Interview with Jim Webster

Today, we've got Jim Webster, author of Justice 4.1 (The Tsarina Sector, Book One). Before we get started with the interview, let's have a look at the blurb...

Join intergalactic investigator Haldar Drom as he cleans up criminal scum in Justice 4.1 When a journalist is shot down in a backward area of Tsarina, Haldar Drom of the Governor's Investigation Office is sent to investigate. He uncovers a hidden medical facility dedicated to the production of Abate, a drug used for population control, as well as evidence of the implantation of pre-created embryos in women brought to Tsarina for the purpose. He also discovers a deeper plot with far reaching political ramifications. A senior member of the Governors family, Doran Stilan is running a personal feud with the major pirate/Starmancer Wayland Strang. Indeed he begins to suspect that Stilan may even be angling to take Strang's place. The medical facility is destroyed after it is attacked by mercenaries hired by Strang, and Drom has to travel off world to untangle the treads of the conspiracy. Arriving back on Tsarina, he has to deal with a failed Starmancer attack, punish the guilty and arrange for Doran Stilan to get what's coming without undermining the position of the Governor. To do this, he'll need skill, know-how and a whole lot of luck to ensure that the guilty face justice.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I suppose I’m fifty something, I’ve got to the stage where I have to remember whether it’s an odd or even numbered year and work it out from there. All my working life I’ve been a farmer and freelance writer, but I’ve also done some consultancy, and generally got caught up in rural issues. I’m married with a wife and three daughters, the girls are now young women and have pretty much left home.

What else? I’m left handed, have no dress sense, I can do casual but smart casual defeats me, and I have a long standing love of the ancient world and military history.

When did you begin writing?

Back in the 1970s, I’d worked out for myself that the chances of making a living on a small farm weren’t good. I needed something else, so I started writing. Hobby magazine articles to begin with, ancient history, wargaming that sort of thing. But then about 1976 someone sent me a cheque and then someone else asked if I’d like to do a weekly column in our local paper and I never looked back.

Books on the other hand came along much later; I found I had a gap in my schedule. The consultancy was winding down and people had kept pestering me to write something more permanent. So I wrote a fantasy novel. I’ve five of them now, all available as ebooks from any good source, nook, kindle, pdf, you name it.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

This was something of a change of tack. A mate of mine said that Safkhet were looking for new writers so I approached them. They said they didn’t need fantasy but were looking for SF. So I thought ‘Why not’ and wrote Justice 4.1 ‘The Tsarina Sector.’ It’s a kind of detective story but within a bigger ‘political’ picture. The hero, Haldar Drom, is in the Governor’s Investigation Office. As he investigates a potential crime it all starts to get messy and political and one problem becomes, ‘How to punish the guilty?’

How did you get the idea for the book?

I just had this mental picture of a spaceship, flying at about zero feet above a river. So I had to come up with an explanation to satisfy myself, and then I had to come up with a story which set the explanation in a reasonable context. Then all sorts of other stuff crept in, and I’d already built the world so I just used it, and like all good ideas, it got out of hand.

If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?

Well I suppose like all authors, all my books are my children, so recommending just one is tricky. I think I’d recommend Justice 4.1, if only because it’s the latest, so hopefully, because I’m learning my trade all the time, it should be the best. If you like it, then you can try the others.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

I think it has to be Haldar Drom. I suppose it’s because he’s an honest man, he’s trying to do things right, but he has to cope with the realities of the situation which he does without having tantrums or getting pompous or angst ridden. He’s got the courage to face up to the fact that there are times when we have to take personal responsibility and choose the ‘least worst’ option.

Not only that but he’s a nice guy with a dry sense of humour.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Shifting genres, from Fantasy to Science Fiction, was a bit of a challenge. Science Fiction itself is a challenge in that I wanted to make these people ‘real’ but not ‘contemporary.’ I didn’t just want my world to be our world with fancier technology. I wanted to see cultural changes and changes in social attitudes, but not such big changes that the reader found it too ‘alien’ and lost sympathy.

What is your primary goal as an author?

