All posts by Abbie

Blog Blitz – The Righteous Spy by Merle Nygate *Quiz: Know Your Tradecraft’ Part 1*

I am incredibly excited to be taking part in the first ever blog blitz for Verve Books today.  The Righteous Spy by Merle Nygate is their first publication and today I am hosting a quiz. You can submit answers in the comment boxes on the blog or look out on Twitter @Verve_Books the next day for the answers!  

So, get your thinking caps on and flex your fingers to get answering and let’s see if you ‘Know Your Tradecraft’.

1. What is a deadletter drop?

A A letter impregnated with poison used in targeted assassinations
B A secure spot to leave clandestine messages
C The department at the Royal Mail where suspicious letters are opened

2. What is Five Eyes?

A A derogatory term for someone with poor vision
B Slang for a surveillance team
C Signals intelligence services from allied countries

3. What are Swallows and Ravens?

A Sequel to a Victorian adventure novel by Arthur Ransome
B Jargon used by undercover teams for allies and enemies
C Women and men who seduce and compromise targets for intelligence

4. What is a RAT?

A Code for someone from the feared superfamily Muroidea
B A device that can remotely control a mobile or laptop so the microphone can be switched on
C A member of a special unit that infiltrates enemy installations via subterranean tunnels

5. What are Cut Outs?

A Children’s colouring books used to conceal secret messages
B A go-between used to stop direct contact between two spies
C A faked body double that’s positioned in cars to trick CCTV cameras

Good luck. Remember you can check your answers on Twitter tomorrow @Verve_Books.

About The Righteous Spy

‘Intriguing and atmospheric. Merle Nygate is a writer to watch.’
– Charles Cumming
Innocent lives are at risk. But who is the real enemy…?

Eli Amiram is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now, he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience.
The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and the CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil.
But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly…

A twisting international spy thriller, A Righteous Spy is a shocking page turner that portrays a clandestine world in which moral transgressions serve higher causes. A must-read for fans of Homeland, Fauda, The Americans and NCIS, it will also appeal to readers of Daniel Silva and John le Carré.

Sounds great, right? Published on 18 October by Verve Books you can get your copy HERE.

About Merle Nygate

Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as ‘outstanding’.

Blog Tour – The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul *Review and Giveaway*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul today. Along with my review of Gill’s latest book I have a giveaway! Read about the book and my thoughts on it and then find out how to enter to win a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a The Lost Daughter postcard signed by Gill!

The Blurb

A Russian princess. An extraordinary sacrifice. A captivating secret…
From the author of The Secret Wife, a gripping journey through decades and across continents, of love, devastating loss and courage against all odds.
With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of Russia’s imperial family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria Romanova captivates two of the guards, it will lead to a fateful choice between right and wrong.
Fifty-five years later . . .
Val rushes to her father’s side when she hears of his troubling end-of-life confession: ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’ As she unravels the secrets behind her mother’s disappearance when she was twelve years old, she finds herself caught up in one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

My Thoughts

After loving The Secret Wife I was extremely excited to discover that Gill Paul was once again revisiting the Romanov dynasty in her next book, The Lost Daughter. I have been fascinated by Russian history since I did an A level in Modern British and European History many (many!) years ago and so to read a fiction novel that incorporates Russian history is always going to be a book I want to read, especially when it is written by Gill Paul.

The Lost Daughter is told over two timelines. One follows Maria Romanov in Russia from April 1918 onwards and the other follows Val in Sydney, Australia, from October 1973. Both women are going through difficulties but for very different reasons and both stories are incredibly emotional. Paul once again demonstrates her skill as a writer as she manages to seamlessly weave between eras and countries without ever leaving the reader feeling more invested in one storyline over the other. Her writing and characterisation is such that you are equally interested in each.

Val’s story centres on her quest for the truth following the death of her Russian father. On his death bed her father says ‘I didn’t mean to kill her’ and Val is, obviously, keen to discover what he meant given her mother mysteriously left the family when Val was a teenager. A cold man, Val wonders if he actually killed her mother. What she goes on to learn about her father and his history turns out to be beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

Paul has created a depth around Val’s storyline and it never feels like a secondary part to The Lost Daughter. Val escapes from an abusive husband during a time in which domestic abuse was not taken seriously, and the reader can’t help but be drawn in to Val’s struggle and to be moved by the challenges she faces.

