Deadly Alibi – Leigh Russell. Blog Tour Guest Post.

Today I am very happy to welcome Leigh Russell to Liz Loves Books talking about Gender issues in crime as part of the Deadly Alibi Blog Tour.

Gender issues in crime

When I started writing, my protagonist was a male detective inspector, his character influenced by those created by other writers, like Dalziel, Morse, Frost, Montalbano and Rebus – and all the many experienced detectives I admired in fiction, hard-bitten yet retaining their deep humanity. At some stage, I felt that writing from the point of view of a man took me out of my comfort zone, and part way through my narrative my detective changed gender, putting me back in my home territory. And so Geraldine Steel was created, developing slowly as a character through the series. Readers learn little about her in my first book, Cut Short, a little more about her in the second book in the series, Road Closed, and so on through the books. And as is the case with the plot for each story, there are hopefully plenty of surprises for the reader as they follow Geraldine’s own story through the books. So in Deadly Alibi, the ninth book in the series, Geraldine faces one of the most shocking experiences of her life.

A few years ago I was asked to write a spin off series for Geraldine’s sergeant, Ian Peterson. This was a very exciting prospect, but of course I was now faced with the task of creating a male protagonist, a challenge I had deliberately avoided earlier on in my career. A male protagonist required some thought. I had to start thinking inside the head of a man. My husband suggested I might like to start attending football matches with him, something which had never particularly interested me. While I prevaricated, my son-in-law told me he thought this was a cliché, and on reflection, I concluded that Ian Peterson didn’t have to follow such stereotypes. He just needed to be established as credible, like any of my other characters, whether male or female. His gender was irrelevant. The approach seemed to work because he maintained his popularity with readers. When the spin off series came to an end, I was very gratified that his fans responded by setting up a ‘Bring Back Ian Peterson’ page on facebook.

My most recent protagonist, Lucy Hall, took me back to writing a female lead, so I started this new series confident that I was back on familiar ground. Lucy is in her early twenties in Journey to Death. How difficult could it be to think like her? I was young once, and can still just about remember what that felt like. But of course the world in which Lucy is in her twenties is very different to the world in which I was young. We had no internet then, and no mobile phones, and the impact of this opportunity for instant communication is possibly greater than any of us can really comprehend. So my third protagonist’s experience of the world is very different to mine when I was in my twenties. It really is a different world.

So the problems of gender are neither the most significant, nor the most difficult, challenge for a writer. One of the interesting features of crime fiction is the way it portrays social issues and the challenges we face living in society. We may all be very similar, but the world in which we live is constantly changing, in ways that alter everything, including our view of the world. As well as creating protagonists of different ages and genders, a writer has to recreate the world through a character’s eyes. And gender is only one element that influences a character’s view of a world which is changing faster than we can fully comprehend. It is not only the advances in forensic science that keep us crime writers scurrying to research what is current: the world itself, and our place in it, is changing.

About the Book:

Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt…. Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life. And then her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, with problems which are about to make Geraldine’s life turn toxic in more ways than one.

Find Out More

Follow Leigh on Twitter

Purchase Deadly Alibi

Follow the Tour.

Happy Reading!

Taking a Few Days Off…AKA its time for Crimefest.

Yep it is that time of year again so there will be no new blog posts for a few days. First up for me in London the Orenda Roadshow – then all being well I’m off to Crimefest. Look out for live reports via my  Twitter and Facebook pages and a host of features in the next few weeks about what happens.

I’m hoping to interview some lovely authors and spend quality time with the bookish crew- no alcohol will be involved.

One of those things might be a lie.

Find out more about Crimefest Here

See the brilliant programme Here

Read about my adventures last year Here.

Happy Reading!

 

20 Questions for Anne Coates. Blog Tour Deaths Silent Judgement

Today I’m VERY happy to have another victim, erm participant, in my ongoing 20 Questions feature – this time the rather lovely Anne Coates in celebration of her new novel Death’s Silent Judgement.

Dearest Anne, thank you so much for doing my 20 questions – let’s start with the books. 2nd one just out, how does that feel?

I can see you are leading me in gently, Liz, with your endearments – but I know that killer stare of yours! So having my second book, Death’s Silent Judgement, hot on the heels of Dancers in the Wind is simply brilliant. It’s been a “pinch me” few days.

