"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sheer Fear: Crime fiction's Geoffrey West is Back - Around the Cauldron!

Everyone connected with The Wizard's Cauldron is a big fan of Geoffrey West. A classy, polite and charming English gentleman living near the dreaming spires of Canterbury (site of the magnificent cathedral where Thomas a' Becket was disembowelled in 1187), he writes unusual and in inventive crime fiction featuring Jack Lockwood, an only too human psychologist. I've read all three of his books - which are ludicrously cheap bearing in mind how good they are - and he's one of the few authors whose releases I actually anticipate.  My review of his latest work can be found at the end of this interview. We met for the first time early this year and I cannot wait to chat again next year, after Book 4. I picked up the Wizphone and caught up with him at his writing desk in this most incredible of late British Indian Summers. Here's what he had to say.

Geoffrey's original interview with the Wizard

Hi Geoff, for new readers, particularly in the US, tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a freelance journalist/author and editor, who has been writing novels for several years, latterly publishing the Jack Lockwood Mystery series with Kindle Direct Publishing.  I used to write for home repair/DIY type magazines and have written five non-fiction books ranging from leatherwork to architectural salvage and major home repairs and how to make dolls houses.  I also do proofreading and editing work for publishers, and now also work for writers of independently published works. 

This is the inside of a magnificent doll's house - some quite incredible craftsmanship

Tell us about Jack Lockwood, the hero of your three books so far.

Jack Lockwood is a psychologist, a Behavioural Investigative Advisor, who occasionally works with the police, advising on criminal profiling in specific cases.  He has a tendency to go his own way, and frequently is at loggerheads with his police bosses, consequently much of the time he’s working on freelance non-fiction books, which often necessitates delving into unsavoury businesses and investigating situations and people.  

He has the misfortune to land himself in a lot of trouble, and fortunately has more lives than a cat, often losing one or more within an adventure.  

He has been compared to a ‘Jonathan Creek’ kind of hero (an English TV detective who is brilliant at lateral thinking, and solving problems), but, although he is highly academically qualified, he is not phenomenally clever, by no means stupid, but not a genius.  He solves problems with brainpower certainly, but also with tenacity and brute strength when necessary—I envisaged him originally as more of a Philip Marlowe-type character (from the Raymond Chandler novels). 

Elliot Gould plays Phillip Marlowe in "The Long Goodbye"

In fact he is essentially practical, having worked as a builder/ builders labourer for several years, and has learnt the art of bare knuckle fighting. 

Is there an inspiration for Jack Lockwood? Or is he purely a creature of your own fevered subconscious?

He is invented, but his name is actually the same as that of a favourite now-deceased great uncle of mine.  He was a very interesting and clever man, also extremely literary (he was a chief librarian who once employed John Braine, the novelist, before Braine became famous for "Room At The Top")

John Braine
 I think my Great-Uncle did various acts of derring-do in World War Two, but he never spoke of these things.  I very much hope he would approve of the use of his name—it is meant with great respect, and I feel that in some strange way it makes him live on. 

What is the latest instalment of his adventures?

Sheer Fear, published last week. 

By Sheer Fear HERE bookgoodies.com/a/B00OY578V6

Jack’s half-brother dies just before being arrested for the rape/murders of three women. Afterwards Jack discovers that his brother was framed for these murders as part of a top-level conspiracy to silence these women, who all happened to accuse a famous public figure of molesting them when they were children.  Although they reported these incidents at the time, (30 or so years ago) nothing was done then, but in the aftermath of the Savile enquiry, fictitious ‘Operation Hedgerow’ was launched, stimulating these adult women to make fresh claims of historic child abuse.  Jack strives to expose this man, and clear his dead brother's name. 

Can you share an extract?