My favourite thread has to be the one that follows Maria Romanov, though. Imagine if one of the Grand Duchesses survived the execution that was meted out to the family? What would life have been like for her and how would she survive and go undiscovered? Paul answers these questions in The Lost Daughter and makes it realistic. This realism, however, brings with it heartbreak so be prepared to shed tears.

I really like the way that Paul delicately portrays both sides of the Russian people at that time. While she clearly portrays Maria as innocent – a victim of who she was born to – which she was, she also portrays how the Russian people were suffering under the Romanov’s rule. While the Tsar and his family lived in luxury the Russian people were starving. Maria seems to have been oblivious to this fact and this may well have been the case.

It is clear that The Lost Daughter has been carefully researched as Paul takes us through Russia following the revolution, through Lenin and Stalin’s rule to Brezhnev. She completely captures the fear and paranoia that the Russian people felt during Stalin’s rule to the point that they could not speak openly in front of their own children. The Lost Daughter is utterly heartbreaking at times as Paul brings to life the atrocities faced by the Russian people during this era.

Another wonderful book by Gill Paul, I can’t recommend The Lost Daughter highly enough. It is beautifully written, full of emotion, historically accurate and fascinating. She has managed, once again, to bring to life one of the most interesting albeit brutal periods of history and make it accessible and readable. The Lost Daughter is a must for your bookshelf.

The Lost Daughter is published on 18 October 2018 by Headline Review. You can buy your copy HERE.

About the Author

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you might not have been aware of between Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Gill’s other novels include The Secret Wife, published in 2016, about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. Women and Children First is about a young steward who works on the Titanic. The Affair was set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra. And No Place for a Lady is about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects, and a series of Love Stories, each containing fourteen tales of real-life couples: how they met, why they fell for each other, and what happened in the end. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.

Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.

Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.



I am delighted to be able to giveaway a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a signed The Lost Daughter  postcard to one lucky reader. Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to UK residents – sorry! Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 23 October 2018. Good luck!

Huge thanks to Gill Paul and Headline Review for the advance copy of The Lost Daughter and to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Blog Tour – Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the debut by Ronnie Turner, Lies Between Us, today.

The Blurb

Will they ever learn the truth?
Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Shari Lapena and Lisa Jewell.

My Thoughts

I was extremely excited to finally read Ronnie Turner’s debut novel, Lies Between Us, and also a little bit apprehensive as she is a fellow book blogger. I am delighted to finally be sharing my thoughts on this epic blog tour.

Lies Between Us follows three characters over three different timelines. We see Miller, a child in the 1980s, Maisie an ICU nurse in 2016 and John, whose daughter has been kidnapped, in 2015. Throughout we are left wondering how the three threads will eventually come together. Lies Between Us is an ambitious debut novel and hats off to Turner for trying her hand at such a complex plot.

Turner is an incredibly talented writer and Lies Between Us is beautifully written. The chapters in which we follow Miller really demonstrate what Turner is capable of and had me in mind of a kind of reverse We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her portrayal of a child who is clearly a psychopath is incredibly chilling and unnerving. Miller’s sections are written in second person narrative, often a difficult feat to pull off, but Turner does it brilliantly and this adds to the creepiness of Lies Between Us.

The rest of the characterisation in the book is also really well done. John’s parts in particular are incredibly emotional. Turner’s portrayal of a parent whose child has been kidnapped is really moving and she has a real sensitivity when it comes to describing emotions and conveying them to the reader.

I did have a few difficulties with the plot. I guessed quite early on who the perpetrator was and the ending left me feeling confused and almost as though the plot and the layout of the book were at odds with each other. I feel that it could have been set out better and that the headings of some of the chapters may have been better left anonymous as this was what caused me the most confusion.

Lies Between Us is a slow burner and while the pace fit perfectly with the storyline, I felt that Maisie’s thread slowed it down a little too much at times. By the end of the book I did struggle to understand the significance of her storyline.

Turner has clearly demonstrated her skill as a writer and while I did have some issues with the execution of Lies Between Us, I adored Turner’s use of language, her ability to show emotional acuity and her skill at developing solid, believable characters. An ambitious debut, Ronnie Turner has shown herself to be an author to watch out for and I look forward to reading her future novels.

Published on E-book and audiobook on 1 October 2018 and paperback on 13 December 2018, you can get your copy HERE.

