Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: did not finish

Wives are great things, especially when it comes to pointing out your mistakes.  Last year, my little Julie came to me and pointed to my books and said, “Notice the similarity?”

I stared at my titles and saw the obvious straight away—their sheer awesomeness.  Apparently, that wasn’t what she meant.  She told me to describe them.  I did, then I groaned, then I went to mope in a corner.

Hand on heart, I do my best to be original, to think ahead, to see the big picture, but sometimes I’ll drop the ball.  In this particular case, I managed to drop the ball several times.

So what’s my big mistake—car chases.

My first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, opens with the hero being run off the road.  My second novel, PAYING THE PIPER, opens with the hero racing across San Francisco after hearing his son has been kidnapped.  My third book, WE ALL FALL DOWN, novel opens with joy riders chasing after a man only to watch him commit suicide.  TERMINATED broke the cycle with a job evaluation interview.  Then I do fall off the wagon again with THE FALL GUY and ROAD RASH which do feature cars at the beginning but don’t have chases though.

Yes, I am a car nut and we live in a car centric world, but it wasn’t my intention to open all my books with some sort of car motif.  It kind of just happened.  Blame it on my subconscious.

In my defense, my first three books may have come out in that order but they weren’t written in that order.  ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN might have been my first book, but WE ALL FALL DOWN was my second book, while PAYING THE PIPER was my fifth.  NO SHOW and a couple of other unpublished books were in between these three and none of them featured car chases, so don’t go thinking I’m a one trick pony.  Really…don’t.  I am good at this writing thing.  Just give me a chance.

The irony of ironies (in an Alanis Morrissette, ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife kind of a way) is that both of the Aidy Westlake motor racing books which would be totally legitimate in beginning with a car chase don’t!  Looking at the subsequent story lines I have planned, none of those begin with a car chase either.  That isn’t by design.  It just is.  :-/

When it comes to the opening of one of my books, I have one rule—start with a bang.  Throw the readers into the action with little or no preamble and make the opening dramatic—physically or emotionally or both.  That means cutting to the chase.  Maybe I took this chase point a little too much to heart.  I hope you’ll forgive me.  J 

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Something wicked awesome this way comes.
I am very happy to announce the re-launch of my Aidy Westlake mysteries (complete with fantastic new cover art).  The first two books in the series went out of print last year and I’m bringing them back in digital and paperback.  I’m very pleased because HOT SEAT never came out in paperback.  The eBooks came out last week and paperbacks will be available next month.
For those who aren’t familiar with Aidy Westlake, let me introduce him.  He’s a young racecar driver from the UK who becomes embroiled with seedier side of motor racing.  Luckily he’s ably assisted by his ex-Formula One mechanic grandfather and his best friend.  Aidy lives in the shadow of his father, Rob Westlake.  Believed to be the next big thing in Grand Prix racing, Rob died in a car crash along with Aidy’s mother before he ever raced in F1.  He’s determined to go the extra mile that his father never did, but he’s keeps being dragged into crimes associated with the sport.  Essentially, think Dick Francis with a lot more horsepower. 
The books in the series so far are:

DID NOT FINISH:

When Derek Deacon threatens to kill Alex Fanning, his championship rival, rookie driver Aidy Westlake doesn’t put much stock in it – it’s typical of the intense competitiveness and aggression in their world. But when Fanning dies after making contact with Deacon’s car during a race, a conspiracy ensues: the TV coverage is edited and the police wind up the investigation without interviewing witnesses. Compelled to prove Deacon is the murderer, Aidy pushes for the truth and is drawn into a world of fraud, organized crime and murder.

Available for:

HOT SEAT:

Things are looking good for Aidy Westlake. He’s Pit Lane magazine’s Young Driver of the Year, which has earned him a drive in the European Saloon Car Championship. But his good fortune ends at a race car show when he discovers Jason Gates, a mechanic from a rival team, with his throat cut. The murder sets off a disturbing chain reaction – someone is breaking the rules in the ranks of saloon car racing, on and off the track. 

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I sincerely hope you’ll check out the books as I’m very proud of them.  Obviously a lot of my own racing experiences provide the backbone for these books and future books in the series.  To answer the question—is Aidy Westlake me?  The answer is no.  He’s a far better driver and a lot more interesting.  J

These books are a prelude as to what is coming later in the year.  There’ll be a novella series starting with PILGRIM’S DROP followed by books three and four, OFF SEASON and THE BRAKING POINT.
I hope all this has your engines revving…

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Audible has bought the audio rights to the Aidy Westlake series. They picked up DID NOT FINISH and HOT SEAT with an option for a third title. You could see the audio books available very soon and I’m eager to know who will voice, Aidy and the gang.

…….

I hope you’re looking forward to this as much as me.

