#BlogTour | #BookReview: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas (@ItDaFiveOh) @BonnierZaffre

Unforgivable.jpg“Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation. 
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside. 
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . . 

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . . 

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman. 

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today as I’m kicking off the Unforgivable blog tour. Unforgivable is the second book in the DC Will MacReady series, is written by author Mike Thomas and will be published by Zaffre on 27th July 2017.  Oh, and it’s a corker of a crime thriller!

I am delighted to have a guest post from Mike Thomas to share with you today.  I also have my four and a half star review (which really does fade in comparison to this MEGA guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Mike…

Why Writing a Crime Novel is Like Prepping a Case File for the CPS

There’s a lot of paperwork in the police force. Endless forms and labels and booklets, most of it designed to collate data or appease the suits in HQ or the Home Office, and a lot of it simply to cover your own arse when, as they say in The Job if trouble begins, ‘the wheel comes off’. It’s tedious in the extreme, but there was one part of the written work that I always found enjoyable: assembling a case file for the Crown Prosecution Service.

What struck me, especially when I began juggling being a copper with writing novels, were the similarities between putting together an air-tight case file for the Crown Prosecution Service (or CPS) and constructing a readable novel. I believe that all those days and weeks and centuries – or so it seemed – spent writing reports and liaising with overworked solicitors and collating evidence and cobbling it all together (to use the technical term) into a presentable, cogent case against the defendant was excellent grounding for creating a book.

The, ahem, evidence for this:

The Build-Up

The Crime – As with a novel, your prosecution case file will begin with an offence that has taken place.  The crime is where it all begins, where the ‘story’ starts. It is the centre point, and everything spins out from this one act, be it a theft from a vehicle or the murder of a spouse during a drunken argument over borrowing a cigarette. The offence, whatever it is, will appear on the front cover of your case file, just as the crime in a fictional novel will appear in the jacket blurb and be alluded to in the strapline beneath the book title. And in the CPS paperwork, the offence will appear on the charge sheet – or MG4 – in all its statute-heavy glory when it is handed to the defendant once they have been formally charged with the matter in the custody suite.

What Do We Believe Happened? – did we mention the jacket blurb? Oh good. Because this is where its equivalent can be found in a CPS case file: towards the front of the paperwork on the ‘MG5 Summary of Evidence’ form. This is where you sell your case, much as you’d try to flog your novel with an oh-so-intriguing handful of paragraphs on the back cover, designed to draw your reader in to the world you’ve created. There’s not as much hyperbole – it can be a very dry affair – but it is essentially the same: you are, as concisely yet – cough – arrestingly as possible, telling the solicitor (your ‘reader’) exactly what you have served up for them. And you hope they bite. You hope they proceed with your case. You hope they enter your world.

Introducing the Characters – your cast list in the case will appear on what the fuzz call the ‘MG9’ form, or the ‘Witness List’. It will start with the major players – the defendant, the IP (or Injured Party) – and continue onwards to include even the smallest bit-part character who may or may not have been at the scene (we don’t know if he’s lying) and is prone to making stuff up just so he can have some attention from the Old Bill so we’ve got to include him anyway or someone will complain. Possibly the guy’s mother. But this is where your ‘thespians’ start to bring your case file to life, with their names and relationships and a hint at what part they are about to play as you read what they have done and what they have to say…

The Investigation

Witness Statements – characters in a crime novel can be open and honest or harbouring myriad secrets; you can never tell which at first, and it is only as the story progresses do you unravel what can often be a complex web of truths, half-truths and downright lies. The same goes for real people in real cases. Witness statements make for absorbing reading. For whatever reason – protecting family and friends, not wanting to get involved, hating the police so deliberately misleading them – human beings can be as helpful or unhelpful as their fictional counterparts. It is down to you, as the investigating officer – the protagonist – to work out what really happened and ‘whodunit’, much as your heroine DI or maverick, heavy drinking (if you must) DS will do in your favourite series of crime novels. People are fascinating, and flawed, and often bloody infuriating, and it is through their statements you will – hopefully – piece together what really happened, and your solicitor counterpart will see it also, and will be able to convince a magistrate or jury that what you have found is the truth.

The Good Evidence – it’s all well and good having three witnesses who can place your defendant at the scene of a street robbery, but a seasoned defence barrister will always muddy the waters so hard forensics is where it’s at. Fingerprints, footprints, blood splatter? Just like your protagonist would, get it if you can. Any CCTV cameras on nearby shops and houses? Your heroine would seize them all, review the video, find the bad guy. Did the defendant grab the IP? Your fictional DI would always remember Locard’s exchange principle and seize the IP’s clothes for examination because he might find the defendant’s DNA all over them, proving he was at the scene of the crime. You, as the SIO (Senior Investigating Officer), will collate the witness statements and write your own to tie everything together but the clincher – the evidence that solves the case, that sells it to your ‘reader’ as authentic and convincing – will be forensics, and as much of it as you can muster.

Your Statement – this should be the icing on the cake. This is where you, the protagonist in this little tale, deftly tie it all together in a professional, objective, authoritative manner: what you saw, what you heard, what the defendant said to you after you arrested and cautioned him. How he behaved, any unsolicited comments he made while under caution that you immediately noted in your pocket notebook. What he said during the recorded suspect interview, and what he disclosed. What he said once you’d formally charged him and handed him the MG4 and a court date and turfed him out of custody with his plastic bag of personal belongings. This is the point where you box it all up so it’s neat and squared away and the file can be sent to the CPS for review. And where you start counting the hours before it comes back to you asking for further investigation…

Proving Your Case and The Resolution

Defendant Interview – this is where you sit in a bright, windowless and well-ventilated room with hi-tech recording equipment and politely interview – sorry, Detective Inspector Gene Hunt fans – your suspect, offering them frequent ‘comfort breaks’ and opportunities to make shit up confer with their solicitor. This, much like the denouement of a novel, is where all the evidence comes together and is put to the defendant, albeit in a less-exciting-than-a-climactic-car-chase kinda way. You question, and question, and question, and show them the CCTV images of them hitting that guy, and the blood splatters on their shirt, and their DNA found under the IP’s fingernail where they tried to push you away, you naughty man. This is the climax, the end, the part where chummy throws his hands in the air and says how he would have got away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids and your dog. Sorry, I meant the police.

Fine-tuning – anyone who’s published a novel will tell you about editing. Editing your first draft. The second, fifth, twelfth. Editing it until you can’t look at it ever again, until the mere mention of the book’s title sends you into a murderous, climb-a-clocktower-with-a-rifle rage. Then sending it off, utterly relieved at it finally being over, only for your publisher to email you with Great! We’ll be back in touch with edits ASAP! It is no different with the CPS. They will want another witness. They will want an old witness re-interviewed. Again. They will want to ‘cut’ a witness who does not help the ‘story’. The forensic evidence needs more forensic evidence. They have misplaced the defendant’s interview recording DVD, can we have another copy by yesterday please? As with a novel, there’s a lot of toing and froing, a lot of haggling and cutting and moving stuff around, some of which can take the better part of a year. There’s a reason novels can take a few years to see the light of day, and that same reason applies to court cases and why they drag on for so long…

In short, what you’re doing with both a CPS case file and a novel is creating a storyline that hopefully sustains reader interest and propels them towards a suitably rewarding climax. But after all your work is done, what does ‘the jury’ decide? Does your case/novel get the defendant convicted in court/get your book onto the bestseller lists? Or does the CPS discontinue the case/does your book sink without trace?

