December 20

Books for Gifts

As the final few days to Christmas slip by I have a couple of fun titles to suggest as possible gifts.

I love to gift books, trying to match the perfect book to the recipient. This year (thanks to Good Housekeeping Magazine) I discovered how much that meant to one member of my family! So I am going to keep advocating that everyone should consider giving books as presents, you may never fully appreciate how much of an impact it could be having.

As I have recently named my Top Ten reads of 2016 I would, naturally, encourage you to consider any of those titles as possible Christmas gifts. My selections can be found HERE.

However, away from crime, thriller and horror tales (not very festive) I have a couple of other suggestions…

 

 

Doctor Who: Whographica (O’Brien, Guerrier and Morris)

doctor-who-whographicaPublished by BBC Books this is a stunning visual guide to over 50 years of Doctor Who history depicted in graphs, charts, tables and many, many illustrations.

I have been collecting Doctor Who reference books for more years than I care to remember and I can honestly say that I have not come across anything quite like this before. Never has so much factual information been presented in so few words.

I think that this is a book which will very much appeal to the younger generations of fans. Information is gathered in a quick glance, visually and colourfully and avoids the need to wade through paragraphs of narrative to establish which Doctor was the tallest, when the Cybermen appeared in the tv timeline or which companions travelled with the different incarnations of the Doctor.

Whographica was not a book I could sit down with for any length of time, however, there was so much information contained within that I have returned to it on many occasions, just to flick through and savour.

For Doctor Who fans this is a very pretty gift to receive at Christmas, less considered reading but no less fun.

Order a copy here.

Animalcolm (David Baddiel)

animalcolmMy 10 year old son read this recently and he could not put it down. As a parent who is keen to try to ensure his kids are not permanently glued to electronic gadgets I am always keen to find books which will engage my children and ideally have them seeking a book rather than an xbox controller.

David Baddiel’s latest, Animalcolm, seems to have done exactly that.  My son proclaimed it “his favourite David Baddiel story so far”. I overheard him trying to explain the plot to his wee brother and the pair of them were giggling away to themselves at some of the funny bits he had read.

Books for kids can be tricky purchases but for competent readers in the 9-12 age range this should be a good fit.

Order a copy here.

 

The 80’s Annual (Sarah Lewis)

80s-annualNow this book I utterly loved. It captured my formative years in a single gloriously glossy retro volume and is presented with the perfect balance of nostalgia, humour and fun.

Presented as a Christmas annual this is the memory lane I loved to stroll along. Page after page of memories as names like Big Area, Johnny Hates Jazz, Spitting Image, Blockbusters and The Tube danced in front of my eyes. Each year of the decade gets a feature, there are interviews with names from the past, picture diaries, crosswords and  puzzles.

I have returned to The 80’s Annual several times over the last few weeks. It is a book you can dip into or sit and pour over.  We have had fun in the house discussing some of the faces it cast up, so many cries of “do you remember….?”, a possible Christmas Day favourite for when the board games have divided family and friends – this book could get everyone talking again!

Order a copy here.

 

 

 

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October 3

Doctor Who Cookbook – Joanna Farrow

doctor-who-cookbookWhether you’re planning a party to watch the latest episode, need a showstopping cake that’s bigger on the inside, or want a taste of the TARDIS at teatime, this is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time.

Keep the munchies at bay with a fleet of Atraxi Snax, and serve an Ood Head Bread with your dinner. Create your very own Picnic at Asgard, or invite the Zygon Pie into your house. And say ‘Hello, Sweetie’ to a deadly-delicious Dalektable Army, a Peek-a-Boo Pandorica cake, or some simple jelly babies.

 

My thanks to Tess Henderson at BBC Books for my review copy

 

Some reviews are harder to write than others, however, the Official Doctor Who Cookbook did present some new challenges as it required practical skills. It also meant I couldn’t just read it on my commute to work – Scotrail frown upon using the luggage racks on their trains as cooling shelves for cookies.

20160924_160836Some background on my household will help here… I make a mean key lime pie but my baking skills end there. My wife is a talented baker and has a cake making business. My eldest son is a Doctor Who fan (which pleases me) but my younger son is just a bit too young to get hooked on my favourite show. So guess who ended up being creative in the kitchen?  Yup unskilled yours-truly and the child that doesn’t watch the show…not quite what I had planned BUT WE HAD FUN.

pipingAnd The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is great fun for those prepared to don their aprons and get the ovens turned on.  There are recipes for all skill levels, there are numerous sweet and savoury offerings. Cakes, cookies and biscuits sit alongside bread and pizza and they all have a Who theme.

Recipes can be a fickle thing and everyone has their own variation on a classic so my attempts at making a pavlova were not helped by my wife appearing beside the baking team to tell us that “that’s not how I make pavlova”.  Noted.  We continued to follow the recipe in the book and I was pretty damned pleased with how it turned out.  NB don’t judge me on the visual appearance, the 6yo shaped the Adipose!

