An author is supposed to write books. They can either write lots of short ones (Graham Greene) or just a few long ones (Leo Tolstoy). Additionally, they can die too soon (John Kennedy O’Toole) or begin too late (Raymond Chandler, Joseph Conrad). Almost as bad, they can accidentally lose themselves in a miasma of anxiety, alcohol and/or drugs (William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler again). Mind you, there are authors who will never lose themselves in drink and drugs no matter how hard they try (Charles Bukowski, Hunter Thompson). Their failure is counter-balanced by the authors who quite literally lose themselves (Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Ambrose Bierce, Joshua Slocum) and nobody knows where they are, although sometimes they’re just hiding (Agatha Christie) or they’ve simply caught the wrong train (G K Chesteron). Then you have the authors who were missing from the start, and nobody really knows who they are, never mind where (Thomas Pynchon). Which leads us to the authors who get other people to write their books for them and who were never really authors at all (Barbara Cartland, “Andy McNab”), at least certainly not poor ones. These last authors sit at the other end of the spectrum to those who have a mental illness which physically compels them to write (Philip K. Dick), most of whom spend their whole scribbling lives in comparative penury.  And finally there are those unknown authors who will never write a book at all, not even a first line, who present perhaps literature’s greatest and most beguiling mystery. I suspect they might be the easiest to get on with. You know who you are. Or perhaps you don’t.

I have written four books. God knows how. I know I wrote them because they were published. They are:

darkactorscovDark Actors: The Life and Death of David Kelly

Simon and Schuster

This was my first non-fiction book and it was The Times Book of The Week, although they got David Aaronovitch to review it. He didn’t like it. Neither did Nick Cohen or Tom Mangold. Judge a man by the reputation of his enemies, to use an old Arab proverb.




tlltcov 310x475 - CopyThe Last Llanelli Train

Serpent’s Tail

This was my fist novel and two followed after, all featuring my dissipated-to-the-point-of-annihilation private eye Robin Llywelyn. It got short-listed for the P G Wodehouse Prize and found itself, improbably, alongside Zadie Smith and Terry Pratchett.



stcov 316x495 - CopySwansea Terminal

Serpent’s Tail

Another Llywelyn one. I moved to Swansea to write it, where I lived briefly in a bedsit halfway up Mount Pleasant. I’ve always loved Swansea. There are days when the whole city seems drunk. This one got short-listed for Wales Book of the Year.




botbscovBank of The Black Sheep

Serpent’s Tail

The final Llywelyn novel, set mostly in Llandovery, although no one there appears to have noticed (I roomed there for a bit). Merthyr makes an appearance too, notably the Wyndham Arms and Castle Bingo. Somewhat informed by the credit crunch and subsequent bail-out, this one. Got long-listed for some festival something or other. Didn’t win. Nothing ever wins.



That’s it so far for the books. I have transitioned effortlessly from being a young, promising “one to watch” into an obscure, overlooked, counter-cultural outsider. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself.

They’re all on Amazon, they were all covered in the national press, and of course there are on-line reviews all over the place too. I haven’t written any of them.



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  1. Fuck it Old Bean, (are we allowed to swear here?), I found ‘The Train’ at Ty Newydd (Llanystumdwy – money to be made ‘teaching’ as a writer btw but perhaps I’ll die first) and read it cos it had a slightly porno pic on the cover ahem but really liked the book and the writing and plot and all that. I thought back then three years or so ago you’d been overlooked. All power to you. I’m waiting to earn some money to buy Black Sheep secondhand on Amazon as I haven’t read that yet, (I think I read Swansea Terminal too, but I can’t remember), but I still think you’ve been overlooked. We all should have gone to Oxbridge. Not that I’m bitter. Hope you are happy and healthy anyway. Peace. Boothby

  2. hello, french reader here!
    Ifinished “last train” and I’m on “Swansea” now, luckily longer than the first one. I hope the last one will be even more longer. Excuse my poor english. Great great books.Twenty years that I try to finish to write my novel, these books help me a lot to find courage and power to write. Thanks a lot!

  3. …and I d want to know if ” the black sheep” has been bought by a french editor to be published in french. Thanks again.

    • Not yet, I’m afraid. Thank you for your kind words and good luck with your own novel. Bon courage!

  4. Loved all three of your novels, especially Bank of the Black Sheep, a most satisfying read. Seems like perfect fodder for a British crime/comedy film. Anyone express interest in that?
    Please return to writing more novels. You are missed.

  5. Hi Robert

    The internet’s a wonderful thing. Although I read Swansea Terminal about nine years ago, I still reflect on the writing and characters, probably more than your average reader because I’m from Swansea. Soon after that read, I found The Last Llanelli Train in a bookstore in Aberystwyth, or maybe it was the university’s library. Anyway, I enjoyed both of them immensely and, on a whim, just googled to see if there was another one – woo! Happiness and sadness; I live in Vietnam now, where there’s no Amazon and I’ve no Kindle. Next time I’m home I’ll pick up a copy. Your books have entertained me and many others like me. If you ever fancy a beer in South Asia (Myanmar next), let me know! Good luck with your future stuff, I hope there’s plenty more to come.

  6. Hello!

    I don’t know you but I like your books. I’m no sycophant. I hate giving compliments or receiving them for that matter. I picked up Bank of Black Sheep in a charity shop (new copy – publisher deal – so I’m sure you will get royalties along with Jon Ronson and Owen Sheers). A stand alone story that had me laughing and crying and talking about your writing to others. I had to go back to the beginning and found The Last Llanelli Train equally entertaining. Along with Swansea Terminal, I acquired the last two reads through my local library. Good to know you get paid for that too – eventually. Swansea Terminal is probably my least favourite – no bad compliment as I love the trilogy – it’s just that I’m using it as a checklist for my way home! The tone is darker too, and refreshing. I am glad I have read them in the ‘wrong’ order. I will be sad when I finish the middle. Terminals of all kinds are funny and peculiar. At the end of The Bank, you do short-change “us” – maybe just me? There is room for one last blast – and the outcome has to be fatal. Death is not bad – its just an avoided taboo. If you do pull it off, and kill RL it would be a final triumph. His, not yours. And mine to read.

    So impressed am I that I will be thrice buying the trilogy for my autobiographical bookshelves and two friends who I’m sure will love them or kill themselves. Both outcomes are OK if they smile.

    Very best wishes.

  7. Mate,
    you kick ass. Like thousands of asses. I bought the third one of the private-eye series while in Aberystwyth (really not much going for the place) in 2005 and climbed down to the first. Then I felt desperate as it seemed you had completely disappeared, like blown off the stage. So much talent, where would that go? Happy to have googled you once more and found you. You might have even dragged me down into the Kelly thing. We’ll see. Gonna purchase it in a while. But, hey, you have magic words when it comes down to fiction.