October 12

Guest Post: Mason Cross – Serial Heroes

The last day of this run of Serial Heroes and I have been looking forward to sharing this with you.

When I ask someone if they would like to take part in this feature they generally agree first and only then do I ask which author or series they would like to discuss – I love that!

When I asked Mason Cross which author he would consider writing about for Serial Heroes he immediately asked about Michael Connolly…I have been looking forward to reading this post ever since.

Serial Heroes – Harry Bosch

 

Everybody counts or nobody counts,” is a recurring theme in Michael Connelly’s long-running series starring Hieronymus Bosch (Harry for short). It sums up Harry’s philosophy – he’s an unfashionably moral cop in a literary LA crime scene often defined by bad men versus worse men, like James Ellroy’s protagonists.

Which is not to say he’s by-the-book, exactly. In fact it’s Bosch’s drive to never take the easy way out, to always get the job done right, that often puts him in conflict with his superiors, and sometimes even his partners. Maybe that’s the secret to his success as a series hero: he gives you all the rule breaking thrills of a standard-issue maverick cop, but underneath that he has a moral code as unshakeable as Atticus Finch’s.

The Bosch series started off in 1992 with The Black Echo, which introduced Harry and made use of his backstory as a Vietnam tunnel rat in a story that sees him on the trail of some of his fellow veterans, who are planning a bank vault heist using their tunneling expertise. Bosch has aged in real time, so by the most recent installment (The Wrong Side of Goodbye) he’s been retired a couple of times already and has still managed to find a way to unretire himself. Like other long-running characters such as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Lee Child’s Reacher, this longevity is a big part of the enjoyment for a reader. You get to see how the hero evolves (or doesn’t) as he ages and the world changes around him.

Just as Rebus’s Edinburgh has changed a lot over his tenure, so has Bosch’s Los Angeles. When The Black Echo was published, the LA riots were a few months away, and OJ Simpson was famous only as an ex-football player with a minor film career. Bosch has seen a lot of changes in his hometown since then.

As a reader, I’ve always loved LA crime, from Raymond Chandler’s classics through more recent masters like Walter Mosely, Robert Crais and James Ellroy. I even had a go at writing one of my own, in The Samaritan, which is the only one of my novels so far to be almost entirely set within one city. While you can make a good case for New York and San Francisco, LA is simply the classic noir city for me, exemplified in films like Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential, Collateral, and even Blade Runner. Connelly’s books are very much rooted in the modern world, but each one channels the history and atmosphere of noir in the City of Angels.

That’s a quality that the Bosch TV show has sensibly taken and run with. Although they’ve changed a few elements (Titus Welliver’s version of the character has been de-aged and made a Gulf War vet instead of Vietnam), they’ve kept the core of the character exactly intact, and made use of some underused but cinematic parts of LA. Like the books, it glories in the incidental details of LA: getting a burger at In-And-Out, or the numerous ways the darker side of Hollywood crosses into the underworld.

It’s no mean feat that I’ve never read a bad Connelly book, given he’s written more than thirty of them. Most of those star Bosch, but Connelly has created an interrelated universe of characters who drop in and out of the various books, and some who star in their own series, like Harry’s half-brother Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller is almost the opposite of Bosch: cynical, charming and driven by money and success, but he keeps a similar innate sense of justice carefully concealed beneath the flash exterior. Reading the pair’s meeting in the latest book, I couldn’t help but wonder if Connelly will be tempted to put Haller and Bosch on opposite sides of a murder trial one day.

It’s tough to pick a favourite in the series when the books are of such consistent high quality, but if you held a gun to my head I might plump for the first one I read: Lost Light. Or maybe The Drop. The Black Box was pretty great too. Damn it, you might as well pick all of them. They all count.

 

Mason Cross is the author of the hugely popular Carter Blake series. You can find all his books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mason-Cross/e/B00FWO52KC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1507490732&sr=8-2-ent

Sign up to the Mason Cross Readers Club and he’ll tell you when the next Carter Blake book hits the shelves. You’ll also be the first to know about news, exclusives and competitions.

@masoncrossbooks

facebook.com/MrMasonCross

 

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October 12

Guest Post: Angela Clarke – Serial Heroes

I am still hunting down authors who will be willing to chat about their favourite authors – the series which they look forward to reading. When scouting for potential guests for this feature I scour through Social Media posts and look to see who may be championing the work of other authors. Today’s guest had me re-evaluating my methods!

Angela Clarke is the author of the fantastic Social Media Murders series. My concern: if I could track Angela down and make random blogger requests after reading her Twitter and Facebook updates then what sort of impression may that have made?

I was delighted that Angela agreed to join in with Serial Heroes but my worry returned when she immediately embarked on what seemed to a quest to do as many different activities as possible in a three month window.  I am beyond grateful to Angela for finding time to share her thoughts on the books of Jane Casey.

Serial Heroes: Jane Casey

By Angela Clarke

By a strange quirk of fate, and because publishing is quite a small industry really, I met Jane Casey before I read any of her books. At the time, I’d just published a humorous memoir of working in the fashion industry, and my reading material had a distinct romantic comedy skew. But pitching up to support a friend on a crime panel hosted by a law firm, (no less), I saw Jane for the first time.

That is beginning to sound like my own romantic storyline: I first saw her through a crowd of solicitors, the light from the preponderance of tie clips worn in the room sparkling in her eyes. But I think that speaks more of my later developed obsession with her characters, than Jane herself. Not that she isn’t aces. Jane’s quick wit, and talent for hooky thought-provoking storylines were deftly displayed during the panel. And she made me laugh in the pub after. (Yeah, still sounding a bit obsessive stalker-ish, Ange. Bear with me). Anyway, I believe that if you attend a book event (for which the author has almost certainly not been paid for their time or travel), then you should buy a book. So, I did. I bought the first in the Maeve Kerrigan Series: The Burning. And it changed my life.

But first, I carried the book home, popped it on my shelf, and forgot about it. This is no disrespect to Jane or her storytelling skills, it was indicative of my life and my to-be-read list at the time. I was prioritising books that I had to read for work. I was prioritising work. And then I got sick. Properly lie-in-bed-for-months-on-end sick. And my writing changed. Instead of the upbeat fun fashion pieces I’d previously been writing, my work grew darker, more twisted. Death started cropping up, and shortly behind it, the police. The only problem was, I knew nothing about the police. I was moaning about this stunning lack of procedural and legal knowledge to my friend, the one who’d also been on the law firm panel. And she reminded me of Jane. Explaining Jane’s partner is a criminal barrister, and her writing has an unsettlingly realistic feel. Well, I’d rather read fiction than a dry dusty legal tome any day, so I had someone fetch The Burning from my study and bring it to me in bed. (It was almost certainly Mr Ange, but it sounds cooler, like I have a charming secretary who perches on the end of my bed and reads to me, if I describe it this way).

The Burning is a fantastic serial killer thriller, with a twist. It’s about a murderer who likes to watch his victims burn. With four women dead already, the press talking hysterically about ‘The Burning Man’, and a fifth victim just found, The Met’s murder task force throws as much man power at solving the case as possible. Which gives ambitious young DC, Maeve Kerrigan, a chance to prove herself. As she spends more time with the fifth victim’s friends and family, Maeve becomes increasingly determined and desperate to stop the killer.

Jane’s writing is authentic, her comprehensive knowledge of procedure feels as natural as it does in those authors who used to be cops: it’s just there. It is. It’s real. It’s a masterclass in pace, and a faithful portrayal of the complex realities of modern policing, with seductive writing and a plot that reels you in and twists in a way I didn’t see coming. But it is not for any of these, (albeit excellent), reasons that I finished The Burning in a matter of hours, and immediately ordered every other book in the series. No, I did that because of Maeve.

Jane’s eager, hardworking, justice-hunting, sometimes spikey, feminist kickass DC Maeve Kerrigan is the kind of woman I’d like to be mates with. Except she’d probably find me a bit too girly. At least until I’d won her over with white wine. And god I would try. She’s the real deal. A rich, complex character with often conflicting passions and drives who believes she is every bit as good as the men on the team around her (the reader knows she’s often better). Maeve forms an unlikely and often humorous work partnership with her sexist, obnoxious, tart with a heart, superior DI Josh Derwent. With this reader wishing they would get closer. He’s a bro with outdated ideas of what women are capable of and how they should be treated, and its testament to Jane’s skill that she has turned a man I would on paper find abhorrent, into a heartthrob. And all without betraying either my or Maeve’s feminist principles. It’s also testament to Jane’s astute understanding of character. Humans are complicated, multifaceted creatures. Just as ‘baddies’ are not two dimensional stereotypes, neither are the ‘goodies’, or everyone in between. Life and life experience is messy, and it moulds every one of us into shapes, emotions and people we thought we could never be capable of. Good and bad. Jane’s nuanced characters, and their relationships continue to grow across the books, eliciting laughter, gasps, and tears at times. They are like friends. And I am in love with them. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Add Maeve Kerrigan to your must-read list.

 

 

 

Angela is The Sunday Times bestselling author of the Social Media Murder Series, including Follow Me, Watch Me, and Trust Me – which can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trust-Me-Angela-Clarke-ebook/dp/B01MRGTMK6/

Follow Me was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, long listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and short listed for the Dead Good Page Turner Award 2016. Follow Me has been optioned by a TV production company. Angela’s humorous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller.

Angela featured on CBS Reality’s real life crime series Written in Blood, appeared on the BBC Ouch’s Edinburgh Festival Stage in Tales of The Misunderstood, and hosted the book show Tales From Your Life on BBC 3 Counties in 2017. During 2015, she hosted and produced the current affairs radio show Outspoken on Radio Verulam. Angela also features regularly as a panel guest on BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, among others. Angela has given talks and masterclasses for many, including City University’s Crime Writing MA, Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Camp Bestival, Panic! (in partnership with Create, the Barbican, Goldsmiths University and The Guardian), Meet a Mentor (in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts), Northwich Lit FestSt Albans Lit FestBeaconLit, and the London College of Fashion.

 

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October 10

Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes

Serial Heroes – I am 43 years old and there are two heroes that I have loved for as long as I can remember. Their adventures are known to millions but perhaps you may not immediately associate either of them with books?  The first is the Web-Slinger…The Amazing Spider-man, the hero who should not even be a hero. “Just a Kid”, “How Can a SPIDER be a good guy”?  But of all the costumed crime fighters I love to read about, Spidey is the undisputed champ.

But I mentioned two heroes and now I am passing the baton over to my guest, Ian Skewis, to explain why my other choice is a true Serial Hero….

 

Doctor Who.  

Just those two words conjure up images of wide-eyed geniuses, battered police boxes and terrifying villains; unconvincing special effects, dodgy performances and endless corridors that all looked the same. And Daleks. Always Daleks.

I first saw the legendary Time Lord on television in black and white (we couldn’t afford a colour telly at that time) in 1974 when Jon Pertwee regenerated into the wonderful Tom Baker. The giant spiders in that story gave me the creeps and the materialisation of one of them in the centre of a circle of followers is still one of my earliest memories. I hid behind a cushion (not the sofa) when the following year Davros, creator of the Daleks, made his debut. From then on I was (and still am) hooked.

But other than the TV show itself and all the related merchandise there wasn’t much scope for reliving the excitement of what was on the screen. We played at being Daleks in the school playground. We talked avidly about the latest episode. We even saw the occasional repeat. But that was it. Those were hungry days.

Then my dad bought me ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ by David Whitaker – and I was hooked all over again. It was published in paperback by Target, who would go on to publish loads more in their successful series. It was amazing to be able to read this story, which was legendary, as it hadn’t been on television since 1963, and this was the only way to get a sense of how exciting it must have been to see something so close to the programme’s genesis. And it marked the debut of the Daleks themselves. I loved it. The story had me in awe from the first page; the atmosphere of the dead planet, soaked in radiation and filled with all sorts of hazards; the claustrophobia of the metallic city and the description of the squat and machine-like Daleks with their battle cry of ‘Exterminate!’

This extract is from when one of the Doctor’s companions, Ian, (I wish it had been me!) wakes up from his first trip in the Tardis to discover that he has arrived on a desolate planet, which we later learn is Skaro – planet of the Daleks!

‘White, dead-looking trees, a kind of ashy soil, a cloudless sky. The heat fanned my face as I stopped at the doorway of the ship. I heard Barbara make a small sound in her throat beside me. Somebody touched me on the arm and handed me my shoes which I put on, only half aware that other hands were tying the laces. I heard Susan’s voice telling me I ought not to walk about in stockinged feet, because there was no telling what the ground would be like. I didn’t do any of the conventional things that one reads about, like pinching myself or rubbing my eyes. I just stood there and stared about me, a dead horror of total realisation creeping through my body.’

One other thing that made these books so attractive was the beautiful front covers, which were designed by the artist Chris Achilleos. They truly are works of art and I still have some prints of those covers on my wall, (see photo) some of which are signed by him. The books were also illustrated with black and white drawings inside, though the drawings were dropped some time later. I read that first book many times over. In the age before video it was the nearest we could get to repeat viewings, something alongside DVDs and satellite TV that we now all take for granted.

I wanted more. Of course I did! In the ensuing years I managed to get hold of many Target titles. Terrance Dicks was the most prolific writer of the series, and I think I have pretty much all his books from the Target range.

Then they released An Unearthly Child in book form in 1981 and that was truly amazing. If memory serves it came soon after the BBC repeated some episodes from the early years, including the very first episode ever made. It was fascinating to watch it in creaky black and white. I still believe that it is the most monumental debut in television history. The book version was equally good – with its description of the junkyard containing the old battered police box that also happened to be a transcendentally dimensional spaceship that travelled through time.

But the TV series and the books were changing – for the worse. Doctor Who began to go off the rails a bit. I still watched it avidly though and I still read many of the book titles that were released too. In 1989 the series was finally taken off the air and so, with the exception of the maligned movie in 1996 the books once again became an important source of food for us hungry Who fans. We had video and DVD by now but the books, now published by BBC Worldwide, were becoming more mature and exploring adult themes which the series could not.

A perhaps rare and early example of this can be seen with Ian Marter’s gory version of The Ark In Space. It should be noted that he was also famous for playing one of the Doctor’s companions, Harry Sullivan, and he wrote several more Target titles. This sequence from The Ark In Space is particularly memorable:

‘Slowly Noah turned his head fully towards them. The whole of the left side of his face was transformed into a shapeless, suppurating mass of glistening green tissue, in the midst of which his eye rolled like an enormous shelled egg. As they stared at him horrified they could almost detect the spreading movement of the alien skin.

‘It… it feels near… very near… now,’ he croaked.

As he tried to speak, a ball of crackling mucus welled out of the dark slit that was his mouth and trickled down the front of his suit. He stumbled forward. ‘Vira… vira… ‘ He threw the paralysator at Vira’s feet. ‘For pity’s sake… kill me… kill me now,’ he pleaded, his voice barely intelligible. Then he reeled back with an appalling shriek into the airlock as, with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material. The shutter closed.’

A far cry from the transmitted TV version where all of the above was achieved with some bubble wrap and green goo!

Of course, since then Doctor Who has returned and is as successful as ever. Books are still being published in relation to the series – but I’ll always have a fondness for those old Target paperbacks.

And for that hero of mine, The Doctor – A hero for all times…

 

 

Ian Skewis is the author of the No 1 Best Seller: A Murder of Crows. Ian worked as a professional actor before moving his focus to writing.

 

You can find Ian at: ianskewis.com  or on Twitter as @ianskewis

You can order Ian’s No 1 Bestseller A Murder of Crows here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Skewis/e/B06XX5C8BK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1507407754&sr=8-1

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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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