Five on Friday with Graeme Cumming @GraemeCumming63

Whilst I was recuperating I decided to reschedule some of my earlier posts to reach the wider audience that they have now. They’ve been ‘made-over’ to include the YouTube videos that are now a standard feature and the booklist has been brought up to date.

Although I’m now officially back, I still need time to organise my new ‘Fives’ as I held off sending out invites as I didn’t know when I’d be back in the fray. Consequently, I’m keeping my revisited posts as a feature until the end of the year. That gives my invitees time to respond and allows me time to get those posts up and running. I already have several up my sleeve so I can guarantee getting 2022 off to a great start!

Today I’m delighted to re-visit author Graeme Cumming, another friend that I originally met at Theakston 2017, that was a vintage year! Graeme’s first novel, Ravens Gathering, was published in 2012, gaining excellent reviews and a committed following. His second novel, Carrion, was published in 2020, and has been greeted with enthusiasm by readers waiting to find out what he’ll come up with next. He hopes not to keep them waiting so long next time.

Over to Graeme:

Graeme Cumming has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV and movies – turning to writing his own stories during his early teens.

He first realised he genuinely had some talent when he submitted a story to his English teacher, Christine Tubb, who raved about it.  The same story was published in the school magazine and spawned a series that was met with enthusiasm by readers.  Christine was subsequently overheard saying that if Graeme wasn’t a published author by the time he was 25, she’d eat her hat.  Sadly, she probably spent the next 25 years buying her groceries exclusively from milliners.  (Even more sadly, having left school with no clear direction in life, Graeme made no effort to keep in touch with any teachers, so has lost track of this source of great support and encouragement.)

Having allowed himself to be distracted (in no particular order) by girls, alcohol and rock concerts, Graeme spent little of his late teens and twenties writing.  A year-long burst of activity produced a first draft of a futuristic thriller, Beyond Salvage, which has since lain dormant, waiting for a significant edit.

The onset of family life meant opportunities to write became more limited (though it could be argued that he got his priorities wrong). Reaching his early forties, he realised he hadn’t written anything for several years and decided to become more focused. Since then he has written regularly.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaLost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

This diverse interest in fiction continued with reading books and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but are always written as thrillers.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club, although he lives in Robin Hood country.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and still loves the cinema.

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney and Wings. Live and Let Die was my first Bond movie. I’d already started to fall in love with cinema, but the spectacle of that film took things to a new level. Sharks, snakes and crocodiles; a bus chase; hang-gliding (in 1973!); an airplane chase on the ground; and probably the best boat chase ever filmed. I was 10 years old and loved it – and still do now. This song will be played at my funeral.


Excerpt from a Teenage Opera (Grocer Jack) – Keith West (no, I’ve no idea who he is, either). I have a strong memory of my granddad being on all fours and me riding on his back while he sang this to me. Can’t remember the circumstances, but whenever I hear it I’m reminded of that moment of closeness with him. He was a kind man with simple tastes and, together with my grandma, they formed the foundation of what I’ve found to be a very loving and nurturing extended family.


Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks. A fuller explanation of this appears in a series of blog posts, but it reminds me of a sailing experience. Sailing has become a major passion for me in the last few years. I’m primarily a dinghy sailor, and there is little more exhilarating than having a boat tilted on its edge while you hang out the other side to balance it as the wind fills your sails and you slice through the water. But sailing can also be very relaxing and I have a great memory of a group of us on a yacht singing this as we motored back to port after a terrific week on the water.


Tower of Song – Leonard Cohen. I have been a melancholy teenager riddled with angst as I’ve listened to Cohen’s music (music to hang yourself to, according to some sources), but I’ve also grown to love and appreciate his humour. Having had the privilege of seeing him perform live on two occasions (I will talk about it eventually in my “Gigging Years” blog posts), I’ve felt the warmth of his personality as well. Like so many of his songs, this one tells eternal truths, and, sadly, I can now relate to the imagery of those opening lines:

Well, my friends are gone, and my hair is grey,

And I ache in the places where I used to play…


Leave This Town – Thin Lizzy. Live music has been an important part of my life, and that part would be incomplete without Thin Lizzy. They are still the most exciting band I’ve seen perform. There are so many songs of theirs I could choose to include here, but I’ve picked this one because it really captures their tone and style: pulp fiction set to music.


What 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

Turkish Delight, and I mean the proper stuff – rose and lemon covered in icing sugar. The stuff with chocolate on is okay, but nothing beats the real thing…

Books. Pretty obvious, I know, but I’ve been reading for pretty much as long as I can remember, and it’s very rarely I can sleep at night without having read a chapter or two. So I need them to avoid insomnia.

Cinema. I’ve already mentioned my passion for the movies. There’s no better way to watch a film than on the big screen – though I do yearn for the days when you could see old movies there rather than on TV, and for double bills (remember those?).

Sailing. There really are few things as exhilarating that you can do with your clothes on…

Can’t think what the fifth one is…

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Be more disciplined (and I’m not talking about visiting Miss Whiplash). It’s okay to have fun, but if you want to achieve anything in life, you need to focus on it to make it happen.

Buying a house when you’re 20 might seem like the sensible thing to do, but it’ll tie you down. Defer that need to acquire assets – they get in the way of you exploring what you really want to do in life. Besides, you’ll give away most of those assets when you split up with the mother of your children!

Treat your mum better. It’s easy to take parents for granted, especially when you know deep down that they’ll love you no matter what. And, remember, what goes around comes around.

Mean and moody is great if you’re Dirty Harry, but it’s not conducive to good personal relationships in real life.

Be grateful. You have a lot of good things in your life. Bad stuff is part of life, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it (though celibacy might have helped), but focusing on the good things and being grateful for them means you’ll enjoy life more.

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you

I am sinister – in more ways than one.

I have twice walked across 12 feet of burning hot coals – and burnt myself the second time!

I’ve never been married, but I did once propose to someone on a submarine.

I read Live and Let Die when I was 10 – and didn’t understand why there wasn’t a boat chase in it.

I nearly died at birth, so I’ve had a charmed life regardless of how it turns out.

Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.

Go skiing. Never been, but always fancied trying it.

Find a zip wire with a gentle finish so I can take my partner on it. She’s never done one and for medical reasons there are potential risks with the jolt at the end, but she’d love to have a go and I’d love to share the experience with her.

Tour the country. Part of me wants to get a camper van and just set off and roam, stopping off when and where I feel like it. But I like my comforts, so I’d probably need to hop from one motel/B&B to another. Along the way, I’d meet up with old friends (and maybe some new ones).

Hire a cinema and get them to screen Live and Let Die – and ideally another movie so I get a double bill.

Live on the coast. Part of me wants it to be on a yacht – there’s the potentially nomadic lifestyle, plus that gentle rocking motion gives you the most refreshing night’s sleep. But I suspect the need for home comforts would win out and I’d plump for a house.

Graeme’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Ravens Gathering

As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.


Carrion

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.

A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.

Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.

With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.

The future is about to change. But who for?

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