About the author

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner

Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor

Instagram: @ronnieturner8702



My thanks to Ronnie Turner, HQ Digital and NetGalley for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Blog Tour – In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards *Review*


I am beyond delighted to be on the blog tour for In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards today. Before I tell you what I thought, here is the all-important blurb.

The Blurb

Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.
For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.
As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.
Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?

My Thoughts

Mark Edwards has really turned up the chill factor for In Her Shadow as this book is part ghost story, part crime novel, part thriller. A difficult feat to pull off but Edwards has done it with style.

Four years ago Jessica’s sister Isabel died and the family had believed it was an accidental death. When Jessica’s daughter Olivia starts to talk about things she couldn’t possibly know about her aunt, Jessica begins to doubt that her sister’s death was an accident.

In Her Shadow is a twisty book about family secrets, obsession and manipulation. If you thought The Retreat was spooky, you haven’t read anything yet! In Her Shadow has all the creepiness of his last novel and more. Much more. Edwards has used techniques used in classic horror films and books to give In Her Shadow that spine-chilling edge and it certainly makes the hairs on your arms stand on end.

Edwards confirms his place as the king of red herrings as he once again threw me completely off course in this book. In Her Shadow is an incredibly compulsive thriller and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what had happened to Isabel. Split into two parts, the end of part one had me saying ‘Oh my God’ out loud and desperate to discuss it with another reader. In Her Shadow is another real page-turner.

Edwards cleverly builds up the story by switching between present day and past. These sneaky peaks at what went before ensure that you are kept guessing and second-guessing all the way through the book.

It is clear as the story progresses that Edwards has been influenced by the recent ‘Me Too’ campaign. The incorporation of this theme gives In Her Shadow a contemporary and relevant edge. He deals with this issue in a manner that shows he has researched the issue of sexual harassment and the impact it has on its victims along with the methods used by the perpetrators.

There are a few books out at the moment that combine crime thriller with a supernatural element and In Her Shadow holds its own in originality and storyline. Gripping, goosebump-inducing and just overall great, In Her Shadow is another fantastic book by Mark Edwards and fans and new readers alike will not be disappointed.

In Her Shadow was published on 4 October 2018 by Thomas & Mercer. You can get a copy HERE.

Blog Tour – Cold Breath by Quentin Bates *Review*

Unusually for me, I am on two blog tours today. The second one I am taking part in is for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates and I am delighted to share my thoughts on his latest book. But first, the all-important blurb…

The Blurb

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .
Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.
Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be approached to take part in the blog tour for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates. I was familiar with Bates due to his work translating for Orenda Books and I had been meaning to check out his own books. This gave me the perfect excuse.

Cold Breath is the seventh in the Gunnhildur Mystery Books but this was my first and it works really well as a standalone. I had no problems following the story, getting to know the characters and I didn’t feel as though as I was missing anything in backstory.

Police officer Gunnhildur is taken off normal police duty and appointed to protect a politician’s guest during his stay in Iceland. It soon becomes clear that the guest may not be all that he seems and conceals a shadowy side.

The pace from the outset is relentless and Cold Breath hurtles along, keeping the reader completely on their toes. Bates has ensured that every chapter is packed with either action or intrigue. Each chapter flips from one character storyline to another and while I would normally struggle to keep up, there is something about Bates’ execution of the book that makes it easy to follow. You are never too far away from any of the characters due to punchy paragraphs which make it easy and enjoyable to follow.

The characterisation is great and despite being unfamiliar with Gunnhildur, it didn’t take me long to get the feel of her and like her. Gunnhildur really goes through the mill in Cold Breath and I am eager to read the next book to ascertain how she moves on from it. I adored her and reporter Skúli.

Cold Breath is tightly plotted and combines crime, murder and political intrigue. I liked the way it explored how your job can have you questioning your morals and values, as Gunnhildur wonders if the man she is being paid to protect is worth protecting given as the truth about him and his actions are brought to life.

A great action-packed novel set against the fantastic backdrop of Iceland, I thoroughly enjoyed Cold Breath. Bates’ writing is superb and I am so glad I got to check out his work. A great addition to the book shelf of any crime fiction lover.

Published on 11 October 2018 by Constable, you can get your copy HERE.

My thanks to Quentin Bates and Constable for the advance copy and to Emily at Brand Hive for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Blog Tour – Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott *Review*


I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott today. This book is completely different to anything else I have read. Here is what it is about followed by my thoughts.

