Sunday 1 August 2010

Lewdness and bad language in creative writing by harry Riley

‘Lewdness and bad language in creative writing’

by Harry Riley

This is a thorny issue and has got a lot of good writers in trouble in the past. There are so many conflicting views on the subject and now that official censorship has been abandoned it is up to the individual to choose his or her own course. It may depend on the market they are aiming for, or as in my case, based on their own moral convictions. I grew up in an age when a man would not swear in front of a woman and a simple blasphemy like Bloody-Hell was frowned upon. Flipping Heck and Flopping-Heck were preferred alternatives. D.H. Lawrence got into bother and was ostracized with his sexual descriptions that today many folk would think laughable. I taught my kids that foul language belonged in the gutter and should not be brought into the home and I still believe in that principle. There are though, people who break all the rules, who can use the most extreme expletives and still get away with it, whilst others would be severely castigated. One such person who springs to mind is the comedian Billy Connolly. He has such a mischievous way with his performance that millions adore his comedy-genius in spite of his lewd behaviour and outrageous language on stage.

My formative years were spent in a pleasant but straight-laced Methodist community; leaving a deep impression and a moralistic outlook. The England I now inhabit is not the England grew up in. That environment has gone forever along with many of its core values. It is no use bemoaning this fact, we all have to move on, adapt and change or become extinct like the Dinosaur.

A writer though, has to remain loyal to his own values. If he can do that and live with himself he shouldn’t have to worry too much about what others may think. With D.H. Lawrence possibly his own natural talent got the better of him. As he unlocked the door to creativity, maybe he found himself, like his namesake: Lawrence of Arabia; caught up on the tail of a whirlwind and blown right into the eye of the storm; unconventional trailblazers; years ahead of their time; both being blessed with the spirit of intellectual genius. They didn’t follow public opinion but instead, showed us another way to travel, if only we had eyes to see. All around me I see the influence of American culture and wonder if we have truly become a satellite state. As we grow older it is often said the father becomes the child of his offspring. So maybe it is the same with great States, The Pilgrim Fathers set off from England to export our culture to a foreign land and now it seems the wheel has turned full circle, we have been swallowed up by the culture of America.

Thursday 21 January 2010

The Phantom Staircase by Harry Riley

‘The Phantom Staircase’

A ghost story by Harry Riley

(This is fiction and resemblance to anyone living or dead is coincidental)

A short while ago William Smithurst, a salesman friend of mine was passing through the West - Country on business and looking for a place to stay. It was to be a regular journey for him and he was seeking a base where he might stop over for a few days or a week at a time. As he drove into a pleasant rural village called Lower Grafton he saw the sign in the window of a pretty little, ancient stone cottage.

It read simply ‘Lilac cottage (holiday-let) Contact Ashton agency. Main Street. Lower Grafton.’ The cottage possessed a sturdy thatched roof typical of the area and had a small, somewhat neglected garden complete with Lilac tree in bloom surrounded by a low white painted picket fence. Purely on instinct he pulled over and parked up in a lay – bye, walking back to obtain a closer view. ‘Yes this looked promising with its Clematis twisting around the solid oak door.’ The place seemed empty and there was a short gravelled area off the road to park his car. Looking through the front bay window that reached almost to ground level he saw it was furnished in a pleasant manner. All exposed beams and inglenook open fire. This had probably been built as a dwelling for an agricultural worker and family. The open staircase came down into the room. The cottage seemed to be welcoming him, ‘saying come inside why don’t you?’ He went around the back and peered in through the small kitchen window and all the main amenities seemed to be present, with a butler sink and gas hob. ‘Yes, if the price suited his budget this could be his home from home, and better still there was a quaint village pub across the road. He could have a drink and practically fall right into bed.’

Visiting the agency shop in the village he saw a middle-aged woman typing at a desk who seemed genuinely surprised he was enquiring about Lilac cottage, just down the road.

“Surely you don’t want to stay there? Nobody ever does.”

“Why on earth not? Is it too costly?”

The woman shrugged ignoring his question and became more businesslike, asking him to wait while she consulted her list.

“It’s £300 for a short break and £500 by the week and we don’t allow pets.”

“Okay!” He made up his mind on the spot. “Okay I’ll take it for a trial of one week please.”

The agent seemed incredulous, “Eh, oh well, if you say so, it’s your funeral!”

She handed over the keys with a dry mirthless smile and a cryptic warning: “Sleep well!”

