Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Very Different Book Launch

Just back from the Launch of my book Bokassa’s Last Apostle and fellow Paradise Press author Elizabeth Lister’s book My Life Outside at the Wibbly Wobbly Floating Bar in South-East London.

To be honest, I was rather anxious about the outcome. Only two ‘maybes’ from facebook and some ‘no’s from the Paradise Press crew and, crucially, no confirmed attendances apart from Elizabeth. In the morning I hit the bookshops. Gay’s the Word want to put ten copies on the shelves and see how they go. Clone Zone in Old Compton Street only had smut on the shelves and I decided not to bother them. Prowler Soho’s book buyer was ‘on the phone’ and I was asked to leave my number. He hasn’t called back. Foyles LGBT book buyer hasn’t yet been replaced and the person who is looking after that department wasn’t there. Waterstones on the Strand, which had looked like it was closing down last time I passed by has re-opened after what must have been a re-fit. The only difference I could make out was that the Lesbian and Gay section had disappeared. Hummmmmm.

Later that afternoon I made my way to the Wibbly Wobbly with a Sainsbury’s Bag For Life weighed down with 7kg of books, and got there at 6.15. No one was there, so I got myself a coke and sat down at the back of the saloon. Elizabeth turned up at 6.50 with her daughter and a friend, complaining about the long walk around the dock. In my defence I didn’t know she had sustained another Morris Dancing injury. (Yes, it apparently really is that dangerous!) We made our way to the pontoon moored alongside the boat which serves as an outdoor smoking area and enjoyed a pleasantly balmy early evening.

I needn’t have worried, as time passed, most of the Paradise Press gang turned up, fashionably late. Some later than others, because they had gone the wrong way around the dock. (How can ‘keep the water to your left’ be made less ambiguous?) Anyhow, by now there was a sizable Paradise Press presence filling up most of the pontoon, spilling over several tables. Just a few locals grouped in twos at the fringes of our large and rather noisy gathering. After a while, Elizabeth put her teacher’s hat back on, stood up and announced our intention to read from our books to the few who had not come there to listen and asked if they’d mind. A couple of guys at the far end said they wanted to hear, and we were off.

I must admit, I was impressed with Elizabeth’s short but well-prepared presentation about how she came to write her trilogy, and its basis in fact with the shocking death of her mother-in-law, who jumped to her death from a bedroom window. Although I was relieved to hear that the rest of the book is fiction. I read the first chapter of my book. (Something I’m getting quite used to, as I’ve read it to quite a lot of audiences now.) And then we just spent a very congenial evening floating on the calming waters of Greenland Dock.

The surprise was to come later on. Although, as it turned out, it wasn’t ours. I had quickly realised I probably wasn’t going to sell any books as, apart from us, the boat was only sparsely populated with people who weren’t gay. But the male couple might just … We were discussing the possibility when they came up and congratulated me on my book. YES, they were gay. Australians, actually. One was visiting the other, who lived nearby and wanted to show his friend an interesting place to have a drink. They had watched us amassing, and said they had felt the gay and lesbian vibe, but were astonished to find themselves in the middle of what turned out to be an impromtu lesbian and Gay literary salon. So, for them, it really had turned out to be an interesting place!

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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Invitation to my Book Launch

An open invitation to readers of my blog in the London area to join me for a drink at the Wibbly Wobbly Floating Bar, moored alongside Greenland Dock in Surrey Quays, London SE16 7SZ, where I’ll be reading from my book Bokassa’s Last Apostle at its official launch.

The venue features in the book as an important setting and is a relaxing and unusual place to meet. Fellow Paradise Press author Elizabeth Lister’s book My Life Outside launches at the same time.

Copies of my book can be had at a discount at the launch. It’s at 7pm and I’d love to meet you there. To get there, make your way to Surrey Quays underground station. Cross the road outside and go up the hill opposite towards the prominent old red bridge.
The road is signed ‘Redriff Road’. Take the steps at the side of the bridge down to Greenland Dock and turn right. Walk around the dock, keeping the water to your left.
The Wibbly Wobbly is the large white boat moored alongside the dock wall at the far end.
If you are coming by car, you can park in the car park of the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre. Or you could even take the riverbus to Greenland Pier and take in another of the setting for my book at the same time!

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Thursday, 16 August 2012


(Well, not new exactly, I’ve known the content of this review for weeks, but it hadn’t appeared in Polari Magazine and so I felt honour bound not to divulge the review until they published it.)

Actually there is a rather nice story associated with this review. I had an email from the reviewer saying he was supposed to be finalising two other reviews for Polari, but had dipped into mine and was compelled to continue reading. He wrote this after devouring the first nine chapters. His very words: ‘yep, it’s that grippin.’ What better recommendation could I have wished for?

I felt a bit guilty, actually, as I should have warned him not to do that, but didn’t want to come over as too cocky. One of the other Paradise Press authors told me ‘it makes you want to turn the pages over quickly’. And that hasn’t been achieved without some considerable effort and a complete structural re-write.

