July 29

Craig Robertson Q&A – Murderabilia and Festivals

I recently had the opportunity to meet Craig Robertson when he visited one of my local libraries. I had so many questions that evening (one being – why did they bring out the biscuits just as everyone was pulling on their jackets to go home?)

As I was being on best behaviour and not hogging the Q&A session I asked Craig if he would mind joining me for a Q&A here at Grab This Book.  This is how our chat went:


Hi Craig, thanks for agreeing to join me. I have done a few Q&A’s now and I have realised that I am not great at writing an introduction for my guests. What if I miss out the fact they are a legendary football hero or that they are incredibly proud of their bronze swimming certificate? 

To combat this dilemma my first question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to plug your books.

Craig RobertsonI’m Craig Robertson and I’m the author of six, soon to be seven, crime novels. All but one of them are set on the mean streets of Glasgow and the odd one out is set in the not-so-mean streets of Torshavn on the Faroe Islands.

My debut novel Random was shortlisted for the CWA Creasey Dagger and was a Sunday Times bestseller. It was followed by five novels featuring DS (now DI) Rachel Narey and scenes of crime photographer Tony Winter.

I was a journalist for 20 years before becoming a full-time author. My news reporting days took me to places as diverse as 10 Downing Street, Death Row and the world black pudding championships. All good practice for writing crime novels.

I live in Stirling with the American crime writer Alexandra Sokoloff and a cat named Clooney. I am the goalkeeper for the Scottish crime writers football team, following in a fine tradition of literary goalkeepers led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Albert Camus and Vladmir Nabokov. I’m not as good as them though.

I like to think that my vocabulary is reasonably broad but reading your books has taught me new words. Not “those” words (I grew up in Lanarkshire, had those nailed from an early age).  First can you explain what Urbexing is?

Urbexing is a contraction of “urban exploration” and it’s a term coined for the pursuit of exploring abandoned buildings and man-made structures. It’s a shadowy world, often done under the cover of darkness, and well away from the prying – and protective – eyes of the authorities. So people go into ruined hospitals, climb cranes and towers, explore little-known tunnels and generally go to places they shouldn’t. No one knows they’re there and that inevitably puts them in a danger that’s pretty useful to a crime writer.

In Place of DeathGlasgow is full of prime urbexing sites and I immediately knew I wanted to use them in a book. The sites – I used places like the Molendinar Burn, the old Odeon cinema, the ruined Gartnavel hospital and the abandoned St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross – are spooky enough to be incredibly atmospheric. They form the backdrop of In Place of Death and the book looks at how they come to be abandoned and how we’re equally guilty of putting people aside when we’re done with them too. If that sounds a bit heavy, don’t worry there’s a good few murders in there too.

The other new word that I have learned from you is Murderabilia. What is Murderabilia?

It’s the title of my new book, thanks for asking! It’s also the hobby of collecting items connected to serial killers. It’s surprisingly big business and I’ve learned a lot more about it than is good for me.

Basically, people buy and sell anything to do with murderers. Yes, it’s pretty gross and morally questionable but there are specialist sites on the internet that are dedicated to this kind of thing. I find the psychology of it fascinating and couldn’t resist writing about it.

So if you had a mind to, you could buy letters by Dennis Nilsen, art by Charles Manson, clothes worn by John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy. You can buy courtroom confessions, shoes, guns, underwear. I had to wonder about the motives about some of the people who buy this stuff – and about how some of it is acquired from crime scenes. I knew it was the basis of a book, particularly the way that this is a hobby that can become obsessive and how it so often neglects the most important people in any murder, the victims.

MurderabiliaIs it easy to research what kind of “dark” items have been bought and sold down the years?

It’s easy enough to trace most of it if you know where to look. For example, I can tell you that an autograph by the American serial killer and cannibal Albert Fish once sold for £30,000. Or that the gun used to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald was bought for over $2million. A Christmas card sent by Ted Bundy went for $4000.

However, there are even darker items that have been sold that are much more difficult, maybe impossible, to trace. Things have been known to disappear from crime scenes and are then sold to the highest bidder, sometimes years later. For example a shawl said to be taken from the scene of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim Catherine Eddowes, by a policeman, Sergeant Amos Simpson, turned up decades later and its owner demanded three million dollars for it. These murky transactions have always happened but these days they are taking place in the deepest recesses of the internet, the so-called dark web, where they cannot be overseen. What are they selling? Your guess is as good as mine but it’s not going to pretty.

When you were writing Murderabilia did you acquire any collectable items?

I did but I can’t talk about it. Seriously, I can’t. Not yet anyway.

I can say that I acquired a few select objects connected to three very high-profile killers. I know that seems weird but I felt I had to, both to understand the buying and selling procedures and to know what it actually felt like to receive and hold items belonging to murderers. It was an odd sensation opening the packaging, unwrapping the objects and holding them. It gave me an insight that I couldn’t have had otherwise and I was able to put that into the book.

I’m not sure that my partner is entirely happy having them in the house so they might have to go eventually. But they are just things, right? Or are they?

Murderabilia sees a return for Rachel Narey, was it always the plan to write an ongoing series or was there some publisher encouragement to keep Narey (and Tony Winter) coming back for more?

It was probably a bit of both. Rachel had appeared in Random, my first book, but that was a standalone and there was no intention of anyone to reappear. Then, when I came up with the idea for Snapshot which was to feature Tony Winter as a police photographer, I wanted a female police officer for him to be in a secret relationship with. Rachel was there, standing around with nothing to do and I’d liked her in Random, so she was it. Even then, I’m not sure I envisaged a series but Snapshot led to Cold Grave which led to Witness the Dead and sure enough I had a series on my hands.

There have been times that I’ve wanted to go in a different direction and kill either Rachel or Tony off to make that possible but each time there has been an outcry either from my editor or readers and I’ve let them live. Series are very attractive to publishers and to readers so yes there’s been some not so subtle encouragement to keep it going.

It’s not without its benefits for me either though. It helps to have characters I know well and to know how they will react in any given situation. I’ve watched them grow and change and seen their relationship twist in the wind. I like messing with them, basically, and making life difficult for them.

The Last RefugeIn Murderabila (did you notice how I’ve sneakily managed to mention the titles of all my books apart from The Last Refuge?) things change quite dramatically for Rachel and Tony again and this time there’s no going back.

I met you a few weeks ago and you were working on confirming guests for Bloody Scotland. I will get to that shortly but first I need to ask about something that arrived out of the blue. Bute Noir. For those not familiar with Bute can you explain where they can find the newest crime festival and why Bute was selected?

When I met you in May, Bute Noir didn’t exist at all, even in my head.

