tony mcmanus

On writing, writers, books and publishing.



 Though it may be a well-written prize winner, a one-off book, a stand-alone novel, has little chance of commercial success in today’s reading market. The mass of readers wants recurring heroes, protagonists who return to deliver the goods of more adventures. It’s something a reader can look forward to and feel comfortable with. Series novels are the thing. And looking back, reading of the army of fans who followed Arthur Conan-Doyle and eagerly awaited his latest Sherlock Holmes treat, I feel it’s always been so. Now it’s in vogue big time.

Series novels are invariably thrillers in the crime, mystery and espionage genres. Some come about by accident. They begin with a single book, which is then followed by another, perhaps a sequel, and then a third and so it goes on. Others are intended from the beginning. My new novel, ‘The Sum of Things’ recently launched on Amazon’s Kindle, is one of these. It’s the first in what I intend and hope to be a long and successful series.

While writing my novel, I got to thinking about how long a series should run for? Given that it’s successful, how far should a writer continue producing his series before calling it quits? And what criteria should he/she use to govern the series continuance? Intrigued, I began to examine some recent thriller series novels.

Probably, the most popular thriller series today has to be the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child. Two of the novels: ‘One Shot’ and ‘Never Go Back’ have been turned into successful and money-spinning movies starring Tom Cruise.

Beginning in 1997 with ‘Killing Floor’ this writer has consistently produced a novel a year, for twenty years, many of them gaining awards. His latest, ‘Midnight Line,’ #22 in the series, will be released in November. His previous novel ‘Night School’ (#21) has garnered 5,464 reviews and counting on Amazon. I’m impressed. As only a small minority of readers bother to write a review, that gives some indication of the sales numbers Child’s books are enjoying. And sales have to be one of the major indices a writer will use in deciding to continue or not. But in reading some of the Jack Reacher reviews, I can see that cracks are appearing.

Many readers, some die-hard fans of the series complain that the plots are becoming hackneyed and see Child struggling to come up with new situations and fresh story ideas, his style becoming more formulaic and his villains are turning into ‘buffoonish cartoons.’ It seems that Child’s creative well could be running dry. Nevertheless, based on current popularity, I’m sure we’ll see more of Jack Reacher.

Among other works, that fine British writer, Stephen Leather has now published fourteen novels in his Dan ‘Spider’ Shepard thriller series and is still getting good reviews.

Another successful series has been Andy McNab’s Nick Stone Series of thrillers. Book #19 ‘Line of Fire’ is due out in October 2017. But get this: it can be preordered on Amazon Kindle for a whopping US$ 26.78! Wow. How’s that for cheek? Not a hardback mind, an e-book. It would take a long cold day in hell before I would pay 27 bucks for a gift-wrapped, signed hardback edition much less a Kindle e-book. His previous book, ‘Cold Blood’ #18 in the series, carries a price tag of US$ 14.24, still too expensive for a Kindle novel I feel. And the reviews for this series don’t cut it anymore. The 2 and 3-star revues surpass the 4 and 5 stars; not a good sign. It’s time he quit, but I feel Andy will press on. It may be he’s seen the writing on the wall and decided to make as much as he can before it crashes.

An outstanding series of recent years was the Inspector Morse Series by the British writer, Colin Dexter. Made into a television drama with that fine actor, John Thaw, in the role of Morse, it was excellent, well produced and I enjoyed it immensely. And part way through the television series I turned my attention to the books and enjoyed them even more.

Dexter wrote thirteen Morse novels, beginning with ‘The Last Bus to Woodstock,’ and ending with ‘A Remorseful Day,’ in which Morse dies. Yes, he brought his series to a close by killing off his protagonist. Dexter made no apologies or explanation. It was the writer’s decision and his alone and therefore had to be. But his fans were disappointed, myself included.

In making Morse a heavy drinker with poor dietary habits and indifferent to his health, could it be that Dexter was setting his hero up for a finale where he could bring on the fatal heart attack that would end the series whenever he chose to? It does seem that way to me. It is worth recording that he killed Morse in a satisfying way and closed his series on a high note, his last novel receiving splendid reviews. Not for Colin Dexter the disappointing reviews of frustrated fans.

