Crossover Point / Black Greeks / Danger! Meteorite!


CROSSOVER POINT, the short sci-fi film I wrote and directed, premieres on YouTube July 1, at 11am PST / 7pm BST. You can set a reminder from the YouTube page.

Myself, Casey, and possibly Moisés will be there in the chat as it goes out, so join us if you can. But don’t worry if you can’t make the premiere time: it’ll stay up online at the same URL for you to watch at your leisure.

Which is just as well, because you’ll almost certainly want to go back and watch it again after you reach the end…

Remember, this whole film was conceived 🤔 written 🖋 shot 📽 edited 🎞 and completed 🥂 while all three of us were self-isolating in lockdown, thanks to the amazing power of modern tech. We think that's pretty cool, and we can't wait for you all to see it 👍

Read more at Bleeding Cool:


A fascinating article by Tim Whitmarsh, asking not “was Achilles black?” — because Achilles as we know of him, like King Arthur or Robin Hood, is more of a mythological figure who may or may not have been based on a real person, than a confirmed historical figure — but instead asking, “Did Homer intend Achilles to be perceived as black by his audience?”

The answer, like the question of Achilles’ existence, is complex, thought-provoking, and one that would almost certainly have baffled the ancient Greeks themselves.


Two new episodes of W&B online since the last newsletter. First with the multitalented Paul Cornell, writer of TV, comics, novels, radio dramas, and more:

And then with the multi-award-winning thriller author Steve Cavanagh:

These episodes are a great example of what I love about making this show: they couldn’t be more different in outlook, method, and practice… and yet there are also commonalities than any writer will recognise, and of course both have found great success. It really goes to show there’s no monolithic One Way of doing things.

And there’s even more evidence of that coming up; future guests lined up include Lauren Beukes, John Gruber, Rhianna Pratchett, James Swallow, and more.


On a clear afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama in 1954, Ann Hodges was napping on her couch, covered by quilts, when a softball-size hunk of black rock broke through the ceiling, bounced off a radio, and hit her in the thigh, leaving a pineapple-shaped bruise.

This turns out to be quite a sad story, but still kind of eye-popping just due to its rarity. As one expert quoted in the piece says, think how many people have existed all throughout history — and as far as we know, only one has ever actually been struck by a meteorite and survived.


I was recently John Martarello’s guest on Background Mode, a show produced by the Mac Observer, to talk about my nerdy background, using technology as a writer, and more. Many thanks to my Incomparable cohort Kelly Guimont for setting it up.


Tempus blog tour / Crime Reading Month / Podcasts

NB this is the first newsletter coming from Substack, following the switch away from Tinyletter. You don’t need to do anything, but you might want to add this newsletter’s email address to your non-spam list just in case.


May was National Crime Reading Month, an annual celebration organised by the Crime Writers’ Association. Normally this means holding and supporting events all over the UK, from festivals to bookstore appearances to library groups and more. Of course, this year none of that could happen — but rather than just abandon it, the CWA decided to move #CrimeReadingMonth online instead. 

One of the main initiatives was ‘Crime Writers in Residence’, where members made short videos from our workspaces to talk about our work, life during lockdown, and recommend our own favourite books. I helped out by editing and assembling the videos from the raw footage sent by our members, and (naturally) making one myself.

Another part of the initiative was publishing new short stories by CWA authors online, and I took part in that too. So if you fancy a NEW short story by me, about post-viral illegal dining and too much tequila, go read FOOD BY HAND:


Meanwhile, THE TEMPUS PROJECT is now on sale, and all last week we ran a blog tour called the Week Of Tempus, alongside a bunch of very nice reviews going live. I won’t link to everything here, as it’s quite a list: check my twitter and the #WeekOfTempus hashtag to see what people thought. But here are a few choice quotes:

“Delivers countless thrills and suspensions of the heartbeat”
Maxim Jakubowski

“Johnston’s cracked the code on how to make a keyboard warrior into an exciting spy”

“Brigitte Sharp is the most effective female espionage agent in fiction since Modesty Blaise”
Barry Forshaw

“Exciting and refreshing… an overall explosive thriller that excites on many levels”
Novel Novelist

“I have recently been reading a number of thrillers with strong female protagonists [and] The Tempus Project ranks as one of the best”

“A smart, high-octane cyber-thriller featuring a heroine after my own heart”
Dr Alice Violett

“This is the first Brigitte Sharp book I’ve read and I really enjoyed it… a fantastic read”


As always, part of the publicity for a new book involves appearing on podcasts, writing articles, and so on.