I did an event in Rothesay during Book Week Scotland last November. Everyone was very friendly and I had a great time. I hadn’t been to Bute since I was a kid but mentioned to Karen Latto, the owner of the local bookshop that it would be a great place for crime writers to go for a weekend. That quickly became “oh we should have a crime festival”. Nice idea but I thought no more about it. I went down to breakfast the next morning to be told by the hotel receptionist how excited she was about the festival I was going to organise! I still did my best not to think any more about it, trying to ignore Karen’s best efforts to talk me into doing something but in June she tried again and finally smashed my resistance by pretty much bullying me into it. I’m glad she did.

The pair of us put the festival together in a ridiculously short period of time but it’s going to be great. We’re holding it in three venues, all close together, in Rothesay. The isle of Bute is just a short, £6 return Caledonian Macbrayne ferry trip by down the Costa Clyde from Wemyss Bay so it’s very accessible from Glasgow and anywhere else in the central belt.

We’re using Bute Museum, Rothesay Library and the Print Point bookshop and it was because all three were so helpful and enthusiastic about the idea of a crime fiction festival that we were able to pull it all together so quickly. Argyll and Bute Council have also been very supportive. The idea is for this to become an annual event and we’re confident it will be.

Who will the attendees at Bute Noir be able to see over the two days?

I think it’s a terrific line-up given that we had such little time to put the programme together. Basically I asked my pals who didn’t live too far away! So there will be Chris Brookmyre, Alex Gray, Alanna Knight, Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone, Myra Duffy, GJ Brown, Alexandra Sokoloff and Luca Veste.

Each of them will be on at least twice as one of the great thing about festivals is that you can mix things up and get a completely different response from the author depending whether he or she are on their own or with someone else. They can be quite serious on one panel and then a laugh-a-minute when you put them with another writer.

And after the delights of Bute comes Bloody Scotland.  How did you come to be involved in Scotland’s premier crime event?

I’ve been involved from the first year and it came about when I carelessly mentioned to Alex Gray, one of the festival’s co-founders along with Lin Anderson and Gordon Brown, that I lived in Stirling where Bloody Scotland was set to be held. The next thing I knew I was on the festival committee, became a director and was spending most of my waking moments thinking about panels and lanyards and trying to persuade authors to play football and sing. It’s been a lot of work in the past five years but great fun too and definitely all been worthwhile.

Do you find other authors become particularly nice to you when you are populating festival events?

Ha. There might be a bit of truth in that. And here was me thinking they just wanted to buy me a drink because of my sparkling wit and repartee. Seriously though, crime writers are genuinely nice people at any time. They really are a good bunch, very sociable and with very little backstabbing. I’m just back from the ever excellent Theakstons Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and a nicer group of people – readers, authors and publishers – you’d struggle to meet.

 Bloody Scotland Brochure

Do you want to highlight some of the panels from both Festivals?

Where to start…
At Bute Noir, Chris Brookmyre is being interviewed by Alexandra Sokoloff (aka my better half) and that will be a cracker, Luca Veste and Douglas Skelton are fighting over the merits of Liverpool and Glasgow as crime locations (Glasgow is better obviously), Alex Gray is being grilled over a medium heat by Michael J Malone, and I will be question master at a closing quiz in which the rules have already gone out of the window. Messrs Brookmyre, Veste and Malone will engage in a battle of halfwits with Ramsay, Brown and Skelton.

At Bloody Scotland, we have Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine together, we have Nicci French who are selling books by the million right now, Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre will be getting all sweary and funny, and then there’s MC Beaton, Martina Cole, Stuart MacBride, Peter Robinson and Val McDermid. There is the Scotland-England crime writers football match, a couple of cracking forensics events, Alanna Knight’s Inspector Faro play, Crime at the Coo, and much, much more.

I’m appearing alongside two excellent writers and really good guys in Malcolm Mackay and James Oswald and we will be talking about why we like to delve so much into the dark side of human nature. I’m also hosting a panel called Witness the Dead (coincidentally the title of one of my books, ahem) about the science of witness identification in which Professor Graham Pike will lead the audience and some unsuspecting crime writers as they are witnesses to a bank robbery and have to pick the guilty party out of a line-up. It’s bound to be fun.

And what have been some of your personal festival highlights down the years?

Being the goalie in the Scotland team that beat England 13-1 at Bloody Scotland 2014. How can you top that?

I suppose there were some that were a bit more book-related too – being on stage with authors like Willie McIlvanney, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Jeffrey Deaver, Denise Mina and Chris Brookmyre, all of whom I’d read and admired before I was published – but come on, beating England 13-1, that’s the big one really.

Well, there was the book festival in Colorado where I met Alex. Yes, that one too. Obviously. That’s the one I meant to say first. But 13-1, come on…

Bute Noir is on 5th and 6th August 2016 – Info can be found here: http://www.visitbute.com/event/bute-noir-crime-writing-festival/

Bloody Scotland is in Stirling from 9th to 11th September 2016 – tickets and the festival programme available here: https://www.bloodyscotland.com/

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July 28

Guest Post: Steve Cavanagh: Serial Heroes

It was October 2015 when Douglas Skelton told a gathering of readers in Motherwell Library that he really enjoyed Ed McBain novels.  That comment gave me the idea of a feature on my blog.  Could I find a couple of authors who would write a wee guest post on the books they like?  Not a single volume, but the ongoing stories by one author, characters they loved to follow. Could I maybe even stretch to 5 guests and get a feature week?

It turns out I could – authors are book fans too. WHO KNEW???

Today Steve Cavanagh joins me to close out the third week of my Serial Heroes feature.  Steve is my 15th guest yet he is the first that I have actually met that has also chosen a ‘Hero’ that I have met. It had never occurred to me that this may happen!

Steve, thank you!  An excellent choice…


Every Dead Thing 2Whilst working as a journalist for the Irish Times, Dublin born author John Connolly worked on what would become his debut novel, Every Dead Thing. The book is not an Irish novel. It’s set in the US, in Maine. It took five years to complete. Along with Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, Every Dead Thing stands as one of the finest debut crime novels of the last fifty years.

Charlie Parker’s wife and daughter are savagely murdered by a serial killer who continues to taunt Parker long after their deaths. The opening pages are harrowing, and we see Parker give up his career as a cop and descend into a painful, nightmarish world of grief and loss in his search for vengeance. This all sounds very bleak, and in parts it is suitably dark – but there is a lightness of touch and a wry humour that lifts Parker into your heart. From the first pages you are right behind Parker, willing him to survive and find the killer. Two men accompany Parker on his quest; the hitman Louis, and his lover – the dishevelled burglar Angel. The events in Every Dead Thing set Parker on a course which Connolly explores over the next 14 novels. Increasingly, that path brings Parker deeper into the “honeycomb world” where the supernatural meets our world.

Following this character over the course of the novels you see him change, and age. His relationships change, his values and outlook on the world also. At the beginning of the series Parker is a man who could easily have been destroyed by the loss of his family, but as we learn during the series, Parker’s dead family haven’t necessarily left him behind.

The supporting cast of the series increases as we move forward, and one character in particular, called The Collector, has a special significance. I may be wrong, but I see Collector as the character that Parker could have become, and may still yet become.

The Wolf In WinterEach book in the series features a fabulous villain and none more so than Mr. Pudd, who appeared in The Killing Kind. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that Mr. Pudd is perhaps my favourite villain in modern fiction.

I read series fiction because I am emotionally invested in the characters. I care about them and I want to know what happens to them. Over the course of the last three books beginning with The Wolf In Winter, Connolly has changed the series. It’s almost as if he knocked Parker off that path that he’d been on, and found him a new one. As a writer I found that incredibly brave, and as a reader I couldn’t be happier. Often with a series you get the impression that the quality of the books somehow diminishes as it moves on. Not so here. The books get better and better which is a marvellously rare accomplishment.

Just one word about the writing itself – it’s stunning. The great Michael J Malone posted recently about James Lee Burke and I think you could comfortably slot Connolly alongside Burke as equals in producing startlingly poetic prose.

When John Connolly publishes a new Charlie Parker book I go out and buy it, I put aside whatever else I’m reading and I open the book and read it straight through. I can’t say better than that.


Steve CavanaghSteve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer and holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy. He writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring lead character Eddie Flynn. His first novel, The Defence , was chosen as one of Amazon’s great debuts for 2015, as part of their Amazon Rising Stars programme.
Find out more at www.stevecavanagh.com or you can find Steve on Twitter: @SSCav

You can buy Steve’s books by clicking through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Steve-Cavanagh/e/B00OAGCA62/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469748794&sr=1-2-ent

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July 28

Guest Post – Sarah Hilary: Serial Heroes

It is Thursday 28th July 2016 and Sarah Hilary’s third Marnie Rome novel, Tastes Like Fear is released in paperback today. It seems like the perfect day to share Sarah’s contribution to my Serial Heroes feature.

I will be honest and confess that Fred Vargas was a name I had not heard before. By the time I had read through Sarah’s email I was clicking through to the Kindle store and I have two new books for my holiday.

Here is why:

A Climate of FearI have in my hands the brand-new Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg book by French art historian turned crime writer, Fred Vargas. And I couldn’t be happier. It’s been over two years since her last Adamsberg book and so this, A Climate of Fear (her eighth in the series), is my post-edits treat to myself.

The series started with The Chalk Circle Man, which introduced us to Adamsberg, a true original, possibly the best since Sherlock Holmes. Jean-Baptiste is unlike any other fictional detective. An endearing and exasperatingly dreamy little detective from the Pyrenees who is never quite at home in Paris, where he works as a police commissionaire with a team of beguiling colleagues — you’ll fall for more than one of them — tackling crimes that touch on ancient legends, superstitions and vengeance.

Vargas (who chose her pen name from the character played by Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa) weaves history and legend into her stories. She has a genius for twisting a strand of the supernatural into her crime stories without breaking faith with the credibility of her plot. She’ll have you believing in vampires, werewolves and ghosts, before extracting a commonsensical explanation at the last moment.

Her most recently published story, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, saw a panic-stricken old woman journey to Paris to see Commissaire Adamsberg, the only policeman she trusts to help with the peculiar affliction that’s befallen her home village of Ordebec: ghostly horsemen targeting society’s rotten apples.

Ghost Riders of OrdebecAdamsberg, beset by problems of his own, is glad of the excuse to escape Paris and strikes up a friendship with a village elder, Léone, who knows Ordebec’s strange cast of characters intimately. When Léone falls victim to the evil afoot, Adamsberg becomes determined to solve the case, aided and abetted by his own strange cast of helpmates — from the statuesque Retancourt and Veyrenc with his terrible rhyming couplets, to Danglard the drunken genius and Zerk, Adamsberg’s recently discovered son, whose stumbling relationship with his father is a joy to read.

In case all of this is sounding too whimsical to be a satisfying crime series, rest assured that Vargas is an expert at plotting and the twists come often and gleefully. There is always a surfeit of suspects, with dreamy and distracted Jean-Baptiste pushed to shuffle the clues from the red herrings.

Best of all, though, at least for this reader—you care deeply for Adamsberg and Danglard and their team. I don’t say you empathise with these characters; some of them are simply too strange. But Vargas isn’t interested in manipulating your emotions in any conventional sense.

She doesn’t deal in unreliable narrators or any other convention, trope or trend in crime fiction. She simply writes astoundingly differently. She dares to write this way, jumping from character to character across the page, inviting you to keep pace with her unruliness, her drollness, her poetry. This is anarchy. Joyful, disturbing anarchy. Because who else is daring to break these rules, and doing it with such panache?



Photo by Linda Nylind.
Photo by Linda Nylind.

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was published in 2015. The Marnie Rome series continued in 2016 with TASTES LIKE FEAR.

Sarah is on Twitter: @Sarah_Hilary


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July 27

Guest Post – A.K. Benedict: Serial Heroes

Earlier this year I was thrilled to have the chance to interview A.K. Benedict about her new novel Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence of Ghosts and also her Torchwood audio play The Victorian Age. A crime story (with ghosts) and also a play starring Captain Jack Harkness? A.K. Benedict seemed to have found my entertainment wish list and written everything I liked.

When I decided I would try to run this third series of my Serial Heroes features I thought it was a perfect opportunity to invite A.K. Benedict back to Grab This Book. If she writes stories I love then perhaps we also read the same authors too? It turns out that in this case we do…


AK BenedictI first found Agatha Christie while trying to murder my friends. It was a 10th birthday party and, being a macabre child, insisted on Murder in the Dark instead of the passé Pass the Parcel. Everyone took a piece of paper from a beige Tupperware bowl. Most were blank but on one was the word ‘Murderer’, on another ‘Detective’. I was the designated murderer.

Lights off, everyone scattered, stumbling about the house in the dark. I located my first victim easily using my keen olfactory sense. She was sitting on the stairs eating Opal Fruits. I whispered ‘You’re Dead’ in her ear then ruined it by saying, ‘Sorry.’  I then went upstairs, fake-slaughtering a few nine year olds along the way, and into my friend’s mum’s bedroom. I felt my way around the room and found a large bookshelf. Running my fingers across the books, I could feel many slim paperbacks with cracked spines and tears on the covers. These books had been read many times. I had to know what they were. I turned on the lights.

Wedged tight on the shelf was, it turns out, every one of Agatha Christie’s books. I pulled out The ABC Murders, sat on the bed and started to read. I was gripped immediately. I completely forgot that I was supposed to kill the rest of the party-goers and was found on the floor, reading, by several friends, furious at not being murdered.

My friend’s mum, however, knew a budding crime fan when she saw one and lent me the book. I read it overnight and took it back the next morning. She gave me another one. And another one the next day. I spent the summer holidays of 1988 reading one Christie a day, sitting under a tree and eating mint-flavoured Clubs. It was brilliant. I loved Miss Marple, Poirot and Harley Quin. I wanted to play Murder in the Dark with them at my party.

