Monthly Archives: October 2017

Review – London Noir by Ann Girdharry

The Blurb

Memory loss, nightmares, the urge to kill – Sophie has it all. Is it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Or something more sinister? Kal is about to find out…

After a near-fatal road accident, Kal helps a young girl in trouble. The girl’s friends are being murdered one by one. Why? And who by?

Kal must kick start herself out of her downward spiral to save the young stranger.

But Kal is in the grip of the London Cartel and is someone after the girl, or is the girl after someone?

 Crime Suspense Thriller.
A stand alone story.
The second Kal Medi book.

My Thoughts

London Noir is the second book in Girdharry’s Kal Medi series, following on from Good Girl Bad Girl which was published last year. While London Noir does work as a standalone, it is better to have read Good Girl Bad Girl firstly because you will get more of a sense of Kal’s history and secondly because it’s a cracking read.

When Kal is involved in a road traffic accident with a young woman called Sophie she is immediately drawn to her … and subsequently drawn into Sophie’s dangerous life. Sophie’s friends are being killed and Kal helps her to find out who is responsible and why.

I really liked the character of Kal in the first book and knew this would be a protagonist I wanted to follow. She is a kick-arse, gutsy, intelligent photo-journalist with an interesting background, thanks in part to her father who her taught her all about understanding body language and how to read and manipulate people. In this second book we see a softer and more vulnerable side to Kal. This makes me like her even more and there is plenty of scope for Girdharry to continue with this character and I look forward to seeing how Kal develops as the series progresses.

London Noir draws you in immediately with a first chapter that captures your attention and leaves you wanting to know more. From there the pace gradually gains momentum and you become completely gripped. The plot is fast-moving and keeps the reader of their toes with twists and turns galore making London Noir a thrilling ride.

The killer in London Noir may well be the most evil, chilling antagonist I have come across this year! Punctuated with chapters in which the killer narrates in first person, Girdharry ensures that the reader’s attention is maintained throughout. I loved getting an insight into what makes the killer tick but bloomin’ heck it sent shivers down my spine as it is as creepy as hell!

What I really like about this series is the use of psychology and body language that Girdharry incorporates. This adds an additional layer and there is an intelligence in Girdharry’s books that make them stand apart from other crime thrillers.

If you haven’t yet checked out the Kal Medi series yet I strongly suggest you do. Current, unnerving, well cast and plotted, London Noir is a must for crime fiction fans.

Published on 17 October 2017 by Chassagnard Publishing.

A huge thank you to Ann Girdharry for the advance copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Read my review of Good Girl Bad Girl HERE.

Author Influences with JA Baker

Today I’m joined by the lovely JA Baker to talk books and writing in this week’s Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I was completely hooked on Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I adored English at school from starting Primary right through to College and beyond. It was definitely my favourite subject. I was fairly good at it and loved writing stories.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I like reading most genres but my favourite without a doubt is psychological suspense/domestic noir. Reading them has had a huge impact on my own writing, helping me to sharpen my skills and use the element of suspense in the best way possible in my stories.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I would love to have a go at writing something with a supernatural theme. I think I would fail miserably at writing romance and will therefore stick to thrillers!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
It was Penny Hancock’s thriller, Tideline that finally set me on the path to becoming an author. I had always wanted to write but lacked the know how and the drive to do it even though I had completed a writing course a few years previously. I just thought it was so brilliantly written and was such an unusual theme that I felt compelled to have a go, and so here I am!

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
I generally don’t rush out to buy a book as soon as it comes out but so far have loved reading anything by Sabine Durrant as I think her style of writing is poetic.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Again, anything by Sabine Durrant and also Tideline. I also wish I had written both of the Paula Hawkins books as she is gifted at writing.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
I steer clear of using real life characters as inspiration for that very reason but in Undercurrent the location where I live was my inspiration for the book. A river runs at the bottom of my garden which at night can be pretty eerie so thought it would provide a perfect setting for a thriller.

A huge thank you for taking part. Thank you so much for inviting me to take part Abbie. It’s been a pleasure.

JA Baker’s second novel Her Dark Retreat was published on 17 October 2017 by Bloodhound Books. 

The Blurb

The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.

Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.

To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.

What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?

About the Author

I live in the North East of England and am married with four grown up children, a grandson and a crazy dog called Theo. My first book, Undercurrent is available on Amazon and my next novel entitled Her Dark Retreat was released on October 17th.

My website is www.jabakerauthor.com and you can follow me on Twitter @thewriterjude or on Facebook by clicking on J A Baker Author. Please feel free to visit and contact me with any question about my writing!

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Review and Author Q&A*

Today is the second stop on my Countdown To Hull Noir feature and I’m delighted to welcome Matt Wesolowski to the Bloomin’ Brilliant Books for an interview. Matt is taking part in the Getting Away With Murder: Golden Age Vs Digital Age talk on Sunday 19th November. I unfortunately missed Matt at Newcastle Noir so I’m pleased to be seeing him this time round.

