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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May 2

Guest Post – Caroline Mitchell: Serial Heroes

In a feature I have named Serial Heroes have been asking authors to join me to talk about the books they love to read. I have been looking to learn which books my favourite authors turn to, the characters they love to follow or the series of books that they revisit time and time again.

Yesterday Steven Dunne kicked off this week of guest features and discussed serial killers (one of my favourite topics) and gave special mention to Thomas Harris and Hannibal.

Today I am joined by Caroline Mitchell who has picked out books by the undisputed King of fiction writing:

 

Mr MercedesIt may sound like an unusual thing for a crime writer to say, but crime thrillers aren’t my favourite books in the world. Why? Because as a serving police officer, working, writing and reading crime is a bit of a busman’s holiday – so I turn to an author who takes me far away from my everyday life into a world of escapism. I adore Stephen King. He is the master of his craft, and when I reach the end of his novels, I’m quite dazed for a day or two, feeling as if a very good friend has walked out of my life.

I was thrilled to discover one of my favourite books, ‘Mr Mercedes’ is proposed to be a trilogy, and after finishing the second in the series, ‘Finders Keepers,’ I cannot wait for the third.

I was immediately captivated by this series, which is as near as you can come to a crime thriller, without any of the usual supernatural / horror I’ve come to expect from King. But it’s so much more than your normal crime thriller. From his idiosyncrasies to convincing dialogue, King’s characterisations are the best I’ve ever read.

In Mr Mercedes, retired cop Bill Hodges has lost all purpose in life, and contemplates ending his life, until he receives a letter from someone purporting to be the driver of a Mercedes, which has taken the lives of eight people as it ploughed through them as they queued at a job fair. It is a crime that was never solved, and Hodges takes it upon himself (with a little help from his friends) to catch the killer, who taunts him in a cat and mouse game.

Finders KeepersWe are introduced to villain Brady Hartsfield from the start; a psychotic young man with a very troubled past. King offers us glimpses into his life, and the strange relationship he has with his alcoholic mother. Hodges must race to catch Hartsfield, but in true King style, it is an adrenalin fuelled race to stop the killer determined to take more innocent lives before he is finished.

The next book in the series features Bill Hodges investigating another case, with Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, characters we became invested in while reading book one. It was great spending time with them again, although we are focused on an entirely different crime, it is every bit as dangerous, featuring Morris Bellamy, a man fresh from prison, with nothing to lose. It’s a great novel, which I couldn’t put down.

As a writer myself, I sometimes shake my head in awe at King’s work, as he draws me into his stories. He captures humanity like an art form, leaving me completely engrossed. Stephen King has something for everyone, and there’s no better place to start than hopping on board with Mr Mercedes.

 

Caroline Mitchell

 

Caroline Mitchell’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caroline-Mitchell/e/B00GUUATPU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462226394&sr=8-2-ent   where you can order copies of all her books. The Silent Twin

 

Caroline’s latest book is The Silent Twin (which I scored 5/5 in my recent review), you can order a copy here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Twin-gripping-detective-Detective-ebook/dp/B01BLU0U6G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

You can find Caroline on Twitter @Caroline_writes or at her own website: caroline-writes.com

 

 

 

 

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December 14

Books For Christmas Gifts 2015

With Christmas approaching I am already preparing to receive no books from Santa.  Nobody will give me a book for Christmas (or my birthday) as they just do not know what I have read. I drop unsubtle hints but to no avail!

As this is likely a common problem in many households I have compiled a recommendation of some wonderful books which would make lovely Christmas gifts. These are not titles that (in the main) you will find on the shelves of your local supermarket but they should not be overlooked. I would hope that your local bookshop would have some (or all) of these – and obviously they are all available on line.

 

Doctor Who Impossible WorldsDoctor Who Impossible Worlds – Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker

From distant galaxies in the far-flung future, to ancient history on the planet Earth, Doctor Who is unique for the breadth of possibilities that it can offer a designer. For the first time in history, the Doctor Who Art Department are opening their doors to reveal a unique, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most loved series on British Television. Whether it’s iconic sets like the TARDIS console room, recurring villains like the Daleks or the Cybermen, or the smallest hand prop featured in the briefest of scenes, this book showcases the work of the Doctor Who art department in glorious detail. Discover how the designers work with the costume, make-up and special effects teams to produce the alien worlds, and how the work has evolved from the programme’s ‘classic’ era to the panoramic alien worlds and technologies that delight audiences today. Featuring hundreds of models, sketches, storyboards and concept artworks, many never-before-seen, Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds opens the doors to 50 years of astonishing creative work from one of the most inventive shows on television.

 

Ten years ago Doctor Who returned to our screens and has delighted fans young and old ever since.  BBC Books have released this beautiful collection of images, sketches, designs and storyboards from behind the scenes of the shows. It is a stunning collection and would make a fantastic gift for a Doctor Who fan. Printed on high quality paper with extra art cards provided in a hidden sleeve this is a seriously beautiful book which is crammed with information on design techniques and processes.

I have been reading and collecting Doctor Who books for well over 30 years and I cannot think of any title which comes close to matching Impossible Worlds for that initial ‘Wow’ Factor I had when I first picked up my copy.

 

You can buy Impossible Worlds Here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Impossible-Worlds-Dr/dp/1849909660/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450053081&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+impossible+worlds

 

Illicit SpiritsRebellious Spirits: The Illicit History of Booze in Britain – Ruth Ball

A delicious history of the secret, exciting and often dangerous world of illicit spirits

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British.

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails from contemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

 From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?

As soon as I saw this book I thought of half a dozen of my friends that would enjoy reading it.  I also thought it would be ideal as a Secret Santa gift for a friend or colleague that is known to enjoy a tipple or two.  Ruth Ball has done a magnificent job of bringing together anecdotes, recipes and historical facts and making them entertaining and fascinating to read.

The book makes for very easy and engaging reading. Nicely presented and written in very accessible sections the history of British booze is a fun title which I found could be read in both a longer sitting and or in small ‘quick page or two’ stolen moments of reading time.

You can buy Rebellious Spirits here: http://eandtbooks.com/book/rebellious-spirits-illicit-history-booze-britain

 

 

Tales from the dugoutTales From The Dugout – Richard Gordon

The dugout can be a fearsome place. When the action heats up on the pitch, emotions in the dugout boil over. Grown men lose control. The normally sane turn into irrational agitators. And every decision, no matter how minor, is hotly contested. Tales From The Dugout is a fantastically entertaining collection of incidents and memories gathered from managers, players, referees, linesmen and broadcasters, which encapsulates the unique environment of the technical area and reveals how even limited exposure to it can transform people unrecognisably. And when the red mist descends, the consequences can be almost unbelievable and frequently hilarious.

 

Richard Gordon is the voice of football to Scottish footy fans. For more years than I can count he has brought me the highs (but mainly lows) that go with following one of the less fashionable Scottish teams. His years behind the mic have given him unique access to the characters that have defined Scottish football and now he brings us Tales From The Dugout.

This is a fantastic collection of observations and memories (written in Richard’s immediately recognisable style). But the real treats are the additional contributions from the players, managers and referees as they talk about their personal experiences and they lift the lid on what goes on away from the pitch and behind the touchlines.

While the names are more recognisable North of the Border, this is a gem of a book for ANY football fan – funny is funny no matter where you live and some of the stories recounted in Tales had tears streaming down my face. Others just made my jaw drop – some people really do believe their own hype!

 

You can buy Tales From The Dugout here: http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/g/richard-gordon/tales-from-the-dugout.html

 

 

 

Secret LochsSecret Lochs and Special Places – Bruce Sandison

Secret Lochs and Special Places takes the angler on a journey through some of Scotland’s most wonderful areas to discover little-known lochs and others that are outstanding simply because of their extraordinary beauty. This book is not about huge trout, although they are there, but rather about the supreme joy that is fishing. Your guide is Bruce Sandison, one of Scotland’s most respected anglers. It is an account of one man’s love affair with his native land, with its history and culture, its people and places. Secret Lochs and Special Places celebrates all that is best about wild fishing in Scotland.

Bruce Sandison is one of Scotland’s best-known writers and journalists. He has twice won the prestigious Highland and Islands Media Award Feature Writer of the Year and his work has appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines.

First up it needs said that I am not a fisherman (or an angler) but the idea of hours of peace and solitude doing something I love does sound like a marvellous idea. I HAVE spent considerable time in the North of Scotland and have appreciated the beauty of the landscapes Mr Sandison discusses in Secret Lochs and his love of the landscape pours off the page.

If you are seeking a Christmas gift for an angling fan then Secret Lochs and Special Places is highly recommended. It is a beautiful story of family and friends spending time in the surrounds of Scotland’s remote corners.

 

You can buy Secret Lochs and Special Places here:  http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/s/bruce-sandison/secret-lochs-and-special-places.html

 

 

Imagination and a pile of junkImagination and a Pile of Junk: A Droll History of Inventors and Inventions

Trevor Norton, who has been compared to Gerard Durrell and Bill Bryson, weaves an entertaining history with a seductive mix of eureka moments, disasters and dirty tricks.

Although inventors were often scientists or engineers, many were not: Samuel Morse (Morse code) was a painter, Lazlow Biro (ballpoint) was a sculptor and hypnotist, and Logie Baird (TV) sold boot polish. The inventor of the automatic telephone switchboard was an undertaker who believed the operator was diverting his calls to rival morticians so he decided to make all telephone operators redundant.

Inventors are mavericks indifferent to conventional wisdom so critics were dismissive of even their best ideas: radio had ‘no future,’ electric light was ‘an idiotic idea’ and X-rays were ‘a hoax.’ Even so, the state of New Jersey moved to ban X-ray opera glasses. The head of the General Post Office rejected telephones as un-neccesary as there were ‘plenty of small boys to run messages.’

This book is a dream for those that enjoy social history laden with lashings of wry humour.  Trevor Norton has crammed a huge amount of fascinating information into a single book, spiked it with funnies and droll observations and made lots of facts great fun to read.  Fans of QI, National Geographic, Trivia buffs and just those that like a book you can pick up and put down for a short reading burst – this is for you.

You can buy Imagination and a Pile of Junk here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Imagination-Pile-Junk-Inventors-Inventions/dp/1444732587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054464&sr=1-1&keywords=imagination+and+a+pile+of+junk

 

ThunderbirdsThunderbirds: The Vault – Marcus Hearn

On 30th September 1965, International Rescue successfully completed their first assignment, and the Tracy brothers imprinted themselves on a generation of captivated children. Thirty-two episodes, many repeats, sixty territories, two feature films, three albums, numerous comics, books, toys, videos and DVDs and five decades later, Thunderbirds are still saving the world from the brink of peril. Thunderbirds: The Vault will be the first ever lavishly illustrated, definitive, beautifully packaged, presentation hardback telling the story of this enduring cult phenomenon. Packed with previously unpublished material, including prop photos, design sketches, production memos and other collectible memorabilia, plus specially commissioned photography of original 60s merchandise, and new interviews with cast and crew, it’s going to be a collectors’ dream and a fantastic piece of British TV history.

Another title for fans with a fondness for classic (cult) television.  Thunderbirds: The Vault is another ‘for the fans’ book but then you wouldn’t pick up a volume like this for someone that has never seen the show! Crammed with pictures from the sets, images of the models, figures and the behind the scenes talent this is a glorious love-in of a read.

Although I do not remember Thunderbirds from the first time of showing I am not unaware of the impact that the show had nor of its place in the history of tv. I found Marcus Hearn’s book fascinating reading and it added such depth to my knowledge and appreciation of the show.

 

You can buy Thunderbirds: The Vault here  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thunderbirds-Vault-Marcus-Hearn/dp/0753556359/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054348&sr=1-1&keywords=thunderbirds+vault

 

 

 

 

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December 10

Goodbye Spider…Hello Subject 375 – Nikki Owen

Subject 375

What to believe
Who to betray
When to run…

Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.

DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember…
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.

 

This may sound familiar to some – even if the name of the book does not.

Keep reading.

 

We are all quite used to seeing our favourite books re-jacketed…the nightmare scenario for a reader with OCD when your collection of an author’s work suddenly changes appearance mid-way through the range! However, a book to changing its name is not quite so common yet here we are with Nikki Owen who has some pretty damn exciting news.

The hugely popular The Spider in the Corner of the Room is being relaunched with a new cover and a new title: Subject 375. The changes will bring Nikki’s fabulous thriller into line with the global releases providing a unified international identity.

So how did Nikki react to the changes when she saw them?

Seeing the new cover for the first time was oddly exciting – here we were not simply scratching our heads wondering what to do, but instead listening to readers about Spider, how the cover confused them as to the genre. And now we’d made a new cover, a new adventure, almost for the main character, Maria. And, of course, Subject 375 is so relevant to Maria, so crucial to the plot. But of course, I can’t reveal why. You’ll have to read the book ;-).”

Subject 375 is the first title of the Project Trilogy – while we impatiently wait the arrival of book two we can but hope that the arrival of Subject 375 brings us one step closer!

 

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December 5

2015: My Top Ten Reads

December already and time to look back over 2015 and draw up my Top Ten reads of the year.  Before I start I would like to thank all the authors and publishers that have trusted me with their books, shared my reviews and (on exciting occasions) quoted my reviews. Your support keeps this blog running and I am grateful beyond measure.

Reading and blogging is not the solitary venture as you may believe. I would like to thank all the authors who gave up some of their valuable time to join me during 2015 (answering my Q&A’s and providing guest posts). Special thanks at this time to Marnie Riches for many, many Twitter name-checks and to Alexandra Sokoloff for her phenomenal guest feature on Serial Killers (found here).

I would also thank my fellow bloggers who help my reviews reach a wider audience, give me guidance when I hit a blank and provide the support I need to keep me going – too many to name individually but special thanks to Liz, Sonya, Sophie, Lou and Shaun.

So the books – Ten in all. The ones I recommended most throughout the year or the stories which stick with me long after I have finished reading – with my goldfish memory it takes something special to remain memorable.

They are not ranked in any order…but the last three on the list ARE my three most recommended for the year!

 

No Other Darkness

 

No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

The second Marnie Rome thriller from Sarah Hilary and it did everything that I hoped it would do. Terrified, entertained, developed the characters that I had really liked from her debut novel and it left me pining for more. I read No Other Darkness in January so my wait for Book 3 must hopefully be nearing an end!  Review here

 

 

 

hellbound

Hellbound – David McCaffrey

David McCaffrey took the serial killer story and did something totally unexpected – the concept he explored was one I now often consider when I read other murder stories. Hellbound was engrossing, thought provoking and a bloody good story too. David kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A and he was the first to be asked what I came to call my “Serial Killer” question – this question has subsequently featured many times throughout the year (and will be revisited in a special feature post soon). The Serial Killer question only came about because of Hellbound – my thanks to David for that inspiration, every different answer fascinates me.  Review Here.

 

 

 

the girl who wouldnt die 2

 

 

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – Marnie Riches

Explosive opening and a punchy heroine in George McKenzie I was hooked on The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die from the outset.  I loved the Amsterdam setting, I loved the dynamic between George and the Dutch police. I got frustrated by the characters, I hated the bullies and I was delighted that Marnie Riches did not sugar coat the violence of her villains. Dark and nasty is how I like a crime story. (Review Here)

 

 

 

Evil Games

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons released three books this year featuring lead character Kim Stone. Evil Games was the second of the three and although I could easily be writing about the third book (Lost Girls) in this space I just felt that Evil Games edged it. The clinching factor in Evil Games inclusion in this list was the character playing the Evil Games – no spoilers but the villain in Evil Games wins my ‘Best Baddie of 2015’ award.  If you have not yet read any of the books in this series then you need to put that right as soon as possible. (Review here).

 

 

Snow Blind

 

Snowblind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind stands out in my selection of ten as it is the least frenetic of the books but it reads beautifully. The storytelling, the scene setting, the characterization and the sheer sense of being part of the story made Snowblind an easy pick for my list. (Review here)

 

 

 

Killing Lessons

 

The Killing Lessons – Saul Black

In the height of summer (while lying beside a Spanish swimming pool) I was transported to a dark, snowy American wood as I read about a young girl fleeing the family home to escape a pair of killers that had murdered her mother and brother. The Killing Lessons just ticked all the right boxes for me. A cleverly written slick thriller that follows the cops, the killers and the victim they missed. (Review here

 

 

breathe 2

 

 

Breathe – David Ince

How can you not love a book that is the first book in The Meat Puppet Trilogy?  Breathe is non-stop action. A chase scene from first page to last. Random and unexpected deaths, blackmail, terror and a mysterious criminal figure commanding an army of unwilling foot soldiers. It will keep you turning page after page and promising yourself ‘just one more chapter’. (Review here)

 

 

A Kind Worth Killing

 

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

In my Top Three because it just kept blowing me away with the twists I did not see coming. So many clever, clever twists. A nightmare to review without giving away plot twists because it is so damned twisty. Did I mention the twists?  If you enjoy a murder story and you don’t mind knowing who the murderer is then this is the book for you. But the police are on the trail of our killer and you start to think that this time you would quite like to see them fail – and it looks like they will!  (Review Here)

 

 

Tenacity 2

 

 

Tenacity – J.S. Law

In the Top Three because I loved it. From the stunning opening sequence through to the claustrophobic submarine scenes and the brilliant finale which left me screaming for more chapters – I just could not get enough of this book.  Everyone should read Tenacity.  (Review here)

 

 

 

Untouchable cover

Untouchable – Ava Marsh

Also in the Top Three this year is Untouchable by Ava Marsh. The protagonist is a high class call girl and the story takes an unflinching look at her lifestyle.  Untouchable stood out this year as a book quite unlike any I had read. The treatment of the characters was handled superbly and any judgements on the characters is made entirely by the reader. Contains scenes of violence and explicit sexual content so perhaps not suitable for everyone but if that stops you reading a fantastic story then it is your loss. I recommend this book to everyone (except my mum coz of the rude bits). (Review here)

 

 

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July 5

Beyond The Rage – Q&A Michael J Malone

I am delighted to be able to welcome Michael J Malone to the blog.  Michael is here to talk about his latest book, Beyond The Rage, but I could not resist asking about some of his other work too.

 

Beyond The RageShall we begin with a little shameless self-promotion? Who is Ray McBain and how does he know Kenny O’Neill?

Ray McBain is the detective whose story first came to light in my debut crime novel Blood Tears. He knows Kenny because they went to school together and became best mates. Life sent them in very different directions. Ray, as I said is a police detective. Kenny is a criminal.

 

Beyond the Rage saw a shift in focus away from McBain and you made Kenny (previously considered the ‘bad guy’) the hero of the story. What prompted this change?

About 4/5 years ago, while the first 2 books (both featuring Ray as the hero) were going the rounds of the publishers and receiving rave rejections, I hit upon this idea. I wanted to keep writing in the series, but the thought of writing a 3rd McBain book and it receiving the same reception as the first 2 was a bit of a worry. So I thought, why not change the focus of the series every now and then? Write about Kenny, then back to Ray, then over to Alessandra Rossi, then back to Ray etc etc etc. I thought this was highly original, but I’ve since found other authors who do this.

 

Beyond The Rage, recently sat at #1 spot in Scottish Crime over on Amazon. How much of a boost does that give you as you plot your next book?

It’s great to know that people are reading Rage – but in terms of a boost, not so much. I’m in THAT writing phase of the next book where I think every word I’m putting down is crap.

 

You are currently working on a new McBain novel. Are we allowed to ask for a progress report?

See above answer. Feels like I’m wading through treacle. I’m about two thirds of the way in, so I’m on the home strait. I still haven’t decided who the killer is, so that should be interesting.

 

Guilliotine 2Shifting focus to last year – you worked with Bashir Saoudi on a book called The Guillotine Choice. What is The Guillotine Choice and how did this collaboration come about?

The Guillotine Choice is a novel based on the true story of Bashir’s father. As a young man in Algeria during the late 1920’s, rather than send his cousin to the guillotine, he kept his mouth shut and was sentenced to 40 years hard labour in Devil’s Island. (The same prison that housed Papillon).

And the book came about after a random meeting in a coffee shop in Ayr, followed by a whole series of random meetings. (I think Bashir was stalking me. Only joking, Bash.)

 

You are very involved in writing workshops (even managing to get this blogger to a seminar in the past) is the support and encouragement of like-minded writers an invaluable part of the writing process for you?

Absolutely. This can be a lonely and difficult job. And the only people who really “get” it are other writers. I received a lot of help and encouragement from other writers when I was learning my craft, so I try to give back where I can.

 

You once told me that you are not the only Michael Malone that writes crime fiction. Do you know if readers ever get you confused with the other guy?

They do! I was invited to speak to a group of readers in Kansas recently. I should have pretended I was the other guy and asked for some generous expenses. And every now and again I get messages of FB from people who think I’m him. He’s a talented guy so I’m happy if some of that rubs off on me.

 

It is not all about gritty Glasgow crime though – I believe you also have a few poetry collections in the back catalogue?

This is true. Before the crime novels came out, I had about 200 poems published in small presses and literary magazines. I still write the odd poem, but I tend to keep my creative impulses for fiction these days. It is a demanding task.

 

You publish a daily newsletter (The Michael Malone Daily) which I receive through Twitter. How do you source material and is it principally articles which interest you?

This is all automatic. I had two minutes work setting it up a few years back and now I have no input whatsoever. I just goes on working. Might be tricky when I pop my clogs and this online newspaper thing carries on publishing and people are going, is he not dead?

 

bobmcd18You can often be found ‘in discussion’ with the great and good of Scottish writers. You assist at book launches, host quiz events or mediate writer panels – how do you land a gig like that and how hard is it to get a word in once the ‘shy and reclusive’ writers get into the spotlight?

 

How do I get involved? People ask me. I think it’s cos I smile a lot and I’m cheap. For cheap, read free. Well, a bottle of single malt actually.

When I do these things, my job is to get the “shy and reclusive” writers to talk. It’s about them, not me. So I’m happy if I can’t get a word in.

 

On a final note, Bloody Scotland is coming soon – are you involved again this year?

Yes, and I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a cracking line up of authors. SO much talent out there. I’m doing an event on the Sunday afternoon with the lovely Caro Ramsay and the equally lovely, but less blonde, Douglas Skelton. If I survive the 5-a-side football match, that is. It will be a blast. You should all come.

 

My thanks to Michael for taking time to chat.  I also need to thank him for encouraging me to write – my blogging is a direct result of Michael’s encouragement to attend a writers workshop many moons ago.

 

Michael is on Twitter at: @michaelJmalone1

At online here:  mjmink.wordpress.com

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December 1

Christmas Shopping Ideas 2014

The faint sound of sleigh bells is getting louder and it is around now that ‘present panic’ starts to set in. What to get a loved one at Christmas? Stuck for an idea for the office Secret Santa? As a book lover I always encourage people to give a book as a gift and I have a few suggestions which may help simplify your shopping.

 

Vendetta
Vendetta

I will start by recommending two thrillers, both of which I have seen on supermarket shelves in the last week. Vendetta by Dreda Say Mitchell is a brilliant, fast paced story which had me hooked all the way through. The story focuses on an undercover cop in London – in the opening chapter he wakes in a strange hotel room, he has been shot and there is a dead body in the bathroom beside him yet he has no recollection of how he got there. Fans of James Paterson will enjoy the writing style which uses short chapters and constant action points.

 

Second recommendation is Dead Man Walking by Paul Finch. Another policeman, however, this time the action takes place in the Lake District – it is winter and heavy fog has shrouded a Cumbrian village. Hidden in the fog is a murderer who likes to stalk his victims before he pounces – the only way they know he is nearby is that he whistles ‘Strangers in the Night’ as he closes in. With the villagers trapped and isolated- they are easy prey.

A Christmas To Remember
A Christmas To Remember

For those looking for something a bit more seasonal and don’t want half the cast killed off during the story then I suggest A Christmas To Remember by Jenny Hale. This story has been receiving fantastic praise since its release and is hitting the perfect balance of romance, humour and lashings of Christmas cheer. On a similar theme Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson is equally charming Christmas fare.

If fiction is not your thing then I can highly recommend Our Zoo by June Mottershead. If you remember the BBC drama of the same name then you will likely recongise June’s name – she has lived and grown up around Chester Zoo, which was originally opened by her father. Our Zoo is June’s biography and gives her unique perspective of life with the animals.

For football fans there is one stand out stocking filler: Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey. If you have ever watched a football match on television this is for you…101 ways to describe a goal? Sorted. Diagrams of a player complete with Monkey on his Back and Wise Head on his Shoulders? Hurrey has it covered. Cleverly written and laugh out loud funny.

WTF Knits
WTF Knits

Finally for the craft lovers I have to give special mention to WTF Knits by Gabrielle Grillo and Lucy Sweet. A fun wee book full of the weirdest knitting and crochet efforts from around the world. Another stocking filler as this is a collection of photographs. Yet who knew that so many people would want to knit alien autopsies, a variety of poo shapes or the Bee Gees (complete with knitted chest hair)?

 

All books listed above are easily found online and the only one you MAY struggle to find in your local shops is the knitting one (which is a shame as it is such fun).

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October 8

North Lanarkshire Encounters : James Oswald

During October North Lanarkshire are running the Encounters Festival. This is a cultural festival with over 100 events bringing together the best of literature, art, music, drama, dance and a whole lot more – these events are showcased all over North Lanarkshire.

North Lanarkshire is my home and it is a joy to me that events such as Encounters take place here – we are not generally considered to be the most glamorous of areas!

Today I was delighted to be able to attend an evening with James Oswald, author of the Inspector McLean novels and the fantasy saga The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Hosted at Coatbridge Library on a cold dark night (we all agreed on this point) Mr Oswald entertained with readings and stories of his long road to publication.

Despite his concerns that he had been waffling, James Oswald tells a fascinating story. It transpires that he is good friends with fellow crime writer Stuart MacBride and the pair forged an early working partnership writing comic books (partly illustrated by MacBride) which sadly did not catapult them to the success they had envisaged. Although this was clearly a great loss to the Graphic Novel industry it has been to crime fiction’s gain.

The evening opened with James Oswald reading from The Hangman’s Song. When your opening gambit includes a corpse, purification and the phrase ‘diarrhoea bursting’ you know you have captured your audience’s attention. I was captivated for the next hour as we learned how the character of Tony McLean evolved prior to his full debut in Natural Causes and it is exciting to think there are other Inspector McLean cameos out there waiting to be found.

Mr Oswald also outlined how his writing career suffered peaks and troughs building up to the whirlwind of publications that began with Natural Causes hitting Amazon (as a self-published novel) in 2012; and has since seen 7 published books in just a 2 year period. I got the impression on more than one occasion that even the author was a little startled by the speed at which new books were hitting the shelves.

Dividing his time between writing and farming James Oswald seems to have a busy schedule ahead. He indicated that his writing commitments are fully booked until 2017, however, he is keen to rework some of his early writing which he believes will appeal to the YA readers. Patience may be required for those stories though.

A highlight was the second reading of the evening – a debut reading from the not-yet-published 5th McLean novel which I hope I correctly recall to be Prayer for the Dead. As the final draft was only confirmed today we were treated to the first public reading of the opening chapter. I already want to read what comes next.

Sadly the evening ended too soon and I had to head home (with arms full of signed paperbacks). I had a great night in good company and am already thumbing through the Encounters brochure to book my next event….Back to Coatbridge for Magic Den with my 4 year old!

You can follow James Oswald on Twitter where he is @sirbenfro

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