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


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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.




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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 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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February 22

Cursed – Thomas Enger

CursedWhen Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has recently been grieving for her dead father, her husband discovers that her life is tangled in mystery.

Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the murder of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests…


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the opportunity to join the tour.

Housekeeping first – this is the 4th book in a series but the first that I have read. In no way did this prove problematic or impact upon my enjoyment of the story. Everything I needed to know was covered and (as I don’t know what I don’t know) I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything.

Journalist Nora Klemetsen is working on a story about a missing woman – Hedda Hellberg.  She was meant to be in Italy but failed to return from her trip, enquiries into where she may be cast doubt over whether Hedda actually left for Italy and suddenly there is suspicion over whether anyone really knew the truth about how Hedda was living her life.

Nora’s investigations will lead her to cross paths with her ex-husband (our main protagonist Henning Juul). They are both investigating the same case and it was fun to see how they had very contrasting approaches – an odd couple and their shared history made for a fascinating introduction to their characters for me.

Cursed was one of those books I just couldn’t put down. A gripping thriller, plenty of twists and great characters to follow on the adventure. Dark, emotive and wonderfully written to keep this reader on the edge of his seat.

I must also give a mention to Kari Dickson who worked on the translation of the original book – a fantastic job was done. Part of the appeal of Cursed for me was the skilled use of language in building up the suspense. The striking opening chapter which gripped me from the first page was so perfectly described I could almost feel myself drawn into that woodland walk.


Cursed is published by Orenda Books and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cursed-Henning-Juul-Thomas-Enger/dp/191063364X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487758737&sr=8-1&keywords=cursed+thomas+enger


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February 6

Corpus – Rory Clements

Corpus 2 1936.
Europe is in turmoil.
The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.
In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.
Spain has erupted in civil war.

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.

In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?

When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe – and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson…


My thanks to Emily at Zaffre for my review copy

Historical fiction is always a tricky balance – can the author capture the time and setting? Are the events covered so well known that building a new story around famous characters seems implausible? Does the author challenge your perception or understanding of an historical event?  Having read Corpus I can report that Rory Clements does a fantastic job at ticking all those boxes.

It is 1936 and the Nazi party are on the rise in Europe, there are powerful men in prominent positions in England that are keeping their support of Mr Hitler very quiet. There are also a significant number of communist party members to be found in London and Cambridge so political tensions run high. All this is not helped by the pressure on the King who is involved with an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

In the midst of all these forces is American History Professor Thomas Wilde. He provides a detached overview of the political manoeuvring and his approach to analyse and challenge events makes him a great lead character. Wilde is well respected but does not seem to fit in with the traditionalists around his college. He will provide guidance to a Times journalist (who may working for more than one master) who wants to consult Wilde on the brutal murder of a member of the aristocracy as there are political ramifications which need explored.

Corpus is a political thriller, there is a murderer running around too and there is a good dose of action adventure happening here too.  As I indicated above, Rory Clements does a brilliant job in setting the scene and keeping the fictional events relevant to the established historical facts that he is weaving his story around. There are some very unlikeable characters, yet Wilde is a joy to follow and reading this story was something of a treat.

Fans of Fatherland, cold war thrillers and political dramas – this is very much one for you.


Corpus is published by Zaffre and is available now in hardback and digital format.  Order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corpus-gripping-thriller-rival-Fatherland/dp/1785762613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486343586&sr=8-1&keywords=Corpus



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January 22

TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By


Today I am delighted to be joined by TM Logan, author of LIES, who is sharing

Five writing commandments to live by

I’m going to start with a confession: I’m not sure I could name all Ten Commandments even if you held a gun to my head. I was a church choirboy for five years (including a stint as head boy) so you might assume I would have absorbed the details. And I would probably get six or seven. But ten? No chance. So after writing LIES I’ve created my very own five commandments for debut authors…

1. Thou shalt write every day.

When I’m into a first draft I will write every day, without fail, until it’s done. I believe it’s really important to maintain that momentum, to keep on top of the story and stay in touch with your characters. For me that means writing on buses, trains, planes, in hotel rooms, in car parks, in bed – wherever I can use the time. I’ll write anywhere. The flipside of this is that you should also read every day, challenging yourself with a variety of genres rather than always reading the same type of book.

2. Thou shalt observe, and listen, and pay attention to way people look and speak and move.

Honing your observation skills can help bring your characters to life. How does a particular individual walk into a room? Do they gesture when they talk? What does their expression tell you? Here’s a game you can play: the next time you are in a boring meeting, or sitting on the bus, or standing in a queue at the supermarket, pick someone out and think about how you’d describe them in a single sentence. If you had to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, how would you do it in 20 words or less?

3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s plot.

Write the story that you want to write. Don’t follow the trend, don’t try to copy what was popular last week or last month. Don’t mimic the book that landed a big advance or a film deal. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from other books, other writers – quite the opposite. But you should find a story that you want to tell, and do your best to tell it. Aim to write a book that you would like to read myself. If your heart’s not in it, it will quickly become obvious to the reader.

4. Thou shalt avoid distractions.

My desk at home faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no music. Because basically there are a lot of things that are easier to do than writing: never has doing the washing up been more attractive than when you’re supposed to be writing. But you have to resist the siren call of chores and social media (or at least organise your time better so you can do both). There’s always going to be something easier to do than sitting in that chair and putting your hands on the keyboard. But you have to realise when you’re making excuses to yourself – and just get on with it.

5. Thou shalt seek out feedback

This is a tough one. Seeking out constructive feedback can be difficult step to take. For a long time I didn’t show my work to anyone (even my wife) but at some point you are going to have to bite the bullet and ask for opinions on your writing. But if you choose the right people, feedback can improve your work immensely. Writing groups can be good for this, as can organised courses that bring like-minded writers together.

Good luck!



LIES is currently available in digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lies-gripping-psychological-thriller-breath-ebook/dp/B01M0R1Y1J/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1485118716&sr=1-1&keywords=tm+logan

You can read my review of LIES by clicking here.


Category: From The Bookshelf, Guests | Comments Off on TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By
January 9

World War Hulk – Greg Pak

world-war-hulkAn epic story of anger unbound! Exiled by a group of Marvel “heroes” to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk raged, bled and conquered through the pages of last year’s “Planet Hulk” epic, rising from slave to gladiator to king. Now the Hulk returns to Earth to wreak his terrible vengeance on Iron Man, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt ? and anyone else who gets in the way. Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies, and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half. Collects World War Hulk (2007) #1-5.



Hulk stories are hit or miss for me. I love the earth-bound stuff but stick him in space and I am less of a fan.

World War Hulk is an Earth story so I came at it with high hopes and it does deliver, unfortunately it was just a bit too “Hulk Smash” and quite story-lite. There is a need for all the fighting as Hulk is returning to Earth to seek revenge on Reed Richards, Iron Man, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange – they banished him to space for the safety of people on Earth.

What they could not have known is where Hulk may end up, the battles he would face and the loss that he would suffer. Hulk has never been more angry and he will let no hero stand in the way of his rage.

The high battle count in this 5 part adventure means much of the artwork depicts fight scenes and battered and bloody heroes, split over 5 months this may have been easier reading – as a single volume it needed more story to break up the punching.

A high profile EVENT in the Marvel universe but not on the scale of Secret Invasion or Civil War. Hulk Fans will love it but casual readers will find it a bit more tricky to embrace.



Category: From The Bookshelf, Graphic Novels | Comments Off on World War Hulk – Greg Pak
December 5

Jackie Baldwin – Dead Man’s Prayer Q&A

dead-mans-prayerI am delighted to welcome Jackie Baldwin to Grab This Book. After successfully managing to hide from me for the full weekend at Bloody Scotland I was finally able to catch up with Jackie and we had a chat about her debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer.


I always like to start by asking my guests to introduce themselves and to get an early plug in for their book – the floor is yours.

Hello, everyone,

My name is Jackie Baldwin. For most of my working life I have been a solicitor, specialising in family and criminal law. Latterly, I trained as a hypnotherapist and now work from home.  I live in Dumfries, SW Scotland. My novel, Dead Man’s Prayer was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September this year. The Paperback was released on 1st December and can be ordered here.

For those that have not yet read Dead Man’s Prayer what can we expect?

