Monty and the getaway

A short piece of fiction for your entertainment featuring Monty, gentleman thief, and his long-suffering PA, Molly.


The wind whistled over the damp cobbles, adding to the icy chill in the air. Molly picked her way between the frost-rimmed puddles reflecting the dingy sodium light of the street lamps. She shivered and pulled her long black coat tighter around herself. What was a nice girl like her doing out on a night like this, she mused to herself, checking her watch. Wrong side of midnight too. Closer to dawn really. A girl really needed her beauty sleep rather than being out in the cold.

Her cellphone buzzed in her coat pocket, breaking her reverie. She pulled out a bluetooth earbud, popped it in place and answered the call she’d been expecting.

“Ah, boss. I’ve got a little problem.” She turned at the street corner, scanning left and right. “It’s about the car.”

“It got towed.”

She pulled the earbud out as Monty unleashed a tirade of invective, gave her employer a moment to finish then replaced the tiny transmitter. “I know, I know. Looking for a replacement now.” She’d spotted a car a hundred yards down the street, parked in a dark spot between two lamp posts. She hurried towards it. Not ideal, and she could imagine what Monty would think of it, but needs must.

“Wait, got one. What’s your ETA?” A staccato burst of gunfire from above answered her question. She killed the connection and delved into her handbag, fishing out the lockpick set that Monty had made for her. He’d been giving her lessons on how to deal with the basics. She hoped that she remembered what he’d taught her. The freezing night air didn’t help and she had to stop to blow on her hands to warm them up as she fumbled with the slim metal tools. That one went in *there* and this one like *that*. She twiddled them experimentally.

The cellphone buzzed again. Monty announced that he’d need a car by the front entrance in, oh, about twenty seconds or so, preferably moving, preferably very fast. Ideally something in the bulletproof line, but he realised that beggars couldn’t be choosers but could she please hurry up, thankyouverymuch. Molly hung up and returned her attention to the lock. Another fumble and she’d dropped the tension pick. In the manner of all things dropped near parked cars, it helpfully bounced underneath the vehicle, just out of reach.

Molly swore loudly, kicked the car and examined her options. Monty needed a car, now. She’d lost her means of getting into this car. Any car, for that matter. Another burst of gunfire focussed her mind and a solution popped up.

The brick made a satisfying crunch as it went through the passenger window, spraying the interior with tiny shards of glass. Brilliant. One car. Hotwiring, she was good at, taught at a very early age by her elder brother, Charlie. Three seconds later and the car was laying down streaks of rubber. It hurtled towards the junction and she threw it into a handbrake turn, tyres protesting loudly. She grinned. This was fun.

Monty exited the building via the large glass front doors. She was not surprised to notice that he hadn’t bothered to open them first. Stylish. He was being pursued by two security guards bearing semi-automatics, firing wildly at their quarry. He bounded down the steps five at a time and dived through the newly removed passenger window. Molly, at his request, floored it.

It took him a second or two to recover his composure and dust himself off before he took in his method of escape.

“What on…”

Molly cut him off. “I know, I know. I was kind of stuck for choice.”

“It’s a…”

She gave him one of her trademark Looks. “Would you rather walk?”

He returned the Look. “Quite frankly, yes. I mean, there are cars and there are cars, and then there’s… this?”

She screeched the custom-built, neon-paint jobbed, darkened windowed, rear-spoilered boy racer to a halt. Two large fluffy dice bumped on the windshield.

“Out you get then.”

A bullet took out the rear window, destroying the elaborate flaming skull decoration. He sighed and waved her on. Molly smiled sweetly and put her foot down again.

“You’re actually sulking, aren’t you?” she said, glancing over at him, sat there with his arms folded and the beginnings of a pout on his lips.

“I don’t like these cars. Remember what happened to the last one? It was rubbish. It very nearly blew us up.”

Molly thought for a second. “No, the rocket-propelled grenade nearly blew us up. It was hardly the car’s fault. And it was either this or one of those tiny French cars. This one at least looked like it might get us out of here in a hurry.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Hold on…”

The car slid around the corner sideways, engine screaming in protest. Unfortunately for her, the guards seemed to have a very nice, very fast looking black SUV which took the corner almost as well as she did.

She looked down at the speedometer as it crept up past sixty, seventy, seventy five. There was no way they’d get away from these goons, not in this, not now they’d reached the main road. “Running out of ideas, boss.”

Monty delved into his backpack for a moment, and came out with a small package. “Lucky for us I didn’t need this to get into the safe. Those old Dortmunder & Fforde 900 models are too much fun to crack…”

He flicked a switch, grinned then leaned out of the window before lobbing the explosive charge in a carefully timed arc.

The resulting explosion was small, but enough. Especially as he’d thrown it at the lorry they’d been passing. A lorry containing a load of scaffolding poles, which rather helpfully strew themselves in the path of the SUV.

Monty leaned back in his seat. “Brilliant. Despite your appalling taste in cars, a job well done.” He delved into his backpack again. “Want to see it?”

Molly nodded, and whistled softly as he unwrapped the black velvet from his newly acquired prize. “That’s possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Monty grinned. “Isn’t it just? Zenn is going to be *so* mad. I wish I could see his face when he finds out it’s gone” He scratched his ear, thoughtfully. “Do you have…”

“In my bag.”

He retrieved the small laptop and powered it up. “Where..?”

“Third one down. It’s the one which says ‘monitor'”

Monty clicked the icon and a window opened onscreen. It was dark. “Come on, Zenn. You must be there by now. Don’t you want to even check… ahhh. There we go.”

A man’s face appeared in the window, a slim face framed by silver hair and a neat goatee beard. It looked annoyed. Very annoyed. Monty grinned and waved as his nemesis picked up the tiny remote camera he’d left in the safe.


Author interview with a difference

Choose one of your characters, and tell us a story that has them describe YOU as an author by using the character’s voice to let us know a little bit about both of you.

“So, you’re him,” Monty said. He leaned back in his chair and sipped a latte from an oversized mug.

Molly looked up from her laptop. She’d been tapping away at the keyboard ever since I arrived, looking up only as the barista had brought my coffee. I noted the look that passed between the two women and smiled to myself. They made a lovely couple, even if I said so myself.

“Yes, that’s him. I’ve been checking out his online accounts. Seems like you’re quite the online socialite.” She ran a finger down the screen. “Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… Oh, so much Twitter. Even a Google Plus account. Didn’t realise people still used that. And Ello! Crikey.”

“Quite a number of dormant accounts too – mostly LiveJournal clones, random Blogger accounts. Registered on dozens of online forums. And an… interesting selection of domains registered in your name.”

I wasn’t surprised, obviously. I’d given Molly a health set of geek credentials, not to mention a rather nice new laptop courtesy of Monty’s bank account. Monty just hadn’t realised it yet.

He was my favourite, I had to admit.

No, wait. Scratch that. They were my favourites. Whilst Monty had started his adventures alone, many years ago, it was only when Molly had turned up as his erstwhile personal assistant/hacker that the adventures had really taken off. As their author, it was quite scary how sometimes I just had to sit back and let them exchange witty one-liners whilst I worked out where the particularly adventure in question was going.

“So, Mister So-called-author. I bet you’re wondering why I called you here today?” Monty said.

I nodded. It’s not every day that you get a message from one of your fictional characters via your Facebook account. I wondered if I’d given Molly a few too many geek credentials, and resolved to change all of my online passwords just to be on the safe side.

“Well, my dear boy. It boils down to this. You’ve spent many many years now writing us into some quite splendid adventures,” he paused briefly to finish off his coffee, waved his mug at the cute barista and continued.

“But there’s one thing I’d really like to know.”

“What’s that?” I asked, curious to see what Mister Edward Montecron, ace gentleman thief, coffee lover and product of my imagination, could possibly want to know.

“Are you ever going to actually finish writing a story?”

Fair point. Jenny, the cute barista, arrived with a fresh mug of coffee for Monty and a wink for Molly. She briefly gave me a thumbs-up, pointed at Molly and mouthed ‘thank you’ to me. I blushed.

“See, you’ve written us into dozens of story snippets. Dozens! Usually half-way through some daring adventure. All kinds of crazy goings on.”

“There was the one with the dragons,” Molly interrupted.

“Yes! Case in point! Big, nasty dragons, with teeth the size of… ” he trailed off, thoughtful. “Though that was a bit of a departure for you. Usually it’s jewels, to be fair. That, and dangling from precarious ledges whilst being chased by armed security.”

He waggled a finger at me.

“Well? Are you ever going to finish one of our adventures?”


Amusingly (to me at least), I wrote this back in 2011. Still haven’t finished a Monty story.


NaNoWriMo – an update

Ah, NaNoWriMo. That time of year when thoughts turn to the crazy challenge of cranking out fifty thousand words in thirty days.

Didn’t make it this year.

I got to just over 3,000 words. I was falling behind on the average daily wordcount needed by day 3, but figured I could still recover. After all, there was plenty of time. My characters weren’t really talking to me though, and I struggled a little with where the plot was going.