Tell us a bit about the books – let’s suck some readers in for you…

Both books – and the third currently being written – are set in 1993/4. My protagonist, Hannah Weybridge, a single parent and freelance journalist, becomes embroiled in investigating the deaths of prostitutes in Dancers in the Wind, when a working girl she has interviewed turns up on her doorstep badly beaten up. Pimps and bent coppers are the least of her problems as she realises there is a much higher force pulling the strings.

In the sequel, Hannah discovers her best friend murdered in the church where she ran a dental clinic for the homeless. The police assume the perpetrator was one of her clients but Liz’s mother is unconvinced and employs Hannah to look into her death. As the investigation proceeds, Hannah has no idea whom she can trust – even people she thought she knew well.

Favourite type of cheese? (We MUST have the cheese question)

Really ripe Camembert takes me back to my time at Rouen University when the French in the student restaurants thought we were heathens for eating it. Delicious.

One thing you would tell your teenage self if you got the chance to send a piece of advice back through time…

Don’t accept second best – in anything.

How much wine between us do you think we have downed at all the bookish events we pop along to? (Hey we are still standing, can’t be bad)

Too much for our own good but not enough to get us banned.

Who is your favourite crime writer to read (Yes that’s a tough one but you are only allowed one)

Patricia Highsmith.

Let’s do the desert island question. You know, the one where you are stuck on a desert island and can only have 5 people for company, for no good reason whatsoever. Who would you choose and why?

This is where I suppose I should be outrageously entertaining but I’m probably a bit too practically-minded for that so first off I’d take the multi-talented Peter who’s been doing some work on my house. He comes from Poland and seems to be able to turn his hand to anything from accountancy to events management, plastering to plumbing and is a genuinely nice guy.

Number two top chef Marcus Wareing to cover the food side. I’m taking this too seriously aren’t I? Okay. Idris Elba just because… Sally Wainwright who with her brilliant writing and my final castaway, actor Sarah Lancashire, could keep us all entertained.

Sticking with the desert island theme – Desert Island discs. 3 songs or pieces of music you love to listen to.

Almost anything by Dusty – adore her. Last year at the Proms I heard Alban Gerhardt play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor and it has haunted me ever since. And Abba’s Dancing Queen to lift my mood at any time.

Who would you call to help you bury the body?

Well I did call my friend Geoff when my tortoise died. He’s a doctor and he brought along his stethoscope just to make sure. Then he dug a REALLY DEEP hole because, as he said, someone who lived here after me might inadvertently dig up the shell… I might have to bribe him heavily (or kill him afterwards) to inter anything other than a pet but I know the body would be buried deep.

Something that irrationally irritates you

Well I wouldn’t say this is irrational (irrational? Moi?) but I am irritated by people running late for meetings whether business or social. You’d have to have a very good reason to appease me for your lack of punctuality.

Last thing that made you laugh out loud.

Parts of the film Their Finest. Bill Nighy is fabulous in it. It makes you laugh out loud one minute then has you surreptitiously wiping away a tear the next.

Last book you read that you wanted to make everyone else read.

That has to be Sealskin by Sue Bristow. Beautifully written and perfectly plotted. I absolutely loved it.

Tell us a little bit about the NEXT book.

Probably about halfway though the first draft and as yet have no title but it is the third in the Hannah Weybridge series. Time has moved on a few months and life seems to be on a more even keel for Hannah. Then seemingly unrelated events and people draw her into a new web of murder and subterfuge.

Who publishes you and do you love your publisher? (Its fine nobody else reads these you know…)

Urbane Publications, one of the independent publishers who are moving the goal posts. Matthew Smith, who founded the company, believes in collaboration with the author. He “joked” at my first launch that that meant I told him what I wanted and he did it. Is that love?

We often see each other at First Monday. Do we enjoy First Monday?

Do we enjoy wine, books, crime authors and good company? Bit of a daft question Liz! It’s a winning combination.

Puppies or Kittens?

I currently have three cats glaring at me. Alice arrived as a kitten and became a teenage mother. I kept two of the kittens who are now both double the size of their parent. Not so much fun as when they were cute kittens but always ready to compete for space on my lap. (Feline pride restored, I think.)

Rocking Party or night in with tea and a book?

Can I have both on alternate nights (but without the tea as I loathe it)?