Before my interview with Matt I’m sharing my thoughts on his debut novel Six Stories.

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

My Thoughts

Six Stories, the debut novel by Matt Wesolowski, has been on my radar for a while having received rave reviews by other book bloggers. It was a book I knew I wanted to get round to reading sooner rather than later partly because I loved the sound of it and partly to see what all the fuss is about. Is it worthy of the fuss and the rave reviews? Damn bloody right it is! I loved this book!

Journalist Scott King is attempting to unravel the death of teenager Tom Jeffries that occurred in 1996 in Scarclaw Fell, Northumberland. Through his podcast he interviews those who were present at the time to try and get to the bottom of who or what caused his death. Told through the podcasts and punctuated by the son of the owner of Scarclaw Fell, Six Stories offers something totally unique and I got completely drawn into this book immediately.

Orenda have this knack of finding really talented authors and Wesolowski is one of those talented authors. Telling a tale through six different voices is not an easy task but Wesoloski pulls it off flawlessly, ensuring that the unique personality of each character comes through in the narration. None of the characters are particularly likeable, something that I love in a book, and it has you second guessing as to who is telling the truth about Tom Jeffries’s death throughout.

Six Stories is beautifully written and I fell in love with a folksong that one of the characters recites. I Googled it to see who had written it and discovered it was written by Wesolowski. Six Stories is brimming with atmosphere as Wesolowski describes the rugged and hostile terrain of Northumberland with its marshes and disused mineshafts. It literally bristles with tension and unease.

As Scott King unpicks what happened on that fateful night, we discover a tale of bullying and pack mentality amongst a group of teenagers known as the Rangers who spent time at Scarclaw Fell. This brought back memories of Lord of the Flies to me as each of the, now grown-up, teenagers talk of their place within the group, the pressure to fit in, the social dynamics and tussle for dominance. This gives Six Stories a depth and added layer that I wasn’t expecting. Alongside this, Wesolowski makes you think about the role of the media in reporting crimes and the impact that trial by media can have on those targeted.

I absolutely adored the way old and new folklore meld together throughout Six Stories giving it a creepy, ethereal feel. The hairs on my arms regularly stood on end while reading this book and yet the creepiness also has an enchantment to it due to the prose.

Wesolowski has managed to thread the story together in a complex way and has pulled it off brilliantly. Six Stories deserves the praise it has received and Wesolowski is an author to keep your eyes on. Current, unique and startling Six Stories is a must-read!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda Books.

Q&A With Matt Wesolowski

 

Six Stories has a very current format in that it is told through the use of podcasts. What was the inspiration behind this?
I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. From being a teenager, I read a great many books about real murders and serial killers before I ever read any crime fiction. I always wanted to write about a fictional true crime but never had enough skill to do so convincingly. When someone recommended me the Serial podcast, I was instantly hooked on its unique way of storytelling and it was like I had finally found the medium to write my fictional true crime.

Social Media now has a huge presence in our lives. How so you feel about it? Is it a force for good or a necessary evil?
There are good and bad things about social media. I’m not a big fan. It makes me sad that so many people, from young people to adults feel that they their only validation can come from ‘likes’ on photos of themselves. To me, that’s baffling.
However, it is a great tool for sharing book recommendations, jokes and strange things – a double-edged sword perhaps? It’s not going anywhere, so I think we have to be careful about how we use it. You see people utterly consumed by it which is pretty depressing.

Six Stories is told via six different people and interspersed by Scott King. How did you go about ensuring each character had their own unique voice?
That was really hard to do. I had to hear their voice, the character had to arrive in my head pretty much formed before I could do their voices justice. This was for sure the hardest aspect of writing the book.

Six Stories has a complex plot in that it takes six different point of view. Did you have to meticulously plot it or did you see where your writing took you?
I never plan, I’ve tried a few times and it’s killed the story dead before it’s started. With Six Stories, I didn’t know who killed Tom Jeffries until I was about half way through episode five! It was only after I’d completed the first draft that I had to go back and snip off all the frayed edges of the story.

How important has social media being in the promotion of your debut novel?
For all my fear and resistance of it, it’s actually been really important. Karen, my publisher had to tell me to unlock my Twitter account so people could interact with me when Six Stories came out. I still find it amazing when people tweet me to tell me they liked it, that’s really special as I’ve done that with so many authors I like!
Social media can be a wonderful tool; for things like book promotion, I just find being accessible to anyone on there a bit scary!

Where you active on social media prior to the release of your novel?
I’m quite a solitary and private person so I find being ‘available’ on social media quite stressful. I appreciate, though, that you have to be so I use Twitter and there’s a Facebook page I use for author promotion stuff. I’m not one for arguing about politics etc online though; to me, that’s just an exercise in futility.
One of the themes in Hydra, the follow-up to Six Stories explores the detrimental effect social media can have; I think I was exploring my own fears!

