Can you solve the mystery?

Richard and Joe met in 1992 and published their first book, Warned Off, in 1993. A number of other books followed, but the series never took off to the satisfaction of their publishers and by 2012, the publishing rights had reverted to the authors.  Joe takes up the story…

We thought it worthwhile to try rewriting and republishing in eBook format. If there was any interest, we decided we’d write more, despite the fact that we’d effectively brought the series to a close with Harper Collins Publishers in the final book, Bet Your Life.

Old and new Eddie Malloy fans quickly surfaced and Richard and I sat down to start planning to write more stories and fit them between The Third Degree and Bet Your Life – that would allow us to revert to a younger Eddie and see how he developed as he moved toward his BYL adventure.

(All our books except For Your Sins feature Eddie Malloy. In Bet Your Life, Eddie teams up with our ‘new’ character from For Your Sins Frankie Houlihan)

Anyway, Richard decided that an extended series would affect his retirement. He’d already quit broadcasting and column writing to ease down and enjoy his family, house and the few acres he has near Lambourn, where most of the books are set. Richard also runs livery stables there and he felt that he couldn’t dedicate the time to do Eddie justice in the long term. Typically, Richard gracefully allowed me to carry on with the character, and I set to work on Dead Ringer.

That was followed by Aim High, and you can find out more about the ideas and the writing of these, along with our other books in the section below.

All the stories are set in the world of horse racing, and  involve crime, thrills and mystery – we like to present a difficult but fair challenge for the mystery reader who enjoys working out ‘whodunit’.

All are available as eBooks on your local Amazon site. Amazon can supply paperback copies, printed to order. The buy link for each eBook is at the foot of each book description. We’re also having audio versions of each title published through Audible.

Each novel is a standalone tale, although the life story of our main character, Eddie Malloy, builds steadily through each book. Feedback suggest readers are getting considerably more enjoyment from reading the series in order, and you’ll find them laid out that way below, along with synopses and some ‘inside’ comments on each book.


Warned Off – Book 1

From Champion Jockey at 22 to down-and-out at 27, Eddie Malloy is bitter and desolate, reduced to living in a broken down caravan working for a tyrannical horse dealer.

Warned Off 0806Estranged from his family and the sport he loves, Eddie cannot forget or forgive the racing authorities for believing false allegations of horse doping against him which robbed him of his riding licence. With another miserable Christmas looming, Eddie’s discovery of murder victim Danny Gordon in the racing capital of Newmarket offers him a perilous path to the resurrection of his career.

He must balance that ultimate reward against the risk of becoming a victim of Gordon’s ruthless killers.

Warned Off was a novel Joe had worked on for many years, before showing it to Richard and seeking his advice. Richard’s work on it made the book publishable and Hodder & Stoughton signed the pair of us up to a five-book contract.

Joe’s original key plotline for Warned Off had to be changed as editor, Nick Sayers (hi Nick!) thought it ‘nonsensical’. Joe still believes it was much more radical than what ended up driving the story, but radical and better are two different things.

Warned Off was well received and quite widely reviewed, though that was back in the days when print was king and the Internet almost unheard of.

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Hunted – Book 2

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]Eddie Malloy, trying to get his career back on track, finds himself in the gunsights of a cunning killer who is maiming and murdering racing personalities with a zeal and purpose which terrifies the racing world and mystifies the police.

Eddie is convinced the killer has a definitive hit list for these ritual slayings and when he discovers he is high on that list, Eddie knows he has to become the hunter not the hunted.

The idea for Hunted came to Joe perfectly formed as he was driving to his new job as marketing manager at Aintree racecourse. The inspiration came in a single ‘what if?’ theory, one sentence long – a true blessing for any writer and a rare thing.

Such a succinct plotline that leads to a whole story is the kernel of the Hollywood ‘Elevator Pitch’, where you have twenty seconds to sell your idea to a producer. And the premise was so solid, the book was the easiest of the series to write.