The Blurb

For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs.
But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…
Dear Mr Pop Star contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

My Thoughts

Every now and again we need a total change from the types of books we normally read. Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott certainly offered that change. A series of letters by Derek Philpott to various bands and pop stars querying certain aspects of their lyrics is an interesting concept and even more so when those he writes to writes back.

This book is like nothing I have read before and I suspect it is highly unlikely that I will again. Dear Mr Pop Star is set out as the letters Philpott has written to the various stars. The majority are followed by responses from the stars and others are like postcards that have not been responded to. The letters are hilarious and Derek Philpott’s observations are dry, witty and have you shaking your head in agreement while laughing out loud. Being a proofreader, I really appreciated his observations on the grammar of some band names and lyrics. The letter he wrote to Doctor and the Medics is brilliant. I’m not going to go into detail, you will have to read it yourself, and it is worth getting the book for that one alone. Other gems include his observations on Nik Kershaw’s ‘The Riddle’, Bananarama’s ‘Really Saying Something’ and Cutting Crew’s ‘I Just Died in your Arms Tonight’. They are undoubtedly funny but they also demonstrate a real intelligence and quick wit.

What really surprised me was the amount of responses he had received back. They are not brief responses either. The various stars have really taken their time over their responses and I was delighted to see how they took Philpott’s observations in good humour.

Being of a certain age *cough, cough* I really appreciated the letters to the above and other stars of the 80s and 90s such as T’Pau, EMF, Carter USM and others. I have to confess that there were a few bands that I didn’t know and I tended to skip over these letters as I didn’t really get what was being referred to. This did not, however, impact on my enjoyment of Dear Mr Pop Star.

Incredibly quirky, Dear Mr Pop Star is a work of real ingenuity and the letters are very well written. This is a book I will dip into time and time again when I need a good laugh. A completely unique concept that I hope the Philpott’s will continue and bring out more volumes of. Highly recommended.

Published on 20 September 2018 by Unbound, you can get a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Derek and Dave Philpott for my advance copy of Dear Mr Pop Star and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.



Review – The Cult On Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein

The Blurb

The deadliest trap is the one you don’t see…
Sofia has just finished university and ended a troubled relationship when she attends a lecture about a New Age movement, Via Terra. Its leader is Franz Oswald, young, good-looking, urbane and mesmerizing.
When Sofia meets Franz Oswald, the handsome, charming leader of a mysterious New Age movement, she’s dazzled and intrigued. Visiting his headquarters on Fog Island, Sofia’s struck by the beautiful mansion overlooking the sea, the gardens, the sense of peace and the purposefulness of the people who live there. And she can’t ignore the attraction she feels for Franz.
So she agrees to stay, just for a while. But as summer gives way to winter, and the dense fog from which the island draws its name sets in, it becomes clear that Franz rules the island with an iron fist. No phones or computers are allowed. Contact with the mainland is severed. Electric fences surround the grounds. And Sofia begins to realize how very alone she is and that no one ever leaves Fog Island…

My Thoughts

I am fascinated by cults and therefore could not resist requesting The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein when I saw it on NetGalley. I was even more excited to read it when I discovered that the author had been a Scientologist. I expected that this would give the book an authenticity and I was ready for a book that despite being a work of fiction would give me a real insight to life inside a cult. This book is not out until January 2019 and I wouldn’t normally review a book this early but I couldn’t resist it.

The Cult on Fog Island follows Sofia, a young woman who has just finished university, ended a relationship and is looking to start the next phase of her life. When she attends a lecture held by Franz Oswald about his movement Via Terra and is invited to visit the headquarters on Fog Island Sofia goes along out of curiosity and because she is attracted to Oswald. At the lecture there is nothing to suggest that she will be entering a cult as Via Terra is pitched as a ‘new age movement’ and does not prescribe to any religion. It was easy to see how Sofia was drawn in as a result.

Told in third person with Sofia as the main character, we get her perspective of the events that unfold. What I liked is that Sofia comes across as your average young woman. I have to admit to going into the book expecting the main character to a particularly vulnerable young woman, but she is not. Sofia comes from a stable family and her life has followed the course of many women. This makes The Cult on Fog Island even more creepy as it demonstrates how easily someone can be drawn into a cult.

The book is also punctuated by an anonymous voice of whom we do not discover the identity of until later in the book. These parts are creepy and give you an insight in to how a person develops into a domineering force.