And sleep well he did for the first four nights anyway. The tranquil location suited him down to the ground and he rang his wife to say he thought it would be an ideal place for them to stay for a family holiday. He was getting to know the area quite well as he drove around and the landlord of the ‘Pig and Whistle’ public house just across the road was a very amiable chap and was providing superb, low cost evening meals. All in all, this cottage was turning out to be an inspired choice in spite of the agency woman’s comments. If only he had known what was in store for him!

He had a few drinks in the pub after his Vegan curry and was feeling quite mellow as he fell into bed on the fifth night. It must have been about two o’clock in the morning when he awoke in a sweat. ‘Was it the curry?’ You know how deathly quiet it can be in the country during the dark hours, well as he gazed around the room he realised with a shock that the bedroom light was on. He was certain he had switched it off before turning in. As he listened for the usual silence, something was different. He could hear voices, a man and woman quarrelling violently. Then without warning the light went out again. He lay there for a moment or two hardly daring to breath. He was not a coward but like many people he was nervous of things that seemed to have no logical foundation. The voices could still be heard and now they were just outside his door. The woman was screaming in anger and the man sounded drunk as he lumbered up the stairs. William was puzzled and scared but his hand located the torch on the bedside table and he switched it on, not caring to try the light switch that was obviously faulty. Opening the bedroom door he shone the light on a scene that almost drove him mad. A young woman in a long white nightdress was haranguing a man outside his door. William shouted out in alarm but they ignored him and with a frenzied rush the woman thrust a large kitchen knife into the man’s chest just as he mounted the top step. His eyes opened wide in amazement and he fell backwards down the stairs. But there was something strange. The staircase was in the wrong place! Just to the side of William’s bedroom door should have been a short landing with the other bedroom leading off and where had the bathroom door gone? There was something else; the two protagonists hadn’t seen him…they didn’t know he was there. Their clothes looked so old fashioned. The young woman was wearing a strange lace hat and the man, presumably her husband or partner was wearing a waistcoat and collarless shirt. The woman had collapsed in a heap on the floor by William’s side, moaning softly to herself. He reached out to comfort her but his hand passed right through her shoulder. He could see the bottom stair where the drunken man lay dead or dying. A big pool of blood was leaking across his stomach and onto the plain floorboards, but William was powerless to go to help. It seemed his feet were glued to the spot. He knew he wasn’t dreaming but he also knew this was an unnatural occurrence. He ran back inside his bedroom and climbed into bed. He awoke the next day with the memory still bright and clear. It was as he sat in the pub that evening, relating his strange experience that the publican shook his head and said William had just solved a 200 year old murder that had been haunting folk for generations. They all knew the story of the death house called Lilac Cottage. But nobody had been able to say how it really happened.

Until William came along no one had dared to stay and find out. The story goes that the wife claimed she was away at her sister’s when it happened and a burglar must have done the dreadful deed. Folk never locked their homes in those days. Another couple eventually bought the house and changed the layout, moving the staircase to create an upstairs bathroom. One day they ran away screaming and were never seen again.


Friday 11 December 2009

'Choosing your publisher'

‘Choosing your publisher’

By Harry Riley of Nottingham

Having written ‘Sins of the Father’ my first mystery ghost novel I was faced with a ‘common’ writer’s dilemma, how to get the manuscript into print. You are a celebrity?

Have a friend or relative in publishing? No problem! Mainstream publishers are probably falling over themselves in the rush to sign you up, and with a big advance into the bargain.

