The story behind the story (6) The Coat

The inspiration for this book came as a result of a meeting I had with a business colleague.

Following the usual greeting, ‘did you have a good weekend?’ my colleague replied that she had had the misfortune to come away from a dinner-dance with the wrong coat, much to her embarrassment. On the way back from the meeting, my mind was in overdrive recounting the experience and I recognised that this could be the basis of a story.

So, the tale unfolds about a business owner who is about to lose everything; his coach-business is in dire straits financially, and it’s his wife’s 40th birthday. To celebrate, Keith Woodley, owner of the stricken company, damns the expense… and consequences, and arranges to take her to a ‘posh’ dinner-dance at a local hotel and buys her a very expensive leather coat to wear for the occasion.

Of course, there’s confusion at the end of the night and his wife picks up the wrong coat which is not discovered until the following morning. Whilst checking through the pockets to see if there’s anything to identify the owner, Keith discovers a key to a left-luggage locker and sets about trying to trace the location, believing it might contain something of value, and save his business – nobody would find out, he naively convinces himself.

Suffice it to say, it doesn’t go as he had hoped.

What follows is a look at the grim world of people-trafficking and gang-warfare. The research was at times harrowing; and I tried to relate the absolute misery and suffering that the unfortunate victims have to endure. I also wanted to show the bravery of the girls forced into this modern form of slavery, trying to imagine the fear as they battled for survival and then portray that feeling to the reader.

There are some interesting characters which I found fascinating to explore, from the the evil gang-leader, the luckless Keith, and the girls who are undoubtedly the heroines.

There was an opportunity for this to be a very morbid account of an extremely sleazy and depressing world. However, there’s humour, and optimism to address the balance, then plenty of tension when it becomes a question of life or death.

The question is how would Keith cope under this pressure when he is forced to become involved? Keith needs to keep things together and prevent his problems from affecting his family, unfortunately his efforts are not entirely successful.

Readers Reviews: ‘I absolutely loved this book, it takes you on a journey through the seedy underworld of female trafficking. It’s a fast-paced thriller that you will not be able to put down. This has to be “the” best thriller I have ever read, I read this book in a day, one of those books you just had to read quickly to discover what happens next. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Alan Reynolds.’

‘A gripping thriller with very interesting characters and very contemporary, set up in a modern northern city, where people smuggling for the sex trade is rife. Plenty of nuance, and humour too. I learnt a lot and didn’t want it to end.’


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The story behind the story (5) The Tinker

With work commitments in Bristol, I was a regular traveller down the M5. Being bored with the journey and with a little time; this one afternoon I decided to make a detour and take in some of the scenery of the Cotswolds. Using the A46, the old Fosse Way, I went through Stroud and stumbled on the village of Painswick where I decided to stop for a coffee. It was a glorious day and the village looked spectacular, particularly the church of St Mary’s which dominates the area. It’s famous for its ninety-nine yew trees in the churchyard and I was told by the café owner that there is a legend that if anyone tries to plant number one-hundred the devil will come and dig it up!

That gives a feel for the village, quaint and picturesque, and I loved it. As I was sat drinking my coffee, an idea came to me. I could see the man quite clearly in my head, Michael, an itinerant worker, cycling into the village (which I named Drayburn), on his make-shift bicycle. What was his story I asked myself?

After Flying with Kites, this was my second fastest book to write, the story seemed to flow onto my laptop. The characters, the redoubtable vicar and his wife, the former Indian Army major who owns the Manor, the former TV soap-star and local celebrity, and the man-hungry local hairdresser, soon took on lives of their own.

The book is set in late May 1986, before the internet and mobile phones and there is an innocence and tranquillity in the opening chapter as the characters are introduced. This is soon shattered by a huge thunderstorm heralding Michael’s arrival. This year is his sixth visit having stayed at the vicarage doing odd-jobs for the previous five summers. This year, 1986, it will be different.