20160917_112806

 

On a day where time was more of a luxury (and the children didn’t need entertained to the same degree) I turned my hand to a bread recipe, not going to share how that one turned out (“spoilers Sweetie”) but the work in progress was captured before I split my dough and flavoured some of it.  The end result was delicious and was devoured – sadly the finer details of the artwork which look amazing in the book did not quite meet my practical skills so it was a bit “rough” round the edges but I was making it to eat not to display so the key test was passed!

 

The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is a lovely collection and would make a great acquisition for the fan that also likes to tinker in the kitchen.  With half an eye towards the festive season it would be a great gift to give/receive (assuming cookbooks are your thing).  The recipe’s are clearly laid out, not jargon filled and give clear instruction.  As I indicated above there is a range of sweet and savoury and there are quick fun things to attempt and these are countered with a couple of more complex and time-consuming dishes (as with ANY cookbook).  Some dishes will not suit the younger chef and the book does try to scale a range of age appeal and technical ability but be mindful that not every page will be a sure-fire hit…but it is a fun collection and that has to be an important factor when considering a purchase.

 

The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is published by BBC books and is available now.

You can order through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Official-Joanna-Farrow/dp/178594052X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475527630&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+recipe+book

All Smiles... BEFORE THE SPOON ATTACK
All Smiles – BEFORE THE SPOON ATTACK

 

 

 

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September 13

Corpus – Rory Clements (cover reveal)

Rory Clements is the bestselling author of the John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers and today I am thrilled to be able to share the cover of his next thriller: CORPUS.

Due for release on 26 January 2017 from Bonnier Zaffre this is our first chance to see what Mr Clements has in store for us this time around…

 

corpus

 

An eye-catching cover – love the deep red.

Also – while I am no historian, I am pretty sure the Tudor period was over by 1936 so I am very intrigued to see what lies ahead.

 

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May 17

Grady Hendrix: Why The 80’s Were The Best Decade Ever

WHY THE 80’S WERE THE BEST DECADE EVER

I’m sorry if you were born after 1987, but you have to accept facts: the Eighties were the best decade to grow up in, period. If you refuse to take my word for it, suck on these factoids, spazmoid.

 

Guns n Roses 1000METAL WAS FUN – Metallica came along in the middle of the decade and sowed the seeds for heavy metal to get ugly and self-important, but if you can ignore their baleful influence then you’ve got a decade when bands like Bon Jovi were “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Van Halen were “Hot for Teacher,” and Guns n’ Roses were living in “Paradise City.” No one wanted to change the world, save the children, or whine about their heartbreak, they just wanted to get drunk and party.

 

ARCADES WERE THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL MEDIA – the internet has turned us into a nation of trolls, posting racist YouTube comments, clogging up Facebook with pictures of our cats, and Tweeting what we had for breakfast. We’re a bunch of shut-ins who overshare online but turn into stuttering, stammering trainwrecks when confronted with meatspace interaction. Even worse, online gaming allows drunk dudes in their boxer shorts to run up credit card debt playing video poker. In the Eighties, if you wanted to play games, you went to the arcade where you interacted with actual human beings, some of whom were real live girls. Also, you had to put on pants.

 

Annie LennoxSO MANY LADIES WERE MAKING SO MUCH AWESOME MUSIC – yes, there are women in music today, but the Eighties spawned many more unique flavors of Pop Diva. Whether it was the butch k.d. lang, the androgynous Annie Lennox, the hard rocking Joan Jett, the nonsense-burbling Björk, hip hop soul sister Queen Latifah, or the Queen herself, Whitney Houston, there was someone for everyone. Are you a goth? Have Siouxsie Sioux. An art nerd? Try Laurie Anderson. You like to sit in your room and light candles and cry? Tracy Chapman has got you covered. And let’s not forget that Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga are all just pale imitations of Madonna.

 

NO PHONES ALLOWED – every time I see some asshole walking down the street playing on his iPhone I pray that he’ll keep strolling right out into traffic, because mobile phones make us lame. But in the Eighties, no one ever knew what time it was because only dorks wore watches, and you could actually argue about ridiculous things for hours without some delicate flower whipping out their Steve Jobs ouija board and delivering an atmosphere-crushing answer from Wikipedia. Thanks for ruining our banter, jerkwad.

 

MAIL WAS BETTER THAN EMAIL – all email does is deliver herbal viagra ads and semi-literate, punctuation-free screeds from your dad faster than ever before. In the Eighties, the highlight of your day was when the mail arrived, bearing catalogues full of two-seater hovercrafts from Hammacher Schlemmer and the Sharper Image, mix tapes from your best friend, and, if you were lucky, actual love letters written with thought, care, and sometimes a lipstick coated kiss next to the signature. I’ll take that any day over LiVE Russian BRIDES WHo Want To MARYY Yoiu NOWWW.