In reality, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked on either, the end result is out of your hands…

Quite possibly my favourite guest post, EVER!  Seriously, how good was that?  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, Mike.  My thanks for such an interesting true crime/crime fiction focused piece!

my review2

I have had the first book in the DC Will MacReady series, Ash and Bones on my TBR since it was published.  I remember thinking at the time how drawn I was to the book, how gritty and real the blurb felt. Unfortunately time has not been on my side and I have (so far) completely failed to read it.  So when I was given the opportunity to read the second book, Unforgivable it was a no-brainer for me.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first in the series, I wanted to be a part of the launch tour.  And oh wow, I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed.

This book opens with a catastrophic bang and I was immediately hooked.  The scenes of chaos, the terror…my heart ached for the families, the normal everyday people caught up in a cataclysmic event.  The author has expertly created an incredibly tense opening to what proves to be a terrifying yet realistic story, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m still unsure exactly how I feel about DC Will MacReady.  I do like him, but there are certain aspects that left me feeling cold.  I loved his determination, his work ethic, his budding relationship with his newborn son and his utter distaste towards his thuggish, wife-beating brother.  What left me feeling was cold was his extra-marital affair with a television journalist and his frostiness towards his wife.  However (and it’s a big however) MacReady has been through some emotionally traumatic times, that’s clear for the reader to see.  But whether these painful incidents permit him to pursue his affair…well, I don’t know.  The author has put MacReady in a marital situation that would test the most devoted of couples.  And it’s an interesting one.  Really, really interesting.

There were several mentions of an event which occurred in the first book.  At certain points, I wish I had been able to read Ash and Bones before Unforgivable so I could find out the intricacies of the previous investigation and exactly how it had played out, as it spills over ever so slightly into Unforgivable.  Saying that, the author has done a great job of ensuring you have just enough of the back story for the book to make perfect sense.  I would say, if anything, I now want to read the first book in the series more than ever!

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  You can tell from early on that the author is ex-police.  There is no messing around in Unforgivable, you’re thrown head first into the melee and it is BRILLIANT!  A terrifying tale of revenge and bitterness expertly narrated by an author who has lived life on the front line.  A must read for crime thriller fans!

Four and a half out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Unforgivable.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Unforgivable by Mike Thomas was published in the UK by Zaffre on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads |

Unforgivable_Blog Tour_Twitter cards_One.jpg

about the author3

mike thomas.jpg

Author image and bio taken from https://mikethomasauthor.co.uk/ with thanks.

His teenage years were spent breakdancing, spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks and just about staying on the right side of the law, until his early twenties when, inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks.

“…inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks…”

While working as a plod in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, Thomas continued with his childhood passion: writing. As a freelance he produced articles for local newspapers, various websites and national travel magazines, while in 2007 he was one of the winners in the annual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition organised by Literature Wales. After completing a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Wales between 2007 and 2009, Thomas published his debut novel, Pocket Notebook, in 2010 with William Heinemann/Penguin Random House.

The author was on the prestigious list of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for that year, while Pocket Notebook was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and optioned for television by Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey. His second novel, Ugly Bus, was released by Heinemann in 2014 and is currently in development as a six part television series with the BBC. Both novels deal with the uglier side of policing.

“…He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children…”

Thomas left the police in the spring of 2015 and grew his hair and a pathetic attempt at a beard. He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children. Alongside chopping wood, cementing crumbling house walls and trying to find somewhere that sells his beloved Marmite, he continues to write articles and web pieces for a variety of sites and publications, and is contracted to London’s Bonnier Publishing for three new novels, the first of which – Ash and Bones – was released August 2016. The second in the series, Unforgivable, is due for publication in the summer of 2017.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

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#GuestPost: Being Afraid by Robert E. Dunn (@WritingDead)

a living grave cover.jpg“The first in a gritty new series featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams, as she investigates moonshine, murder, and the ghosts of her own past…
 
BODY OF PROOF
 Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
 
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time  Katrina might not have as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…”

***

a particular darkness.jpg

From the author of A Living Grave comes a gripping police procedural

featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams as she exposes the dark underbelly of the Missouri Ozarks . . .
 
DREDGING UP THE TRUTH
 
Still recovering from tragedy and grieving a devastating loss, Iraq war veteran and sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams copes the only way she knows how—by immersing herself in work. A body’s just been pulled from the lake with a fish haul, but what seems like a straightforward murder case over the poaching of paddlefish for domestic caviar quickly becomes murkier than the depths of the lake.
 
Soon a second body is found—an illegal Peruvian refugee woman linked to a charismatic tent revival preacher. But as Katrina tries to investigate the enigmatic evangelist, she is blocked by antagonistic FBI agents and Army CID personnel. When more young female refugees disappear, she must partner with deputy Billy Blevins, who stirs mixed feelings in her, to connect the lake murder to the refugees. Katrina is no stranger to darkness, but cold-blooded conspirators plan to make sure she’ll never again see the light of day . . .

I am delighted to welcome Robert E. Dunn to damppebbles today.  Robert is the author of a number of horror, mystery and thriller novels which are available to purchase on amazon by clicking here.

Today Robert has chosen to talk to us about being afraid.  You would think, being a horror author, that this is one of Robert’s very favourite subjects.  But it’s the not the fear of monsters and demons that’s scaring Mr Dunn.  Oh no.  It’s the fear of writing…

BEING AFRAID by Robert E. Dunn

I want to talk to you about fear. Or—more accurately—I want to talk about being afraid. I’ve written before in other places about experiencing terror and mortal danger. And I’ve written about using the experiences we’ve all had, being afraid and feeling threatened, in writing. This is something different. I want to talk about the fear I experience about writing itself.

A little more than a year ago I was sending out a manuscript for a new book. That’s a daunting, stressful task itself. But my submissions were successful. I had quick responses and a few offers to choose from. Let me tell you that is a good situation to be in but not as easy as you might think. Each offer had its own good points. One was from a publisher with whom I had worked before. They do great work and I have a great relationship with them. I wanted to give them the book. Sometimes we have to go with what we think is best over what we want.

I had an offer from Lyrical Press, a digital imprint of Kensington Publishing. They offered an e-pub contract with print of demand books but no initial print publication. That was all right because the imprint has a great reach and a catalog of great books and authors to attract readers. I tamped down my fears and took the harder choice. It was an amazing choice. But I only knew that after stressing about it for a long time.

That’s a professional fear. Putting your work out there, into other hands, and hoping you have made the right decision for your book. Heck, that’s a relatively minor fear for me. Once you know you can work with the team all is good. Things progress. Then comes publication.

Yes, I think all of us who write for publication, especially those who write books, fear for our work. What if no one likes it? What if someone influential says it sucks? Worse than bad reviews—what if no one even notices? Those are fears that are blunted by experience. Get past the first release or two and you know what to expect. If you know, you can usually deal.

My fear, one I didn’t even know I had, came from that book published by Lyrical Press. A LIVING GRAVE was released in Nov. of 2016. That’s not very long ago. For that book I had been offered a contract for two books with an option for a third. Any multi book deal is a great thing for an author. For a small press author like me it can feel like a huge step up in the publishing world. And that’s the fear inducing thing. Success.