I used to run a commercial printing company but only took up creative writing on retirement as a stimulating challenge and to try and ward off the evil curse of Dementia that seems to be lurking around every corner for people of my age. So seeing my name on a book was not my overriding ambition. What was important was to research mainstream publishers to seek out the right one for me and to find out how other writers had won through. This was a chastening experience. Many established writers had spent months or even years submitting manuscripts to publishers and literary agents only to have them returned, rejected or even unopened. More than this I now understood that many publishers and agents do not take work from ‘first timers’ or unpublished writers. As a pensioner I couldn’t wait for several years as my allotted time on this earth was fast running out. I already had another two anthologies and a follow up novel waiting in the wings. So I consulted a hi-tech guru (my son) whose advice was simple: In his opinion the future of publishing lies with the Internet and the global community. He advised me to seek out a publisher on the Web. Once I chose this path another problem loomed large; could I afford to try the well publicised, avenue of self-publishing? The short answer was no, and even if I had taken that course, could I have justified the high cost, time and effort involved? There are plenty of Internet Companies who will undertake this task and who offer a range of services that can range from basic to a more comprehensive package depending on work involved and the amount that you are prepared to pay. This option is often called ‘Vanity Printing’ and the name put me off. However over recent years I have seen many fine and old established printing and packaging companies go to the wall and this must surely have been the same with publishers and bookstores so I am realistic enough to know that to succeed, a publisher has a duty to make money in order to stay in business and to promote the cause of his writers. So where did I go from there? What does self-publishing entail? It would seem an ISBN number is essential for a book to be officially listed and searchable. To be sold and distributed in the UK a ‘Bar-Code’ is required and the book has to be catalogued with the British Library. This is just for starters! Then there is the huge task of marketing and promotion. Although I have been a sales manager with a national company I have always been a square peg in a round hole when it comes to ‘Self-Promotion.’ I am not an extrovert and find the whole subject uncomfortable. My natural inclination is to slink around unseen in the shadows, lifting my head above the parapet only to draw breath and before scuttling off again to my quiet peaceful corner. I have heard of ‘E’ books and this might become a new and exciting outlet for writers. I am watching this phenomenon very closely. Anyway My story was written and still I vacillated until I came across an item on the Internet about a writer who had been interviewed by the BBC. This writer had chosen a publisher called Pneuma Springs of Dartford Kent.

Maybe I could try them? I found their website: and after some cross-checking-research, read that they seem to offer a straight-forward, no-nonsense contract for stories they consider satisfactory. For a small fee they will do all the work of getting the book listed, typeset, printed, published and registered with the major online outlets, wholesalers etc. They have their own on-line bookstore and assist with promotion, the author keeps copyright and receives a sales based commission.

Well ‘for my sins’ I chose this way for my first novel and honestly believe that having invested a ‘token-outlay’ I have received excellent value for money, with a product (paperback) of good commercial quality, perfectly fit for today’s market and released on time. Yes, I had to put a little money where my mouth is, as a commitment and a belief in my novel and was pleased to do so (I have learned there are no free lunches in this life!)

Doing my best to assist book sales with a few ideas of my own is no great hardship and I have written this guide for other writers in the hope that it may bring a little light and hope to their efforts.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Prologue to Sins of the Father novel

Hello I’m Harry Riley, of Nottingham England.

This is a prologue (830 words) to my forthcoming mystery thriller novel,

available in December 2009 called:

‘Sins of the Father’

(The haunted life of Doctor James Parker)

This tale concerns the lives of two young men whose paths were doomed to clash even before they were born, with devastating results for all concerned.

It is set in a small village in Northumberland, a village once considered to be the most dangerous place in England.

Now it is only the eerie call of the curlews and oystercatchers circling high above the river that pleasantly disturbs the clean air and tranquillity.

Nestling in a valley on the banks of a famous salmon fishing river…the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, it is incidentally the village where I once owned a small cottage, I have simply made a few fictional additions such as a village pond and a Wesleyan Chapel to aid the storyline and changed the name of the village lightly, calling it Norbridge.

The ruined castle where John De Baliol, Lord of Barnard Castle was judged King of Scotland…swearing fealty to The English King Edward…the ancient church, still bearing the scars of Cromwell’s musket balls on its outer walls and where Robert the Bruce once sheltered…and the school in the village, really do exist, as does the old stone bridge across the Tweed…separating England from Scotland.

My story opens just after the end of the Second World War and progresses into the 1960’s; to a Britain still advocating the ‘hang-mans rope’ for the most wilful acts of murder.

For those who do not know this northerly clime it is a land where the smallest whisper of wind blowing quietly over the hills and glens awakens the sleeping ghosts of history, and where the mighty clash of battle from two ancient armies still rings loud and clear.

Ruined castles spring up abundantly around almost every bend in the road and large fortified stone houses with high towers bear witness to the protection once needed from the ‘Border Reivers’ those lawless bands of raiders who crossed the borders mounted on swift horses to hack and wreck and rob and plunder, showing no mercy to man or beast. It is a special land that has produced and inspired some of the world’s most gifted writers like Sir Walter Scott with his classic ‘Marmion’ James Hogg (the Ettrick Shepherd.) with his many plays, poems and novels, John Buchan, he of ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ and latterly Nigel Tranter, with his brilliantly researched historical adventure novels, plus artists such as L.S. Lowry with his iconic paintings of Berwick Upon Tweed and the poet…the National Bard of Scotland; ‘Rabbie Burns’ who upon crossing the bridge at Coldstream in 1787, alighted from his horse and recited part of ‘The Cotter’s Tale’ before walking over to the English side. The bridge bears a plaque commemorating his visit.