You were at Newcastle Noir and are taking part in Hull Noir in November. Does talking at literary events come easily or do you get nervous?
I do get really nervous because I know how important these things are; people have paid money to come and hear you and you don’t want to let them down! I remember being an audience member at these sorts of events and buying books because of how the authors came across. I do my best to not appear nervous!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Always. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life; chef, teacher, shop assistant, but I always wrote, that was always the ultimate goal.

What has been the best part of your journey to published author?
I think it’s when you see your work in an actual shop. There was a wonderful moment when my son was five and we saw Six Stories in Waterstone’s. He pointed it out to me and gave me a massive hug and said he was proud of me. A few tears may or may not have leaked out!

If you weren’t writing what other job would you love to do?
Like I say, I’ve done a lot of jobs but I’ve not really loved any of them like I do writing. I love animals though, so perhaps working with them in some sort of rescue centre?

Thank you for taking part Matt. I have really enjoyed reading your responses.

For full details of Hull Noir 2017 including programme and ticket details click HERE. Hope to see you there!

 

Blog Tour – Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister and sharing my review. 

The Blurb

Gone Girl meets Sliding Doors in this edge-of-your-seat thriller

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

My Thoughts

Having really enjoyed McAllister’s debut novel Everything But The Truth I was eager to read her next novel Anything You Do Say. McAllister has definitely proved herself as a talented writer and an author who has a great career ahead of her.

Anything You Do Say is narrated in first person by main character Joanna Oliva. Following a night out with her friend in which a man in the pub has become a little too ‘friendly’ Joanna, who usually avoids making decisions, finds herself having to make the biggest decision of her life. On her way home Joanna believes she is being followed by the creep from the pub and as he gets closer she pushes him down some steps. As his body lies at the bottom of the steps Joanna has to decide whether she will stay and call for help or run and keep quiet about it.

McAllister presents both outcomes to us as Anything You Do Say is split into alternating chapters of Reveal and Conceal. We follow Joanna through the outcome of each decision and see the impact that both have on her life and the lives of her family and friends. This could have the potential of becoming complicated and muddled but McAllister pulls it off perfectly. It works incredibly well and makes the book really compelling. Each chapter is flawlessly crafted and the fact that each alternating chapter tells one half of the story makes Anything You Do Say really difficult to put down.

I loved the moral aspect of Anything You Do Say and this would make a great book for a reading group as there is so much to discuss. McAllister has considered every possible outcome for the two scenarios and this is a book that really gets you thinking. I was also emotionally moved as the consequences of both outcomes are heart breaking. I spent quite a lot of time trying to decide whether the fall out was worse for concealing or revealing and for me I found concealing the hardest to take.

Anything You Do Say is a wonderful book. It is meticulously plotted, well written and offers something unique to the psychological thriller genre. I loved it and highly recommend it.

Published on  eBook on 19 October 2016 and paperback on 25 January 2018 by paperback.

A huge thank you to Gillian McAllister and Penguin for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

 

 

 

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Broken Dreams and Interview with Nick Quantrill

I am incredibly excited that, in a month’s time, I will be attending Hull Noir. This crime book festival holds a special place in my heart as it is taking place in my home town and, as anyone from Hull will tell you, you can take the girl out of Hull but you can’t take Hull out of the girl! To celebrate this upcoming book festival I will be featuring reviews and Q&A’s with authors who are attending over the next month.

I’m extremely delighted to be kicking this feature off with my review of Broken Dreams by Hull author Nick Quantrill and a Q&A with the man himself. Nick has been an integral part of organising Hull Noir and I am beyond delighted to welcome him to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books. Anyhoo, I will stop blabbing and crack on!

The Blurb

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

My Thoughts

Much to my shame, this is my first novel by Nick Quantrill. This causes me shame on two counts as: 1. Nick is from my home town of Hull and 2. his books are set in Hull. However, the blog and upcoming attendance at Hull Noir has given me the push to read those books I hadn’t got round to yet and, while Broken Dreams is Nick’s first book in the PI Joe Geraghty, it is always good to discover a new to you series and give those older books some publicity.

Joe Geraghty is a private investigator and he becomes embroiled in the murder of woman who he, along with his partner, had been asked to investigate. Joe quickly finds himself being pulled into Hull’s seedy underbelly.

I am a big fan of crime books that are from the point of view of a private investigator rather than a detective. It ensures that the investigation relies on good old-fashioned detective work rather than a reliance on forensics and other scientific methods and the main character is not governed by police procedure, giving them carte blanche to investigate how they want. I really liked the character of Joe who this series follows. He has had his fair share of life’s difficulties but does not followed the somewhat cliched path that many detectives/private investigators in books do. He is not afraid to stand up to bullies and do what is right despite those that threaten him. Quantrill has cleverly built up Joe’s character gradually, giving the reader enough information to feel as though they know him but also leaving enough unsaid to ensure you want to find out more about him as the series progresses.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Broken Dreams and found myself gripped by this book and Joe’s investigation. As usual, I found myself trying to work out ‘whodunnit’ but Quantrill threw enough curveballs my way to ensure I didn’t suss it out. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot but I will say that it takes you deep into the seamier side of Hull life.