Last television series you were addicted to.

Department Q. Only three episodes on BBC4 but utterly brilliant not to mention violent and gory.

Plotter and planner or seat of the pants writing?

Oh definitely a seat of the pants writer. As a journalist I am used to tight deadlines and writing when you may not be in the mood or are uninspired by the subject. This nicely seeps into my fiction (not that I am uninspired by my own writing you understand). I love taking an idea, a scene or a character and just letting it run. I never know how the book is going to end until I write it and then there’s every chance that I’ll change my mind in a later draft.

How much do you hate me right now?

Surprisingly less than I thought I would. And I’m still looking forward to our drinks at Crimefest!

Thanks Anne. Me too!

About the Book:

Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

Find Out More

Follow Anne on Twitter

Purchase Death’s Silent Judgement

Follow the Tour!

Happy Reading!

All The Wicked Girls – Chris Whitaker. Filed under books to die for.

Publication Date: August 24th from Bonnier

Source: Oh I wouldn’t know where to begin

“Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.”

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

There is definitely more to Summer than meets the eye…

When I read Tall Oaks (which became my no 1 book of 2016)  I didn’t know Chris Whitaker at all. Since then we have become good friends when he’s not annoying me (its ok petal, there are always the penguins) and I have been lucky enough to read this novel at several points during its journey from first draft to here, its been a journey of much emotion –  because this is an emotional story and the characters at the heart of it are incredibly real. I’m not sure how unbiased this review can be seen as but the absolute truth of the matter is that All the Wicked Girls is impossibly good. And beautiful. And melancholy, utterly compelling and difficult to describe.

Set in the fictional small town of Grace, Alabama, during the time of the so called “Satanic panic” a young girl called Summer has gone missing. Raine, her sister, is determined to find her and will use any means necessary, whether it hurts others or not. Meanwhile the community hovers on the edge of reason, there is more than one secret simmering below the surface and a dark cloud is on the horizon. Watch out, there’s a storm coming…

This is a crime story with a difference, a beautifully plotted, genuinely absorbing set of character studies, worked into a wider story of missing girls and religious fervour. If you try to put All the Wicked Girls into a genre box you’ll fail miserably because there isn’t one. I guess crime novel suits it as much as anything else would but when I was attempting to describe it to someone at work the other day I ended up tongue tied. It is deliciously dark but so intensely traumatic I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Maybe Chris won’t either but I hope so because seriously he needs to write forever. Tall Oaks was amazing, add to that quality x 1000 with what is sure to become a trademark touch of insanely creative genius  and you’ll be close to All the Wicked Girls.

So you should get yourself a copy when you can and come to Grace, meet Summer and Raine, Noah and Purv, Sheriff Black and all the rest – find out what happens to them and feel like its all happening to you. I cried so much at this book, from the first reading when it was still “The Summer Cloud” to the latest reading now it has become “All the Wicked Girls” – doesn’t really matter that I know everything there is to know and can see what is coming, every time I get there I am destroyed. That is the pure power of it. Or was for me at least..

If you want another Tall Oaks you won’t get it – whilst there is humour here it is much darker, much more ironic and speaks to things we don’t want to imagine – there’ll be times when you want to look away but won’t be able to, there are times you will smile and there are at least two moments you might just exclaim out loud. Or if you are like me swear like a trouper then cry a bit more.

I love this book. It would surely be my no 1 of 2017 if I’d just read it in the normal way – but sorry Mr Whitaker no mars bars for you this year, wouldn’t be fair but for sure All the Wicked Girls is in my top ten books I’ve read ever let alone this year. And trust me that’s a lot of competition to overcome. If you want me to say why that is, I can’t. Sometimes things just get to you and you can’t say why. These, as ever, are the books I wait for, I read for. Much as I HATE to pay him any more compliments, he’s so difficult to live with (Victoria is an actual saint I am now convinced of it)  seriously, Chris Whitaker is annoyingly talented –  and despite the traumatic journey its been worth every 3am meltdown, every match reached for and every moment we wondered if THIS moment would ever actually arrive.

I won’t say highly recommended it seems inadequate. Pure magic on the page.

And, by the way, next time I’m hiding the damn matches.

Follow Chris on Twitter

Purchase All The Wicked Girls

Happy Reading!

