Simon Says » communiqué 001/November 2016

Simon Says: communiqué 001/November 2016

I’m making a few changes.

You’ll have noticed the subject line of this email: Simon Says. Instead of just sending an email when I’ve got a new book to sell, I’m getting a bit more talkative. And as I get more chatty (which is another way of saying these emails will be getting longer), I’ll be mailing on a more regular schedule, so you can now expect to hear from me about once a month (some time around the second Tuesday, give or take).

I’ll elaborate about the change later on, but first let’s talk about books.

Diplomatic Baggage

Diplomatic Baggage, the second Leathan Wilkey novel, was published last month. But you know that, right?

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the book yet, then head over to Amazon and take a look.

What’s Next for Leathan Wilkey?

There are currently two published Leathan Wilkey novels, Clementina and Diplomatic Baggage, but there are more Leathan books to come. The next two books have been written and are currently going through the editing/production process.

Bag Man

Bag Man is a Leathan novella that will be included in my introductory library.

If you’ve received this email directly, then you’re in my readers’ group and I’ll send you an electronic version of the book as soon as it’s available. If this email was forwarded to you, then join my readers’ group and I’ll let you know when Bag Man is out—it’ll be free for you, too.

Another benefit of this longer form email is the opportunity to share excerpts. Chapter 1 from Bag Man is at the bottom of this email (just before the bit where you can unsubscribe). Go read and enjoy. :-)

The Camera

The Camera, the third novel in the Leathan series, will be published early in 2017.

Simon Says: What’s It All About?

Simon Says is my new monthly readers’ group communiqué.

The main reason for the change (from an irregular email each time I publish a book to a regular monthly email) is to shift the focus away from simply shouting about my new books to talking more broadly. Of course I’ll mention my books—you can be sure I’ll always mention my books—but I want to talk about more.


Over time, that “more” will include:

And that “more” will go further, so I may also talk about what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been watching. As an example, in this first edition I talk (under the next heading) about the new Amanda Knox documentary.

With more expansive content, there’s a slightly different presentation. As you can see, there are headings so you can easily skim, and then if you want to dive deeper and read more, you can.

Amanda Knox

In 2007, Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy. A man called Rudy Guede is currently in jail, having admitted involvement in her murder.

Few people remember Meredith Kercher. Even fewer remember Guede (and virtually none remember his name). However, nearly everyone remembers Amanda Knox, with whom Kercher shared an apartment.

Knox was found guilty—but was subsequently acquitted—of the murder of Kercher. Knox’s story is now recounted in a new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox.

The Story According to Knox

Knox’s version of events (in short) is that she spent the night of the murder with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito (whom she had met five days previously). The next morning she returned to the apartment and found the front door ajar.

She entered, saw Kercher’s door was shut and so presumed she was sleeping, and then proceeded to take a shower. On getting out of the shower, she found a blood stain on the bath mat.

Knox then left the apartment and returned with Sollecito. The two noticed a broken window and, becoming concerned that Kercher did not answer when they knocked, they tried to force her door. When that was unsuccessful, the police were called. The police broke the door down to find the dead body.

Knox and Sollecito first came to public attention when cameras caught them kissing outside the apartment in which the dead body lay. And from that moment Knox achieved a level of celebrity the Kardashians can only dream about.

So… That Kissing…

Many people think they know how they would act in a certain circumstance. In this context, most people are convinced that if they found a friend/roommate murdered, they would not stand outside the crime scene kissing their boy/girlfriend.

Let’s cut to the chase: No one knows how they would act in any circumstance, especially in a situation that (1) they have never experienced before and (2) is highly emotionally traumatic.

While no one knows how they might act, that didn’t stop the media (and the police) from deciding that the appropriate behavior after a murder does not involve making out with your boyfriend.

It is hard to argue that the behavior was seemly, but a huge leap was then made—and a narrative developed—that Knox’s behavior indicated she was hiding something, and what she was hiding was her involvement in the murder.

The Police, the Media

It wasn’t long before Knox and Sollecito were arrested. Knox’s behavior and the (not insignificant) lies she told, helped the police believe they had the right person.

Not only did the police believe they had the right person—so did the media. Knox’s historic social media postings were great fodder for the press, as were the leaks from the police. The leaks included Knox’s prison diaries and details of the death. In addition, facts were extrapolated that were conveniently blurred with salacious speculation about a sex game that had gone wrong.

Before the trial for Knox and Sollecito could begin, in a separate fast-track legal process Rudy Guede admitted his involvement. Guede’s conviction didn’t remove any suspicion from Knox and Sollecito, and it didn’t stop Guede from laying blame on Knox and Sollecito, who were both convicted of the murder.

Giuliano Mignini

The prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, had detective-like powers, and power to determine the course of the investigation. Mignini looked at Knox—and how she behaved—and was convinced that she was the murderer. From this point, the investigation appears to have been steered to back this belief rather than to search for facts.

And this is where I get twitchy (again) about what people actually know. Surely, if it’s possible for a detective to look into the eyes of a suspect and know that person committed a murder, then we don’t need juries. What is the point of having judges and the right of appeal if all that is necessary to determine guilt is for a prosecutor to look in the eyes of the suspect?

Now, certainly, it is right that a detective/prosecutor should be able to have hunches and to act on those hunches, but Italy relies on laying a case before the court.

How Should a Murderer Behave?

Giuliano Mignini was (and, according to the documentary, still is) convinced that Knox committed the murder. He clearly views her as some sort of criminal mastermind. But if she were a cold-blooded criminal genius (and please feel free to insert any relevant cliché here), might she have behaved differently?

