Killer Women Killer Crime Writing Festival – Part 5

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So the brilliant crime writers at Killer Women are having their very first festival on Saturday 15th October – it is going to be a rocking day and you can pick up a ticket HERE.

With less than a week to go, here is Part 5  of my trawl around the bookish landscape to find out more about those you can see at the festival – and what they will be up to. Excitement is building…

If you missed Part One you can find it if you clickety click.

If you missed Part Two you can find it if you clickety click

If you missed Part Three you can find it if you clickety click

If you missed Part Four you can find it if you clickety click

The full line up can be found HERE but today we are hearing from Ann Cleeves, Louise Doughty and D E Meredith.

cold-earth-final-hbAnn Cleeves, writer, on August 19, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. For more information about using this image contact Micha Theiner: T: +44 (0) 7525 627 491 E: micha@michatheiner.com http:///www.michatheiner.com

Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it?
Cold Earth is the latest of the Shetland novels.  It begins with torrential rain and a landslide, which cuts the island in half and rips apart a croft house.  Everyone thought the house was empty but a woman in a red silk dress is found dead in the debris.  Jimmy Perez has to find out who the woman is and what she was doing in Shetland.  I hope readers can expect a twisty traditional crime novel and the sense of a very special place.

What is the last book you read and would you recommend it? 
The Constant Soldier by William Ryan and I’d certainly recommend it.  Set just as the 2nd world war is ending it’s a powerful story beautifully told.

What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival?
I’ll be there with Mark Billingham and Douglas Henshall, who plays Jimmy Perez in the BBC drama. We’ll be discussing the way characters devised for the page can adapt and change when the come to the screen and how difficult topics can be portrayed with tact and sensitivity.  Specifically Dougie and I will be talking about series 3 of Shetland.  This was an original story created by Gaby Chiappe and I thought it was popular television at its best – beautifully written, acted and directed and very well researched.

Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?
My fictional heroine is Jo March from Little Women.  I always wanted to be like her but I knew I’d never be that brave.

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you …
I get horribly seasick so I’m not quite sure why I keep going back to Shetland.  And when I lived on Fair Isle I learned to milk a cow by hand (though I was never very good at it).

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Tell us something about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it.

My latest novel is Black Water – it’s about a man called John Harper and as the book opens, we find him in a hut in rural Indonesia, lying awake at night and mortally afraid.  He thinks that men with machetes are going to come and kill him.  As the story progresses, we find out that what he is really afraid of is not what’s going to happen, but something that he himself has done.  Early in the book, he meets a woman in a bar and starts to tell her about his past and it opens up a whole can of worms for him.  Harper is really a metaphor for Indonesia itself: can a man find love and contentment without coming to terms with the things he has done?  Can a country achieve peace and stability unless it is open about the events of its past?  It’s a novel about personal and political betrayal and how those two intertwine.
What was the last book you read and would you recommend it.
I’ve just read The Natural Way of Things by Australian writer Charlotte Wood, which won the Stella prize (their equivalent to the Baileys).  Ten women awake imprisoned in a deserted sheep station in the Outback.  Gradually, they work out that what they all have in common is that they’ve been involved in sex scandals with powerful men.  It’s a brilliant book, a feminist dystopia in the style of Margaret Atwood, incredibly disturbing.  Images from it stayed in my mind long after I had finished it.
What will you be doing/talking about at the Killer Women festival
I’ll be on a panel with SJ Watson, Paula Hawkins and Alex Marwood talking about what it’s like to have your novel adapted for the screen.  I think it will be terrific fun.  I loved the film version of Before I Go To Sleep, with Nicole Kidman and I think The Girl on the Train will make an excellent film.  I’ll be talking about Apple Tree Yard becoming a four-part BBC1 series, with Emily Watson as Yvonne.  It’s due to be broadcast some time around then so the timing is perfect.
Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?
I think my fictional heroine has to be invented by a Bronte: either Cathy from Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre – even though they were constrained by love and passion, they are both such fierce, intelligent women, as were the Brontes themselves.
Tell us two random non bookish facts about you..
Two random, non-bookish facts: I’m very left-handed and incredibly clumsy.  I drop and break things all the time.  And I have no middle name.  I’m the only person I know who doesn’t have one.
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Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it?

My last book published was The Devil’s Ribbon. Its the second in the Hatton and Roumande mystery series published by A&B. Its set in the late 1850s and its story sees Professor Hatton (London’s first forensic scientist) and his equally clever, morgue assistant, Monsieur Albert Roumande trying to crack a tricky case involving a number of brutal murders. All the victims are found with  a green ribbon in their mouths – a sign of Irish nationalism.  The novel is an intricately plotted  murder mystery embracing the themes of early forensic science, the birth of the IRA, a bomb plot, a cholera epidemic in the rookeries (where the Irish lived in abject poverty), a tortured love affair and a lust for revenge.  

What is the last book you read and would you recommend it? 

I have just read Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. A novella set at in the early C20th about  the life of an illiterate labourer, Robert Grainer as he travels across the mid west of America building bridges and cutting down trees.  Train Dreams is an  astonishing work of literary fiction. A sweeping historical novella,  its a nightmarish vision of the American Myth and what it meant to be a pioneer in the wilderness.  Think Cormac McCarthy run through with the sensibilities and poetic prose and brilliance  of  Walt Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau and then some – it blew me way.  

