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


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



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:



Blog Tour Poster

Category: Blog Tours, Guests | Comments Off on Need You Dead – Peter James – Guest Post – Black Widow Cocktail
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:

DSJBlogTour banner

Category: Blog Tours, Guests | Comments Off on Death’s Silent Judgement – Anne Coates Q&A
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:


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:

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill
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:


Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here:

Category: Blog Tours, Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post: Marnie Riches – Born Bad
March 5

Aye Write – Know The Authors: Antti Tuomainen

Aye Write is upon us.  Events are already underway as the last couple of weekends have hosted the Wee Write festival – that’s the family events aimed at younger readers. This week sees the main festival kicking into gear and the guests start appearing thick and fast.

Picture copyright Toni Härkönen

Once again I am delighted to team up with the lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce another of the authors who will be appearing at Aye Write in 2017.

Liz sets the questions to Antti Tuomainen, author of The Mine. Antti joins us fresh from a series of appearances across the UK as part of the Orenda Books Roadshow. On Saturday 11th March he will make the long journey back up North for an appearance in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

Over to Liz and Antti:

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

AT: THE MINE is a crime story and a story of a father and a son. I hope it is a suspenseful and an entertaining read that also gives you something to think about.

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

AT: I grew up in Helsinki. I’ve lived here all my life. Wonderful family. My Mom and Dad were very important in my becoming a writer. They read a lot and there were always books in the house.

the-mineAcademic or creative at school?

AT: I think extracurricular is the word. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about school.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

AT: I was 18 or 19 when I just knew – instinctively and deep down – I would be a writer. I never wanted to be anything else since then.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

AT: See above. Also: I liked Finnish at school. We got to write essays and stories. I made up everything. I realized there is magic to this.

Who are your real life heroes?

AT: My mother, my father and my incredibly wonderful wife Anu.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

AT: First DIY, then phone a friend.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

AT: I like mornings. I like to go to bed early, get up early. When I was young, it was the other way around.

A book that had you in tears.

AT: Not tears, exactly, but I immensely liked John Williams’ Stoner. A beautiful novel.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

AT: Any book by Elmore Leonard.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

AT: I try my best to not give anyone any advice. But, if anyone asks, I am always willing to share my experience on a given topic if I have any.


Antti will be appearing at Aye Write on Saturday 11th March at 6:30pm.  He will be accompanied by Orenda stablemate Kati Hiekkapelto and Swedish crime-writing due Roslund & Hellstrom.  Tickets can be purchased here


Antti is all over social media – you can find him on Facebook:

On Twitter:

And Instagram:

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Aye Write – Know The Authors: Antti Tuomainen
February 24

Aye Write Getting to Know the Authors: Abir Mukherjee

The countdown to Aye Write 2017 is well and truly underway so I am teaming up with the lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce a few of the authors who will be entertaining us this year.

First up with me is Abir Mukherjee.

Abir grew up in Hamilton and Bothwell, while I am from Motherwell. Local geographers will know that we were separated by a big park, Abir on the posh “South” side while I was on the less glam “North” side. When he appears at Aye Write in March, Abir and I will be separated by a big road. He will be in Glasgow’s gorgeous Mitchell Library, I will be in the building across the street (at my desk for the day job) frantically getting my work finished so I can come along to hear him speak.

Here is Abir chatting with Liz…

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

Well there’s a dead Scotsman on page one and it sort of carries on from there.

Seriously though, it’s called A RISING MAN and it’s set in Calcutta in 1919 and tells the story of Captain Sam Wyndham, an ex-Scotland Yard detective, who’s come to India after surviving the Great War. Within a fortnight of arriving in the city, he’s faced with his first case – a high ranking British official found with his throat slit and note stuffed in his mouth warning the British to quit India. In addition to solving this apparent assassination, Wyndham and his officers have to investigate the death of a railway guard, murdered during an attack on a train where nothing was stolen.

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

I grew up just down the road from here in Hamilton and Bothwell. Deepest, darkest, Lanarkshire, they call it. Family life was…odd but fun. At the time, I think we were the only Asian family in the village and so we were always considered somewhat exotic – at least by Uddingston standards. Still, I can’t think of a better place to grow up than the West of Scotland.