Soon after hardback publication, Reader’s Digest picked up the rights for their condensed books series, and Hunted appeared in 300,000 copies. The surgical precision with which the RD experts removed 20,000 words from the original made a big impression on us, and when the series was rewritten, we took out close to 100,000 words across the board. The extra pacing this offered, with no real downside, played a big part in the uptake of the eBook series.

Anyway, next time you are in that little charity shop browsing on a winter day, check the bookshelves for the RD condensed books series…you might just find an old version (they were illustrated too, and done very well).

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]Blood Ties – Book 3

The third book in the Eddie Malloy series, following Warned Off and Hunted, Blood Ties is another fast-moving mystery set in the world of UK horseracing.

Troubled jockey Eddie Malloy invests everything he has to become a partner in a small stud. One morning a blackmailer calls threatening to make public that Malloy’s stud has an infertile stallion and is cheating breeders.

Malloy discovers his partner in the stud, Martin Corish, has disappeared. Malloy’s search for the blackmailer leads him through an ever expanding web of deceit, envy, murder and more blackmail threats.

Does he let the criminals go, or must he surrender a long kept family secret that will kill his father?

In the first two books, we hadn’t given away too much about Eddie’s past. We decided it was time for readers to learn what had been driving him and his anger and general suspicion, and fuelling his sense of injustice. We believe we timed this right, though we’ll never know for sure, but Blood Ties was when Eddie’s fans really got behind him and began rooting for him, warts and all.

It’s worth mentioning here that Nicholas Camm, who narrates the Eddie Malloy series for Audible, does a splendid job of some of the heart-rending scenes in Blood Ties. Nick’s interpretation of Eddie brings to the character a new depth – it surprised us. If you are an Audible member, try this one just to hear Nick at work. 

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]Running Scared – Book 4

After battling through the early years of his comeback as a jump jockey, Eddie Malloy seems, at last, to be back on the road to the top. Multi-millionaire businessman, Broga Cates, has hired Eddie to ride his string of horses, and Eddie is full of hope. But fate has other plans…

A good friend of Eddie’s is discovered dead in a horsebox on the night of his daughter’s birthday party. Another friend is paralysed in a road accident. The families of both men need Eddie’s help, but one evil and powerful man wants Eddie to stay out of it.

From the country racetracks of England to the powerful draw of a woman in Barbados, Eddie finds himself once again fighting on behalf of others and, ultimately, to save his own life

Richard drove the key aspects of this book. He has spent many happy hours in Barbados, an island which is something of a haven for the racing fraternity. The blitz of colour the inclusion of island life brought was welcomed by readers, especially as many of our books are set in bleak British winters. There’s a completely new torture in this book, too, which, although neither bloody nor particularly violent, brought empathetic tears to many a man’s eye!

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]The Third Degree – Book 5

A crazy technology genius from Boston is hammering the English bookies by manipulating race results. This American Robin Hood secretly pays the innocent people who lose out through his scheme. His big mistake is to scam Eddie Malloy.

Eddie’s already in trouble. Trainer Matt Nash and racehorse owner, the beautiful young heiress, Rebecca Bow, have got involved with the Triads and need Eddie’s help and protection.

While Eddie is trying to track down the American, and keep his friends safe from the violent Chinese gangsters, a 12 year-old boy on a pony is searching the snowbound English Lake District for his father.

The result of that search is to have a devastating effect on Eddie’s life.

From smoky London Casinos, and the country racetracks of England, to a New York’s Wall Street, Eddie works to unravel multiple mysteries and to finally find love.

Richard and Joe first met when both were working for the satellite broadcaster SiS. Richard’s work was almost all studio-based and live, and it set us thinking once more…what if? The technology used in the book was imaginary but proved just ahead of its time, as its use – now known as CGI – is far from uncommon. We were leading the pack this time!

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]Dead Ringer – Book 6

A trio of apparent suicides of racing people in the beautiful Lambourn valley in south west England baffles Eddie Malloy. Eddie refuses to accept the police assumption that each death, accompanied by a suicide note, suggests no crime has been committed.