What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival?

I am helping to run a panel on Nineteenth Century “murder most foul” with fellow KW writer Alison Joseph. We are very lucky to have an amazing panel lined up including award winning writers,  Kate Colquhoun, Kate Summerscale, Andrew Taylor and cultural historian and adviser on BBC’s  “Ripper Street,” Fern Riddell. Come along. It will be fantastic. 

Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?

I wouldn’t call any of the characters I am drawn to in fiction as  “heroes or heroines”. I tend to love brutal, muscular tortured literary books so often the protagonist  is brutal, dark and messed up, as well. My Desert Island Book is Conrad’s  “Heart of Darkness. I have spent a lot of my working life in Africa and I was working in Rwanda during the genocide for the Red Cross, so it has a particular resonance with me. I love its fin de siecle tone. Its sense of the world, and the world its characters inhabit being on the precipice of something awful – those famous lines from Marlow at the end of the book – “the horror, the horror”. But we don’t know what Marlow is looking at or what the horror really is. Marlow is the main protagonist  but we don’t like him. We must, however journey with him up the Congo River into the Heart of Darkness to find the evil but enigmatic, Mister Kurtz. Conrad was a very modern writer and with brilliant  economy creates a towering work of literary  fiction with themes which still resonates today   – madness, obsession, the darkness of the mind, the clash of cultures, exploitation, slavery  and the devastating impact of imperialism in Africa.  

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you …

I’ve worked as an  environmental campaigner and remain mad about wildlife. Especially manatees and armadillos. 

I have two large teenage boys so I make an endless supply of pies and fruit crumbles. They play a lot of rugby. 

Thanks everyone! The last Killer Women post will go up tomorrow evening. Keep an eye out!

Don’t forget to follow the Killer Women on Twitter for the latest news and updates or find out more about the organisation and subscribe to the newsletter HERE

Happy Reading!

 

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The Perfect Girl – Interview with Gilly Macmillan

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Today I am VERY pleased to welcome Gilly back to the blog talking about her new novel “The Perfect Girl” – apologies for the lateness this was supposed to be part of the blog tour but the vagaries of WordPress and my lack of efficiency that day lead to it being now instead of then. Better late than never as it is said and thanks SO much to Gilly for taking the time to answer some questions.

First of all thanks so much for coming back on the blog to answer some questions – can you start by telling us a little bit about “The Perfect Girl” – the original inspiration and themes within the story?

Thank you so much for inviting me to come back on the blog!

I was inspired to write ‘The Perfect Girl’ after hearing a story about a real life case where an otherwise very well-behaved teenager had caused the death of some friends in a car accident. She was sentenced to jail time after a trial and, in spite of having a very loving and supportive family, she was never able to get her life back to ‘normal’ after she left prison, partly because she had become exposed to drugs while incarcerated, and was unable to kick that dependency. The story haunted me, because I think that during your teenage years it could be so easy to make a mistake that had unforeseen but appalling consequences, and the fact that the rest of your life might be in danger of being defined by that is a frightening thing.

The themes followed: I was intrigued by the different ways you might try to rebuild your life after being responsible for a tragedy like that. How would it shape you, especially if you were so young when it happened, and how would jail time affect you? In this day and age, is it even possible to leave something completely behind without others finding out about it? And, possibly most important of all, how would it affect both your relationship with your family, and your and their relationship with the outside world as you try to move on?

Talk a little about Zoe – she is quite a complex character for a teenager, having made one mistake that she can’t leave behind – I was mostly interested in her relationship with her mother who tries to protect her but possibly in the wrong way. Can you talk a little about how you create the layers of relationships within the story?

I really love teenage characters because those years are such a challenging time in our lives. Older teenagers are often equipped with most of the skills you need in life, but remain powerless to a very large degree until they become adults, and that contradiction fascinates me. I decided to make Zoe a musical prodigy because that upped the stakes for her and for her mother even further. It gave her mother a way to try to rebuild their lives, which is why the book opens at a concert where Zoe is giving her ‘come-back’ performance, but it also allowed me also to explore ideas about how children, and particularly girls, can be put under tremendous pressure to succeed. I found it very rich material.

One fantastic thing about writing in a teenage voice is that I was able to make Zoe’s style of narration a lot freer than that of the adults, because she is a teenager. I began with Zoe’s unfiltered voice, and developed the voices of the adult characters around that. Some of the narrators are very close to Zoe and her mother, while others are involved with the family in a more professional capacity and this gives the reader different levels of objectivity about what happens to Zoe, and also, I hope, makes them feel they’re at the heart of the story in more ways than one.

You use multiple viewpoints which in this case work extraordinarily well by showing all the issues from different angles. How do you keep it straight when constructing the story – in other words, tell us a little about your writing process when it comes to plot development overall.