And it was death that ended another great series; the James Bond saga. Not the death of Bond, but that of his creator, Ian Fleming.

When Fleming died beside that English golf course on the 12th of August 1964 at the age of fifty-six, it brought to a close a fascinating series. Not a great writer; he didn’t have to be. But he was good. And though it’s perhaps true that he wrote fantasies for adult children, his prose was lean and spare, and every word counted. His novels were page turners, and he was eminently readable.

His last novel, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun,’ unfinished at the time of his death, was cobbled together by his publisher, Jonathan Cape and published eight months later. A poor job that lacked everything we fans expected from a Bond novel, it received poor though respectful reviews. I didn’t enjoy it much. It seems that heavy smoking and lifestyle-induced ill health had taken their toll on the writer. But, unsurprisingly, it was an instant bestseller in both hard and paperback form.

Fleming left behind a corpus of twelve Bond novels and some short story compilations, and so it was over. Or should have been. However, the publishing house, Jonathan Cape refused to accept it, and with the compliance of the author’s estate, they began searching for writers able to write Bond stories in the style of Fleming in what became known as the ‘continuation’ Bond novels.

First off the blocks was Kingsley Amis. Using the pseudonym, Robert Markham, Amis produced the novel, ‘Colonel Sun.’ It got mixed reviews and sold well. Bond fan that I was, I didn’t enjoy it. And I don’t read any more of the continuation series which continues to this day. Though a thing apart, the Bond film franchise seems to be unending with a fan base who’ve never heard of Ian Fleming. For me, Ian Fleming’s alter ego, James Bond, died along with his creator that August morning in 1964. R.I.P.

Should a writer ‘age’ his protagonist as a series progresses or should he make him ageless, impervious to time and therefore able to hold the ring forever and a day? I believe in the first option; it’s closer to reality and makes him more credible. And so does Lee Child. Born in 1960, Jack Reacher will turn fifty-seven on the 29th of October. Retirement at sixty? It would seem logical. The clock is ticking.

And if we were to give James Bond the age of thirty-nine when he faced down Le Chiffre at the baccarat table in that casino in Royale in 1952 he would be 104 years old today. He doesn’t look it in the movies though, and the continuation writers also seem to have ignored this reality.

My boy, James Fallon, stepping up and showing his credentials in ‘The Sum of Things,’ is a youthful thirty-five in 2017, so he has lots of things to do, lots of villains to destroy and lots of time to do it in. It’s up to me.

Several factors may determine the time to bring down the curtain on a series.

The advancing age or failing health of the author.

The author’s desire to write other things in other genres (it was Arthur Conan-Doyle’s desire to write more historical fiction that resulted in Sherlock Holmes ‘death’ at Reichenbach Falls).

Increasingly poor reviews telling the author his ability to produce good stories is faltering and on the wane and the series has run its course.

But if the series is highly successful, sells well and brings in much money, an author would be sorely tempted to press on regardless of poor reviews. To close it down would be like killing a Golden Goose.

I have to conclude there can no hard fast rule on this. At the bottom end, you have writers who publish series schlock, written fast and aimed at low-brow readers with the single intent to make money. Such crap should never see the light of day. At the top end, we have a good example in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, going strong for twenty years and twenty-two novels. I hope my James Fallon series takes the same route. And I’ll be more than happy if it’s half as successful.