Snicker if you want but a two book contract was terrifying because I had already written the story I had planned. It was a great story. I’m a believer in not selling your work short so it’s great, but that is MY opinion. Book two had to be with the same main character. Did I have another story about Katrina Williams in me? Was it any good? Can I do this? And can I do it on a deadline?

I told myself I could. I told my editor I could. I settled myself and set to work on revising and editing A LIVING GRAVE. At the end of the process my editor asked me what the next book was about. I didn’t know. You can see the fear now can’t you? The first book had been very much an Ozarks mystery with country music, moonshine, bikers, and murder. With only a vague notion, I told my editor the next book’s storyline would include another murder, fish poaching, and evangelical religion. Then I had to write that. Terror.

Most of us know the difficulty of staring at a blank page trying to create a story from scratch. For me it’s a lot harder staring and knowing what the story has to be about without knowing what the story is. The combination of fear and not knowing is very good at pushing your activities in other directions. To paraphrase the bad guys in a thousand movies—Procrastination is an ugly word.

I sucked it up and worked out what I needed to write. Then, of course, life got in the way. I’ll let you in on a secret. I didn’t actually begin writing A PARTICULAR DARKNESS until Aug. 3rd. It was due at the end of November the publication month for A LIVING GRAVE.  I worried but I wasn’t afraid. Because by then I knew. The story, the character, the stakes were in place. I was ready. Then my daughter had a car accident. She was fine but it disclosed an underlying illness that needed talk and consideration and time. Much of that was just worry time. Then a big tree fell on my house. You see where this is going? To near panic. I had given myself four months and one was eaten by life issues.

You will be proud to know I delivered the manuscript two weeks into Dec. My editor was already bogged down and was happy to give the extra time. Revisions went quickly. I gave things a little time then asked about the option on the third book. My editor did not respond right away.

Oddly enough I was fine with that. If they decided not to go on with the series it was about sales. I had confidence in my work. That’s to say, I had done my best and I was happy with that. I want sales but so much of that is built up over a long time. Books are bricks. Sales are the great wall.

Then came the scariest e-mail I had ever gotten. It began with praise. My editor and the team at Lyrical liked my books. They had faith. That made my hair stand on end. A LIVING GRAVE had been out three months so there was no a lot of sales history to base decisions on. Still they wanted to extend the series. Lyrical wanted two more books. And they asked if we could increase the frequency.

Occasional standalone books of my own choosing and my own pace—that I could do forever. Delivering a series on a schedule. That terrifies me. I just finished writing A MOMENTARY LIFE book three of the Katrina (Hurricane) Williams series. I have no real idea what I’m doing for book four. I’m beginning to deal with that. I think I can get one more book out and make it a good one. This newest one has me feeling good. It works and I’m proud of it. So I’m on a high thinking about book four.

The only thing I have to fear right now is the possibility that I might be asked to keep the series going beyond four.

Thank you for this wonderfully honest piece, Robert.

about the author3

robert dunn.jpg

Author photo and bio taken from robertdunnauthor.blogspot.co.uk with thanks

I wasn’t born in a log cabin but the station wagon did have wood on the side. It was broken down on the approach road into Ft. Rucker, Alabama in the kind of rain that would have made a Biblical author jealous. You never saw a tornado in the Old Testament did you? As omens of a coming life go, mine was full of portent if not exactly glad tidings.

From there things got interesting. Life on a series of Army bases encouraged my retreat into a fantasy world. Life in a series of public school environments provided ample nourishment to my developing love of violence. Often heard in my home was the singular phrase, “I blame the schools.” We all blamed the schools.

Both my fantasy and my academic worlds left marks and the amalgam proved useful the three times in my life I had guns pointed in my face. Despite those loving encounters the only real scars left on my body were inflicted by a six foot, seven inch tall drag queen. She didn’t like the way I was admiring the play of three a.m. Waffle House fluorescent light over the high spandex sheen of her stockings.

After a series of low paying jobs that took me places no one dreams of going. I learned one thing. Nothing vomits quite so brutally as jail food. That’s not the one thing I learned; it is an important thing to know, though. The one thing I learned is a secret. My secret. A terrible and dark thing I nurture in my nightmares. You learn your own lessons.

Eventually I began writing stories. Mostly I was just spilling out the, basically, true narratives of the creatures that lounge about my brain, laughing and whispering sweet, sweet things to say to women. Women see through me but enjoy the monsters in my head. They say, sometimes, that the things I say and write are lies or, “damn, filthy lies, slander of the worst kind, and the demented, perverted, wishful stories of a wasted mind.” To which I always answer, I tell only the truth. I just tell a livelier truth than most people.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (@CazziF) @BonnierZaffre

Sweet Little Lies.jpg“WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Sweet Little Lies blog tour.  Sweet Little Lies is written by debut author, Caz Frear and was named the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in conjunction with retailer WHSmith.  To celebrate the release of this engrossing crime thriller not only do I have my four and a half star review, I also have a fantastic guest post (yay! I do love a guest post!) on a subject close to my heart.  Well, sort of anyway!  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Caz…

Do female protagonists in crime fiction always have to have a ‘love interest’?

‘A love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem.  The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective….’

“Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949), first published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)

I’ll be honest, I’m with Raymond on this one.  But as nearly seven decades have passed since he first offered his thoughts, I thought, what the hell, maybe it’s time to play devil’s advocate and see if I can make a case for the ‘love interest’ in female-led crime fiction.  After all, women, more than ever, are the primary readers of crime fiction and they also remain the primary readers of romance fiction, so what harm in combining the two, right?  A twisty, disturbing crime thriller and a romance sub-plot all under the same roof.  What more could we ask for, eh?

Er, no. 

Although I’d kind-of-just-about-maybe agree with this if we could at least change the profile of the ‘love interest’ for a start.

In fairness, the injection of a ‘love interest’ isn’t just peculiar to female-led crime fiction.  Morse was always mooning over someone – trying, and usually failing, to seduce some posh lady with his Mark II Jag and mournful eyes. DCI Banks always has a girlfriend – usually they’re significantly younger and significantly hotter than he is, but somehow they’re always completely gaga over the wiry, aging jazz fan.  Even DI Frost, with his prickly manner, even pricklier moustache and decades-old grey coat, is never without an attractive (and usually younger) woman trying to bed him, and more-often-than-not, domesticate him.

But therein lie some crucial differences – the‘love interest’ in female-led crime is almost always…

  • Older, or at least of a similar age – for example, how many 40-something female protagonists have a twenty-something male model-type go completely nuts about them, all on the strength of their charismatic personality? NEVER. HAPPENS (but regularly happens the other way round)
  • Their boss or superior colleague (again, very rarely happens the other way round)
  • More, or at the very least as successful as the female protagonist, in their chosen field.
  • Aesthetically anonymous – much less focus on how gorgeous they are, and when their physical characteristics are described, they quite often aren’t gorgeous at all – our female protagonist simply loves them for their wrinkles/soft paunch/balding head etc, (I’ll say it again, very rarely happens the other way round.)

But in the interests of challenging Raymond Chandler (!) I’ll step down from my soapbox for a minute and share a few thoughts about why it’s sometimes good for our female protagonist to have a ‘love interest.’