From the beginning of the book I was clear about what each character’s role was going to be, not so much in terms of how the plot would unfold, but in terms of how each narrator could shed light on Zoe’s character and actions, both past and present, and reveal how she has affected and continues to affect the people around her. To make that work, I knew I needed each narrator to have enough space within the book for the reader to get to know them properly, and to care about them. Beyond that, I used my gut instinct, asking myself which narrator I would find most dramatic as a reader at any point in the story, and carefully monitoring the pacing of the book so they were balanced. Often, it takes a lot of careful editing to get it right.

In terms of plot, when I started I had a reasonable idea of how I wanted the book to end, but it wasn’t until I set the story in motion and began to write from each character’s point of view that the nuances of the plot suggested themselves, and events began to twist and turn. It’s a bit of a scary way to write, and sometimes you find yourself getting a bit stuck on a plot point for a few days, but in many ways I think it helps drive the tension in the book. Using multiple viewpoints allows the different characters to fade in and out of focus for the reader and shed light on the action as it unfolds in unexpected ways. They’re a good device to use if you want to build up complex, interesting relationships between the characters, so that the reader is painfully aware that the actions of any one of them has the potential to have consequences that might ricochet around the lives of the others, and cause devastating outcomes.

Did you find “The Perfect Girl” came easier or harder than “Burnt Paper Sky”? BPS was received very well (for good reason) – is there a certain amount of pressure then on the next novel?

I found the plotting of ‘The Perfect Girl’ really tricky, because it quickly became very intricate, but I loved the characters and the tight time frame I was plotting within. The challenges of getting it all right and pulling the book together were sort of addictive, and as a result I wrote the book fairly quickly. I felt a lot of pressure, because it was the first time I had written anything that people in the industry were waiting to read, and the first time I’d written to a deadline, and both of those expectations were hard. Fortunately, ‘The Perfect Girl’ was entirely written before ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ was published so I avoided feeling any pressure that might have resulted from how ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ was received. That’s been more of an issue for Book 3.

Finally, can you tell us anything about what is in the pipeline?

Book 3 is in the pipeline and it’ll be the second in my DI Jim Clemo series, so a follow on from ‘Burnt Paper Sky’. It’s set in Bristol, as before, and sees DI Clemo taking on a new case involving two teenage boys who are involved in an incident that leaves one of them fighting for his life and the other refusing to speak about what’s happened.

Thanks so much!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Liz. It’s always a pleasure.

About the Book:

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To everyone who knows her now, Zoe Maisey – child genius, musical sensation – is perfect. Yet several years ago, Zoe caused the death of three teenagers. She served her time. And now she’s free.

Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life.

By midnight, her mother is dead.

Read my review of The Perfect Girl HERE

Find out more HERE

Follow Gilly on Twitter HERE

To Purchase “The Perfect Girl” clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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Killer Women – Killer Crime Writing Festival. Part 4

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So the brilliant crime writers at Killer Women are having their very first festival on Saturday 15th October – it is going to be a rocking day and you can pick up a ticket HERE.

With less than a week to go, here is Part 4 of my trawl around the bookish landscape to find out more about those you can see at the festival – and what they will be up to. Me? I’ll be there but with such a wonderful line up I really couldnt tell you what I’ll actually be doing at this stage..

If you missed Part One you can find it if you clickety click.

If you missed Part Two you can find it if you clickety click

If you missed Part Three you can find it if you clickety click

The full line up can be found HERE but today we are hearing from Laura Wilson, David Swindle, Alison Joseph and Kate Culquhoun.

 

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Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it.
The Wrong Girl is a contemporary psychological standalone, set in Norfolk. To quote from the jacket:
Janice Keaton is living a quiet, easy life when a longed-for reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption several decades earlier drags her into a lethal confrontation with her past.
Did her brother, Dan, die a natural death? Is Joe, her former lover, really an acid casualty, or was there another reason for his abrupt withdrawal from public life? And what is her granddaughter, Molly, hiding?
As she struggles to come to terms with a series of shocks, Janice realises that her recollections of the past hold a sinister secret — one with deadly consequences. And then Molly disappears.
Be careful what you wish for…
What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
The Girls by Emma Cline. It’s thought-provoking and beautifully written and I’d definitely recommend it, although I suspect I wouldn’t have enjoyed it quite so much as I did had I not already read Jeff Guinn’s excellent biography of Charles Manson.
What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women festival?
I’m very much looking forward to interviewing Val McDermid about her career and her latest book, Out of Bounds. I’ll also be giving a workshop on how to create a convincing killer.
Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?
I’ve always greatly admired Flora Poste, heroine of Stella Gibbons’s wonderful Cold Comfort Farm (1932). Imperturbable and smart as a whip, with a strong sense of herself, Flora is an ace problem-solver who, had she inhabited the pages of a crime novel rather than a parody of the overwrought ‘loam and lovechild’ fiction that was popular at the time, would have proved a great detective. When I first read Cold Comfort Farm, I was the same age as Flora — nineteen — and I wanted to be her. When I re-read it six months ago, I still wanted to be her. This either means that I have entirely failed to grow up or that Flora is extremely mature for her age.  Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you…
I can only see out of one eye. I have a basset hound. These two facts have nothing to do with each other.

