October 12

Guest Post: Mason Cross – Serial Heroes

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

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

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

Serial Heroes – Harry Bosch


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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




Category: Guests, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Guest Post: Mason Cross – Serial Heroes
October 10

Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes

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

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


Doctor Who.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

Category: Guests, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes
October 9

Guest Post: Jane Isaac – Serial Heroes

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

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

Jane Isaac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post: Jane Isaac – Serial Heroes
October 9

Guest Post – Graham Smith: Serial Heroes

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

It turns out I could ask and they would answer!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Graham Smith: Serial Heroes
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
May 1

Guest Post – Steven Dunne: Serial Heroes

Last year I invited 5 authors to join me to discuss the books that they loved.  I wanted to know about an ongoing series which they looked forward to reading or a collection of books that they just loved to revisit.  I called the feature Serial Heroes and you can catch up on that week here.

Now I am thrilled to be able to share Serial Heroes Season 2. I have more guests who have fantastic books to discuss and they will tell us why these stories mean so much to them. Once again I had wanted to hear about the heroes they enjoy reading or, in the case of my first guest – Steven Dunne – should that perhaps be an anti-hero?

Serial Killers

Silence 2I discovered crime novels when I was very young starting with the wonderful Agatha Christie. In my late teens, I left Christie behind for a few years, not because they weren’t still brilliant books but because the milieu in which they were set had very little social relevance to a working class boy growing up in Yorkshire trying to find himself.

But a decade or so later I re-discovered the genre with The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris which just blew me away and I devoured Red Dragon and his other novels. What appealed particularly about his work was the total amorality of the serial killers he portrayed. The idea that an individual could simply ignore all of the conventions and social niceties that the rest of us take for granted, not even consider them as important or relevant, and commit crimes according to their own needs and psychological drives, was strange and amazing to me. Nobody else’s human rights had value and I thought it was fantastic the way Harris portrayed both Buffalo Bill but particularly Dr Hannibal Lecter.Red Dragon

At the outset his depraved agenda appeared alien but the fact that it was so natural to him gave me pause for thought. It also impressed and excited me and I began to examine why I was drawn to such a fictional monster. Thankfully I wasn’t alone – Hannibal had clearly struck a chord with the reading and cinema-going public – so I didn’t have to classify myself as an oddball.

And it didn’t take long to realise that we all envy aspects of the psychopathy of serial killers, particularly those classified as organised. We regard them as omnipotent figures possessing the will to follow their desires to the exclusion of every other consideration. These killers are our complete opposites. Where ordinary people have to make daily compromises that eat away at our sense of self and lead to feelings of powerlessness, serial killers have the resolve to act where we would keep silent and tolerate. In effect, we have to suffer fools while serial killers get to eat them with a nice Chianti. Their killings tap into our own exasperation with people who bore or irritate. I loved the idea of killing and eating a census taker purely as a response to annoyance because we all have similar impulses which we have had to tame.

And so when I decided to write a novel of my own, it seemed a good idea to have a stab at a thriller in which the serial killer wasn’t shameful or apologetic about their deeds but gloried in the righteousness of his kills. Hopefully all my serial killers – from The Reaper to the Deity killer to the Pied Piper from The Unquiet Grave carry traces of the same DNA that made Hannibal Lecter such a compelling creation. And in that DNA there should be a trace of all us, enabling us to empathise with at least the serial killer’s determination to act, where we would hesitate.


Steven Dunne


Steven Dunne’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Steven-Dunne/e/B0045BIAWA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1462135086&sr=8-1 where you can order copies of all his books.Death Do Us Part On Thursday 5th May Steven’s latest book DEATH DO US PART is released – you can order that here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Do-Part-Damen-Brook-ebook/dp/B011IYIDQY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


You can find Steven on Twitter @ReaperSteven or at his own website: https://sdunne2013.wordpress.com/

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Guest Post – Steven Dunne: Serial Heroes
December 18

Guest Post – Michael Malone: Serial Heroes

Day four and another chance for me to find out which books the authors like to read. My curiosity extends beyond a single title or a novel which inspired – I want to know which characters my guests like to follow and see developed over a period of time. I want to know the ongoing series that they look forward to reading or to revisit when the chance arises.

This week-long feature began with Douglas Skelton and Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct.  Next was Angela Marsons discussing Val McDermid’s Tony Hill books. Yesterday Helen Giltrow shared her love of Mick Herron’s Slough House books. 

Today I am delighted to welcome Michael J Malone, author of the phenomenal Guillotine Choice and creator of the DI Ray McBain series.  Michael’s latest book Beyond The Rage has been receiving rave reviews (including my own 5 star review) and in 2016 his next novel, A Suitable Lie, will be published by Orenda Books.

I am particularly pleased that Michael was able to take part in this feature – his encouragement of my book obsession ultimately resulted in the creation of this blog. I am always keen to know what Michael is reading…over the years he has directed me to some fantastic books.



The Neon RainJames Lee Burke’s story is one that all writers should heed. His first book was published in 1965. Other books followed in 1970 and 1971. Then the publishing world turned their back on him and he couldn’t publish a word for love, money or whisky. His fourth book, The Lost Get Back Boogie was rejected 111 times – that’s not a typo – over a nine year period. Eventually, when it did get published it was nominated for Pulitzer Prize.

