It's funny, but it's not until you set out to write a book you realise how little stuff you know. I've said it before but can't help repeating it - I don't know how writers did this before Google. Really.
Yet again, how researching A Decent Bomber didn't get me nicked, I don't know. Surely someone, somewhere is looking out for people from the Middle East displaying an interest in supplies of ammonium nitrate and detonators? Maybe they are, and a whole team of over-excited NSA types has just been stood down. 'Calm down, lads, it's just another bloody author'...
I now know how you make a one ton bomb. It's a bit like being able to touch your nose with your tongue. There's not much call for the skill...
Meeting former IRA man Brendan Curran was a big deal for me, not least because it made me realise the book I had written didn't achieve the aim I set out for it. I'll confess I was nervous about the meeting, which started with me spotting a 50mm brass shell on the sideboard and him asking me the immortal question, 'So. What are you about, then?'
My serious and dedicated research in Belfast consisted mainly of getting hammered with the in-laws and staying in the lavish Merchant Hotel. If you're ever in Belfast, go for a few late night drinks at The Spaniard - the nearest thing to a Hamra bar I've ever encountered outside Hamra itself.
It's a bit like researching Shemlan by eating lazy afternoon mezze with friends - oh, this author's life! It was nice that an anti-internment march the next day plunged Belfast right back into 1990s timewarp, with armoured squad cars and water cannon on the street.
You have to find out all sorts of things. Cow diseases, train timetables, bullet impact velocities and the like. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to actually kill a cow if you're not using an RPG. The organisational chart of Tipperary police was one delightful evening's work. Ferry timetables, capacities and freight sailings get jumbled up with the colour of this police station wall or the reception layout of that hotel. Visiting locations (suspicious drive-by's of Banbridge nick) and checking facts, distances and even number plate series conventions all come into it.
And all because there's an Internet and somewhere in it is Nigel who knows the air speed of an African swallow. Unladen.
A Decent Bomber is available on pre-order from Amazon, iBooks and all good ebook outlets. It's also available in paperback from Amazon, Createspace or on order from your local bookstore.