At this point I’m going to be brutally honest. I am a professional writer, it pays the bills. Yet with my books, that’s a bit of a different game. There are an awful lot of writers out there and frankly a lot of them are good. People keep going on about the dross, and how with self-publishing people have emptied publisher’s slush piles into Kindle. Yes there is a lot of truth in that, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that there are still an awful lot of good writers out there. With my books, I’d just like to be recognised as one of the really good writers. Of course that means I’ve got to write really well. How do I measure success? I suppose it is when someone puts down my book having finished it when they only meant to read one more chapter, and discovers it’s gone two in the morning. They have to be up in good time for work, and they still don’t care because they enjoyed the book so much.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well the second book set in the Tsarina Sector is with the editor, the third is ‘written’ and I’m ignoring. In three months I’ll go back and look at it again. I’m pondering the next, but I might just try something else as well, who knows.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

I’d tell them not to be ‘precious’ about writing. Don’t think of it as ‘art’; regard it as your trade or your craft. Work at it, keep writing, and you’ll improve. The second thing I’d advise them is not to publish a book that hasn’t been edited, even if you have it done informally by a brutally critical friend. The third piece of advice is to work on the principle that you will not earn money and that you’ll struggle to interest people in your book. If you start from that place then if anybody buys your book, it is a fantastic bonus and something to rejoice over.

To find out more about either the book or about me:

Facebook page:
Safkhet publishing

To buy a copy of the book:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Excerpt from Justice 4.1

The flitter was hardly luxurious. It was a spacious workhorse with just enough concessions to comfort to deter personal injury claims from those who hired it. At the moment, it loitered over the northern highlands of the Border Kingdoms at a safe altitude. To their north, the highlands rose steadily until they became snow-capped and were lost in the clouds. Below them was a jumbled badlands of gorges and ridges, twisted rock, frost-shattered and crumbling. Wheeling below them was a pair of great four-winged aradons, keen-eyed carrion feeders. In the distance, perhaps five miles away, Kilonwin Kardoverin could just make out what might be another pair. As far as he could tell, they were the only signs of life in sight. He looked down; even with vision enhancers, the ridges showed virtually no sign of life. He counted three stunted bushes with occasional blades of grass poking through the loose scree.

Kardoverin strapped himself into the co-pilot seat and fiddled with the camera array, determined to get as much footage as possible. Kardoverin had a reputation in the industry as one of the best documentary makers in the sector. This reputation was based on arrogance, a casual disregard for personal safety, and painstaking camera work. He was reputed to get five times as much material as was needed, even for top quality holo work. He turned to the pilot. "Can we get lower? I'd like to film into those gorges."


"Well, there's damn all up here."

"Why not zoom?" The pilot sounded nervous.

"They're in heavy shadow."

"Look, this is the Border Kingdoms, it isn't safe."

Kardoverin adjusted the central rig and raked the peripheral arrays so that they covered both flanks.

"Take us down fast; we'll be through and out."

"They're barbarians! They shoot at people."

"With black powder weapons." Kardoverin's tone was dismissive as he checked the satellite relay. It seemed to be working perfectly. "Look, just go in, one quick fly-through. It isn't as if I'm asking you to land, or even hover."

The pilot muttered something blasphemous under his breath and brought the flitter round. "I'll take us up that gorge on the left, it's narrower. Being so overcast, it's less likely to be inhabited."

He opened the throttle and brought the bow of the flitter sharply down. The clumsy craft accelerated rather faster than Kardoverin had expected, and he hastily checked the camera focus. This model of vehicle was effectively a rectangular box which flew and had little consideration of style. But for his purposes, the open top meant it had been comparatively easy to fit the cameras. The pilot brought them down sharply, heading south, gaining speed as he lost altitude. Then suddenly, he spun the controls and the flitter turned and banked so sharply Kardoverin felt himself hanging in the harness. Then the pilot pointed the nose of his craft straight into the mouth of the gorge, still dropping and gaining speed. As they entered between the towering rock walls, they were barely twenty feet above the ground and moving faster than Kardoverin would have believed possible. Kardoverin kept his eyes on the monitors, running his fingers over the controls in front of him, altering the zoom, the angle, the filters. They were deep in the gorge now and the boxy craft was travelling at breakneck speed. Kardoverin constantly re-adjusted the controls. "Isn't this a bit fast?"

The pilot's answer came through clenched teeth. "If I could go faster, I would. I want us out of here and—" He paused. "Oh hell, we are in deep—"

There was a staccato rattle of automatic weapons fire from one side. The burst struck the pilot, jerking his body against the seat harness. Kardoverin tore his gaze from the monitors and looked towards where the noise had come from. The second burst hit the front of the flitter, and the engine began to whine. Kardoverin frantically unbuckled his harness and stood up to reach over the pilot's body for the controls. The third burst struck him in the chest, spun him round and left him draped over the side of the flitter. Thirty seconds later, with no one at the controls, the flitter struck the rock wall of the gorge and exploded.