As I write, it’s the fourth day of Christmas in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But it doesn’t feel like Christmas. And having resided in Thailand for eight years now, it’s no surprise to me. Nor should it be. Thailand is a Buddhist country. Over 90% of its people are Buddhist. And so I’ve got used to it.
For several weeks all the crappy trappings of the commercial side of things have been growing and are now to be seen in all their tasteless glory. The great stores and shopping malls of Bangkok and Chiang Mai are filled with plastic Christmas trees, reindeer pulling sleighs with a smiling Santa onboard and fake snow is in abundance. “Merry Christmas” logos are on display. The “Happy New Year” signs are also in there (they never take them down) and, of course, the worst Santa music imaginable fills the air. There are no Bethlehem Nativity scenes of course and no mention of Christ himself. “Jesus who?” she said as she wrapped the Christmas gift.
As always, I did my bit to avoid all that. On Christmas Eve, my lady and I dined out at a local bistro and enjoyed a wonderful supper with excellent wine. A morning man, I awoke early on Christmas Day, went out with my dogs and watched the sun rise over the eastern hills. After breakfast, as a good Catholic lad should, I attended mass at my local church. St. Joseph the Fisherman is a small, humble place of worship. Today it was filled, and chairs were placed outside to accommodate the crowd. The congregation was mostly Thai Christians celebrating this most special day. The rest of the day was spent with family and friends enjoying good food and drink. We ended the day with a small bonfire and a good robust wine. It was good and peaceful. Watching the flames, I reflected on past Christmas times.
Perhaps the most powerful Christmas for me was in 1983 when I celebrated the event with a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I was working in Israel on a defense contract and had visited many historical and biblical sites: the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives and the tombs of the prophets. So, visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at Christmas was a natural event. It was a fascinating and moving experience shared with many others from foreign lands. There was little commercialism. And at 3800 feet above sea level, it was cold. I recommend to anyone contemplating this journey; take warm clothes.
Another great Christmas, 1997, was spent at a Canadian home I had on two secluded acres in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. There was myself, my girl, Aline, two Irish couples who were strangers, but became great friends, my dog, Kitty, and Mimi my cat. It was a winter of heavy snowfall. I’d had lots of dry firewood brought in, lots of good food and drink: beer, wine, and fine liquor. We skied, snow-shoed and tobogganed. And with great music, we partied before roaring fires for a whole week into New Year. My friends still speak of it after all these years.
There have been other memorable Christmas times. However, my most treasured Christmas of all was in 2007 spent in Ste. Adele, Quebec alone with my dog, Whisky, a lovely affectionate Basset Hound, in a log home I’d built. I gathered firewood and stocked up on food and drink. I set up a tree I’d cut in the local woods. I received few Christmas cards, but I put them up and added all the old cards from previous years. I spent Christmas Eve morning cross country skiing. In the afternoon I took Whisky through the local woods for a snowshoe foray. Getting home wet and tired at around four o’clock, I opened a cold white wine lit a cigar and climbed into a deep hot bath; highly recommended. In the evening, after a simple, supper, I sat before a log fire. With Whisky beside me, I listened to music and enjoyed a variety of spirits and Cuban panatelas. Christmas Day was enjoyed in much the same vein. Whisky has long since passed on. But the memory and that wonderful Christmas I shared with her will never leave me.
Christmas is what you make it. You can go with the flow, follow the madding crowd along the insane commercial route, burn your credit cards shopping for presents for the gift exchange frenzy. Then put on a party hat, eat and drink too much, pretend you’re enjoying yourself and fall into bed hoping the madness will end soon. You can then post on your FB page how tired you are and that Christmas is becoming such hard work. Or you can do as I do and make it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Merry Christmas.


I really appreciate good tips like this

Lit World Interviews

You get to choose two categories for your book on Amazon, and seven keywords. Your book’s title, sub-title, blurb, categories, and keywords all go towards producing its metadata – the stuff that Amazon’s search engine uses to make your book discoverable to buyers searching for something to buy. That’s the fabulous thing about getting your metadata as useful as you can. People who search Amazon are looking to purchase. They’re not wanting information like when they use Google. In fact, Amazon’s search engine is not the same as Google.

Amazon’s search engine actually has its own moniker – A9. Not a very romantic name, but it is individual nevertheless. Amazon wants to get a specific sale rather than direct searchers to information as Google does. So A9 works a little differently. You may have noticed a sharp zooming up the rankings when you have a couple of sales of your…

View original post 592 more words

     “It’s terrible and shocking. To evade his taxes he set

      up a tax avoidance shelter to protect his wealth and took up

      residence on a Caribbean island.”

      “Smart fellow.”

      “You don’t mean that.”

      “Sure. He worked hard, made his pile and now wants to protect

       It. I’d do the same in a heartbeat. Good luck to him.”

The reader should note the simultaneous use of “evasion” and “avoidance” in the same sentence. The world’s governments, ably assisted by a compliant media have blurred the line between these two different concepts.

