January 8

Hellbound Blog Tour – David McCaffrey Q&A

Hellbound Blog Tour

As part of the Hellbound Blog Tour I am delighted to be able to welcome David McCaffrey to Grab This Book.

David very kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions surrounding his debut novel, Hellbound, and has also given me an insight into his own reading preferences.

As I had the opportunity, I also tried to squeeze a little extra information from him regarding what may come next for the Hellbound cast – there is good news on that front as you will see…

So with my profound thanks to David I opened with an ‘easy’ one:

 

Why do you think we (as readers) enjoy serial killer stories given the reality is such a horrific concept?

I think we’re fascinated with the concept of absolute evil and how someone can become so devoid of empathy and remorse. There could be many reasons for this fascination…it is because we feel sorry for the events that lead them to become that way? Is it because we sometimes see aspects of ourselves in their character? It’s acknowledged that you cannot have good without evil, light without darkness.  And because of this, as readers, we find ourselves eager to see what horrific acts characters can get up to and what will be done to defeat them.

After all, are they not the more interesting? We seek to find those moments where we can feel affinity with the shadier side of human nature because, as a contradiction, it also makes us feel safe. We know that evil is simply an excuse for unacceptable behaviour and that, if the surface of it is scratched, like a poorly rendered wall it will crumble away.

I think we’ll always find evil personable because at its core, we need to believe that there is more to it than simply basic desire to cause harm and that such characters are more complex than that. That good and evil are but two sides of the same coin. As Obadiah Stark tells Father Hicks prior to his execution “Evil is simply live spelt backwards.”

 

I am keen to avoid spoilers, however, within Hellbound a group called The Brethren feature on occasion. I loved the premise of The Brethren is there any chance they may feature in a subsequent title?

Absolutely!! I am currently working on a Hellbound novella titled ‘In Extremis’ which deals with the birth of The Brethren and how their journey began utilising a famous character from history (alluded to at the end of Hellbound!!). They initially see themselves as altruistic, but as history has often illustrated, our most famous despots and totalitarian literary creations often start believing they’re righteous in their quest. As to whether they are right or wrong, that’s for the reader to decide!

 

Joe O’Connell is the primary character within Hellbound (other than Stark). Do you see Joe’s Story as having reached a natural conclusion or would you consider bringing him back?

I have a beat sheet for a follow up to Hellbound, and Joe is integral to the plot but not the main character. You rightly point out that his story does reach a natural end point, but as to whether he still has a part to play, that would be telling!

 

Within the story O’Connell is writing a book which reflects the story of Stark without sensationalising his crimes. I felt that Hellbound also took this approach, murders are detailed but not in a tone which may convey ‘schlock horror’ was this an intentional symmetry?

It was. When writing it, I had two rules I made integral to his character. One, he couldn’t do anything sexually violent towards women (or men for that matter) and two, he couldn’t harm children in anyway. My justification for this was simple; as odious and evil a character as I made him, if he broke either of those two rules then the reader would never be able to sympathise with him, no matter the extent of his suffering. At the end I don’t expect the audience to like him, as I made him intensely dislikeable on purpose, but I made him dislikeable within the parameters of his own morality. By doing this, readers can hopefully sympathise with his plight and not feel guilty for feeling sorry for such an evil individual. Because ultimately, Obadiah’s journey throughout Hellbound does suck ever so slightly.

 

Stark’s crimes were split between Ireland and the US? Have you visited the areas depicted (or how did you come to select the regions you used)?

I have been to both countries (my Dad’s family are from Kerry)…I love Ireland and would live there one day if circumstances allow. The reason I chose Ireland for the supermax, ADX Absolom, was because The Blasket Islands are extremely desolate (Ryan’s Daughter was filmed there) and it seemed a haunting and lonely place to build a prison with only Artic Terns for company. I also wanted to play a little with convention and set it somewhere other than the United States. Having Obadiah emigrate there and ultimately return home seemed to lend the narrative a slightly cyclic feel in regards to his rationale for choosing to his victims.

 

On a more personal level, what do you enjoy reading? Who do you consider to be your favourite authors?