I do rather think the review focuses rather too much on the sex, but I’ll admit there’s a fair bit in there. I’d like to think it’s tastefully done, but has enough of an edge in places to get you going.

Anyhow, here’s the complete review, which can be accessed here:

How could I have failed to respond favourably to a novel that starts with a prodigiously well-hung mixed-race young guy running bollock naked through the night streets of north-west London? Having thus captured his reader’s attention, Rod Shelton holds on to it by embarking on a fast-paced, picaresque romp which is funny, sexy and intriguing by turns.

The naked young man is Everton Jones (shades of Henry Fielding’s Tom here perhaps?) who has arrived in London from Dudley only to be robbed, beaten unconscious and stripped of all his possessions and, rather like a latterday Dick Whittington, all of his (designer) clothes too. Finding his way to Hampstead Heath (not without causing some alarmed reports to the police en route in which his uniquely identifying physical characteristic features, as it were, largely) Everton is rescued and taken in by Kash and Edouard, who just happen (like you do) to be manning a free condom and lube stall for night cruisers as the naked vision runs down the path towards them, lost and distressed.

From hereon the story careers, with its own madcap internal logic, through a serious of adventures (and misadventures) featuring the misappropriated (and now missing) diamonds of deposed Emperor Bokassa of the former Central African Empire. In hot pursuit of the same come the police, the diplomatic corps, warring south London street gangs, MI6, and the eponymous Apostles – ex-Emperor Bokassa’s sinisterly-tattooed, armed and highly dangerous followers. The stakes are high and the knives (and guns and torture implements) are out with a vengeance.

In this blackly-comic novel, high drama meets high camp and the reader is rewarded with raunchy gay sex amongst a bevy of beautiful boys, in every imaginable position, on almost every other page. Throw into the mix voodoo-style African magic, grigri (a potent magic charm), demons, drugs, kidnapping and torture – and did I mention sex? – and you have a heady summer cocktail (no pun intended) which will enliven any holiday poolside or beach.

And Bokassa’s diamonds? Well, turns out that Everton’s late father was one of his Apostles and may have had more than a passing interest in the gems, which would explain his frequent trips to Geneva. Does Everton find and claim them? You’ll just have to buy the book and find out for yourselves, won’t you?!

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Bokassa’s Last Apostle is IN PRINT

It should be easy, shouldn’t it? The printer prints the books, puts them in a delivery truck and they turn up at my place the next day. How different it all turns out in reality.

When I completed the order, I added the launch date to the web form, 20 August. You would think it obvious that I had to have the books in my hands by then at the very latest. A close reading of the confirmation email showed an expected delivery date of 20 August. Well, that’s a Monday, and I will be in London then, so needed the books delivered earlier, which would be … the previous Friday. A phone call to the printers placed a note on their file that they needed to have printed them out by the Thursday and handed over to their courier for delivery overnight. But it wasn’t reassuring.

I called them on Monday (13th). The person who was dealing with printing my books was apparently ‘on holiday’ for the week. Also not encouraging. A colleague called back and to my utter astonishment told me they were ‘ready to go’. Did she mean the job was set up and about to be printed or … YES! apparently they were ready to go on the delivery lorry. I was told they were just waiting to hear from me when it would be convenient to deliver them. I mean … when exactly were they proposing to ask me this? They actually had the books all packed up in their office and were just sitting around waiting for me to call them?

I said I wanted the books as soon as possible, and they sent them out that night. I sat around waiting for them to be delivered all morning yesterday until … out of curiosity I looked in the porch and found a little yellow note saying they had attempted to deliver but been unsuccessful. Do ALL carriers just post the little slip through the door without even bothering to knock?

The slip had an ‘InfoNotice’ number on it and a web address. I went online and entered the number. The delivery had taken place at 8.30am. EIGHT THIRTY? These days I don’ know what eight thirty looks like. And they were going to attempt re-delivery the next day, today. OR, I could call at their depot and collect them. Now that isn’t so very far away. Only were they there yet or still on the delivery van? The website didn’t say.

After an exhaustive search of the website I finally found a phone number. I called. The frustrating process of wading through the automated menu began. I entered the option to track a parcel. Yet another automated process. ‘Ensure you have the tracking number to hand’ the automated voice said. The TRACKING NUMBER. NOT the ‘info notice’ number. I hung up and went back to the website. More delving around and I found the tracking number. A long string of letters and numbers. Back to the phone? Oh no, I was now in a different place on the website. So I had to write down the damn tracking number and hunt afresh for their phone number. Finally back with the tracking service I was prompted to say the number. Only to be told it wasn’t a valid tracking number. I tried again. Same result. Finally I was told I would be transferred to a real live person, only to be promptly placed on hold.

When the real live person finally picked up I learned that the books would remain on the van until 6pm, when it got back into the depot. If I wanted, I could call and pick them up any time up to 8pm, or just wait until tomorrow. I could sign the back of the little yellow slip and authorise the driver to leave the books in the conservatory. I made a mental note to have this all set up in advance by giving clear instructions to the printer next time around. I put the slip in a plastic bag along with a large yellow notice and pinned it to the front door, just in case the lorry arrived unfeasibly early this morning.

In the final event it was I who got up unfeasibly early, only to have to wait until 9.10 for a large white van to show up.

Boxes all checked, only two copies with minor damage, all the covers on the right way up. You may laugh, but it can happen and actually did happen to at least one of the review copies. The paper isn’t as nice as in the review copies, but that was always a compromise to make sure they would fit into a large letter package and save on postage. More annoyingly the print was if anything slightly lighter. But the spine is aligned perfectly – no mean feat with a cover illustration on the spine and the vertical alignment of the pages is mostly spot on. The biggest surprise was that the book was actually slightly smaller than the review copy I compared it with. Measurement proved that the stock copy is the right size, the review copy was 1mm too wide and 2mm too high.

Anyhow, I can now dash off to the post office to deliver four advance copies which have astonishingly already been ordered and get the legal deposit copies off to the British Library.

Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway, click on the yellow panel opposite to participate. And, if you live near London, why not come along to the Launch Party? 7pm Monday 20 August on board the Wibbly Wobbly Floating Bar, moored alongside Greenland Dock, off Rope St. London SE16 7SZ. Nearest Tube: Surrey Quays. Just cross the road after leaving the station and head up the hill (marked Redriff Road) towards the distinctive old red bridge. Take the steps down the side of the red bridge to Greenland Dock. Turn to your right at the bottom and walk around the dock, keeping the water to your left. The Wibbly Wobbly is the large white boat moored at the far end. You can also park in the car park of the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre. If you live in London and have followed my blog, I would LOVE to meet you over a drink at the bar and will be reading from my book.

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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wooden Spoon?

This is absolutely my last Olympics-themed post.

I found this interesting morsel online just now. Apparently the Wall Street Journal is awarding lead, tin and zinc medals for overall last, next-to-last and next highest placed entrants. Apparently 'Team GB' TOP the table for the most of these medals by a country mile. This might be because, as home nation, we don't have to make the qualifying time to enter for an event. It is certainly fantastic news that we have come in third over all and hauled in the largest number of medals in a century. Particularly as the top two spots are countries with far larger populations than ours. But it is interesting to note that we got the wooden spoon as well!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Printer’s Proofs Arrive

The proof of the cover arrived on Thursday (2 Aug)! And posed an intriguing mystery. I measured the cover carefully. The crop marks were exactly the right separation, with the exception of the spine. The printer’s website has a neat spine-width calculator, and the spine worked out to 15.44 mm wide. So I carefully built the cover to this precise dimension. To my extreme surprise, the crop-marks for the spine on my proof were exactly 16mm apart. Yet the original file was narrower. Had they edited the cover, adding an extra 0.56mm to the left-hand side? And would I get billed for that? Whatever would they have done had I put a picture or texture up to the edge of the file? The simple answer turned out to be that the crop-mark at the extreme left-hand side was only about 2.5mm from the edge. They had obviously moved the crop marks over by the difference: 0.56mm

So why provide a tool on their website which gives a misleading figure? They state that I should allow a ±10% tolerance for the spine to allow for ‘swelling’ of the paper. Was this the reason? I have a ‘hard’ edge to the cover. That is to say the front cover is an illustration and the spine is plain yellow. They are going to have to align the cover along that edge. Sure enough, the crop mark for the left-hand edge of the front cover lines up exactly along this edge. So far so good. I suppose everything to the left of this is purely notional, as the precise place where the cover will be folded will depend on the humidity at the time they print it off.

My cover photo is so engaging that I opted to put it on the spine, so that the book screams out at you to pick it up off the shelves of a bookshop. I left a 1mm gap on each side to allow for some variation in the press. But, with the crop marks where they are now, the gap on the left-hand side is bigger by 0.56mm. With the effect that the image on the spine is off centre. Funnily enough, the logo and spine lettering is dead centre with the wider spine. I must have had it slightly out when I created the spine. Well that’s a blessing!

It’s completely academic, anyway. The proof approval form clearly states that any alterations would require submitting replacement files and incur a £100 ‘re-processing’ charge. It looks as though I’m going to hope for the best about the alignment of the cover image on the spine. That £100 fee kaiboshed any thoughts about correcting another niggle. The night before I’d found a typo in the text. A missing ‘a’. I had been busily re-proofing the text to see if there were other errors, and haven’t found one yet, thankfully. Although I have noted a few places where I might want to re-word it ever so slightly. But if getting it ABSOLUTELY right is going to cost me time and money, I think I’m going to have to let it drop. At £100, it would have been the most expensive ‘a’ in the history of publishing! Perhaps I should have a competition to find the typo? Or the one error in the plot sequence?

So why bother about a missing letter ‘a’ and an extra 0.56mm? Funnily enough, if the rest of the book is pixel perfect, even the smallest error seems to stand out more clearly. Still, another milestone in my book’s journey into the bookshops has just been passed.

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