I must have done something pretty bad in a previous life though, as nowadays I live in London.

Academic or creative at school?

I’m Asian. What do you think?

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Mum tried to brainwash me into becoming a doctor, but that never really appealed to me (and I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me).  The sad truth is that at the age of twelve or thirteen, I watched a film called The Secret of My Success. It starred Michael J Fox as a 23 year-old financial whizz kid. Of course he gets the girl, the fancy job and all the trimmings. From that day on I wanted a career in finance. It was only when I was in my twenties and working in mergers and acquisitions that I realized that like ain’t like the movies.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I can’t recall the exact moment. I’ve always had a hankering to write for as long as I can remember. What I can tell you is the moment when I decided not to write (at least not for a long while). It was in my sixth form English class (I was the only student in our school who did sixth year studies English that year) and I got on really well with my English teacher. I still remember him telling me not to do a degree in English at university, as I’d only end up teaching snotty kids in a school somewhere. So I did economics instead and wasted twenty years of my life.

Who are your real life heroes?

Difficult one. I’ve not really thought about it. Probably, Gandhi, Roger Federer and Pat and Greg Kane from the band, Hue & Cry.

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

Recently? Having to explain the difference between ‘haggis’ and ‘Huggies’ to a shop assistant in Waitrose, Canary Wharf, making it clear that I didn’t want to eat nappies.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Definitely DIY expert. I have two power drills and so much other DIY equipment gathering dust. What normally happens is that I’ll attempt to fix something, like a leaking sink, and then be forced to call a plumber when the kitchen explodes.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Nights out in a hot climate.

A book that had you in tears.

I can’t actually think of one. Alas I come from a generation of emotionally stunted Glaswegian men who can’t cry about anything other than the football.

In terms of a book that had the greatest emotional impact on me, I’d say The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It tells the story of a Bengali family who emigrate to the United States. There were so many parallels between that family’s experiences and my own that it just floored me. It was the first book I read that encapsulated the experiences of my life.

How To Be Really InterestingA book that made you laugh out loud.

I’m tempted to say, ‘How to be Really Interesting’ by Steve Davis. I was given it as a present when I was fourteen, but it’s still funny.

In terms of proper books, it would have to be Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Don’t listen to me. If I knew what I was doing, I’d be sitting on a beach right now, sipping Margaritas.


You can catch Abir at Aye Write on and tickets are available through this link:



A Rising Ma

Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.

A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

The start of an atmospheric and enticing new historical crime series.

You can order A Rising Man here



Category: Guests | Comments Off on Aye Write Getting to Know the Authors: Abir Mukherjee
January 27

Stav Sherez – To Plot or Not to Plot?

The IntrusionsI’m always slightly amused when a novel of mine is described as “effortlessly plotted”. I’m very happy readers think so but the truth is I never plot and the process is anything but effortless.

   It’s one of those perennial questions students of creative writing always ask – should I plot out the novel beforehand or just go where it takes me? And all the writers I know are split between those who map out flowcharts and utilise Scrivener and other programs and those, like me, who just hope it will all make sense in the end.

   Of course, there is no right answer. Every writer takes a very different journey into the heart of their novels but we all arrive at the same place – a finished book with a coherent plot.

   It’s strange, because in every other part of my life I’m a planner. If I’m going on holiday, I’ll make notes of all the places I want to visit, work out the best itinerary – I make lists of books to read, people to call, CDs to listen to.

   But not with fiction. I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried. But after a few weeks of trying to hammer out a plot I always give up in frustration. It used to really bother me. It doesn’t any more. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is how my brain works and for all its disadvantages, this is the only way I know to write books.

   But what does it mean not to plot?