Espionage aficionado and reviewer Jeff Quest interviewed me for the Spybrary podcast. As you might imagine, that one’s very heavily aimed at fellow spy nerds.

I was also on the Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast, hosted by two of the UK’s foremost crime writers, Vaseem Khan and Abir Mukherjee. That was more of a general chat about work and writing, and is worth listening to just for Abir’s bafflement at my workload…!

As for articles, I often find these a bit tricky. Contrary to the evidence herein, I don’t want to just recount the book blurb and talk about how great I am 😅 But at the same time, everyone wants 400-600 words, max. What on earth can I say in such a short piece?

Example: Martin Edwards offered me a guest spot on his blog. Martin is a veteran author and historian of the crime and mystery genre, a former chair of the CWA, president of the Detection Club, and this year’s Diamond Dagger recipient. He’s become a good friend in the past few years, and I enjoy his work… but it’s very different to mine. So for him I wrote a piece called A MYSTERIOUS LOVE, about something fundamental that we do have in common; a love of mysteries and puzzles in fiction.

Barry Forshaw also invited me to write a piece for Crime Time, and while that’s a much broader remit, it’s also read by other writers as much as readers. So for him I wrote ATTRACTED TO DAMAGE, a piece discussing why flawed and psychologically damaged characters are so attractive to both authors and readers, and how that relates to Brigitte Sharp.

(I also wrote a new piece for this month’s Crime Readers’ Association newsletter. I’ll link to it here when it goes online, either at the CRA website or if I post it at Medium.)


Here’s something nobody ever tells you about film post-production: it’s kind of boring.

Oh, sure, the editing per se is fun and creative. But everything around that part — selecting which takes to use, marking up their timecodes, taking notes, ensuring you import the right takes into the editing software, syncing up video and sound, processing the audio, compiling credits… well, that stuff is kind of dull. 

(Although somewhat livened up when you have to watch out for a house cat randomly appearing in several shots)

Still, it has to be done, as I found out last week when I did all of that for CROSSOVER POINT. Written, shot, edited, and completed entirely during lockdown. Not bad. No date yet set for release, but it probably won’t be long. We’re thinking of doing a YouTube Premiere thing, where everyone gets to see it live at the same time. Once it’s decided I’ll let you all know.


Shortly after launching UNJUSTLY MALIGNED, I made a ‘hidden’ webpage for the benefit of guests who’d never been on a podcast before, explaining how to take part and record their side of the conversation so I could edit it all together afterwards.

I showed the page to a few other podcast host friends, and some asked if they could direct their own guests to it. In fact, a lot of them began asking, so eventually I figured I should just make it publicly accessible. I revised it to make it show-agnostic, bought a URL, and The Podcast Guest Guide was born. 

But that was some years ago, and since then the technological landscape of how podcasts are made has changed somewhat — while simultaneously, thanks to the pandemic more and more of us are appearing on podcasts, doing radio phone-ins, and conducting conference calls.

Voila: The Podcast Guest Guide v3 is now online. Spread the word.


As for my own podcasts, there are two new episode of WRITING AND BREATHING now online, with screenwriter Bryan Hill — whose work ethic puts even mine to shame — and multi-award-winning poet and novelist Amal El-Mohtar, who explains why poetry is important to all writers, even potboiler-peddlers like me. 