 

Video ArcadesNO ONE CARED WHERE YOU WERE – today’s children are tagged and tracked every second of their lives, with even the most laidback parents becoming OCD monsters possessed by a compulsive need to know where their offspring are at all times. Even though crime was higher in the Eighties, parents just didn’t have the energy to care where we were. Probably because they didn’t have mobile phones. When summer hit, our parents didn’t even want us in the house, turning us loose on the neighborhood at 10am and not expecting us home until sundown. To get around our ruse of wanting to get into the house for “just a quick drink of water” they would put a plastic jug on the front porch or hang a cup by the garden hose. The message was clear: we could go out and shoot fireworks at each other, break into storage sheds and play chainsaw tag, or hike up the train tracks to see a dead body. Just so long as we weren’t bothering them, we were free.

 

My Best Friend's ExorcismMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favourite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil

EXPLORE THE YEARBOOK:  http://mybestfriendsexorcism.com/tagged/yearbook

 

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is published by Quirk Books and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Best-Friends-Exorcism-Novel/dp/1594748624/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463524916&sr=1-1&keywords=my+best+friend%27s+exorcism

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May 11

My A-Z of Books

Having seen a few of these posts I thought I would have a stab at my own A-Z of books. Seems like a great way to let a few of my favourite books get a little bit of love.

I have pinched the questions from my blogger buddy Kate at Bibliophile Book Club. Fingers crossed I get them all!

 

Author you’ve read the most books from:

Probably Agatha Christie if you count individual titles. Then Terry Pratchett.  Though if you count re-reads then I have read most of the Discworld books 4 or 5 times (at least) which puts Pratchett on top.

Best Sequel Ever:

Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett). I love the City Watch books, Vimes and Carrot first appeared in Guards! Guards! and returned in Men At Arms. Am cheating a little but it is my A-Z!

In The BloodCurrently reading:

Doctor Who: In The Blood (Jenny T Colgan), Baby Doll (Holly Overton), Nomad (James Swallow), The Wolf Trial (Neil MacKay)

Drink of choice while reading:

Coffee (strong), no sugar.

E-reader or physical book:

One of my pet hate questions.  It is all about the story…book, e-reader, audio book, my phone’s Kindle App…I care not as I am happy with them all.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:

I was a painfully shy teen – lets just go for having a major crush on Nancy Drew.

Glad you gave this book a chance:

Many years ago I picked up a new release called Killing Floor by a chap called Lee Child.  He wrote about a character called Jack Reacher – glad I took a chance on an author I hadn’t heard of – been a fan ever since.

Hidden Gem book:

Haterz  (James Goss).

Important moment in your reading life:

Deciding to write that first blog post about the book I had just finished? (James Oswald – Natural Causes) OR at age 14(ish) making the full transition to reading ‘grown up’ books and purchasing Pet Sematary.

Long time lostJust finished:

Long Time Lost (Chris Ewan)

Kind of books you won’t read:

Romance and Non Fiction.

Longest book you’ve ever read:

Probably The Stand (Stephen King) but I don’t really stop to count the number of pages.

In The Cold Dark Ground

 

Major book hangover:

In a good or bad way?  In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride was MAGNIFICENT and I felt bad for the books that followed.

On the flip-side I read a thriller recently which had a plot twist that I really didn’t enjoy (book had been cruising to a 5*score) – I have yet to decide if I will review that one.

Number of bookcases you own:

Less than I once had!  One, Two, Many…LOTS. Last year we removed our bannister at the top of the stairs and replaced the spindles with a new fitted bookcase.

One book you’ve read multiple times:

Just one?  IT  (Stephen King). Most of the Terry Pratchett books and ALL of the Mr Men books!

Preferred place to read: 

On the train (guilt free reading time).

ITQuote that inspired you/ Gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“At last Ben drops his hands. He starts to say something, shakes his head, and walks away. Ritchie follows him, then Beverly and Mike, walking together. No one talks; they climb the embankment to Kansas Street and simply take leave of one another. And when Bill thinks it over twenty-seven years later, he realizes that they really never did all get together again. Four of them quite often, sometimes five, and maybe six once or twice. But never all seven.” – IT, Stephen King.

 

 

Reading regret:

Lord of the Rings.  Absolute dross – not sure why I stuck with it.

 

Series you started and need to finish:

John Sandford’s ‘Prey’ novels.  I have missed the last couple of releases.

Three of your all time favourite books:

IT (Stephen King), Night Watch (Terry Pratchett), Belgarath The Sorcerer (David and Leigh Eddings)

 

Unapologetic fangirl for:

“fangirl” perhaps this challenge was not written with me in mind!

Doctor Who – been reading these books for over 35 years and have easily read over 400 unique Doctor Who titles.

Tenacity 2Very excited for this release more than all others: 

I never know what is coming up. I always look forward to the new Lee Child. I used to count down to the publication date of the new Terry Pratchett *sobs*.