The Cult on Fog Island is a slow burner, so don’t go into this book expecting thrills straight away. This may not appeal to some people but I am quite happy to read a slower-paced thriller if the pace fits with the story and in this case it does. The pace enables us to see how Via Terra goes from innocent enough new age centre to effectively a prison camp. The character of Franz Oswald is central to this and while I didn’t get a sense of him being the charismatic man Sofia and other members of Via Terra talk about, Lindstein has portrayed him well as a man the slow descent of madness. We watch as his façade steadily slips over time and his megalomaniacal and paranoid tendencies come out. As Oswald’s paranoia steadily increases, life for those working at Via Terra becomes deadly. The methods he uses to control those around them gradually become more and more extreme and alongside methods such as sleep deprivation and malnourishment I got a real sense of why they wouldn’t – or couldn’t – fight back.

I really enjoyed The Cult on Fog Island and found myself eagerly returning to it after each break from reading. For me it highlighted the insidious nature of control and dangers of paranoia. I liked the fact that it was subtle in its portrayal of life inside a cult rather than trying to be more of a fast-paced thriller as this gave it an authenticity. However, I expect The Cult on Fog Island to have a mixed reaction because of its pace and it may not go down well with those who want a ‘faster’ read. If you like slower-paced books and are interested in cults Lindstein’s The Cult on Fog Island is one to check out.

The Cult On Fog Island is published on 24 January 2019 by HQ. You can pre-order a copy HERE.

Thanks to Mariette Lindstein, HQ and NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.


Author Inflences With Alex Shaw

I welcome Alex Shaw to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today as he shares his Author Influences with us.Alex is the author of the Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers and I will tell you more about the fisrt in the series later. Now, I will hand you over to Alex.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

I read Star Wars graphic novels and then Action Man novels, but the main books I liked to read were non-fiction travel books. I’d learn about new countries and note down phrases in foreign languages.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I did like English but I think that as I found it a little easy I didn’t try my best. Although I was never the best at spelling.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I only really read crime fiction and espionage thrillers, and funnily enough this is what I write. I think it would be difficult to write in a genre you didn’t enjoy reading.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

I’ve written one military vampire novel and a few horror short stories, so that would be an area that I may like to write in if I stop writing thrillers.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

I was mainly inspired to write by the Gulf War SAS heroes turned writers – Andy McNab and Chris Ryan (Chris Ryan and I now have the same German publisher). I read their books and saw how they weaved their insider knowledge into commercial stories. When I moved to Kyiv I realised that I too had insider knowledge (of Ukraine) and decided to set my stories there.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Yes, quite a few. Steve Kavanagh, Lee Child, Stephen Leather, Jake Needham, Tom Wood, Mark Greaney, Jorn Lier Horst and Kati Hiekkapelto.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

There’s not one particular book I wish I’d written, but Steve Cavanagh’s The Defence was a striking debut novel. I loved the character of Eddie Flynn being both lawyer and conman and having to use both skill sets to survive.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

I have taken some real life events and incorporated them into my stories as I like things to seem believable, and of course political figures appear. Apart from this Aidan Snow shares my initials, height, hometown and we both use to live in the same flat in Kyiv, however I was not in the SAS. A couple of other characters are based on people I know, one I can’t elaborate on but the other is my long term friend and fellow former Kyiv expat Michael Jones, who appears as himself.

Alex’s Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers are out now. The first in the series is called Cold Blood and this is what it’s about:

Aidan Snow thought he could escape his past. But now it’s back, with a vengeance.

Ten years ago, SAS Trooper Aidan Snow was left fighting for his life after a mission went wrong and ever since he has been haunted by the image of the man with green eyes. The man who should have killed him.

Now, Snow is finally living a peaceful life in Ukraine… Until Taurus Pashinsk, the green-eyed man, returns.

As Snow’s past catches up with him he finds himself thrown back into the world of espionage with a vengeance.

About Alex Shaw

Alex Shaw spent the late 1990s in Kyiv, teaching and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business for the company across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation, the Crime Writers Association and the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers. Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv – Ukraine, Doha – Qatar and Worthing, England. Alex can be followed on twitter: @alexshawhetman

Alex’s Aidan Snow series can be found in most good bookshops, some odd ones and here:

Thanks for taking part, Alex. I really enjoyed reading your answers.

‘What’s So Fascinating About The 1960s?’ by Sue Clark

Today I hand over Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to Sue Clark to talk about her debut novel Note To Boy and how the 1960s feature in it. Note To Boy is due to be published by Unbound and is currently going through crowdfunding. Sue explains more about that in her post.