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Now David Swindle is an enigmatic one – what WILL he be doing at the Killer Women Crime Festival? Well all he would tell me…

“At the Killer Women Festival I will be speaking about the work of a real life murder detective and the skills that make a good detective”

I don’t think I’ll be missing that one…sounds extraordinarily fascinating…

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Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it?
I’m writing various different strands at the moment, from Sister Agnes to DI Berenice Killick, but my latest novel is one of my Agatha Christie series. Called Hidden Sins, it features Agatha as a (fictional) detective. The story is set in 1926 and it’s all about the men who worked on camouflage during the First World War.

What is the last book you read and would you recommend it? 
It was Blood Symmetry by Kate Rhodes. (It’s not just that she’s a fellow Killer Woman.) I would absolutely recommend it. I couldn’t put it down, not only for the gripping plot but for the personal story at the heart of it.
What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival?
I’m chairing a panel about historical crime fiction and about the appeal of stories set in the past. We’ll be discussing crime in the Victorian era, amongst others.

Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?
I am very fickle where heroes are concerned. At the moment I’m obsessed with various Olympic athletes, as Rio has just finished and I have a huge sense of loss. I want Simone Biles, the American gymnast, to be my best friend.

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you …
I am ridiculously sentimental. I have been known to cry at the opening credits of films, or even the trailers. As for anything to do with dogs or horses… It’s even more weird when you consider my day job which is all about making up reasons to kill someone and how you might go about it.
I took up ice-skating at the age of 45.

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What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?

Andrew Miller’s The Crossing – jaw dropping writing, immaculate plotting, the whole thing so finely balanced, so cleverly done – reviewers weren’t convinced but I adored it.  AND because I’m not answering three of the other questions I’m going to add the book I read before that : Laura Cumming’s The Vanishing Man – a book every single lover of great writing should read.  Laura writes non fiction with the insights of a philosopher and the craft of a fine artist – this book about Velazques is scholarly, compelling and yet it has true heart – the most humane book I’ve read in a decade.



What will you be talking about at the Killer Women Festival?

Victorian Women who killed – ostensibly – but I’m just as interested in WHY so called ‘ordinary’ people commit violent acts… are their characters intractably flawed? Are they evil (and what IS evil?) And what does their crime and the way their contemporaries reacted to it tell us about the kind of society they lived in………

Thanks everyone! More later this week….

Don’t forget to follow the Killer Women on Twitter for the latest news and updates or find out more about the organisation and subscribe to the newsletter HERE

Happy Reading!

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The Taken – Casey Kelleher. Blog Tour Review.

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Publication Date: Available Now from Bookoutoure.

When you’ve lost everything, you’ll do anything to survive.
Saskia Frost’s world is blown apart when her dad dies. Without any family, she’s on her own now and up to her eyeballs in her father’s debts. He owed a lot of money to some very dangerous men – Joshua and Vincent Harper. Before long, aspiring ballerina Saskia finds herself lap-dancing in a London club to survive. A club run by the infamous Harper brothers. Saskia is now their property and they’re going to make her pay every penny back.

Teenager Lena Cona has fled a cruel and controlling marriage. She arrives in England with her newborn daughter, desperately relying on strangers for help. But she soon learns that not everyone can be trusted as she finds herself caught in the clutches of Colin Jefferies, a twisted individual obsessed by his own sinister secrets. As the sickening truth is revealed, Lena is forced to fight for her life – and her baby’s.

When their worlds collide, Lena and Saskia form an unlikely friendship. But with the terrifying Harper brothers on their tail, as well as Lena’s vengeful and violent husband, can they escape with their lives?

The Taken is the first novel I have read from Casey Kelleher so I was not sure what to expect going in – but this is one of those books that is extraordinarily compelling often for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on.

Impressive plotting here as the author takes us on a journey with 3 very different characters, all of whom will end up linked, she does so in a highly addictive and realistic manner, weaving in some hard hitting authenticity and exploring some of the darker sides of human nature.  The Taken is gritty, descriptive, pacy and utterly fascinating all the way through. Another book I read fast – fast is the way to read this one.

The subject matter is disturbing but handled well, no holds barred but without gratuitous attempts to shock – the storyline is shocking simply because in our world this stuff happens. Lena and Saskia are both well drawn, intriguing and sympathetic, Casey Kelleher has a way of bringing them to life within the narrative that drags the reader along with them. Colin too, one of those enigmatic not sure where he’ll fit characters – if I had one small thing I would have liked to have a bit more of that layer of the tale.

The plot twists and turns, the tale unfolds often in break neck fashion, once you start there is no stopping really, you always need to “just know the next thing” and then you are done. I love books like that.

The Taken is dark, scarily gripping and memorable – this one won’t let you go easily.

Highly Recommended. Not for the faint hearted.

Find out more HERE

Follow Casey on TWITTER

To Purchase The Taken clickety click right HERE

Follow the Tour!

Happy Reading!

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All the Devils….and Neil Broadfoot.

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Today I’m having a chat (actually this was ages ago but I’m SO BEHIND) with Neil Broadfoot about All the Devils – his latest book available now from Contraband. And some other things. Then I’ve written a little review for you so you all immediately rush out and get it. I mean it was pretty good…an ok read you know? I am of course kidding it was brilliant. Thanks Neil for taking the time. Alhough to be fair you’ve had a lucky escape. We did this before I started the 20 Questions…I’m feeling a return visit may be on the cards…

Where do you get your ideas from then? NOOOOO I am kidding I don’t care (sorry) and admittedly this is the first of this series I have read – however I’m going to go backwards for sure because whilst it had no impact on the readability of All The Devils I really want to know what happened exactly to poor Doug and to Susie prior to the start of this latest. Perhaps you could indulge me and tell me a little about their relationship so far before those devils arrived…

Doug and Susie have a somewhat complicated relationship. They first met when there was a rumour that a married senior officer had a drunken dalliance with a junior officer at a police Christmas party. Doug being Doug, it didn’t take him long to put the pieces together and figure out that Susie was the junior officer. But instead of writing a story that is just “red top tabloid shite”, Doug uses it as a way to introduce himself to Susie. Over time, and with the situations they’ve faced in Falling Fast and All The Devils, they’ve grown closer and a friendship has evolved. That doesn’t mean Doug won’t cut her off to get to the story first, which lands him in hot water in Falling Fast, and Susie has a fine line to walk between the benefits of knowing Doug and having access to his contacts and the potential damage it could do to her career. But it’s an evolving relationship, and All The Devils has left them with some big questions to answer.

In this instalment Doug does have a few fast and difficult decisions to make and has quite the dilemma – now obviously we can’t go into that for reasons of spoilers but perhaps you could tell me a little about the writing process – how you keep everything rippling outwards as the series progresses…

For me, writing is an organic process, the stories tend to take on a life of their own and I just follow along. When I’m working on a book, I’m writing it for myself as much as the reader as I really want to know how it all turns out- and usually I don’t know that until I’m a couple of chapters from the end. I usually start with a scene in my head and work my way out from there. All The Devils is slightly different as the core of the idea was something that happened in the first book, Falling Fast, that I wanted to go back and explore.

I think the seat-of-the-pants, little planning strategy of writing works in All The Devils. As you say, Doug is put in a near-impossible situation and has to make some hard choices in a short period of time. If I’d overly planned that I think it would have stymied the writing and bled out some of the drama and tension of those scenes. As Stephen King says, the best writing to me is when it’s fresh and jumping off the page. My only real rule is to leave a chapter on some kind of cliffhanger or reveal – other than that, I’m along for the ride. And it’s always a lot of fun!

Your setting is Edinburgh – presumably somewhere you know well? Why choose there – I know Scotland has such great locations to offer, which is why I love fiction set there – and whereabouts do you hang your hat these days?

I was born just outside Edinburgh, in a place called Eskbank, so Auld Reekie is my home town. I worked in Edinburgh for years as a reporter on the local paper, the Evening News, before moving on to The Scotsman and doing a stint in the Scottish Parliament. All that gives you a feel for the place, you get to know its rhythms, how the people act, what the character of the city is, so it was only natural that I would write about the town. And Edinburgh is such a great backdrop, from the grandeur of the Old Town to the dilapidation you can see in some of the housing estates, it really has got everything a crime writer could want.

These days I live across the bridge in Dunfermline, which is where I cut my teeth as a reporter on the local paper. When I was working there (and commuting back to Edinburgh where I was living at the time) I always knew I wanted to get back to Fife, so when the opportunity to move there with my wife presented itself I jumped at the chance. It’s a beautiful place to stay, being the ancient capital of Scotland and the birthplace of the first philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, it’s steeped in history. It’s also a cracking place to set a crime novel- watch this space!

In the future writing stakes what is the plan? Presumably more in this series (because really if you leave it there I’m likely to glare) but are you tempted to write a standalone? Possibly a completely different type of Crime – or even moving away from Crime altogether…

It’s funny, I never really set out to write a crime novel or become a crime writer, I just had an idea and ran with it- 80,000 words later, I had a crime novel on my hands. That said, I’ve always loved the genre and I love writing it, so I’m happy to keep doing so. You don’t need to glare, Doug and Susie will be back as there are a hell of a lot of questions raised by All The Devils, personally and professionally, that demand answers. I’m actually working on the fourth book right now.

I’ve got a few ideas for standalones and other series, playing on different aspects of crime. However, I owe my oldest friend – who, incidentally designed the covers for my books – a “really gruesome horror novel”, so I’ll have to do that. I actually started out writing horror, which I think shows in some of the more violent scenes in my work, so that’ll be a bit like going home in a lot of ways.

For a bit of fun let’s do the Dinner party question. Who would you like to have over for dinner, fictional or real, alive or dead and why. Let’s say you have 5 choices…

Good question- and not an easy one to answer! Growing up on his work, I’d have to choose Stephen King; finding On Writing was like discovering a map when I was lost in a forest, it showed me how to write a full-length novel.

With the insanity we’re seeing in the world right now, I’d love to hear the thoughts of the late comedian Bill Hicks. He was a true visionary, with a piercing insight into the events of the time, and I think he’d keep everyone both doubled up in hysterics and gripped with his observations on where we are now.

Slightly more serious, but I’d love to meet and have a conversation with Barack Obama. He’s handled the US presidency with such grace and dignity, while under what must be incredible pressure and in the face of rabid opposition, that I’d love to see how much of it is the political ‘face’ and how much is genuine.

