Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: aidy westlake

As people are aware, well I hope they’re aware, I am the toastmaster at this year’s Bouchercon (aka the World Mystery Convention) to be held in Long Beach, California next week.  With every Bouchercon, the convention supports a couple of local charities.  This year, it’s the Long Beach Library Foundation and WriteGirl.
I’m doing my best to support both these auctions.  Last month I auctioned off a poster of me from my motor racing days that went for $350.  The proceeds went to the library foundation.  Now, I’m doing something to benefit WriteGirl, a charity that encourages creative writing and mentors teenage girls.
So between now and the Bouchercon live auction on November 14th, I will donate the royalties from the worldwide sale of the first Aidy Westlake novel, DID NOT FINISH.  This applies to the paperback, eBook and audio book and isn’t restricted to where it’s bought. 
If you haven’t read the book, I hope you’ll buy a copy.  If already have the book, I hope you’ll give it to someone.  At the very least, you’ll share this message or direct people to this post.  You’ll be making a difference in someone’s life.
Thanks to all.

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I have a special offer for readers of the Aidy Westlake series.  The new paperback editions of DID NOT FINISH & HOT SEAT are now filtering into bookstores.  I’m very pleased because HOT SEAT never came out in paperback first time around. 
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.  Essentially, think Dick Francis with a lot more horsepower. 
For those looking for autographed copies, the special offer is—get both titles for $20.00 by hitting the “thriller two-pack” offer at my online bookstore here.
I hope you’ll pick them up.  I think you’d like them.   J

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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:


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:


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. 

Available for:

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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This is my last piece on HOT SEAT, so I wanted to take today to discuss one of the characters in the book. For my wife, the stand out character in the book 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 HOT SEAT‘s month in the sun. I hope my stories, my experiences and the book have piqued your interest and you’ll pick up a copy. I think you’ll like it.

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When it comes to the Aidy Westlake books, I like to draw from actual events and I try to give Aidy more trouble than he can handle. For HOT SEAT, I had him facing criminal charges, which I lifted from my own personal experience, where I found myself in an odd predicament.

So I ran a pretty shoestring outfit and was forever wheeling and dealing to stay to stay in business. Not all my sponsors paid me. Some provided valuable resources I couldn’t afford. One such resource was a truck to transport my car. A company provided me with free use of a shiny new Ford Transit van. Someone else lent me a trailer. I used to drive to Staines to pick up the trailer in the Transit before each race. Truck and trailer made me a pretty sizable obstacle and naturally people would be eager to get around me. One lady pushed her luck a little hard at a roundabout. She tried to sneak across me as I attempted to get off the roundabout. We ground to a halt on the roundabout just shy of hitting each other. The problem was we’d blocked all traffic on the roundabout. The lady and I traded insults as it took us several minutes of maneuvering to get off the roundabout. I went on my merry way. The lady didn’t. She drove up on my tail flashing her lights and honking her horn. I was pissed off too, but I had the race on my mind and I like to be a little Zen in the run up to the race, so I ignored her. The lady buzzing around my bumper lost interest and went on her not so merry way.

I thought that was that until after the race a couple of days later when my sponsor told them the police had contacted them about a road accident. Being my supportive sponsor, they immediately handed over my details to the police.

The police officer assigned the case came for me a few times, but I was always away at a track when he called. This wouldn’t have looked so bad if the officer made an appointment but he chose to arrive unannounced. Eventually he caught up with me as I was unloading my racecar into my storage unit. He asked for a word. The word I gave him was yes.

He was a nice guy and I liked him. He seemed to be a down to earth guy and very un-cop like with his attitudes. He helped me lock up and we chatted about racing on the way back to my house. In the living room, he asked if I knew about an incident. I said I did and told him what happened. He told me a different account. I’d hit the woman on the roundabout, totaling her car and driving off.

“I beg your pardon,” I said and went to object, but he cut me off. He cautioned me and read through a little of charges that included but weren’t limited to fleeing the scene of an accident, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment. I was looking at a driving ban at the minimum. This was a major problem. A ban on the streets is a ban on the track.

I tried to protest. If I’d hit the car, there’d be damage on the Transit and the trailer. There wasn’t any. If I had any doubts to the damages to the woman’s car, I caught sight of a Polaroid pinned to his file. The car was caved in on one side. The cop cut my protests short. He needed my statement and I gave one. It was obvious what was going on here. This chick crashed her car on the way home, looked to someone to blame and chose me.

I talked and the policemen wrote. He handed me the statement to sign. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking at a statement, but a confession. Where I said I hadn’t done something, he wrote that I knowingly did, not just once, but all the way through the account. I said we had a problem and policeman smiled and said, “Do we?”

“Yes, this says I did it.”

“Must have been a slip of the pen,” he said.

Somewhere in the region of 25 slips in fact.

I don’t know if he knew I have difficulty reading or not. He had met my mum a couple of times when he came looking for me and she might have said something about it. If not, I’m not sure how he thought he was going to sail this one by me. My mum was present and I had her read the statement aloud. I had to cross out and initial “errors” throughout the document. The policeman made no apology and left.

I didn’t agitate the situation by reporting the cop. It was pretty obvious what he’d tried to do. But I saw no point in raising the ire of a police department. I already had this woman in the other car trying to screw me over. I was pissed off, but I let it go. If they got even trickier, I’d speak up.

Luckily, they didn’t. The charges were dropped two months later. It was hard not to. For all the collateral damage done to the woman’s car, there wasn’t a scratch on the van and trailer.

Naturally, this is prime story fodder for Aidy. However, I toned this incident down for the book and took it in a different direction. I know truth is stranger than fiction, but no bugger is going to believe this. 🙂

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With the Aidy Westlake books, I’ve tried to incorporate a lot my racing experiences into the books because they’re interesting, funny, dangerous or scary. For HOT SEAT, I used played off something that was both dangerous and scary and used it as a significant element of the book.

Very few things scared me when I used to race. That wasn’t to say I was nervous, apprehensive and a tad shaky most of the time. But I can honestly say I was truly frightened to the point of fearing for my life only a handful of times. The absolute number one fear inducing occurrence was something I would have endure on a semi regular basis and it involved high speeds without moving. It meant putting my racecar on a rolling road.

If you’re not sure what a rolling road is, it’s essentially a treadmill for cars. The car’s power wheels sit on a pair of rollers and they keep the car stationary while the car’s wheels are traveling at speed.

I would have to take my car to a rolling road to check the car performance or to examine a fault. The car would sit on the rolling roll while the car would be hooked up to all this diagnostic equipment. The place I used to visit looked like an ER for cars.

This all seems pretty innoxious until you have to put theory into practice. First there’s an issue with the car’s weight and power. A normal car is heavy enough to remain seated on the rollers. That’s a different story when it comes to a single seater racecar. It doesn’t weigh a lot and it has relatively speaking a lot of power. So its light as feather status means the car will fly out of the rollers if the car isn’t tied down. So to cure the problem, my car had to be held in place by fixing haulage straps to my car and to the steel structure of the building. So my car would be traveling at 100mph held in place with a pair of straps. I didn’t envy the idiot who be driving the car. Excuse me, that’ll be who? Me? Why me? Don’t you have people for that? Really, I’m the one who fits in the car. Okay then. I’ll bloody do it then.

As they guy who ran the rolling road company said, “You won’t get me in one of those deathtraps.” So encouraging.

So I would have to get the car up to speeds of a 100mph. Before I even got anywhere close to those speeds, the car would be fighting against the straps, threatening to breaks its bonds and make a dash for it. Except there’s nowhere for the car to run. I’m inside a building with a solid brick wall ten feet in front of me to cushion the impact should the car escape. I didn’t see the point of putting my safety harness on. If the car hit the wall at a 100mph, I’d be Simon-shaped puddle. Because a single seater racecar has no fan to cooler it, air blast fans were aimed at the car and me to cool it down, but I still managed to sweat like a whore in church despite the chill.

The car never broke free, but my imagination foresaw the carnage and played it to me every second I was at the wheel. I swear that damned brick wall used to grin at me. Who would have thought traveling without moving could be so scary.

I won’t tell you how I’ve used rolling roads in HOT SEAT. You’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂

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My bookshelf feature is back for the month of July because I’m pleased and proud to announce that the second of the Aidy Westlake mysteries, HOT SEAT, is out in the US.

Over the month, I’ll share history and background on the book. In the meantime, here’s a little about the book itself.

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.

“Racing scenes enliven the action as Aidy tries to extricate himself from trouble by trapping a killer.”
~Publisher’s Weekly
“You can’t stop reading.”
“Watch Aidy get into one jam after the next.”

The book should be in bookstores across America and Canada. It has been available in the UK since late March. For direct links to some of the stores carrying the book, pop over to the website.

If you’d like an autographed copy from me, you can pick up a copy from my website bookstore. If you order a copy of HOT SEAT.

Thanks and I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

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The 2nd Aidy Westlake book, HOT SEAT, comes out at the end of the week and this Saturday, I’ll be at Book Carnival for my only SoCal signing. I hope to see my southland chums there. I’ll be signing with the lovely Tammy Kaehler.

Saturday, June 30th, 2:00pm
348 S. Tustin Avenue
Orange, CA 92866

I hope you can make it.

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