  • No woman is an island. Very few are a Billy-no-Mates.  Realistically, everyone has someone they can turn to, and arguably an intimate romantic relationship has more dramatic potential than the ‘chatting-with-a-best-friend-over-a-bottle-of-wine’ scenario, within the context of a crime novel.
  • In a genre where men don’t always get the best press – a lot of crime fiction focuses on male violence against women – a well-characterised male love interest serves as a reminder of the Good Men around.
  • Romantic relationships showcase a character’s vulnerability – you often open up to a lover in ways you don’t with other people.
  • Most women want/need sex from time to time, even if they don’t want steady romance, and therefore if you’re not comfortable creating a female lead who has quite a casual approach to hook-ups, you’re going to have to give her some sort of formal ‘love interest.’ It’s just not realistic for our female protagonist to live like a nun.
  • Sexual tension is fun. It’s interesting.  It’s delightful to write.  The will-they-won’t-they has never lost its appeal and when it simmers just beneath the surface, it can add a new level of tension to a crime novel (I’m thinking here of the brilliant dynamic between Derwent and Kerrigan in Jane Casey’s fantastic series – I actually enjoy this aspect more than the Maeve-and-Rob romance.)

Finally, just to say that despite my earlier talk about not loving the ‘love interest’, there is one in Sweet Little Lies, in the form of dishy Aiden Doyle (I know, I know….hypocrite…)  However, in my defence I will add (with a cryptic smile) that only time will tell how much of a “personal hazard for the detective” Aiden becomes…….

Let’s just say Raymond Chandler wouldn’t judge me too harshly….

Brilliant post, thank you Caz.  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I’m not a fan of slushy mushy romance in my crime thrillers so I found your arguments for a love interest fascinating.  Have I changed my stance?  Not quite, but the rather lovely Aiden Doyle COULD change my mind…. 😉

my review2

Whilst on holiday in Ireland with her family, eight year old Catrina is unwittingly drawn into a missing persons investigation.  Teenager, Maryanne Doyle; loud, brash and very much in your face, goes missing.  Catrina doesn’t know what happened to Maryanne but she is sure of one thing.  Her father lied to the police.  He claimed to not have known the teenager but Catrina vividly remembers Maryanne hitch hiking and her dad picking her up.  After all, Catrina was in the car as well.  Fast forward 18 years and Catrina is now DC Cat Kinsella with the Met’s Murder team.  Called to investigate the brutal murder of Alice Lapaine, the team find nothing but a secretive husband and a lot of dead ends.  Can Cat find out what happened to Maryanne all those years ago, exactly what part her father played in her disappearance AND solve a motiveless murder at the same time…?

So many delicious secrets!  This is a wonderfully intricate tale which I found hard to put down.  I was immediately drawn to the feisty Cat Kinsella.  She absolutely made the book for me and I couldn’t tear myself away from reading about her exploits.  How I loved her dry wit, her gutsy determination and her adorable relationship with Acting DI Luigi Parnell.  I found myself caring about what was going to happen to Cat, whether she would discover the truth and whether it would be the truth she actually wanted to hear.

For me, the characters in a book are one of the most important factors.  I feel Caz Frear deserves high praise for the cast of characters she has created in this novel.  After finishing the book I can still bring to mind certain scenarios, conversations and interactions between her creations.  They all stand tall, each one an individual.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s an excellent debut and I’m excited to see what Caz Frear has in store for us in the future.  It’s a gripping read, full of suspense and intrigue, chock full of lies and deceit from a sometimes dubious cast of characters.

Four and a half out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Sweet Little Lies.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 29th June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Foyles | Book Depository |

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Caz Frear.jpgAuthor Links: | Twitter |

#BlogTour: Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty (@Hardisty_Paul) @OrendaBooks

Reconciliation for the Dead cover.jpeg“Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Reconciliation for the Dead blog tour today which I share with the lovely Jen over at Jen Med’s Book Reviews.  Reconciliation for the Dead is the third book in the Claymore Straker series and is proving to be a hit amongst bloggers and crime reviewers.  I have read the second book in this series, The Evolution of Fear and thoroughly enjoyed it.

To celebrate Reconciliation for the Dead‘s release on 30th May I have a cracking guest post from author, Paul E. Hardisty. For those new to Claymore Straker it provides a little more information about the series so far and explains why Paul Hardisty is so well equipped to write on these topics.  So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Paul…

Corruption’s Fearful Reach
Paul E. Hardisty

My career as a hydrologist and environmental engineer has taken me all over the world, and much of my work has taken place in poor, developing countries where basic things like clean water, sanitation, and freedom from religious and political persecution are non-existent, or exist only as rumour. And all too often, the root cause of the poverty and inequity in these places is not a lack of resources, but widespread corruption, not only inside government, but within the institutions responsible for the welfare of society, such as the police, the medical services, local government, regulatory and planning bodies of all kinds, and within poorly-regulated industries. In my work and travels, I have seen first-hand what corruption does to people. It strips wealth from the poorest in society, and accumulates it unrelentingly with the powerful and rich. It drives the plunder of natural resources and destruction of the environment, and it systematically silences those who would speak up to expose it.

My first novel, the CWA John Creasy Dagger award short-listed The Abrupt Physics of Dying, is set in Yemen during the 1994 civil war, in the wake of huge oil discoveries in the east of the country. New found wealth, and the opportunity for plunder, drove widespread corruption and war. Corruption takes many forms, of course, and is certainly not restricted to the developing world. My country of Australia has been scandalised on a regular basis by revelations of corrupt practices in government and industry, each time with regular expressions of shock that ‘it could happen here.’ But wherever it is practiced, corruption always depends on one powerful weapon: fear.

My second novel, The Evolution of Fear, explores how those who seek to manipulate society for their own ends use fear, in all its many forms, to control us, silence us, and even in the extreme, to get us to vote for things that are not in our own best interest. Shakespeare famously wrote: “Our fears do make us traitors.” By using fear, the corrupt forces in society force us to abandon our principles, and betray the things we care about.  Faced with a legitimate threat of bodily harm or death over a social issue, few among us would choose to stand and fight. But often, the threats are subtler, more carefully veiled: lose your job, get passed up for that promotion or bonus, suffer public humiliation or bullying or slander. Invariably, whatever form the coercion takes, those that choose to stand up and fight, more often than not, pay the price.

My new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, (the third novel in the Claymore Straker series), is set in apartheid-era South Africa, during the early 1980’s, a time of institutionalised racism, war, and civil insurrection. As a young soldier in the South African army, fighting the communist insurgency in Angola, Clay comes face to face with a crime so horrific that it changes him forever. Set on a course he cannot change, Clay confronts the deep-seated corruption embedded in the system, and eventually must decide whether to stay and fight, or run, and hope that the information he carries might eventually make a difference.

The Claymore Straker novels are thrillers, which puts them in the “Crime” genre. But the crimes that Clay confronts are legal crimes, and at their root is deep-seated corruption, perpetuated by fear.

Thank you for such an interesting guest post, Paul.  I can’t wait to read Reconciliation for the Dead so look out for a review on the  blog soon.

Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 30th May 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Paul Hardisty.jpegCanadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

Author Links:Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Watching You by J.A. Schneider (@JoyceSchneider1)

WatchingYou-7a.jpeg“A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Kerri isn’t convinced.

Until another random young woman is killed in the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?

Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and my stop on the Watching You blog tour which I share with the lovely Susan at Books From Dusk Till Dawn, and my very favourite book blog(ger), Joanne at My Chestnut Reading Tree.  Watching You is the third book in the Detective Kerri Blasco series and is written by talented author, J.A. (Joyce) Schneider.  I have read, thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed the second book in this gripping series. Click here to read my four and a half star review of Her Last Breath (Detective Kerri Blasco #2).

To celebrate the publication of Watching You on 25th April 2017 I have a fantastic guest post from J.A. Schneider to share with you (I do love a guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Joyce…

Advice for Aspiring Writers, by J.A. Schneider

Never give up. Never stop writing. Life will do everything it can to throw you roadblocks and disappointment, but keep at it. It’s hard to maintain the passion in the face of constant rejection, but don’t forget what made you start writing in the first place. Also, avoid comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle. Those “oh-so-lucky best sellers” you see in the top slots on Amazon – 99% of them, anyway – went through decades of rejection and frustration.

Her Last Breath was my eighth book. Readers were finally starting to hear about me. Or maybe it began with my seventh book, Fear Dreams –  but before those two psychological thrillers I wrote the six-book Embryo medical thriller series, which had some success, acquired a small but loyal following, but didn’t resonate as Fear Dreams did. Which, again, was my seventh book. If I had given up after six…

Often, the hardest part is keeping alive the will to keep going. For inspiration and encouragement, two of my favorite author quotes are David Baldacci’s “A writer is always terrified,” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights.” Other terrific quotes are Tess Gerritsen’s “Do you have the guts to stay with it?” and Stephen King’s “Just flail away at the g-damn thing.” I have a collection of those quotes on a Word doc which I keep open to the left of my writing draft, and those quotes are my crutch, like friends saying, “Hey, we’ve all been through the same thing!”

That collection of quotes is a comfort, and since those writers have more years of hair tearing and anguish behind them than I do, I’d like to share a few of their encouraging nuggets with you:

Hugh Howey: “Try to worry about the writing and nothing else. Also look at it as a marathon, not a sprint. My bestselling book was my eighth or ninth. As soon as it took off, the rest of my books took off with it. The idea that we can pub one title and it will catch on … your odds are better that you’ll rope a unicorn.”

Lisa Gardner: “It took a good ten years for me to become an overnight success. (Laughter).”

Bella Andre: “Seven years of frustration, my publisher dropped me…”

T.R. Ragan: After 20 years, I began to question my sanity and the whole perseverance thing. I knew this writing business wouldn’t be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But I never thought it would be this hard. By the time I had signed with my second agent and worked with two editors, I decided to stop writing romance and start writing thrillers. I took my frustration with the industry and unleashed it as I wrote my first serial killer novel.”

[When sales of Abducted reached 300,000 (after 20 yrs of tears) Ms Ragan was approached by two of New York’s big five publishers—at long last. “I said, ‘Forget you,’” Ragan recalls, laughing. Instead, she signed with Thomas & Mercer…]

There’s also that wonderful passage from the Bible, Galatians 6:9: ”Do not give up, for in due season you shall reap if you do not tire.” You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that one. It’s pretty powerful.

As a final note I’d suggest that you not show your first draft to others until you’ve reached the end. That first draft is fragile, you’re in the earliest phase of finding your story from the sticky morass of characters and plot threads. Any comments, positive or negative, can affect the way you feel about your story before its mud has cleared for you, in its own time.

So hang in there; keep those imagination wheels turning even if pushed to the back burner. No matter what the stress or distraction, it can also be helpful to keep an old-fashioned notebook, in hand, literally. It just feels good to hold. On bad days, get one sentence into it before the bleep hits the fan again. You’ll feel better. Keep the dream alive.

Thank you, Joyce for this inspiring post.  I love all of those quotes, particularly Lisa Gardner’s which appeals to my warped sense of humour!  I can’t imagine how it feels for a writer to be put through the wringer with their work in progress.  I often struggle to put a 500 word book review together!  I have nothing but respect and admiration for writers.  As Joyce says, keep going.  Us bloggers, reviewers and readers need your words ❤.

Watching You by J.A. Schneider was published in the UK on 25th April 2017 and is available to purchase from Amazon by clicking here.

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J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

Author Links: | Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: After the Affair by Jonathan Kaye (@JonathanKaye000) @baattyabtbooks

after the affair cover.jpgDo you like a book with a gripping story? A page-turner you can’t put down? A book with believable characters, a twisty yet credible plot and an easy-to-read pace? If that’s you, then this thriller set in Dublin should be right up your street. 

“University Lecturer David Ryan is having an affair. And he thinks no-one knows. 

He’s wrong. Someone does know. And that someone is out to blackmail him.

But when the blackmail attempt goes wrong, both Ryan and the blackmailer find themselves dragged into an underground (and decidedly seedy) world of secrets, lies and violence. A world where no-one can be trusted and everyone has something to hide.

Set in modern-day Dublin, ‘After the Affair’ is the unputdownable debut thriller from author Jonathan Kaye.”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the After the Affair blog tour. My thanks to Helen at baattyaboutbooks for asking me to be involved.  After the Affair is author Jonathan Kaye’s debut novel and I, for one, am extremely excited to read it.  So far the reviews from fellow book bloggers and reviewers have been fantastic and they know what they’re talking about, let me tell you!

In celebration of this rather wonderful blog tour I have a fantastic booky focussed guest post from Jonathan Kaye to share with you today (I do love a guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Jonathan…

A Blast from the Past

I once had very little money. Actually I still have very little money. But at this particular time in my life I had even less. I had a nice car though. (Which, in itself, was the reason I had very little money!)

Anyway, with my cash-flow limitations being what they were, my evenings were rather, well, free I guess you might say. The whole notion of going out to a pub or a restaurant or a cinema was something neither I nor my bank balance could countenance with a straight face. Indeed, if I even attempted to slot my cash-card into an ATM to check my funds, the machine would just spit it back out and ‘LOL’ would appear on the screen.

I worked in ‘The Works’ for £3.70 an hour. (Showing my age now, I know!!) Surrounded by books, stationery and, I have to say, amazing people. Oh, and occasionally very odd customers. “Do you sell cigarettes?” “Do you cut keys?” “Can I have two cornettos and a chocolate magnum please?” One’s best option was to smile, shake one’s head and say ‘No, I’m sorry.’ (Though I never quite understood why I was the one who ended up apologising for their obvious lack of brain equipment – but hey, I learned to let it go!)

I remember in particular the run up to Christmas being an epic, almost impossible, task. My colleagues and I were like a team of antarctic explorers with depleted food stocks and insufficient protection from the elements, battling the constant blizzard of last minute shoppers to reach our longed for destination of the South Pole – or 6pm Christmas Eve as we called it. Seriously, Shackleton, Scott and Crean had nothing on us. And when we made it to our Christmas Eve destination, we collapsed, exhausted but joyous, ready to celebrate our one single day of freedom before the Sales brought our respite to an abrupt and anti-climactic end. Oh retail joy, how I don’t miss you!

