The 411

Simon Sez is the online version of my long running e-newsletter. The blog will focus on my life as an author, my trials and tribulations as a foreigner in America and the oddities I discover along the way.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Little Something For The Weekend

It's an all for one and one for all play fair.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” 
~Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I’m happy to announce the release of a new collection of short crime stories called CRESTFALLEN.  The collection features San Francisco private investigator, Peter Crestfallen.   In fine PI style, he has a penchant for attracting problem clients. He's the kind of gumshoe who’ll always give a hundred percent, even if it’s for a ten percent return.  The stories in this collection are:

In CRESTFALLEN’s V.I.P., Crestfallen has to track down a stolen teddy bear for a senior citizen and he’ll have to go up against the White House to retrieve it.

In CRESTFALLEN’s GETAWAY, Crestfallen has to smuggle a mob accountant out of San Francisco.

In CRESTFALLEN’s KINK, Crestfallen is hired to find out what a housewife does in her off hours and is drawn into a dark world of alternative lifestyles.

In CRESTFALLEN’s WIDOW, Jane Staam hires Crestfallen to prove she didn't kill her terminally ill, millionaire husband.
The Crestfallen stories appeared in a number of anthologies over the years but he was a character I put on ice to work on other projects.  However I’m considering resurrecting him, as during my recent house move I discovered a manuscript for a novel I’d been writing.  It was inspired by a local incident in the 50’s and I thought would make for a nice back story.  The book needs work.  So I’m interested in what you think of Crestfallen and whether you'd like to hear more from this guy.  Buying links are hereEnjoy!  

Monday, July 21, 2014

SHELF LIFE: It's Not Me, It's You!

A few weeks ago, there was quite a lot of fuss made about Louis CK’s show Louie in which Louie comes precariously close to molesting a friend when she rebuffs his advances.  It is an uncomfortable scene which made me squirm.  Yes, there were mitigating circumstances for why the character did what he did but at the same time, it didn’t matter—the woman said no so the character crossed a line.  That’s the genius and the problem with a show like Louie, it does deal with a lot of dark stuff and makes us look at it.  Personally, I accept that a story will result in an emotional reaction from me.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes not.  That’s the point of a story—especially a well written one.

The weird thing was the reaction to the episode.  Quite a few people got het up by the scene.  Naturally, someone people were made just as uncomfortable as me but somehow made associations with the show, the character and the actor.  If Louis CK wrote the scene, acted in the scene, therefore he must think and behave that way.  I can see how lines get blurred when you appear in something you wrote.  However, the show isn't a reenactment of Louis CK’s life.  It’s a version.  An alternate reality.  A space where the what-if game is played.  The clue might be in the show’s subtle title—Louie—when Louis CK spells his name Louis and the character spells his Louie. It’s a detail thing.  J

The lines weren’t just blurred between Louis and his character but between Louis and the viewer.  Critics brought their own baggage to the argument and projected it on the shows to create a different interpretation.  I read one review written by a guy who admitted he forced himself on a woman years earlier, was repulsed by his actions and was repulsed by the TV episode and Louis CK’s endorsement of violence towards women.  Wow, project much?

This kind of projection happens a lot.  I’ve said before that I lose ownership of my stories the second they hit the bookshelf.  As much as I have a vision for a story or book that I expect everyone to see the same way, it won’t happen because we all have different experiences and world views.  My idea of poverty, marriage, injustice and anything else you care to name will be different from everybody else's because we've all lived different lives.  Even my interpretation of the color blue will be different to yours.  It’ll be similar but it will be different.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just the way it is.

I’m always interested in the reactions to my books and stories because it goes places I didn’t expect or indeed write.  Invariably someone will tell me about something that didn’t happen in the book.  Readers told me about events in both WE ALL FALL DOWN and TERMINATED that didn’t happen.  In each case, they were elaborations of particular scenes.  A woman once demanded that I apologize for the infidelity in ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.  It was so objectionable to her that a book feature and celebrate a protagonist that cheated on his wife.  Now there is infidelity in ACCIDENTS.  It’s occurs before the story begins and it’s the thing that essentially causes havoc for the protagonist throughout the book.  The same woman wanted to know that how many times I’d cheated on my wife.  She used the logic of if I wrote it then I must have done it.  At the end of this encounter, I did wonder if this woman was a victim of infidelity herself.  The ante got upped when someone wrote to my mother-in-law to tell her I was cheating on my wife because it was all mapped out in one of the stories in WORKING STIFFS. 

This is the tricky thing when it comes to fiction.  People assume if you write about a topic or have a character act a certain way therefore as the writer you must do those things in real life.  In some things, yes.  In most things, no.  Personally, I’m exploring a thought, an idea, a concept or a scenario that has caught my attention and I wonder what will happen if that issue was played out.  Just because a writer writes about rape, it doesn’t mean he's a rapist.  Stories are just that—stories.  They aren't manifestos or lifestyle endorsements—or at least they shouldn’t be.  So when you read something and you start judging the writer for their characters’ beliefs and actions, well, I’m sorry, it’s not me, it’s you.  J

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Little Something For THe Weekend

You've gotta have adversity to learn.

"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors."
~African Proverb

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HUMP DAY: The More You SHOULD Know!