Deposed – Interview with David Barbaree

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier

Today I am very happy to have been able to ask David Barbaree a few questions about his brilliant historical fiction novel Deposed as part of the blog tour – Deposed will be reviewed here very soon. Thanks so much to him for taking the time.

Thank you for answering some questions for me on the really very excellent “Deposed” – firstly tell us a little about what inspired you to write around this time period – Is it one in history that particularly fascinates you?

Hi Liz! Thanks for having me.

I’ve always been interested in Roman history. Prior to starting the book, I was probably more interested in the fall of the Republic and the later Byzantine period. I used to think the early Imperial period, the period in which Deposed takes place, was just a parade of emperors behaving badly. This changed when I started my research for Deposed. I wanted to tell the story of a deposed tyrant seeking his revenge. I went on the hunt for the right tyrant and eventually settled on Nero. He was the perfect choice because of the False Neros, men who claimed to be Nero after he fell from power. This provided the sense of uncertainty surrounding Nero’s death that I needed to tell the story I wanted to. As I researched the period, I discovered it was far more complex and interesting than I’d originally given it credit for.

So it is, I believe, a fictional story based on certain factual elements – so I’m interested to hear about any research and how much of it is based on actual events, how you kept it authentic.

I wanted to fit my story of a deposed tyrant into the known historical record. The aim was to have a story that wasn’t true, but a story that could be true. This was another reason why I chose the time period I did. The historical record for Vespasian’s reign is particularly spotty. This gave me a lot of room to manoeuvre as a novelist. But I otherwise tried to make the book historically accurate. I spent a lot of time researching the period – the food, the clothing, the layout of the city, etc. – and I did my best to make it an accurate, interesting recreation of Ancient Rome. However, there are some inaccuracies in the book – I think it is impossible to avoid them when writing historical fiction. Often these were done to serve a particular narrative purpose and, when possible, I tried to imbed an explanation into the text. But if any explanation slowed down the story or seemed forced, I cut it. I thought it more important to have a compelling narrative rather than a clunky justification to the reader.

You use multiple points of view to tell the story across different time periods – as a writer do you tend to plan every detail in advance or are you one who goes with the flow and fixes it later?

I’ve always loved books told from multiple perspectives (like the A Song of Fire and Ice series), particularly those in the first person (such as My Name is Red and As I Lay Dying). But I ended up with this format for my book in a roundabout way. When I first sat down to write Deposed, I tried writing in the third person and it was terrible. I kept at it but never really improved. When I finally switched to the first person the words and characters came much easier. The first person perspective worked, but one point of view wasn’t enough – not to tell the story I wanted to. It was too limited in scope. So I settled on multiple first person narrators. I thought this would be an effective way to build a different world and a unique way to approach the genre.

As for the narrative itself, I had a sense of where the plot was going – the big events were already decided for me. But otherwise it was a trial and error process, slowly figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I would plan in advance as much as I could, but I found the story and characters would sometimes take me in a different direction.

Can you tell us anything about what is next?

I’m reluctant to give too much away, not only for spoilers but I’m still working on book two and things could change. But the demise and rise of emperors will stick to the historical record. And Marcus and Nero have unfinished business that will take them east in book two.

Finally, a question I always ask, is there anything you have read this year that you would like to recommend to others?

I’ve recently started following you on Twitter and I’m quite certain your readers will find me woefully behind the times on what to read. I just finished Conclave by Robert Harris and would definitely recommend it. It was a lesson on how to construct a thriller and eliminate any unnecessary narrative baggage. On the non-fiction front, the last great book I read was Dynasty by Tom Holland, which would provide a nice lead into my book as Deposed essentially picks up where Dynasty ends.

Thanks so much!

Thank you again for having me!

About the Book:

In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes.

On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.

Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before.

To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.

The fallen emperor’s name is Nero.

But this isn’t his story.

Follow the Author on Twitter

Purchase Deposed

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Getting to Know You with Grace Coleman.

Today I am happy to welcome Grace Coleman to Liz Loves Books, telling us about her novel Walking Barefoot and a little about herself. Thanks Grace!