MarpleI went on to love all kinds of crime fiction but it all comes back to Christie. Every year, I read all of her books again. Each time I’m drawn in by the conversational tone that belies the darkness, the humour and the crisply written settings and characters. Christie twists me round her crooked finger: she hooks, hoodwinks and hustles better than any other writer I’ve read. I even named my dog after my favourite Marple – Dame Margaret Rutherford.

ABC murdersWhile I have favourites (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, 4.50 from Paddington, And Then There Were None, The Crooked House), I am still most fond of The ABC Murders. I live near Bexhill where poor Betty Barnard is killed in the novel and always think of her as I walk on the beach. I love visiting places that resonate with Christie connections: I can’t go to Paddington without wondering if I’ll see something untoward from the train. There are two places where I feel most connected to her: Greenway, her holiday home now a National Trust property, and The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. Christie was found at the hotel following her infamous disappearance. It’s a thrill to get lost, as I did this morning, in The Old Swan’s corridors and pass the bedroom marked AGATHA.

I’m now sitting on The Old Swan’s lawn at the annual Theakston’s Crime Festival, about to read a new Hercule Poirot book by Sophie Hannah. The Monogram Murders is dedicated to Agatha Christie and, even a few pages in, is a brilliant way continuation of her characters long after her death.


A.K. Benedict’s books can be ordered by clicking through this link.

Alternatively visit her rather fabulous website at http://www.akbenedict.com/
A.K. Benedict is also on Twitter at: @ak_benedict


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July 25

Guest Post – Nick Quantrill: Serial Heroes

The third run of Serial Heroes continues.

As a reader I worry that I am missing out on some great books, there are so many talented authors and as any bookworm will remind you “so many books, so little time.” So I am asking some of my favourite authors if they will join me to talk about their favourite books. Or more specifically their favourite series of books.

I want to know about the characters they enjoy revisiting, the new release that they will most look forward to or the books on their bookcase that they return to over and over again.

Fresh from the happy chaos that is Harrogate I am delighted to welcome Nick Quantrill back to Grab This Book. I particularly enjoyed reading Nick’s selection as I will confess that this is a series I have yet to read so I can happily grow my TBR pile…


TurnstoneFor someone with an aversion to writing police characters, I’ve always loved reading about them. My love affair with the procedural novel started when I picked up a DI Rebus novel by Ian Rankin after spotting it on my father’s bookshelf. At the time I was studying Social Policy and Criminology with the Open University, and as much fun as Rebus proved to be, it was the way Rankin engaged with the issues I was learning about which really resonated. But I wanted more, a series which featured a location that chimed with my home city of Hull, the archetypal rundown northern city.

Step forward Graham Hurley and DI Faraday. Hurley had been made an offer he couldn’t refuse – a three book deal with Orion. The catch? They had to be crime novels. The problem? Hurley, a documentary maker by trade was no fan of the genre. But shadowing a team of local detectives for a period triggered an awareness of what he could achieve with the format.

Opening with “Turnstone”, the DI Faraday series quickly widened to include the role of DS Paul Winter. Faraday is a man who feels the world, even if he doesn’t necessarily understand it, but will play by the rules to get his man. DS Paul Winter, brash and loud, knows that those rules sometimes have to bend a little and isn’t afraid to be the man who does it. But Hurley’s trump card is the introduction of major league criminal, Bazza Mackenzie.

From “Cut to Black” onwards, Mackenzie is the police’s long term major target and they have one shot to bring him down before he’s beyond their reach, his money legitimised in various projects around the city. But Mackenzie remains one step ahead, leaving Faraday empty handed and red faced. With the stakes increasing, Winter goes undercover, but discovering a taste for the dark arts of the criminal world, leaves to work as Mackenzie’s right hand man, a decision destined to set him on a collision course with Faraday.

The final essential character in the series is Portsmouth itself. A claustrophobic island city on the south coast of England with a proud sea-faring history, Hurley’s pulls no punches in a frank assessment of a city that now has multiple social problems. Hurley’s allows the city’s belligerence and unique identity to bleed into the characters, making them products of their environment, and all the more terrifying for it.

Happy DaysThe series comes to a close with “Happy Days”. Mackenzie, with his business empire crumbling to dust in the recession, seeks real power by running for Parliament in a local election. As this become all-encompassing, the lack of focus on his business empire offers Winter the opportunity to leave his employment. But you don’t leave the employment of people like Mackenzie by politely handing in your notice. For all the protagonists, there’s only one certainty – things have to be brought to a conclusion.

The series stands an overview of recent times – feral children running amok, the war in Iraq, the economic meltdown, immigration, even the changing nature of Premier League football – it all features. With Portsmouth acting as England in microcosm, The DI Faraday series appeals to the heart as much as it does to the head. Maybe it’s Hurley’s background in documentaries that gives him the edge over his contemporaries and adds a further layer of authenticity, but it’s a series which looks the world in the eye and asks the questions which have no easy answers.


All of Graham Hurley’s books can be ordered with a simple click through this link.

NQ photoMr Nick Quantrill also has many fine books which I would urge you to enjoy too.  Nick’s books are found here.

When Nick’s new novel The Dead Can’t Talk launched he joined me to talk about Evil Bad Guys – you can catch that here.

You can also visit www.nickquantrill.co.uk


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July 25

Guest Post – Derek Farrell: Serial Heroes

When I see an author photographed in front of their bookshelves I know that I am not the only person that scans the books in the background to see what they read. Rather than wait for authors to share their “shelvies” I decided it was much quicker to ask them directly which books they enjoy reading the most.

This is the third run of my Serial Heroes features but you can catch up on Season 1 here.  (Ed McBain, Jo Nesbo and Val McDermid all feature).

Season 2 is here and we had some love for James Bond, Stephen King and Batman (the ultimate serial hero)


Just after I finished the last run of Serial Heroes I fell into a Twitter chat with Derek Farrell about our mutual love of a series of stories we first read more than a couple of years ago. I asked Derek if he would join me to explain why this particular series appealed so much. Fortunately for the future of this feature he agreed – over to Mr Farrell…


Laughing ShadowI was a quiet kid, with an obsession for books of all kinds.

I didn’t make friends easily in the real world, but I made friends with the anthropomorphic cats and bears in Richard Scarry’s works, waded my way through the Famous Five books, was mates with The Hard Boys and Nancy Drew. And then something amazing happened:
My Dad bought me one of the Three Investigators books. It was The Mystery of The Laughing Shadow (Book 12 in the series), and there are a number of reasons why he might have thought the book would appeal to me:

HitchcockMy dad and I loved Alfred Hitchcock, and the books – in an early approach to celebrity endorsement / branding – were introduced by the Auteur, who often featured as a character in them. They were published by the same people who published the Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew books, and they had similar formats and cover designs.

Whatever the reason, he picked right, and a loyal and true friendship that began in 1977 has endured to today.

By the time I was introduced to Jupiter Pete and Bob, the series had already been running for 13 years, having commenced in 1964 when Robert Arthur – who had previously edited several short story collections attributed to Alfred Hitchcock – sold the idea of a series of teenage mysteries to Random House.

Over time, other writers had contributed to the series, principally William Arden (who wrote The Laughing Shadow amongst others), Nick West, and Mary Virginia (MV) Carey, who wrote many of my personal favourites.

The head investigator, Jupiter Jones, lived with his Aunt and Uncle in a vast salvage yard, and had built – amongst the scrap and salvage – an operations centre with hidden entrances; a true boy’s den. The boys, too young to drive, were driven around – thanks to a competition win – in a chauffeur driven limo, and in “The mystery of The Magic Circle,” Carey dealt with the sad isolation of faded Hollywood Fame in the same stark fashion as ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ while the animosity between the boys and their sworn enemy, the perma-cocky Skinny Norris, whose bullying attempts to spoil their plans felt, so often, like a replay of my daily life, resonated with me.

And, through all that, the boys got to hang out with Alfred Hitchcock; they seemed, permanently, to be on some extended school vacation; they lived in Southern California, and their ability to move around the entire county on only pushbikes was simply taken for granted).

Many of the normal mundanities of life – school, homework, the general depressions of a childhood in 1980s Dublin – could simply cease to exist for as long as my nose was buried in a Three Investigator book.

I stopped buying them in 1986 when I moved to London and began working. I guess I figured I was grown up now, and it was time, as they say “To put aside childish things.”
But some years later, on a visit back to Dublin, I packed my entire collection into a suitcase and brought them back to London with me, their presence in my flat symbolising the fact that I had settled, that where I was – now that The Three Investigators were there with me – was finally home.

3 InvestigatorsThe investigators are lead by Jupiter Jones, a chubby, smart mouthed intelligent kid, who is a former child actor named “Baby Fatso” (although he hates it when people mention this). Jupiter is a prolific reader, often rubs his peers up the wrong way and is driven by his own morality and belief in the power of logic and creative thinking (So: not much psychology required there to figure out why I fell for this series).

Jupiter was joined by Pete Crenshaw, the athletic leg of the trio, more likely to be the one who tackled the escaping criminal to the ground, though Pete was never drawn as being pure brawn without brains; he was as capable of challenging assumptions and of suggesting possible motives or viewpoints as the lead investigator.

Bob Andrews made up the trio. The researcher, who – in pre-Google days – would scour newspaper morgues, school libraries, and interview witnesses face to face, produced, often, the killer clue that Jupiter and Pete would then extrapolate into a solution to the mystery. Bob did all of this, in the early books, while wearing a leg brace to heal multiple leg fractures, thus – in late 60s / early 70s fiction – presenting a disabled person as a positive independent and equal contributor to the endeavour, and doing so in a way which never felt shoehorned in.

From Derek's own collection
From Derek’s own collection

In fact, the boys also faced off against menace, threats of racism, fatism, classism and all the other ‘ism’s which, whilst entirely present in much of today’s YA market, were definitely unique at the time.

I can barely imagine any of Enid Blyton’s detective gangs facing down someone trying to swindle a Mexican family out of their ranch purely because of their race, let alone the Secret Seven dealing with obsession or the supernatural (Whispering Mummy), and as a result, for me, these books became an escape. When life was too dull, or too stressful, or when I felt lost or unsure of how / if I would ever fit into the world, Jupe, Pete and Bob would be there, to welcome me home.

The books were written by the various authors in a style that could be described as Pulp-Lite. The story started almost on the first page (if not the first line), the writing was snappy and direct. There were outlandish titles (“The Secret of Skeleton Island,” “The Mystery of The Moaning Cave,” “The Mystery of The Headless Horse” to name a few) designed to pull the readers in, and explanations that – at the end of the book – made absolutely perfect sense in light of what had been planted through the plot up to that point.

Chapters ended, mostly, on cliffhangers, and the danger was real. In “The Magic Circle,” for example, Bob is bashed on the head, knocked unconscious, dumped in the trunk of a car in the middle of a scrap yard in Southern California, and left to die of heat stroke. Beat that, Famous Five.

And the victory – when the villains are finally unmasked and the case resolved – all the sweeter for being logical, just, and a fair response to the threat created earlier in the book.
And now I write books. Mystery books. Books peopled with characters who run the gamut from loveable to quirky to monstrous, and who are all (or mostly) comfortable in their own skins.

Death of a DivaIn Death of a Diva and Death of a Nobody, Danny Bird – my detective – is an average Joe, who just at the point when he thinks he’s lost everything, finds a new purpose in life. He’s accompanied by his best friend, a ridiculously glamorous yet heartwarmingly fallible gorgeous blonde, and surrounded by family – made as well as birth – who bicker, bitch, backbite and yet – when the chips are down – are there for each other.

All ideas that – now I think about it – were instilled in me by The Three Investigators, by a series of books that didn’t talk down to their audience, but which made the assumption that their audience were smart, generous, and along for the ride.

I owe Robert Arthur and MV Carey particularly a great debt, and one I hadn’t fully realised until recently.

The books have been somewhat bogged down in legal wrangles in recent years, but I still firmly believe they have a place in the pantheon next to other more recognised series’ and can’t imagine my life – as a kid, as an adult, or as a writer of crime fiction that entertains and celebrates life in all it’s difference – without The Three Investigators.


Death of a Diva (Hyperurl.co/Diva) Derek Farrell
Death of a Nobody (Hyperurl.co/Nobody)
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press (@fahrenheitpress on Twitter).
My website is derekfarrell.co.uk
Twitter: @derekifarrell


Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Derek Farrell: Serial Heroes
July 22

The Ghost Hunters – Neil Spring

Ghost HuntersWelcome to Borley Rectory, the most haunted house in England.

The year is 1926 and Sarah Grey has landed herself an unlikely new job – personal assistant to Harry Price, London’s most infamous ghost hunter. Equal parts brilliant and charming, neurotic and manipulative, Harry has devoted his life to exposing the truth behind England’s many ‘false hauntings’, and never has he left a case unsolved, nor a fraud unexposed.
So when Harry and Sarah are invited to Borley Rectory – a house so haunted that objects frequently fly through the air unbidden, and locals avoid the grounds for fear of facing the spectral nun that walks there – they’re sure that this case will be just like any other. But when night falls and still no artifice can be found, the ghost hunters are forced to confront an uncomfortable possibility: the ghost of Borley Rectory may be real. And, if so, they’re about to make its most intimate acquaintance.