   I always start a novel knowing only the opening scene. With The Intrusions, all I knew before I started writing was that it would be primarily set in a backpacker’s hostel in Bayswater and that residents would go missing. That was all. I normally have a location in mind and the inciting incident that sets the plot rolling but I have no idea where the plot is going or who the killer is. It normally takes me about a year and a half of working on the book before I know who did it. Personally, I think (and, obviously, I’m biased) that this is an advantage – that if I don’t know who the killer is, it’s far less likely that I’ll inadvertently telegraph it to the readers. That’s one of the advantages of not plotting – the flexibility to twist and turn with the rhythm of the story rather than sticking to the marked path.Stav Sherez

   Writing, for me, is a way to work out what I think about a given subject. I often don’t really know what I think about anything until I begin to write about it. With The Intrusions, I wanted to write a classic serial killer thriller. So I began with the hostel and the disappearance of one of its residents. But as I kept writing, and then drafting and redrafting, I realised that the serial killer aspect was the part I was least interested in – after all, it’s been done so many times before by better writers than me. But something was happening within the draft – technology and all its ramifications was creeping deeper into each chapter. About a year into the book I realised that what interested me most was technology and how criminals use it as well as how policing has adapted to this new investigative tool. Themes of the intrusiveness of modern wired life kept creeping in too. If I had plotted the novel out beforehand, I would never have found this different tributary and, I believe, the book would have been much weaker for it.

   But of course, there are disadvantages to this approach. The most important is that it takes me much longer to write a book this way. I have to go past many dead ends before I find the right path. There’s also the fear that the book will collapse. Every book I’ve written, there’s been a stage where I was convinced the book wasn’t working, would never work, and that I should ditch it and begin something new. A year into The Intrusions I very nearly chucked it. There were so many clichés, so little surprise; I was embarrassed by how bad it was. But I’m quite stubborn about stuff like this and didn’t want that year to have gone to waste so I kept at it, through another six drafts or so, and slowly, draft by draft, I could feel the plot beginning to interlock. There’s nothing better than that feeling when all the disparate ends suddenly click and you realise your unconscious has been guiding you all along and everything that didn’t make sense is now crystal clear.


THE INTRUSIONS by Stav Sherez is published on 2nd February

You can order a copy here:





Category: Guests | Comments Off on Stav Sherez – To Plot or Not to Plot?
January 22

TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By


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

Five writing commandments to live by

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

1. Thou shalt write every day.

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

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

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

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

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

4. Thou shalt avoid distractions.

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

5. Thou shalt seek out feedback

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

Good luck!



LIES is currently available in digital format and you can order a copy here:

You can read my review of LIES by clicking here.


Category: From The Bookshelf, Guests | Comments Off on TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By
December 12

Guest Post – Marnie Riches (The Girl Who Had No Fear and Born Bad)

the-girl-who-had-no-fearI am delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book.

The 4th George McKenzie novel, The Girl Who had no Fear, released a couple of weeks ago and plunges George into a whole new level of peril. But not content with putting our favourite criminologist through the emotional ringer, Marnie has also been working on a new series which will kick off next year when Born Bad releases.

I caught up with Marnie to chat about her busy year and what we can hope to see in 2017…


It’s been a busy 2016 for me. In addition to writing The Girl Who Had No Fear, I have also penned the first book in my brand new Manchester series, entitled Born Bad. I’m extremely excited about it. Not only am I playing god over a killer cast of new characters, but this is my first foray into print as well as e-book. As digital-first acquisitions by Avon’s imprint, Maze, the George McKenzie series (aka The Girl Who series) is not yet in print, though it has been both award-winning and best-selling. I do think we will see George in print at some point, but not yet, which makes the release of Born Bad on 9th March 2017 a real milestone for my career as a crime writer. I’m hoping it’s going to be, like, EVERYWHERE (as my teenaged daughter would say).

Born Bad is set in my home town – Manchester: the most violent city in the UK. Though I’ve lived in London, Cambridge, Huddersfield and Utrecht, I’ve spent most of my life in Manchester – my formative years until the age of 18, and also the last nine years. I have great civic pride in this melting pot of a city, with its world class music and culture. Anyone born in Manchester has a little bit of grit running through their bloodstream, and of course, a little webbing between the old fingers! It being the most violent city in the UK, of course, means that Manchester is constantly abuzz with criminal activity. What better place therefore to set a series all about the (fictitious) villains that run Manchester’s criminal underworld – a story about north vs south and men vs women? I can reveal that the series has some incredible, surprising anti-heroes, feisty heroines and an entertaining army of quirky, mentally unstable muscle. I’m told readers of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers will love it but I think anyone who likes a good yarn about bad guys in a gritty setting will love it too.

