a glorious sunny morning, but colder than a penguin’s arse. And where the hell did the snow come from? It’s the middle of April. I live on the outskirts of Manchester, not Murmansk (look it up. It’s in the far North of Russia the wrong side of the Arctic Circle.)

Still and all, you can’t let trivia like illness get in the way of work. I once drove from Edinburgh to Leeds while suffering from flu. I had no choice, and it’s the same now. I have no choice.

But how do you write when your mind is full of cotton wool?  With difficulty is the short answer.

Course, writing’s not all about knocking the tale out. There are other aspects to it, such as research. So when a friend suggested sending Joe to Inverness and putting him in a kilt, I looked into the possibility. At the prices they want for a bespoke Murray clan kilt, I could buy a decent second-hand car, but it makes for a fun scene.

Another friend was saying she’s read The Squires Lodge Murders three times and that caused me to wonder what was so attractive about that title… so I spent a day re-reading it. I’m not much wiser. It’s good (he says with all the modesty of a modern novelist) and it’s slightly more varied than most of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries.

A week or two back I came to the conclusion that I’m better sticking with the lighter whodunits than the hard-boiled stuff. That’s doesn’t mean there will not be more Feyer & Drake titles. There will, but they take time to fully develop. I had other darker works planned, and when I came to this decision, I looked at them with a view to conversion. After all, what’s the difference between The Anagramist and a Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery? Graphic sex, violence, language and elements of realism, I would say. Aside from that the principles are the same.

With that in mind, I now have a third Sanford on the boil, involving a burglary which leads Joe and Co into a twenty-year-old cold case.

As I write, therefore, I have three Sanford Mysteries on the go. A weekend in Cleethorpes will likely be first, followed by a visit to Inverness, and by the autumn, the cold case should be heading your way.

You can’t wait, can you?

Just time to remind you that there are free books available on this site. Check out the Free Stuff link above, and don’t forget The Cutter is scheduled for release on May 25th, and you can pre-order it now at:

Finally, if you want sign up for my Valued Readers’ Club, that link, too, is above, and the first newsletter is scheduled to go out very soon.

That’s it from the madhouse. Have fun, stay safe and read, read, read. It’s so much better than real life.

Second Jab & Three Freebies

The missus and I were called to the local health centre this morning for our second Covid jab. We’re not top of the list but we’ve always been fairly high up because I’m clapped out and she’s just… old, I suppose, but don’t tell her I said that.

There was the usual trip round town first, and by the time we got to the health centre, I was worn out. She treats me like a pack mule. But I was in better fettle than her because she suffers from white coat syndrome. She’s terrified of doctors, nurses, medical procedures and inoculations. They don’t bother me. My only complaint is when I was a kid, I used to get a barley sugar after a jab, and now I don’t. But as the nurse pointed out, I’m diabetic, so I couldn’t have one anyway.

No side effects… yet. Not even an aching arm, and I get that after the flu jab every year.

Failing that, I am now invincible… well, I will be in a couple of weeks when it’s fully bedded in. Course, that means as invincible as an ageing, eccentric, arthritic diabetic who suffers from COPD can be.

Enough of this drivel.

It’s Easter weekend and what better time to hit you with a triple whammy of freebies.

First, one of the early Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, The Chocolate Egg Murders, is free from today until Tuesday. Published by darkstroke, it’s exclusive to Amazon, but it is free, gratis, for nothing. Just follow THIS LINK and download it to your Kindle, tablet, smartphone and get reading.

Second, here’s another buckshee Sanford Mystery, Liquidated in Lockdown. This is a special. It’s a novella which sees Joe asked to solve a murder while self-isolating at the height of the coronavirus crisis. I’ll tell you no more than that. It’s available only via this site, and there are no strings attached. It’s just there and you can help yourself. Grab it by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, a third giveaway, and this one is a Feyer & Drake novella entitled Nostell, which sees Drake called to his old school to defend his nephew who’s facing a charge of murder, and naturally, Sam Feyer is with him.

Once again, you can only get this book from this site, and this time, you’ll be asked to sign up to my Valued Readers’ Club. You’ll need to submit your email address, but before you do, let me hasten to reassure you. I’m not in the business of selling names and addresses. Your details will never be passed to anyone else, and you can unsubscribe the moment you’re sick of hearing from me. But it’s a brilliant and fun way of keeping up with what’s happening, what’s due, what’s dropped, and so on.

You can access Nostell by signing up on THIS LINK.

And that’s your lot for now. Remember, comments welcome, but they’ll need to be moderated, so it may take time for them to appear.

A New Release, A Giveaway, A Census Form

Two mjor announcements (and a little bit of fun) in this piece.

The Cutter

Released May 25

Available on pre-order at:

To join my Valued Readers Club and take advantage of the offer visit:

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