My thanks to Quercus for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

Borley Rectory, the first “real” haunted house that I had ever heard of (thanks to an Usborne book of ghosts in my primary school library). It sparked a fascination for ghost stories that never really went away.

When I heard about Neil Spring’s The Ghost Hunters I knew that this was a book I really wanted to read. As usual I was late to the party as The Ghost Hunters released in 2013, but good books are not time critical and they don’t all need to be read in the week of release. As I wasn’t battling a reading deadline I was able to take my time and enjoy the detail in the story and I believe enjoyed it all the more as a result.

Basing the story around Harry Price (a real person who did investigate Borley Rectory in the late 1920’s) we see events through the eyes of Harry’s assistant Sarah Grey.  Though Harry and Borley Rectory (and all the mysterious events within) are key to the plot this is Sarah’s story and it is often a harrowing tale. Sarah first meets Price when she takes her mother to a séance at Price’s London laboratory, Sarah’s father died in the Great War and her mother has not coped well since his passing.  The family are somewhat down on their fortunes but Sarah hopes that making a “connection” with her father will bring peace for her mother. Things take an unexpected turn (no spoilers) but ultimately Sarah ends up working for Price.

I will confess that at this stage in the story I was a little frustrated that Borley was not getting a mention (I am sometimes an impatient reader) but once Price and Sarah are teamed up things pick up pace.  By the time I finished The Ghost Hunters I appreciated why so much of the early part of the book had concentrated on Sarah, her background and the unpredictable and often unlikeable Price.  Stick with this as the payoff is absolutely worth it.

Price and Sarah begin an investigation into the “hauntings” at Borley.  A ghostly nun, ringing bells, projectiles aimed at residents, unexplained cold patches in the middle of rooms. Neil Spring paints a delightfully creepy story around the “hauntings”.  But Price is out to explain the unexplained and debunk the myth of ghosts – he has his work cut out and will let nobody stand in the way of proving he is right.  Friendships are scarce for Mr Price, his methods are controversial and he is not a likeable character – it makes for fascinating reading.

The Ghost Hunters is a story about a life but the focus is the dead. Through Sarah Grey we chart the fantastic career of Harry Price and see the legacy he left. There is so much depth to this book, far beyond a simple Haunted House tale that it really is one to take time to enjoy.


The Ghost Hunters is published by Quercus. You can order a copy by clicking through the link here.

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Ghost Hunters – Neil Spring
July 21

Book Chains – Rod Reynolds (Second Link)

Book Chains – my author Q&A with a twist.

A few weeks back I asked Stasi Child author, David Young to join me and I asked him a few questions. You can see how that turned out here.

David’s Q&A ended with me asking him to nominate my next guest (and to provide a question I should ask)…which is why I call this Book Chains.  David nominated “My fellow City University Crime Thriller MA graduate Rod Reynolds” and fortunately (for this feature) Rod kindly agreed to keep my chain going.  This is what happened…


The Dark InsideFirst Question is not actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the chance to plug your books.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’m a 36 year old Londoner who writes books set in the USA – predominantly the south (so far). My debut, The Dark Inside, was published by Faber in September 2015, and is based on the real life serial killings known as The Texarkana Moonlight Murders. The novel follows washed-up New York reporter Charlie Yates as he’s sent to Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border, to cover a pair of brutal attacks on young couples. The gig is a punishment and Charlie is a mess professionally and personally – but he finds worse horrors waiting for him there than he ever imagined, and before long, he sees his last chance at redemption is finding the killer before it’s too late.

The sequel, Black Night Falling, is published in August 2016 and sees Charlie reluctantly compelled to return to Arkansas, to a town called Hot Springs, when an old acquaintance begs for his help. Charlie knows he has to do the right thing before it’s too late, but he finds himself in a town rife with violence, corruption and lies – and realises that the past he’s been trying to outrun is catching up with him again…


Why did you choose post World War 2 USA for your setting? Does it give you a degree of artistic leeway which you would not get with a story set in the present day?

The Dark Inside is based on a real life case, so although my book is a work of fiction, I wanted to ground it in reality as much as possible – hence setting it in the time and place where the real murders occurred. In terms of artistic leeway, it’s a blessing as much as a curse; at times it’s helpful not to have technology like mobile phones or computers to worry about, but it can make things harder – such as having to be able to credibly get your character to a payphone at any time. A 1940s USA setting also presents its own challenges; the details have to be just right in order to evoke the period and place, but it’s obviously harder to get those details right than if you’re setting your story in the present day. I’ve always been fascinated by America and Americana, though, as well as history, so the research was part of the fun for me.


It is almost a year since The Dark Inside was published, how have the last 12 months been?

Amazing. Publication day was incredibly exhilarating, and just the start of the rollercoaster. I’ve been lucky enough to do a number of events and panels, which I really enjoy, and had great feedback to the book, which is humbling and gratifying. Best of all was the opportunity to meet so many amazing authors, bloggers and readers – the crime community is genuinely packed with lovely and interesting people. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of writing, too…


Both The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling feature Charlie Yates in the lead role. Was it the plan from the outset to write an ongoing series and have Charlie returning?

Black Night FallingNo. My original plan for book two was two have different characters who were grappling with the aftermath and fallout from the events of The Dark Inside. However, my publisher was keen on a series, and once I gave it some thought, I really warmed to the idea, as I enjoy writing Charlie and feel like he’s got a lot of mileage left in him. It’s worked out well as the reader response to Charlie has been overwhelmingly positive.


Like David Young, who started this Chain, you were spotted burning the midnight oil at Crimefest. Was it as insane an experience as the pictures made it seem?

David was tucked up in bed by about 7pm every night! (Just kidding, DY)

In a word, yes. It was my first time at CrimeFest (or any writing festival) so I was determined to enjoy every minute of it – and I had an amazing time. At times it felt like a cross between a jolly and a stag-do. I did promise a certain well-known blogger beforehand – who shall go nameless – that we wouldn’t go to bed for four days while we were there, and that was pretty much the case. I got to meet a lot of people I’d only ever spoken to on social media, which was great, and also went to loads of fascinating panels, where I heard about a whole bunch of books that I subsequently added to my TBR. It’s great to hear about a book that piques your interest, and then be able to go chat to the author half an hour later.

But it was definitely the people that made it so cool and insane – so a special shout out to all my partners in crime that incredible weekend, not least: Crime Thriller Girl, Liz Barnsley, Vicki Goldman, Christine (@Northernlass), Karen Sullivan, Mick Herron, Michael Grothaus, Tim Baker Alex Caan, David Young, Anna Mazzola, the City Uni crew and, of course, the Indian-wine-wielding Lisa Hall!


What does Rod Reynolds do when he is not writing?  What’s a typical day and how do you spend “you” time?

I’m lucky enough to be a full time writer, but I also have two very young children who I look after full time too. So my average day involves nursery runs, playgrounds, Topsy-Turvy World, nappy changes and more episodes of Paw Patrol than I could have thought possible. I have to be quite disciplined as I mainly get to write in nap times and evenings.