I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to reading! I enjoy thrillers, the occasional horror story, biographies, science fiction. I recently read I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time. John Grisham, Steve Alten, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King are probably my all-time favourite authors, but I do enjoy Stephen Leather’s Jack Nightingale books and anything by Lee Child (then again, doesn’t most of the world!!). Two of the most exciting books I recently read were The Willow Tree by Bekki Pate and The Element Order by P.S Ferns, two fellow authors whom I know and who have crafted really stunning debut novels…worth checking out!

 

When do you find time to write?

Usually on a night when my children have gone to bed. I’ll spend an hour or so most days at the computer, but often I’ll have a random idea or thought about adding to a chapter and say to Kelly ‘I’m just going to write this up before I forget’ and disappear for a few hours!

 

What comes next for David McCaffrey?

I have the Hellbound prequel drafted and am in the process of editing, I have two beat sheets completed; one for a Hellbound sequel and one for an completely unrelated title about a deadly infection with the working title ‘Pathogenicity’ (working in Infection Control and the currently Ebola concerns, it now seems appropriate!!). I have a few other ideas floating about in drafts that I’m always toying with. At the moment I’m just so pleased people seem to be enjoying Hellbound! I always knew it was a hard sell, but that if people gave it a chance they’ll find it’s something a little different and not quite what they expect…which seems to be the case!!!

 

My thanks to David and to Crime Book Club (@crimebookclub).

The tour concludes tomorrow (Jan 10th) at tigerlilybooks76@blogspot.com

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November 26

The Blood Dimmed Tide – Anthony Quinn

The Blood Dimmed Tide
The Blood Dimmed Tide

London at the dawn of 1918 and Ireland’s most famous literary figure, WB Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his Bloomsbury rooms.

Haunted by the restless spirit of an Irish girl whose body is mysteriously washed ashore in a coffin, Yeats undertakes a perilous journey back to Ireland with his apprentice ghost-catcher Charles Adams to piece together the killer’s identity.

Surrounded by spies, occultists and Irish rebels, the two are led on a gripping journey along Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, through the ruins of its abandoned estates, and into its darkest, most haunted corners.

Falling under the spell of dark forces, Yeats and his ghost-catcher come dangerously close to crossing the invisible line that divides the living from the dead.

 

Thanks to Clare at No Exit Press for my review copy.

 

I may be showing my age (and cultural reference points) but when I considered The Blood Dimmed Tide and its supernatural forces, an investigative detective, some political conspiracy and a cast that all seem to have a secret to keep I could not help but think: X-Files. I was a big fan so despite The Blood Dimmed Tide being nothing like the X-Files there were all the right elements to keep me entertained.

At the heart of the story we have Charles Adams, an apprentice ghost-catcher who travels from London to Ireland to investigate the death of an Irish girl whose body washed ashore inside a coffin. Before her death the girl had written to a Society of paranormal investigators (to which Adams and poet WB Yeats belong) advising she feared for her life.

We follow Adams on his journey from London and from the outset of his trip he learns of the political turbulence in Ireland and it becomes clear that his loyalty to the King may cause him problems. Indeed once Adams arrives in Ireland the political factions become a key part of the story and we see how Adams, somewhat innocently, takes everyone at face value when there are clearly power games at play.

Anthony Quinn writes beautifully and he really captures the essence of the lonely Irish landscapes which feature heavily throughout the book. The remote setting is what makes much of the book unsettling and mysterious. I had a real empathy with the characters who believed spi

rits were among them and trying to send messages from the other side.

Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn

As the story develops the murder becomes just one of a series of plot threads which Quinn interweaves rather neatly. Not one time do we dwell too long on a single area, the story moves along at a nice pace keeping various elements ticking over and ever-drawing the characters towards the final revelation.

I found plenty of intrigue in The Blood Dimmed Tide and hope that Charles Adams features in another story at some future point. As this was the first book in a trilogy I can but hope.

The Blood Dimmed Tide is available now and is published by No Exit Press.

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November 7

Dreda Say Mitchell – Heroes To Die For

Vendetta-blogtour-banner-2Heroes To Die For

What makes a great character or hero in a thriller? It goes without saying that if we knew the answer to that question we wouldn’t be writing or reading blogs – we’d be lying by our swimming pool with a banana daiquiri, feeling sorry for all those poor people out there. Of course, all those who write or read thrillers have their own ideas and we’ve got plenty of examples over the years to help answer the question. From Sam Spade and onto Jack Reacher, and on the big screen Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character in ‘Alien’, heroes are all very different. But is it possible to find a common thread?

