Simon Michael

I am a former barrister who was published here and in the US 30+ years ago (WH Allen, Grafton and St Martins Press). I turned to full-time writing when I retired in 2016, since when I have had a series of six legal crime thrillers published by Sapere Books, the seventh due out this autumn. They feature my barrister anti-hero, Charles Holborne, a man who has a complex relationship with the Kray twins.

My unpublished MS, The Semi-Detached Women, which I am entering for the Writing Award, is very different. It is set in 1963 and involves the relationship between two damaged women, previously in heterosexual relationships, who move with their children into the two halves of a remote stone cottage in the High Peaks of Derbyshire. The book explores the institutional prejudice of the time and the tentative friendship, and then sexual relationship, that develops between the women. Its themes are kindness, acceptance and redemption. Coincidentally, it raises the very issues now in the press about the way single-parent mothers were pressurised in the 1960s to have their children adopted.

I have also just completed a spec fic MS set in a post-global warming world where sea rises have wiped out most of eastern Britain, leaving an archipelago of semi-tropical islands. That book (Of Men and Gods) counterpoints the bulk of mankind - hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers - with the technological elite who escaped the rising seas by moving into shielded domes. Homo sapiens has divided into two sub-species. The book explores the part that myth and story play in our understanding of who we are.

Finally, I am starting work on book 8 in the Charles Holborne crime thriller series. Thus, since retiring in 2016, I have completed nine manuscripts. Many more will follow!

I am the organiser of the Manchester Group of the Society of Authors and on the board of the Crime Writers' Association.

Award Type
1963: two damaged women, formerly in heterosexual relationships, move with their respective children into the two semis of an isolated cottage, become friends and then lovers, and have to fight institutional prejudice to keep their children. It is a story of intolerance, kindness and redemption.
This submission is private and only visible to judges.


Jodie Renner Fri, 09/24/2021 - 03:24

An intriguing story, but I was distracted by the viewpoint shifts and occasional verb tense gaffes. I would have liked to stay in Janine's point of view right from the start, rather than starting out in omniscient. Then we jump into the bus driver's point of view. And how does he know exactly what she's wearing when she's way at the back of the bus? Then we're back in Janine's viewpoint, which is great, except for a paragraph or so in Lady Margaret's POV. I find that kind of head-hopping distracting. As a fiction editor and voracious reader of fiction, I prefer to stay in the head and body of one character at a time, and advise my author clients to never go into the POV of minor characters like the bus driver. Other than that, great story!

Simon Michael Fri, 09/24/2021 - 08:26

Thank you for your comment. What you describe as head hopping might look different if you’d had the opportunity to read beyond the first few pages, as the book is deliberately told from the perspectives of different women; this was a stylistic choice. As for how the driver noticed Janine’s clothes, perhaps you missed the following: “He wouldn’t have noticed her at all had she not begun changing seats as gaps appeared, moving like a chequers piece diagonally back and forth across the aisle until she was as far away from him as possible.”

Jodie Renner Sun, 09/26/2021 - 01:38

I like the idea of the novel being told through the perspectives of different women, as long as they're pivotal characters in the story and each has their own chapter or scene. I suggest you not stray into the POV of minor characters, though, as that's distracting and a bit annoying. Stay in the head and body of the main character for that scene. Good luck with this!

Simon Michael Sun, 09/26/2021 - 12:39

Hi Jodie. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have taken your advice and made a couple of minor changes. I think that from Chapter 2 onwards, the style of the book will become clear and your concerns should be allayed. The story is told from the perspectives of, principally, Janine and Laura, but also Lady Margaret, so seeing events from each of their respective viewpoints become the natural rhythm of the book. But I don't want that to be distracting in Chapter 1 before readers have settled into that rhythm, so I have used a slightly "longer lens" (omniscient).

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