(It was in Milton Keynes by the way. And I know for a fact that the manager I worked for is still there. She’s a wonderful person so if you do happen to pop in to that particular store, tell her JK says hello – and when she looks at you blankly, just say the lanky Irish bloke who worked here in the mid-nineties…)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, evenings. My evenings were never going to amount to much in a social sense. To be honest, even if I’d wanted to go somewhere in my very nice car I’d hardly have managed to stump up for the fuel – which I soon realised rendered the concept of having a nice car rather pointless, but that’s a conversation for another day. Instead, my evenings (and remember we’re talking pre-internet here, pre-facebook, wow, imagine!) meant I had plenty of time on my hands. So I used that time to read. Yep, I read. A lot. An awful lot. I treated the bookshop like my own personal library. Now, don’t worry, I never damaged a single spine or marked a single page. In fact, I was so stealthy in my reading habits that no unsuspecting customer would ever have questioned the assumed virginity of their newly acquired book even after my grubby paws had been all over it. (Ugh, I’ll change that sentence before I share this piece on-line don’t worry ….. Ooops, too late!)

I devoured books, lots and lots and lots of books. But to this day, more that 20 years later, one particular novel still sticks in my mind. It was probably the first book I read where I experienced that ‘OMG sweet suffering jeeeeebers’ feeling as I turned the last few pages and found out what the previous few hundred had been leading up to. It was called ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ by Alan Folsom. Published in 1994 I think. And it was an epic read!

So if you like an good page-turning thriller and you’ve never read it, grab yourself a copy. You won’t be disappointed. Y’know, now that I think about it, I might even read it again myself sometime!

OK, I admit it.  I actually spat my tea out all over the keyboard when Jonathan mentioned using The Works as his own personal library.  Absolutely brilliant.  And how many UK based book fanatics haven’t dreamt of doing that at one time or another…?  Hmmm…? My thanks to Jonathan Kaye for such a humourous and interesting guest post.  And of course for the book recommendation!

After the Affair by Jonathan Kaye was published in the UK on 6th November 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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j kaye.jpgJonathan Kaye is a stay-at-home dad who decided to write a thriller when his son started school. The house was tidy by ten every morning so what else was he gonna do till, like, three? Apart from drink coffee with moms – which he is very good at by the way.

It took him a while to figure out the plot. He even had to use google to find out what policemen and judges and people like that did. Characters were easier. He just based one of them on himself and all the others on people he knew. Seriously it’s what all writers do. Why do you think Stephen King’s protagonist is invariably a novelist?

Three years after starting out, he wrote the words ‘The End.’ It was quite the experience. Then he proofread and proofread and proofread again … but he knows there might still be one or two typos and he asks you to not be too upset by the fact.

Finally, he’s sitting here now wondering why he’s writing about himself in the third person. It is making him feel important and aloof though!

Author Links: | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Boundary by Andrée A Michaud @noexitpress #BoundaryBook

boundary.jpg“It’s the Summer of 1967.

The sun shines brightly over Boundary lake, a holiday haven on the US-Canadian border. Families relax in the heat, happy and carefree. Hours tick away to the sound of radios playing ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.  Children run along the beach as the heady smell of barbecues fills the air.

Zaza Mulligan and Sissy Morgan, with their long, tanned legs and silky hair, relish their growing reputation as the red and blond Lolitas. Life seems idyllic.

But then Zaza disappears, and the skies begin to cloud over..”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Boundary blog tour.  And it’s UK publication day for author Andrée A. Michaud and the lovely folk at No Exit Press.  You lucky people can purchase a copy of Boundary in either hardcover or eBook format today!

To celebrate Boundary’s release in the UK I have a fantastic guest post from Andrée A. Michaud to share with you.  So without further ado, I’ll hand to Andrée…

What’s Boundary about

 People often ask me, ‘what’s Boundary about?’. It’s never easy to answer what a fictional book is about without betraying its secrets. Novels are complete by themselves and if you try to summarise them, to rend their color in just a few words, you run the risk of missing the essential; that is to say, the atmosphere.

Having said which, I will play the part and try my best to do just that, and maybe, just maybe, I will pick up some new readers along the way:

Boundary, as its title suggests, is first and foremost a book about barriers, all kinds of barriers, between men and women, childhood and adulthood, countries, cultures, languages and, finally, between good and evil.

Boundary is also a book about the loss of paradise, of all paradises in fact, when men, who stupidly want to make those paradises better, slowly transform them into hell. It’s what happens in Boundary. The place is an Eden from which men are finally and inevitably expelled, because men are not able to survive in such a wild place, the violence of which mirrors their own, and because Nature always, in the end, chases away those who are spoiling or destroying her very essence.

In this sense, Boundary is a book about wilderness – its strength, its beauty, its self-reliance – and about wildness – of men, of war, of men when war destroy them and drives them mad. But I want to be clear here: there is no war in Boundary, except the war raging between a man and himself and his memories.

Boundary is also book about the Sixties, about the culture of those years, about the wind of liberty which was then blowing, about the evolution of mentalities, the timid apparition of feminism in the daily life of the middle class, etc. In a way this novel is, for me, full of nostalgia, because the Sixties were the years of my childhood, the most beautiful years of my life, before the death of my father, when I was ten. Andrée, one of the narrators, witnesses this period, and for her the summer of ‘67 is a time of transition, the moment at which she will have to say goodbye to her innocence. In a way, you could say that Boundary is a coming-of-age novel, in which the little Andrée learns the meaning of the words death, absence, forever.

Finally, Boundary is a book about solidarity, and about the frailty of solidarity when drama touches a little community in which everyone knows everyone, and when the person at the origin of that drama could be anyone: your father, your brother, your son or your neighbour.

***

I am so excited to read Boundary.  Even more so after reading this fabulous guest post from the author.  There are so many interesting themes running through the story that make it sound just my sort of read.  I’m excited, are you?

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(c) Marianne Deschenes

 

Andrée A Michaud is a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction (Le Ravissement in 2001 and Bondrée in 2014) and the recipient of the Arthur Ellis Award and the Prix Saint-Pacôme for best crime novel for Bondrée, as well as the 2006 Prix Ringuet for Mirror Lake (adapted for the big screen in 2013). As she has done since her very first novel, Michaud fashions an eminently personal work that never ceases to garner praise from critics and avid mystery readers alike. In 2010, her thriller Lazy Bird, set to the rhythms of jazz, was published by Les Éditions du Seuil in France, as part of the Point Noir Collection.

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Deadly Game by Matt Johnson (@Matt_Johnson_UK) @OrendaBooks

Deadly Game cover.jpeg“Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all… Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.”

‘Utterly compelling and dripping with authenticity. This summer’s must-read thriller’ J S Law, author of Tenacity • ‘Nothing is clear-cut in a gripping labyrinthine plot, which – despite thrills and spills aplenty – never falls short of believable’ David Young, author of Stasi Child • ‘Terse, tense and vivid writing. Matt Johnson is a brilliant new name in the world of thrillers’ Peter James

FOR FANS OF Lee Child, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Brad Thor and Vince Flynn

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Deadly Game blog tour which I share with the very lovely Karen over at My Reading Corner.  Karen’s blog is one of my very favourites so please give her a follow, if you don’t already.

Deadly Game is the second book in the Robert Finlay series, is written by author Matt Johnson and published by the lovely folk at Orenda Books.  To celebrate it’s publication on 15th March 2017 I have a fabulous guest post from Matt Johnson to share with you (I do love a guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Matt…

Matt Johnson – a day in the life

As I looked forward to my retirement, I anticipated easy going days in front of the fire reading a book, time to pursue hobbies and catching up on those little jobs that I never seem to find the time to complete. I didn’t anticipate that I might start a new career.