For those of us who write thrillers, this is more than a theoretical question, we have to get it right. You can develop the most ingenious plot based on the most original premise but if your characters don’t do it for the reader, it’s going back on the shelf. And there isn’t an easy answer to it; nothing’s more frustrating for a writer than seeing another author breaking all the supposed rules and then coming up trumps anyway (although that in itself should be a pointer). But if we can’t actually spot the ball, we can at least identify the ballpark.

One common feature is that we have to be on our hero’s side and they have to be basically sympathetic even, or especially, when they’re up to no good. It won’t work if we go into the final showdown and the reader’s thinking, “I hope the villain kills the hero, he’s got it coming…” In my new novel ‘Vendetta’, our hero Mac, breaks all the police officer’s rules and I hope the reader understand why. I want the reader whispering, “Yes, I get it; I’d do the same in his position…” Some thrillers take the reader by the arm and make them complicit in the murder and mayhem. There are of course gentle and self effacing investigators in the genre but I tend not to gravitate towards them as a reader.

And heroes can’t simply be heroic; they need their human and vulnerable side if readers are going to buy into them. Yes, of course, we want them to be able to flatten a half dozen bad guys waiting to attack them in a dark alley. But at the same time if they’ve got the perfect family, their pension all sorted out and no vices of any kind, it’s hard to get into them. Many readers are now getting a little fed up with the alcoholic cop ‘on the edge’ but there’s a very good reason why they became so popular in the first place. And there’s a very good reason why our characters tend to suffer a long, dark night of the soul. We want real people not cardboard cut-outs. In ‘Vendetta’, Mac has got his problems but hey who hasn’t? We want exaggerated versions of real life but we want real life in there too.

Dreda Say Mitchell © Joseph KalerWhat goes for heroes is also true of villains. There are still a few evil masterminds who are planning to destroy the planet – in 24 hours of course – but they’re rare now. The charming serial killer, the morally ambiguous criminal, the murderer who did it for understandable reasons, tend to be the rule these days. Indeed the convergence of heroes and villains has become one of the features of 21st century thriller writing.

But ultimately, what’s the test of the real deal when it comes to thriller characters? Well, if you’re sitting next to someone on the bus and they’re reading your book and they look up in horror because they’ve missed their stop, then you’ve got it right. And all the theorising about characters in the world isn’t going to change that.

 

VENDETTA by Dreda Say Mitchell is out now in paperback and eBook, published by Hodder, £6.99. For more information visit www.dredasaymitchell.com and follow Dreda on twitter @DredaMitchell

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November 5

Stephen Lloyd Jones Q&A for Written in the Blood

I am thrilled to be part of the Stephen Lloyd Jones WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD Blog Tour. On this leg of the tour Stephen has very kindly taken time to complete a Q&A.

Having loved Stephen’s first novel, THE STRING DIARIES, I was keen to find what lay in store in WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD. I also wanted to find out a little more about life beyond the books and find where the ideas may have come from.

 

Jakab was the menacing threat throughout The String Diaries, can readers expect a similar foe in Written in the Blood?

They certainly can. THE STRING DIARIES was the story of Hannah Wilde’s struggle to escape Jakab, psychopathic member of Hungary’s secretive hosszú életek. I think of that book as a microcosm – it touched on the hosszú életek mythos but focussed on the intensely personal fight between Hannah and Jakab.

WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD is set fifteen years after the climactic events of THE STRING DIARIES, and occurs over a far broader landscape. This time around, the main protagonist is Leah Wilde, Hannah’s daughter. Early in the novel, Leah falls prey to a danger more formidable than the hosszú életek. I don’t want to reveal too much about the new threat, but it’s not the only danger confronting Leah. Closer to home lurks an even greater menace. And if you thought Jakab was a conflicted character in THE STRING DIARIES, wait until you meet Izsak, his younger brother . . .

Both The String Diaries and Written in the Blood feature strong female lead characters (Hannah and Leah).  Is it hard to write for a central character of the opposite sex?

Thank you! I must admit, I don’t set out to write strong female characters, just strong characters. That’s something that happens long before the writing begins – the better I know a character before I commit them to paper, the easier the job of writing them becomes. If I caught myself considering gender too closely, I’d be worried. We’re all unique creations, after all. Gender is simply one facet.

Your website suggests you live in a house that is filled with too many books – what do you read and where do you seek guidance or inspiration?

The shelves are truly creaking around here. I tried a Kindle once, didn’t like it, so am doomed to mountains of books instead. I read a wide range of genres but I do have a few old favourites in terms of writers – Dean Koontz and Stephen King particularly. Other than that, I enjoy historical fiction, thrillers, fantasy. I tend to pick up and read whichever book is threatening to collapse the most precarious stack.

Inspiration comes in a never-ending drip-feed of thoughts and images. Out of that soup, sometimes a story will emerge.

Written in the Blood (as with The String Diaries) covers a lot of territory while the story unfolds.  Do you travel to research your locations?

The new book contains a wider range of locations than my debut, but I think I’ve travelled to all but one of them. The fun part was investigating their history: during WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD, readers will visit contemporary California, London and the Italian Lakes, as well as nineteenth century Hungary, 1920s New York, and wartime Canada.

Finally, what comes next for Stephen Lloyd Jones?

I’m currently writing my third novel. It’s a standalone book, based on an idea I’ve had for a while. Headline are due to publish it in January 2015.

 

My thanks again to Stephen for taking time to answer my questions.   WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD is published on 6 November by Headline.

Please also ensure you visit the other stops on the Blog Tour for exclusive content and extracts from WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD.

Written in the Blood blog tour

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November 5

Written in the Blood – Stephen Lloyd Jones

Written in the BloodHigh in the mountains of the Swiss Alps Leah Wilde is about to gamble her life to bring a powerful man an offer. A promise.

Leah has heard the dark stories about him and knows she is walking into the lion’s den. But her options are running out. Her rare lineage, kept secret for years, is under terrible threat. That is, unless Leah and her mother Hannah are prepared to join up with their once deadly enemies.

Should the prey ever trust the predator?

Is hope for future generations ever enough to wash away the sins of the past?

With a new and chilling danger stalking them all, and the survival of their society at stake, they may have little choice…

 

Thanks to Headline and Bookbrigr for my review copy.

 

The sequel to The String Diaries and Stephen Lloyd Jones picks up with his narrative so we learn what happens to Hannah Wilde and her daughter Leah after the life-changing events outlined in his debut novel. We join the action 15 years after the events of The String Diaries and find that Hannah has been busy but her activities require her to keep a continued low profile.

Leah has grown into a strong, independent woman, however, her mother’s ongoing project is not yielding success as quickly as Leah would like – driven by her own personal demons – she decides to take a more proactive approach to assist Hannah’s project.

The avoidance of spoilers is key here so I am not going to give too much detail into the underlying story threads of Written in the Blood. Suffice to say that the story that began in The String Diaries is developed with much more depth in Written in the Blood. The society of hosszú életek is explored and the turmoil of survival for its members is displayed in all its savagery. Stephen Lloyd Jones has no apparent qualms over putting his characters to the sword and many characters suffer at his hands.

Always looking
The String Diaries

For the new reader I would urge caution – read The String Diaries first. Written in the Blood is a great read but without fully understanding the back history you may lose some of the fun that goes with joining a tale half-way through. There are twists in Written in the Blood that reward The String Diary readers and the concepts of hosszú életek are much easier to take on board when you have seen the evolution of the characters from the first book.

With the deepening of the mythos of the hosszú életek there is a greater emphasis on the factions within the society and the politics of power always bring a nice edge to stories. On a personal note, the broader cast of characters had me slightly disadvantaged (as I must confess to a terrible memory for names) so there were one or two occasions where a recap was required.

At the end of the book I find I am a happy reader. A strong follow-up to a debut novel and I am keen to read more from Stephen Lloyd Jones. I give Written in the Blood 4 stars out of possible 5 and urge you to treat yourself to The String Diaries and Written in the Blood – dark and different thrillers.

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October 27

Blog Tour – Leigh Russell Escapes to Solitude

This is the last stop on Leigh Russell’s Race to Death Blog Tour. My review of Race to Death follows below, but before we get there time to let Leigh cool the pace a little.

While the virtual tour has been progressing, Leigh has also been touring in York, where Race to Death is set. After a very hectic few weeks Leigh is heading for a well earned break. Before she finally escaped, however, she agreed to answer my request to consider what she may take on a desert island escape.

Borrowing heavily from Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, I asked Leigh what books she would take to a desert island escape, one piece of music and a luxury item – she kindly replied and has planned her escape…

 

Right now my life is so hectic, the idea of an “island get-away” seems very appealing. To give you an idea of how busy my life has become, just yesterday I returned home from a promotional tour of Yorkshire, today I’m in Brighton today at a meeting discuss establishing the International Thriller Writers in the UK, and then tomorrow I’m off to Barcelona to do some research. In November I’m travelling North again, through Birmingham to Buxton, for more book events, and then going South to Chichester before returning to York in December… I am rarely at home these days! So when I was asked to consider what I might take to a desert island, I was happy to accept the opportunity to dream about it…

If I could take just six books with me to my desert island retreat, the first would be the complete works of Shakespeare. If a complete works is not allowed, I would choose Hamlet and Macbeth as two of my six books, as I particularly love the language of those two plays. My third choice would be Milton’s Paradise Lost. The language is magnificent, and the poem is long enough to keep me engaged for weeks. My next choice would be Pride and Prejudice, for entertainment value and because, like my other choices, it is so beautifully written. My two final choices would be Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, and Kazuo Ishiguru’s The Remains of the Day, which are both intensely sad novels, beautifully written.

The one CD I would take would be any Mozart as I find his music sublime. I don’t think I could ever tire of it. Lying on the beach on my island retreat, gazing at the ocean and listening to Mozart would be very relaxing. (When can I go, please?)

My one luxury item would be my ipad, and a source of electricity. That way I would never feel bored or lonely, because I would be busy writing books.

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October 27

Race to Death – Leigh Russell

Race to Death‘Moments before, he had been enjoying a day out at the races. Now he could be dying…. As he fell a loud wind roared past his ears, indistinguishable from the roar of the crowd. The race was over’.

A man plummets to his death during the York Races. Suicide or murder?  Newly-promoted DI Ian Peterson is plunged into a complex and high-profile case, and as the body count increases, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly.

But the killer is following the investigation far more keenly than Ian realises and time is running out as the case suddenly gets a lot closer to home…

 

Leigh Russell is the author of the successful DI Geraldine Steel books. Having firmly established Steel as a strong lead character Leigh then plucked Steel’s colleague, Ian Peterson, from an underling role to the principle character in his own series of books. Peterson takes the lead for the first time in Cold SacrificeRace to Death is the second Peterson book.

This was actually the first time I had read one of Leigh Russell’s books – it will not be the last as I really enjoyed Race to Death. At no stage did I feel that I was disadvantaged from not knowing Peterson’s back story. His character was outlined well in the opening stages of the book and the fact he had just moved house and job made Race to Death feel like a good jumping on point.

The action kicks off during the buzz of race day at York races, however, tragedy soon strikes for one family. The opening chapters are very nicely written and you actually get to experience a murder from the viewpoint of the victim – nice twist which was very well written (even if it was a little disconcerting).

Enter Peterson, newly in role, who tasked with solving the murder. We get to share his anxiety at the challenge of proving himself and we see his obsession in puzzling the half clues and unreliable witnesses. The story also follows Peterson’s wife, she is struggling to come to terms with the move to York and we see her largely ignored by her husband while his work takes over every waking minute.

One minor irk while I was reading was that I felt Peterson should have been paying more attention to his home life and I felt annoyed with him for ignoring his wife. Why can’t he see that he is not paying her enough attention? When I get annoyed with characters it is always a good sign that I am engaging with a book!

As with any murder story I like to try and puzzle out who the killer is before the author reveals all. Race to Death was no different, my brain was wracked and I formulated my suspicions – even to the point I was beginning to think this was a random attacker story and that there was no connection between the characters in the book to the killer. But all became clear in the end with a nice twist which I certainly did not see coming.

For the uninitiated this is a great introduction to Leigh Russell’s books. It works as a stand alone novel but clearly there is also a back story to enjoy too so the returning fan will not be disappointed. As I write I should also highlight that Leigh’s books are reduced in the Kindle Store and most are available for under £1 each. On the evidence of Race to Death these should be great reads.

Race to Death gets 4 out of 5 and makes me want to read more Leigh Russell books.

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