Two great books with links to York? No Doubt

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'Luckily I loved his book': author and musician Ryan Shirlow

Ian ColeYork musician Ian J Cole puts aside music for a while to check out two books by York writers



I want to take a slight detour from music in this blog and consider the written word. My very good friend and fellow muso Mr Ryan Shirlow (of Bloody Marys fame) contacted me last summer by sending me one of his very long funny rambling text messages telling me he had spend the previous two years writing a novel.

We swapped a few texts on the subject of the written word, me having just finished writing a music technology dissertation and a book chapter for an academic text book on the usability of virtual learning environments and software design (both only interesting to a very small audience, and more of this later).

The outcome of these exchanges was that Ryan agreed to read my music technology dissertation and I agreed to read his novel. I think I got the better deal.

I started to read Ryan’s book before last Christmas, just after having finished reading Julian ‘from The Press’ Cole‘s (no relation) first novel The Amateur Historian. A historical/modern crime ‘who done it?’ that I liked very much mainly because it was based in the York of 2007 and 1901.

Julian’s book is well written and a bargain that I got for £2 from the Minster Bookshop.

And I was delighted to find out that it was also a signed copy to boot, this saved me a job when I saw Julian at a Christmas Eve party.

Anyway as I started reading Ryan’s book, I didn’t know what to expect. There were similarities with Julian’s book – both were first novels, both have elements of the police and both can be classed as a thriller.

Luckily I loved Ryan’s book which was a relief because I wasn’t looking forward to telling my friend that I hated his pride and joy and that he’d wasted the last two years of his life.

Doubt is a difficult book to explain so I’m not even going to try as this isn’t a book review. I’ll leave that to David Martin, but I can heartily recommend it – see the synopsis below.

I fed back to Ryan some of the things that I thought didn’t quite work, but these were small tweaks. Ryan also got fellow friends Lord Sludge and one of the editors of this esteemed magazine to review the manuscript, and the outcome is a novel that has well written characters that I as a reader really cared about.

And that is a very hard thing to do (read Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow or any Will Self book if you want to read about characters you couldn’t care two figs about).

It seems that the same thing that is happening to the record industry is happening to book publishing. ‘Do it yourself’ is the way forward. Ryan decided to self-publish though the Lulu website instead of farming the novel out to lots of big famous publishers only to get lots of rejection letters.

So go and download Doubt for £1.99 or have it printed on demand for £6.74. Lulu take a cut but Ryan gets to keep the copyright and a percentage of every sale.

Ryan read my music technology dissertation on a long haul flight to America where I’m sure it was very useful as a sedative. As a parting shot the book chapter I’ve written is being published by a large academic publisher in the USA next month. The publisher insisted that all the chapter authors signed over copyright to them.

They will be charging $165 for the book and $30 for anyone wanting to download a PDF chapter – none of this money will find its way to the authors. In fact I’ve now been told that if I want a copy of the book I can buy it for the reduced price of $100 – you can guess what I told them to do with that idea. We live and learn.




Doubt by Ryan Shirlow

“Howard Price was the last man in the world who had no Doubt. In God or in himself. And now he had Tabitha. Bloody faith. Power. And sex.” Andrew Maginnis – Police Analyst National Public Order Intelligence Unit

Doubt is the debut novel by former police insider, writer and punk musician Ryan Shirlow – a dark and comic struggle with apocalyptic philosophy, economic meltdown, bad science and maybe – just maybe – the End of The World.


Ian J Cole
Ian J Cole is a composer, sound designer and producer who splits his time between writing experimental music and being the creative force behind the pop group Katie And The Questions

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