I have chosen the beautiful Coldstream Bridge between England and Scotland for the cover of my novel as it spans the winding banks of the silver River Tweed and is evocative of that fabled land; now thankfully at peace with itself after centuries of violent turmoil.

In my story Billy Turpin is a big strong orphan with a secret hate that sits on his broad shoulders like an invisible monster screaming revenge into his tortured brain. By a stroke of good fortune and evil cunning he acquires great wealth and builds a successful business empire.

A long way from home and in a very bad place; the unadventurous James Parker tries to forget his troubles as he conveys the love of his home country to Carl Brandon, his new American friend in adversity. Such is James Parker’s passion for the fresh clean air and the small friendly communities of his native land that the sad and lonely American from The Bronx listens fascinated and becomes filled with a desire to see it all for himself. If only with his failing health he could survive the cruel treachery of the African Jungle.

I put James Parker, my main character, into life threatening situations. I also bring in a sub plot or two to create mischief and muddy the water. There is Billy Turpin, a powerful friend who is really a vicious enemy burning up with hate and eventually there is the underlying suggestion of strange spiritual activity going on in the background. Doctor James Parker has often suffered from depression and at times of extreme stress has been known to hallucinate. It is at these times that his mind seeks the comfort of the supernatural and conjures up visions of lost friends and family and in particular of Rosie, his beloved younger sister. They say every story needs a hero but James Parker is not cast in the heroic mould and if there is a hero to my story it has to be the awesome historical countryside of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and in particular the silver, winding, River Tweed.


The author will be pleased to sign and dedicate books directly purchased through him-email:

Harryriley Nottingham on ‘facebook’

Sins of the Father: ISBN 978-1-905809-77-6

Pneuma Springs Publishing

Available from Publisher, Bookshops, Amazon and good online stores-search by ISBN from November 30th. 2009

RRP: £9.99

Monday 16 November 2009

The Beauty of Berwick Upon Tweed

‘The Beauty of Berwick Upon Tweed’

By Harry Riley

Over thirty years ago we took a family holiday in Northumberland and whilst there decided to spend a day on Lindisfarne (Holy Island)

On arrival at the causeway-crossing the tides were against us and there was to be a two-hour delay. We were only a twenty-minute drive from Berwick Upon Tweed so we thought we could wander around England’s most northerly town to fill up the time. Little did we know as we parked up in the centre of this fascinating coastal market town that it would be the start of a life-long journey of discovery. We had no idea what to expect as we popped into the tourist information centre to obtain a simple town map.

The air was bracing and the sky was a clear sunny blue as we sauntered along the wide footpaths of the grassy, Elizabethan Walls, now in the care of English Heritage…admiring ancient cannons (one from the Crimean War) and spectacular sea views over the cliffs.

The historic town of Berwick Upon Tweed is situated at the mouth of the River Tweed (a famous salmon river) where it joins the sea at the end of its winding path through the glorious Scottish Border Country. So absorbing was this rugged land with its ruined castles and troubled history hiding under every stone and grassy knoll that we would return annually for extended holidays, culminating in the purchase of a second home in a little village called Norham, nestling on the banks of the River Tweed and only eight miles from Berwick.

Berwick has three bridges spanning the river and has been fought over many times by the English and Scots including being taken by the great Scottish hero: William Wallace.

One of his limbs was gruesomely displayed, hanging from the old bridge after his execution…as a warning to all. Berwick remains an English town for the present at least.

Our walk around the outer perimeter of the town took us less than two hours but was surprisingly relaxing…quiet and invigorating with an indefinable atmosphere of welcoming peacefulness away from the hustle and bustle of the busy A1 motorway traffic which at that time ran through the town centre. We passed the Cromwellian Holy Trinity Church, said to be built from the stones of Berwick Castle, and the imposing Barracks of The Kings Own Scottish Borderers with its fine regimental museum and on towards the lighthouse, the Main Guard and the old Quay Walls. We were now approaching Palace Green wher the Military Governor one lived and we could see across the harbour to the golden holiday sands of Spittal…once famous for its health giving Spa Wells. On our right was the large decorative crest over the old Customs House, reminder of Berwick’s important maritime past.

The large colony of Berwick Swans with their distinctive patch of yellow above the beak was in evidence by the pink sandstone Berwick Old Bridge and then we were walking along the banks of the Tweed with the ancient settlement of Tweedmouth across the other side, towards the Royal Border Bridge built by Robert Stephenson and up the slope of Megs Mount, overlooking the wide river estuary. The town hall with its tall, sky-splitting clock tower comprises of a greyish-pink stone and was once the gaol from where men and women were taken to a place of execution, sometimes for seemingly trivial offences.