My neighbour spent a few years in South Africa and came back the king of braai (barbecue). He even barbecued a whole meal for all of us one Hogmanay, standing at the back door with a cycle light on his head in about -2degrees! He also keeps up with me on the whisky, so he’d have to be there as braai cook and fellow dram buff.

And, of course, I’d have to invite Doug McGregor to the party- after what I’ve put him through over the last three books, the least I can do is treat the guy to a good meal and a bucket-load of booze!

Finally, putting you on the spot, if you could only take ONE book and ONE person (apart from family who will be there with you) to a desert island when for some reason I can’t think of at the moment you have to go there and live for a bit, what and who would it be?

Awww, now that’s just unfair! Whittling it down to just one book is almost impossible! If we’re trapped on the island, then I’d take a book on raft-building and a survival expert like Bear Gryls – I’ve got a family and a new Doug and Susie to get back to! And, after all, I can’t risk the wrath of your glare, so I’ve got to get back to get it finished!

Thanks Neil!

About the book..

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Crime journalist Doug McGregor is all bent out of shape – still recovering from a savage encounter with a psychotic killer, he also has dark secrets to hide. But Doug has to put aside his own demons when friend and contact DS Susie Drummond needs his help to investigate the brutal murder of her ex-lover. When a gangland power struggle erupts into violence on the streets of Edinburgh – and much closer to home – Doug and Susie’s already tense relationship is sorely tested. Together they confront a conspiracy that reaches deeper than even a cynical hack like Doug can imagine. As Doug’s about to find out, all the devils are here – and none of them want him to discover the truth.

Admittedly All the Devils surprised me somewhat with how much I loved it. On the surface I was fairly sure I’d like it but in the end I raced through it like that grasshopper on acid again because it is sharp, relentlessly compelling and terrifically realistic.

Incredibly stupidly (on my part) this is my first foray into the world of Doug and Susie and basically resistance was futile. The Edinburgh setting, the distinctly drawn character lines and the very tense at times plot just hooked me right in, it only took like 2 pages or something. Almost a record.

Intriguing and violent themes explored in the plot, powered by two very memorable and genuinely fascinating characters in Doug and Susie – and the rest for that matter – makes this the very definition of gritty crime fiction. Gritty meaning great in my book. Neil Broadfoot writes with the kind of hard hitting reality that digs deep and you can call me a convert right now. I shall be reading backwards (somewhat) and then hopefully forwards. Assuming Neil gets off that desert island…

Highly Recommended

Follow Neil on TWITTER

To Purchase All the Devils clickety click HERE

Happy Reading!

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2016 Spotlight: Present Tense Willliam McIntyre

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Publication Date: Available Now from Sandstone Press

Source: Review Copy

Criminal lawyer Robbie Munro is back home, living with his widowed, ex-policeman dad and his new found daughter, Tina. Life at the practice isn’t going well, neither is the love life he regularly confesses to his junior, Joanna. Then again, on the subject of Joanna, Robbie may be the last to know… When one of his more dubious clients leaves a mysterious box for him to look after, and a helicopter comes down with two fatalities, events take a much more sinister turn, and all of this is complicated by the rape case he has to defend.

Present Tense was glorious. Loved it. I’m a fan of legal drama/thrillers and there has been a distinct lack of good ones around lately. Then here is Present Tense..

So Robbie Munro then. Going to be firmly on my list of favourite fictional characters for sure. He’s funny, a little bit dark, a gorgeous amount of realistic and so readable I barely put this down. Add in some great plotting, a perfect mix of legal, mystery and family shenanigans and really whats not to love?

The setting is great, the background obviously authentic (unsurprising considering the authors background) I loved the vagaries of law and the ironic dual sense William McIntyre brings to proceedings. He also throws a terrifically intriguing mystery into the mix and manages to make the whole thing a whole load of fun. Which is not to say it doesnt have its serious side – it does. This is dark humour, ironic humour, the kind you need when dealing with the things lawyers deal with.

The crime elements aside I also got totally caught up in Robbie’s life and interpersonal relationships. Grace his secretary (brilliant) his Dad (double brilliant) his brother (made me smile every time he appeared) and the rest (we’ll talk about Joanna when I’ve stopped laughing at the last few paragraphs you might have to wait for that) it was all so so enticing. Fatherhood is also a narrative strand here and all parents everywhere will completely empathise with the whole Christmas present drama.

Overall utterly enthralling. Banging as I like to say. More soon please.

Highly Recommended.

Find out more HERE

Follow the author on TWITTER

To Purchase Present Tense clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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The Bone Tree – Greg Iles. The end is nigh…

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Available NOW from Harper Collins

Source: Purchased  copy

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancée, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

So we are getting VERY close now to the finale of the Natchez Burning Trilogy (actually containing books 4, 5 and 6 of the Penn Cage series) I have been devouring these as they come out and I talked about Natchez Burning HERE if you missed it.

Onto The Bone Tree then and I’m not going to say much about it because I’m sure some people are yet to start this and I don’t want to give TOO much away. Suffice to say it is a direct continuation of the explosive events in Natchez Burning, following Penn as he tries to save his Father from a murder charge, keep all those he loves alive and still dig deep into the Clan and unspeakable deeds.