Even though I’m in the second half of my forties, it’s odd that some mundane things such as getting on an escalator or crossing the road will make me nervous.  It’s not that I’m a big ‘fraidy cat or anything.  My fear is buried deep in my psyche.  The source of this psychological damage is the UK government and their Public Information Films of the 1970’s.

PI Films were supposed to help kids understand that the world was a dangerous place and children were easy prey.  The films dealt with dangers like crossing the road, playing with pills and chemicals, playing near bodies of water, hiding in things like fridges, but they also went all the way up to sexual predators.  These are worthy topics but the packaging the UK Govt. used was fear and unlike the patronizing The More You Know PSAs, these movies pulled no punches.
The reason I get a little worried about crossing the road or getting on an escalator was because the PI Films were scary.  The road crossing one illustrated the dangers of crossing the road between parked cars by having the cars’ big chrome grills turn into hungry steel mouths ready to eats thoughtless children.  The escalator PIF was no different.  It featured a child’s ragdoll ripped to pieces by the sharp edges of an escalator while the same happened to a child off screen.  The tactics used for these kinds of issue were pretty minor league things such as crossing the road and escalators.  The ante got upped when it came to topics such as sexual predators.  I remember the one I was shown about sexual predators gave nightmares to half my class for weeks, although for the life of me I can’t remember a single detail from it.  I do know my mum still can’t watch anything with the actor who played the pedophile. 
These films weren’t made by the government.  In most cases ad agencies or young filmmakers cut their teeth on these things.  Check out APACHES I’ve included here which warns children of overzealous play.  The director of that would go on to make THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY a few later and it’s hard to tell which has the gorier death scene (watch part 2 to see what I mean).  APACHES is a great example because it never tells you what you should or shouldn’t do.  It just lets a high body count do the talking for it.
It could be argued that these little movies went too far.  And yes, in a way they did as their psychological effect is still with me forty years later.  But I’ll defend these things to the ends of the earth because they worked.  They scared me straight and kept me save.  They were no different from the fairytales that warned children of the dangers of the world.  Okay we had a few nightmares but we were careful around pills, unmarked chemicals, matches, power stations, fireworks and bodies of stagnant water.  So I ask you to enjoy the nostalgia, absorb the message and try not to have any sleepless nights.  Enjoy the films, kiddies…

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NEW BOOK RELEASES: Tenths Of A Second & Father Figure

A couple of years, an audio book company bought the rights to a couple of original stories of mine.  Sadly, the company went bust a little while ago, but I bought the recordings before deletion.  The stories are quite different.  TENTHS OF A SECOND is a Twilight Zone-style story whil FATHER FIGURE is a Hitchcock Presents style story. Which is a good thing as these shows formed my storytelling sensibilities.  :-)

TENTHS OF A SECOND: Martin Warwick is a down on his luck racecar driver. His only accolade is to make the other drivers look good with his mediocre performances.  It's not that Martin is a bad driver. He's just not had the breaks.  He needs a better sponsor which would get him a better car and a little luck to put him ahead of the pack.  The break comes in the form of the mysterious Mallory.  He doesn't have money or connections.  He has a device to make Martin and any car he drives better.
When your hopes and dreams are just outside of your grasp, you're willing to do anything, regardless of the consequences.  Martin is about to find out what the price of fame really costs—and he's willing to pay it gladly.

FATHER FIGURE: Childs is a son of a bitch and a bastard—literally as well as figuratively—but what he really is, is a small time con man.  He's about to upgrade to the big time and go after the score of his life by bilking the software mogul, Charles Reston, out of every penny he can get. He's going to do it by convincing Reston that he's his illegitimate son, which shouldn't be too hard as the billionaire is his father. However, the problem with the long con is that you get a little too close to your mark...especially when you're looking for a father figure.

Neither of the stories have appeared in any other format, so if you'd like to listen to them, they are available to download here.  I hope you'll give them a listen.  They're fun stories and are nicely read.



Monday, July 14, 2014

SHELF LIFE: A Freaky Three Way...You Interested?

I’m thinking of doing a three way.  No…not that kind of a three way.  Get your minds out of a gutter.  I’m talking about doing a literary three way.  A written triptych as it were.  I’m wondering if I can tell the same story in three different genres.  Sounds like a swizz, but it’s not. 
Consider the Japanese movie Yôjinbô about a ronin (a samurai without a master) who plays two gangs off each other for money.  It was then remade as a western, better known as A Fistful Of Dollars with Clint Eastwood, then again as prohibition mob story better known you as Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis. 
This isn’t the first time this has occurred.  The Magnificent Seven was based on the Seven Samurais.  Sean Connery’s Outland was based on High Noon.  So it’s not like I’m being original or anything.  Oh, that didn’t come out right.  Hell, what I mean is that it’s not unheard of, although I’m not sure it’s ever been done in book form or ever been done by the same writer.  So yes, I am original, thank you very much.  Sometimes, you people are very judgey.
So how would I do it?  Not quick sure at the moment, but I think I can do a story that would translate to being a thriller, a horror story and sci-fi tale.  Those would be my chosen genres for this project.
I think it’s a neat idea, but what do you think?  Would you want to see a story done three ways?  Would you find it a tasty morsel?  I’m hungry to know.