October 12

Guest Post: Mason Cross – Serial Heroes

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

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

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

Serial Heroes – Harry Bosch

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

@masoncrossbooks

facebook.com/MrMasonCross

 

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October 12

Guest Post: Angela Clarke – Serial Heroes

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

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

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

Serial Heroes: Jane Casey

By Angela Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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October 10

Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes

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

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

 

Doctor Who.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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October 9

Guest Post: Jane Isaac – Serial Heroes

Knowing that one of my favourite authors is about to release a new book is always an exciting time. I love that anticipation and will count down the days until I can catch up on the latest adventures of a much loved character.  But I am also on a quest to find out from the authors I enjoy reading which books they look forward to!

I am exceedingly happy to be able to welcome Jane Isaac to Grab This Book today. This is the 4th Season of my Serial Heroes feature and I initially contacted Jane when I was compiling the 3rd Season! Timing has been against us but I am extremely grateful to Jane for her patience during the long hiatus that this feature has experienced and I am even more grateful that she has introduced me to a new series to enjoy.

Jane Isaac

There’s definitely something special about discovering a new series. Getting to know the characters, watching their lives unfold amidst the storyline and develop as each book passes. Holding out for the next release to track what the character will do next.

I’m always looking for something original and different in our wonderful genre of crime fiction and, last year, I was delighted to discover Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, quite by accident at a local book fayre.

The first book that introduced Kate Burkholder is Sworn to Silence. Kate is Police Chief of Painters Mill, a settlement in the heart of Amish America and, formerly Amish herself, cultural differences play a huge part in this series. I like to learn something new from a book and the author certainly does her homework here, evoking a great sense of Amish life and how a crime affects the community. I was immediately gripped.

Each book has a strong hook, a tight plot and maintains a high tempo throughout, with a generous portion of suspense thrown in for good measure. Burkholder is relentless in her pursuance of the bad guys, and the ebb and flow of her ongoing relationship with Agent Tomasetti provides a nice addition and sub plot as the series progresses.

With travel being a passion of mine, I do find that the location of a story is particularly important to me. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s real or fictional, as long as it evokes a unique sense of place, so much so, that I can almost feel myself there, and Castillo certainly does that with Painters Mill.

I was delighted when I realised that I was a relative latecomer to this series and, consequently, these have become my ‘go to’ books when I need a treat. Sworn to Silence was first published in 2009 and I’ve just finished the sixth, The Dead Will Tell, in (currently) an eight book run, safe in the knowledge that I have at least another two full length titles to look forward to!

If you are looking for something unusual, an original angle on a murder mystery coupled with a nail-biting thriller, I’d urge you to give this series a try.

 

 

Jane Isaac is the author of the DI Will Jackman series and also the DCI Helen Lavery novels. Jane can be found online at www.janeisaac.co.uk and if you sign up to her newsletter you will receive updates on events, new releases and she hosts giveaways too.

You can find Jane’s books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Isaac/e/B007H9UUCK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1507409293&sr=1-1

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October 9

Guest Post – Graham Smith: Serial Heroes

Two years ago, almost to the day, I discovered that authors are just like real people and that they enjoy reading books too! I blame Douglas Skelton (which is always a good starting point) who confessed his fondness for Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. As I was a fan of this series too I enjoyed listening to which elements of McBain’s books had appealed to Douglas. Then I got to thinking – could I ask other authors which series of stories they enjoy? And why?

It turns out I could ask and they would answer!

This is the 4th “Season” of a feature I dubbed Serial Heroes. If you type Serial Heroes into the search box to the right of these pages you will find all the contributions thus far. Guest posts from Sarah Hilary, Steve Cavanagh, Angela Marsons and many more.

Today I am delighted to welcome Graham Smith to Grab This Book. When I first approached Graham to sound him out about contributing to this feature he knew instantly who he wanted to discuss…

 

I first came across the writing of Craig Russell through my role as a reviewer for Crimesquad.com when I received a review copy of The Valkyrie Song. When shortly after I was the lucky recipient of the first in a new series, Lennox, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

With Jan Fabel, we have a series of drilled down police procedurals that are about so much more than the solving of heinous crimes, whereas with Lennox we are transported back in time to another world to accompany Lennox, the sardonic inquiry agent who stalks the meanest streets of 1950s Glasgow. By comparison, Fabel’s stomping ground is contemporary Hamburg.