Broken Dreams is a novel about corruption and the after-effects on a city and its people following the obliteration of the trade it has always relied on. Quantrill’s affection for his home town shines through and yet he does not shy away from describing its less than salubrious side. Being from Hull, I really enjoyed how Quantrill portrayed the city’s history and cleverly linked it in to the plot to make it totally relevant to the story.

Quantrill has completely captured the sense of place and (for obvious reasons!) I adored the setting. It features real places within Hull and is rich in Hull colloquialisms (tenfoot!) which I’m sure may have caused some confusion amongst non-Hull readers!

I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading Broken Dreams and I will be reading the rest of Quantrill’s books. If you like your crime novels to be gritty with a real northern feel and setting check out Broken Dreams.

Broken Dreams was published on 15 March 2010 by Caffeine Nights.

I reviewed my own copy.

Q&A with Nick Quantrill

Had you always wanted to be a writer and what gave you the push to write your first novel?
No, it wasn’t something I had a burning desire to do from a young age, but I’ve always been a big reader and that was crucial. Growing up in Hull in the 1980’s meant the arts weren’t really on the agenda, but doing an Open University degree in my mid-twenties kicked some life into me. I fancied writing a short story, so I did. And then I wrote another and another and here we are…

Which writers have been your inspiration?
There are so many, but if I can only pick one, I always look to Ian Rankin. The way he writes about serious issues in a thrilling manner and brings the city of Edinburgh to life is very inspiring. I do take a lot of inspiration from the current crop of Hull writers, too. There’s a very supportive group of writers working in the area and making things happen.

Do you carefully plan the plots of your books or do you write and see where it takes you?
I lean towards planning, and after a couple of false starts this year, I’m working harder on getting it right before starting. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, though. Even writers who don’t plan probably have a destination in mind. The sweet spot is maybe finding a framework you know can sustain 90,000-plus words, but with enough space for it to breathe and develop as you work.

Your most recent novel has been a break away from the Joe Geraghty series. Will we be seeing Joe again is the future?
Good question. I deliberately left him in a place at the end of The Crooked Beat that I could pick him up back up from if I wanted to, so maybe. It would need the right story, though. Geraghty wouldn’t have worked as a protagonist in The Dead Can’t, and definitely not in the story I’m slowly working on.

What are the biggest challenges in writing a series of books?
As a writer, it’s about keeping it fresh and interesting. If you’re not feeling it, nor will the reader. I think writers like Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham do it really well by revealing small details that have big repercussions, essentially reinventing Rebus and Thorne as they go along. A series can go stale, but as readers, I’m sure we all love the soap opera nature of picking up a character’s story. It’s like catching up with an old friend.

The sense of place really shines through in your books and you use your hometown of Hull as your setting. Was this simply because you know Hull really well or was there another reason behind using Hull?
I’ve only ever lived in Hull, so there’s definitely an element of knowing it well, but the main reason was to explore what it meant to me as a place. When I started to write, Hull was the newly-crowned ‘Crap Town’ of the UK and the only thing we were top of the league for was teenage pregnancies etc. I wanted to dig a bit deeper and get beyond all that stuff. I’ve been very lucky that the city has changed massively over the last decade and it’s given me plenty of things to write about.

Being a Hull lass I really identify with the places in your books. I had my first pint in Joe’s local pub, The Queens. It’s clear you have a strong affection for the city (as I feel most people from Hull do) so how important is it to you to portray a good yet realistic image of Hull in your books?
It’s more important to me that what I write is my truth, rather than act as a cheerleader for the local tourist board. My mum often asked when I’m going to say something nice about the city, but I think I’m fair, I’ve always been proud to set my work in my home city, but we all experience places very differently.

Hull has been a much neglected northern city over the years especially following the decline in the fishing industry. What difference do you think being 2017’s City of Culture will have on Hull culturally, socially and economically?
I’m optimistic, as it’s a city with a lot to offer. The problem, of course, is that you don’t just pass through. You need a reason to come. I have been stopped on the streets this year by tourists asking for directions, which is new, and I’m encouraged that so many locals are rediscovering what’s on their doorstep. More than anything, I think Hull has a bit more confidence about itself.

Hull Noir is taking place next month (I can’t bloody wait!) and you have played a key part in organising it. What have been the challenges and the high points of organising a literary crime festival?
Everything has been a massive challenge! The team is essentially myself, Nick Triplow and Nikki East backed up by excellent people from City of Culture, but everyone from other crime festivals through to PR people to readers have kindly offered their help. Our skills have largely complimented each other, but the learning curve remains steep! The high point so far has been the panel planning. All the authors involved bought into the festival as part of the UK City of Culture programme immediately and made it easy for us. Narrowing it down to the forty or so taking part was incredibly painful, but it’s rewarding to see it coming together.