I managed to find a cheap hotel to stay for the rest of the night and called back at the hospital around mid-morning. On the way I found a WH Smith bookshop and bought a copy of Lord Aylesbury’s autobiography, which had apparently been published to great acclaim earlier in the year.
It was a fat paperback, entitled MY WAY, with the face of the affable lord on the front cover. Neatly styled flowing silver hair met his collar, and the half smile captured his famous charm, but to me his likeable exterior appeared to be as vacuous as the book’s title. I remembered what I’d heard about his former career as an actor, picked to play the part of the young John F Kennedy in a biopic about the American president’s early life, entitled The Young Kennedy. Now he looked much like Kennedy probably would have looked, had he lived until his seventies. Unfortunately, the great man, the centre of America’s elite power brokers, had been assassinated in his forty-third year. John F Kennedy had gone down in history as perhaps one of the most charismatic presidents there have ever been. Indeed John Kennedy and his brother Robert created an inner circle of aides and allies, that his government christened ‘Camelot’ because its glamorous style, and its chivalric values were considered reminiscent of the ancient English court of King Arthur.
I pondered on the fact that there must be countless autobiographies and innumerable songs played at funerals, inspired by Frank Sinatra’s admittedly memorable and excellent song, ‘My Way’. The links were ironic: Sinatra had been a close personal friend of President Kennedy’s until the relationship had been abruptly terminated when Sinatra’s links to the Mafia were realised. Kennedy had dropped him then and there with a brief phone call, cancelling the party Sinatra had been holding in his honour that weekend. Sinatra personally smashed up the concrete helicopter landing pad he’d installed on his estate, bitterly hurt at the rebuff.
My Way. It seemed that so many people, whether in the public eye or not, have the narcissistic conviction that they and their lives are brilliant and special, that their choices and manner of living are unique. Sinatra couldn’t have realised how huge a vein of conceit and self-delusion he was tapping into when he performed his iconic song for the first time.
As I always do when I first get an autobiography, I flicked through to the photographs, which I often find are more informative than the words. There was budding actor Kit Aylesbury as a child, then as a young thespian, then in the uniform of a young WWII American sailor, on board a troop carrier, playing his part in The Young Kennedy, the film that had made his career. I looked closer at the twenty-year-old Aylesbury, and wondered how many American actors must have cursed the unknown British actor for beating them to the iconic role of a lifetime, simply because he’d been born with a face that was so similar to the great man.
St Helier’s hospital was a rabbit-warren of a place, with miles and miles of corridors. The ward where I found Lauren was fairly quiet, the bed beside hers empty. She was a pleasant looking woman with shortish blonde hair, a round open face and a friendly smile.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” were her first words.
“It was simply luck, that’s all.”
Around us were other patients in nearby beds, and nurses coming and going.
“Look, Mr Lockwood,” she spoke earnestly as I sat in the plastic chair beside her. “The nurse told me that I can leave whenever I like. If you have the time, can you wait for me to get dressed and discharged, then I can take you for breakfast or coffee or something?”
“I’d like that very much.”
An hour later we were sitting in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sutton town centre. It was a comfortable welcoming place, with thick carpets and cosy decor. After we’d ordered breakfast, she told me that she’d phoned her mother, who lived in Cornwall and had offered her a home for as long as it took for the house to become habitable again. She went on about how the fire inspectors hadn’t yet reached any conclusion as to the cause of the fire, that the police had asked her if she had any enemies.
“Not that I have,” she said in exasperation. “They obviously think the fire might have been started deliberately, but I can’t think of anyone who could wish me harm. I’ve thought and thought, but I really can’t think of anyone.”
“Have they got any idea how the fire started?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Too early to say. That’s another thing. If it turns out that my wiring was faulty or something, then what if the insurance won’t pay for the repairs?”
“Is the wiring very old?”
She frowned, trying to remember. “I had some electrical trouble a few years ago. An electrician gave me an estimate for repairs but I couldn’t afford it, so I put it off. Oh God, I shouldn’t really be admitting anything like this to anyone, should I? If the fire was caused by an electrical fault then the insurance is invalidated.”
“I’m not about to tell anyone. Besides, the fire brigade are good at tracing the causes of a fire. They’re likely to find some other explanation altogether.”
“But what explanation?”
“Are you sure you don’t have any enemies?”
“Gracious, no. At least I don’t think so. Until the police asked, I never thought of anything like that.”
“Before you went to bed, could you have accidentally left a gas fire on, or something alight on the kitchen stove?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I’ve thought about it over and over, and I’m certain I did nothing like that. Besides, I’ve just remembered. I have smoke alarms, and they didn’t go off. I suppose both batteries might have been flat, but it’s unlikely. But if the fire was started deliberately I can’t imagine why. I’m a teacher. I live a quiet life. I can’t think of anyone…”
The pause was so pregnant I didn’t want to interrupt the birth. But eventually I had to: “Look, Lauren, there’s something I have to tell you. I didn’t just happen to be passing your house when I saw the fire. I was coming to see you.”
“Why? Who on earth are you?”
I explained all that my ex-police contact had said to me, stressing that I had no way of knowing whether there was any truth in what he said or not. Her eyes never left my face. When I’d finished, she ordered more coffee, and she stayed silent for a long time.
“My God, what a thing to hit me with,” she said at last.
“I’m sorry. I’m hoping there’s some other explanation for all this.”
“There must be.” She looked up and stared into my eyes. “Because I never made a complaint against this man, Lord Aylesbury, or Kit Aylesbury, as you say he was called then. I never even met him as a child. To my knowledge I’ve never met him in my life.”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I.” She stirred her coffee, frowning and staring at the table.
The magnificent Gloria Grahame - classic
fifties femme fatale.
Often imitated, never
You are known for creating absorbing women, both heroine and villain, in your books. Do fans of Geoff West have a femme fatale/bunny boiler/Nora nutbag to look forward to in Sheer Fear?

