Focus: Bryant and May – The Burning Man.

bryant and may

Today, to celebrate the 12th instalment in the brilliant Bryant & May series, I am very happy to welcome Christopher Fowler to the blog telling us “The Truth about Bryant and May”.


Christopher Fowler

The Truth About Bryant & May

Christopher Fowler


When the first Bryant & May book was written as a stand-alone novel for the publishers Little, Brown it was turned down. To be fair to them, they had supported an author who seemed unable to settle into any style or genre, who threw all their attempts to pigeonhole or create a fanbase. They had made some mistakes, publishing my novel ‘Calabash’ under sufferance and not really understanding it, but generally they were good publishers and nice people to work with.

Transworld immediately ‘got’ Bryant & May thanks to their editor, Simon Taylor, who saw a future in them that even I hadn’t foreseen. He suggested a sequel, not me. As the first book had originally started out as a period romp, I rewrote it to set the thing up as an origin story, and so the series was born. I planned to cap it at six books, with a story arc buried within the entirely separate plots that involved a man called Peter Jukes and a Ministry of Defence conspiracy to cover up a series of deaths. I’m not sure that my real-life author pal Peter Jukes has forgiven me yet.

The arc was based on a number of real incidents occurring at the time, involving the suicides of several Indian workers. This is from a site called;

What is it about scientists working at Porton Down that make them want to commit suicide? Just recently, the body of Dr Richard Holmes, 48, was found in a field only 4 miles away, and in very similar circumstances to the now infamous “suicide” of UK weapons inspector to Iraq, Dr David Kelly back in 2003. Holmes too, was a weapons scientist working at the government’s secret chemical warfare laboratory, until he resigned a few weeks ago.

When I closed the arc of six tales in ‘The Victoria Vanishes’, we adopted a wait-and-see approach to the books, which were selling to a small group of dedicated fans but certainly not a threat to the big names in crime. WH Smith wouldn’t stock me (they still don’t – apparently they think the books are too upmarket) but specialist shops liked the series, and both Waterstones and Foyles proved loyal stockists. Most importantly, the publishers didn’t actively lose money on them, so on we went.

I started to trim down the history lessons within the books, which were getting a bit lengthy, and began enjoying myself with the subsidiary characters. The first cover had been created by a wonderful artist, Jake Rickwood, who was represented by Meiklejohn Illustration. Coincidentally, I had known Chris Meiklejohn for donkey’s years beforehand, and he could have been in a B&M novel. A darkly handsome man with one arm, he wore a sinister black glove on his false hand and personally repped his artists around ad agencies.

When we came to do a second book, Mr Rickwood announced that he was retiring – landing us with no artist to take the series on. The result was that we ended up with a disastrous attempt to recreate the first cover, which was scrapped in favour of an even more awful one which became known as the ‘Simpsons’ cover, because on it Bryant & May were bright yellow. We finally found the brilliant David Frankland, who instantly understood the semiotics required for the books; a hint of those old railway carriage posters, an Englishness, a balance of architecture and humans, a touch of darkness.

Suddenly I was up to volumes 9 and 10, and another story arc had formed in my head, this time involving the characters. I knew that Volume 12 would had to bring us full circle with a building on fire, and that with it I had to close something off. Over the books, one of the pleasures for me has been confounding readers who said ‘you can’t surely get any more out of this genre’ by proving that I could. What’s more, I found it relatively easy, compared to my stand-alone novels. Because by this time I realised I had created a weird sub-genre of my own, not as comfortable as ‘cosy’, fanciful but within the realms of possibility.

After all, the original concept had been rooted in hard fact, my scientist father having worked in just such a post-war unit. Still, I planned to end the series at Volume 12 because it was where the second arc finished, and I had an idea for new crime series. Even more excitingly, when I ran the idea for this new series past agents they nearly all hated it, which was enough to make me want to prove them wrong and make it work.

Once again my plans were rerouted, because writing ‘The Invisible Code’ provoked a sea-change in me. If you look at the books from that point you can see something has fundamentally altered; they’re more relaxed, they trust the reader, they have more confidence and lightness of touch. It really helped that my outgoing agent Mandy had intervened to remove a new character and make me set him aside for another time. She said; ‘Concentrate on what you’ve already got.’ It proved to be great advice.

Unlike my stand-alone novels, such as ‘Plastic’ and ‘Nyctophobia’, the Bryant & Mays feel as if they write themselves. I’d be lying if I denied they’re hard work to put together – they are – but I have far more confidence now. I knew that typing ‘The End’ would come as a terrible wrench on the twelfth volume, so I didn’t (you’re not allowed to look and see what I put instead unless you’ve first read it!)

Now we sail into darker waters…shortly I’ll be explaining how I’m going to deal with the situation I’ve created, and what else you can expect.



Publication Date: Available Now from Transworld.

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.

Another outing for the Peculiar Crimes Unit then, featuring eclectic detective duo Bryant and May – I’ve always really enjoyed this weirdly wonderful series, I have dipped in an out of them over the years and it is always a pleasure.

This instalment throws a lot of problems into the path of our pair, most especially for Bryant, as usual the mystery they face is both strange and difficult to fathom. I’ve always been a big fan of the construction of these stories – intelligent plotting and a wonderful backdrop (London is the 3rd character here for sure) Christopher Fowler challenges and engages the reader every time, keeping you immersed into the narrative all the way.

I like that you can read any of these as standalone novels, yet the mythology of the series is still ingrained into every one. This one would be a great one to start with, it is definitely one of my favourites so far (although I need to go back and fill in the odd gap) it was beautifully done and an absolute page turner.

Plenty of twists and turns, an elegantly woven puzzle with a social edge, with “The Burning Man” Mr Fowler has shown that there is plenty of life left in this series despite, or perhaps because of, its longevity. Highly enjoyable, eminently readable and a perfect blend of crime and character driven storytelling. Highly Recommended.

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Spotlight Latest Reads: Hollow Blood by Austin Dragon. Blog Tour.


Publication Date: Available Now

Source: Author Review Copy

Ichabod Crane is dead! Everyone knows it. The Horseman took him—like so many others—one dark night in 1790. All that remained of the town’s amiable schoolmaster was his hat on the side of the road, with a shattered pumpkin beside it. But soon the fearful townspeople of Sleepy Hollow realized that the terrifying Horseman, that haunted their region for ages, had also disappeared, inexplicably, after that night. They were free!  That was 10 years ago. And now a lone stranger has come to their quiet town.

I spent a very pleasant (and horrifying) Sunday afternoon reading Austin Dragon’s take on the Sleepy Hollow legend – very clever and a storming read, if you are a fan of horror then this one is definitely for you.

There is a lovely little twist of horror and mystery to be found here – Julian Crane comes to Sleepy Hollow incognito to investigate the disappearance of Ichabod. Someone does not want him asking questions however, his belief being that his Uncle was murdered, is this the case or was he truly taken by the Horseman?

This is beautifully written descriptively speaking – a pervading sense of menace creeping up on the reader as it does Julian, whose beliefs are tested to the limits as he tries to discover the truth. The historical flavour of the story is excellent, a real sense of place and time where superstition is rife and anything could happen. The supernatural elements are blended seamlessly into the plot and there is an eclectic and genuinely intriguing bunch of characters to give the whole thing some punch.

A very compelling take on an age old tale – the ending was perfect and I really hope that there will be more soon.

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Spotlight Latest Reads: The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey


Publication Date: Available Now.

Source: Author Review Copy.

Maverick cop Henk van der Pol is thinking about retirement when he finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour. His detective instincts take over, even though it’s not his case. But Henk’s bigger challenge is deciding who his friends are – not to mention a vicious street pimp who is threatening Henk’s own family. As his search for the killer of the woman in Amsterdam Harbour takes him into a corrupt world of politics and power, Henk finds himself facing some murky moral choices.

The Harbour Master is a set of 3 novella’s following the (mis)fortunes of Henk Van Der Pol and is a terrific mix of mystery and suspense with some dark themes explored over the course of the stories.

I enjoyed it – very compelling throughout and written with a true noir style, set in Amsterdam, the first time I have read anything set here. The sense of place is authentic and intriguing and Henk himself is a beautfully drawn conflicted character who finds himself having to make some difficult moral judgements.

There is plenty of action to be had in amongst some more contemplative moments, there is a nice “duo” to be had with Hank and his journalist wife, plus the author manages to avoid the “aged detective” cliche very nicely, making our main protagonist flawed but not caricature.

All of the stories are fast, engaging reads, written in a beautifully readable and addictive style that will keep you turning the pages. Great depth of character and clever descriptive prose puts you right on the spot and overall I would definitely recommend these for fans of psychological thrillers with a kick.

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Spotlight Latest Reads: The Page by M Jonathan Lee.


Publication Date: Available Now from Troubador.

Source: Author Review Copy

Following a tragic car accident, Michael Sewell is alone for the first time. The loss of his wife, Margaret, after thirty years of marriage has left a hole far greater than Michael could have imagined.
Persuaded to go on holiday by his daughter Jane, he’s at the pool when a page blown from a book sticks to his chest. The words from the page resonate with Michael, describing in detail the exact events leading up to the accident. Now, Michael must delve into his past and face his future, taking him and his family on a horrifying and tragic journey toward the truth…

I loved “The Radio” so was looking forward to this one – it was a really excellent read, quite the page turner (yes I know!) and beautifully done.

It is a fun book to read as you try to work out just what is going to happen, peppered with clues and with some truly fascinating characters you will love to hate to love. As Michael takes us on a journey through his life and tries to track down the rest of this book that happens to be scarily accurate, it is a beautifully drawn mystery thriller that will engage you all the way.

This is part of a trilogy, The Radio being the first part this being the second, and the way it ends will have you on the edge of your seat for the finale – where presumably all will be revealed including all the connections – I say presumably because the joy of these is it is never exactly clear where everything is going. Trying to work it out will give you a major book hangover but it is delicious stuff none the less.

Michael is horrible (I thought so anyway) so it is quite an accomplishment to make the reader still care what happens and want to know, but want to know you will and Mr Lee has a lovely way with words that embeds you into the tale immediately and will have you devouring every chapter.

Overall then a really terrific read, an author to watch. Hopefully not long until the next one – intelligent plotting and careful character driving makes it a must have.

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Touched by Joanna Briscoe. Guest post from the Author.

TouchedJoanna BriscoePhoto by Jason Alden

Today I’m happy to welcome Joanna Briscoe to the blog. Her new novel “Touched” is available now.

Rowena Crale and her family have moved from London to a cottage in a picture perfect English village. But despite their efforts, the cottage resists all attempts at renovation.Walls ooze damp, stains come through layers of wallpaper, ceilings sag, and strange voices emanate from empty rooms.And then, one by one, Rowena’s daughters go missing….

Joanna’s childhood home was the inspiration for the house in “Touched”. Here Joanna tells us why.


The Village of the Damned

I spent my first four years in the village of the damned. This was where the classic 1960 horror film The Village of the Damned, based on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, was shot. I can even see my old house in the film. This was the most picture postcard perfect village, with old red brick houses set around a Green with a duck pond, a war memorial, and fields all about. The village was so pretty, and so near the Elstree film studios, that it was often used as a location.

When I went back there for the first time in adulthood, it was almost worryingly identical to how I had remembered it, every lane, every feature of the house coming back to me, though we had left when I was four. In its prettiness, it seemed almost creepy, as though ghosts or hidden perversions haunted the perfection.

Why is beauty so powerful? Why does it delude, make people obsessed and act in odd ways when we know it’s only skin deep? This is connected to Touched in two ways – the character of the beautiful girl Jennifer, and the pretty village that hides all sorts of darkness.

What is it about children that can be so disturbing in the context of horror or the supernatural? Does the root of this lie in their seeming innocence juxtaposed with darker psyches or abilities?

I wanted to write about a child who seems very disturbing – she dresses as a shabby Victorian while her contemporaries dress in the latest fashions of the early 1960s, when the novel is set – and her behaviour is certainly odd. But actually, at some level, it is her ordinary seeming and extremely beautiful sister, Jennifer, who is, in her blankness, more disturbing.

Joanna Briscoe is the author of Mothers and Other Lovers, Skin and the highly acclaimed Sleep with Me which was published in ten countries and adapted for ITV drama by Andrew Davies.


She spent her very early years in ‘the village of the damned’, Letchmore Heath in Hertfordshire, the location for the celebrated 1960 film based on John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos – and the inspiration, too, for this Hammer novella.

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Praise for Touched


‘A ghost story interwoven with crime, love and horror. It works on every level… Touched is a finely balanced creation, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Briscoe’s prose is sensuous, poetic, light. The rhythm is delicately controlled. A strange, fascinating tale’ Financial Times


‘Touched is a gripping novella, a waking nightmare in the home counties that is both erotic and claustrophobic. There’s a woozy atmosphere of menace, a satirical stab at Britain’s postwar commuter-belt aspirations, and an elegant, postmodern, cine-literate twist… has something of The Turn of the Screw, certainly, but with it, the brasher influence of Ira Levin, or Anthony Shaffer, screenwriter of The Wicker Man. And Briscoe is, of course, influenced by that strange and fascinating B-movie, the Twilight Zone chiller Village of the Damned… This is a haunting and disquieting parable… Touched would make a terrific 1960s black-and-white film’ Guardian


‘Children go missing from a cottage that resists renovation in a wonderfully claustrophobic horror. It’s all wonderfully creepy….Touched is thoroughly eerie, an enjoyably chilling sliver of ice on a hot summer’s day’ Thriller of the Month, Observer


‘A brilliantly eerie story’ Martha Lane Fox, Event Magazine, Mail on Sunday


‘That sense of suffocation and slowly creeping madness is something that Touched — the latest novella from the Hammer horror imprint — expertly mines’ Daily Mail


‘A spine-chilling tale of a creepy cottage and a mother’s terror’ Daily Express


‘An old fashioned, scary horror story’ Sunday Mirror


‘Haunting novella from Joanna Briscoe… a disorientating ride’ Grazia


‘A ghastly gathering sense of unease never lets up… chilling tale’ Woman & Home

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Prey by James Carol – Blog Tour


Publication Date: Available Now from Faber

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Six years ago a young married couple were found brutally stabbed to death in their home in Upstate New York. Local police arrested a suspect who later committed suicide. But what if the police got it wrong?
Ex-FBI profiler Jefferson Winter is drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious female psychopath as she sets him a challenge: find out what really happened six years ago.
The clock is ticking, and as Winter is about to find out, the endgame is everything…

So the third in the Jefferson Winter series then, I’ve really enjoyed these and I have to say that from a personal point of view I think that Prey is my favourite so far.

In this instalment a mysterious woman accosts Jefferson in a cafe – challenging him in a way that he cannot ignore, he begins a journey into a past case that may have far reaching consequences.

A real page turner this one – I read it in two gulping sittings, in this case it was not Jefferson I was interested in so much as it was our enigmatic female “bad guy”  I LOVED her, so much so that often I wanted her to win. Well occasionally anyway. Even Jefferson is having trouble getting a handle on things and this makes for some great moments as he attempts to make sense of the unimaginable.

I love a good “profiler” story and James Carol’s series is a cut above when it comes to pure readability and for characters that always leave you desperate for more. Jefferson is a marvellously drawn character, usually he’s right on the ball so it was actually fascinating to see him having issues. As for our appearing/disappearing lady, never knowing when she was going to suddenly appear made for some edge of the seat moments, with a very real possibility that Jefferson had met his match.

The mystery element is, as always, intelligent and compelling, lovely twisty turny goodness as things progress and more information comes to light. Keeping you off kilter as far as what may happen next is one of the strengths of this particular author and with “Prey” it is beautifully done.

Overall then a most terrific read. I simply cannot WAIT for the next one.

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The Boy who Granted Dreams by Luca Di Fulvio – Blog Tour.


Today a guest post from Luca Di Fulvio – welcome Luca and thank you!


It’s completely natural for Italians to think of emigration as part of their DNA, as integral as art, music and sunshine. Even for those of us whose relatives did not emigrate. It’s part of our national experience (even if, now that it’s our turn to accommodate all those coming from Africa or Eastern Europe in search of a better life, we sometimes seem to forget this).

For this reason, I didn’t have too much trouble putting myself in the shoes of Cetta, the mother of the protagonist of my novel, who leaves a shady part of Calabria for New York.

Almost all of our migrants, especially at the beginning of the last century, came from the south of Italy (and consequently they shape the popular view of all Italians), having been forced by hunger and social injustice to go in search of a new world and a new life. They were poor, often illiterate, struggling even to speak Italian. The modern world they found in America, and particularly in New York, must have been totally overwhelming. It has always seemed to me that the thuggish behaviour that made us notorious was a front concealing a huge amount of fear. And I think our national tendency to seal ourselves off in tight little groups began as a kind of remedy to that, a way to share that terrible fear among the community. These people’s nostalgia for their homeland (by which they meant not Italy but the little region they came from and the incomprehensible dialect they spoke), and for the roots they had been wrenched from, were simply a balm for the deep sense of not belonging they must have felt. I remember a friend of mine telling me about her grandmother who, twenty years after moving to France, had barely mastered the basic vocabulary needed to do the shopping.

But there was another type of emigrant, the adventurers who threw themselves into the melting pot, back when that concept was still in fashion. Who grasped and believed in the extraordinary opportunities the Promised Land had to offer.

Cetta belongs to this second category. But she keeps her wits about her. She is smart enough to realise that for her there can be nothing more than the ‘salad bowl’ on which American culture would fall back years later. But she has the foresight to invest all her hopes and dreams in a different future for her son, a future in which the mythical ‘melting pot’ could become a reality. As far as Cetta is concerned, this child, who set off for America with the Italian name Natale, but at Ellis Island had it translated to Christmas by a fledgling interpreter named Fiorello LaGuardia, can and must have what she will never attain. Christmas will be American. He will integrate.

People immediately tell her that Christmas is a negro name. But Cetta asks who the negroes are: ‘Are they Americans?’ And when told there’s no denying they’re American, she happily and proudly states, ‘Then my son has a new American name.’

Cetta, who has escaped from a quasi-medieval fiefdom whose padrone molests his female subjects, has no choice at the beginning but to work as a prostitute. But there is something spurring her on to succeed, to reach her aims. Maybe she wouldn’t have had the strength to succeed for herself (even though she is an amazing woman and I think she would always have gone far), but for her son, who is her future, she finds all the determination she needs to fulfil her ambitions.

Christmas is an extraordinary peddler of dreams, a giver of hope, and not only to the people of the Lower East Side ghetto; but there’s no doubt he gets this talent from Cetta, and the way she brought him up.

I tried to paint a picture of a girl (when she arrives in New York she is only a teenager) with a gift for lightness. The cruel, terrible world she encounters seems to leave her unscathed. The mud the other down-and-outs fling at one another seems to wash right off her. Sal himself, who will become her faithful companion, is none other than a pimp. A man who, in common with so many others like him in that era, chose to take the shortcut of criminality. And yet even he, under Cetta’s influence, will display a better side to himself, a side every one of us has.

It sounds like a fairytale, I know. But I firmly believe in human nature, despite everything going on around us. I have an unshakeable faith in the human being’s capacity to choose the right path and, with the help of circumstances, to open the door to a better world.

And in this story, Cetta is the character who shows others the way. With natural ease. With lightness, as I said before. Without airs and graces.


When Christmas was little, he and Cetta “would sit on a bench in Battery Park, next to one another, and Christmas would read aloud to her — first sounding out each syllable with difficulty, then more and more smoothly as he went on — the adventures of White Fang. One page a day.

“This our story,” Cetta told him the day they finished the book, almost a year later. “When we come here to New York, we like White Fang, like wolves. We strong and we wild. And we meet bad people who make us more wild, savage. And they kill us if we let them, eh? But we not just wild. We strong, too. Always you remember that, Christmas. And when we meet good person, or if we have some good luck, then our strength make us like White Fang. Americans. No more wild. That what book mean.”

“I like the wolves better than the dogs,” said Christmas.

Cetta stroked his fair hair. “You a wolf, my baby. And wolf inside you make you strong, more strong, when you big. But like White Fang, you listen when you hear voice of love. If you no pay attention when you hear, then you get like all those bad boys in neighborhood, those delinquenti, they not wild wolf, they mad dogs.”


The Boy Who Granted Dreams by Luca Di Fulvio is published 23rd March by Bastei Entertainment, price £4.99 in eBook

About the book:

1909. Ellis Island. Arriving off one of the many transatlantic freighters are Cetta Luminita and her illegitimate baby boy Natale, fleeing the poverty and violence of their Southern Italian hometown. Having sacrificed everything, and endured every possible shame, Cetta has but one wish: that her baby should be an American, and grow up with the freedom to decide his own destiny. As they alight, US Immigration officials give Natale a new name: Christmas.

Growing up in the Lower East Side of New York with his mother, who works as a prostitute, Christmas is determined to be a success, whether a decent person or a gangster. The city is ruled by gangs from each community, Italian, Jewish and Irish, and survival is dependent on ruthlessness and strength. But Christmas has a vivid imagination, and an ability to tell stories that people want to believe…and thus is born his imaginary gang, the Diamond Dogs, which earns him respect within the ghetto. All this changes the day he saves the life of a rich Jewish girl Ruth, and despite their different backgrounds, he falls hopelessly in love with her. When circumstance tears them apart, Christmas vows that he will find her, by any means possible.

A sweeping saga of love and hate set in the Roaring Twenties, The Boy Who Granted Dreams is the story of Christmas and Ruth; the story of the dawn of radio, Broadway and Hollywood; and above all, a story about believing in the power of dreams.

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The Faerie Tree blog tour‏ with Jane Cable

9781784622220_covfairy tree

Today I am very pleased to welcome Jane Cable to the blog – celebrating her new novel “The Faerie Tree”. Here she talks about keeping Fiction real.



I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings; pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
“Why do people do this?” Izzie asked.
I winked at her. “To say thank you to the fairies.”

The first time I saw the faerie tree I wanted to hug it. And I don’t generally go around hugging trees. I may sometimes talk to pot plants, but that’s different. No; wanting to hug this tree was something deeper, more elemental. I knew it was a special place. Just how special I didn’t come to realise until I started writing the book some eight months later.

The Faerie Tree is about the tricks memory plays; the main characters, Izzie and Robin, first fall in love in 1986. They hold hands around the faerie tree and make their separate wishes for a future together but within hours tragedy strikes and they don’t meet again for twenty years. When they do, they discover that their memories of what happened before are completely different.

With all this uncertainty having credible settings for the story was vital. They have to be real; I think, because the things which happen perhaps are not. They’re puzzling, mysterious – sometimes even other worldly – and to make that work I need them to be grounded in places I actually know.

The faerie tree in the story is on the banks of the River Hamble and stands in National Trust woods near the village of Curbridge. It is just as Robin describes it in the passage above; as an added bonus you can leave letters to the faeries in the box attached to the trunk and they will leave you a reply in the plastic folder tacked to the back of the tree.

The place has a magic all of its own and although probably few visitors to the tree would realise it, the practice of decorating oaks with offerings stretches back to pre-Christian times. Perhaps it is something in a shared memory that makes people do the same thing today. If you would like a virtual walk there, visit this page of my website:

Because the faerie tree is central to the story I needed to use other locations nearby in Hampshire. The fact the opening scene is in Winchester is a personal doffing of my cap to the wonderful Winchester Writers’ Festival which I have attended three times and has had a huge influence on the writer I have become. But more than that Winchester is a beautiful city, the sort of place that begs to be written into any novel.

As are the places the young Robin travels through on his journey. It was such a pleasure to pick out some of the jewels in crown of the coastline west from Southampton that I actually over-wrote this part of the book in the first draft. Sometimes it is far too easy – and self-indulgent – to write paragraph upon paragraph about places you love without realising the story is going nowhere. I hope the places which survive in the final version are those which add to the story rather than detract from it.

Although most of the book is set in Hampshire, Cornwall has a significant part to play as well, in particular its surf capital, Newquay. In the summer of 2010 I spent a long weekend nearby and my sister-in-law and I booked a surfing lesson. I was hopeless, but hooked. I even went into Newquay to buy my own body board and although I didn’t realise it at the time, the shop and the town itself stayed etched in my mind. Filed away, neatly, until I had a character – and a story – who would need it.



How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings – pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
“Why do people do this?” Izzie asked.
I winked at her. “To say thank you to the fairies.”

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

With strong themes of paganism, love and grief, The Faerie Tree is a novel as gripping and unputdownable as Jane Cable’s first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, which won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition. It is a story that will resonate with fans of romance, suspense, and folklore

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New Release Spotlight: Knights Shadow by Sebastien De Castell. Guest Post and Review.


Today I am happy to welcome Sebastien De Castell to the blog telling us all about Character Turmoil as the second book in his “Greatcoats” series is released.


Turmoil and Tribulation in Series Fantasy: Why Authors Torment Your Favourite Characters


I slammed down my copy of George R. R. Martin’s Storm of Swords on top of the bed. It bounced. “That son of a—”


“Please stop yelling at the book,” my wife said, nose-deep in a different, less contentious novel. “The author can’t hear you.”


“He’s killed off another of my favourite characters,” I complained.


“Yes, well, that’s terrible of him.”


I took in a deep breath—a necessary preparation for the lengthy speech I was about to deliver—“What’s worse, I didn’t even like that character in the first place! But then damned George R.R. Martin went and made me like the character and then boom! Killed ‘em off right in front of me.”


I imagine some variation of my rant has been repeated by fans of A Song Of Ice and Fire the world over, always ending with the same question: why do authors insist on tormenting and even murdering our favourite characters?


The Need for Escalating Failures


Think of some of your favourite literary characters. What is it about them that you love? I don’t mean the simple, surface attributes like being witty or clever or attractive. I mean the things that will keep you reading page after page to find out what happens to them. Is it their willingness to sacrifice everything for love? Their ability to stand up to even the worst bullies? Whatever those qualities are, chances are they can only really be seen when the character is facing serious adversity.


But can a character who never fails really be brave or determined? How can we find a character’s inner strength compelling unless we’ve first seen them fail? Falcio val Mond, the protagonist of Traitor’s Blade, starts the novel having already failed many of the most important people in his life. His determination to follow his ideals is only interesting because of the way those ideals have failed him in the past. It’s only through watching the character lose—and lose big–that we can rejoice when he finally succeeds.


But what happens after that final victory when we move onto the next book in the series? Will you, as a reader, really be as emotionally engaged if the next failure the protagonist experiences is no worse than the ones you’ve already seen them overcome in the previous book? The answer, of course, is no. And this means that things have to get harder. The emotional stakes have to get bigger, and the failures have to get worse.


The Need for Increasing Torment


The only people who enjoy tormenting the things they love are psychopaths and writers. In fact, the term ‘enjoy’ is probably a bit off here. I suppose it’s more that the writer feels they have a duty to torment their characters. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if this makes writers better or worse than psychopaths…


There’s a long sequence of scenes that take place in Knight’s Shadow which will, I suspect, shock a few people. I didn’t write them to be shocking, it’s just that, well, that’s how they turned out. See, if you like Falcio as a character then it’s at least in part because you feel a connection to his ideals. But at the root of ideals are real experiences—often terrible ones—that shape our ideas about the world. To get to the absolute core of Falcio, I needed to strip him down to the point where there was nothing left except that first, fundamental piece of him that couldn’t be taken away.


So while failures are a crucial part of the plot, torment—the internal pain that comes as a result of those failures—is vital for character. This, too, becomes more difficult with a sequel. If your beloved character has emerged from his first adventures stronger than before, then the internal pain they experience has to be commensurately higher the next time around.


The Necessity of Death


So after all that, why in the world would any author kill off a character that fans enjoy? Considering how much work it takes to make people like them in the first place, why would any writer do such a foolish thing?


The simple answer is that, at a certain point, a character has finished their journey. They no longer have a tale of their own to tell, they no longer reveal anything about the world they inhabit, and their continued presence dilutes the overall story. At that point the author is faced with a question: should I simply disappear this character (have them move, retire, or otherwise leave the stage)? Or do they have the ability to dramatically impact other characters who do have a story to tell? If it’s the latter, then some radical shift is likely required, either through death or turning towards a darker side.


As a writer, part of my job is to wring every possible ounce of dramatic potential from my characters. If that comes from them living, great. If it comes from them dying…bring on the guillotine!


Addendum: The Necessity of Life


“So that’s why I’m going to kill him off,” I told my editor, the esteemed Jo Fletcher.

She thought about it for all of a second. “No, you damn well aren’t.”


Okay, she didn’t say it exactly that way. In fact, she never actually forbids me from killing off a character, but she has moved me away from killing off specific characters at various points in the series. The details of the conversations change but the essential question is always the same: “Have you said everything you want to say with that character?”


That, kind readers, is the one and only reason to keep a character alive: when they still have important things to say.


Thank you so much!



Publication Date: Available Now from Jo Fletcher.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.
Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites – well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio. That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament…

So a big task for the author then, to follow up the really most excellent Traitors Blade with another blazing adventure – if anything Knights Shadow is even more compelling, definitely a whole load of swashbuckling fun but with a darker tone to it that I adored.

Once again it is brilliantly readable, wittily ironic in places with some tremendously clever world building and characterisation – one of the things that I like most about it is the bounce to the dialogue, the interactions between our group of Greatcoats and the wider cast they come across is gorgeously written, often funny and really brings the whole thing to life. Our villains are truly villainous and beautifully drawn, the mythology is expanded and intensified, added to that we have plenty of action, thrills and spills to keep us on our toes.

Knights Shadow picks up right where Traitors Blade left off and is a breathless rollercoaster of a ride that will engage, fascinate and compel the reader ever onwards, there is a beauty to the tale that gets right to the heart of you. Another huge page turner and basically Mr De Castell has just hit the sweet spot when it comes to Fantasy writing – this is exactly how it should be done. No problem with “2nd book syndrome” here, a really really great read. I simply can’t wait for the next.

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Also Available: Read First


Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

Happy Reading Folks!


Liz Currently Loves…..The Lie by C L Taylor


Publication Date: April 23rd from Avon.

Source: Netgalley

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes…
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

The Lie is a really excellent follow up to “The Accident” a book I was enthralled by last year, clever and tense psychological thrillers both. In The Accident the focus was on parental relationships and secrets, here with “The Lie” it is all about friendship.

Jane Hughes was not always Jane Hughes. In her other existence she and a group of friends went on the trip of a lifetime – What happened during that holiday led Jane to change her name and hide away from the world. Now, however, someone has tracked her down and soon the truth will emerge…

I do love books like this for their utterly addictive quality, where a past story is slowly drip fed to you in conjunction with present events, slowly but surely leading you towards the full picture. Ms Taylor does this particularly well by using some really excellent and emotive characters to pull you in. These friends could be any  friends – the relationships we form as we head into adulthood tend to be the ones that stay with us even if we drift apart, this is captured in essence here perfectly even as this particular group fractures and falls.

I adored (hated) in equal measure every single one of them. This is why it is so completely enthralling throughout….when faced with an untenable situation, what do you do when the people you relied on, trusted, turn their backs on you?  As an exploration of the petty jealousies and rolling emotions that can hide underneath the surface of the most solid seeming relationships this is pitched perfectly with some thought provoking themes and scenario’s.

Add to that the fact that it is truly haunting – I’m not giving too much away on the plot, what happens to the girls is horrific, but you should come to that on your own – still it is terribly creepy at times, there is one character in particular that I found to be as scary as he was intriguing and the situation is very authentic and possible which of course makes it even more frightening.

I will give a nod to Daisy. Daisy was a character who I wanted to punch in the mouth and I am not a violent person. Still, she was absolutely captivating, truly memorable, fascinating and provocative, I’d like to bet that like me, she will be one who will stay with you for the longest after the story is done.

Overall then a most terrific read, a huge page turner and a beautifully written snapshot of friendship and the things that separate us. Convincing and chilling, this comes highly recommended from me.

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The Accident

Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality.

Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past.

There is a lot that Sue doesn’t know about Charlotte’s life. But then there’s a lot that Charlotte doesn’t know about Sue’s …

Happy Reading Folks!