Then I saw this.

It stopped me in my writing tracks. My NaNo story involved a mysterious library where strange things happened. There was even a dragon involved. It was spooky. Characters running around doing Exciting Things and Saving The Day. In a library. With a dragon.

Don’t get me wrong, the tv series looks like a huge amount of fun. But the story? Someone had done it. Turns out they’d done it many years ago and turned it into a series of made-for-tv movies.

Confidence dented, I pretty much gave up. Kept poking and prodding at the fledgling story, wondering what I could do with it.

Then the double whammy. I read a story excerpt from Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library (coming out in January 2015).


Well, that did it. The opening chapter of The Invisible Library was utterly brilliant, and what’s more, *exactly* what I wanted my story to be like. Soon afterwards I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Invisible Library – it’s just as good as the opening chapter promised to be.

So my NaNo Library story languishes in the cloud. I’ve still got a few ideas, and have continued to poke and prod at it. Maybe I’ll write it yet – after all it’s not *quite* like the others.

After all, Neil Gaiman once said:

“Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.”

NaNoWriMo may be over, but that doesn’t mean the writing stops.

The writing never stops. Long may the story continue.

The Roundtable Podcast

I’m a huge fan of podcasts. I’ve got about a dozen set up on my phone to automagically download and I’ll usually stick one on whilst on the way to or from work, or when I’m out and about.

Recently one of my writer friends mentioned The Roundtable Podcast and I decided to check it out. As you may recall from an earlier post, I’ve been prompted by my friend John to do some writing, so I’ve been looking out for good resources online.

I *love* the Roundtable. Hosted by Dave Robison episodes alternate from a ’20 minutes with… [insert name of awesome author here]‘ one week to a longer workshop session the following week with that author.

The workshop consists of Dave, his co-host, and [awesome author] working through a story idea with a guest author – the guest has 5-8 minutes to pitch their story idea, setting, characters and plot before Dave and the others brainstorm their way through the tale, unearthing a veritable cornucopia of Literary Gold, picking at plot points, brainstorming, asking questions and getting to the nub of the story nuggets within.

It’s brilliant. So many ideas, so many bits of advice that I find myself wanting to apply to my own story ideas. The awesome guest authors are great too (recent episodes have featured Cat Rambo and Kameron Hurley) and I’ve had to add a number of books to my list as a result!

If you’re interested in writing, or the writing process, I highly recommend it.

NaNoWriMo Eve

Ask most people what October 31st means and they’ll say one thing: Halloween.

Some people will look you in the eye with a slightly manic expression.

NaNoWriMo Eve, they’ll say. Ah, the writers…

The day before the month-long writing extravaganza that is National Novel Writing Month.

I won NaNoWriMo 2011

I did NaNo a couple of years ago (and learned a few things). I’ve even got a copy of the ‘novel’  that I wrote sat on the desk next to me in hard copy. I’ve re-read bits of it, and whilst it’s not entirely terrible, there are huge swathes of it which are completely horrible. My protagonist, the Big Idea for that year’s effort, promptly disappears after the first chapter, only to be rediscovered sometime much later in the story. I have no idea what happened to her. She just… vanished.

That’s the thing about NaNo thought – it’s entirely about the wordcount. Quantity over quality. It forces you to put your butt in the seat and write. Pour the thoughts from your head out of your fingertips and onto the page. There are whole sections of the proto-novel which could easily (and humanely) be removed and replaced with a single line of prose. I also started to lose track of who was doing what to who, and why.

That said, I really enjoyed NaNo in 2011. I got to the end of the month (not necessarily the end of the story, mind you) having turned out something slightly in excess of 50,000 words in thirty days. I’d drunk an awful lot of coffee in the process.

And I’ve written virtually nothing since. Apart from this blog, obviously.  Almost no fiction. Monty, the character who I’ve written the most about, has languished in my subconscious, waiting for the day to come for his hiinks to ensue once more.

So, here I sit, on NaNo Eve, pondering. Do I begin? The excuses are already lined up and waiting – it’s already going to be a busy couple of weeks – this weekend is a write off and we’re getting some decorating done next week for starters. Should I commit myself to another herculean task, churning out another 50k words?

Half of me says yes. Half of me looks at the other half and wonders if the other half is insane. Should I throw Monty at NaNo and see what happens? See if I can get a full story out there?

How about you, dear reader? Have you tackled NaNoWriMo? Are you doing it this year?

writing meme

It’s a writing meme! The idea is that writers answer ten questions about the book they are currently working on, then tag five writing friends to do likewise. Jon was kind enough to tag me, so I’ll answer the questions here.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

It doesn’t really have one. Although ‘next’ book kind of suggests that there’s a book for it to be next from. Which there isn’t. I have written a few short stories though, and have started a couple of non-Monty stories.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Monty isinspired in no small part by the adventures of one James Bolivar ‘Slippery Jim’ di Griz, aka The Stainless Steel Rat, with a dash of Thomas Crown (the Brosnan version), soupçon of Danny Ocean. Basically a bunch of heist books/flicks with a smart-talking main character.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

See #2. Heist/Con with added funny. Wisecracking one-liners a speciality.

4. What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

Monty: For a long time at the start he was going to be played by Ewan McGregor, though currently I’ve cast Tim Roth (albeit a slightly younger version) after seeing him in Lie To Me.
tim roth

Molly: This is the one I have the most trouble with. Kelly Macdonald?

Jenny (the cute barista): not sure. Had been thinking Carey Mulligan perhaps. Maybe.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Monty, ace gentleman thief, gets himself into trouble, again. Dangerous amounts of coffee are consumed. Hijinks ensue.

6. Is your book represented by an agency?

Good lord no. Using the word ‘book’ is scary enough.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Again, this sort of implies that I’ve finished a first draft. Which is not entirely true.

8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

See #2. Possibly with a bit of Donald E. Westlake thrown into the mix.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Lawks. I can’t quite remember. I do recall doing a character sketch for Monty many many years ago, which turned into a Chapter One, which was pulled apart (in the nicest possible sense) by my friend Pete. So I rewrote it from scratch. It’s better now. However, I’ve done lots of Chapter Ones, but not many Chapter Twos.

10. What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?


I’m not tagging any other writers though. If you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.

If you want to read some of my Monty stuff, it’s collected here

[1] the chocolate may be a lie.

To write, or not to write

On "Aspiring" Writers...
On “Aspiring” Writers… by curious_spider on Flickr, aka Chuck Wendig

Sage words (as ever) from Chuck. If you’re even remotely interested in writing, get yourself over to his blog, sign up for his emails and buy his books.

I’ll wait.

Right. I’m done waiting. Onwards.

I’ve got ‘writer’ down in my bio on most places around the internet but I usually feel slightly fraudulent in putting it there.

Then again, I *do* write. I write this, for example. I also do a mean line in email.

I’ve written a couple of short stories which have been published[1] and well over thirty thousand words featuring Monty, arch gentleman thief. Some of which ends up on here. I’ve ‘won’ NaNoWriMo, though the sheer effort of churning out 50 thousand words in 30 days left my writing mojo quivering in a dessicated heap, sobbing quietly to itself.

I learned some lessons in the process, but I’m not sure I’ve entirely recovered from the experience.

It’s just that it never feels like *proper* writing. My friend Rachel over at Courtyard Lullaby summed up it up in a recent blog post:

Whenever I read a great novel like Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman or A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, the sheer gravitas to these books makes me want to shrink away and hide like the amateur I am.

Which captures exactly how I feel about my writing.

I’ve read a ton of brilliant books this year – Nick Harkaway‘s stunningly brilliant Angelmaker is just one example. I marvelled at the sheer scale and inventiveness of the ideas, and the beauty of the prose. There were sentences and paragraphs in there which I stopped and read and re-read several times just so I could savour them.

Then I looked back at the stuff I’ve written, and it’s just a pale shadow, wilting in comparison.

OK, I know it’s probably an unfair comparison, and I strongly suspect (nay, hope) that Angelmaker didn’t leap fully-formed from Nick’s head onto the page. His first draft probably sucked.

Then I saw Chuck’s post this morning and was struck by the statement.  Yoda summed it up neatly too.

Do, or do not.

I write, therefore I am.

Look out world.

Writer on the loose.

[1] though I suspect that I’m one of the few people with actual physical copies of the publications in question. One was a very trendy artsy heavy-on-the-style magazine, full of beautiful people doing beautiful things, mostly wearing sunglasses indoors. One of *those* types of magazine.


Watching someone write out the alphabet (draw the alphabet?) is oddly soothing. Hat tip to Chip for the link.

Sketchbook, February 2013 from Seb Lester on Vimeo.

BlackLetter was used throughout Europe from about 1150 until the end of the 17th century. One of my current preoccupations is developing a set of modern BlackLetter capitals that are highly legible, in BlackLetter terms, and yet retain the richness and beauty inherent in this ancient category of letterform. From time to time I will film clips like this to record my progress. Prints and originals available from Music by Carlos Márquez,

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