I wasn’t in any way ready to take a break from the George McKenzie series, and in fact, I’m contracted to write a fifth book, which will be released in early 2018. While readers still clamour to read George stories, I’m clamouring the write them. There’s always more for George to say and do, and The Girl Who Had No Fear opens the door to a whole new dynamic in George’s extended family. It was my publisher that suggested I might like to write something set in Manchester. I jumped at the chance to have two series running concurrently. What fun to write! And long may the two series run…

Juggling the editing of one novel in a series at the same time as writing another novel in another series was a bit of a challenge logistically, but I got there in the end, thanks to some good time management and long hours. Fortunately, the manuscripts I deliver are, in the main, in pretty clean shape already (Solid graft. Nothing more), so the work wasn’t too extensive. It does require some mental agility to leap from one world and set of characters to another and then back again, however! It’s my pleasure to be kept on my toes in this way.

Thinking about it, writing about Manchester and Amsterdam makes perfect sense. Both are rainy, cold cities, roughly on a par geographically. The Dutch are very forthright. Mancunians are very forthright. Both cities have a big club and drug scene. I guess many readers of the George series will find something to love in the new Manchester series, if only it’s the bad weather and trafficking theme.


The Girl Who Had No Fear is available on this link:

You can read my review here:

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Marnie Riches (The Girl Who Had No Fear and Born Bad)
December 7



Today I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to Grab This Book.

This is publication week for Leigh’s new DI Geraldine Steel novel: Deadly Alibi. As we enter the last 24 hours before Deadly Alibi finds its way into the hands of the readers Leigh has shared her thoughts on my favourite question: “Why Do We Love A Serial Killer Story?” 

The Appeal of the Serial Killer

After my debut novel featuring a serial killer, I introduced a different kind of murderer in my second novel, Road Closed. ‘I can’t have a serial killer in every book,’ I explained to my agent. ‘Oh yes, you can,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Readers love serial killers.’ Of course that wasn’t meant to be taken literally, although it’s an interest that crosses over from fiction into real life, with many women wanting to marry killers on death row in America.

So how can we explain this fascination we have with serial killers?

I have to confess that serial killers are good news for crime writers. They offer the perfect means to ramp up tension. Anyone who has seen the film Jaws will remember the first shark attack, all the more shocking because it was unexpected. After that first attack, the director can intensify the suspense any time he chooses. All he needs to do is put a woman in the water on her own, or have a child splashing happily in the sea, and the audience are on the edge of their seats, wondering whether this will be the next victim of a shark attack.

Crime writers have been exploiting this technique for a long time. First the writer establishes that a serial killer is prowling the streets. Then a potential victim – stereotypically a young woman – is placed out alone on the street after dark, and the reader is immediately afraid that another murder is about to take place. This expectation can be fulfilled or confounded. The reader never knows when the killer will strike again.

leigh-russell-photo           As well as the tension introduced by a serial killer, there is psychological interest in the character. What is it that causes someone to kill multiple victims? Perhaps if we are honest we can all understand how someone could be driven to kill once. Take the case of a wife who has been persistently abused only to see her husband start to abuse their child. While no one would condone or excuse killing an abuser, we could understand how a victim might lose control and lash out. But repeated deliberate killing is a different matter, and one that is intriguing.

Of course, there are many patterns of behaviour with which I can’t naturally identify. Recently I was invited to appear at a literary festival where I chatted to another speaker who has written a book based on his experience climbing Everest. That is something I could no more imagine doing than I could envisage committing a murder. So it becomes an intriguing challenge to explore what might motivate a serial killer.


Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit Press and is available to buy as an ebook:

Category: Blog Tours, Guests | Comments Off on Leigh Russell – THE APPEAL OF THE SERIAL KILLER