Gradually, hints start to appear about his background and when he is spotted by someone from his past, he and those around him are suddenly thrown into great danger. I won’t spoil the story, but I did a lot of research around the circumstances that led to Michael going on the road to ensure its accuracy.

Finally, a note about the cover. Again, it is taken from a photograph I took on that visit of St Mary’s Church wonderfully adapted by the graphics people at Fisher King.

I have been back to Painswick several times since and met many locals; I was asked to do a book-signing at their annual village fete but unfortunately a holiday commitment intervened

Readers Review; from a reader in Ohio

Every once in a while, literary magic happens, not often – just often enough to let you know it exists. Alan Reynolds has written several novels “Flying with Kites ~ The Sixth Pillar ~ Breaking the Bank” etc. – all well-crafted and with an easy to read voice. He is what is called in literary circles a competent author ~ he does the job to the satisfaction of his readers … with his latest novel he does more … much, much … much … more.
From the moment you begin to read “The Tinker” you realize something special is taking place between you and the words written between the front and back covers. To quote page 5 – “Everyone was given a warm welcome…” The quiet village of Drayburn, nestled in the English countryside, is the perfect place to relax while on holiday or before drifting off to sleep at night with this book and a hot cup of cocoa on your bedside table. And you do relax. You do become part of the village, a friend to Michael … like all the rest.
Literary magic is not about what the author puts on the page, but what he doesn’t. It is seeing an image that was never described with or without clever adjectives but is never-the-less there radiant between the lines. There is a growing tension somehow surrounding this unusual, seasonal, handy-man (Tinker) you can feel it … you want to keep reading but you don’t … you put the book aside for only a while. You want the feelings to last … like a summer love affair that you know has to end in September.
When the violence starts, and you know it must … good literature is always about extremes … you are no longer able to put the book aside, for even a little while. Too soon it ends … and you want more … the book’s only flaw.

Tinker cover main

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The story behind the story (4) The Sixth Pillar

In the 1990’s my favourite genre of books for holiday reading was those by Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, former SAS soldiers who were able to use their vast experience of modern warfare into fast-moving stories. My challenge was to write a story in a similar vein.

Written at a time when the so-called Islamic State was making the headlines, I was an avid reader of news reports and I started to ask questions about how individuals could be conditioned into committing such atrocities. My research gave me a much deeper understanding, and, I have to say, respect for Muslim culture.

The story starts in the first Gulf War with an SAS raid into Southern Iraq searching for Scud missiles. Having located a suspicious device, the squad are involved in a furious fire-fight with Republican Guard forces, and, in the course of the skirmish, a civilian house is flattened. From the ruins, crawls a five-year-old boy, Tariq. The book charts his life as, encouraged by his adopted father, he pursues the path of Jihad, which is viewed by extremists as the Sixth Pillar of Islam.

In 2005, I was working for one of the gas companies which required me to fly out to one of the rigs in the North Sea and for some time I had an idea for a possible story-line involving a terrorist attack on an offshore facility. The plot of the Sixth Pillar gave me that opportunity. When the action moves to the gas rig, I was able to use my experiences to give the reader an idea what it’s like to work on board one of these isolated platforms.

The story also follows the life of the SAS sergeant, Rory Calderwood, who led the 1993 raid and his battle against the demons that haunt him following his experiences in the war.

The book was shortlisted for a Wishing Shelf Award in 2014 and is presently with a film producer in Los Angeles with the hope that one day it will be made into a film.

Readers Review: ‘The Sixth Pillar is a brilliant book and wonderfully written… each page holding your attention throughout… a book definitely not to be missed! There has clearly been a tremendous amount of research gone into the writing of this action-packed thriller and the two main strands of the story line brought superbly together in a very clever and convincing way. The book is as enjoyable as all of Alan’s other publications and just leaves me waiting in anticipation of his next release. Highly recommended!’

Sixth Pillar

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The story behind the story (3) Breaking the Bank

Having worked in banking for thirty-six years, a story about the financial services industry was to some extent going to be home-from-home. The challenge, however, was to make it interesting for non-bankers.

