Monthly Archives: November 2013

First Great Train Robbery Trailer Released

The BBC has released the first trailer (below) for the two-part Great Train Robbery film, ‘inspired by’ (as the credit have it) my novel Signal Red (as in ‘kickstarted’, which was its actual role; the finished product isn’t a film of the book). The first of the pair, A Robber’s Tale concentrates on Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans); the second, A Copper’s Tale, centres on the dour but dedicated policeman Tommy Butler (Jim Broadbent). The screenplays are by Chris Chibnall (Dr Who, Camelot, Law & Order, United, Broadchurch), but with different directors, DOPs and editors, each has a strikingly different feel, although they both have at their core a powerful central performance from the lead actor. They are scheduled to be shown ‘soon’ – most likely before Christmas. STOP PRESS: Films now due to be shown on December 18th and 19th.

The Walls Have Ears (and eyes and tentacles and pigeons)

Every time I go to another city I usually end up taking a tour of some description. Not the hop-on hop-off buses but something to do with food, architecture or music. But I very rarely do it on home turf. Recently, however, I took a walking tour with Alternative London, concentrating on the history, art and architecture of the East End and how it has changed. And changed it certainly has. When I worked in Wapping I used to walk up to Spitalfields Market for lunch from the rather ramshackle but tasty stalls. It was a shock to see the gleaming (and ubiquitous) Wagamamas, Leons, Canteens etc in their place. The old market now looks like a clone of the new King’s Cross Station concourse, albeit with out the trains.

But the main point was to look at the street art. The guide was a young Australian called Keir Ralph, who knew an impressive amount about everything from Hugeunots to hip-hop pigeons (as placed around the streets by artist Ronzo). He also pointed out otherwise hard-to-spot works, including diminutive sculptures and plaques by ‘Jonesy’, rumoured to be a sixty-odd-year-old Welshman, who must be pretty fit for his age, given some of the climbing involved in placing his installations.

Hanbury Street was an early stop – it has Belgian artist Roa’s crane, Guy Denning’s lady’s head and (not shown) Alexis Diaz’s elephant-cum-octopus, which could be an early seventies prog-rock album cover.

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Below is a portrait of Charlie Burns, a Brick lane legend, on Bacon Street, who died in 2012, aged 96, by Ben Slow.
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On the same street, another tribute, this one to Lou Reed, by Dscreet.
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On Brick Lane, one of New Yorker Colette’s augmented street signs.
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And a giant hand (aka David and Goliath) by Argentinean Martin Ron on Holywell Lane, which took eight days to complete.


You’ll also see work by Swoon, Monster, Mighty Mo, Cranio, the Burning Candy collective, Gold Peg, Sweet Toof, Citizen Kane, Space Invader.. it’s a very worthwhile two hours of re-educating yourself where to look for (and how to look at) street art. At the end you pay what you think the tour is worth – most people gave five or ten pounds. Details on: Also see: Given the ephemeral nature of the art, though, expect there to be a whole new catalogue when you go.

The Dead Can Wait: The Return of Dr Watson

The cover for the next instalment of Dr (now Major) Watson’s continuing adventures as a medic in WW1 is now out. There isn’t, as you can see, the familiar thriller/mystery trope of a solitary figure walking away from the viewer. There’s a pair of men. And they are running – apparently into the sea. Which does reflect one episode in the novel, when Watson has to take ‘the most lethal road in England.’
Set mostly in Suffolk and Essex but with a return to the Western Front for the finale, it concerns Watson being blackmailed into investigating why Britain’s new ‘wonder’ weapon has killed seven men and driven an eighth insane. It is out in January from Simon & Schuster.