For me Russell’s greatest strength as a writer is the way he can bring two disparate worlds to life in a way that triggers all five of my senses and yet still manages to hold my attention like a breakdancing unicorn.

Characterisation is another of Russell’s great strengths as Fabel is serious where Lennox delivers one liners with the confidence of a seasoned stand-up comedian, yet it is Lennox who lives and operates in the underbelly of society while Fabel is only compelled to walk those streets to better improve the lives of others in his search for justice. At heart both men are decent, but Lennox’s dark past marks him out as the kind of man Fabel pursues.

It isn’t just the lead characters who capture the imagination of his readers, but the minor characters who inhabit a page or sometimes less also stick in the memory

As a former police officer, freelance writer and creative director he’s got first-hand experience to lend authority to his writing and he’s got too many award nominations and wins to his name to mention them all, although I will say he won the 2015 Scottish Crime Writer of the Year and is the only non-German to ever receive the highly prestigious Polizeistern (Police Star) from the Polizei Hamburg.

He even stepped away from his usual crime fiction persona and wrote a fantastically intelligent and insightful thriller which was part time-slip, part high-concept and part human-discovery called Biblical under the pseudonym Christopher Galt.

Russell’s descriptive passages are a joy to behold and a particular favour is ‘he shook his Easter Island head’ which for me demonstrates his ability so say so much with so few words.

When I was but a budding writer, I learned so much about the craft of writing by reading Craig Russell’s books, I cannot quantify the influence he’s had on my career, through my own osmosis of his tradecraft. I was once fortunate enough to read out a piece of my own writing on the same bill as Russell and it wasn’t until after my reading that I confessed to him, that my twist at the end was inspired by a particularly memorable character of his.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Craig Russell on several occasions and I’m proud to now class him as a friend. We share similar tastes in films and every time I talk with him, I leave his company feeling more educated than I was before the meeting. To me he’s a friend, a writer I can only ever dream of emulating, a gentleman and an author who deserves a far greater readership than he currently enjoys.

One of my proudest achievements as a writer is that he saw fit to blurb one of my books. When someone who counts the great Michael Connelly as a fan does that, it’s a little bit special.

 

 

 

Graham can be found online at grahamsmithauthor.com He is the author of the fantastic Jake Boulder series (the latest of which The Kindred Killers I reviewed here) and also the DI Harry Evans Major Crimes stories.

Visit Graham’s Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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July 1

Guest Post – Caz Frear (Sweet Little Lies)

Sweet Little LiesJust before Grab This Book begins a summer break and I get a couple of weeks of reading catch-up I have one last post to share.  First – an apology to Kaz Frear as this is a couple of days later than planned…sorry. But as I am not around to post any new features I am delighted that Caz’s guest post will be “front of house” for an extended period as I take a bit of a break.

So with no more delays I leave you in the safe hands of Caz Frear – there is more information on Sweet Little Lies below.

 

KEEPING FAMILY SECRETS

Not wanting to get too, “Eh, back in my day…” but to quote a well known book, and a less well known song (fist pumps to Queens of the Stone Age), there really is a lost art of keeping secrets these days.  There’s almost a negative connotation to the word.  Secrets have become synonymous with repressed emotion, the implication being that our fragile ‘snowflake’ hearts can’t take the weight of responsibility that secrets always carry and therefore we should be loud and we should be proud at all times.  We should expose the secrets of those who do bad things and we should shout about the good folk from the treetops (ok, from Twitter.)

It can’t be denied that speaking your truth is where it’s at now.  The confessional-style interview remains all the rage and if you’re a celebrity, you honestly haven’t made it onto the A-list until you’ve penned an ‘open letter’ where you spill your soul and usually your carefully PR-managed secrets.  And then for the rest of us, all the non-celebrities, Jeremy Kyle still exists (somehow) as a forum through which we can all air our dirty linen in a sweltering studio somewhere in Norwich.

I jest, of course.  But it does make me wonder if there’s no longer a place for secrets in this modern world?  Are we all really itching to offload our baggage, expose our friend’s transgressions, and run down our high-streets belting out, “I am what I am”, free from the weight of the crushing secrets that inevitably turn our insides ugly.

Well, no.

Because everyone has family secrets.  And these secrets are generally kept from the prying eyes of social media, daytime TV at all costs.  People guard family secrets like the crown jewels  And why?  Well sometimes, tragically, it’s for despicably awful reasons – reasons of fear and shame and expectations of ostracisation if they ever broke rank. But usually it’s not that dramatic.  It’s simply the belief that the sins of our father/brother/aunt/cousin/great grandma/niece somehow reflect badly on us too.  So If dodgy cousin Derek once robbed a Budgens with a toy pistol and did 6 months inside, we worry that people might think our whole family is like that too.

‘The apple doesn’t fall from the tree

‘Blood is thicker than water’

Yada-yada-bloody-ya..

In Sweet Little Lies, Cat is saddled with a monster family secret from a young age and it was so important for this to come out in her personality.  How might she behave if she could never give voice to her deepest fears?  Would she have an over-dependence on wine and junk-food – yes.  Would she have trouble sleeping sometimes – yes.  Would she have a slight desire to distance herself from her peers, the ‘nosy’ millennials who love to over-share and want to know every little thing about her – yes.

Caz FrearWould she be a neurotic, hateful, unpredictable ball of unmitigated angst – no.  Absolutely not.  She could have been, of course – she’s arguably got enough reason to be – but I have a firm optimistic belief that human beings are more resilient than that.  Most people manage to blunder along with their pain, trying not to create more as they go, and making the best of the cross they have to bear no matter how heavy that cross can seem at times.

Because we all have painful secrets don’t we?

So be kind.

xx

 

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?

Sweet Little Lies is published by  and is available in paperback or for Kindle here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sweet-Little-Lies-gripping-suspense-ebook/dp/B01N5WKRUY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

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May 19

Need You Dead – Peter James – Guest Post – Black Widow Cocktail

Need You Dead. HB. High Res JacketToday I am delighted to welcome Peter James back to Grab This Book as the Need You Dead blog tour draws to its conclusion.

Need You Dead released on 18 May and details of the new Roy Grace thriller (along with a handy link to order your copy) follow at the foot of this post.  However, before we get there Mr James is going to wind down after a 12 leg blog tour with a wee drink…

 

The Perfect Cocktail Recipe

A vodka martini is the favourite tipple of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. And when the protagonist of the Love You Dead, Jodie Bentley, meets her next target, wealthy Walt Klein, in a bar in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, he is happily knocking back martinis – rather too many for his own good! It also just happens to be Peter James’ drink of choice!

It was one of my favourite authors, Ernest Hemingway, who allegedly said, ‘Write drunk, edit sober…’ and another of my favourites, Raymond Chandler, famously took that to extremes, pretty much binge drinking himself to death.  I know many current writers who never touch a drop of alcohol until their day’s work is done, but equally I know several global best-selling authors who have a rocket-fuel boost to their work – either massive doses of caffeine, or booze, weed or cocaine.

My own writing day is back-to-front – I made a “me-time” for writing in the days when I worked full-time in film and television, and that was 6-10pm at night, and that today is still when I do my best writing.  My sessions start with a ritual, and that is making my Martini.  The whole process kicks some Pavlovian creative response off in my brain.  And of course that first, delicious, ice-cold bite – and kick.  The key is not to have too much – these are truly powerful cocktails!  One sip, music blasting from my speakers – Van Morrison or maybe the Kinks, and I’m hammering away on the keyboard as happy as Larry.

The Perfect Vodka Martini … This serves 1

Ingredients

A proper, clear crystal martini glass of decent quality.  No other drinking vessel can be substituted.

Grey Goose vodka (or brand as preferred, this is mine)

Martini Extra Dry

Four plain olives, pitted.

1 lemon

1 cocktail stick

1 cocktail shaker

Cubed Ice

 

Peter James author photoMethod

Fill martini glass ¾ with vodka.

Using the cap of the Martini Extra Dry bottle as a measure, tip two capfuls of Martini into the glass.

Now pour the mixture into empty cocktail shaker.

Fill the glass to the brim with ice cubes and leave for 5 mins.

Pour these cubes plus fresh cubes into cocktail shaker.

Secure the top carefully then shake hard for thirty seconds and pour into glass.

Now you have a choice.  A twist or with olives – or both.  My taste alternates!

 

For with a twist:

Cut a lemon in half.

Peel a thin strip of rind three inches long, and drop into the glass.

Cut a lemon wedge, make an opening in the centre, and run this all the way around the rim of the glass on both sides.

 

For olives:

Spear four olives with cocktail stick and place in glass.

 

For the combo:  The four olives as above, but wipe the rim of the glass with a wedge of lemon.

 

Enjoy!  But remember Dorothy Parker’s caveat:  “I like to have a martini, two at the very most… after three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.”

 

My thanks to Peter –  Slàinte

 

NEED YOU DEAD

Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

 

Need You Dead is published by MacMillan and is available in Hardback and Digital Format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Need-You-Dead-Grace-Book-ebook/dp/B01N557W15/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

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May 17

Death’s Silent Judgement – Anne Coates Q&A

Today I am delighted to host the latest leg of the blog tour for Death’s Silent Judgement. It is a thrill to welcome Anne Coates to Grab This Book – Anne has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new thriller.

Before we get to my questions here is a quick look at Death’s Silent Judgement:

Deaths Silent JudgementDeath’s Silent Judgement is the thrilling sequel to Dancers in the Wind, and continues the gripping series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge. The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole. Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

 

First question is never an actual question, could I ask that you introduce yourself and give us a quick overview of Death’s Silent Judgement?

Thank you, Gordon. I’m Anne Coates, live in south London and have always worked in publishing/journalism. My seven non-fiction books have concentrated on parenting and education, plus I have also published short stories. Death’s Silent Judgement, my second crime thriller, begins with the murder of a dentist giving free treatment to the homeless in Waterloo. What seems a motiveless crime turns ever more sinister as Hannah Weybridge follows leads that eventually put her own life in danger.

 

Death’s Silent Judgement sees the return of Hannah Weybridge – Hannah also appeared in Dancers in the Wind. For new readers could you outline something of Hannah’s background?

Love to. Hannah, in her mid-30s, is a single parent and freelance journalist. Previously she had a staff job on a woman’s magazine. When we meet her in 1993, she is struggling financially but has recently been commissioned to write for a national newspaper. In some ways she is isolated – an only child whose parents have just moved to France – and as a single parent and therefore is vulnerable. Almost by accident she begins to investigate crimes.

 

In Dancers there were prostitutes disappearing, their battered bodies subsequently found. Now in Death’s Silent Judgement Hannah is investigating why her friend may have been murdered. Hannah is a journalist but could both stories have been told with Hannah as a police officer?  I wondered if her being an investigative journalist gives you more scope or, perhaps, you decided that you didn’t want to write a “cop” thriller?

I think both books would have been totally different if Hannah had been a police officer. It is because she isn’t a law enforcer that she can tread more varied paths when she’s digging for information. She isn’t answerable to anyone – except her editor. She also makes mistakes and is naïve at times and takes risks. I’m not saying that a police officer wouldn’t be similar but the whole premise would be different. There are police procedurals where an officer goes “off piste” but that is often more difficult to justify.

 

dancers-in-the-windWas it always your intention to feature Hannah in more than one novel or did you write Dancers and decide you liked the character and wanted to bring her back?

After I wrote Dancers in the Wind, many years ago, I went straight on to write the first three chapters of Death’s Silent Judgement so, yes my intention has always been that she would feature in more than one book.

 

Are you a crime fiction reader?  I am often surprised at how many authors say they tend not to read crime novels or thrillers.

I’ve always read crime novels –who hasn’t read Agatha Christie? I love Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Dickens, and one of my early favourites was Minette Walters so it was interesting to read that she’s written a new book after a long hiatus but has given up on crime. Twitter has introduced me to a whole range of new crime authors and I particularly like police procedurals although I’m not sure I’d ever write one. I am amazed at the range within the crime/thriller genre. People are often snobbish about what they call “genre” fiction. If it’s a good read, category shouldn’t matter.

 

Leaving aside the element of commercial success, which book (or books) have you read which made you think – “I’d have loved to have had that idea” or “I wish I’d written that”?

Recently I read and was totally bowled over by Sealskin by Su Bristow. It’s beautifully written and totally engrossing.

 

SealskinWhen you are not writing how do you escape the keyboard and the edits?  What distractions can you look forward to?

I love going to the cinema and theatre. We have a local Picturehouse, only a few minutes’ walk away which is an interesting place to go to apart from the films. I nearly always bump into friends there. Theatre is a luxury but I am sometimes offered press tickets and I belong to a theatre club, which gets comps from time to time. Meeting up with friends for a meal or a drink is always high on my list of distractions.

One last question, dare we ask if there is a new project underway or are you taking some time to enjoy releasing Death’s Silent Judgement into the hands of us eager readers?

No rest for the wicked – I am currently halfway through the first draft of a new Hannah Weybridge thriller – so a long way to go yet and I need a title. I’m also toying with writing something completely different in the first person and at some stage I’d like to explore a character who haunts me, crying out for her story to be written.

Thank you very much for inviting me to be cross-examined on your blog!

My thanks to you Anne I had fun coming up with the questions and loved your answers.

 

Death’s Silent Judgement is published by Urbane Publications and is available now in both paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Silent-Judgement-Hannah-Weybridge/dp/1911331353/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495055776&sr=1-1&keywords=deaths+silent+judgement

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April 18

Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill

Today I am delighted to welcome Mark Hill to Grab This Book as I have the honour of hosting a leg of the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy.

Mark had previously agreed to join me to take part in my Book Chains Q&A (he was nominated by Susi Holliday who also left me a question to put to Mark). As the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy was approaching we made Mark hold out a bit longer than anticipated to see what burning question Susi had lined up for him. For those keeping count, Mark is the sixth link in my chain…

Before we cut to the questions here is the book you should be looking out for:

Two O'Clock BoyTWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

 

First Question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a couple of plugs in early.

Hi, I’m Mark Hill, I’m a crime author. My debut novel Two O’Clock Boy has just been published in paperback, to great acclaim – at least in this house. It’s in the shops right now! It’s the first in a series about DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley, two North London coppers.

 Now can you introduce us to Ray Drake?

Ray’s a Detective Inspector. A good man, I think, but someone with a lot of baggage. I mean, we all have a bit of baggage, don’t we? But Ray’s baggage is heavier than most. He’s got some secrets, dare I say… some dark secrets. So when a guy goes round killing people – people Ray may or may not have known a long way back – well, it opens up a whole can of worms. Flick’s just doing her job, trying to find the murderer, but Ray keeps sticking his nose in…

 It is a London based story and I am Glasgow based, so I need to ask…is Longacre Children’s home a real place? Have you written about places you know or have you adopted an artistic interpretation of the city?

It’s a combination of real places and not so real places. Sometimes I couldn’t write a scene without having a very specific sense of a particular place, but the scenes set in the 1980s Hackney have elements of a fever dream. They were a composite of some of the things I remember seeing when I came to London as a kid – fenced-up gaps in streets where bombed houses still hadn’t been rebuilt after the Second World War, wastelands and long grass even in the heart of the city – a real sense of urban decay, of an era coming to an end. It’s long redeveloped now, of course.

What I can promise you is that the Longacre is totally made up, although I’m sure places like it have existed.

Did all those reviews, the author interviews, the guest posts help you decide what you wanted to write?

I was already writing the book that became Two O’Clock Boy when I was helping Crime Thriller Fella on his blog, but you can never read too many books – and to find out what all those amazing authors thought was hugely useful and inspiring. Reviewing also helped me think about what made a book motor, and analyse more carefully the kind of things I liked about it. Reading is essential if you want to write.  But what you realise, ultimately, is that you have to find your own way. I’ve never understood when some people say they can’t read novels while they write in case they’re unduly influenced. If that was the case, I’d never be able to read or I’d never be able to write, both of which consequences are unacceptable.

As a supplemental to that, can you single out any books which may have influenced how you approached writing Two O’Clock Boy?

That’s a hard one. I don’t think there’s one particular book, but there are a lot of influences in Two O’Clock Boy. It’s both a psychological thriller and a police procedural with historical elements. A lot of fantastic books influenced it, I’m sure –  but also a lot of terrific movies and film scripts, which is probably why many people have said it has a very filmic quality to it.

Why do you think crime readers particularly enjoy serial killer stories?

I can’t imagine murdering someone. Living with the knowledge of that kind of transgression, the burden of it, must rot the soul. The idea that there are people out there who are impelled to take the lives of others, who positively thrive on it – and that these predators could be walking among us – is fascinating and terrifying. Crime novels, horror novels, allow us to look safely through that looking glass. Oddly enough, I’ve never regarded the Two O’Clock Boy as a serial killer, although clearly he’s an enthusiastic murderer. Serial killing suggests some kind of random urge, but the Boy has a very specific deadly agenda…

Mark HillSo who was Crime Thriller Fella and why did he have to slide off into the shadows?

It’s a very sad story. Crime Thriller Fella was a blogger, a very odd character, who briefly fancied himself as a bit of a playa in the blogging firmament. But between you and me, he was a bit of an oddball who got a little bit too big for his boots and started confusing crime fiction with reality. He sadly fell in with a bad crowd. I can’t go into specifics, but a criminal enterprise went wrong, he double-crossed some people of dubious morals, and was forced into Witness Protection. I don’t know where he is now but he sometimes leaves drunken rambling messages on my voicemail in the dead of night about WordPress settings, or delivers the odd threatening message in the mail disguised as book post. Sometimes, very occasionally, I get the sense I’m being watched. He’ll turn up sooner or later, I’m sure. At the bottom of a canal, probably.

 

Now the quickfire ones:

Last film you saw at the cinema?

Life, the Alien knock-off with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gylen… Gyllin… Jake Gallenhi… That guy from Brokeback. It was okay.

The coffee Revels are the best ones in the bag – True or False?

Don’t be daft. It’s the orange ones.

Which has been the Best Bond film?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is easily my favourite. Poor old Lazenby had just the one shot at the role but, oh, what a Bond movie to star in.

You have been invited to appear on a reality tv show – which one would let your skills shine?

Gogglebox. I’m really, really good at watching television.

Which one concert/show from history do you wish you had been able to see?

I’ve got Orson Welles’s notorious radio production of War Of The Worlds on vinyl somewhere. Presented as a mock news report, a lot of the hysteria it allegedly caused – riots and suicides and suchlike – has been proved to be false, but the conceit is astonishing for its time, Welles was such a genius. I often wonder what it must have been like to be a kid in 1938 listening to it in an isolated cabin beneath a sky full of stars, watching in terror a comet trail across the heavens. 

Bookmark, corner folder or “any old scrap of paper” – how do you keep your place?

I do like a nice postcard, but the whole book usually ends up covered in tiny post-its stuck everywhere, like it has some kind of flaky yellow disease. I like making notes.

As you may know this feature is called Book Chains and it was Susi Holliday that nominated you to keep my Q&A chain going.  Susi wanted me to ask you the following question:

What’s your karaoke song?

High And Dry by Radiohead. I can clear a room super fast.

 

My final question to Mark was to ask him to nominate my next guest and to set a question. While the question will remain under wraps for the time being, I CAN confirm that in the near future Mr Derek Farrell shall return to Grab This Book as he has agreed to continue my Book Chain.

My thanks to Mark for being so patient and for being such a good sport. But we do need to be clear…the coffee Revels are (and always will be) the best in the packet.

Two O’Clock Boy is published by Sphere and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Two-OClock-Boy-detective-killer-ebook/dp/B01FFZH4LW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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March 9

Guest Post: Marnie Riches – Born Bad

Manchester’s musical inspiration by Marnie Riches

Born BadManchester has a world-class music scene, and I’m lucky to have been a teen before and during the Madchester heyday, when the cool kids went to the Haçienda. I used to go there almost every Wednesday and Saturday to dance my little cotton socks off, praying that I might clap eyes on New Order, who co-owned the place. I was also an aspiring rockstar in my early twenties, when I returned home for a year after university and an abortive first stab at London life, trying to get a band together. In 1996, you could say I was a contemporary of the upcoming (as they were then), Elbow, and if you’re an Elbow fan, you’d be interested to know that I tried and failed to bag off with the legendary Seldom Seen Kid at a party, shortly before he sadly passed away. I remember him painting the railings of The Temple bar just outside where I worked at Manchester’s Training & Enterprise Council. We’d chat about being in bands and the struggle to get signed and “make it”. I migrated back down to London a couple of months later to immerse myself in proper trainee rockstardom. Three years of close-but-no-cigar followed, playing the Britpop wannabe circuit in Camden and Islington, but alas, my excellent band had missed that groovy gravy train… We were always in the right place at the wrong time.

But sod that! I’m now a best-selling crime writer, so all’s well that ends well.

It will come as no surprise to you, then, given my musical past, that I have a soundtrack to all the novels I write. For Born Bad, it comprises quintessentially Mancunian classics. Here are my top four tunes with thoughts on why I’ve chosen them to describe musically a story about Manchester’s gangland and gritty underbelly:

 

Isolation by Joy Division

IsolationI was always more of a New Order fan than a Joy Division fan, but Isolation’s industrial sound and effortless lo-fi cool makes me think of Manchester. When it plays in my car – the only opportunity I really have to deafen myself with my favourite music, nowadays, since I work in silence – I envisage bleak, grey streets on council estates. I feel the urban anti-chic of the city pulsate through me with every beat, putting me in mind of Born Bad’s Leviticus Bell, living in his crappy high-rise council flat on the Sweeney Hall estate. He is isolated by his poverty, lack of opportunity and desperate situation at home. But he’s street-smart and authentically urban-cool. He’ll do for me!

 

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

Bizarre Love TriangFrank O’Brien in Born Bad owns the world-class super-club, M1 House. Though I’m not stretchy enough to go clubbing more than once or twice per year now, M1 House is an amalgam of all the great clubs in Manchester, past and present. The DJs play the best music. The kids have the best time, obviously blighted by lethal gang violence – not that Manchester clubs are immune to being occasionally caught in the crossfire. Bizarre Love Triangle played in the Haçienda during its finest hour. I can remember standing in the lofty foyer, by the full-height, industrial plastic flaps, ringing wet with sweat from dancing on the packed dancefloor, listening to the track booming from the sound system. I revelled in how marvellous it was to be a Mancunian, listening to one of Manchester’s biggest bands in one of the coolest clubs in the world at that best of times. The clean electronic sound, with Hooky’s distinctive bassline over the top, embodies Mancunian artistic endeavour and the need to dance the blues away. Listen to it and understand Manchester.

 

Fools’ Gold by Stone Roses

Fools GoldThough I was never a mega-fan of the Stone Roses, I always loved Fools’ Gold as a song that epitomised Mancunian cool. Its shuffling backbeat and Mani’s iconic, super-funky bassline represent everything that’s effortlessly, timelessly stylish about Manchester’s music scene. Since it was used in the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a film I must have watched at least twenty times for its slick dialogue, complex story-telling and sharp humour – Fools’ Gold has also acquired gangland connotations for me. In fact, the Manchester series with Born Bad as its first installation, is all about the pursuit of a villain’s fools’ gold – dirty cash you can barely get away with or enjoy spending because those ill-gotten gains might bring the law and the tax man down on you. The track brings to mind Manchester’s mean streets, its glittering new buildings and the clean crispness of freshly laundered money. Scratch the surface and you can see how really filthy it still is beneath!

 

How Soon is Now? by The Smiths

the-smiths-how-soon-is-now-rhinoThe Smiths are a long-standing love of mine, musically – the early Smiths, that is. Morrissey and Marr are undoubtedly one of the best songwriting duos ever and the pair encapsulated a working class desperation and loneliness like no other band has managed to do. Their sonically brilliant songs represent true Mancunian misery, black humour and poetry at its best. When I wrote about the hopeless life of Leviticus Bell in Born Bad, How Soon is Now? might have been his personal soundtrack. There’s nobody who truly loves him – even his own mother, Gloria. The chugging Bo Diddly-style guitar of Johnny Marr creates an impression of the grind of urban life with a searing, whining guitar-sound layered above it that puts me in mind of emergency service sirens, whizzing by in the night. But in among the canon of work by the Smiths, there are tracks that bristle with humour and hope, just as this book boasts the darkest and the lightest of moments, introduced by Gloria and the eccentric henchman, Conky McFadden. So, The Smiths had to be on my list!

 

If Marnie’s choices have made you want to revisit these classics then she has very kindly pulled together a Spotify playlist which you can access here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1142057371/playlist/0DgbSgJtWpOF14WgYiJC0e

 

Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1

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