If I’m not doing any of the above, I’m normally reading – I’ve always got a book on the go, but also read a lot of non-fiction and current affairs. I also like to run, although I’ve not had much time for that of late. So, as you can see, I’m really boring.

Rod ReynoldsSome Quick Fire Questions:

What was the last book you read? The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

o Which one book (not your own) would you recommend? LA Confidential by James Ellroy. My all time favourite.

Favourite film? Heat.

o Drink of choice? Mojito or caipirinha.

o You can put one holiday on your Bucket List. Where do you go? Texarkana. No, just kidding (and I’ve been there already). I’d love to walk the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, through California, Washington and Oregon.

o Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars

o Who was the best Doctor Who? No idea – never watched it.

o If you had to appear on one reality tv show which would it be? I couldn’t name any reality shows apart from Big Brother, but maybe something set on a tropical island paradise?


Finally, as you know it was David Young that nominated you to keep my Q&A chain going.  I asked David to set you a question and this how that unfolded:

Can you suggest an author I should ask to join me next to keep my Q&A Chain going?  Once you have nominated someone I also need a question to ask them on your behalf.

My fellow City University Crime Thriller MA graduate Rod Reynolds, who’s with Faber. His 1940s set series features a journalist. So often, in my view, crime writers get journalists completely wrong – making them caricatures of vile human beings. Yet – having spent most of my career as a journalist – I felt Rod got his main character, Charlie Yates, spot on. How did he manage that, never having worked as journo himself?

That’s very kind of David to say so, and I appreciate the compliment. I’ve always been interested in newspapers, and I spent many years in advertising, working with the commercial departments of all the big national press titles; that gave me some understanding of how the business works, as did chatting to the various journalists I met over the years (David and some of my other City University course mates included). In addition to that, I’ve obviously consumed a lot of fiction over the years – books, films, TV – that show journalistic characters, so you build a picture of what you think works (or doesn’t).

And I guess the rest is just imagination at work. Just like all writers, sometimes you just have to make stuff up!


Rod, thank you for agreeing to join me and to keep this chain progressing. Now I put myself at your mercy and ask you to nominate the next person I should approach to keep this chain running. I also need you to come up with a question that I will ask them on your behalf.

It’s absolutely my pleasure, and thanks again for having me! For my nomination, I’d like to keep it in the City University family and nominate my fellow graduate and author and blogger extraordinaire, Steph Broadribb (also known as Crime Thirller Girl). My question for Steph is ***REDACTED***


My thanks to Rod.  I am always a tad worried about what question I am to ask my next guest as I don’t want to land myself in trouble.  Rod is a star and has kept me safe, if anyone gets into hot water next time out it is likely to be Steph 🙂


You can read my review of The Dark Inside here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1711

and in August I shall have a review to share of Black Night Falling (my bookmark is currently around page 150 at the moment).


The Amazon Rod Reynolds page is easily reached by this link and you can pick up his excellent books in a matter of clicks. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rod-Reynolds/e/B01BHZGQ5E/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1


Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Book Chains – Rod Reynolds (Second Link)
July 19

In Conversation: Douglas Skelton & Theresa Talbot

Every once in a while my job lands me in an office where I can actually get to attend some book events of an evening.  Lately I have found myself lurking on the fringes of Glasgow launch events and, if you go to a launch event in Glasgow, there is a pretty good chance of bumping into Douglas Skelton or Theresa Talbot (though God forbid you get them both at the same time).

I know that not everybody can make it along to book launches (and even fewer get to the Scottish ones) so it is entirely possible you may not have had the chance to meet Douglas or Theresa in person.  It is an experience like no other. In a good way obviously!

So with slight apprehension as to what I may unleash I invited them to join me for a chat – and there was only one place I could start…


DOUGLAS SKELTONG – Mr Skelton, I cannot help but notice you have been nominated onto the longlist for the McIlvanney prize at this year’s Bloody Scotland festival.  Congratulations!  How does it feel now that you have had a day or two to let the news sink in?  And I am also keen to know how you found out?

DS – Oh, you noticed that, did you? I haven’t really talked about it much (coughs and has the decency to look ashamed).

The simple truth about it is that I am hyper chuffed by the nod and I think that’s a feeling that will remain for quite some time. I mean – look at the names on that list. Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Stuart McBride, Doug Johnstone, Lin Anderson, Lesley Kelly, ES Thomson, Chris Brookmyre! The words “bloody” and”hell” spring to mind. 

I found out a couple of days before through Luath Press. I was sworn to absolute secrecy, on pain of beng tied to a chair and force fed a diet of reality TV. Naturally, I kept my lips buttoned, zipped and sewn.

TT – Douglas – are you really on the longlist?? OMG, you never mentioned it! (Listen whilst that Skelton chap’s away polishing his halo, can I say he’s never stopped talking about it! )

Seriously….well done, you deserve to be up there with the best of them.

DS – (Blushes)

TT – Oh behave! Has anything changed since the longlist was announced? D’you feel any different…like a proper famous author now? 

DS – Well, no. As I’ve said, I was the only name I had to Google when I saw the list. It’s a great thing – and I am honoured and grateful – but I don’t want to run away with myself. I certainly do hope it will open up new avenues (new worlds, new civilisations…) and yes, I feel a positive change in certain perceptions but in reality, I’ve got another book to write and I’m stuck in the mid-story doldrums. As usual.

2015-10-11 00.55.32TT – You asked me to Google you once and I thought you were being smutty! I’m sure being nominated for this award will be such a positive thing for you.

How d’you get out of this mid-story doldrums you’re in…I’m at the end of my tether with my next one at the moment. I’m almost finished..BUT…It’s as though I have a big bag of Christmas lights which need untangled and the turkey’s already burning in the oven. Does that even make sense??

DS – I WAS being smutty. Was very disappointed when you didn’t. But then I should be used to such disappointment by now.

As for the Christmas lights/Turkey analogy – makes perfect sense. The only way out of it is to write through it. You know what you’re doing isn’t anywhere near right but getting to the end of that first draft is the primary aim. Rewrites can be done. New passages can be added. Bad ones can be cut. Everything can be fixed.

And if I ask another young lady to Google me, so might I.

G – Turkey and Christmas Lights in July! I knew I should have checked my emails more closely today….

Theresa – tell me about Bloody Scotland, I opened the brochure and you were the first familiar face I spotted.

DS – Me, too!

Helluva fright.

TT – Bloody Scotland…I’m thrilled – nae thrice thrilled to be part of the festival this year. When I was asked to take part I have to admit to looking behind me to see who the organiser was talking to! I’m part of a panel of new crime writers made up of Abir Mukherjee, Brooke Magnanti, Martin Cathcart Froden and Me…with the lovely Alex Gray chairing. We’ll be at the Golden Lion Wallace on Saturday 10th September at 2pm…tickets still available! (Which you can book by clicking HERE).