What are you most looking forward to at Hull Noir?
I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that as one of the hosts, I won’t necessarily get the opportunity to see all that much. I’m hoping to catch Martina Cole and Mark Billingham/John Connolly close each day, as well as Jake Arnott. Our main aim, though, is to send readers and writers home happy with good memories of a brilliant time in Hull. I’m also quite looking forward to having a rest and getting back to the writing!

Thank you so much Nick for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I will see you next month!

Hull Noir takes place between 12 – 19 November 2017  and looks set to be fantastic with a cracking line up of crime authors.Find out more over at the website HERE. Hope to see you there!

 


Author Influences with Nathan O’ Hagan

I am delighted to be joined by Nathan O’Hagan for today’s Author Influences. Nathan is an author and one half of new publishers Obliterati Press (I love that name!) and today he is telling us about the books and authors that inspired him.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I was pretty badly dyslexic as a child, so reading was a big struggle, but I managed to read a collection of abridged Sherlock Holmes stories when I was about nine or ten, which I absolutely loved, and then went on to read the originals. Reading Conan Doyle’s stories definitely helped me overcome my dyslexia, so I’ll always have a soft spot for them.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Along with history, English was one of the few subjects I did ok in. I enjoyed the reading part, not so much the comprehension and all that. I also found the syllabus pretty uninspiring. I enjoyed it more as I got older when we allowed to choose our own books to read. I was choosing stuff like American Psycho, Silence Of The Lambs and Philip K. Dick, some of which was probably pretty unsuitable for a thirteen year old.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I know it’s a bit vague, but I like literary fiction. I’m mostly inspired by books that reflect reality, either mine or someone else’s. I like social realism, so I’m not a huge fan of ‘genre’ fiction like fantasy, but I’m certainly fond of a bit of crime or even sci-fi in small doses.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Probably crime. I had a sort of stab at it with my second novel Out Of The City, but that was much closer to psychological thriller than full on crime. I’d love write a balls-out crime thriller at some point, it’s a great genre and I’d love to see if I was able to write the police procedural aspect, as I think that takes a patience and skill that I don’t currently posses.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Definitely James Ellroy. After leaving uni and spending some time on the dole, I devoured his entire back catalogue in the space of a few weeks. For weeks afterwards I was just mentally stuck in 50’s L.A. I’d written music and started a screenplay before that, but then I knew writing fiction was something I had to do.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Ellroy still. His last couple of books have been pretty disappointing, but he’s still the master. I’m just hoping he writes something as powerful as American Tabloid or The Big Nowhere again soon. New Russ Litten, Kevin Sampson and Chuck Palahniuk books are always reasons to get excited too.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Fight Club. It was just so powerful, like a punch to the gut. It captured the mood of a generation. It’s one of the defining novels of the decade, as was the film. Every writer would kill to capture the imagination like Palahniuk did with that book.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Oh God yes. ‘Write what you know’ is the oldest adage, and it’s absolutely true. I’ve based many events and characters either on specifics or amalgamations. But beyond that, listening to how people talk in real life is incredibly important. I always want my dialogue to sound like a conversation you might overhear in a pub, workplace coffee room or on a bus, so in that sense, everything I do is influenced by real people.

Nathan’s current novel Out of the City is out now. Here’s what it’s about:

The new novel by Birkenhead-born Nathan O’Hagan, author of The World is (Not) a Cold Dead Place, turns the temperature down to absolute zero in a thriller that stalks the darkest corners of the male psyche.

The new novel by Birkenhead-born Nathan O’Hagan, author of The World is (Not) a Cold Dead Place, turns the temperature down to absolute zero in a thriller that stalks the darkest corners of the male psyche.

This noir journey through bars, gyms, retirement homes, gay clubs and footballers’ mansions leaves a trail of suffocating guilt and psychosexual violence that seems all too real. In exploring ‘crises of masculinity’, O’Hagan trenches psychological depths with a worldly cynicism worthy of Camus, Jim Thompson or Bret Easton Ellis – and transcends the limits of the crime genre as we know it.

About Nathan O’Hagan

Nathan grew up on Merseyside, and now lives in the Midlands with his wife and two children and works full time for the NHS. After spending most of his teens and twenties in various unsuccessful bands, Nathan eventually turned his hand to writing. In 2013, he self published a short fiction collection, Purge.

The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place was his first completed novel, published through Leeds based “punk publishers” Armley Press in 2015, and was described by author Russ Litten as “a beautiful bruise of a novel.” It is currently in development for a potential UK TV series.

This was followed up by Out Of The City in 2017, which Nick Quantrill called “a scuzzy piece of swirling Scouse neo-noir”.

In 2017 Nathan co-founded Obliterati Press with writer M.W. Leeming. Their first novel is Lord Of The Dead by Richard Rippon, which is published 3rd November 2017.

He regularly writes features and reviews for God Is In The TV, Sabotage Times and Clash Music.