Greg Iles is such a brilliant and insightful writer, who with this trilogy is really digging  into a readers emotional responses, especially when examining the Father/Son relationship – Penn has always looked to his Dad for moral guidance and to find that his life is not entirely an open book is hard for him. Even harder when he is surrounded by truly evil men – the historical aspects of this. blending fact and fiction, are genuinely heart stopping, examining a time in history that still resonates.

I really can’t speak highly enough of this series, not just the first two books in an ongoing story, but the ones that came before. If you havent yet taken a look at them then I can’t say anything other than highly recommended that you do. Bring on book 3. That is one reading weekend I simply cannot WAIT for.

 

Follow Greg on Twitter

Or find out more HERE

Purchase Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree HERE

Happy Reading!

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The Not So Secret Agent – Talking to Harry Illingworth.

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Today I’m having a chat with book agent and all round nice guy Harry Illingworth about his role  and what he is looking for right now – so if you have the next great novel in your drawer and are thinking of submitting it  this may contain some hot tips for you. I’m almost tempted to try and write one myself.

Nope ok I’ll leave that up to the more creative amongst you.  Here’s what Harry had to say…

 

Tell us a little about the DHH Literary Agency and your specific role within it?

We are an agency connected to independent bookshop, Goldsboro Books (where I’m Marketing and Events Manager), and we represent books across all genres. With our connection to the bookselling industry, we’re in a very fortunate position to see exactly what is currently selling, but also what is coming up, so we try and put this knowledge to practice when we’re looking at taking books on. I myself am a literary agent at DHH and specialise in genre fiction. I particularly love fantasy and science fiction, but I’m a huge fan of anything high-concept and genre-bending, and am especially on the lookout for these kinds of books at the moment. Because I’m fairly new to the game, I’m actively trying to build my list of authors up at the moment so have got my eyes peeled on all submissions and I work very closely with my authors.

Out of all the books you’ve represented so far, what made them stand out for you – a tip perhaps for anyone who is thinking of submitting to you?

I think, firstly, a strong cover letter is absolutely essential. It’s your first contact with your chosen agent and you can tell a lot about what might be in the book from the strength of the accompanying cover letter. Know your own book and where it might stand in the market; who it compares to, and how best to pitch it. But that’s just the first step. Then there’s the writing. I’m drawn (like everyone else) to a strong opening, a powerful voice and I want to feel like I’m reading something fresh. And actually all the novels I’ve taken on so far have in common an underlying sense of dry, dark or witty humour. I’m also an absolute sucker for an anti-hero. A submission has to immediately grab me to draw me in and make me continue reading. Everything I’ve taken on so far has hit all of these spots.

When you are not reading submissions, which authors are you likely to pick up just for pleasure. And no you are not allowed to choose ones you look after!

Where to begin… I read so widely that it’s hard to pin me down so I’m just going to throw a long list out. Some of my favourite authors include Joe Abercrombie, Pierce Brown, Hanya Yanagihara, Emily St John Mandel, Anthony Ryan, Cormac McCarthy, Scott Lynch, Ryan Gattis, David Mitchell, Raymond Chandler and so many more. You see how varied it is. But they’re all amazing storytellers. Plus there’s so many fantastic debut authors around at the moment (and I keep a very close eye on all the debuts published) that there’s many more to be added to that list soon.

And right now? What are you looking for specifically at the moment?

I touched upon high-concept and genre-bending books, and that’s certainly something I’m eagerly on the lookout for; ambitious, concept-driven crime, and thrillers with big ideas behind them. I want to be completely compelled, and also disturbed, especially in a thriller and I love morally ambiguous characters and blurred lines. I’m always looking for epic fantasy, and I do like it dark and gritty, but not gratuitously so, and certainly not exclusively. I need to be transported straight into that world. But I definitely want books that are crossing over and mashing genres, giving a fresh take on something that may have been done before. I’ll look at YA too, but it really does have to be crossing over into adult territory so you’re barely even considering it YA at all.

So if someone out there has read the answer to the above question and gone “hey that’s MY book” how would they go about getting it in front of you?

Easy! Go on to the DHH Literary Agency website and you can find all our submission guidelines there. If you visit my page there’s some more information about me and you can send your submissions to me at HI.submission@dhhliteraryagency.com. We’ve got four other agents as well just waiting for you to get in touch and everyone has different interests. I always recommend following agents on twitter (I’m @harryillers) as you can really get a gauge for everything from their personality, to what they’re reading and taking on. I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks their book might tickle my fancy!

Thanks so much Harry!

So do you think you have what Harry is looking for? Here are those handy links again..

DHH Literary Agency

Harry on Twitter

Submissions Guidelines

Happy Writing!

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2016 Spotlight: The Disciple – Stephen Lloyd Jones.

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Publication Date: 6th October from Headline

Source: Netgalley


They are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.

The Disciple is an intriguing and somewhat different speculative thriller of the type I’ve come to expect from this author following the intensely excellent The String Diaries and the equally good Written in the Blood both of which I would also recommend.