Bloody Scotland is still a relatively new literary festival yet is up there with the big boys. It’s such an exciting, vibrant event to be part of. I went last year as a punter – I also  attended a crime writing masterclass and now I’m back this year as a Baby-Crime-Writer in Training! Fantastic. 

Bloody ScotlandDS – It is a fabulous event and Scotland should be proud of it. I think this is my fourth year up there and it’s always immense fun. 

G – Bloody Scotland has been the highlight of all the bookish events I have made it to thus far, this year will be my third – I may even pluck up the courage to actually TALK to some authors.

So festivals aside, am I allowed to ask what you are both working on at present?  Theresa seems to be a full time wedding guest and Douglas is forever on tour!!!

DS – I’m working on another Dominic Queste book, Tag – You’re Dead. The first, The Dead Don’t Boogie, is due out in paperback in September, although currently available on Kindle.

The Dead Don't BoogieAnd yes, I have been on tour with the Crime Factor boy band of Neil Broadfoot, Gordon ‘G.J.’ Brown, Mark Leggatt and chair Peter Burnett.

TT – At the moment I’m working my way through a box of Terry’s All Gold. 

As soon as news got out that I had not one but TWO decent dresses I was in big demand for all sorts of social occasions, but I seem to have found my niche at weddings. I turn up on time, tell the bride how beautiful she is and basically I know how to work a room. I pass the dresses of as classic vintage, but the truth is they’re just really really old. Thankfully as a writer I don’t make much money so my meager diet ensures even my oldest clothes still fit me. 

Other than that I’m slogging away (between bouts of Facebook) on Resurrection, which is a sort of follow up to Penance. I often call Douglas for advice as I suffer from writer’s block…he’s very good that way and listens to my tales of woe as he settles back on his wing-backed leather arm-chair sipping his 20 year old malt that his butler has just poured. I know almost all of his staff by name now and they’re organising food parcels for me. I’m blessed to have Douglas as a mentor – however he drew the line at me joining his Boy Band! 

DS – I can vouch for the fact that Theresa can work the room. I have witnessed this first hand.

As for knowing my staff by name, pish tosh. There are so many of them here at Skelton Manor than even I don’t know them! 

Theresa was invited to join the boy band but she failed the medical. 

TT – I’ve taken something for that condition and would now like to re-apply for the boy-band! 

G – Okay, dangerous territory here so am nipping this in the bud.  However, just to prove you don’t always wind each other up how about I ask Theresa to say something nice about Douglas (or his books if that’s easier)? And Douglas you have to do the same for Theresa.

Neither of you have to be nice to me, I work for the Banks – my social standing is ruined.

PenanceTT – Say something nice about Douglas? Seriously…oh go on then…seriously…Douglas has helped me more than he’ll ever know in my quest to be a crime writer. He’s always there to offer sound advice and keep me calm. He’s been so encouraging and he’s just a thoroughly lovely all round nice guy. Honest to God! 

His books are bloody good too..but don’t take my word for it, check out the Davie McCall series and The Dead Don’t Boogie. BTW Douglas doesn’t boogie either, but I’m working on that! 

DS – So, Theresa. Or maybe Gordon, I don’t know now. No, Theresa. I’ve only known her for a relatively short period of time but already feel as if I’ve known her all my life. I loved her book, Penance, and am looking forward to her new one immensely. Her new one isn’t called Immensely, by the way. She is also a bundle of energy and has an enthusiasm that is infectious. 

And if anyone can make me boogie, it’s her. 

G – I know how hard that last bit was for you both so I would just like to offer my most sincere thanks – this is why I love attending events with you two, it is always such great fun.


Douglas Skelton has published 11 books on true crime and history. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, shelf stacker, meat porter, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), reporter, investigator and editor. His first thriller BLOOD CITY was published by Luath Press in 2013. The gritty thriller was the first in a quartet set on the tough streets of Glasgow from 1980 onwards. It was followed by CROW BAIT, DEVIL’S KNOCK and finally OPEN WOUNDS, which has been longlisted for the first McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

You can find Douglas’s books on the following link:



Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga.

Theresa’s books can be found here:



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July 18

Dead Is Better – Jo Perry

Dead Is Better 2Charles Stone has just woken up dead. Well he’s pretty sure he’s dead, what with the bullet holes in his chest and all. He also appears to be totally alone in the after-life except for the ghostly dog who seems to be his new companion.

Unable to interact with the world of the living other than watching and listening, he and the dead dog (whom he names Rose) have nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it.

When Charles and Rose try to unravel the circumstances of Charles’s death, they uncover a criminal who is raking in millions of dollars by cruelly exploiting, and sometimes killing, his victims.

But what difference can a ghost make?

And what does the damn dog have to do with any of this?


I love dogs, there are too many cats on the internet…dogs are 100 times better (at least). Look at the cover of Dead Is Better – see that paw print? That’s a love heart with toes – gimme dogs every time.

But in Dead is Better the dog (Rose) is dead. Not the best way to win me over Jo Perry! However, all is not lost as even in death Rose the dog has become one of my favourite characters this year.

Rose is keeping recently deceased Charles Stone company in the afterlife. Well I say afterlife, they are still hanging around Charles’s old haunts (terrible pun) and it seems Charles has some unfinished business to attend to. But how can he put things to right when he is dead?  Well not very easily is the simple answer and frequently during Dead is Better we will see Charles getting massively frustrated that he has no way to interact with those that are left behind.

Charles leaves an odious brother, several ex-wives and with hindsight he starts to question how he chose to live his life.  Rose, meanwhile, seems hell bent on getting Charles to visit a hospital. Something or someone in the hospital means a lot to Rose, enough that she will guide/lead/bully Charles back to the same places over and over again – unfortunately for Rose, Charles is not the quickest at understanding what she is hoping to achieve.

Dead is Better is a buddy story, two strangers thrust together in death seeking justice. Yes it sounds a bit odd but I loved this story and as soon as I finished it I had bought Dead is Best (Charlie and Rose book 2). Jo Perry has crafted a very clever story here and I cannot wait to see where it may lead.  Chapters are short enough to make it a nice one for the commute – the story trips along with several laugh out loud scenes. Equally there are some upsetting moments (the book is about a dead guy and a dead dog – some sadness must happen) those scenes were less fun to read but wonderfully evocative. One of the trips that Rose takes Charles on was particularly upsetting…nuff said there.

In short – this is memorable, fun and one that you absolutely should consider if you are looking for something new to try.


Dead is Better is published by Fahrenheit Press and you can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Better-Charlie-Rose-Investigate-ebook/dp/B01BNG5KH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468880239&sr=8-1&keywords=dead+is+better



Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Dead Is Better – Jo Perry