For instance, might someone who had just killed their roommate feign extreme distress? Might they stand in full glare of the TV cameras and sob? Might they wait until the detective was passing and then break down in tears, grasping at the detective as they proclaimed the victim was their best friend, while demanding that the detective do everything within his or her powers to bring the culprit to justice immediately?

I don’t know how a murderer would act; I’m just suggesting that odd behavior does not inevitably lead to one incontrovertible conclusion.

And just to play the other side of the argument here, I’m not suggesting that Knox’s odd behavior proves her innocence, either. If you can murder your roommate in cold blood, then it is a simple thing to lie to the cops, to lie to the prosecutor, and to lie to a documentary maker.

Weaknesses in the Documentary

The documentary tells story of key players but largely ignores Kercher (although the title clearly explains the subject of the documentary). Given the subject matter, the documentary looks at the events from the perspectives of the key players but doesn’t really consider how the justice system failed.

The documentary gives an interesting to look back to 2007, but ultimately, it wasn’t engaging and doesn’t tell us anything more about what happened that night or what has happened since then. If you don’t know the background, it’s a nice summary, but if you already know the story, there’s better on Netflix.

To Close

This is the first edition of a new and different approach. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you’ve got any thoughts/comments/questions, please hit the reply button or come and join the conversation on Facebook.

I’ll be back in about a month with the second edition. Let me know if there’s anything you want me to cover. I can’t offer any guarantees about what I will include, but I will consider all thoughts.

If you have any friends who you think might find this communiqué interesting, then please forward it to them. And if you’re a friend who has received this and wants to hear more—and would like to get hold of my free introductory library—then join my readers group.

I’ll sign off now, but keep scrolling to read the first chapter of Bag Man.

All the best


Bag Man: Chapter One

“I don’t trust…”

Claude cut across me before I could finish my sentence. “You don’t trust her, she doesn’t trust you, and I don’t trust either of you. So we’re all even.” He sucked on his cigar, then picked up his espresso cup with his other hand, holding the small lump of white porcelain delicately between his thick thumb and stubby middle finger as he pointed at me—the cup becoming a makeshift finger. “Are you happy now?”

“It’s a trap.”

Claude took a sip of espresso and returned his cup to its saucer. “Possibly.” As the hand with his cup lowered, his other raised itself like a seesaw bringing up his cigar. He sucked the burning leaves. “Probably.”

The fat man seemed happy to let the conversation dry up. He stared at his cigar, his look one of contemplation in the way one might contemplate a vintage wine.

The weather in Paris had turned. The last few crisp autumnal days had been banished, being replaced by gray mornings with biting wind whipping off la Seine, and frequent heavy showers. The city was moving quickly, desperate to get inside before it rained again. Again. Getting wet wasn’t the problem—the problem was being wet when the wind picked up.

Claude and I stood by the waist-high table outside the café. Outside: Claude’s one begrudging concession to the legislation banning smoking inside. I barely knew him, we’d only spoken once before, but I knew Claude firmly believed the legislation banning smoking inside was contrary to the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité, not to mention all the statutes in the French, European, and United Nations corpus of legislation that had been written since the founding of the Republic.

But for the fat man, the inconvenience was not being outside—I suspected it was standing. His battered raincoat, misbuttoned and a shade somewhere between gray and brown, bore testament to meals eaten since the weather turned and meals eaten during the previous years’ rainy seasons. He talked with his hands, and unless he was sitting, he was too much of a target as his food spilled when held in his fast-moving hand.

“Your choice. Do you want the job or not?” asked Claude. “Do the job, take a risk, get paid. Or walk away and I’ll find someone else. Do the job well, and maybe there’s more work for you.”

“Get killed and you’ll organize my funeral?” I asked, instinctively rubbing my arms for warmth.

He snorted. “You’re funny for an Englishman.”

“Probably because I’m Scottish,” I muttered. But I suspected Claude knew that my father was Scottish and my mother French. He was probably only sniping because he was getting bored by my reluctance to simply agree to accept the job. “Who’s the client?” I asked.

“She’s either a saint or a devil, depending on who you believe. If you’re concerned about business, then Gabriela Carvalho turned around a failing Brazilian mining company and made it a global player. In so doing, she became a feminist icon—mother and CEO. If you worry about polar bears, then she’s the devil slashing and burning her way through the Amazon jungle to satisfy her own greed.”

Claude sipped his espresso, apparently satisfied that I now had sufficient information.

“Why me?” I asked.

Claude contemplated the question—a Parisian philosopher weighing the nature of the matter. “Why you, Leathan Wilkey? Or why you and not the cops or some private army?”

“Both, I guess.”

“You, and not the cops, because Gabriela Carvalho doesn’t want the cops involved. She doesn’t trust them and she doesn’t want the publicity. If it gets known that she paid a ransom for her kid, that will show there was a weakness in her security and that she has a vulnerability. Wherever she goes, they’ll be lining up to grab the kid again.”

“Then she’s got security? So why me?”

“You, Leathan, because…” He stared into the distance. “Because.”


“Because they need someone with local knowledge who speaks the language.”

“There are people who know more about Paris,” I said. “I’ve only been here for six weeks.”

Claude stubbed out his cigar and lit another. It came from the same pack, but he savored the first draw as if this were some new and exotic pleasure he had never previously enjoyed. “My friend the lawyer recommended you. He was returning the favor—he said you got him hired and his client said good things about you. He said you’re good at this sort of thing.”

“What sort of thing is that?” I asked. A gust of wind blew, bringing with it a sheet of moisture that wasn’t quite rain.

The muscles in Claude’s flabby face tightened slightly. “Kids, families, thinking on your feet, giving a shit, sorting stuff out…” said Claude, not giving emphasis to any particular aspect. He gripped the table and faced me directly, the tone of his voice dropped. “She needs your help, Leathan. Will you meet her?”