December 17

Jacqueline Chadwick

When drawing up my list of favourite books of 2017 I knew that Jacqueline Chadwick was going to feature.  I knew that from half-way through her debut novel In The Still.

There was actually only one point where I contemplated not including In The Still in the list and that was when I finished her second book: Briefly Maiden (how to choose between two cracking reads?)

It has been far too long since I had the opportunity to chat with any of the authors who have featured on my blog so I was thrilled that Jackie agreed to join me for a natter about her writing and all things Ali Dalglish…

 

First Question is never a question — this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give your books a plug.

Well, first and foremost, I’m a mother of two, wife of a firefighter and a dog lover. I’m originally from Stirling in Scotland and I grew up in Birmingham England. I was a child actor and during my career I played a couple of well known bitch roles on TV. I left acting when I was 25, homeschooled my kids and found some time for writing here and there. When I turned 40, I bought a secondhand desk and decided to write novels. I haven’t looked back since.

Published by Fahrenheit Press in July 2017, my debut novel is In The Still where we meet Ali Dalglish living a life she resents. Having stepped away from her career and having immigrated to Canada, Ali’s marriage is crumbling, she is lonely and depressed. When the body of a young woman is discovered on a trail near her home, Ali finds herself embroiled in the case and, given her expertise and experience, is left with no option but to embark upon the hunt for the killer alongside her accidental sidekick, the loveable Marlene McKean. It is a dark and twisted tale and I hope it entertains the reader from the first page to the last.

Briefly Maiden, the sequel to In The Still, is also published by Fahrenheit Press and finds Ali back in the role she loves. This time she is working alongside the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Incident Squad investigating a series of murders in the otherwise charming town of Cedar River. Ali and her partner, Inspector Rey Cuzzocrea, discover the victims are all linked to a paedophile ring and, as a result, the line dividing good and bad becomes blurred as they are tasked with apprehending a perpetrator they suspect to be a victim intent upon vigilante justice. There is a blossoming romance for recently divorced Ali, the introduction of a couple of key characters in the series and an ending that should leave the reader eager for book 3.

 

Tell us about Ali Dalglish – how would you describe her to someone yet to read In The Still and Briefly Maiden?

Ali Dalglish is bloody fantastic. She’s intelligent, funny, caring and driven by a need to protect the vulnerable. She’s Scottish, mouthy and not afraid to pepper her superior vocabulary with inventive swear words. Her marriage is a disaster, she frequently struggles to maintain a healthy work/life balance. She has fought — and continues to fight — a long, arduous battle with severe mental illness. Ali is the kind of woman we all either want to be or want by our side. She’s forthright and takes no shit, she refuses to be bracketed, objectified or intimidated and she is blessed with a mind that makes her a formidable foe to anyone daring enough to wander into her arena.

 

How much of Jacqueline Chadwick is mirrored in Ali?

Too much. I swear as much and fit into polite society just as well as she does. I suppose Ali is my way of ranting about everything that pisses me off. She’s a gazillion times more learned than I (I know that because of everything I have to research just to fit her wealth of knowledge as seamlessly as possible into her dialogue and also because I use words like gazillion).

 

We know that Ali had a very successful career in the UK prior to her decision to relocate to Canada – is there any chance we may one day see a story featuring a younger Ali – one based in the UK?

Ha! I’m writing book 4 in the series right now. It is set in Britain, but it’s not a prequel. Over the course of the series, I’m excited to drop in morsels of information about Ali’s past since it was less than functional and, perhaps, not dissimilar to the kind of childhood that could just as easily have set her on a darker path, the kind of path chosen by the predators she hunts. The great thing about having a character that had established herself professionally in Britain and then later in Canada, is that I am able to cross the pond to write and that is a satisfying and more affordable alternative to actually jumping on a flight myself whenever I’m homesick.

 

I need to ask about the old day jobs…how does appearing in two of the UK’s most watched TV shows prepare you for writing dark and gritty crime thrillers? 

I’m having a giggle as I answer that one because being in British soap was no preparation whatsoever for anything at all in life. Wow, that was a weird trip. I can’t imagine what it would take to stay sane in that industry longterm. I stuck it out for a decade and a half but I just wasn’t the kind of puppet an actor is expected to be. I’m not very good at shutting my mouth and being what someone else tells me to be. It’s simply not in my nature and I never did feel very comfortable with it all. Honestly, I barely remember that time now, it’s just something I did as a child and as a young woman. I would have nightmares — actual wake-up-sweating-and-shaking nightmares — for the first few years after I left because I’d dream of being back in front of the camera. Give me a quiet room, some paper and a pen and I’m me.

 

Can I ask about your “Path to Publication”? (it gets capitals). Does Chez Chadwick have a drawer crammed full of rejection letters or did you ace it and get picked up in record time?

I’ve had a few false starts in writing. It has always been my goal to write for a living and so I do have a healthy amount of rejection slips although I’d never keep the buggers so, no, there isn’t a drawer stuffed with them. Rejections get deleted or binned as soon as they are received so that I can go on deluding myself into thinking I have something to offer. I was lucky with Ali Dalglish, I wrote the first three novels in the series before I let anyone read them and I sent them off to the publisher who terrified me most and felt out of reach: Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press. I knew that if my work was shit, he’d tell me. Thankfully, he liked the books (all except the original ending to In The Still which he told me, in his own inimitable way, to scrap) and I’ve been lucky enough to join the Fahrenheit Press family and get on that particular thrill ride.

 

Rumour has it that there may be a third Ali Dalglish book on the horizon — can you share any sneaky hints?

I Loooove book 3 in the series. It’s called Silent Sisters and it addresses a problem I care about very much. It takes place in and around an Aboriginal reserve on Vancouver Island and, I hope, will bring attention to the very real issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and the indifference the subject seems to inspire in political leaders. But there are two major elements to the story and so it satisfies the insatiable itch that Briefly Maiden left me with. It is gruesome and dark, twisted and grim because, in my humble opinion, murder and abuse should be nothing but those things, we should feel sickened and touched by the telling of stories that, no matter how bleak, are nothing close to the horrors of the real world.

 

And to wrap up, some quickfire questions:

What was the last book you read?

I reread ‘It’ by Stephen King after I went to see the movie (I forgot how long that sucker is).

 

City Break or Beach Holiday?  (and where is the dream destination)

Definitely city, I would love to take my family on a European tour before they’re so grown that it would be sad to go away for a month with Mum and Dad.

 

Did you ever get “star-struck” when meeting someone famous?

I’ve been to two Billy Connelly concerts and finding myself in the same room as ‘the big yin’ takes some beating.

 

Favourite pizza topping (and be warned that answering ‘pineapple’ will probably spark some twitter carnage)

I’m like Kevin in Home Alone; I want a plain cheese just for me.

 

What do you miss most about the UK?

Irn Bru, tattie scones, square sausage, not having to explain my humour and Sunday lunch over a pint in a proper pub.

 

Huge thanks to Jackie for taking time to answer my questions. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed her books and it is a real thrill to be able to share our chat.

In The Still and Briefly Maiden are published by Fahrenheit Press and you can order both books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacqueline-Chadwick/e/B074JCXLRD/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1513554879&sr=8-1

 

 

 

 

 

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November 9

Neil White – Lost In Nashville

I am delighted to welcome Neil White back to Grab This Book.

Neil’s new book, Lost in Nashville, was published on 8 November and takes the reader on a nostalgic road-trip as a father and son go traveling through the life of the one and only…Johnny Cash.

As is always the case when someone reveals a favourite artist there is one question which must be answered.

 

I’ve been asked to pick my favourite Johnny Cash song as part of the lead-up to the release of Lost In Nashville, my novel about a father and son who travel Johnny Cash’s life and songs in some effort to reconnect. When I apply my mind to it, it seems an almost impossible task. Try looking across a sun-dappled meadow and being asked to pick your favourite flower. 

I don’t know when I realised I was a Johnny Cash fan, because he was very much the soundtrack to my childhood, my father blasting him out whenever he put music on. Eventually, it seeps into you and becomes part of you. 

What I do know is that Johnny’s music covers such a wide spectrum and that they all have their own particular appeal. 

There are the early Sun records, raw and young, and then there are the songs about the wild west and cowboys. Historical songs were a common feature, and a lot of my knowledge of American history is down to Johnny’s songs. Like, who assassinated President Garfield, or the story behind one of the men hoisting the US flag at Iwo Jima, Ira Hayes. Tales of the American west and its characters, from the legendary cowboy figures to the stories of great Native Americans, they were all handed down to me by Johnny Cash, the son of a sharecropper from some small dusty Arkansas town. 

Johnny wasn’t just about history to me though, because he sang about hardship and the lost lives of those who ended up on the wrong side of the law. The raw energy of the prison concerts sent shivers down my young spine, Johnny singing tunes that spoke to them, was in their language, tales of murder sung to whooping audiences of murderers that sparked an interest in criminal law. I ended up a criminal lawyer and an author of crime fiction. Johnny shaped me as well as entertained me. 

That is why it is so hard to choose a favourite song, because they cover so much and all spark different emotions. 

I’m going to settle on one though, because I’ve been asked to choose, and that song is Orange Blossom Special. 

The reasons are numerous, but most of all because it’s a great song, Johnny’s version of an old fiddle tune about a train that ran from New York to Miami. There is a story about how it was written, but I’ll leave that for the book to explore, but the story centres on Jacksonville, Florida, and it does for me, in part. 

I’ve picked the song partly because of the rhythm. It’s about a train and the rhythm of the song captures it perfectly, from the whistle-wail of the mouth organ to the way the steady pluck of the guitar matches the wheels on the rails. It’s impossible to listen to it without imagining the train hurtling south. 

Another reason is that it was the song that turned my father on to Johnny Cash, and without that, my musical education would have been much different. 

A final reason is that the album of the same name created a romantic image that stayed with me, of cruising the wide open plains on an old boxcar, feet dangling, the country moving slowly by. The album cover shows Johnny sitting on top of an old boxcar, looking into the far distance, and in my head he’s looking towards the prairie, of distant opportunity. 

I know the reality of boxcar living was less romantic, hopping from train to train looking for work, town to town, dodging the beatings from the guards, but the romance of carefree travel is one that stayed with me. 

Back to Jacksonville, pivotal for the story of how the song came about, and I was there once, travelling from Tampa to New Orleans by train. There was lay-off of about eight hours, and I spent it on Jacksonsville station, unaware of its place in the song, watching long lines of freight trains going past and thinking of how great it would be to hop on and rumble into the distance, my mind on that album cover. 

For all of his great songs, Orange Blossom Special gets the top spot. 

 

Lost in Nashville is published by Manatee Books and is available in paperback and digital format here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Nashville-Neil-White/dp/1912347008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510267687&sr=8-1&keywords=lost+in+nashville&dpID=51TrbUTk2JL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Lost in Nashville

James Gray is a lawyer and his life is a success. Or at least, he thinks it is, but something is missing – a bond with his father, Bruce. Bruce Gray is old, retired and estranged from his family. He spends his time drinking and drifting in the small seaside town in England that James once called home. James decides to take Bruce on a road trip, to try and connect with his father through the one thing that has always united them: a love for Johnny Cash and his music. Together they travel through Johnny Cash’s life; where he grew up, the places he sang about – a journey of discovery about Johnny, the South and each other. Always fascinating, an evocative and emotional road trip, Lost In Nashville will captivate you, inform you and along the way may even break your heart

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November 3

Christopher Farnsworth – Everything is Porn Now

Today I am delighted to welcome Christopher Farnsworth to Grab This Book as I host the latest leg of the Hunt You Down blog tour.

The information you need about Hunt You Down can be found by scrolling down to the foot of this post. However, before you zip down (as it were) I have a brilliant guest post from Mr Farnsworth to share and it has the most eye-catching title.  Bring on the bots when this hits Twitter…

 

Everything is Porn Now

I write about the Internet a lot. I covered it as a reporter, and as a novelist, it’s become the weapon of choice for the bad guys in my books. In my latest, HUNT YOU DOWN, there’s a criminal genius who’s learned how to weaponize social media.

