I write books, do tech stuff and run businesses. And currently live in Norwich, England. But I was born in Northampton, a large market town in the East Midlands in 1960. Not long afterwards, due to my dad’s work, we moved to the home counties, not far from London.
I grew up in a village called Stewkley in Buckinghamshire. I always remember walking – and later cycling – to school, which was a daily round trip of four miles through what was still unspoilt, even idyllic, English countryside.
A keen reader, I devoured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books from a young age, along with science fiction novels by authors like Philip K. Dick and Robert Heinlein, and fantasy novels by Arthur Machen.
My early interests were astronomy and anything to do with space and spaceflight, as well as shooting air guns (real firearms, are sadly illegal in Britain) and exploring the local countryside.
After my dad brought home a copy of Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, I became fascinated by the UFO phenomenon. This eventually gravitated to an interest in the paranormal. I made the most of this when, many years later, I became one of the lead writers on the paranormal part-work The X Factor from Marshal Cavendish.
Old gods of England
A big influence on my life was the headmaster at my local primary school. While the school was closely linked to the village church, he was an expert on the myths, legends and folklore of England, and the British Isles. Looking back, my feeling is his interest was almost to the point of him being more heathen than Christian at heart.
He instilled in me a passion for all things Saxon and Viking, including runes and the stories and wisdom of the old gods of this land. I still have this to this day.
The headmaster would take us kids out across the rolling hills and woodlands. He’d point out a Rowan tree and explain how it was linked to Thor (Thunor). And then we’d come upon an Ash, and he’d relate the story of how Odin (Woden) hung himself on the World Tree to gain the wisdom of the runes.
Three chord trick
By twelve, I’d caught the rock music bug and set about learning to play the guitar. I bought my first acoustic guitar from the Marshall shop in Bletchley (now swallowed up my Milton Keynes). And each day I was playing along to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and to blues artists like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
At thirteen, we left Buckinghamshire moved back to Northamptonshire, to a small village called Ravensthorpe. My main interests at this time were playing the guitar, reading and writing – usually stories with a rock & roll theme or science fiction or fantasy.
With school friends, I formed a rock band, which played a number of gigs in local village halls. We were three chord wonders, but it was incredible fun.
Antiquarian books, poker and booze
After leaving school at sixteen, I worked in an antiquarian bookshop called J.S. Billingham’s, situated in central Northampton. During my couple of years working there, I gained a wide knowledge of literature. Everything from the classics to horror and science fiction to the arcane. I also met lots of eccentrics, which are par for the course in the world of rare books. I fitted in perfectly.
That was the only regular job I ever had, which is not surprising considering that, between selling books, we spent most of the day playing poker and drinking rum. Not exactly ideal qualifications for the workplace.
After a certain amount of rootlessness, I moved to Bristol, in the West of England, where I played guitar in many different bands. Some of them played original music and vied for record deals, while others played cover versions in pubs and clubs to earn money. If you were going to be a professional musician, you need to get the balance right between creativity and earning a crust.
One band I played with was a blues and world music outfit, fronted by Trinidadian singer and entertainer Earl Marlowe. He also happened to be a professional voodoo man with clients in London, Bristol and Birmingham.
I chronicled my experiences with Earl in my Doktor Snake’s Voodoo Spellbook. Now in its second edition, it originally came out in 2000.
Amongst other things, the book includes a psychedelic odyssey Earl and I made to the Mississippi crossroads where 1930s bluesman Robert Johnson reputedly sold his soul to the devil for fame. Some say I followed in Robert Johnson’s footsteps and sold my soul to Old Nick, but I never comment either way.
In 1987, I left Bristol for London, where I continued to play in bands, but also wrote science fiction, fantasy and horror stories in my spare time.
By 1990, most of my musical projects had fallen apart. So he decided to try my hand writing for music magazines. I struck lucky with a magazine for musicians called Making Music, who commissioned the first idea I sent in. It was a very lucky break. I had no idea what I was doing. But with that article under my belt, I was able to springboard into other publications like International Musician and London listings magazines City Limits and Midweek.
As time went on, I wrote for many more publications, eventually penning regular features on the paranormal for The X Factor part-work.
I always looks back fondly on the writing of my Voodoo Spellbook. A long hot, enjoyable summer writing a book that was to become a cult classic. What could be better?
Around 2000, I started writing for national newspapers and magazines in Britain. Penning features and news stories for The Independent, Financial Times, Sunday Express, The Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express, Mail On Sunday, Best Magazine, Chat, How To Spend It, Maxim, Front, and The Sun.
To date, my byline and work has appeared in over 1000 newspapers, magazines and online media all over the world.
Besides this, I was writing advertising copy for companies in Britain, Europe and the US. Along with creating my own informational “how-to” products, which I sold online.
SEO formed a big part of my work as an ad copywriter. I worked on many e-commerce websites to improve their visibility on the search engines, along with writing compelling sales copy and creating content strategies and social media campaigns.
In 2005, I began the first of two crime books, both of which focus on the macabre side of human nature. Blood Rites (Random House 2006), investigated ritual human sacrifice.
The main focus of the book was the “Adam case”, where the headless body of a young black boy was found floating in the River Thames. According to police the murder was a ritual sacrifice conducted by a nefarious group of African JuJu worshippers.
Later in the book, I looked a the ideas of Julian Jaynes, author of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, to help explain why people can still kill their fellow humans as offerings to gods and spirits in exchange for wealth or worldly power.
An updated edition of Blood Rites – called Human Sacrifice – was released in the US in September 2008.
By 2007, I’d penned another true crime book called Cannibals (John Blake 2008), which looks into modern cases of cannibalism. It includes exclusive interview footage with a real life cannibal called Eric Soames. He didn’t commit murder. Instead, he got his human flesh (known colloquially as “long pork”) from mortuaries because he didn’t want to kill anyone to satisfy his terrible urges.
Soames believed he was possessed by an evil spirit, much like the one portrayed in the Exorcist movie. He insisted that this was responsible for his desire to eat his fellow man. The last chapter of Cannibals relates how Soames was exorcised of this entity by my old friend, Canadian shaman Elias Crazywolf.
How To Be Famous (Orion) was my next book. I outlined the steps you need to take to become a star. After that I put together Hash Brownies, Hot Pot, and Other Marijuana Munchies. Written as Dr. Hash, it was commissioned by Cico Books.
Ironically, I don’t touch weed or even booze. So mostly I based the book on my times playing in bands. Just about everybody I knew was indulging in drugs. Including me – up to a point.
Drugs weren’t particularly for me though. Being motivated, I found that drugs got in the way of that. Looking back, I’d say magic mushrooms were my favourite drug. But I always did them alone and saw them as a “shaman’s journey.”
At this point, I focused on my entrepreneurial activities. Books and journalism were fast becoming unprofitable. Newspapers were laying off a lot of staff. Book advances were plummeting. All this was due to the rise of the digital economy, which had already taken the heart out of the music business.
So I spent the next decade on building up my Doktor Snake brand. Sure, this included books. But these drove traffic to my site, which got a lot of visitors and still does. It’s very much a self-improvement site. And gives people the tools they need to better their lives. It provides positivity in an increasingly negative world.
Books are dead: Long live books
Come 2019, it was time to get back into books. But not with mainstream publishers like Random House or St. Martin’s Press. Not this time round. Instead I set up my own publishing business called SnakeStone.
The first book, written as J.L. Shreeve, came out in February 2019. It’s a paranormal romance called Bewitched. And includes my alter-ego Dr. Snake as a side character to the central plot line. It’s mainly fiction, but involves true life elements.
Then on May 6th, 2019, I published my Unthinking Barbarians’ Nine Rules For Life. It’s a contentious self-help book based on my own experience, the Vikings, bikers, and the Code of the West. It’s a call to revive the old school virtues of courage, honour, fidelity and loyalty.
The next book is called Get Money. Another self-help book, which does what it says on the tin – i.e. shows you how to get money and the allied freedom that goes with it.
So what do I do in my spare time?
I ride motorcycles. Big ones. Loud ones. Usually cruisers. I also like driving cars. I’m a petrol head. Mostly though, it’s the sheer freedom of just heading off with no particular place to go. See where I end up.
On a motorcycle I like to get on the old roads, the hardly-used lanes – away from the masses. Soaking up the countryside and feeling the wind on my cheeks, breathing the air as I scoot along the dusty old roads.