This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

I can give one stunning and absolutely true example of how I have used the tarot cards and how it has affected my life in a positive way.

When I had just started learning to understand the tarot ten years ago and to exploit the amazing insights it could give me, I was unemployed, stony broke, and struggling to get a single thing published.

My Gran had read my palm and told my Romany mother when I was aged three that I had an extraordinarily strong writers’ fork. There is a strong history of journalism and creative writing running through the Romany culture, and it looked like I was going to follow on from that.

From an early age, I wrote. It was all I ever wanted to do. I won prizes aged eight for short story writing, wrote plays at school, and seemed to have been born with a spellchecker in my brain!

But I couldn’t seem to break through and get into print. My chicklit efforts were rejected. My coffers were empty. But I was still convinced that I could make it. My instincts were leading me on, killing the niggling doubts that kept nagging at me. In dreams Gran would come to me, saying, don’t give up. For her, I had to go on believing in myself.

As a last-ditch attempt, I abandoned romance, I abandoned comedy. In a grim mood, I sat down and wrote a gangland thriller set in London (I love London and spent a large part of my youth there) starring Annie Carter, a tough and gritty Eastender who in the sixties gets involved with dangerous local gang lords.

I wrote that book – Dirty Game – entirely for my own amusement, knowing that after this, I would have to give it up and get another job. And when I’d done that final thing, sent it off to six agents and thought, ah well, that’s that, then, on a whim I laid out the tarot cards and decided to see what my chances were.

As I gazed at the cards, I gasped in shock.

The tarot had turned up something truly remarkable. As I spread the cards out and stared at them, a double death was revealed. Now, this doesn’t always mean disaster. It can also mean a revelation, a massive change, a cataclysmic event.

Instantly, I knew that Annie Carter was going to fly. I knew, beyond any doubt, that my writing career was finally about to start in earnest. I no longer had the slightest doubt about it. While my long-suffering partner fretted and talked about me getting a ‘proper job’, I sat there and beamed at him and said, don’t worry, that’s not necessary.

Of course he was sceptical. But I was not. And a week later, two of the agents I had sent Dirty Game to phoned, interested in representing me. A week after that, one of the big-four publishers declared an interest and made an offer of a three-book deal for a six-figure sum.

From no-hoper I had made the jump to hugely successful published author. Dirty Game shot straight to number one in the Heatseekers chart, and all my books that followed (I’m working on the 14th right now) were massive hits and top-ten bestsellers, just as the cards predicted.



1/ Gypsies don’t form ‘gangs’ as such – they have large families which are very closely knitted together, even if living in different parts of the country.  Family is a very important word in the gypsy community.

2/ Gypsies mark every major life event in a spectacular fashion – weddings are massive affairs with hugely elaborate wedding dresses fashioned for the brides; christenings are days-long parties; and funerals are decorative in the extreme, with plumed horses pulling hearses, vast and elaborate headstones and drink-fuelled wakes.

3/ Gypsy domestic life is what most ordinary people would think of as old-fashioned. When gypsies marry, it is accepted that the man will buy the new caravan for their married life together, and will earn money to support his family. Meanwhile, the woman will keep house, cook, clean, raise the children.

4/ There are good and bad people in all walks of society, and I think it sad that casual racism against travellers and gypsies seems to be – as Trevor Phillips, once chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality said – ‘the last respectable form of racism.’

5/ Speaking of good and bad, my book Fearless highlights this – that Josh Flynn our Romany bare-knuckle boxer hero is basically a good man led astray by powerful forces, and our heroine Claire is a decent woman abused by a wicked one.

6/ Gordi is the Romany name for a house-dweller.

7/ Pikey is a derogatory term for a gypsy.

8/ Most gypsies these days don’t live in wagons, pick fruit and potatoes or rob people or put spells on them, and most of them aren’t romantic free spirits either. It would be nice to get away from these old and misguided beliefs. As a person of Romany extraction myself, I live in a house and earn my living as a writer (although I read the tarot and I do have a circle of standing stones in my orchard…)

9/ I suppose everyone’s idea of a ‘gypsy gang’ is typified by Peaky Blinders, the series on the TV. I watch it myself, and some of the scenes are accurate (the gypsy burial, burning the wagon and the person’s belongings with him, for example) while some are simply masterpieces of invention. But fiction always takes a pinch of reality and blends it into the whole.

10/ And finally …

I think there is something very cool about being of Romany extraction and the drive and determination of Romany women was a great inspiration to me as I wrote Fearless.

Never Go Back

‘Brimming with drama, suspense, cruelty and the kind of gobsmacking violence that has made Keane one of the most powerful writers in contemporary crime fiction, this book is full-on, eye-watering entertainment from start to finish.’

The Lancashire Post