June 23

Beneath The Ashes – Jane Isaac

Beneath The AshesTHE SECOND DI WILL JACKMAN CRIME THRILLER

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

 

My thanks to Legend Press for my review copy

Books are forever,  a permanent treat and if you haven’t yet read a book then it is a new story to enjoy – even if it was published some time ago.  Yup I am reaching back into my bookshelves for a book I have had for some time but not yet reviewed. So with apologies to Jane Isaac for making her wait for this…my thoughts on Beneath The Ashes.

This was the first of Jane’s books I had read and I was struck by the realism of the police investigation which takes place. Beneath The Ashes is a pure police procedural, you feel that you are part of the team and there is an actual process and method being followed by the police. It is hugely satisfying watching Will Jackman chasing down clues, interviewing suspects and eliminating various possibilities. He has his work cut out as there are several characters in this story who seem to have secrets to keep!

A body is found in a burned out barn. Although the victim appears to be easy to identify, once the police start their investigations it soon becomes clear that the person they believe has died may actually have been living a lie. If the dead man in the barn is not who he said he was how will that impact upon his girlfriend – not only has she lost her closest friend she also learns that everything she knew about him was a lie.

What makes Beneath The Ashes work so well is the skill of Jane Isaac at capturing characters and making them believable. The anguish and worry of Nancy as her world crumbles around her, Jackman trying to conduct a complex investigation, juggle career choices and be a family man too. The interaction between the suspects and the police, between Jackman and his daughter and between the whole investigative team makes for engaging reading and was richly rewarding as it drew me into the lives of the characters.

I love when I learn that a character I enjoyed reading about will return/feature in other books.  Now that I have caught up with Beneath The Ashes I am planning to meet up with Will Jackman again soon and I am rather looking forward to that.

 

Beneath The Ashes is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/DI-Will-Jackman-Shocking-Page-Turning-ebook/dp/B01CJPU6LQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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June 1

The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains – Jon Morris

Legion of Regrettable Super VillainsEvery hero needs a villain. But not all villains are dangerous some are incompetent, comical, or just weird. In his follow-up to The League of Regrettable Superheroes, author Jon Morris presents over a hundred of the strangest, most stupefying supervillains to ever see print in comics. Meet D-list rogues like Brickbat (choice of weapon: poisonous bricks), Robbing Hood (steals from the poor to give to the rich), Swarm (a crook made of bees; Nazi bees), and many more. Drawing on the entire history of the medium, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains affectionately and hilariously profiles oddball criminals from the history of comics.

 

My thanks to Jamie at Quirk Books for my review copy.

Factual books talking about fictional stories are brilliant distractions.  I have shelves of books which break down all 36 seasons of Doctor Who. Star Trek is also well represented as are volumes on Spider-man characters, every hero ever to be an Avenger, Batman through the years and even a Thunderbirds anthology.  So when Quirk Books kindly let me review The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains I was like a kid in a sweet shop (or a reader locked in a bookshop).

Jon Morris has trawled the archives of comic book history to find us some of the more obscure villains to grace the pages of comic books.  Spanning tales from the Golden Age (where there were a plethora of characters I confess I had never heard of). To modern times where there were signs some creative teams were rushing toward deadline and the inspiration-fairy had left them in the lurch. There are some weird and wonderful characters to read about and you can decide for yourself if you feel that some may be due a revival.

As with any of these collections I was instinctively drawn to the characters and stories that I recognised (and there were several).  By comparing my own opinion on some of the Regrettable Villains against that of the author I could benchmark how fairly, or not, they are being treated.  Overall I was very pleased with the outcome of that experiment as I seemed to be quite aligned to the author’s way of thinking for the most part.

Each Villain gets introduced, some of their history explained or the reason for their appearance outlined and we hear who they were pitted against.  There are some dark and twisted creative minds at work in the comic book world, some of these crooks are seriously disturbed and I am not sure some of the stories would be agreed by editors these days.

Regrettable Super Villains isn’t the type of book I can sit and pour through in a single sitting or two.  It was enjoyed over a few weeks as I dipped in and out of it and jumped from section to section. For a comic book fan it was sheer browsing pleasure, we need more books like this…these oddball weirdos must never be forgotten.