The story follows the trials of an ordinary bank manager in an ordinary community in the north of England. I deliberately set the book in the mid-nineties to capture the culture of the time, so the reader can learn at first-hand the reasons for the mis-selling scandal that would hit the banks over a decade later.

Martin Brazier, the manager in question, knows how to play the game, and is not averse to helping himself to some of the perks of the job, notably the new graduate trainee who will do ‘anything’ to forward her career. The book is, occasionally, hedonistic but reflects accurately the culture prominent at the time. Achieving targets was everything; lucrative bonuses were, after all. available for those who attained their goals, the work-hard, play-hard ethic was evident. For others, it was a miserable existence. Bullying, coercion and subterfuge was part-and-parcel of everyday life and many of the extreme management behaviours reflected in the story are based on first-hand experiences and observations.

I regularly use these anecdotes in the management training courses I deliver as examples of how NOT to manage people. Bizarrely, these practices were deemed to be successful as they produced results. Unfortunately, no-one seemed to consider the wider implications, miss-selling, stress, high-turnover, increased disciplinary and grievance cases and so on.

As the story progresses, the appearance of a sleazy local club owner, who has his own reasons for opening an account at Brazier’s branch, adds tension to the storyline as the plot moves in a different direction. Pressure to hit targets results in less-than-satisfactory investigations into the background of this new customer. The tension mounts as we learn of the true intentions of the club owner; money-laundering is the least of his modus operandum.

The book chronicles real events into a fictional story, I wanted to expose the effect poor management has on behaviours of their teams. There are some salutary lessons for anyone in business or organisational leadership roles.

Readers reviews: ‘Having worked in the banking system I can relate to the background culture that was prevalent in 1990s / 2000s, and in other sectors, and I feel I have met the characters. The storyline takes us through an emotional roller coaster of emotions, excitement and despair, hedonistic fun and shattering sadness… recommended’

‘A great read, taking you behind the banking counter of the late 90’s. Whether fiction or fact for those that worked in banking during the period much of this book will ring bells in abundance. For those that didn’t work in the industry, prepare to be shocked.’

Breaking the Bank

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The story behind the story (2) Taskers End

Taskers End was, in fact, the fourth book I had written, summer/autumn, 2010, having complete the sequel to Flying with Kites, and a third related book, which remain unpublished.

This book was very different. I am not sure where the idea came from, but psychology and human behaviour has always held a strong interest for me. I started writing it without a clear idea of where the story would lead, which was dissimilar to the process with the previous books where I did have a vague idea of the ending.

I wrote the first chapter and could picture the three psychiatrists going over the notes of an inmate in a secure mental hospital. Their brief was to review the case to determine whether the patient was ready to be released back into society. The reader gains a great deal of background into why the individual had been committed and his progress to recovery. I became absorbed with the character, Gerald Perry, a narcissistic individual, suffering from schizophrenia. Formerly a forensic science graduate, he is not an endearing person, but as the story developed I began to understand him and the trials he had endured that resulted in his incarceration. The story gradually evolved.

He is eventually released, and he creates an alter-ego, Greg Jensen, who will be his persona from now on, to help him cope with the real world. Gerald/Greg are frequently battling for supremacy in his head as he comes to terms with his rehabilitation. While he has been imprisoned, however, his grandparents who raised him from the age of eleven, died in a fire, leaving Gerald their house, Taskers End, and a substantial sum of money. He eventually returns to the house and stumbles on evidence that leads him to question the verdict of their deaths; as a result, he starts his own investigations with devastating results. Who would believe him?

Early in the story, Gerald meets Maureen and their relationship was fascinating to write. She is confident and worldly, in fact everything that Gerald/Greg is not. The affect she has on him and his continued sanity is an important part of the story.

Greg/Gerald was probably the most complex character I have developed. It was very difficult, and at times emotional, to write. I did a great deal of research into the behaviour patterns typical of schizophrenia to ensure the story was accurate from a medical perspective.