One of the dead saved Eddie’s life, when Eddie was just 19. Fourteen years’ later, Eddie knows he cannot rest until he discovers the truth behind the death of his friend. Eddie enlists the help of a woman “with a brain the size of the moon”, Maven Judge, a solitary maverick living on a remote Welsh clifftop above Hell’s Mouth bay.

Eddie believes he is up against a criminal genius. But he is betting that his determination, and the intellect of Maven Judge, can unravel the strangest mystery he has faced.

This was my first solo book, and I started it with a pretty big blunder. Book 5, The Third Degree, was written about 15 years before Dead Ringer, yet my job for readers was to make it feel seamless. Trouble was, I forgot to include a key character from TTD, Kim, a boy that readers had taken to very strongly.

Kim was to play no part in the story, but I should not have forgotten how attached fans of a series can get to the developing storyline and characters. Reviewers soon left me in no doubt that a rewrite would be necessary to cover Kim’s situation and the book was updated.

I was pleased not only to have got through my first book alone, but to have pulled off the most intricate plot in the series. It’s my favourite Eddie book so far and I really enjoyed writing the new character Maven Judge. From a writer’s viewpoint, this book gave me enormous satisfaction, and I’m glad to see from the reviews that so many readers enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]Aim High – Book 7

Eddie owes a big favour to Maven Judge, the solitary software genius who helped him out in a previous case. He also owes time to healing family wounds with nephew Kim and sister Marie. And Eddie’s old friend Mac is suddenly sacked from his job in racing security. He too needs Eddie’s help. Eddie sees this as the summer of repayment, but beautiful redhead Nina Raine has plans to kill Eddie’s career for good unless he does what she wants. Crooked bookie Jordan Ivory also wants Eddie out of the way so that his race-fixing scheme will carry on earning millions. The time has come for Eddie to find out if dependence on his own courage and sense of justice is enough to keep him, and those he loves safe. Is the bravery and willpower of one man enough to defeat the evil plans of many?

Boy did I struggle with this book. I mentioned the problems in some blog posts. I knew where I wanted things to go in the plot, but just could not get them working to my satisfaction. I dumped many thousands of words, restarted half a dozen times, then finally realised what was wrong – it needed a third person viewpoint.

All in the series, except The Third Degree, had been in Eddie’s voice – first person. I enjoy writing that way; much of my early reading as a boy was Dick Francis, and much of Dick’s work was first person. But the viewpoint has pros and cons: Eddie telling the tale through his perception lends the stories an urgency which, I think, is very difficult to replicate in third person. But it has serious limitations from a plotting perspective – there is no cutting to a separate scene to reveal something Eddie is unaware of, no “meanwhile, back at the ranch” scenes; Eddie needs to witness everything – he must be in every scene because he is the narrator.

But the scope of Aim High was such that I simply could not make it work in first person, so, yet again, I went back to the start and wrote in third. It’s interesting, to me, at least, that very few reviewers of the series mention viewpoint. No more than a handful of the many hundreds of reviews raise the issue. Only one has said he did not care for third person stories having become used to first person, but the book he referred to was the only other third person work – The Third Degree. On reflection, I now think I could probably rewrite that convincingly in first person, and for consistency, I might do so at some point.

But I’m certain I could not do the same with Aim High. I tried many ways already; it just won’t work. I intend to keep all future books first person, but if I get a good enough plotline, one that demands a third person telling, I’ll give it the Aim High treatment…we live and learn, right enough.

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ForYourSins2For Your Sins

Frankie Houlihan is a young priest distracted from his vocation by just one thing – horseracing. Standing beside the most dangerous steeplechase fence at Cheltenham, Frankie hurries to help a fallen jockey, Kathy Spencer. Their meeting was to change many lives forever.

Gerry Monroe, is a bitter ex-jockey who has feigned injury to cover his fear of riding. His fierce ambition to ‘be someone’ mutates into a psychotic obsession to bring misery to those who have succeeded where he failed.