 

The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains is published by Quirk Books and is available now in gorgeous hardback and a digital version too. Copies ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legion-Regrettable-Supervillains-Oddball-Criminals/dp/1594749329/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495404300&sr=1-1&keywords=league+of+regrettable+supervillains

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May 25

Don’t Wake Up – Liz Lawler

Don't Wake UpAlex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table. The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The choice he forces her to make is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

Don’t Wake Up is a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a horrifying premise and a stinging twist . . .

 

My thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

When books are battling for my attention and I can have half a dozen (or more) on the go at any one time then what I really need is to pick up a book which will grab my attention from the first page.  Big love for Don’t Wake Up for doing just that – the opening chapter was chilling and I wanted to keep reading.

Alex Taylor is a doctor. She had been about to meet her boyfriend but she wakes on an operating table. A strange man is standing over her wearing surgeon mask and scrubs – she doesn’t recognise the room she is in nor does she recognise the surgeon. She is absolutely terrified over what may be about to happen to her and the man forces her to make an horrific choice. The next time Alex awakes she is back in familiar surroundings and there is no evidence that anything untoward has happened.

Alex cannot make anyone believe what has happened to her and it starts to impact upon her work. Liz Lawler has done a great job of building a world around Alex and then she starts to pull it apart around her. We see Alex desperate to find a sympathetic ear, her colleagues cannot trust her judgement and as she becomes increasingly frustrated.

At the risk of exposing too much detail (avoiding spoilers) another “attack” victim will cross paths with Alex and the police will become involved. As a reader I started to wonder if I could trust what I was reading – was Alex a reliable narrator or was much of what was happening to her just a figment of her imagination?  There were times I was frustrated with how she behaved and one character (who was dismissive of everything Alex tried to explain) made me “pure raging” at several times during the book. I don’t always get that emotional involvement with characters so this is a definite plus for Don’t Wake Up.

Remember all those books demanding my attention?  Well they were all ignored while I read Don’t Wake Up. It was sufficiently nasty in places, had some good twists which I did not see coming and I realised that I had to find out what was going to happen to Alex.  Well worth hunting this one down – there’s a link below so you won’t need to look too hard.

 

Don’t Wake Up is published by Bonnier and is available now in digital format – paperback shall follow later in the year. You can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Wake-Up-terrifying-thriller-ebook/dp/B01NBFD4YR/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Dont Wake Up Blog Tour Poster[2819]

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May 8

Blackwater – GJ Moffat

BlackwaterDeputy Sheriff Early Simms of the Blackwater County Sheriff’s Department knows about the violence that incubates within the souls of men – and that sometimes it needs a release.  As a high school football player he relished inflicting pain, until he made a tackle that left a promising young athlete dead from a broken neck.  Early did not play another game and his dreams of leaving the small town that he grew up in never materialised.  Instead, he followed his father into the town’s police force.

Now older, Early is outwardly content with the life he has made for himself in Blackwater.  But that life is about to be turned upside down.  Kate Foley, his high school girlfriend, arrives in town on the run from an abusive husband and it stirs feelings that Early thought he had forgotten.

Jimmy and Marshall Cain are brothers – men with the capacity for the kind of violence that Early Simms knows all too well.  A botched home invasion by the brothers goes horribly wrong, leaving a man and woman dead and their teenage daughter kidnapped.
Events spiral further out of control, with the brothers embarking on a killing spree that leads them to a confrontation with Early Simms and an FBI task force.  At the same time, Kate Foley’s husband is armed and on the hunt for his wife.

Early is about to find himself in a fight not just for the life he has known, but for the future he has glimpsed in stolen moments with Kate. And to defeat the maelstrom hurtling towards him, he must once again confront the violence in his own soul.

 

My thanks to Chris at Fahrenheit Press for letting me have a very early chance to read Blackwater

If a story is going to grip me then one of the best ways to do it is to have a lead character that I want to read about. Blackwater has Early Simms – he is a Deputy in the Blackwater Sheriff’s Department and he is exactly the kind of character that I want to read about. Early can outsmart the bad guys, take down the brawlers and he is comfortable and respected in his hometown of Blackwater. He is the character you hope will appear in many more books.