Website: nathanohagan.weebly.com

Twitter: @NathanOHagan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NathanOHaganwriter/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=nathan+o%27hagan

Obliterati Press:

Website: obliteratipress.com
Twitter: @ObliteratiPress

Facebook: @ObliteratiPress

A huge thank you Nathan for taking part and for the brilliant answers. I WILL get my copy of The World is (not) a Cold Dead Place read and reviewed soon, I promise! Wishing Obliterati Press every success. I love the premise behind what you guys are doing.

 

Blog Tour – The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen *Review*

I am delighted to be one of today’s hosts for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen and I’m finally sharing my review of this fab book. But first the all important blurb…

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

My Thoughts

I love a book with a cracking first line and Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died has one of THOSE first lines. It is both amusing and unexpected. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Jaakko is a successful mushroom farmer in Finland and is shocked when he finds out that he is dying. Not only is he dying but it is due to being poisoned. Jaakko embarks on a journey to discover who it is who wants him dead and discovers more secrets and lies than he expects.

I absolutely love Jaakko! Tuomainen has created an incredibly likeable, relatable character. You become completely at one with him and he is the sort of person I would love to have a pint with. Jaakko is incredibly human as we see his everyday concerns – such as having put on a bit of extra weight in his thirties – those things that we all, at times, worry about. His sardonic outlook and wry, dark wit appealed to me greatly. As somebody with a chronic illness who has had to adjust to certain limitations and symptoms, Jaakko’s outlook on his health and situation and how he deals with it really struck a chord with me. He manages to see the humour in his situation and The Man Who Died had me giggling out loud and nodding my head in agreement.

Tuomainen has also written a great mystery novel. As we join Jaakko on is journey to discover who is behind poisoning him we are treated to twists, turns and red herrings all set against a stunning backdrop. Tuomainen’s prose is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s as though he has spent time carefully considering every word to ensure it fits and makes an impact and yet it flows effortlessly. As always with Orenda books, the translation by David Hackston is flawless.

The Man Who Died subverts being categorised into a genre. For me it is a book about the absurdity of living and dying and how we, as humans, deal with it. It’s almost philosophical in tone in that it makes you think about the ridiculousness of worrying about the minutiae of life – something we are probably all good at but which does us no favours.

Full of the darkest, wonderful humour and a gripping plot Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died is a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Tuomainen’s abilty to pull off this departure from his usual writing and to pull it off with such skill is a testament to his talent as writer.

Published on 10 October 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his
literary best.

A huge thank you to Antti Tuomainen, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and guest posts…

 

 

 

Review – The Girl From The Sugar Plantation by Sharon Maas

The Blurb

An unputdownable story of a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Guyana. All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I adore Sharon Maas’s books, so when a new one comes out I am always very excited and eager to read it. There is always a sense of anticipation when picking up the new novel by one of your favourite authors; will it be as good as their previous novels? What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? Maas, however, delivers again and The Girl From The Sugar Plantation exceeded all my expectations.

The Girl From The Sugar Plantation is the third (and sadly final) part of The Quint Chronicles. It works perfectly as a standalone so don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two books. We follow Mary Grace (known as Grace) Smedley-Cox in British Guyana from 1935 to the 1960’s. Grace is the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners and, at the age of sixteen, she is desperate to know the truth behind her parentage. What follows is an epic story of family deceit, love and identity set against a stunning backdrop and yet there is much more to this book than that.

Maas, as always, has beautifully created the sense of place. You can see, smell and hear Guyana and you are completely transported there. The Guyanan sun was a welcome break from the somewhat dull British autumn months. You are on the plantations and in Georgetown while reading this book and, indeed, Maas’s other books in the series.

With a rich cast of characters, you cannot help but get completely absorbed in their lives. Grace is in an unusual situation in that she has status as the daughter of plantation owners but she is the ‘wrong’ skin colour during a time and in a place in which the colour of your skin determines your future and your standing. This gives The Girl From The Sugar Plantation that extra depth which makes the book all the more compelling.

Alongside the tale of family secrets and love is the tale of oppression and social change and it is this aspect that makes The Girl From The Sugar Plantation even more enjoyable for me. Maas has clearly carefully conducted her research and portrays this time of great change in Guyanan history with authenticity, skilfully mixing historical fact with fiction.

The political landscape The Girl From The Sugar Plantation is fascinating. I only realised on reading the Historical Notes that Jock Campbell actually existed and that there is very little written about this hero. Maas has done him and his family proud in her portrayal of him. It is comforting to know that in an often harsh and unequal world there are and have been people out there who have a social conscience and become a force for good.

I adored The Girl From The Sugar Plantation and recommend it highly. If you love books that contain exotic settings, family secrets and lies and historical fact you will enjoy this book. Maas has brought us a wonderfully written piece of historical fiction.

Published on 19 October 2017 by Bookouture.

A huge thank you to Sharon Maas, Bookouture and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

To read my reviews of Sharon’s other books and the Author Influences feature with her click HERE.

 

 

Publication Day Guest Post With J.D Dixon ‘What I Write About When I’m Writing’

I am delighted to be joined by J.D Dixon today with a fab guest post. James’s debut novel The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is out today. Happy publication day! And now I will hand you over to the man himself.