Kelly Corell is a Dublin gangster with a reputation for violence and an idea that will net him millions and devastate the world of horseracing. And Peter Culling is a dying vet who wants to live forever . . . Culling doesn’t care who is sacrificed to help finance his wild scheme.

Frankie Houlihan finds himself confronting the real world and the maelstrom of terror wrought by Monroe, Corell and Culling. Will he be sucked in and destroyed, or can he battle through and finally find peace?

This was the first, and so far sole Frankie Houlihan book. We’d been looking for a new character, one completely different from Eddie, and we came up with Frankie.  Those who’ve read this seem to like it if the reviews are anything to go by, but it’s far and away our poorest seller. I think there’s substantial scope in the character, and I might seek some detailed feedback from readers to find out if they’d like more stories about Frankie.

The title caused some hassle! The setting for key aspects of the plot was a Dublin housing estate (known in America, I think, as a ‘project’) called Joseph’s Mansions (originally St Joseph’s Mansions). It was a drug-ridden, junkie-infested hell hole, but one defiant woman was still living there with her children, refusing to be intimidated by the dealers. I went there and spoke to her when researching the book, and often wonder what happened to her.

When I read about Joseph’s Mansions in the news, my imagination was fired up and I was confident that the Irish, especially Dublin natives would recognise the book by its title alone, so I convinced Richard we should call it Joseph’s Mansions. Getting approval from Nick Sayers at Harper Collins proved more difficult, and I think if it had not been our penultimate contracted book with them, Nick would have vetoed the title. Titles are very important for marketing, and my choice was not a good one. But I think Nick knew we weren’t going to sell many anyway, so he put up no fight!

Anyway, for the eBook rewrites we decided to change the title to For Your Sins. Trouble was, there were a few old books hanging around with online sellers, and, it turned out the title was still in print with Harper Collins…cue confusion. Readers searching for new books by Pitman/McNally thought they’d found one in Joseph’s Mansions, only to discover they’d read the same book under its new title. Of the reviewers who pointed this out, I left an apologetic comment on Amazon, and if you were ‘duped’ by the change, please accept our apologies.

The title now appears on Amazon with the suffix ‘formerly published as Joseph’s Mansions’.

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BetYourLife2Bet Your Life

Eddie has been out of racing for a few years, but his hunger for risk and adventure has cost him dearly. His heroics in the teeth of a savage storm on Everest win him the chance to gatecrash the world of British racing and settle some old long-festering sores.

Eddie’s billionaire boss Vaughn Keelor has big plans and Eddie is under pressure to deliver them. He can’t face failure in racing yet again. But somebody is determined to force him out for good, somebody who is ready to kill him.

Eddie’s boss wants the racing authorities to protect Malloy and ex-priest Frankie Houlihan is appointed to shadow him. The two men have much in common and become great friends. But Frankie doubts his ability to protect Eddie and when a mystery attacker stalks them both Frankie faces life or death decisions. He has the support of a new woman, a powerful force in her own right, but can they save Eddie Malloy, his sanity and his life?

 The original plan was that Eddie would quietly disappear as he settled down with his new love found in The Third Degree – so he wasn’t supposed to be back. Also, Frankie’s ‘era’ was a few years after Eddie’s so we thought that if we did bring Eddie back, he’d have to be a whole lot older. But we kind of missed Eddie and began thinking we’d pensioned him off too soon, so, he was brought out of retirement to meet Frankie Houlihan in Bet Your Life.

Since adding new Eddie books between The Third Degree and Bet Your Life, I’ve wondered at times whether we should ‘unpublish’ Bet Your Life, for continuity purposes if nothing else. But earlier experiences with For Your Sins/Joseph’s Mansions taught me that people will find copies elsewhere. And the book sells well, so we will let sleeping dogs lie for now.

We were really pleased with how Eddie and Frankie teamed up in Bet Your Life, and I think there are many more stories to be had from the pair, especially if we move them bit by bit away from the world of racing. If that’s something you have an opinion on, please leave a comment.

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