When I sat down to have a go at writing a book, I really did think ‘How hard can it be?’ That shows how little I knew. With the book complete and, to my satisfaction, self-published, I sat back to enjoy the pocket money that appeared each month in my bank account. Then, everything changed. A published author read the book, his agent got in touch. I went up to London for ‘a chat’.

And now, two years later I have two books published by Orenda and a third in creation. I’ve been to festivals, events and book signings. I’ve given talks and have now been signed up – by the same agency representing Idris Elba – to do more public speaking. This is no longer the retirement I foresaw.

That said, I’m not complaining. Although I feel a little like a novice surfer riding a perfect wave that might crash down at any moment in an explosion of froth, I’m enjoying the ride. But my routine, well that has certainly changed.

Being a cop, I was used to being self-motivated and disciplined. Just as well, as it’s something you have to be when you spend your writing life on your own with only the dogs and your ‘imaginary friends’ for company. I never have been particularly good in the mornings – 6am starts in the Met were always a struggle – so I tend to start my day at about 8.

Almost without exception I start with a brew. It’s a habit that started in the military and continued in the police. Forty years later, it’s not going to change. Then, after a shower it’s out with the dogs, whatever the weather. I really enjoy walking, it clears the mind and sets you up for the day. If I have a plot idea to mull over or an idea comes to me I use the digital recorder that I normally carry. If I forget it, I fret until I can write as soon as I return home.

Working days start with email and social media. I like to clear this first so that once I start to write, I can continue without interruption. Writing can take many forms, sometimes it’s a talk, or an article. Other times it may be something such as a media campaign. It’s not always what I should be focusing on – the next book.

If I’m not in a frame of mind to write, I read. Not just books, I research on the net, read social media and read magazines.

Once writing, I hope to get into the groove. By that I mean the state of mind I believe all authors experience where you are away in this fictional world of your own creation, struggling to get the words down as fast as your imagination is forming them. When this happens, I lose track of time and woe betide anyone who telephones or calls at the house – I hate breaking off.

I tend to do my best creative work into the evenings, which means I don’t watch a great deal of television. I might break off for the news, or Match of the Day, but little else. Food? Well, that can be something of a luxury. I enjoy cooking, and a love eating. But managing the time to think about cooking? Now, that’s a much harder proposition. And, as the evening wears on, if I realise there won’t be enough time to explore the story thread I am working on, I write notes, an aide memoire to picking the story up the next day.

To write, I use an old pc. I sit at an oak desk – also old – on my favourite chair, also old. A bit like me, really. I swear if typewriters were capable of saving your work I would still be using one. I two-finger type, so not very fast and not terribly accurate. As a result, I have to do a lot of re-reading. But, that’s one thing I have learned – first drafts don’t need to be perfect, they just have to be written.

***

Brilliant post, thank you Matt.  Always interesting to see how an author organises their time and motivates themselves to write.

Deadly Game by Matt Johnson was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th March 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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Matt2016.jpegMatt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Dead Embers by Matt Brolly (@MatthewBrolly) @canelo_co

“An explosive fire. A double murder. And that’s just the start

When DCI Michael Lambert is called out to an apparent house fire, he knows it can’t be routine. Instead he finds the remains of a burnt house, a traumatised child and two corpses – one of whom is a senior police officer.

Lambert’s got other problems. Anti-corruption are onto his boss. His relationships is on the rocks. He can’t get over his ex-wife and he keeps blacking out.

But when a detective has been murdered the stakes are too high to get distracted. All is not as it seems. As the investigation continues Lambert realises he is getting drawn into something altogether bigger and more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…

Trust no one.”

I am delighted to be one of two blogs hosting the Dead Embers blog tour today.  Dead Embers is written by author Matt Brolly and is the third book in the DCI Michael Lambert series.  I haven’t had the chance to read Matt’s books yet but I do have book one in the DCI Lambert series, Dead Eyed on my #terrifyingTBR.  So watch this space for a review!

To celebrate the release of Dead Embers I have a rather brilliant guest post from Matt to share with you today.  Over to Matt..

How to Write to a Deadline.

‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they go by.’ Douglas Adams.

First of all, a big thank you to Emma from the wonderful damppebbles book blog for hosting me today on day two of the Dead Embers tour. With every release I’m continually amazed and humbled by the terrific response from bloggers and readers and it is hugely appreciated. Now to the matter at end, how to write to a deadline. First a cup of coffee….

Okay, I’m back! Some writers are rather good at procrastination. I’m seventy-eight words into this article already and I’m yet to address the question. How to write to a deadline? Hmmm. Tricky. More coffee, I think.

The simple answer would be to plan months ahead. To make mini deadlines for the first draft, second draft, twentieth draft, structural edits, line edits, proofread etc… but unfortunately a writer’s life is not so simple. It’s easy to say I’m going to write 2,000 words a day over a fifty-day period – I know it is because I say it to myself every time I start a new novel, yet fifty days later I’m rarely more than a quarter way through a first draft. Try as I might, life gets in the way. As does the complications of writing a novel.  Plan as I might, a novel has a way of taking its own direction. I find I have to rewrite the draft plan every two or three chapters, and the finished book is never as I initially envisaged.

And did I mention the procrastination? It is so easy to do anything but write. Make coffee, surf the internet (for research, obviously), tidy the house (though my wife would argue there is not much evidence for this), sleep. Working alone means there is no boss watching you’re every move. You have to be disciplined, manage your time, make sure you hit those word count deadlines every day… but there is a big television downstairs with a film you recorded last night waiting for you…

Good film.

I’m not complaining, you understand. It is a privilege to be a writer. It’s hard work, but then all jobs are. Citing procrastination is cop-out, obviously. It’s a hurdle you have to overcome. My advice: if Facebook or Twitter keeps calling, switch off the internet. If the television, or your bed, is too much of a lure, work in a library or coffee shop. If you’re deadline is fast approaching – work harder!

As I write the last words of this article (which needs to be sent over to Emma by yesterday) I have to admit there is no hard or fast rules for writing to a deadline. All I can say is that after writing for nearly twenty years with no deadline in sight, having a deadline is the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced in my writing life. And if my publishers (past or present) or agent is reading this, then I apologise for every time (only a handful, I’m sure) I’ve asked for a tiny extension!

***

Absolutely love it, thank you Matt.  And it’s true, it was a close call with the delivery of this post.  No harm done though.  It’s up and on the blog at exactly the right time.  All deadlines met!

Dead Embers by Matt Brolly was published in the UK by Canelo on 6th March 2017 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He reads widely across all genres, and is currently working on the third in his Michael Lambert thriller series. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children.

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Sealskin by Su Bristow (@SuBristow) @OrendaBooks #Sealskin

Sealskin cover.jpg“What happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous … and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.”

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Sealskin blog tour today alongside the lovely Steph over at Stephs Book Blog.  Sealskin was the winner of the Exeter Novel Prize in 2013 and is the work of author and Consultant Medical Herbalist, Su Bristow.  What an amazing achievement!  Sealskin will be published in paperback by the wonderful Orenda Books on 15th February 2017 so make sure you pre-order your copy NOW!