As I got to read Blackwater very early I didn’t know what to expect before I started reading.  I had reached the half way point (and just come up for air for the first time) when I noticed GJ Moffat had tweeted a response to a blogger question “What is the book about?”  His reply:  A good man. Some very bad men. A love story. A crime story. Basically, it rocks.

He nailed it.  Especially “it rocks”.

The good man is Early. A tragic incident which occurred while he was at school changed his life forever and he now seems to be trying to ensure that the overwhelming perception that others will have of him is that he is a good man.

The “very bad men” are truly bad people. Two brothers will lose control of a situation that will spiral into a manhunt which draws in the police and FBI. They are without compassion and their crimes were shocking (but they made for compelling reading).  It should be noted that the brothers may not be the only bad men. If there *were* to be others then I couldn’t possibly discuss them in a review as that would be creeping into SPOILERS territory. I don’t do that. But I would suggest that reading Blackwater would let you find out for yourself about the other bad people that I cannot discuss!

Next up “the love story”. Yes indeed and here is where I can laud the author for brilliant characters and great story pacing. This is an action packed thriller but GJ Moffat still manages to give his cast a proper backstory and lets them develop and grow while the action is unfolding around them.

The “crime story”…well I refer to the brothers again and also to those unmentionable spoilers.  There is a lot going on in Blackwater but the different story threads are woven together will real skill by the author. I read with increasing anticipation as events started to build towards their climax and I was wholly unprepared for the unexpected twists.

Blackwater is a book which will suck you in and is a richly rewarding read. I absolutely loved it and has left me with that dreaded book hangover feeling…where you know the next book you pick up will not be as good as the one you have just finished. Highly, highly recommended – Mr Moffat can tell a great story. 5 stars all the way.

 

Blackwater is published by Fahrenheit Press and is due to release week commencing 8th May.

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April 19

A Room Full of Killers – Michael Wood

A Room Full of KillersEight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison.

When the latest arrival is found brutally murdered, DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, and discover a prison manager falling apart and a sabotaged security system. Neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

The only person Matilda believes is innocent is facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate, and find a murderer in a house full of killers…

 

My thanks to the Killer Reads team for a review copy which I received through Netgalley

 

The third in the DCI Matilda Darke series and A Room Full of Killers is another cracking read from Michael Wood.

A story set primarily within a secure facility where teenage boys, too young for prison, are incarcerated. They are moved from around the country to Starling House on the outskirts of Sheffield. Their crimes the shame of their family (where their family were not victims) and their notoriety splashed across newspaper headlines. Away from the spotlight they are held together in Starling House, a poorly resourced institution where the facility manager is doing everything in her power to keep things ticking over.

A new entrant to Starling House is about to upset the balance and the pressure which has been building is about to blow. A murder – the victim laid out in a public room and stabbed multiple times. The suspects: all the residents or a staff member pushed too far? A problem for the police as there is no obvious motive – all the young criminals were locked into their rooms for the night so how did someone have freedom to roam around and kill a fellow resident.

Crime readers will love the “locked room” puzzle which Michael Wood has devised. When the police attend a crime scene where they know there are already known killers in their midst it throws a highly entertaining curveball and watching Matilda Darke and her colleagues contend with this unwelcome problem is great fun.

As for Matilda, she has had a tough time of it in the first two novels and the memory of a very high profile failure is not going away in A Room Full of Killers.  I have been enjoying the ongoing story arc which has been hanging over Matilda in the first three books and it is nicely brought on this time around. NB each book can stand alone, the arc is well explained as is key to Matilda’s character.

Matilda Darke should become a familiar character to anyone that enjoys crime fiction.  Michael Wood is building a great series here and you want to ensure you are here for the journey.

 

A Room Full of Killers is available in digital format, and paperback from 18 May 2017. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Room-Full-Killers-Matilda-thriller-ebook/dp/B01LKXFZZ0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1492548578&sr=1-1

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April 12

Dog Fight – Michael J Malone

dog fightKenny O Neill, a villain with a conscience, returns in a hard-hitting thriller of exploitation, corruption and criminal gangs. When Kenny s cousin, Ian, comes to the aid of a fellow ex-squaddie in a heap of trouble, he gets caught up in the vicious underground fight scene, where callous criminals prey on the vulnerable, damaged and homeless.