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DID NOT FINISH is now out in paperback in the US. It’s the first book in the Aidy Westlake mystery series set in the high-octane world of motor racing.

When Derek Deacon threatens to kill Alex Fanning, his championship rival, rookie driver Aidy Westlake doesn’t put much stock in it – it’s typical of the intense competitiveness and aggression in their world. But when Fanning dies after making contact with Deacon’s car during a race, a conspiracy ensues: the TV coverage is edited and the police wind up the investigation without interviewing witnesses. Compelled to prove Deacon is the murderer, Aidy pushes for the truth and is drawn into a world of fraud, organized crime and murder.

Best places to pick up a copy Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Now it’s in a more wallet friendly edition, I hope you’ll pick a copy up.

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DID NOT FINISH has scored big with Kirkus, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Here’s what they said:

Kirkus:
“A killer who strikes in the middle of an event makes England’s car-racing circuit even more dangerous than usual.

“Aidy Westlake was orphaned by a car crash—his father and mother drove into a fatal accident on the way home from a race—but that hasn’t kept him from taking the wheel of a Formula Ford. A rookie driver in the middle of a crowded field, Aidy naturally looks up to Alex Fanning, whose performance so far favors him to win the Clark Paints Formula Ford Championship, and can’t imagine why Alex would be prepared to quit the circuit for his fiancée Alison Baker. The race that follows proves to be Alex’s last in more ways than one. Moments after the Ford driven by Derek Deacon, a brutish veteran competitor who’d already threatened to do whatever it took to win, nudged Alex’s car, it crashed and killed him. The other racers, close-knit to a fault, refuse to believe that Deacon bumped Alex on purpose. And the evidence supports them, because video footage of the crash has mysteriously disappeared from all the places most likely to have it, and Det. Len Brennan, of the Wiltshire Police, is obviously protecting Deacon. Aidy is determined to prove Deacon’s guilt, but when he and his only allies, his grandfather Steve and his mechanic Dylan, are threatened, beaten and arrested along with him, his detective work looks like a losing bet.

“Wood (Terminated, 2010, etc.) kicks off this new series with a streamlined narrative, a spot of believable romance and some deftly introduced tidbits about the British racing circuit. Think of Dick Francis’ early thrillers, especially Nerve, but with a lot more horsepower.”

Library Journal:
“A third-generation racecar driver, Aidy Westlake might still be a rookie on the course, but his instincts for crime are right on track. He knows bully Derek Deacon threatened rival Alex Fanning the night before the race. Now Alex is dead, and Derek’s car was part of the fatal accident. Aidy is convinced it’s a homicide, and he goes to considerable lengths to avenge Alex’s untimely death, despite rebuffs from the police, race sponsors, and fellow drivers. With his best friend, Dylan, and grandfather Steve on his team, amateur detective Aidy keeps on digging until he manages to endanger those he loves. A breathtaking finale will linger long in readers’ minds. VERDICT Prepare to accelerate with Wood’s (Terminated) new series. His first-person narrative brings you close to the action and ratchets up the personal intensity.”

Publishers Weekly:
“At the start of this agreeable first in a new car-racing series from Wood (Terminated), thuggish champion driver Derek Deacon threatens to kill a rival, Alex Fanning. When Fanning dies after Deacon collides with him during a race in a West Country regional championship, the police fail to interview vital witnesses, and authorities rush to label the crash an accident. In addition, someone orders the destruction of the official tape of the fatal race. Outraged, rookie driver Aidy Westlake begins his own investigation. Inexperienced but persistent, he turns up evidence of a criminal conspiracy that puts him and his friends in danger. Wood convincingly portrays Aidy’s awkward efforts at amateur detection as well as his gentle, tentative romance with the dead man’s fiancée, while entertainingly imparting information about the perils and exhilaration of single-seat Formula Ford racing. Dick Francis fans will find a lot to like.”

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For my wife, the stand out character in DID NOT FINISH is Steve Westlake. Steve is Aidy’s grandfather. Julie likes the relationship between Aidy and his grandfather. I suppose it’s because they don’t have a traditional relationship in that Steve takes over as Aidy’s guardian after his loses his parents when Aidy was a kid. He teaches Aidy everything about motor racing and acts as a confidant and friend. So Steve is many things to Aidy.

I can understand why Steve had an effect on Julie because Steve is based on two very important people in my life—my uncle Steve and my dad. My uncle Steve is my mum’s youngest brother and he was the cool the uncle when I was growing up. He always seemed like a free spirit and always made me believe we were all capable of anything. My dad is the opposite of my uncle Steve. He’s grounded and dependable. He was part of my pit crew and a steadying influence on me when things got crazy in the pits. He had a good engineering mind and his thoughts always gave me confidence when it came to coming up with solutions for the race car. It helped me be a far more focused and relaxed driver. And for that I’ll always be grateful to my dad.