Now that I have given it some thought…one of my favourite books last year was Tenacity by J.S. Law – am watching eagerly for the next from Mr Law.

Worst bookish habit:

Starting too many books at one time.

X marks the spot- start on the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

The Defence – Steve Cavanagh.  A signed copy I picked up at the Edinburgh Festival in Summer of 2015 – not realising that I would have the opportunity to meet Steve at Bloody Scotland just 3 weeks later where I could have asked him to personally sign it.  This reveals quite a lot about how my life seems to pan out!!!

Your latest purchase:

Two: Exclusion Zone (J.M. Hewitt) and The Amber Shadows (Lucy Ribchester)

Zzzzz Snatcher book (the book that kept you up way too late):

A Quiet Belief In Angels (RJ Ellory). I bloody loved that one.

Mr Tickle

 

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May 8

Q&A – David Jackson: A Tapping At My Door

A Tapping At My DoorToday I am delighted to be joined by David Jackson.

After establishing a successful series of novels featuring New York detective Callum Doyle, David’s new book A Tapping At My Door introduces a new lead character – Nathan Cody.

 

Character Assassination: Meet Nathan Cody

Who is Nathan Cody? 

Nathan Cody is a Detective Sergeant with the Major Incident Team in Liverpool. Prior to that, he was an undercover cop – a job he loved until things went drastically wrong. What keeps him going is a good heart and a powerful obsession for justice.

Cody arrives carrying a heavy burden of past trauma, is he defined by his vulnerability? 

It doesn’t define him, but his traumatic past is certainly a potent and damaging influence on his life. His arc throughout the series will concern his attempts to rid himself of that menacing shadow.

Cody is hopefully going to return but have you also left scope to write Cody stories pre-dating events in A Tapping At My Door? 

Cody will definitely return soon: I have nearly finished writing the second novel in the series. As we shall see, Cody’s past will continue to haunt him, and so guide his future actions, but there is also ample opportunity to write stories set in his recent history, particularly when he was an undercover cop.

Was it tough to turn your back on Callum Doyle and start with a clean slate?  Have you tried to ensure the two characters do not share similar traits?

I haven’t quite turned my back on Doyle. Bonnier have taken on the rights to those books too, and so the hope is that the two series will continue in parallel. I would say that the two characters are different in many ways. The one thing they do share, for good or for bad, is the sense of humour of their creator!

Will Cody ever meet Callum Doyle? 

I was asked about such a Cody/Doyle ‘mashup’ at my book launch. It’s an intriguing thought, and one that I wouldn’t rule out. I think I could have great fun with that.

 

A TAPPING AT MY DOOR

A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She’s disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes.

As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too. And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police.

Following the success and acclaim of the Callum Doyle novels, A Tapping at My Door is the first instalment of David Jackson’s new Nathan Cody series.

 

A Tapping At My Door is available now in Hardback and Digital formats. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tapping-My-Door-Gripping-Thriller/dp/1785761072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462746307&sr=8-1&keywords=a+tapping+at+my+door

 

 

 

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May 6

Guest Post – David McCaffrey: Serial Heroes

Season Two of my Serial Heroes feature is drawing to a close. Before I hand over to David McCaffrey I would like to do a quick recap and thank each of my guests that have joined me this week.

Steven Dunne for his serial killer post with special mentions for Thomas Harris and Hannibal Lecter.

Caroline Mitchell brought Stephen King’s Bill Hodges – one of my favourite authors but a trilogy I have still to read!

Alan Jones told me he did not read about recurring characters then revealed he was a huge fan of the James Bond stories.

Michael Wood shared his love of one of my personal favourites – Dalziel and Pascoe.

David Young has introduced me to the books of William Ryan and the feedback I had on this post has shown me I have been missing a real treat.

This week (as with Season 1) has been a real treat for me to share. To everyone that has contributed – THANK YOU!

 

And now one remains. A character that embodies the term Serial Hero. David McCaffrey this is where you take over…

 

1989.

The most significant date in my life (Kelly is now reading this and thinking ‘the day we got married, birth of your kids…those ringing a bell?’)

But that was the year Batman made it to the big screen. Actually, let me correct that. Batman – The Movie starring Adam West, Burt Ward and the most eclectic and colourful sets of villains ever to grace the cinema screen (well, until Batman and Robin but we don’t talk about that!) hit the screen in 1966.

But the first, modern day, no nonsense, balls out iteration of the Dark Knight detective landed courtesy of Tim Burton in 1989.

Everyone knew it was coming. The trailer had ran before screenings of Wing Commander starring Freddie Prinze Jr, with cinema goers leaving once the trailer ended. No dialogue, just scenes from the film set to Danny Elfman’s amazing and emotive score.  And then we had the poBatman Movie Posterster. Again, no fanfare, just the logo there in its entire bat shaped glory. It didn’t need a title beneath or above it – everyone knew what it meant and what it signified.