We follow the story of Piper – a very special girl, born in fire and violence and destined to change our world – if only she can survive long enough. What I loved about this was the clever divisive plotting, the playing with the idea that Piper may not be a force for good, with those sworn to protect her and those sworn to destroy her, neither side being immediately obvious as “the good guys”

The Disciple is fast paced – moving through Piper’s childhood rapidly, with much action along the way, interspersed with more considered moments as the truth behind her existence is slowly revealed. It makes for a twisty gorgeously addictive read towards the end I could not put it down. There are strong characters, each beautifully layered with hidden motives and the whole thing was entirely fascinating.

Loved it. I assume there will be more. I hope so.

Highly Recommended.

Follow the author on TWITTER

To Purchase The Disciple clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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Killer Women. Killer Crime Writing Festival. Part 3.

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So the brilliant crime writers at Killer Women are having their very first festival on Saturday 15th October – it is going to be a rocking day and you can pick up a ticket HERE.

Welcome to Part Three of my trawl around the authorscape to find out more about those you can see at the festival – Once again some intrepid reporting from me – Or I’ve been lying around waiting for people to tell me stuff. Take your pick..

If you missed Part One you can find it if you clickety click.

If you missed Part Two you can find it if you clickety click

The full line up can be found HERE but today we are hearing from Alex Marwood, Ayo Onatade and Michelle Davis…

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Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it?

It’s called The Darkest Secret and it’s a psychological thriller, plotwise about the mystery of what happened to a vanished toddler, and really about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the havoc individuals suffering from it can wreak among all the people who get sucked into their circles. When much-married Sean Jackson dies, Mila, a daughter from his first marriage is persuaded to take her half-sister, teenaged Ruby, to the funeral. When they get there, they are confronted with all the friends who were also present during the weekend-long drinking bout that marked Sean’s fiftieth birthday, at which Ruby’s three-year-old sister, Coco, vanished, never to be seen again…

What is the last book you read and would you recommend it? 

Jonathan Harvey’s The History of Us, which kept me going through the endless airport / getting checked into hotels waits that actually characterise the glamour of an American publicity tour. It was bloody marvellous, as are all his books. We were joking the other day that I was going to give him a puff quote reading “Jonathan Harvey kept me from murdering people”.

What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival?

I’m on the Book to Film panel. I shall be the one who gives the real truth about film deals, as everyone else has actually had their books made into films, rather than the usual tucking-the-small-amount-of-beer-money-in-your-pocket and hearing nothing else that is the normal experience, and one I’ve had with four books now.

Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?

Kurt Vonnegut. He opened my eyes wide in my early teens to what can be done with fiction, how to plot exquisitely – all his books look like they’re meandering until it all slams together, perfectly, with nothing wasted, in the very last chapter and you’re left reeling – and how to combine profound pessimism with a deep love of humanity.

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you

I once trained as a hypnotist

One of my early jobs was as crossword editor for a national newspaper.

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What is the last book you read and would you recommend it? 
Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey.  Yes I would. It is a fascinating debut novel that pits a “Reacher” type protagonist against a meth king as he tries to rescue his abducted sister.

What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival? – I shall be talking about blogging, 
Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?
I have to say Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell.  She was in my opinion the first fictional kick-ass character and the true originator of girl power. Everybody else has followed in her footsteps.

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you …
I am a qualified track and field judge and I have a very eclectic taste in jewellery.
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Tell us a little about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it?

Gone Astray is my debut and it’s about the disappearance of a teenage girl whose parents are lottery winners. The police investigation is told from the perspective of the Family Liaison Officer (DC Maggie Neville) assigned to her parents. I chose a FLO (pronounced ‘flow’) as my main police character because I was fascinated by the idea of her solving the case from the inside out; FLOs are there to help families but they also have to investigate them too.

What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?

I’m currently reading Tana French’s The Trespasser and it’s every bit as brilliant as I hoped it would be. Her prose is sublime and her plotting so intricate that it’s impossible to work out where the story is going, which I love. She’s one of my all-time favourite authors.

What will you be doing and talking about at the Killer Women Festival?

I’m very excited to be taking part in Sarah Hilary’s Fresh Blood panel, where I’ll be talking about my journey to publication with fellow debutees Chris Whitaker, Agnes Ravatn and Paul Burston. Being chosen by Sarah for the panel is a huge honour.

Who is your hero/heroine, fictional or otherwise, and why?

Non-fiction, I would have to say Mary Stott, the first and longest-serving editor of the Guardian’s Women’s Page. I was fortunate to interview her for my journalism dissertation and she told me she’d cried when her editor forced her to take the job because in those days (1957) it was all about recipes and how to be a good wife. Yet during her tenure the page became a voice for the Women’s Movement, campaigning for equality and against discrimination, and she inspired many female writers, myself included. My fictional heroine is Lois Lane, for her sheer tenacity in getting a story.

Tell us two random non-bookish facts about you …

My one claim to fame is that I appeared in an episode of Friends as an extra. I was Features Editor at heat magazine when the show’s makers invited me onto the set and it remains one of the best moments of my journalistic career! Another random fact is that I don’t like ice cream. It’s too cold to eat!

Thanks everyone! More later this week….

Don’t forget to follow the Killer Women on Twitter for the latest news and updates or find out more about the organisation and subscribe to the newsletter HERE

Happy Reading!

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