Kyle Eastwood: New York, Paris and Ken Clarke

The latest issue of Man About Town features a piece by me about Kyle Eastwood, Clint’s bass-playing son, which includes a look at the history of jazz on Manhattan, as well as a recommended list of ‘Live in NYC’ jazz albums. Also what happened when Ken Clarke turned up to see Kyle play at Ronnie Scott’s. Plus a lovely illustration by Liselotte Watkins.
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And you get James McVoy:


Ms Janie Dee reads Dr Watson and Mrs Gregson

The event at St Bart’s pathology Museum went well – a crazy French silent film featuring Sherlock and Watson, by the charming Celine Terranova (who turned up in a lovely steampunk bustle dress) followed by me waffling about Watson until I could show the new trailer/extract for the book. There is still a slight volume adjustment to be made around the time the sodium citrate appears, but I think you’ll agree Janie Dee does a tremendous job. Thanks also to Sue Light for (most of) the photographs, to Bella Ryan for editing/assembling and to Carla Valentine for organising a night for Dr Watson to shine.

The above is an edited extract from this section of Dead Man’s Land:

“Careful with the solution bottles, Staff Nurse Jennings,’ Watson warned, as she unwrapped a glass cylinder from its cocoon of corrugated cardboard and newspaper. ‘That’s our secret ingredient. Hand it here, please.’
The flap of the tent snapped back with a crack like a whiplash. Standing in the opening was the Sister-in-Charge, her face almost as crimson as the red cape which proclaimed her a full member of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. The sound of the German guns was momentarily lost beneath her impressive bellow. ‘Major Watson!’
Watson carefully laid down the precious jar of sodium citrate solution on the tabletop before he turned to face her. ‘Sister? How may I be of assistance?’
‘What is the meaning of this?’ She pulled back the canvas further to reveal his two members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment each holding an Empire medical kit. ‘Experience dictates that travelling with one medical kit in a war situation is somewhat risky, sister,’ Watson explained patiently. ‘I always pack a spare.’
Now the colour on her cheeks was a perfect match for the cape. ‘I am not referring to your travelling preferences, Major,’ she almost snarled. ‘You have brought VADs into my Casualty Clearing Station. VADs!’
She made it sound as if Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses were some kind of vermin ‘When I was at the hospital in Calais,’ Watson said calmly, ‘I requested some assistance during this tour of the clearing stations and field ambulances. The MO suggested Nurses Gregson and-’
‘They are not nurses, Major Watson, as you well know. Not qualified nurses. They are auxiliaries. Orderlies. And the Matron-in-Chief herself has forbidden VADs to work this far forward-’
There came another explosion, short and sharp, that made everyone’s heads turn to the source. It had come from Mrs Gregson, the older of the VADs. Her companion, Miss Pippery, a tiny thing who looked to be barely out of her teens, took a small step backwards, as if retreating from a ticking bomb.
Mrs Gregson bent at the waist, put down the medical chest, and stepped over it, so that she stood eye to eye with the Sister. Miss Pippery lowered her own case but stayed firmly behind it, as if it could act as a barricade. She yanked out a tiny gold rosary from beneath her collar and kissed it, briefly, in prayer, before tucking it away once more.
Mrs Gregson, Watson estimated, was thirty or thereabouts, with striking green eyes and, beneath the white VAD headdress, a crown of fiery red hair. The Sister was probably two decades older, pipe-cleaner thin with a mouth pinched by years of keeping her charges in line. Now the opening was reduced further, to a razor cut in a rather sallow face.
When Mrs Gregson spoke, it was with a quiet but stinging force. ‘Sister, I may not have your qualifications, but I have been out here for more than two years. I was running first-aid stations when the worst the men faced was a turned ankle from trying to march in hobnail boots on French and Belgian cobblestones. I drove for McMurdo’s Flying Ambulance Brigade at Mons. Perhaps you have heard of it? I have treated trench foot, venereal disease, lice infestations and lanced boils in men’s buttocks the size of macaroons. I have stuffed men’s entrails back in place and held the hands of boys who cried for their mothers, such was their pain, and of grown men weeping in fear at the thought of going back up the line. I have watched men drown in their own fluids from gas, carried men’s mangled arms and legs to the lime pit, told a private he will never see again, spent weeks wondering if I will ever smell anything in my nostrils other than the stench of gas gangrene. I have shown pretty fiancées what German flame-throwers have done to their future husbands’ faces. Then had to deliver the letters that tell the disfigured soldiers that they have lost those sweethearts. I have seen enough pus to last me a lifetime, Sister, and my hands are likely ruined forever from all the scrubbings with carbolic and eusol because, of course, only a Sister can wear rubber gloves and I do believe, no matter what your dear Matron-in-Chief thinks, that I have earned the right to go where my betters think I am needed in this war and I also believe that Major Watson’s new method of blood transfusion will save the lives of many who have to this point died for want of fluid and warmth.’ She finally took a breath. ‘Of course, I am not a nurse, nor would I claim to be. I am a VAD and proud of it.’
Mrs Gregson’s short speech never increased in volume throughout its course, but somehow, like a great flywheel pressed into motion, gathered power and momentum as it went. Watson, about to object that is wasn’t strictly speaking his new method of blood transfusion, decided to stay out of the contest. It would be like trying to separate two Siamese fighting fish.
The guns seemed even louder and much closer in the brittle silence that descended on the tent.
Sister took her time composing her reply. The heightened colour in her cheeks faded, but she twisted the piece of paper she held in her hands as if she were wringing Mrs Gregson’s neck. ‘I did not intend to impugn the service you have given. But there are few here who haven’t performed the same tasks. Isn’t that right, Staff Nurse Jennings?’
‘Yes, Sister,’ she agreed softly, eyes downcast. ‘Although I can’t drive-’
But Sister had turned her attention back to the VADs. ‘You will assist Major Watson, of course, in his important work, and I assume move on with him once the technique for this wonder treatment has been demonstrated. But I do not want you on the re-suss, pre-op or evacuation wards. Or on the officers’ wards in The Big House. It will only confuse the men. I don’t want them to think they are getting..’ She paused for moment and actually smiled before delivering the blow ‘.. second-rate care.”