Absolutely.  There might even be more than one, and it’s not necessarily clear at first who’s a heroine and who’s a villain. 

Why is Jack so rubbish with women? Is this deliberate or a series of accidents and coincidences?

He never understands how women think, and is cursed with bad luck, plus his timing is always wrong.  He is also convinced that he is too untidy, disorganised and set in his ways to fit in with a permanent relationship, but he hopes things might one day change. 

Can you assure your long-term readers that Jack will eventually meet the woman of his dreams?

I don’t know what’s going to happen.  But Jack’s a great optimist, he’s sure he’ll meet her one day. And as long as she doesn’t get herself murdered he’ll be happy. 

Are you a supporter of the Police? It is not clear from the books.

Yes, very much so.  It annoys me when police are portrayed as bumbling fools in fiction since I’ve always considered them very practical, clever people who have limitless knowledge of people and human nature and, are generally well intentioned, and on the side of the angels.  

I would need to be a fan of the police, since my great grandfather, Andrew Veitch, was a first-class Superintendent of police in Lincolnshire, England in the 1870s and 80s. Here is a pic of him in uniform. 

What have you been a) reading b) listening to and c) watching lately?

 I’ve been researching addiction for my next book and just read Patty Boyd’s (left) biography—interestingly, Clapton was both addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I learnt a bit about the chaotic music scene of those days, when the Beatles, The Who, Clapton, Ronnie Wood, The Rolling Stones et al, whom I thought were musical competitors, were in fact all friendly with each other and often collaborated professionally.  

I very much like the writer Mark Barry, and especially loved his book Carla.  (Thank you, Geoff - Ed)

Listening to:  Not much of a modern music fan, I mostly like rock and very much like Country Music. 

Watching:  The DVD set of Borgen, the excellent series about Danish politics.  

Think I am going to join you in watching this - Ed.

I also loved Spiral and Braquo, two French detective series’ set in Paris. Watching films with subtitles is very enjoyable and absorbing, I find.  

And finally, what do Geoffrey West’s loyal fans have to look forward to in the coming year?

Almost certainly the best proofreader
in the UK - Julia Gibbs.
The Jack Lockwood Diaries, a collection of short stories in Jack’s life, that I am publishing as soon as I can.  

In fact the brilliant Julia Gibbs - left #Follow @ProofreadJulia - has agreed to help root out my mistakes (you can never see your own) and in a day or two I’m sending them to her.  

She’s always busy, but I know from experience that her expertise is well worth waiting for. 

These stories were first put up on my blog, the Jack Lockwood Diaries, but I shall delete these once the book comes out, and add more as and when I can, so whilst writing Jack Lockwood novel number four, and a book on Home Security I’ve been planning, I will be putting out regular stories taken from Jack life - blog here.


Jack Lockwood’s fourth major mystery, is where Jack deliberately becomes an alcoholic, in order to see addiction clinics from the inside, and write a book about their treatment regime and so on.  

The book begins with Jack waking up from an alcoholic stupor in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, with a dead man beside him. He has no memory of the past drunken few hours, and accordingly is afraid that he may be the man’s killer. 

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Geoffrey, this has been a pleasure as usual and I hope you achieve the success you deserve with this exciting series of books in 2015. The best of luck.

Thanks you,Wiz - and the same to you.

Read Georgia Rose's interview with Geoffrey tomorrow.


Read also Geoffrey's Interview on A Woman's Wisdom




ROCK’N’ROLL SUICIDE  viewBook.at/B009XA5SQ4 

Marky The Wizard's Review of Sheer Fear.

5.0 out of 5 stars Another terrific Jack Lockwood Yarn - his best yet! 1 Nov 2014
By Marky The Wizard - Published on Amazon.com
Where to start.

Lets start at the beginning. I loved the book. I read it one sitting and having read all three of Geoffrey West's Jack Lockwood's books, this is the best of them. I heartily recommend it.

The book is much faster paced than the others - it rattles along like a freight train never stopping to take on water and coal. So much happens, you'll be breathless before halfway.

The plot. David, Jack's oldest friend, is accused of a horrific triple rape and murder in the leafy environs of ancient Canterbury. Jack knows full well that David would never have done this, but the evidence seems insurmountable. Still, Jack - being Jack - sets out to prove his friend's innocence. Then, out of the blue, Jack finds a tarantula in his glove compartment and all hell lets loose.

Before long, Jack finds himself at the centre of a conspiracy within a conspiracy, a labyrinthine narrative involving the top echelons of the British establishment. As if that is not enough, he becomes a victim of a vendetta from a surprising femme fatale, and a target of some serious old school villains from the Brinks-Mat days, who don't mess about when it comes to inflicting pain to get what they want.

Geoff weaves the plot expertly, adding his usual fascination with modern history and culture to the mix, and long term fans will recognise Jack's hapless, unfortunate, attempts at finding love amongst the many beautiful, intelligent, flawed, damaged and determined women he encounters.

There are superb set pieces - including the opening scene and a gripping attempted burglary - plus thrills galore and a sense of page turning tension, particularly in the middle section of the book where you have no idea what is going to happen next.

Geoff is an old fashioned story teller and to him, the story is key. His fiction still reminds me of the old ITC detective shows of the sixties, where very episode ends on a cliffhanger, as each chapter does here. Sheer Fear is unapologetic about its old school roots and it benefits from it. There is one scene in the middle that had me both howling and marvelling at Geoff's audacity and for writers, there is a a series of sly digs at the publishing industry and, in particular, literary fiction writers, which had me grinning like the cheshire cat.

I'm a big fan. Sheer Fear can be read before Doppelganger and Rock n Roll Suicide and if you like a rattling good crime fiction read with an absorbing, flawed, charismatic lead character who you will root for all the way down the line, and villains you will definitely want to see get their just desserts, you will love it. At the price, it is a steal. Heartily recommend.
 Go to Amazon.com to see the review 5.0 out of 5 stars


  1. Great post; best of luck with sales, Geoffrey.

  2. This is a fabulous interview Mark and your review is terrific. This whole post is filled with favourites of mine from Jack, whose return I'm delighted by, Geoff (obviously!) to Carla that I also rate very highly. I love the picture of Julia with the lobster and you couldn't have a better person in your corner Geoff (Julia that is , not the lobster!) You are incredibly busy as always Geoff and I wish you all the best with Sheer Fear and all the other work you have on the way! Well done on getting Sheer Fear out and I can't wait to get to it. Gx

  3. Thank you, Mark, Geoff and Georgia for your kind words - and I wish Geoff all well-deserved success with his book, I very much enjoyed proofreading it.

  4. Fab intervooo as usual, Marky Mark, and Sheer Fear is next on my reading list (after a couple of short stories) !

  5. Nice one Mark. Geoff is an interesting man and I'm going to get Sheer Fear as well. I'll tweet Geoff and let him know when I do and if he sees this - good luck!

  6. A terrific interview! I love Jack Lockwood and I'm beside myself with glee that not only do I have Sheer Fear to look forward to but the short stories and the premise for book 4 sounds great. I like the fact that Jack is so hopeless where women are concerned and don't want him to settle down. I agree with Mark that one of the strengths of the Jack Lockwood stories are the intriguing female characters that Geoff creates.

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