With Ian in too deep to escape, Kenny has no option other than to infiltrate the gang for the sake of his family. Kenny is an experienced MMA fighter, as tough as they come, but has he found himself in the one fight he can never win?

 

My thanks to Sara at Contraband for my review copy

 

Dog Fight…even the title makes Michael J Malone’s new novel sound dark and dangerous. It’s not misleading. Dog Fight is a Kenny O’Neill story and it doesn’t matter how big-hearted Kenny can be – he is still one of Glasgow’s gangsters and dark and dangerous goes with the territory.

A homeless ex-soldier is given the opportunity to make a few quid if he will take part in an underground fight club. Though not as fit as he once was, the former soldier fancies his chances and sees the opportunity to get some much needed cash. It soon becomes clear that this offer may not have been made with his best intentions at heart. 

Although I said this was a Kenny story, his cousin Ian also features heavily. Ian is ex-military and has accumulated a few demons in the past – most notably a drug habit which he has managed to vanquish. Ian is still in touch with some of his former squad mates and it is while visiting one of his pals that the path of the story is set.  Ian’s mate is suffering, injured and disabled in action and with anger issues that he struggles to control. He has borrowed lots of money to fund a drug habit and to buy gifts for his son. But when the loan needs repaid and the enforcers are sent to collect Ian is going to get in the way. After a confrontation with the ‘wrong people’ Ian receives an offer which will give him the chance to earn a few quid.

Meanwhile Kenny has his own problems to contend with. He is dealing with the aftermath of events in Bad Samaritan (no spoilers from me) and an unexpected domestic drama will shake up his family. When his cousin Ian suddenly vanishes Kenny needs to call on his contacts to track him down, however, information comes at a price and Kenny will need to pay the price to find his cousin.

Dog Fight does give the reader much to contemplate. The underground fight club gives us some brutal scenes to read through and the morality of exploiting vulnerable former soldiers was unsettling. Malone is highlighting how poorly retuning soldiers are treated when they try to resume a “normal” life. PTSD and lack of a support network is a real problem and the vulnerabilities are brought to the fore by the author who is almost challenging the reader to help tackle this issue.

Kenny’s story is nicely developed too and it is easy to see why he is a firm favourite with returning readers. You don’t have to have read any of the previous novels to pick up and enjoy Dog Fight, the book stands well on its own, but knowing the backstory will enhance enjoyment.

Dog Fight can be dark, gritty and unflinching but there is humour energy and there are uplifting scenes too. Michael J Malone can’t half tell a good story – this is a beauty.

Dog Fight is published by Contraband and is available now in both paperback and digital format. Order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dog-Fight-Kenny-ONeill-2/dp/1910192775/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491427752&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+j+malone

 

Follow the blog tour here:

Dog Fight blogtour

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April 9

The Man Who Loved Islands – David F Ross

The Man Who Loved IslandsThe Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK …In the early ’80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive … and forget.

Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

 

If you were here for The Last Days of Disco and then The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas then The Man Who Loved Islands is an absolute treat. We have returning characters, you will know how David Ross can tear at your heartstrings then have you howling with laughter and, of course, we have the best soundtrack and musical references that you will find in any book on the fiction shelves.

If you have not read the first two books (and you really should) then fear not…The Man Who Loved Islands can stand alone and be thoroughly enjoyed. Where the earlier stories were very much tales of Ayrshire, this time we have a much more international feel. The first third of the book sees the narrative jump back and forward in time and events mainly take place between the Far East and Ibiza. The changing timeline and the locational switches give Islands a very different feel to the first two novels (albeit the conversational language is 100% Scottish).

Bobby and Joey are old friends who have drifted apart. Though both have achieved a degree of success in their lives, they have both reached a stage where they are largely unhappy with where they find themselves now. The chance of a reunion arises – the opportunity to build bridges and re-establish that old friendship and both men find themselves drawn together again.

The Man Who Loved Islands splits the pacing. The first half of the book is slower, reflecting the unhappy position that the boys have found themselves in.  We spend time with Bobby in Ibiza during the off season, he scrimping and slaving to try to make that elusive breakthrough on the club scene. The long quiet days will frustrate and leave him almost fatigued with lethargy, sleeping late, watching tv re-runs he is in a spiral of waste. Joey is an architect but is being edged out of his firm by younger and more hungry colleagues. He is listless and travelling from hotel to hotel in an unfulfilling existence.

Into the latter stages of the story the pace dramatically lifts, the fun is back and the hijinks return. It is funny, fresh and damned entertaining. Plus there is the music – always the music and the forgotten songs, the trivia and the sheer depth of knowledge which infuse David Ross brings to his books make reading them so very enjoyable.

Fabulous, funny and frequently foul mouthed.

 

The Man Who Loved Islands is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Loved-Islands-Disco-Days/dp/1910633151/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491683160&sr=8-1&keywords=the+man+who+loved+islands

 

 

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April 2

Deadly Game – Matt Johnson

Deadly GameReeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered.

Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

 

After the events in Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game we welcome the return of Robert Finlay who this time is facing a Deadly Game.

Early housekeeping first: I hadn’t read Wicked Game before starting Deadly Game.  I don’t believe it is necessary to have read the first novel, however, the opening chapters do provide a summary of how events at the end of book 1 ended (ie spoilers). If you read the two out of sequence then you will potentially spoil some plot twists.

After the events of Wicked Game we find that Finlay is not going to find it easy to return to his former job, a change of scene will be required and fortunately there are some influential people keen to utilise his special talents. Finlay is posted to Eastern Europe where he finds himself learning to dive and is by chance also placed in close proximity to a young Romanian woman (and her bodyguard). With fate receiving a few helping hands Finlay and the girl end up diving together and a friendship is formed.

I found the opening sequences held my attention really effectively. The short chapter lengths and Johnson’s easy flowing writing style made for prime “one more chapter” material and before I knew it I had been drawn into the story. Finlay is a fine lead character, more human than the average international jet-setting adventurer. He is not bulletproof, he tires, he displays emotion and is someone you want to read about.

There is too much going on within Deadly Game for me to spill the beans on many of the plot twists suffice to say this is a cracking adventure tale and one which should grace the shelves of thriller fans. I’d welcome many more Finlay books, he is a character going places.

 

Deadly Game is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. Copies can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Deadly-Game-Robert-Finlay-Matt-Johnson/1910633666/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491161541&sr=8-1&keywords=deadly+game

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March 7

Aye Write – Know the Authors: Vaseem Khan

For one last time before Aye Write 2017 gets underway I am delighted to welcome Liz Barnsley (from Liz Loves Books) back to Grab This Book.   Liz has been chatting with some of the authors who are appearing at this year’s Aye Write festival and today she is joined by Vaseem Khan.

Vaseem is the author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series, a crime series based in Mumbai, India and featuring a baby elephant. The first book in the series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra was a Times bestseller, a Waterstones’ paperback of the year and an Amazon Best Debut.

With my heartfelt thanks to Liz for allowing me to share these chats, I give you Liz and Vaseem:

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it …

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the CrownIn the second Baby Ganesh Agency novel “THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN” (out in paperback in March) Inspector Chopra is on the trail of the world’s most famous diamond, the Kohinoor, first mined in India during the Raj, “appropriated” by the British, and then installed in the Crown Jewels. This blurb says it all really: “For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess. So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man – and his elephant – can possibly crack this case …”

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

East London. We were five brothers and sisters – yep, your typical Asian 70s/80s family – I was the oldest. Hence, plenty of fist fights (sisters), stabbing in the back (sisters), snitching (again…) – and that was only at the age of five. In truth, I had a happy, hectic childhood – if you’ve seen any Bollywood movies you’ll know the drill: weddings, curry, more weddings, over-the-top parental angst, and more weddings. My favourite memory? Playing cricket in the backyard with my brother. By playing with my brother I mean I batted for hours, smashing the ball everywhere, while he went and fetched it. He can take a lot of credit for the fact that now at 43 I still play cricket all summer. (I don’t know who takes the blame for the fact that after almost 40 years I’m still shite at it.)

Academic or creative at school?

In art class I was asked to paint a portrait of the art teacher. After finishing I sat back, waiting for the plaudits. He took a long look, then gave me detention. He thought I’d been taking the p*ss. I hadn’t. I just had no talent. On the other hand I did get perfect grades at all the ‘regular’ subjects, got great A-levels, and then studied Finance at the London School of Economics. But I still can’t paint a picture of a human being without it looking like a zombie mangled by a bulldozer.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

In 1997, as a bright-eyed 23 year-old I joined a small management consultancy (to avoid becoming an accountant). A few months in the boss asked me if I’d like to go to India for a new project. (Actually what he said was ‘you’re brown, you speak Indian, you’ll work for next to nothing; you’re going.’ ) I still remember my first day vividly. Lepers, beggars, eunuchs, heatstroke … and that was just getting out of the airport. My taxi stopped at a set of lights, a river of chaos on the road, honking rickshaws, hooting trucks, cows, goats, dogs and then, lumbering through this chaos, the utterly surreal sight of an enormous grey Indian elephant. Needless to say this was the greatest job anyone could wish for.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I was in a cave and an unearthly voice spoke to me, commanding me to write … OK, that’s not exactly true. I’ve wanted to write since I was nine-ish. I wrote long stories, in long hand, and I’d give them to my English teacher who’d make polite noises, then heave me out the door. For all I knew he threw them all in the bin, poured his afternoon whisky over them, and burned them to ash. But I persisted. And lo and behold a mere 32 years later I was given a four book deal by Hodder. Shows what he knew.

Who are your real life heroes?

Are you saying Scooby Doo isn’t real? … OK, If it’s real life, then one of my heroes has been an Indian cricketer named Sachin Tendulkar. I am a cricket nut and lived in India when Sachin was at his peak. What inspired me about him was that he came from humble beginnings, became the most feted Indian on the planet, yet remained humble – and that throughout a 24 year career. These days you see some D-list celebrity toerag get one half-positive comment on Twitter and suddenly they act as if they’re God’s gift to humankind.

Inspector ChopraFunniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

A coconut fell on my head while giving a speech. Yes, laugh, why don’t you? It wasn’t funny at the time, I can tell you. I was giving an impromptu staff motivational talk under a coconut palm in India (as one does) when the coconut decided it had heard enough. Cue hilarious laughter from crowd – it has always amazed me how funny people find it to see someone being smacked on the head. I have had a vendetta against coconuts ever since.  

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I am a legendary figure in the world of DIY; at least in my head. I hate paying professionals for work that I can perfectly well botch-up myself. I mean who needs a qualified gas engineer when you can Google-fix the boiler yourself? (NOTE: that was a joke. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. At least not your own home.)

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I am a lifelong insomniac. Sleep is for wimps. If I could eradicate sleep from the human condition I would do so. On the plus side, I do my best work in the dead of night. (I mean the writing, not the string of burglaries, of course.) There’s something about creeping around in the dark thinking about murder and mayhem . . .

A book that had you in tears.

There are books that have me in tears for the wrong reasons. But a book that really tugged on my usually cold, dead heartstrings was Schindler’s Ark. Thomas Keneally writes the book with humour, and beautiful prose, but the sheer fact that real people committed such evil is something that took my breath away.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

A book about cancer. No, this is true. My mother passed from cancer so this is a subject close to my heart and I wouldn’t joke about it. Unlike John Green who wrote The Fault in our Stars about two cancer stricken teenagers falling in love. The book is so fill of wit, and laugh-out-loud jokes on every page, that I couldn’t help but fall in love with this ultimately tragic but always funny story.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

“You are insignificant. You are nothing. You are less than a speck of dirt on the bottom of my shoe” … I mean all this in a nice way, of course. As soon as you accept that you are insignificant you will understand how absurd life is, and you will be a much nicer person, less stressed, and better able to see what it is you really want from your miniscule life span. A recipe for happiness. Don’t all rush to thank me at once.

  

Vaseem will be at Aye Write on Friday 10th March where he will be joined by Abir Mukerjee for The Jewel in the Crime.

You can purchase tickets here

For more information about the world of the series (plus pictures of baby elephants!) please visit vaseemkhan.com where you can also keep abreast of Vaseem’s latest goings-on, competitions, events, and extracts from upcoming books via The Reading Elephant Book Club.

https://twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK

https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Aye Write – Know the Authors: Vaseem Khan
February 28

Aye Write: Know the Authors – ES Thomson

We are now into March and Aye Write is drawing ever closer.  I am teaming up with my good friend (well, if pressed she will admit to knowing who I am) Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce some of the authors you can see at this year’s Aye Write festival.

Today I am delighted to introduce ES Thomson, author of Beloved Poison, a finalist for the 2016 McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland. The questions were set by Liz so there are no mentions of pineapple pizza or serial killers – themes which have dominated my recent Q&A’s.  However, I *was* delighted to learn that ES Thomson is a former employee of James Thin Bookshops (as was yours truly). I am in denial over how long ago that must have been.

Over to Liz :

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

My current novel, Dark Asylum, is the second novel I’ve written starring cross-dressing apothecary Jem Flockhart.  Its set in 1850s London in a place called Angel Meadow Asylum.  One of the doctors is brutally murdered with his own phrenological head-measuring callipers, and his eyes and mouth stitched closed.  Jem and her pal Will Quartermain have to discover who did this, and why – especially important as the wrong person has been accused.  The story moves from the asylum, to the slums, to the gallows and the convict transport ships.  There are some new faces – Dr Golspie who smokes enough hash to turn himself mad; Dr Mothersole, who favours singing and dancing as a method of treating madness; Dr Rutherford who has a collection of 200 human skulls.  There are also some familiar faces, such as Mrs Roseplucker and Mr Jobber, the brothel keepers, and Mrs Speedicut, the drunken matron.  Readers can expect to enter the dark world of the nineteenth century asylum, the prison, and the convict ship, and find a mystery that keeps them turning the pages (I hope!)

ESThomson17 - eoincarey_0081Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in Ormskirk, a small market town outside Liverpool, in the 1870s and 1980s.  I read a lot of novels while waiting for something to happen.  I remember cycling around the block a lot too.  I have two sisters (I am the middle one).  We all left home as soon as possible.

 Academic or creative at school?

Probably not much of either.  Creativity was nowhere to be found in Ormskirk Grammar School, and I was pretty average at all my school work due to laziness and being a big day-dreamer.  Nothing much interested me – apart from English and History.  I really liked those! 

First job you *really* wanted to do?

When I was 6 years old I wanted to be a bus conductor. I had a ticket stamper, a whistle and a cap and I was ready to go…  Apart from wanting to be a writer, it’s only really the bus conductor idea that’s grabbed me.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I used to write a lot at primary school, including the classic poem “I am an Orange” and the short story “The Mystery of the False Teeth”.  Then I went to secondary school and gave it up due to lack of opportunity and encouragement.  I worked in Waterstones and James Thin’s Bookshop (which shows how old I am!) when I was a student and I read loads… I always secretly still wanted to write.  Then I got a job teaching business and marketing ethics at university.  It became a matter of “write … or die…”

Who are your real life heroes?

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915), who wrote Lady Audrey’s Secret.  She had 6 children, and looked after 5 step-children while their mother was in an asylum.  She wrote more than 80 novels, and was not afraid to do awful things to her characters – including having a bigamous female character kill her husband by pushing him down a well!  Go Mary!

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

I once almost gassed some dogs and blew up a guest house. Not sure whether that’s funny or embarrassing. It’s probably neither, but is just awful.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I try anything!  My repairs have been described by admirers of my handiwork as “crude, but effective”.   Duct tape is my favourite medium.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Both – if possible. I’m generally very tired.

A book that had you in tears.

The last book that had that sort of effect on me was the beginning of Doug Johnston’s The Jump, which I read last year.  It was about a woman who lost her son through suicide – the chapters of the book that addressed how she felt were cleverly done. I have two sons. I could imagine nothing worse than losing either of them.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman always made me laugh.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

I don’t give anyone advice unless they specifically ask.  Generally speaking though, I think “shut up and get on with it” might work well for many (including myself).

 

ES Thomson alongside Diana Bretherick will be discussing Ripping Victorian Yarns at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library on 18th March at 3pm. Tickets HERE

 

BELOVED POISON

Beloved PoisonThe object I drew out was dusty and mildewed, and blotched with dark rust-coloured stains. It smelt of time and decay, sour, like old books and parchments. The light from the chapel’s stained glass window blushed red upon it, and upon my hands, as if the thing itself radiated a bloody glow.

Ramshackle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour’s Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary’s old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past – with fatal consequences.

In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem’s adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour’s destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. And murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept.

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