It is a police procedural set in Dumfries and featuring DI Frank Farrell and DC Mhairi McLeod. It opens with the murder of an elderly priest which is soon followed by the abduction of toddler boys from nursery. In a small force with limited manpower these investigations put Farrell and his team under unprecedented pressure. He becomes concerned that his mental health may be unravelling but must push himself to the limit and beyond to bring the investigations to a conclusion before someone else winds up dead.

Tell me about Frank Farrell, I know he is a DI but it seems he has followed an unusual career path to get to where he is in Dead Man’s Prayer.

You could say that! He entered a seminary straight from school and became a Roman Catholic priest. He subsequently suffered a complete mental breakdown for reasons that become apparent and felt forced out of the priesthood. He fully recovered and applied to join the police.

I make no secret of the fact I love Scottish crime fiction but I will confess to not having read many books set in Dumfries. Did you feel a pressure to represent your hometown in a good light or do you know the area so well it made it easier to capture the locational feel?

Ijackie-baldwin did worry about that a bit so I took the decision to make up a few streets and names if I was implying something negative. I will have had the original in mind when writing but only someone who lives here would be able to guess exactly where I am referring to. I feel I portrayed Dumfries in a positive light overall. I have lived here for all but about seven years so I know the town and the wider region of Galloway like the back of my hand. It has everything you could possibly wish for and the terrain offers up lots of challenges as well as myriad places to dump a body.

Dead Man’s Prayer is your debut novel, how long had it been a work in progress before you were signed up by your publisher?

Eleven years! Isn’t that awful? I wrote the first draft in around two years, edited it for another year then sent it out to a few agents. A couple of really good ones asked to see the whole MS but ultimately didn’t take me on. I put it away for several years as life was busy with work and kids.  I then attended the first annual ‘Crime and Publishment’ weekend of masterclasses at Gretna which really ignited my passion for writing again. I came home, blew away the cobwebs and embarked on a massive rewrite which took the best part of two years. I was planning to send it out to agents again when someone posted on Facebook in March of this year that Killer Reads, Harper Collins was open for submissions. It had never occurred to me to submit to a publisher direct. I fired it off with zero expectations and was shocked to receive an offer of publication two weeks later. They have a really quick publishing model. My feet barely touched the ground.

There must be a long build up waiting for publication date to roll around. Now that Dead Man’s Prayer has been released and has been available for a few weeks how have you found the experience?

Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure! The fun side is hearing from readers who have loved your book. The scary part for me was having to promote the book and become more visible. I set up a Twitter account and, at first, would jump a foot in the air when my phone pinged but I’m really enjoying it now and have connected with lots of lovely people on there. I had no clue that this whole blogosphere even existed. It was like stepping through a portal into a parallel universe. A steep learning curve!

We were both at Bloody Scotland this year and, although we kept missing each other, I did see you on the main stage in the Albert Hall. Can I ask how your weekend went and can you explain what your official role was?

I had a great time! It’s such a friendly festival. I came up with a few friends from my crime writing group. I was one of twelve debut Spotlight authors which meant I had to appear before the panel, ‘Into The Dark,’ which featured authors, James Oswald, Craig Robertson and Malcolm Mackay, and read for three minutes from my debut novel. I also had my first experience of being miked up with what bore a passing resemblance to an endoscopy tube. My novel had only been out for a matter of days at the time so it was something of a baptism of fire but a wonderful opportunity!

Can I ask if there is a new project underway?

Yes, I am writing a second DI Farrell novel at the moment. I also have plans for an American serial killer novel and an American Sci-Fi crime novel.

Are you a bookworm? If I were to see your bookcases what sort of books could I expect to see?

Totally! I had to drastically prune my book collection when we decided to move to a smaller house once the kids were grown. I was ruthless and boy did I regret it. Afterwards, I felt quite bereft as if part of me was missing. Like a plant that has been savagely chopped, books are now creeping back into my house and making themselves at home. In fact, I need another new bookcase… I read quite widely, Crime, Sci-fi, Literary, Jane Austen. Whatever takes my fancy, really. I don’t do Romance or chick lit though. Too many years as a divorce lawyer!


Dead Man’s Prayer is published by Killer Reads and the paperback and digital book is available now:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Mans-Prayer-gripping-detective-ebook/dp/B01DT37ZIE

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Jackie Baldwin – Dead Man’s Prayer Q&A