I had always been a Batman fan, ever since I was a small boy. But with that movie, my whole world exploded I ways I could have never have foreseen. I was introduced on the back of the film to a universe I never even knew existed – comics, graphic novels, annuals, statues, figurines. Everything a fan could ever want and so much more.

But why Batman? What drove the fascination that has grown exponentially year after year in my life to the point that my work colleagues now come back from holidays abroad with Batman comics in a foreign language without any promoting from me to look out from them? They just do it because they know I love it.

Detective Comics 27We all know the history; Bob Kane and Bill finger created the character as a juxtaposition to Superman introduced the year prior and following a viewing of Leonardo De Vinci’s artwork of a flying machine that came with the quote “Your bird shall have no other wings than that of a bat.”

But what is about that particular character that I love so much that I used to wear t-shirts beneath my school uniform in the hope that having his strength and determination  close to me would stop me being beaten up virtually every day and made to eat cigarette butts at the back of the bus (it didn’t but needs must!).

Well, the answer is simple but multifactorial. Let me explain.

Firstly, Batman is not a superhero. That is the most important aspect to remember. He has no superpowers, isn’t invincible and cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is a man. Just a man. Yet that is why he is the most significant and powerful individual in the DC universe (and Marvel…yes, I’m saying it. DC is the best!!!) .

Batman ParentsHe was a boy who suffered a tragedy and, using his granted considerable money and family renown, travelled the world, gleaning experience from the most powerful and influential teachers, alchemists and fighters in the world to becoming THE world’s great detective. His drive and strength of will to not only avenge his parents murder but to also condition his body and mind to such perfection that he could ultimately be someone who could stop the same tragedy befalling another family made him the ultimate example of willpower and how far an individual can push himself for a belief. This is the man, the human being who became so proficient and skilled that he could take down Superman. Hell, he once took down most of the Justice League! This one man. This one, gifted, intelligent man took down gods. I stand corrected…he is a superhero. More so because he has no super powers. And it is that fact alone that makes him the most compelling of heroes in the whole pantheon of comic books. There would be no Shadow, no Daredevil if not for Batman. He set the stage and drove the aesthetic forward so that he would forever be emulated and copied, but never equalled.

Secondly, Batman is a character that we can all identify with. Superman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, Green Lantern…all awesome characters but can you actually identify with any of them? I imagine not.

But why are we able to identify with him? Perhaps it’s because there is a part of him in each and every one of us. We all have two sides to us, that dark half and a light side. The one we turn towards might depend on the circumstances. Maybe we turn to the darker side when we need to be stronger or fight for something worth fighting for and we turn to the light one for comfort. I turned towards Batman to escape traumatic experiences in my childhood; to escape the psychological abuse my father gave me.

BatsignalBruce Wayne turned to his to fight crime and help the people of his city – Gotham City. His life needed that tragedy to bring Batman to life and maybe that’s how it is for us all. Maybe we can only identify with our darker sides because we have suffered. I think that is one of the reasons he is so easy to associate with. We can see his pain and believe it drove him to becoming a better, albeit more violent version of himself. We may not (and hopefully not!) become violent but I do believe we can become stronger and reinvent ourselves as we need to. That’s what Bruce Wayne did. He is us and visa versa.

Thirdly, I think we identify with Batman because we want to be him. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t? I certainly do!  “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Those were the words spoken by his nemesis, The Joker at The Flugelheim Museum.

The Batmobile…cool in any iteration. The grappling hooks…awesome. Batarangs…check, awesome. The suit…check, coolest outfit ever! The voice…well, you could do that without the above, but all the above does make it a million times better!!!

But seriously, I love the character because he makes a difference without those superpowers I mentioned earlier. A normal guy who is rich, yes, but one who dedicated his life to helping others, in this case by fighting crime.

Killing JokeIs he a psychopath? Hmmm, hard one to answer. I think The Joker says it best in The Killing Joke, the seminal Alan Moore/Brian Bolland graphic novel that brought us the first glimpse of whom The Joker perhaps once was. “It only takes one bad day to turn an ordinary man insane.” Batman is that flip side of the coin, with The Joker on the other half. Two sides, Ying and Yang, one unable to exist without the other.

I love Batman because I wish we had him, here, in our world. Gotham City has him to watch over them, but our world is far more complex and insidious. We are not as lucky as they are and we can often only dream of a guardian figure of compassion that watches over us and keeps us safe in our beds, who knows the ways of the dark night and holds fast to his beliefs that he is and can make a difference.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was something I had waited over 30 years to see. My hero battling Superman and knocking him down a peg or two. Yes, the film was heavily criticised, yes, all the Marvel fans are saying their films do comic book characters better (for the record I love the Marvel films, however DC has nailed the television arena in a way Marvel haven’t quite. Though Daredevil is excellent!) but to see my childhood saviour on the big screen with Big Blue was everything I had every dreamt of and more…and I saw it four times. SO I can confirm, it was!