Well, talk about last minute, but we finally got a working edit of the new promo trailer for Dead Man’s Land. It features actress/singer Janie Dee reading Mrs Gregson’s little ‘rant’ early on in the book. It was recorded in her kitchen, with builders above and children doing homework, making drinks and chatting below and it is remarkable that it came together at all. Yet after every interruption, the talented Ms Dee dropped seamlessly back into character (about which she had extracted more than I knew I knew from me). There were a few volume issues, mainly because I kept moving the microphone (yes, I should have done it in a studio – everyone, including Janie, told me that), but I think that is sorted. So, I am going to show it (there are visuals as well) at the Barts event on Wednesday 13th, along with the new silent Sherlock short. Book here:


A little housekeeping on the event from organiser Carla Valentine if you are coming along:

Dear All,
To those who have not attended before (and also those who have) there are some works going on in the courtyard at Barts Hospital. They won’t cause a problem for you entering the museum but may make visibility of the correct entrance more difficult. 

All the directions are on our museum info page as usual: and they will make it incredibly easy for you to find the entrance to the museum from the Main Gate (Henry VIII Gate)
If you don’t enter the courtyard via the main gate (which is the one on West Smithfield, opposite the meat market, consisting of a huge concrete arch) then I suggest just circulating the courtyard until you reach it and going from there.
I look forward to seeing you tomorrow,


There is an evening of “Dr Watson in the Spotlight” at the Bart’s Pathology Museum coming up. This venue, as regular readers will know, is the rather wonderful former teaching space in Bart’s Hospital that looks like a set from the latest series of Ripper Street. It is in the same complex of building where Sherlock Holmes is reputed to have first met Dr Watson (‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive’) and where Conan Doyle both worked and wrote. On Wednesday November 13, there will be the premiere of a short silent film by Celine Terranova called Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Emerald, done in ‘steampunk’ style and filmed at the museum. That will be followed by a talk from me about Watson’s medical career in World War 1 – how he came to be there and what he would be doing. There might also be a new trailer for Dead Man’s Land if we edit it in time. And a raffle to win the film and the book. The doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start (finish by 9pm) and costs £6.50, including refreshments (wine or soft drinks). As the museum is not open to the public, coming to an event is the only way to get past the doors into this wonderful world of medical curiosities. See and book on
And here is another chance to see Assistant Technical Curator Carla Valentine explaining about Bart’s and Holmes and Watson: