Category Archives: Hull Noir 2017

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

Oh my God Hull Noir is now only two sleeps away and I’m so excited I’m unbearable to live with! William Ryan is one of the authors I am particularly looking forward to hearing speak. Ryan is taking part in the Behind Bars: Freedom, Oppression and Control talk on Sunday 19th November alongside Eva Dolan, Kati Hiekkapelto and Stav Sherez. For all Hull Noir information and tickets access their site HERE

In this countdown I am sharing with you my thoughts on William Ryan’s novel The Constant Soldier.

The Blurb

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My Thoughts

I really enjoy historical fiction and I’m determined to read more in this genre. I’ve had The Constant Soldier on my TBR pile for a while after hearing wonderful things about it from other bloggers.

Set in 1944, The Constant Soldier follows Paul Brandt as he returns to his village after being badly injured fighting for the German army on the eastern front. Brandt’s village has changed, people are missing and the village is home to a retreat for SS officers and is complete with female prisoners. One of these prisoners is the woman Brandt was arrested with five years earlier and he feels compelled to ensure her safety. It becomes clear fairly quickly that Brandt is not a Nazi sympathiser and his involvement in fighting on their behalf was not a choice but a lesser of two evils.

The Constant Soldier is not just a book about a moment in history – as interesting as that is – but is a book about the human condition, the fight for survival and atonement. Brandt has a strong sense of conscience and he wants to make up for the atrocities he committed as a soldier despite him having no choice in the matter.

I went into this book expecting to loathe all of those who had chosen to take up roles as SS officers. However, while Ryan shows that there were those who relished the SS officer role, the power and the acts they are allowed to commit, he also portrays the other side and I found myself sympathising with those SS officers who saw it as a means to survive.

Ryan clearly shows that there were those involved in the implementation of the holocaust who were affected by the acts they had to commit. Survival is the initial motivation behind those in The Constant Soldier who engage in the Nazi’s acts but their survival ends up costing them dearly and in ways they couldn’t initially imagine. The Constant Soldier made me wonder how many of those who played a direct part went on develop post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health difficulties. I remember being taught in A level history that while those in Stalinist Russia complied due to fear, those in Nazi Germany complied as they believed in what Hitler was doing. Ryan reminds us that, when it comes to humans, things are never that black and white.

I adored Ryan’s style of writing. Each chapter is short yet perfect in their brevity. He has a way of ending each chapter, often with a singular sentence, that has a huge impact on you. The prose draws you in to the story wholeheartedly and places you firmly within The Constant Soldier’s time and place. This book has you feeling incredibly tense with moments when you barely dare breath in case it somehow changes the outcome for Brandt and the female prisoners.

The Constant Soldier is a powerful, emotive book that is wonderfully written. Perfect for those readers that enjoy historical fiction, particularly those set during World War 2. Highly recommended.

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Deep Blue Trouble Review and Author Q&A

So, it is now a mere five sleeps until Hull Noir and, as it creeps slowly closer, I’m delighted to bring you my review of Steph Broadribb’s next novel Deep Blue Trouble but even better than that I have a fab Q&A with the lady herself.

Steph is taking part in the Brawlers and Bastards panel on Sunday 19th November. Full programme and ticket details can be found HERE.

Right, first up my thoughts on the upcoming second Lori Anderson book and then the bit you really want to read, the Q&A with Steph.

 

The Blurb

Her daughter Dakota is safe, but her cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT – Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything – alive and kicking. Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe. Bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, and JT walks free. Teaming up with local bounty hunter Dez McGregor threatens to put the whole job in danger. But this is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything…

My Thoughts

Okay, I’m starting off this review with an embarrassing confession … I have not yet read Deep Down Dead, the first Lori Anderson book. I was unable to take part in the blog tour due to other commitments and it was on my October/November reading list. I had the perfect excuse to bump it up the TBR pile when I found out that Steph Broadribb was taking part in Hull Noir. However, plans sometimes don’t go the way you want them to and I actually ended up reading Deep Blue Trouble first instead. Broadribb’s debut got rave reviews from other bloggers and having read Deep Blue Trouble I can clearly see what all the fuss is about! I LOVED this book.

As said, Deep Blue Trouble is the second book in the Lori Anderson series and it does follow up from where Deep Down Dead ended. As I have read Deep Blue Trouble first, however, you can take it from me that it works perfectly as a standalone. There is enough information to ensure that new readers are able to follow what is going on. Lori, a Florida bounty hunter, has little choice but to take on a job from FBI agent Alex Monroe in order to free her daughter Dakota’s father from prison where he is currently being held for a murder he didn’t commit. This job involves bringing in on-the-run criminal Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher and it ends up being far from straight forward.

Lori Anderson is a kick ass, gutsy, independent, fierce protagonist and yet Broadribb has manged to also make her a sympathetic character. A single mum whose daughter has Leukaemia in a country that does not have free health care, Lori is doing everything she can to ensure her daughter’s health needs are met. I liked the additional layers to Lori – while her job inevitably brings her into danger and has her having to commit violent acts herself, she does not take this lightly and she has a sense of morality and a conscience. This makes Lori an ultimately likeable character and one you root for and want to follow further in to the series.

Deep Blue Trouble is set in the USA and it’s always a bit of a worry as to whether or not an author is able to authentically create the country their book is set in when they are not from there. Broadribb does a great job of this. From the descriptions of the places to the way Lori tells us her story, Broadribb completely transports the reader to the Florida sunshine.

The plot twists and turns like a waltzer car at the fairground and Broadribb kept me on the edge of my seat, on my toes and my fingernails are now bitten down to the quick. The plot moves along at an exceptional rate barely giving you time to catch your breath.

Deep Blue Trouble is a great book and this is set to be a fantastic series. If you’re looking for fast-paced, by-the-seat-of-your-pants action this is the series to read. Deep Blue Trouble is published in paperback in January 2018 so you have plenty of time to read Deep Down Dead before its release and get fully acquainted with Lori Anderson. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Steph Broadribb and Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for the opportunity to read Deep Blue Trouble in advance.

Deep Blue Trouble is published on ebook on 15 November 2017 and paperback on 5 January 2018 by Orenda books. It can be pre-ordered HERE.

Deep Down Dead is out now and can be purchased HERE.

And finally the moment you have been waiting for … my Q&A with Steph!

It sounds like you have had an interesting life as you trained as a bounty hunter in California. Did the inspiration for Lori Anderson come from your training?
I actually trained as a bounty hunter as research for the first book in the Lori Anderson series – Deep Down Dead. I’d had the idea for Lori when I was driving from West Virginia to Florida in the previous autumn and had started writing the book, but realised pretty fast that I needed to learn more about the world of bounty hunting and also, specifically, what it was like to be a woman in that predominantly male world. I read books about it, and watched a couple of television series, but felt that for my book, and Lori, to be truly authentic I needed to experience it for myself. So I got in touch with a bounty hunter in California and when out to train with him. I guess you could say I’m a fan of ‘method writing’!

How much is Lori based on your real life experiences and people you have met?
There’s quite a lot of me in Lori. In some ways she’s a bolder, tougher, version of me! And although the characters and the action in the books are fictional, I do draw on the emotions I’ve experienced and try to put that feeling into my writing. I definitely use elements of people I’ve met in characters I create too, although it’s more like taking a mannerism from one person, and mixing it with the way another person looks, and the speech pattern of another – never a direct copy. Mind you, that said, in Deep Blue Trouble the character of Bobby Four-Fingers is named after a one of the guys I trained as a bounty hunter alongside, and I’ve used a few of his characteristics for the character because he asked me to make him into a fictional character!

Was it always your intention for the Lori Anderson books to be a series?
I’d always hoped that it would be, and luckily for me the wonderful Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books shared my vision.

What are the pros and cons of writing a series?
I think the biggest con is trying to get enough backstory from previous book/s into the current book so that the character’s past makes sense, without it coming across as too ‘tell’ and boring for the reader (or confusing). No matter what number in the series it is, a book needs to be able to be read as a standalone if a reader picks it up first, yet it also needs to develop and build on the characters from previous books. It’s a tricky balance to achieve, and I hope that I’ve managed it in Deep Blue Trouble! I think the pro of a series is that you get to carry on working with (and reading) the characters. As a reader I’m a big fan of series. Jack Reacher, Charlie Fox, Tom Thorne, John Rebus, Travis McGee, Carter Blake are all great series characters that have long running series which develop your knowledge of the characters and their stories with each book. I aspire to doing that!

Do you have the rest of the series and what happens to Lori, Dakota and JT planned out or do you see where each book takes you?
At this point, I have a rough idea of the first scene in the third book in the series, but that’s all. I tend to just see where each books takes me. There are a few things in Lori’s past that I want to explore more – either in book three or four – and there’s a job that’s been offered to her that she might do in book three, but other than that I sit down at my laptop with a blank page in front of me and take it from there!

Do you become emotionally attached to your characters?
Yes, totally! I think it’s inevitable given how much time they are in your head for as you write. But, as it’s crime fiction, you still need to put them through the wringer as much as possible too. If everything was easy for them it would make for a very boring thriller!

You are British and have spent time in the USA. Were there any difficulties that arose from setting the books in the US to ensure that the setting comes across as authentic?
I’ve lived and worked in the USA and I also have a lot of family who are American. Part of my research for the books was to travel to many of the settings used and experience them from myself – like training as a bounty hunter in California, driving from West Virginia to Florida, kayaking through the everglades and getting up close to gators, and hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains and sleeping out under the stars. I check out phrases with my American friends, so that I can try and get Lori’s voice as authentic as possible. I’ve actually just got back from a trip to the USA where I was scouting out settings for book three.

What does your writing day look like? Do you have a set writing routine?
I tend to be better at writing in the morning so from when I get up to around lunchtime is my best time for first drafts. Then I usually take a break – take my dog for a walk, feed the horses – and then carry on, either writing or editing what I wrote in the morning, until around 4pm. I’m pretty active on social media – I love a bit of tweeting! So I’ll tend to go on Twitter intermittently throughout the day and then do Facebook and Instagram once I’ve finished writing. I usually write seven days a week during a first draft. When I’m editing I tend to shut myself away and plunge myself into the edits, only coming up for air and social media once they’re done!

You are taking part in Hull Noir this month. How do you feel about speaking at events? Do you get nervous or take it in your stride?
I actually really enjoy them. I’ve been a huge fan of the crime thriller genre for as long as I can remember and it’s fantastic getting out and meeting people who love the same kind of books as me. When I first started doing panels I was a bit nervous, and I have to admit that for my first few (evening) events I had a glass of wine or two to help my nerves! But everyone in crime fiction is so lovely, I find the panels and the people great fun – so now it’s usually just water in my glass when I’m on stage!

A huge thank you Steph for taking part and for the brilliant answers. I really enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to seeing you at Hull Noir!

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Dark Winter by David Mark

As part of the Hull Noir countdown I’m sharing my review of Dark Winter by David Mark. David Mark is from Hull and his Detective Aector McAvoy novels are set in the city. I have to admit that this book has been sitting on my Kindle for far too long while review copies took priority. I’m so glad I finally read this book and I’m looking forward to hearing Mark speak at Hull Noir. Mark is taking part in Sleeping with the Fishes on Saturday 18th November with Nick Quantrill, Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates and I can’t wait!

The Blurb

DS Aector McAvoy is a man with a troubled past. His unwavering belief in justice has made him an outsider in the police force he serves, a good man among the lazy and corrupt.

Then on a cold day in December he is the first cop on the scene when a young girl is killed in Hull’s historic church – and the only one to see the murderer. A masked man, with tears in his eyes…

When two more seemingly unconnected people die, the police must work quickly. Only McAvoy can see the connection between the victims. A killer is playing God – and McAvoy must find a way to stop the deadly game.

My Thoughts

‘“Hull isn’t in the North East, sir. It’s in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”’

Dark Winter is a book that has been sitting waiting on my Kindle for what seems like an eternity! This means that I am way behind everybody else with Mark’s Detective Aector McAvoy series as Dark Winter is the first in a series of six. I was initially drawn to this book because it is set in Hull and written by a Hull author.

When a fifteen year old is stabbed to death in Holy Trinity Church, Detective McAvoy is first on the scene and sees the killer. When further killings occur McAvoy is the only detective to see a link between them.

I really liked Aector McAvoy as a character. He is a big bear of a man who has a real gentleness about him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his dark side – let’s face it, most detectives in crime novels do – and he can undoubtedly hold his own but he is principled and believes in honest justice which is something his colleagues are often willing to overlook. From a character point of view, Dark Winter works well as the initial novel in a series. The reader is given enough information about McAvoy’s past to be intrigued and there is clearly more to come with this character.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot for fear of giving anything away but have to mention that I really liked the reasons for the killings. It adds another layer and pulls together what seem initially to be disparate threads together nicely. The plot kept me interested and wanting to read more. Dark Winter is well paced and Mark ensures that the plot moves along at a decent speed.

The setting of Hull plays a large and important part in Dark Winter. It perfectly adds to the atmosphere of the novel. Dark Winter was first published in 2012 and at that time Hull was one of those northern cities that had been decimated by the loss of industry. There was always a prevailing sense of loss and hopelessness within Hull and its many run-down streets that Mark captures well in Dark Winter. However, he also captures the sense of pride and identity that people from Hull have about their city and this is highlighted when even McAvoy, a non-Hull native, points out that Hull is in Yorkshire. I very much hope that with City of Culture status and five years on from Dark Winter that Hull is able to reach its potential and become the great city I hold so affectionately in my heart. I will be interested to see if there are any changes in the way Hull is portrayed by Mark in the following books.

A great start to a detective series, I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Winter and read it in no time at all. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series now that I have started and look forward to seeing where Mark takes McAvoy. I am also interested to see if the descriptions of Hull change over time. If you are looking for a gritty, northern read check Dark Winter out.

First published 19 December 2012 by Quercus and on 5 October 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton.

You can get all the information about Hull Noir, including tickets HERE.

Continue reading Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Dark Winter by David Mark

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!

 

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!