The Killing Joke will finally be released as an animated movie, unrated and in its complete version, with Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy and the entire original cast doing their original character voices…cannot wait!

The point I am making is that Batman is not only my favourite character for everything I have already mentioned, but because there is so much left to come. Christian Bale was awesome, Ben Affleck, perfect, Michael Keaton will always be my Batman, but the whole appeal of the character is that he can be told in a million different ways (Commissioner Gordon has been him in the comics in the New 52 series) .

But before I go on for another four pages, I shall leave you with this that perfectly sums up why I love Batman so much and will continue to for the remainder of my life most likely. Yes, he saved me in my childhood, yes I get excited about anything Batman related, but this is pretty much it…

Tales of the dark knight 2‘All cities are Gotham City, warrens of malice where the entireties of the lost are an inconvenience, where shrieks of children are ignored and where innocent lives are slain on a whim. Yet we live here, in our Gotham City, we raise our children, we laugh, we celebrate, we brave the terrors and sometimes, at our best, we deny them with acts of kindness, decency and love. It would be nice if we had heroes to help us. I have often walked through Gotham City and every time I wished someone strong, cunning and compassionate was walking with me. Gotham City has that hero and every night he walks his big city beat.’ Tales of The Dark Knight by Mark Cotta Vaz

 

 

David McCaffrey’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/David-McCaffrey/e/B00NA7RJOU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462570912&sr=1-2-ent where you can order copies of all his books.

David McCaffreyDavid’s novel Hellbound scored 5/5 when I reviewed it. The twist on the serial killer story that Hellbound took actually led me to create a whole series of features which have since become a key part of my author Q&A’s and guest features. It is a book I whole heartedly recommend and you can order a copy here:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hellbound-Tally-Man-David-McCaffrey-ebook/dp/B00PK958I0?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

You can find David on Twitter @daveymac1975

 

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May 6

Guest Post – David Young: Serial Heroes

Welcome to Day 5 of Serial Heroes. To quickly recap what has gone already there have been contributions from Steven Dunne, Caroline Mitchell, Alan Jones and Michael Wood and they brought Hannibal Lecter,  Stephen King, Ian Fleming’s James Bond and the wonderful Andy Dalziell. You can click on the names of my guests to catch up with their featured posts.

Today I am thrilled to be able to welcome David Young to Grab This Book. David’s novel Stasi Child stands out amongst the books I have read this year as its 1970’s East Berlin setting was refreshingly different and I loved the additional political elements which his lead character, Karen Müller, had to face.

I asked David if he had a favourite crime series he would like to discuss…

 

The Holy ThiefWhen I started work on Stasi Child on the first-ever City University Crime Thriller MA late in 2012 I got some fantastic help from tutors on the course – all of whom were published authors. Initially it was Claire McGowan who encouraged the germ of the idea, and Roger (RN) Morris who inadvertently led me to a possible structure – via an introduction to Peter May’s excellent Lewis trilogy (the flip-flopping of two narratives in The Lewis Man is something I ‘borrowed’ for Stasi Child). Then Laura Wilson worked with me on the nuts and bolts over the course of about a year.

But the tutor I missed out on, who ironically was closest in genre to what I was planning, was William Ryan. He started teaching first years just as I started my second year!

One of my fellow students (Debut Dagger winner Jody Sabral) was nevertheless assigned Bill as her personal tutor, started singing his praises, and was the first to give me the heads up about his wonderful Captain Korolev series – of which there have been three novels so far. I soon realised that here – in another country, in another time period – was a series with a very similar concept to mine: police detective trying to fight for the truth in a totalitarian communist state, while all the time being at the very least constrained by a secret police apparatus for which the truth was often best kept hidden.

The Korolev series (The Holy Thief, The Bloody Meadow and The Twelfth Department) starts as Stalin’s Great Terror of the mid- to late- thirties is about to fully get into gear. It’s a period I know something about (my undergraduate final thesis was a study of British attitudes to the Stalinist purges) so that piqued my interest even more. And it’s a frightening backdrop, where paranoia and state snooping rules.

First up is The Holy Thief (2010), and what a tremendous start to the series it is, garnering multiple award shortlistings (including one for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, for which Stasi Child has been longlisted).

Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev, who works for the criminal investigation division of the Moscow Militia is called in to investigate the body of a young woman found mutilated in a deconsecrated church.

the Bloody MeadowWhen it turns out the woman was an American citizen, the Soviet secret police – the NKVD – become involved. With enemies of the state being carted off to labour camps in Siberia every few minutes, or worse, Korolev is caught between fighting for the truth, and not falling foul of the Chekists.

Although on the surface loyal to the party, Korolev keeps a Bible under the floorboards – something which, if found, could be his own ticket to a frozen death camp.