That unshaven twit, the one in the train spotter’s duffel coat, the British Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did the same the other day: “As the leaked documents show, tax havens have become honey pots of international corruption, tax avoidance and evasion.”

And on that front, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father has been “exposed” as having created an offshore tax shelter to protect his funds. Eminently sensible in my view. It no doubt enabled him to send David to Eton. But not so long ago, for political reasons, David Cameron incited the mob by denouncing tax avoidance as “legal but immoral.” Now he’s on the defensive claiming his and his father’s business affairs are a “private matter.” It’s nice to see him squirm.

And here’s that other hypocrite, Barak Obama on the subject:

     “A lot of these loopholes come at the expense of these middle-class families because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere. Alternatively, it means that we’re not investing as much as we should in schools, in making college more affordable, putting people back to work, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, creating more opportunities for our children.”

   Yeah, right! Have ever heard such shite as that? You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh. Who writes this crap for him? He should have said:

“Tax avoidance is wrong and should be criminalized. It denies our IRS from aggressively looting money wherever they can find it. How else can we fight endless and stupid wars against small defenseless countries, build cruise missiles and other weapons and kick ass big time.”

In my view, there is only one fair and just tax and that is VAT, or value added tax. All other forms are unfair, discriminatory and open to abuse. Offshore tax havens practice this. The only tax in the Bahamas for example is VAT. And that’s how it should be.

   The US built a monster in the IRS. All are afraid of it. Even the President is scared of them. It would take a man a lifetime to read its tax code. It keeps Americans poor. Many leave because of it. No other country has as much punishing direct and indirect taxation. But despite this they are the world’s biggest debtor; debt they can’t service much less pay it off. Their country is in reality bankrupt.

And Britain and the EU are no better. People are taxed to death by governments who shamelessly waste it all. And the politicians who impose these tax laws go right ahead and fiddle their government expenses.

    Tax Evasion: It is usually illegal and even criminal. And it should be whether pursued by individuals or business corporations. Tax evasion is the deliberate misrepresentation of the state of affairs, personal or corporate by any means  available. It is commonly used in the “alternative’ or black economy and by organized crime.

    Tax Avoidance: It is legal, and sensible. It is the legal usage of a tax regime to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONSIDERED AN INDIVIDUALS DUTY TO DO THIS IN ORDER TO PROTECT HIS PERSONAL AND BUSINESS EARNINGS FROM RAPACIOUS GOVERNMENTS.

“While tax avoidance may be considered legal, it is almost never considered moral in the court of public opinion. Many corporations and businesses which take part in the practice experience a backlash, either from their active customers or online.” (Wikipedia)

And what is the “court of public opinion?” At one time it was called the “common herd.” Easily riled and manipulated, they’re jealous of talented, successful people, who’ve worked hard, made it, and who now want to protect their wealth from government tax grabbers.

While it is true that many dictators and criminals hide stolen money in offshore jurisdictions, the majority are perfectly normal honest people. Many of the world’s top athletes go offshore and reside in tax friendly countries. Use a search engine and check them out. Tennis star, Novak Djokovic, for example, is resident in Monaco. It’s called tax avoidance and it makes sense.

If your Aunt Sally left you her fortune or you won a large amount on a lottery would you deposit in the local bank and let the government get into it? Not if you’re smart. Your first move should be to protect the money – from the government, by shifting it offshore.

Arthur Hailey, the British novelist, struggled for years writing and getting nowhere. Then he hit the jackpot, his books sold in the millions, films were made, and Hailey became rich.  He was living in California at the time and happy with his good fortune until his financial advisor told him that American tax laws were “punitive.” Unless Hailey wanted to donate most of his money to the IRS, he would need to move to a more sensible jurisdiction. He didn’t want to leave, but they gave him no choice. He moved to the Bahamas. That’s tax avoidance. Let’s have more of it.

As a struggling writer working away on two novels I have to say that if I got the opportunity to grab the brass ring I’d do so; vigorously. If I got lucky and my books sold and movies got made, would I move my funds into a tax shelter? Would I shift my butt into a delightful offshore island paradise with sensible tax laws and no standing army? Would I avoid taxes?

You betcha. In a heartbeat.