What I Write About When I’m Writing

I get asked from time to time: ‘why do you write?’

I struggle to answer, as I’m sure many writers do. There is no particular choice to become a writer. There is no eureka moment when you know it is what you have to do, no sudden yearning to see your words in print- just a quiet pull that was there before you noticed it, and which will be there long after you have taken it for granted. This is how I would describe my desire to be a writer- or rather, my desire to write (there is a difference).

I know this might sound ambiguous, ineffable. Nearly meaningless. And I don’t like it because generally I favour clarity of thought over any such muddled talk of feelings and yens. But for many writers it is nonetheless the truth. Or at least the closest rationale we have for deciding to tell stories for a living.

And so: I am asked why I write, and all I can offer is a slight shrug, and all that slight shrug has to offer is ambiguity. But, take it or leave it, this is my truth. It is the why of my writing.

But I am also often asked: ‘what inspires you? what do you want your writing to achieve?’ And to questions like these I have concrete truths. And these truths help me to explain the why: when there are so many things to say, I might ask, how can you expect me to stay quiet? And in these truths I am able to find more of a driving force behind my work than my original slight shrug.

I hope, I hope.

There is a great deal of anger- undirected or misdirected, now appropriated for the purpose of storytelling. There is the shared feeling that we are oppressed every day by everything around us, unable to let go. There is depression. There is hilarity, both heartfelt and sometimes quite manic. And there is an overwhelming reverence for the world, undercut only by a similarly large amount of scorn for everything in that world. This is what drives my creative process and this is what I write about when I’m writing, and I doubt that I’m alone- many writers, and indeed readers, use literature to get to the bottom of such issues.

Because, really, this is where fiction is at its most powerful. And to pull it off there are a few tricks to bear in mind. As I said, I dislike ambiguity. When I sit down to plan a novel I cannot have any ambiguity of purpose. When I am fleshing it out day by day I need a strong guiding element. I tried going without- writing by the seat of my pants, as one interviewer recently called it- and the resulting manuscripts were duds. They were not worth printing. They meandered, they struggled to find focus, they made no statement. Worse: they were lazy.

Put ambiguity out of your mind. Take two things in its place. First, clarity and a sense of purpose. Second, a mission statement- an overarching goal and a well mapped path to follow.

Before I even begin the first paragraph of a piece of prose I need to know the ending. In detail. I draft the full thing, scene by scene, over probably a dozen pages. Naturally, the details will change over time. Scenes will be moved or deleted and new scenes will take their place. I might have an idea for a new bit-part character, and I’ll slot them in. But I’ll slot them into my existing plan, and everything else will stay on track. This way I don’t have to worry about anything: is the story holding a reader’s attention; is there a point to it all; do characters’ reactions line up, and do they all act accordingly with the narrative? But mostly: have I managed to harness the depression, the hilarity, the reverence and irreverence that I want my writing to be about? If there is any doubt to these, I will usually have caught and changed it by the time I start writing. And so when I do begin that first chapter I can just enjoy writing in the freedom of knowledge that everything is according to plan.

I try never to be too precious about writing as art. I think of it more as a craft, and there is often a lot of graft involved. Bear this in mind, put aside a couple of hours every single day, hold those little and large emotions front and centre, and hack away at the plan. Hit your wordcount, cross scenes off your list, and watch it come together. There is a lot of joy to be had in this process.

I did all of these things with The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle. I wrote the first draft very quickly, but it had a solid backbone. I had several pages of notes on the various issues raised in the narrative- the desperation of homelessness, the depression of living without hope, the rage of being cast out of society without care or reason- and I had the synopsis written in advance. So as I sat down to write I didn’t have to think too much about anything. I could just refer back to my original aims, my original character plan, my original driving motives, and the rest just flowed.

So, writers: if anybody ever asks you ‘why do you write?’ you wave your plan in their face and tell them: I don’t know, nobody really does, but it’s all coming together. And readers: you will know they are telling the truth.

Thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful guest post James!

So, what is The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle about? Here is the blurb…

In a Scotland beset with depression, Willem is one victim among many. He loses his job, his mother dies and he is forced out of the flat they shared. Seeing no other option, he takes to the streets of Edinburgh, where he soon learns the cruelty felt outside the confines of his comfortable life. Stories from his past are interwoven with his current strife as he tries to figure out the nature of this new world and the indignities it brings. Determined to live freely, he leaves Edinburgh, hiking into the Scottish Highlands to seek solitude, peace and an unhampered, pure vision of life at nature’s breast.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is at once a lyrical, haunting novel and a set piece in the rage of an oppressed, forgotten community. J. D. Dixon’s sparse, brutal language captures the energy and isolation of desperation, uniting despondency and untrammelled anger in the person of his protagonist.

Sounds good, right? You can purchase your copy HERE.