Today I have a fascinating guest post from author, Su Bristow.  Seeing as it’s day one of the blog tour, Su and I thought it best to start at the very beginning with a few words explaining the Selkie legend, which the book is based upon.  So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Su…

The Foundations of Sealskin
Su Bristow

First of  all, here is the version of the story that was the starting point for Sealskin:

THE LEGEND

Once, there was a fisherman who spent many nights fishing alone. One night at full moon, he witnessed a marvel: nine seals came ashore, put off their skins and became beautiful young women, dancing on the beach. The fisherman hid himself, and as he watched, he began to fall in love with one of them. Secretly, he hid her sealskin, so that when the others returned to the sea, she was left behind.

The fisherman took her home to be his wife, and he hid the skin at the bottom of a chest. They lived together for some years, and she bore him children. She seemed to be happy, but from time to time she would look out to sea and weep.

One day while he was out at sea, one of the children found the skin and showed it to his mother. When the fisherman returned at the end of the day, she was gone, and he never saw her again.

Stories about Selkies, or seals who can turn into people, are found along the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, and across the sea in Iceland and Scandinavia too. In fact, the word ‘selkie’ is just the Orcadian word for ‘seal’, but it’s come to be used particularly for these shape-shifting beings. And the stories vary from place to place, although they generally don’t end happily. It seems that selkie men and women are irresistible to the humans who encounter them, and they always fall in love. Male selkies are very willing to ‘mate’ with humans, but they won’t stay long, and always go back to the sea. Females, on the other hand, have to be tricked into it by hiding their sealskins; given the chance, they too will return to their natural element.

It’s interesting that whereas most mythological creatures are dangerous to us humans, selkies are usually gentle. Perhaps I strayed a little from tradition when I gave Mairhi some magic of her own; although she never uses it to attack anybody, she can certainly defend herself if need be. But the stories don’t go into much detail about how the marriage between the fisherman and the selkie woman actually worked, and that was what interested me. You wouldn’t expect any relationship to be possible after such a horrible start! So I added a few twists, which I won’t go into now because I don’t want to spoil the story for people who haven’t read it yet, except to say that almost immediately, Donald knows that what he did was wrong. And really, the whole story is about how he tries to make amends, and how that changes him and everyone else around him.

Going back to the legend, on a more general level it’s about how humans want to ‘own’ the wildness of nature. All over the world, people tell stories about interactions with animals and birds. Whether they really believe it on the practical level or not, they certainly portray animals as having minds and feelings of their own. Is it just us projecting ourselves onto the natural world, or is there a deeper truth there? The more we learn about animals, the more like us they turn out to be.

Maybe the selkies tell stories about us, too.

***

An absolutely enchanting post, thank you Su.  And congratulations on the wonderful praise you have received so far.  I’ve seen many bloggers say that Sealskin is one of their books of 2017.  What a fantastic way to start the year.

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Early Praise for Sealskin…

Sealskin is an accomplished and intelligent novel, a fine piece of craftsmanship and a pleasure to read’ Allan Massie

‘Bristow has taken a known myth, and created an enthralling, human love story.  A profound achievement, and a stunning debut’ Richard Bean

‘An extraordinary book: original, vivid, tender and atmospheric. Su Bristow’s writing is fluid and flawless, and this is a story so deeply immersive that you emerge at the end, gasping for air’ Iona Grey

‘I love books in which magic takes on a gritty reality, and Sealskin is just such a book. Dark and brooding and half-familiar, the tale steals over you till you’re half-in, half-out of a dream’ Jane Johnson

‘An evocative story, told with skill and beauty, that held me spellbound until the very last page’ Amanda Jennings

‘On the face of it, Sealskin is a gentle tale, a lovely reworking of the selkie legend many of us have known and loved since childhood. Do not be fooled, dear reader; beneath this simple re-imagining lies a story as deep as the ocean the selkie comes from. I was captivated from the first page to the poignant last one, by the sympathetically drawn characters and a mesmerising sense of place. In between are moments of tragedy, moments of grace and redemption; the whole wrapped in Su Bristow’s charismatic writing. This is a story that catches on the edge of your heart, leaving tiny scars; reminders of a journey into a beloved legend, the human lives caught up in it and the consequences of the choices they make. It is, quite simply, exceptional’ Carole Lovekin

‘In this achingly beautiful retelling of the classic Scottish folk tale, Su Bristow brings psychological depth and great warmth to the characters, making the ending all the more heart-breaking. It’s a story about the tensions of life in a tiny fishing community, about bullying and violence as well as the healing magic of nature. It’s written smoothly and skilfully with not a word too many or a word too few. I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough’ Gill Paul

‘A beautiful and bewitching read that haunted my thoughts for days. The sense of the sea, of this small community, of guilt is palpable. This is one of those books you place reverentially on your bookcase and envy those who are yet to dive in’ Michael J. Malone

Sealskin is the most exquisite tale of love, forgiveness and magic. Inspired by the legends of the selkies, this gorgeous novel is a dark fairy tale, an ode to traditional storytelling, a tribute to the stories we loved hearing as children. But be warned – this is no happy-ever-after tale. The language is just glorious, poetic and rich but precise. And her characters – oh, they will remain in your heart long after you’ve closed the last page. Mairhi – especially since she never really “speaks” – is a beautiful mystery, but one who haunted me when I was between chapters. If this is her first, then I can’t wait to read whatever Su Bristow bestows upon the literary world next’ Louise Beech

‘Ms Bristow’s skill in weaving a centuries-old tale into a current-day fiction novel and binding the two together is simply superbly done. Sealskin is boldly written, brilliantly told and a tale of legendary proportions’ JM Hewitt

Sealskin is a magical and moral tale woven with a deft hand’ Sara MacDonald

‘With its beautiful language and magical storytelling, Sealskin is a clear winner for me’ Sophie Duffy

Sealskin is exquisitely written with haunting prose and evocative descriptions of the Scottish landscape. It’s filled with beauty, surprises and subtle twists and turns. There’s a mesmerising love story at its heart.  I really didn’t want the story to end, and felt bereft when it did, surrounded by boxes of tissues. I’m sure I’ll be reading this book several times to feel that magic again and again. It’s no surprise that Su Bristow is an Exeter Novel Prize winner. Her writing is beautiful and this book is stunning. Sealskin is destined to go far’ Off-the-Shelf Books

Sealskin really is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read … a flowing tale of love, friendship, acceptance and coming of age for the varying characters.  Set against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish backdrop, the vivid descriptions draw us in, detail oozing from the pages and giving the reader a chance to feel the coastal winds whipping at their faces, taste the salt in the air, feel the uneven terrain underfoot as they clamber through the heather and over rocks. There’s a magic in these pages … poetic and hauntingly beautiful’ The Quiet Knitter

‘A compelling and beautifully written book. At one level Sealskin is a delightful re-working of the selkie myth. But it is also a great deal more than that … The fishing village is a close knit community wary of incomers, the suspicion with which they greet Maihri is typical of how they behave. Strangers, especially ones who are a little out of the ordinary, are not made entirely welcome. It is a story of how relationships develop and grow. Sealskin is a quite delightful and extraordinarily well-written book. Highly recommended’ Trip Fiction

‘A sensuous and beautifully written retelling of the Selkie legend which captivated me’ Margaret James, Creative Writing Matters

’I knew this was special, right from the first paragraph. A beautiful book written with a deceptive simplicity. But Su Bristow does not shy away from asking some very big questions. How can a man atone for violence? Will he ever be forgiven? Will he ever forgive himself? Utterly spellbinding’ Cathie Hartigan

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Su Photo.jpegSu Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her forthcoming novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Author Links: Blog | Twitter |