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will Balston, past and present. As the story unravels we try to come to terms with the source of his unhappiness. It’s a brooding dystopian novel; more character-driven than traditional Speculative fiction with an intriguingly headstrong but flawed protagonist. Set in the futuristic, but broken, city of London, it paints a vivid portrait of what the world could look like.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

The majority of my childhood (6+) was spent in Sussex in a town not quite big enough to be interesting and not quite small enough to be quaint. My family life had ups and downs but there was always a lot of love there, so I count myself very lucky. I’ve always been very close to my big sister too, although five years older she really is my best friend.

Academic or creative at school?

I was a bit of a brown-nose at school so did well in most subjects. I loved the thrill of acting in front of the class in Drama as much as I loved the satisfaction of working out a tricky maths equation. I chose History to study further and now work in the business side of television, so I think I’ve always put myself in situations that combine the academic and creative.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

I wanted to be a generic business woman for a large part of my childhood. This involved carting round a plastic pink phone having imaginary but very important conversations, writing endless notes at my writing desk and answering our home phone with ‘Miss Coleman speaking, how can I help you?’

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I really don’t. Writing has always just been there; whether it was presenting my mum with stories about magic frogs, hours of not-so-veiled teenage angst poetry or a way of imagining the Californian record-label hotshot I would become (spoiler alert – I didn’t make it), writing has always been a way of exploring and expressing myself and letting my imagination run wild.

Who are your real life heroes?

I tend not to hero worship, but I’m very proud of both my grandmothers. One for her strength and smarts in pulling herself out of working class Belfast to a career in fashion in the city at a time when it couldn’t have been easy for a woman trying to make it in the working world. The other for successfully raising a family of seven (and uncountable grand and great grand kids) with endless love and patience that is still felt in the family today.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

If my mum reads this I’m dead.

Coming back from a night-out, alone tripping in heels and wearing an over-sized coat, I eventually gave up on walking (I think I was heading in the wrong direction anyway) and hailed a taxi. I was a bit perplexed when he said ‘It’s OK get in the front seat’ and even more concerned when I couldn’t see a metre anywhere. After a few comical back and forths it became painfully apparent that I thought he was a taxi, and he thought I was a prostitute. Of course my reaction was to burst into tears. His was to drive me back to my house (well, near my house) giving me lectures all the way about stranger-danger. At the time I was pretty shaken up, but since then I’ve taken a more philosophical approach to the encounter: First, don’t get into strangers’ cars. Second, even old men who pick up prostitutes can be nice people.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I like to be self-reliant and hate asking for favours; so if I ever have a DIY need I do it myself with a hammer. I’m not very patient or precise so my attempts usually end up in gaffer tape solutions.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

There’s something intrinsically more exciting about the night-time but I’m definitely more melancholy in the evening. Plenty of sunshine and natural daylight keeps me on an even keel. I like the to think this means I’m a typical Aries, but it probably means I’m a typical human.

A book that had you in tears.

I cry quite easily but I remember being really affected by the final lines of Phantom of the Opera. I like books that twist your expectation, where the line between good and evil are blurred and there’s such a broken tragedy to Eric.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

I stumbled upon Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on our family bookshelf before going on a long haul flight. I don’t even know what it was doing there (no one in my family appears to be a fan) or why I decided to take it with me. I stayed up the whole, overnight flight with my little reading light on, chuckling away (much to the annoyance of my neighbours). Every word was so purposeful. It reinvented what writing (and reading) could be for me.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Be kind.

Thank you!

About the Book:

Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who, in a bid to find himself, goes travelling and the city-living adult, who despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend, struggles to be happy. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself – is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?

Find Out More

Follow Grace On Twitter

Purchase Walking Barefoot

Happy Reading!

Latest Reads: The Liar Steve Cavanagh.

Publication Date: 18th May from Orion

Source: Review Copy

WHO IS DEADLIER …

Leonard Howell’s worst nightmare has come true: his daughter Amy has been kidnapped. Not content with relying on the cops, Howell calls the only man he trusts to get her back.

… THE MAN WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH …

Eddie Flynn knows what it’s like to lose a daughter and vows to bring Amy home safe. Once a con artist, now a hotshot criminal attorney, Flynn is no stranger to the shady New York underworld.

… OR THE ONE WHO BELIEVES A LIE?

However, as he steps back into his old life, Flynn realizes that the rules of game have changed – and that he is being played. But who is pulling the strings? And is anyone in this twisted case telling the truth…?