But the most insidious thing I’ve seen on the Net is actually happening in real life. And I’m not sure how we stop it, or even if we can.

The Internet has turned everything into porn.

I don’t mean that literally. The Internet is, of course, the greatest advance in human communication yet. And you can still find many sites — at least a couple dozen — that do not have actual naked people on them. Also, I am not taking a moral stand against pornography here. (I’m not quite that hypocritical yet.)

But what I have noticed is that the Internet is making everything — everything — quick and dirty and cheap, if not free.

Which is pretty much the definition of porn these days.

Porn was first spread on the Internet before there were even web browsers — people would break down naked pictures into binary code and then send those files over the old Usenet sites. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) But eventually, the process sped up, and soon, people were sharing porn videos for free over the Net.

And the porn industry — which had been making billions of dollars annually — saw its paying customers vanish.

That was just the beginning. Today, every form of media faces the same commoditization that wreaked havoc in the porn business.

Music was first. Way back when I was a tech reporter, I covered a new software application called Napster. In those pre-iTunes days, I used Napster on my computer at work to download every single I could remember from junior high, music that would have cost me hundreds of dollars in CDs if I’d even been able to find them. At the time, I thought this was pretty great.

I interviewed a lawyer who worked for the recording industry as part of my story, and he didn’t see it the same way. Before we’d finished talking, he’d told me that everything I’d done was illegal, and the industry would soon be suing people like me. He told me I was contributing to the destruction of the music business. I was skeptical, to say the least.

But he was right. The recording industry did sue people who illegally downloaded music, for all the good it did them. People used Napster and services like it to grab millions of songs for free. By the time iTunes and other legitimate services got up and running, the industry had been hollowed out. Billions of dollars in revenue simply vanished. Revenues have made something of a comeback as people subscribe to streaming services, but overall, it’s still less than half what it once was.

Pick any other media industry, and you’ll find a variation on the same story. Newspapers were gutted by Craigslist as people discovered they could use the Internet for free classified ads and free news. Book publishers have to reckon with a flood of cheap ebooks and Amazon’s rise as the number one bookseller in the world. TV and movies have to compete with YouTube and random cat videos for eyeballs. Musicians, authors and artists are expected to give away their work in an effort to build an audience and a brand.

All of these businesses were once highly profitable and stable, employing millions of people. I remember sitting in an auditorium during my last newspaper job as our publisher complained about a 12 percent profit margin that year, and promised he’d get it back up to 20 percent where it belonged. That paper has filed for bankruptcy twice since then.

The porn effect isn’t limited to media, either. Uber is basically the free-porn model applied to taxicabs: investors subsidize a low-cost alternative to an established industry to extract revenue from its paying customers, and eventually crash the old business.

And the Internet isn’t done with us yet.

Since the collapse of the DVD and pay-per-view model, porn has also become harder and more explicit to capture the attention people in a fraction of a second — when everything is available, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.

In order to chase an increasingly fragmented audience, the spectacle has to get bigger, more outrageous, louder, more extreme. Which may be why the news media spent so much time turning a sideshow like Donald Trump into the main event.

I’m not sure where it ends. We’re hardwired to pay attention to the brightest lights and the loudest noises. (Adding naked people into the mix doesn’t hurt, either.)

But eventually, the bill is going to come due for all this free stuff. And then we’ll get to see the real cost of doing business in the new world.

 

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of six novels, including HUNT YOU DOWN, available from Bonnier Zaffre.

Hunt You Down:

John Smith is no ordinary gun for hire.
Smith is a man or rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . .

Hired to track down a shooter targeting the rich and famous, Smith must complete his mission before another attack takes place. But when a website on the dark net is found to have connections to the murders, Smith realises that taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponised the internet will prove more difficult than he first thought.

And no matter how hard he tries, this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.

 

 

 

 

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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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