The majority of town buildings have cheerful red pan-tile roofs with some of grey slate and have been painted by many artists including L.S.Lowry. Eventually turning into the town we found the shopkeepers helpful and friendly. This completed our welcoming experience and created an abiding memory. Berwick upon Tweed became our base as we hunted out the wondrous gems of the Borders.


Sunday 15 November 2009

'Return to Northumberland'

Hello I’m Harry Riley

Welcome to Harry’s Ten-Minute Tales

This story is called:

‘Return to Northumberland ’

This is a review of a recent event with the addition of one or two comments of a possible ghostly significance. I leave it to you to decide.

To set the scene I have to go back over forty years to a time when big new roads were the coming thing. In 1959 Ernest Marples (Transport Minister) inaugurated the new M1 motorway in a big fanfare of publicity and the railways were considered by the

Government of the day to be loss-making relics of a bygone Victorian era.

As a result many Railway Stations were closed in 1965 during the savage railway purges prescribed by ‘Doctor Richard Beeching’ as the cure for the Nation’s Railway System and thus blighting the lives of thousands of rural folk. Much of the country’s valuable line stock was viciously ripped up by uncaring hands and sold for scrap along with irreplaceable buildings and transportation links that had taken many years of dedicated work to build.

In Northumberland much of the line had been planned by George Stephenson (he of the Rocket Engine fame) and had been commissioned by the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway Co. in 1849.

It was his son Robert who was later to complete the magnificent Royal Border Bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed with its 28 elegant stone arches spanning the salmon-rich River Tweed.

On a recent October night we had the good fortune to attend an evening performance at a disused Northumberland Station, of a ghost story about a haunted railwayman who is tormented by the prospect of imminent tragedy along the line.

This was only one of a number of events taking place as part of the 150th. Stephenson Celebrations.

It was fitting that as we set off at dusk a thick autumn mist should descend, swirling over the hills and across the Scottish Borders (the direction we were travelling from) making driving more difficult as we crossed the River Tweed into England.

Fortunately we arrived at our destination on time and saw the large banner proclaiming the ‘150th. Stephenson Anniversary Celebrations.’

Coming towards us as the mist waxed and waned was a tall man carrying a torch and looking for the world like a Funeral Director in his long black frock coat and top hat..

Tim Kirton (the Stephenson Project Officer) introduced Chris Green (the man in the Frock Coat and Top Hat) and the performance of the ghost story began. It was inspired and all credit to the Organisers. The show made for an enjoyable and unforgettable experience in a perfect railway setting, the murky darkness being broken only by the yellow light from a few Victorian station lamps. We even heard an owl hooting in the background.

Taking our leave afterwards with heads still full of ghostly images from the drama and with the car’s main lights cutting a swathe through the foggy night we drove towards the exit and just for a fleeting moment caught sight of a man standing alone on the platform. He appeared to be an old-fashioned railway employee, wearing a bowler hat, short jacket and kerchief round his neck. He was carrying a guard’s lantern and had a confused look on his countenance, as if he was waiting for his train.

We wondered as we drove home if we had imagined it…if this was part of the stage-managed production…or if it could have been just another lost soul waiting for a train that would never come.


Saturday 14 November 2009

Sins of the Father

The haunted life of Doctor James Parker

ISBN 978-1-905809-77-6

Pneuma Springs Publishing



Available from Publisher, Bookshops, Wholesalers and good

Online stores - search by ISBN

RRP - £9.99

About the Book

Harry Riley releases a gripping and suspenseful page-turner

that will defy your efforts to put it down.

Ruthlessly manipulated for most of his adult life by a cunning enemy

posing as his friend, Doctor James Parker slides into a deep pit of

depression. He is past listening to reason and believes he has every

reason to kill his generous benefactor, the man he blames for all his

misfortunes. But the gallows await!

After a cruel start in life, abandoned outside an orphanage as a baby, Billy

Turpin grows up to be a handsome and successful entrepreneur running

several companies. Many are hypnotized by his wealth and charismatic

charm. But one person suspects he is also a psychopathic killer.

Two people whose paths were doomed to cross even before they were

born, with the most tragic consequences imaginable for all concerned.

…Find out more…visit book web page @

This thrilling fictional novel will intrigue and shock you in equal measure.