What’s So Fascinating About The 1960s?

Why did I choose to focus on the 1960s in my comic fiction, Note to Boy? How could I not? The exuberance and colour of those times have passed into modern mythology – and I actually experienced them at first-hand.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, I was a young innocent living in London near Oxford Circus, working for a US film company, sharing an office with David Niven Jr’s PA, shopping in Carnaby Street, and going to parties where it was possible to bump into the latest James Bond actor. It wasn’t quite as glamorous as it might sound but, nevertheless, what writer could pass up such a rich source of material?

It was a time of great hope. Our generation, we naively told ourselves, was going to be different from the ones that had gone before. We weren’t boring and ‘square’. We were free-thinking, free-loving individuals. Peace and love were the order of the day. We’d wear our tie-dyed T-shirts, stick flowers in our hair and wait for the revolution. It didn’t come, of course. Instead we got the 1980s, and shoulder pads, legwarmers and awful perms.

Note to Boy looks at Swinging London through the eyes of Eloise Slaughter, a woman now in her seventies, who reminisces about her time as an outrageous fashion guru. Now, elderly and broke, she bitterly misses her time in the spotlight and vows revenge on those who conspired to cheat her out of it. She wants her celebrity life back.

Fate brings her Bradley McCreedy, a downtrodden teenager from the wrong part of town. Bullied by his brother, ignored by his mother, unknown to his father, he just wants a life.

The two couldn’t be more different but, after a rocky start, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Discovering they might have a common purpose, Bradley hatches a plan to help her escape her past, and build himself a future.

The genesis of the book lay in a short story I wrote about celebrity. What happens to people who achieve it? How do they cope if it suddenly vanishes? This morphed into the present full-length novel. And Eloise and Bradley were born.

Both characters epitomise people who are often overlooked and underestimated. Eloise is bad-tempered and friendless, but was once a sexy and successful ‘it girl’. Bradley is uneducated and inarticulate but possesses a cunning that could be made use of, if only people would see beyond the obvious.

Who are they based on? Eloise is a demanding, arrogant monster. So, of course she’s not based on anyone I know, although I have worked in radio, television and newspapers enough to know there are some monstrous egos out there. No, I’m not going to name names!

Likewise, as I’ve never been a browbeaten teenage boy, Bradley is pure invention, although I’m sure we can all empathise with the feeling of being young, frustrated and already written off.

When will you see Note to Boy in bookshops? That could depend on you. The book, you see, is being published by Unbound. Unbound books come about in a rather different way to most others, being crowdfunded directly by their readers.

As I write this, Note to Boy is 58% of the way to being fully funded. Readers can pledge for – that is, pre-order – e-books, special edition paperbacks, or go for one of the other rewards options. It’s all explained on the Unbound website.

Please feel free to browse Unbound’s many diverse and often unique titles. And if your mouse should land on the ‘pledge’ button of Note to Boy, I – and Eloise and Bradley – would be eternally grateful. Thank you.

NOTE TO BOY by Unbound author, Sue Clark, is crowdfunding now.

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Thank you so much for the great guest post, Sue. I wish you luck with the funding of Note To Boy and look forward to seeing it in the shops soon.

About Sue Clark

In a varied career Sue Clark has been a scriptwriter, journalist and PR copywriter. She’s worked for BBC radio and TV, local newspapers, and no end of corporates. Her TV and radio credits include: Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, and The News Huddlines.

She’s interviewed John Humphreys and Ronnie Corbett and penned funny lines for Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Tracy Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason, among others.

Although the comic fiction Note to Boy is billed as her debut novel, there are others lurking in desk drawers that may one day see the light. And there will be more to come!

She lives in an Oxfordshire market town much like the fictional setting of Midsomer Murders with her long-suffering husband. She has three children and one adorable grandchild. 

