Who Is Ash McCarthy?

The thing about writing a book, is that it always feels as if I could work on it for a while longer. Maybe if I read it just one more time, I would find something else I could change, a few words I could rearrange, a sentence I could cut – or perhaps one I could add.

But there  comes a point when I have to let go – I have read the page proofs, made the final changes, and now it’s done. In fact, there’s really no turning back because it has been whisked away and is being printed and bound as I type! This is always both an exciting and a scary moment; it’s almost time for BOY X to go out into the world and meet its audience. And if it’s adventure you’re looking for then you’re definitley going to like this.

There’s a strange jungle island, and a remote black site research facility. There’s action, survival, and danger. There’s a race against time, with high stakes at risk. There are strong friendships, but there’s a touch of betrayal too. And there’s a mystery right at the heart of it . . . who is Ash McCarthy?


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Surviving The Thing

So I’ve been considering my favourite survival stories and I was thinking that, as it’s Friday 13th, maybe it’s time for a survival horror story? After all, I do have something of a soft spot for a good horror story, and there’s one that really stands out for me.

The Thing is based on a short story by John W Campbell, entitled ‘Who Goes There?’ and was first filmed as The Thing From Another World (1951) but was adapted once more in 1982 by John Carpenter. The 1982 film was adapted into a novel by Alan Dean Foster – which I read many years ago. The idea of the film being adapted into a novel is interesting to me because I have recently adapted a screenplay into a novel, so maybe it’s time for me to go back and re-read the novelisation of The Thing . . .


Anyway, I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember and it has undoubtedly been an influence on my own story telling. Those of you who know my writing will know that I’m drawn to distant and isolated settings, and that’s where we find ourselves in The Thing. Outpost 31 is a small research base in the Antarctic where the researchers come under threat from a shape-shifting alien that assumes the guise of the people it kills. Realising their predicament, one of the researchers even takes measures to isolate them further. All communications are cut-off, and all means of escaping the base are destroyed, leaving them totally alone as their paranoia increases and they struggle to identify which of them is the threat.

Kurt Russel, as R J MacReady proves to be a resourceful and resilient protagonist – the kind of protagonist I love to root for. He doesn’t have any specialist training, unique abilities or powers. In fact, he’s fallible and afraid. He feels like a real person, not a pumped up Hollywood Hero, but he’s smart and he doesn’t give up – he keeps on pushing and he keeps on fighting despite the odds. Ultimately his only goal is to prevent the horror from escaping the base and finding its way to civilisation, but this is a survival story in which, perhaps, it is best if no one survives.

Oh, and on top of all that, there are some amazing squishy (pre-CGI days) effects by Rob Bottin, a perfectly stark soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter, a brilliant and under-stated performance from Kurt Russell, miles and miles of icy wastes, an overwhelming sense of isolation, and a long, hard fight to survive.

It’s not for the faint-hearted.

The Thing . . . Man is the warmest place to hide . . .

That’s all.

Isolation, Survival, and Deliverance

Isolation and survival are two themes that crop up in my writing time and time again. I am drawn to the idea of leaving my characters in difficult and remote locations, then watching how they cope. This couldn’t be more true of my latest novels,  The Darkest Heart and Big Game (for younger readers).

So, over the next few blog posts, I thought I’d have a quick look at some of the survival stories that have influenced me.

I’m going to start with a true classic. To my shame, I haven’t yet read the novel, but I saw the film at an inappropriately young age and it has stuck with me ever since.

In Deliverance, four city friends go canoeing on a remote river which is soon to be flooded by a dam, but fall foul of some particularly unsavoury locals. It’s a deeply frightening film full of contrasts – beautifully filmed, but with a brutal plot – and I didn’t fully understand it when I saw it as a twelve year old. I understood the boat trip, the draw of the wilderness, the macho Lewis (Burt Reynolds) contrasting with other more sensitive characters. I sensed the strangeness of the locals, the almost alien atmosphere of the location, and I felt the danger of the mountain men. What I didn’t understand was THAT scene, and the deeper themes of the story. I have revisited Deliverance once or twice more recently, and find it to be a fascinating, haunting, nightmarish, and almost mythical film.

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There are moments that have worked their way into popular culture. The opening riff of Duelling Banjos is another way of saying ‘hillbilly’, and who can’t forget the infamous ‘I wanna hear you squeal like a pig’? For me, though, there are two stand-out, contrasting scenes. The first is when Ed (Jon Voight) wakes early in the morning and takes Lewis’s bow. In the peaceful quiet of the wilderness, he spots a deer, raises the bow and takes aim only to find that he is unable to loose the arrow. Later, towards the end of that harrowing rape scene, Ed catches sight of Lewis standing in the trees, bow drawn, arrow aimed at Ed’s attacker. But Lewis doesn’t have the shakes. His intent is rock-solid, and he is prepared to kill.

In those two scenes we see the real difference between Ed and Lewis and, for me, that’s what lies at the heart of Deliverance. It’s about how different people deal with adversity. It’s about how far we are prepared to go, and it makes you ask yourself, ‘What would I do?’

‘What could I do to survive?’

That’s all.


Book Award! Votes Needed!

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.54.09Wow! My second novel for younger readers – My Brother’s Secret – has been nominated for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards in the ‘Hooked on Books’ category! It’s always exciting to be nominated for an award – and this is an award with a difference . . . eight books have been nominated and, every week, the book with the least votes is eliminated. That means I need everyone’s votes so . . . if you think my book deserves to win, you can visit the website and click ‘vote for this book’ right under the picture of My Brother’s Secret.



Thanks everyone!

That’s all.