Find them both, and all previous episodes, at

Finally, there’s a new episode of my heavy metal show THRASH IT OUT, where I subject my co-host Brian LeTendre to the grinding death metal of Arizona grunters Gatecreeper, and their new album DESERTED. 🤘


Lockdown madness / Tempus approaches / All the podcasts


Been a while. Hasn’t it? Or has it? What is time? How does it work?

This lockdown business has turned us all a bit weird. The truth is, the days aren’t all that different in our house; we spend most of them working indoors at home anyway. But even our sleepy little town isn’t normally this quiet, and just knowing we don’t have the option to go out as much as we’d like is frustrating.

That said, we’re in a better position than most to ride this thing out. We’re more concerned about elderly relatives and neighbours, not to mention family members who are classified as key workers and so can’t self-isolate at home even if they wanted to.

The lockdown has also, of course, played absolute havoc with production, distribution, and promotion at every level of the publishing and entertainment industry. Which is not much fun when your next novel is about to be released.


THE TEMPUS PROJECT, the new Brigitte Sharp thriller (which CWA Gold Dagger winner MW Craven just today called “Absolutely awesome”) will still be released in paperback and ebook on May 25th. My author copies arrived this week:

I even made an ‘unboxing’ video for Twitter, because 100% of book promotion is now online, so why not:
The ebook will be available immediately on May 25, of course. If you want the paperback, you can still order it at places like Amazon, but I’d encourage you — now, of all times — to order it from your local bookstore, instead. Most local stores are operating a mail-order service, some of them for the first time, and it’s your business that will keep them afloat.

Finally, when in doubt, you can always order direct from the publisher:
The audiobook, originally planned for simultaneous release, has been unfortunately delayed. As soon as I have a date for that, I’ll let you know.


The audiobook edition of THE EXPHORIA CODE, however, is out now for your listening pleasure, expertly narrated by Yolanda Kettle. It was even Audible’s Crime & Thriller Pick of the Month. How lovely 😊


I’d planned to spend March and April outlining the third Brigitte Sharp book, aka PROJECT OVERKILL. But those books rely heavily on geopolitics, not to mention international travel, and right now none of us knows what the world will look like in a year’s time, or if half the airlines we currently know will even exist.

So I’ve put that on hold and dived into PROJECT DAMAGE CASE instead, a new book that’s a little different from my usual fare, and if worst comes to worst could even be set back in the crowd-gathering days of 2018. It’s going well, despite everything; almost 40,000 words in, chipping away day by day.

And then, just to give myself more work because I’m that kind of fool, I decided a global lockdown was the perfect time to write and direct a short film.

Of course, that’s not quite the whole story. In fact I had the idea for CROSSOVER POINT during lockdown, and the whole thing uses the conceit of video calls, something with which we’ve all suddenly become unnervingly familiar. So I’m directing a couple of actor friends in the US, Moisés Chiullan and Casey McKinnon, and it’ll be released for free online.

As if that wasn’t enough, eighteen months ago I was in talks about a TV thing, which then went very quiet, but has now suddenly popped its head back up again in earnest. Continuing this year’s theme of Motörhead song names, I’m giving it the codename PROJECT MEAN MACHINE.


One thing I certainly haven’t been slacking on during lockdown is podcasts and the like.

A couple of weeks ago I was a guest on Rodney Orpheus’ Twitch show DESERT ISLAND NERDS. I was a fan of Rodney’s band The Cassandra Complex long before he and I became friends, so this was a lot of fun:

WRITING AND BREATHING continues apace. Recent episodes have featured bestselling crime writer Vaseem Khan, CAPTAIN MARVEL supremess Kelly Sue DeConnick, award-winning novelist Cherie Priest, and comics legend Kieron Gillen. Premium patrons have also been treated to two exclusive Q&A episodes with guests Dan Moren and James Swallow. There’s plenty more where that came from, so tune in now:

Over on the Incomparable network, first we followed up our 1980s ‘album draft’ from, whoops, two years ago, with a ’90s draft. The ’90s was my favourite musical decade, so gird your loins for this one:

The next season of PANTS IN THE BOOT has also kicked off, and the theme this time around is “meals”. You might think that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are universal, but you would be very wrong. Hell, we spent the first episode just arguing about how many meals there are in a day, when they take place, and what they’re called…!

