The Sheriff's Catch

By James Vella-Bardon

A man forced to join the Spanish Armada must flee fatal capture in 16th Century Ireland

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Eyeing Ithaca


The ship bounded forward on her way as a four in hand chariot flies over the course when the horses feel the whip. Her prow curvetted as it were the neck of a stallion, and a great wave of dark blue water seethed in her wake.

When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to show, the ship drew near to land. Now there is in Ithaca a haven of the old merman Phorcys, which lies between two points that break the line of the sea and shut the harbour in.

                      -   from ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer


Hi all

I’ve been Down Under eleven years today! It seems like yesterday that I travelled to Sydney in Feb ’07, before deciding to try and write a novel. As you do.

Over a decade’s gone by, so I couldn’t resist throwing in a few Homeric lines at the start of this post. After all, it does feel like the end of a really long Odyssey, give or take a year!

And for a few weeks now I’ve had my eye fixed on the end goal: Ithaca, home, the final destination. Which doesn’t mean I shouldn’t provide you with a long overdue update:


(1)    Publication Date

The highly supportive Head of Digital at Unbound kindly wrote back to me three days ago with the following message:

Now that we have final page proofs, I just need to set up for press, and we can get the book winging its way to the printers imminently. I hope to have this done by the end of the week.

In terms of timing that will mean that we should be able to send to press next week, with 'books in hands’ / in the warehouse from early March.

So it looks like it will be March after all. I think that this is great timing, since I read somewhere that March is one of the two best times of the year (with the other being September) for debut novelists to be published.

Meanwhile the book cover’s been chosen, and discussions are currently being held over the best blurb to slap on the back of the thriller.

So fear not: Ithaca is firmly in our sights. But what will you find when you get there? A question which provides for a nice little segue into our next update:



(2)    The Pigeonhole Experience / Advance reviews

For those who haven’t yet heard: ‘The Sheriff’s Catch’ (TSC) went live on UK literary digital platform ‘The Pigeonhole’ on 8 January 2018. 200 free slots were taken up by readers – also called Pigeons – prior to launch, with another fifty free slots subsequently made available which were also taken up before the launch.

Over the last few years I couldn’t help thinking that it was a shame that novels were no longer serialised before publication, the way they used to be in the days of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Little did I know that - just as Unbound has revived subscription publishing - The Pigeonhole has revived pre-publication serialisations of novels!

‘The Pigeon’ provides a thrilling way to read novels, which are split up into daily downloads called ‘staves’ – small chunks of literature which you can slot into your everyday life. While reading them you can share comments and views on the prose with other readers, and also interact directly with the author. I must admit that I’ve grown quite fond of this highly interactive form of serialisation, and I’m currently signed up for three other novels (which I’ll experience as a Pigeon rather than as a writer). I’m currently reading a serialisation of the excellent ‘Breaking The Foals’ by my friend the talented author Maximilian Hawker, which is also going to be published by Unbound.

After TSC went live on 8 January, there followed a pretty intense eleven days spent checking out every last reader’s comment in every last stave, to ensure that I provided respectable responses to the wonderful group of readers (many of whom I’ve since also befriended on Goodreads and various other social media) who kindly provided remarks, questions, good pickups, observations, a couple of incredible comparisons to established authors etc. Anyone who checks out my social media updates from time to time should have a pretty good idea of the quality of feedback received to date on TSC. I’ve got to say that it’s been a very moving experience, one that I’ll never forget. I also learned heaps.

23 Pigeons have since also generously provided reviews of TSC on Goodreads, which have been quite encouraging, to say the least.  A few have also read TSC all over again! I find myself feeling quite relieved that the novel has resonated with so many intelligent and discerning readers from all over the world.

So if any pre-purchasing TSC Patrons want to get an idea of what Ithaca should look like, they can check out the reviews provided to date on Goodreads (Spoilers Alert!) by The Pigeon readers here.

A couple of Pigeons kindly also pre-purchased a special edition copy of TSC and will have their names included in the Patron list which will appear in every copy of the novel.

And although all 250 free slots have been taken up, any interested parties can still read the novel on The Pigeonhole for less than the price of a Sydney coffee (AU$3.50) at £2.99 quid. Oh, hold on, isn’t that a bit more expensive than the Sydney coffee? Anyway, here’s the link to it.

TSC will be available on The Pigeonhole until 18 February 2018.


So that’s all for now folks, only a few weeks left to go! Meanwhile I’ve already started reviewing the text of the second instalment, ‘A Rebel North’, while also working on a couple of other TSC-related initiatives.

Never a dull moment, which is just the way we like it.






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