Proof it it’s needed in the William Goldman quote, “Nobody knows nothing.” Goldman was of course talking about the movie industry, but he might as well have been talking about publishing.

In 1984, while fishing, JLB’s friend suggested he should try writing a crime novel. Burke later decamped to a coffee shop and started scribbling on a yellow, legal pad. The Neon Rain, the first novel to feature Dave Robicheaux was born.

Once an officer for the New Orleans police department, Dave Robicheaux constantly breaks the ethical code during the course of just about every case he works on and in the current run of novels pursues cases in New Iberia, Louisiana as a sheriff’s deputy. He is a recovering alcoholic who is haunted by his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and his impoverished, tough childhood in Louisiana; his mother abandoned the family (and was later murdered) and his father was killed in an oil rig explosion.

He may break the expected code of police ethics, but Dave has a strong moral compass and through the course of the books is continuously exercised by the abuse of power, social inequalities and the battle between good and evil.

When you crack open the spine of a James Lee Burke novel you are never in doubt that you are in for something special. There is a richness to this man’s writing that cannot fail to delight. His words transport you so that you feel you are on location with the characters and that poetry combined with the vitality and violence of his characters is a potent combination.

Light of the WorldBurke specialises in imbuing his characters with certainty of action, even while their motives are conflicted. He has the talent to work his way under the skin of his characters; to cut into the underbelly of the human psyche and display it in all its many guises. Whether that be those individuals who succumb to the power and pulse of quotidian evil or those struggling to make sense of their lives and make peace with their lot

His set pieces are sharp and effective and his prose swoops and soars with a lyricism that would make a poet’s heart ache with envy. The plot continues to drive you forward but you force yourself to slow down: to savour the quality of the words arranged on the page.

James Lee Burke has won an Edgar award twice and he is acknowledged as one of America’s finest living novelists. If you haven’t already done so, you owe it to yourself to check him out.


You can find all of James Lee Burke’s novels at his Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/James-Lee-Burke/e/B000AP7MME/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450393644&sr=1-2-ent

MjMMichael Malone also has a handy page over at Amazon to let you track down his books easily too:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-J.-Malone/e/B009WV9V4Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1450393872&sr=8-1


Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Michael Malone: Serial Heroes
December 15

Guest Post – Angela Marsons: Serial Heroes

Back in October I spent an entertaining evening listening to Mr Douglas Skelton discussing his writing experiences. During the course of the conversation Douglas told the assembled gathering that he was a fan of the Ed McBain 87th Precinct books.  That got me wondering which other ongoing series of crime novels authors looked forward to reading. I decided I would try and find out.

I asked five authors if they would like to prepare a short guest post in which they shared their thoughts on their favourite crime series. As it was Douglas that started this quest he got to kick off proceedings yesterday and you can read his thoughts on Ed McBain’s books here:

Today I am delighted to welcome my second guest: Angela Marsons.

When I drew up my Top Ten books of 2015 Angela presented me with a bit of a dilemma – she released three books during the year (Silent Scream, Evil Games and Lost Girls) but under my strict rules I could only allow myself to include one of her books in the list. All were worthy of inclusion and if you have not yet met DI Kim Stone then I suggest you rectify that as soon as you have finished reading this article!

I will pass this over to Angela now – I suspect that she would not be alone with this selection…



When I was asked to write a piece about my favourite series of books there was no hesitation in my choosing the ‘Tony Hill’ series of books written by Val McDermid.

I love everything this lady writes and would happily read her shopping list if she would let me.

In the Tony Hill series Val McDermid taps into the two things that interest me the most in both reading and writing.  Psychology and Crime.

Splinter the SilenceTony Hill is a psychological profiler who is both driven and damaged but very intriguing.  None of the books satisfy my need to know more about him which has to be the mark of a true genius that after nine books I’m still hungry for more.

I enjoy the chemistry between the character of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan and the inability of our hero to take their relationship to the next level only adds to the intrigue of his character and offers us yet another layer to his personality.  The character of Carol Jordan is not without her flaws but is the perfect foil to let Tony Hill shine.

It was through the television series that I discovered these books as I am a great fan of Robson Green who I think portrays the character perfectly.  So well, in fact, that the part could have been written for him.

Even though I had watched the television series this did not detract from my enjoyment of the books.  Many plot twists and storylines that exist in the books do not make it to the screen and reading the book is like rediscovering the story all over again but with many more stories expertly threaded in too.

To get the best out of these books I would suggest cancelling your plans, switching off the phone, laptop, iPad and smart phone and just immerse yourself in a spectacular journey that starts on the very first page.



Angela MarsonsAngela Marsons can be found over at http://angelamarsons-books.com/

She is also on Twitter: @WriteAngie

I reviewed Silent Scream, Evil Games and Lost Girls earlier this year and you can link through to my reviews by clicking on the book title.  If you missed which of the three I included in my Top Ten I eventually opted for Evil Games (best villain in any of the books that I read this year).

Visit Angela’s Amazon page where you can easily purchase any of her books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angela-Marsons/e/B00J6D3914/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450222771&sr=8-2-ent


Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Angela Marsons: Serial Heroes