And finally I was a guest on MAGNUM, PODCAST, a new show discussing favourite episodes of the 1980s noir-but-Hawaii prime time detective show. Like many other people my age, just hearing the phrase ‘Ivan… did you see the sunrise this morning?’ is enough to drown me in a wave of nostalgia, so naturally that’s the episode I wanted to talk about.


Free Music / Free Words / Free Pictures

Yikes, the world got strange since the last one of these. Here’s some stuff that might cheer you up.


I’ve recorded a new Silencaeon album, SHELTER / PLACE, designed to help people focus when working from home. Two 30-min tracks of mostly-repetitive, non-intrusive music that you can download for FREE/pay-what-you-want from Bandcamp.
If you’re working from home for the first time, you may be struggling to focus. I, and lots of other people who’ve been doing this for many years, listen to this kind of music when working to help. It removes ‘deafening silence’, without distracting.

Background TV, radio, or music with lyrics can distract, pulling our attention away from work. By contrast, ambient music fades into the background as our work begins to flow (I also listen to classical, for the same reasons, but that's for advanced practitioners only 😉).

I’m somewhat baffled and humbled to note that this went up a week ago, and it’s now already the second-highest earning Silenceaon release ever. It’s OK to download it for free, it really is! But thank you to those who’ve generously paid. (The top seller remains DEAD CHANNEL, by a significant margin. No surprise.)


Writer John Birmingham (THE CRUEL STARS, ZERO DAY CODE) is one of those people struggling to focus at the moment, but his solution was a little different. John’s a friend, and a while back — and before the coronavirus really kicked off — I sent him an advance copy of THE ORGANISED WRITER manuscript to blurb. To my surprise, he found the book is actually helping him to get work done in these truly strange times, and gave it a shout on his blog.

In theory, TOW is still set to be published later this year... fingers crossed, eh? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Like most thriller writers I’m sure, when it became obvious Covid-19 was going to be a big global problem the thought flashed across my mind to write some kind of thriller set during lockdown. At the time, the most significant “Shelter in Place” order was in San Francisco, and for some reason my mind imagined a Jack Reacher-style character grunting his way through the situation.

Then I immediately dismissed the idea, because when people are literally dying at this time, it’s kind of crass. This was followed by the realisation that there are almost certainly authors out there for whom that isn’t a concern, and who are filling their notebooks as I type.

And then I thought… why not spoil things by beating them to it?

So, for my own amusement — and, in turned out, the amusement of many of my friends and readers — I started posting humourous snippets of what that fictional novel might be, as if written by someone sorely lacking in both self-awareness and talent. One friend described it as “Garth Marenghi writes Jack Reacher”, and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

It went on for a week, and then I compiled them all into a free PDF, with additional notes from the ‘editor’. You can read the whole thing here:!Av3eODvF_bfxhHh_Ar3_vlNl7NAs?e=7r3pvA
For the record: I enjoy the Jack Reacher books, and have nothing but respect and admiration for Lee Child. I trust he’d see the funny side 😉


‘Self-isolate? You mean stay indoors, don’t leave the house, and don’t socialise with anyone? Why, I’ve been practising for this my whole life!’

Still on the subject of focusing, I wrote a piece for the Crime Writers’ Association this week about the weird time authors are having as we try to write with all this [gestures at everything] going on.

I spoke to several other CWA members, all experienced writers, about the effect the lockdown is having on our work habits, not to mention the content of our stories. One writer in particular is feeling that part more acutely than most, as he recently recovered from Covid-19 himself…!


Right now in the UK, we’re allowed (and encouraged!) to leave the house for daily exercise. So that’s what we’ve been doing, and as we live in a rather nice part of the country, also taking pictures of sheep, fields, trees, canals, and horses as we go. If you fancy a bit of bucolic beauty to help you destress, you may find it on my Instagram.


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