Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Painting by Numbers by Tom Gillespie - Book Review

Painting by Numbers is the new novel from Tom Gillespie, previously available on Kindle, and now out in paperback.

To start off with, I need to say. This is a weird book. Now, that may sound like a criticism, but it's really not. I like weird books.

So, you might be asking yourselves, why did I feel the need to mention this? Well, I was expecting a psychological thriller - and I certainly got one of those. What I wasn't expecting was that it would be so... well... weird.

The book opens in Glasgow where our protagonist, Jacob Boyce has become so obsessed with trying to understand the nuances of a particular painting that he is in danger of loosing both his job as an academic and his wife.

His attempts to understand the picture include quite a lot of convincing mathematics (which I suspect is bogus, but it's a testament to Gillespie's research and writing that it seems to make sense, at least as much as anything does in this book) which is actually something I found hugely appealing. As strange lights start to emerge from the canvas, and the figures depicted within start to move, the grounding nature of the maths gives is a solid reality. And I've always been a bit of a science nerd, so it pushes those buttons for me too.

At about a third of the way through, the book changes location to Spain, and most of the book plays out here. I don't want to go into the plot too much, as I don't want to give anything away, but what started as one man's obsession over a painting becomes a kind of demented road-trip, where things get stranger and stranger.

There are, I think, a couple of mis-steps in the book. The comedy interludes in particular - from a police inspector and a bus driver - seem to have been dropped in, and jar somewhat with the overall tone as you read them. But as the book turns more and more weird, even they seem in retrospect to be completely normal.

This is a well-written and gripping book. The character of Boyce is by turns extremely likeable and sympathetic, and then equally strange and disturbed. The description of it as a surreal psychological thriller is an apt one for a book which includes the degeneration of a man's mind and body, art history, space-bending mathematics and free jazz.

It may be weird, but it's my kind of weird. A great book, and well worth a read.

You can pick it up now on Kindle or paperback from Amazon.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Free 31 Day!

Hello everyone and welcome.

Today is a special day because from 7am today (Friday) until 7am tomorrow (all times BST), I'm giving away free Kindle copies of my flash-fiction collection, 31.

If you are in the UK, the link is

If you are elsewhere in the world, just change the to .com, .de or whatever, and you can get it there.

Please share the link to this blog, and to the free e-book, and let's see if we can't get it to top the rankings on Amazon.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download free programs to read Kindles on your computer or phone, from

I'm giving it away to promote the fact that plans are starting to be formulated for next year's National Flash-Fiction Day (sign up for the mailing list by emailing and I wanted to give you some incentive to get involved.

I am also hoping that you will read it, enjoy it, click the 'Like' button on the top of the Amazon page, review it on Amazon, and maybe review it on your own blog or website. Reviews really do generate sales, so if you could do this, I would be really grateful.

Along with all of this, and because there are apparently some people who don't have Kindles (though I'm sure Amazon are working to rectify this oversight!) I am also giving away a free copy of the print version of 31.

Rather than simply holding a random lottery, I thought I would make it a little bit harder, by giving you a quiz. So, below are 6 questions for you to answer. Most of the answers are  somewhere on my website at, so get yourselves over there, have a rummage, and you could be the proud owner of only 3 remaining copies of the original printing of the book.

Email your answers to calum AT calumkerr DOT co DOT uk (replacing the words with the symbols) and I shall pick one lucky winner out of a hat once I have all your correct answers.

So, without further ado, here are the questions:

1. When were the stories in 31 written?
2. On what date was the Kindle version of Undead at Heart published on Amazon?
3. When does my next Flash-Fiction Online course start?
4. At what age did I start writing?
5. Which book did I examine for my York Notes study guide?
6. Which publisher produced Braking Distance?

And that's it. Should be easy enough. Find your answers and email them over with '31 Competition' in the subject line, please. The competition finishes at 7 am (BST) on Saturday 13th October (the same time as the 'free' period on Amazon finishes). And I shall announce the winner here on my blog sometime over the weekend.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy reading and reviewing 31!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Happy National Poetry Day

Hello there, and Happy National Poetry Day!

As most of you know, I rarely delve into the realm of poetry, leaving that to the more able, but what with it being the Day for it, and with the theme being 'stars', I thought I would share this poem which seems to fit with the theme.

I wrote it a few years ago in a NAWE workshop, lead by Liz Cashdan, . She managed to help me produce something which I think is not half-bad, and it was the first time I'd been able to write about my father, who was ill at the time and passed away soon after.

So, this is for all you poets out there, hope you have a great day.

And this is for my dad.

An Echo

"Have you ever looked at the stars?"
He looks away, even as he speaks.
I ask him what he means
but he says nothing more,

simply walks away
adds gin to his glass,
but not tonic,
and leaves me watching him,
waiting for the next pearl to drop,
like waiting for the next train to pass,
the next beat to sound, or
the next breath to draw.

Instead we talk about my work
and his garden,
my life
and his seedlings,
my beliefs
and his tomatoes.
And yet I remember this:
"Have you ever looked at the stars?"

I remember as he falters.
Waiting for the next beat to sound.
Waiting for the next breath to draw.
Waiting for the end

I remember.
"Have you ever looked at the stars?"
and in the silence I turn away
to look at the night sky.