Finally, a note about the cover. I took the photograph; it’s actually a care-home not far from where I live, but it was exactly as I had imagined Taskers End, with its turrets and imposing facade. The designers at Fisher King did an amazing job in creating an eerie scene, in line with the story.

A reader’s review: ‘This story had me hooked from the outset. I’m sure that my pulse rate must have increased as I progressed through it and circumstances, decisions and fate all began to take effect. I recommend this book to fans of Ruth Rendell and I don’t think for one moment they will be disappointed. Gripping stuff.’

TE Cover 1 (2)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting Published

Having completed ‘Flying with Kites’, the question I had was what would I do now? I had printed some paper copies using my own printer (it took hours!) and a couple of friends (and my mum) read them. They were giving me great encouragement with their positive comments. A neighbour introduced me to a website called ‘Authonomy’, which unfortunately no longer exists, which allowed aspiring authors to post their work and get feedback from other authors. Again, the feedback was positive and it was time to try to find an agent. Advice I was given suggested that this would be the best route to publication. I sent dozens of submissions to literary agents, mostly in London, but not all, and after three months of rejection after rejection I was about to give up. Out of the blue, one Friday afternoon I received a call from an agent in Bristol who had enjoyed the chapters I had sent and the synopsis and would I send the rest, which I did.

I received another call from him on Monday and he was moved by the story and want to act as my agent with a view to publication. Unfortunately after three months, nothing really had happened and then I had an email from him that he had been taken ill and had to give up work which meant he would not be able to represent me. I still continued writing and a couple of months later, I was introduced to a local publisher through a mutual friend, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fisher King took over as my agent and publisher and I have been with them ever since. The help and advice (and friendship) Rick Armstrong has provide has been immeasurable. The value of a good agent cannot be over-estimated.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The story behind the story (1) Flying with Kites

Flying with Kites was my first, and to date, my most successful novel, and it was this book that started my writing career.

In January 2010, my diary was free of work commitments and, not being one to sit around doing nothing, started doodling some notes on an A4 sheet of paper. At the back of my mind was an incident that had happened a few years earlier when I was working for a short time in Newcastle. One evening, I joined one of my colleagues for dinner and he kindly picked me up from my hotel. On the way back we passed the two tower-blocks which dominate the skyline as you come off the A1 Western By-pass and he related a story that had happened in the 1990’s. I won’t spoil the book by telling you that story as it is the basis of the book, but I started asking myself, how on earth can that have happened, what circumstances created that scenario.

As I continued my meanderings, I started to think about refugees (I still don’t remember why) and I recalled the exodus of people that came to the UK at the end of the Kosovan war in 1999. I started researching the internet and old news-footage on the BBC, and became engrossed with the history of what had happened.

A character started to emerge, Katya,  a strong, Kosovan woman who had been forced to escape with her young child… ‘The road from Pristina was deserted.’ I wrote my first words.

With the help of Google Earth, I chronicled her journey and the traumas she faced on the way. The lengths she had to go to protect her child, no-one should have to endure and I could sense the pain and suffering she was experiencing as I wrote the words. It was a fictional account but accurately reflected the situation at the time. To me, Katya was real!

There is another part to this story, the residents of the tower-blocks. I created three characters, Bigsy, Wazza, and Chirpie, life-long friends who grew up together and shared the same hardships. Mad-keen football fans, and skint, to make money they start delivering drugs for a local ‘heavy’ which, of course, leads to consequences. There is a great deal of humour in the narration, a counterpoint to the nihilism of the Kosovan escape.

The story evolves as Katya is eventually housed in the tower blocks…

I had no idea of the impact the book would have on me, and others. I started receiving messages from Kosovans living in London and in 2014 was privileged to be asked to speak at an independence event at the British Museum in the company of the Albanian Ambassador. I was also invited to the Houses of Parliament by the Kosovan Ambassador to celebrate their independence day in 2015. Last year I was interviewed by London Albanian Radio.

The book was awarded a Wishing Shelf Bronze award in 2013.Bronze Winner (3)

Flying with Kites

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment