Jacquie’s January Blog

Hello, and Happy New Year!

One thing’s for sure – this year should turn out to be more interesting than the previous two, and hopefully offer us all a lot more freedom. I am certainly looking forward to seeing our new grandson in New Zealand for the first time. And hopefully launching the second book in the Quintus Valerius trilogy (working title The Carnelian Phoenix), in live settings with actual people. And the odd glass of something nice to celebrate. I don’t know about you, but wonderful as Zoom, FaceTime and Teams have been, I really want to move on now. 

I’ve even taken the plunge and booked my place at the Crime Writers’ Association conference at Torquay in April. The CWA has been so kind and welcoming to me as a debut crime author, I can’t wait to meet them all. My fingers are firmly crossed this one doesn’t have to be cancelled!

Meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up on reading over Christmas. Not as much as I would, and should, have read. ’Twas ever thus. This month I review a truly captivating Roman period novel by Tim Leach, acclaimed author of ancient historical novels. It’s called A Winter War; more of that below.

But first, a quick word about pirates. I’m referring to the kind that preys on writers and readers. 

A few days ago I wrote a non-fiction piece for the Crime Readers’ newsletter, and googled a fairly obscure Latin term that also happens to appear in my published novel, The Governor’s Man. I was surprised, and then horrified, to find the complete novel, cover and all, available for free download on a site purporting to be an internet library ( I have been advised not repeat the name of said internet library, but they call themselves the “world’s largest ebook library”). This website has stolen my complete book without any permissions from me or my publisher, paid no fees, and is distributing the book for free download. They are apparently funded by the advertising they carry.

I’m not so naive not to know pirate ebook sites exist. But it was an almighty shock to find there is almost nothing I can do about it. My publisher couldn’t help, even though this is a clear breach of my worldwide copyright, and their term of exclusive rights to publish the book electronically.  My trade union, the brilliant Society of Authors – who tirelessly lobby government and social media giants to stop this kind of theft – gave me a pro forma of a legal Takedown Request notification, which I duly sent to the offending website. It’s effectively a ‘Cease and Desist’ notice, asserting my legal rights as the author and holder of the copyright. Nothing has yet come of that; neither do I expect it to. I also set up Google alerts so that I can at least see all occasions on which my book is mentioned online.

I want to make two wider points here:

Firstly, by claiming to be a “library”, such sites are deluding readers who think they are legitimately accessing material made freely available by the author. In fact, genuine libraries pay to obtain the books they lend, whether in print or as ebooks; additionally authors (in the UK, anyway) are eligible for Public Lending Right, a tiny payment of pennies every time their books are borrowed. It’s a pittance, but that’s what authors live on these days.

Secondly, these pirate sites are spitting in the faces of readers who have paid to buy the ebook from the genuine distributor, usually Amazon. Or they may be subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, for example, whereby again authors earn a tiny amount for page-turns out of the fees readers pay for a Kindle Unlimited account. Without these payments authors cannot exist, and slowly but surely the supply of books for entertainment and information will dry up.

Please, if you can, spread the word about how dangerous these so-called free internet libraries are. Most readers would be shocked to think they are abetting theft by illegal download, and would want authors to be paid for their writing.

There – said my piece! Back to my 5-star book review for January:

A Winter War by Tim Leach

Published by Head of Zeus, August 2021

An exquisite slow-simmering symphony of myth, lyricism, and ancient warfare, this is an unusual story of the Sarmatians, nomadic horse-masters from the Black Sea, who crashed against the Roman border in the second century. As the characters and their backstories are gradually revealed, the existential clash between the Roman Empire and these free-wheeling skirmishing warriors takes centre stage. 

But this book is more than a panegyric extolling the virtues of the clean fierce nomadic life caught in the toils of the serpentine power struggles of Rome. So much more: we are witnessing the beginning of what I suspect will be a spectacular series with a novel angle. 

I confess I was so caught up in the beauty of Tim Leach’s prose, I missed the stonking big plot clue in the opening scene. And then the next (more subtle) clue further on. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Even though as a Roman storyteller myself, I knew a little about the Sarmatians and their subsequent history. Suffice it to say that while this story is complete and satisfying in itself, it’s real mission seems to be setting the stage for a much bigger and truly compelling series, I hope. 

On a personal note: I’m so thrilled the fascinating Roman character Lucius is cantering off into Book 2 with Sarmatian protagonist Kai, and has acquired his own voice. More please!

Available from Amazon here.

[Next month’s blog will feature a review of Paula Harmon’s new Margaret Demeray mystery, Death in the Last Reel.]

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