Connect with J.D Dixon on Twitter at @James_D_Dixon

 

 

 

Author Influences with Barbara Copperthwaite

I am delighted to be welcoming Barbara Copperthwaite to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today, as she joins me to talk about her favourite books and authors.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and many others were read voraciously by me. I always – and I mean always – had my head stuck in a book. I even had favourite trees to climb, and then sit reading undisturbed on a branch.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I absolutely loved English as a child, and into my teens, but I do admit to feeling bored of the books we were made to read at GCSE and A-level. I simply didn’t connect with them.
For two years solid I actively avoided Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, despite writing numerous essays on it for GCSE English Lit. Imagine my dismay when I took A-level English Lit and was given Great Expectations again! Finally, I read it – and fell in love. It’s one of my all-time favourite books, being both tragic, funny, and incredible emotional. The character arc Pip goes through is beautifully drawn.
I hated John Clare’s poetry, too, at A-level. Only the other week I bought myself a book of his poems, as I now adore them. Funny how life goes.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read loads of crime, it goes without saying, and I recommend great books on my website, but I love reading all genres. I really enjoy historical non-fiction, especially but not exclusively the late medieval period. I keep threatening to write historical fiction one of these days!
John Lewis Stempel’s writing about nature is simply stunning, and books on the environment are another non-fiction genre I read a lot of. My love of nature definitely filters through to my writing, and helps to create atmosphere. Much of my imagery is often base around wildlife, too, I’ve noticed.
I will read pretty much any genre, though: science fiction, contemporary literature, horror, modern fairytales, the occasional bit of chick lit… Why limit yourself to one genre when there are so many fabulous tales to enjoy? Everything I read almost certainly subtly influences my writing.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
As I mentioned, I’d like to try my hand at writing a historical fiction novel one day, though I’m not sure I’ll ever find the time. Also, I think it would be fun to write a non-fiction book about nature, simply to share my passion and try to encourage others to engage with the environment around them.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
There was no bolt from the blue that urged me to write a novel, it was more a desire that built slowly. For years I read fabulous books and never even contemplated trying to create one myself. But I had an idea for a book, and the more I ignored it, the more it jumped up and down shouting: ‘Look at me, look at me!’
Then one day I read Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, and it took my breath away. The fact that it concentrated solely on one very quirky character and built so slowly, but so inexorably, was like nothing I’d experienced before. I can’t explain why, but something inside me clicked, and I suddenly felt inspired to start my own, very shabby, attempt at a novel. It eventually (after a lot of work and rewrites) became the first book I published, Invisible.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Peter Swanson, without a doubt. It’s no secret that I love his work, as I never shut up about it! All his books are twisted tales featuring brilliant characters. He’s so different from anyone else out there at the moment.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Pretty much every book I read makes me think that!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Not specifically. I’ve been a journalist for twenty-plus years, and in many ways my books are all inspired by every single woman I’ve interviewed whose partners were having affairs but they didn’t realise; by those who were conned by emotionally manipulative men into believing they were part of a loving relationship that then turned abusive and they lived in fear of being killed by their own partner; and by those who discovered their partner had killed someone (and yes, I’ve interviewed plenty of those. One poor woman even walked in on her husband dismembering someone).
Some people fight back, some people fall apart, others plot slow, cold revenge; there is no way of telling how anyone will react. Of course, it also made me question how well any of us ever know anyone, particularly as I’ve also worked briefly in a men’s prison and met a number of charming men who were rapists and killers. Let me tell you now: you cannot tell someone is capable of evil.
I think that’s why I love exploring emotions so much, and discovering through my storylines what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things, and how far someone can be pushed before they bend and break.

A huge thank you Barbara for taking part. Great answers. Engleby has been on my TBR list for ages and I really must get round to reading it.

Barbara’s latest book Her Last Secret is published on 13th October 2017. Here’s what it’s about…

The last thing to go through Dominique Thomas’s head was the image of her teenage daughter’s face and her heart lifted. Then the shot rang out.

They were the perfect family. Successful businessman Ben Thomas and his wife Dominique live an enviable life, along with their beautiful children; teenager Ruby and quirky younger daughter, Mouse.

But on Christmas Day the police are called to their London home, only to discover a horrific scene; the entire family lying lifeless, victims of an unknown assailant.

But when Ruby’s diary is discovered, revealing her rage at the world around her, police are forced to look closer to home for the key to this tragedy.

Each family member harboured their own dark truths – but has keeping their secrets pushed Ruby to the edge of sanity? Or are there darker forces at work?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Sometimes I Lie, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.

About Barbara Copperthwaite

Barbara Copperthwaite is the international best-selling author of psychological crime thrillers Invisible, Flowers For The Dead, and The Darkest Lies. Her new novel, Her Last Secret, will be published on Friday 13th October, and is available for pre-order now.

She credits much of her success to her twenty-plus years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are gritty, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions. It’s what has made her a USA Today bestseller.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

WEBSITE: www.barbaracopperthwaite.com
TWITTER: @BCopperthwait https://twitter.com/BCopperthwait
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite/
AMAZON UK http://amzn.eu/5Kup5kw
AMAZON US http://a.co/hOQdqJn