By way of a thank you to my dad, I gave Steve an interesting quirk in that he looks like Steve McQueen. Now my dad doesn’t look like Steve McQueen, but he does possess a passing resemblance to Paul Newman (according to some) although he has pale grey eyes opposed to Mr. Newman’s baby blues. I thought it would make for a nice tribute. 🙂

I do like how Steve Westlake turned out. He’s a far more rounded character than I’d hoped to create, but I have my uncle and dad to thank for that.

This concludes DID NOT FINISH‘s month in the sun. I hope my stories have piqued your interest. In the meantime, you can read the first five chapters here:

First Lap
Lap Two
Lap Three
Lap Four
Lap Five

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Did Not Finish is a book that is very close to my heart as it’s a mystery centering on the world of motorsport. Twenty years ago, I raced open-wheel cars motorsport in the UK.

In the book, a death threat is circulating around the pits. Derek Deacon says he’ll kill his championship rival, Alex Fanning, unless Alex throws the championship deciding race. Rookie driver, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Westlake, doesn’t put too much stock in the threat. He figures Derek is just playing mind games. That changes when Alex dies on the track after banging wheels with Derek. A cover-up ensues. The police wrap up their investigation without following up on the death threat, TV coverage omits the crash and the racing community seems happy to ignore what they heard. Aidy is the exception. He feels obligated to expose the truth and finds himself dragged into a much larger conspiracy.

A real incident is the basis for Did Not Finish. I was competing in a regional championship where a rumor was floating around the paddock that a driver threatened to kill the championship leader if he didn’t win and, just as in the book, that driver died in a crash during the race. At the time, I felt quite helpless. There is a world of difference between an idle threat and an actual murder. What made the situation even harder for me to accept was that minutes before the race started, the driver who died had shared something with me that he hadn’t even shared with his family. It’s a confidence I’ve kept for twenty years.

Did Not Finish is not an attempt to expose a crime or rewrite history but illustrate life in the fast lane. Motorsport is an expensive game. To compete, you need more than just a bat, a ball and a pair of sneakers. You need a small army. Even at a grass roots level, it costs tens of thousands each year to own, maintain and race at a competitive level. Because of that, the desire to win gets amped up and tensions run high. Competition brings out our best, but it can also bring out our worst, so dirty tricks aren’t out of the question.

Naturally, there’s rule bending in motor racing and I can’t say I didn’t pull some stunts to help me survive in the sport. Other people I knew took more drastic measures, especially when it came to money. Some people borrowed heavily, in some cases turning to loan sharks. Others got involved in a variety of criminal pursuits to make ends meet. They ranged from misdemeanors such as theft to major felonies such as drug trafficking. Some individuals felt they had to protect their interests and did so by intimidating others or flagrant cheating. Some of the stuff that occurred is enough to make your hair curl. And in most cases, all these acts boiled down to people doing anything to hang on to their dream and win. It’s a siren song that’s hard to ignore.

Dick Francis showed the dark side of the world of horseracing, I’m hoping to do the same through Aidy’s adventures. He lives in the shadow of his famous father, the late, great driver, Rob Westlake, who died along with Aidy’s mother in an auto wreck after securing a Formula One contract. Raised by his grandfather, Steve, himself a retired Grand Prix mechanic, Aidy is following in his father’s footsteps.

As the series develops and Aidy makes his rise through the world of motor racing, he’ll be drawn into the various issues affecting the sport. And as he does, he’ll learn one thing—in motorsport, murder will always happen breakneck speed.

Categories: book of the month

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I’m very happy to announce that my Book of the Month for September is my brand new mystery, DID NOT FINISH. It’s the first book in the Aidy Westlake mystery series set in the high-octane world of motor racing. The storyline:

When Derek Deacon threatens to kill Alex Fanning, his championship rival, rookie driver Aidy Westlake doesn’t put much stock in it – it’s typical of the intense competitiveness and aggression in their world. But when Fanning dies after making contact with Deacon’s car during a race, a conspiracy ensues: the TV coverage is edited and the police wind up the investigation without interviewing witnesses. Compelled to prove Deacon is the murderer, Aidy pushes for the truth and is drawn into a world of fraud, organized crime and murder.

Murder has never happened so fast.

Over the month, I’ll share background stories and inspirations behind the book and the characters. In the meantime, you can read the opening chapter here and I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book. I’m very excited about this book and I hope you will be too. 😀

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CASTING CALL: Give me your name! I’m the worst when it comes to creating characters names and I need names for the follow-up to Did Not Finish, the second in the Aidy Westlake mystery which’ll be out in 2012. I have a number of positions open from police officers to bad guys and everything in between. If you’d like to be one of the supporting cast, please leave your name. I can’t guarantee I’ll use your name, but if your name fits one of the characters in the book, I’ll use it. John and Jane Smiths need not apply.

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