Life

High-flying TV producer turns to cops and robbers with Standstill

Andersonstown-born television producer John Marley has written a crime thriller, Standstill

YOU have to sit down when you're reading Standstill. This first novel by Belfast man JA Marley sweeps you along through the darker side of London's crime scene, cops and robbers at their best, and keeps you rooted to the spot.

The characters captivate. Danny Felix's love of the cinema helped him make up his mind to be a top class thief after seeing the US crime film State of Grace as a young teenager. His education was on the streets of London and he won't take any bullying tactics from anyone – he had enough cruelty from his father.

Christine Chance is a top cop. She works hard but she is also a mother with a daughter who is dying in hospital. Her life swings between the two responsibilities and emotions are strong. Danny and Christine are on a mission; Danny to pull of the biggest boldest heist London has ever seen and CC to stop him.

Marley was born in Anderstown, graduated from University of Ulster in Coleraine. I'm proud to say he cut his television teeth with me as a researcher on Ask Anne programme before his talents took him to establishing his own TV company Archie Productions.

He has many top programmes to his credit including the recent BBC 2 Britain's Ultimate Pilots, celebrating the work of the Red Arrows and the RAF display teams.

Now he has turned his talents to his first novel and he has employed the same meticulous research to this complex story, full of twists and turns as the story unravels at high speed.

“I was fortunate to have a brother-in-law in the Flying Squad before he retired and his sister was in the drugs squad – a good start,” he says.

It took four years to complete the book – he was producing television programmes at the same time – and there are four more to come, maybe a film after that. John admits he's floating on air at the moment and delighted with the positive reviews Standstill is getting.

“I don't want my name in lights – far from it, I just want my audience to say ‘I enjoyed that'”.

Well, with his writing debut he has proved that this audience certainly can say she thoroughly enjoyed that.

:: Standstill is published on September 15 by Avocado Books – paperback £8.99 and £3.99 in eBook.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

IT'S ALL go at the Lenadoon Community Forum where applications for the Ulster Bank's Skills and Opportunities Fund are being gathered. There's still time to get your application in – and why not? There's a lot of money available this year for projects being set up in a variety of areas. Closing date for applications is this Friday, September 9, at 12 noon.

The fund is a UK and Ireland project that distributes £2.5 million annually over a three-year period. Winners in Ireland, north and south, are allocated a total of £220,000 per year from 2015 until 2017. The new fund will provide grants of up to £35,000 to local not-for-profit organisations across the UK and Ireland that are helping people achieve qualifications, get into work or set up their own business.

The Fund supports projects in disadvantaged communities which help people access the skills and opportunities needed to get into work or start a business.

Lenadoon Community Forum received £35,000 last August and training manager Sharon McCullough has no doubt that this money has meant vital programmes were set up to support the local community in west Belfast.

“Without this money our employment programmes wouldn't exist; it has allowed us to continue with our training and employment programme which has helped turn round the lives of many of our course participants and help them work towards a much more positive future," Sharon says.

"To date 331 men and women aged 18 to 62 have completed a range of personal development and accredited courses and nine of them have so far gained permanent employment. The funding secured has also enabled us to create employment for seven part time sessional tutors to deliver the programme.”

Natasha Lawless was a student last year. She studied computerised accounts and is now working for a local bookmaker group but she tells me that the course has also prepared her for interviews, has improved her self-confidence as well as extending her IT skills.

She certainly was determined to succeed. She sat her exams three days after having her third child.

Natasha is now qualified to A-level standard and is planning to take her training further.

“Having this opportunity and working with such great tutors has been very exciting and challenging. And I've made good friends as well,” she says.

A very positive experience and typical of many men and women who have taken advantage the skills and opportunity offered with this funding.

A panel of independent judges and Ulster Bank senior managers will be assessing entries and publishing a shortlist. Voting will then be open to the public from October 21 until November 4. Winning projects will be announced the week commencing December 5. Nice Christmas present for some of the applicants.

Northern Ireland winners in 2015 and 2016 have secured over £132,000 of funding. In addition to Lenadoon Community Forum, successful local organisations include Young Enterprise NI, Cooperation Ireland, Ballybeen Women's Centre, Sentinus and West Bann Development.

Remember – closing date for applications is this Friday at noon. For more information, to apply for funding or register your vote when the time comes visit www.skillsandopportunitiesfund.rbs.com

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