Author Influences with Ian Skewis

I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Skewis to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today for an Author Influences. I was lucky enough to see Ian at Newcastle Noir earlier this year and I got a copy of his novel  A Murder of Crows. Due to my massive TBR pile I haven’t managed to read it yet but it is on my list so watch this space! Anyhow, I will hand you over to Ian for a brilliant Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

The first book I remember reading and really enjoying was The Treasure Hunters by Enid Blyton, which my grandmother bought me. I loved the whole mystery of the story, and much of it was set outdoors in the country — and this echoed my childhood surroundings. Dinosaur books fascinated me too, and I loved the Doctor Who Target books series.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I was good at English, and in particular creative writing. I always had a fertile imagination — and still do! I was also good at art, but dreadful at anything remotely mathematical!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I mainly write crime but came at it completely new, in that I had no preconceived ideas of how it should be written. I read a lot of crime now, in order to learn from the best. I used to read horror and science fiction when I was young. I still dabble in those genres too. Then, when I was an actor, I moved to literary fiction, and classical and modern stage plays — Shakespeare, Chekhov, Liz Lochhead etc. The genres I read depend on where I am in life. I’ve just finished reading Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil, which is an example of my trying to learn from the best.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

As mentioned, I also write horror and science fiction, and this is because of my childhood influences. I am still a big Doctor Who fan, and Quatermass And The Pit is probably my favourite fictional story ever. I would like to return to literary fiction though, and I’m hoping to publish some, probably next year. Watch this space, as they say!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write, and if so who, what and why?

I’ve always written stories, and, to be honest, I was more influenced by music and film than by other authors. Sometimes I would hear a song or watch a film and then wonder what would happen if it went a different way. Alan Moore’s comic book series, Swamp Thing, was an early influence on my work. Other writers always inspire me though, simply because the act of writing is such a huge undertaking. No matter how famous or unknown a writer may be, their ability to get to the finish line with their work is always admirable, and I’m fascinated by how they got there and what inspired them to do so.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Ian McEwan for one, and Kate Atkinson for another. I had the pleasure of travelling to St Petersburg with Kate many years ago. However, I’ve been so caught up in crime writing that I’ve fallen behind with their latest works — they’re still sitting unopened on my bookshelves! My TBR list seems to grow bigger every day, so it’s increasingly difficult to keep up to speed with what everyone else is writing — but I try.

Which books have you read that have made you think ‘Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

There are so many amazing works out there, but I am happy with what I write and hold no envy for other people’s work. If anything, it would be their ability and not the work itself that I would wish to emulate. The craft is what it’s all about for me. I write what I want to write and hope that it finds an audience. I loved Atonement by Ian McEwan though. And Life Of Pi too. They both centre on the healing process that fiction and storytelling can give, and they both do it in very surprising ways. Brighton Rock is another great piece of work, with both the novel and the film versions giving entirely different but equally amazing endings. The crime genre is such a good broad genre though, that you can tackle pretty much anything and still fit it into the category of crime writing. It was the main reason I chose to be an author instead of an actor — it gave me a much bigger palette to work with. However, it’s beginning to look as if I will be returning to some form of acting in the near future. Again, watch this space!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/ people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

My debut novel stemmed from a disturbing experience I had as a child, (see my website for more on this) but none of the details are present in the book, though the dark mood of that day is very much prevalent in the narrative and the environs of the story. As for my other works, it really depends on where I am and who I’m with. Some characters are based on real people, others are entirely fictional. Some are an amalgamation of several individuals, or a projection of myself. It’s a wonder I stay sane with all these ‘voices’ in my head!

Ian’s debut novel A Murder Of Crows is out now. Here is what it is about:

The most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above a sleepy village on the West Coast of Scotland. A young couple take shelter in the woods, never to be seen again…DCI Jack Russell is brought in to investigate. Nearing retirement, he agrees to undertake one last case, which he believes can be solved as a matter of routine. But what Jack discovers in the forest leads him to the conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a serial killer…

About Ian Skewis

Ian Skewis was born in Scotland in 1970.

He wrote articles for a local paper and had his first poems published at the age of 19. He trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became an actor, appearing on film and television, and providing his voice for radio. He performed in numerous stage plays that toured internationally, including Like Thunder, which received a Fringe First Award in 2001. He is the author of several short stories, including Inkling, which was published in an anthology, The Speculative Book, in 2016. His debut novel, a psychological thriller entitled A Murder Of Crows, was published by Unbound in 2017. It went on to become a multiple No.1 Best Seller on Amazon. He is currently working on his second novel, as well as numerous other projects.

He lives and works in Glasgow.


Ian Skewis can be contacted via his website and you can receive exclusive news and previews of his latest works by subscribing to his forthcoming newsletter. The first issue comes on 31 October 2018 with a FREE short story:

He also hosts a Facebook page called The Crow’s Beak:

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Thank you for taking part, Ian. I really enjoyed reading your responses and look forward to reading A Murder Of Crows soon.