Throughout these three exciting novels – for the most part traditional mysteries set against a background of intrigue, but with occasional thriller elements thrown into the mix – fear, suspicion and crackling tension keep the pages turning. Korolev, with his stubborn individualism, is someone you really root for.

Book 2, The Bloody Meadow (published in the US as The Darkening Field) continues the theme, but this time Korolev is despatched to Ukraine to investigate the apparent suicide of a model citizen during the shooting of a film. Once again, the NKVD has its tentacles firmly gripping every part of the story.

For me, it is the weaker novel of the three – but I still thoroughly enjoyed it, which says a lot for the overall quality of the series.

The Twelfth DepartmentThe pick of the bunch, in my view, is the third tale, The Twelfth Department. Here Korolev is about to enjoy a well-earned break, and a visit to Moscow from the young son of his broken marriage, Yuri. But when a top scientist is murdered, Korolev’s holiday plans are in ruins, and he’s thrown into another investigation in which he even begins to suspect the loyalty of his own son – and vice versa.

It’s perhaps the most terrifying of the three, and the ante is upped further when Yuri goes missing. Now, instead of the truth being Korolev’s prime goal, it’s the safety of his own progeny – and that leads to potential compromises of his integrity.

So, three cracking books. Ryan’s fourth is a stand-alone, a novel set in 1945 Germany, post WW2 and inspired by photographs collected by an SS officer. More details and the first two chapters here: http://www.william-ryan.com/uncategorized/the-new-novel-first-two-chapters/

But from Twitter conversations, Ryan has revealed he is also working on a fourth Korolev tale – and that’s something I very much look forward to, as to end the series after just three would be almost as heinous a crime as ones the good Captain investigates in Stalin’s evil empire.

I can exclusively reveal it’s set on a polar icebreaker: left in the ice pack over winter for propaganda purposes. But when some of the crew are murdered, Korolev – who’s in political trouble after uncovering an NKVD mass grave – is flown in to deal with the situation. It soon emerges that the danger doesn’t come just from within the ship – but also from out on the ice.

Sounds delicious. I can’t wait.

 

David Young

David Young’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/David-Young/e/B016CEFPIE/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462485256&sr=8-2-ent

 

Stasi ChildYou can order Stasi Child through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stasi-Child-Chilling-Thriller-Oberleutnant-ebook/dp/B010MENI9S?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

David is on Twitter as: @djy_writer   You can also visit him at stasichild.com

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May 5

Guest Post – Michael Wood: Serial Heroes

Day 4 of Serial Heroes. So far we have had Serial Killers and Hannibal from Steven DunneCaroline Mitchell brought Stephen King to the party – and that can only be a good thing!  Yesterday Alan Jones shared Ian Fleming’s licence to thrill and gave us James Bond.

Today I am delighted to be joined by Michael Wood who has picked a much loved duo from one of the finest crime writers I have read:

 

A Clubbable WomanI am not just a crime fiction writer, I’m a crime fiction reader. In fact, I devour the genre, and have done since I was a young teenager. I love series crime fiction and one of my all-time favourites is the Dalziel and Pascoe series by the late Reginald Hill.

We were first introduced to Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe in A Clubbable Woman (1970). A fresh-faced university graduate and a toughened, no-nonsense detective were thrown together to investigate the murder of a rugby player’s wife in the heart of Yorkshire. By today’s standards, the ‘opposites attract’ double act may seem cliche but in the 1970s it was a stark contrast staple of crime writing. And it worked.

Why did it work here? Because the man behind the words was Reginald Hill. He wasn’t just a storyteller, a creator of mysteries and plots, he was a wordsmith and a pioneer of the genre. His novels were literary and rich and every word felt like it was carefully chosen. There was no filler, no voyeuristic sensationalism, just pure drama written with heart and genuine likeable characters. Every book was multi-layered: a dark story, a labyrinthine plot with a host of supporting characters – some stuck around for more than one novel, others just a guest appearance, but all of them were well-rounded and deep. The victims, you cared for; the villains, you loathed. Reginald Hill made his novels seem simple as the plot and words flowed almost effortlessly, but you knew they were well researched, well thought out and lovingly written.

On Beulah HeightSo creative and seminal was Reginald Hill that he wrote a short story in which Dalziel and Pascoe investigated the first murder committed on the moon (One Small Step, 1990). In the hands of a lesser crime writer this would have seemed far-fetched and pathetic. In Hill’s dangerously capable hands it was a subtle and engaging story.

To support Dalziel and Pascoe, Hill created DS Edgar Wield, a dour-faced detective who was often in the middle of the titular characters’ many clashes and Peter’s wife, Ellie Pascoe, who had to support her husband and listen to his many rants about his irascible boss. However, unlike many supporting characters in series novels, Edgar and Ellie were very well written, and, on occasion, proved central to the plot.

Midnight FugueIn his career, Reginald Hill wrote 45 novels, 23 of them featured Dalziel and Pascoe. In 1990 he won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award for Bones and Silence. My favourite of the series is On Beulah Height from 1998 – a dark and unsettling story, tensely and expertly written. It is in my top ten crime fiction novels of all time and I have lost count of the many times I have read this particular book. In fact, I’ve had to buy it more than once to replace a well-thumbed copy.

Reginald Hill died in January 2012. His last Dalziel and Pascoe novel, Midnight Fugue, was published in 2009. It wasn’t the final novel. We didn’t get to say goodbye to the gruff detective and his sensitive sidekick (Dalziel wouldn’t have liked a soppy send-off anyway) but, like all the others, it was a deftly written and a thoroughly enjoyable thriller.

Hill’s legacy will live on in his great writing. I shall continue to read the Dalziel and Pascoe series for many years to come. Without them to influence me, I wouldn’t be a crime writer. I will never be as good as Reginald, but his work will always be an inspiration.

 

 

Outside Looking InMichael Wood’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B015CWYVFA/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Michael+Wood&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Michael+Wood&sort=relevancerank where you can order copies of both his books.

 

On 26th May Michael’s new OUTSIDE LOOKING IN is released – you can order that here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outside-Looking-darkly-compelling-shocking-ebook/dp/B01BS9XGOS?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

 

Michael WoodYou can find Michael on Twitter @MichaelHWood

 

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May 4

Guest Post – Alan Jones: Serial Heroes

Day Three of Serial Heroes and after Steven Dunne and Caroline Mitchell both discussed authors that have had success in print and on the silver screen I find that my latest guest is keeping that trend running.

When I first asked Alan Jones if he would like to contribute to my Serial Heroes feature his first response was that he didn’t really follow any series of books or characters . However, I don’t think 60 seconds had passed before he suggested a name – possibly one of the most famous names from literature – and from that point I don’t think I gave him the option to back out. Thanks Alan, it’s over to you to explain:

 

The series of books I love most may be a surprise to many. If I tell you that they are action stories based loosely around crime and the cold war, and involve a lot of  shooting, car chases and beautiful  women with  a cool and sophisticated protagonist, you’ve probably narrowed the list down a bit.

But if I told you that at one point in the series, the main character suffers the death of a loved one in violent circumstances and has mental health issues because of it, culminating in a breakdown and a period in his life when he goes completely off the rails and works for the other side of the ‘law’, would that make you think again. Maybe something Scandinavian or old school American Noir?You Only Live Twice

The books have all been made into films; tremendously successful but each one in the series getting further and further away from the books, which would make those unlikely.

To confuse you further, the author of this series also wrote a very successful children’s book, published after his death, that also led to a major blockbuster when it hit the big screen.

The lead character is an English gentleman and manners play a big part in all the books of the series.

The series?

Casino RoyaleWhen Ian Fleming penned ‘Casino Royale.’, the first of the series of sixteen books that introduced James Bond to the world, he could have no idea that he would spawn on of the longest running and most successful screen franchises ever, with each film outdoing the one before in terms of gadgets, stunts and humour.

And yet, the books themselves are a great read, giving an insight into how the establishment in the post war period saw themselves. Bond, an Englishman in the books, is ever so well mannered, even when he is killing his villains. The books are partly a throwback to the days of the British Empire but underneath it all, they are short detective stories set in exotic locations, usually with world peace and prosperity at stake.

They’re deeper than you would think, and Bond even gets married in one of them. And he has that nervous breakdown, starts working for the Russians and even goes back to nature, living as a fisherman for a year on a Japanese Island.

There is an element of gadgetry, fast cars and gorgeous ladies, but the storylines are grounded enough to make you believe they could almost have happened, and read incredibly well. Bond on paper, in contrast to his screen persona, is darker. He still has that cruel, ruthless streak, he’s decadent, with a  lack of ethics, he’s sadistic and he’s a snob. But Ian Fleming injects a little bit of glamour and a hint of humanity into him, and the reader ends up rooting for this flawed but fascinating and exciting character. OHMSS

My personal favourites are On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,  where Bond is at his most human, and the next one after that, ‘You Only Live Twice, which tells of Bond’s descent to probably his lowest point in the whole series.

But they’re all good. Short, succinct, exciting and clever. And if you can find copies with covers from the fifties and sixties, they look bloody great in your bookcase!

 

 

And that children’s book?

It surprised me to find out, years after I’d read both it and The James Bond series, that Ian Fleming had also written ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’!

 

 

 

BloqAlan Jones’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-Jones/e/B00ONBKHLE/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462315938&sr=1-2-ent where you can order copies of all his books.

 

Alan’s latest book BLOQ scored a 5/5 when I reviewed it recently, you can order a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloq-Alan-Jones-ebook/dp/B01CLH5AUE?ie=UTF8&keywords=bloq&qid=1462316048&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

 

You can find Alan on Twitter @alanjonesbooks or at his own website: http://www.alanjonesbooks.co.uk/

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