Bloody hell Steve Cavanagh has REALLY gone for it this time with a most terrific, edge of the seat, courtroom drama come nutty addictive thriller. I mean nutty in the best way because it is totally addictive. Like when you open a tube of pringles and then realise you’ve eaten them all without really thinking about it. With The Liar once you pop you can’t stop.

Hey I like the Pringles comparison. I also like Pringles. And Eddie Flynn. Conman turned lawyer, in this book hovering between the two as he tries to sort out a rather adrenalin fuelled situation. You’ll keep turning those pages both desperate to know the outcome and also wallowing in the rather beautifully written adventure that will get you there.

The thing I find with this series is each one gets better than the last. Steve Cavanagh manipulates the plot with vivacity, throwing the reader unexpected curveballs then barely giving them time to draw breath before chucking a chase or a momentary danger at them – really I think we’ll throw some pretzels in with those Pringles, certainly there are enough twists here to warrant that. And all so cleverly done too.

The writing is cool and effective, the story is chocka block full of heart, a lot of writers can write a banging thriller but not all of them can also slip in such elegantly layered character drama. Eddie is fascinating and utterly appealing, holding the whole thing together – here dealing with kidnapping, death, trouble a plenty with his usual wisecracking style. I just loved the whole thing.

The Liar, as with the previous Eddie Flynn novels is intelligent, thrilling, unpredictable and entirely brilliant – reading escapism at its very very best.

Highly Recommended.

Follow Steve on Twitter

Purchase The Liar

Happy Reading!

20 Questions For…Peter Laws.

Next victim on my 20 Questions is the rather lovely Rev Peter Laws author of one of my favourite books of the year so far, that would be Purged, a shoe in for my top ten in December so I had a load of fun with this one. Not sure how much fun it was for him but I don’t care so much about that. So here you are…

So go on then tell us about Purged. Only 5 sentences though (these questions have very random rules that I make up as I go along)

Okay, so Purged is the first in a series about an atheist ex-vicar turned University Professor. He spends his time writing books that debunk the Christian Faith while also helping the police solve religiously motivated crimes. In Purged he’s trying to catch an evangelical serial killer who baptises his victims before killing them – he figures that’s the most caring way to fast track people to heaven. It’s crime fiction with a healthy dose of horror and spookiness. Ooo…one sentence left…it’s got a green cover.

When the world throws a sudden shortage of Marmite at you (yes this is a question so related to my career choice) how do you cope?

I drop to my knees and praise the sweet lord for ridding humanity of Satan’s hair gel. Seriously, that stuff is rotten and probably demonic in origin.

Later this year (and VERY SOON FOR ME I hope) you’ll be unleashing Unleashed which will once again feature Matt Hunter, a man very much after my own heart. Do that thing where you give away a little about Unleashed without in any way spoiling Purged. It’s a challenge.

Unleashed takes place a few months after Purged, and kicks off with a horrific dog attack at a primary school open day (I wrote it because my life consists of constant school runs, so you’ll appreciate my need to unleash some mayhem into that scenario). It’s through this attack that Matt is made aware of a fifteen year old poltergeist case, which seems to be returning – with homicidal consequences. While Purged explored the concept of Baptism and ideas about salvation, Unleashed explores the human desire to see patterns in life and how that can lead to a clash of worldviews. The book is filled with people having different opinions on what is killing people. I really like Unleashed. It’s a meaningful story to me.

Normally now I ask the cheese question but I’m over cheese so given your Horror credentials I think this will be harder. One Horror film. Definitively. Can be old can be new but only one. (Remember the random rules thing)

That’s like getting me to choose between my two kids…but that’s fine because I only like one of them anyway (that’s a joke by the way). But yeah, to choose one film’s tricky, but I’ll do it. I’ll opt for The Changeling from 1980 starring George C Scott. It’s my favourite haunted house movie and it influenced the writing of Unleashed because I listened to the soundtrack to that film on a loop while I wrote it. Amazing film, that is, which so many other horror movies copied.

Oh go on then what IS your favourite cheese?

I’m really getting into Blue Cheese and Stilton. It’s because I follow that Joe Wicks guy who suggests it in recipes a lot. It tastes like old lady’s tights, which at first was the attraction because it was so rough it made me only eat tiny bits at a time. Very slimming. Now I’ve got a taste for it I’m eating chunks of the stuff, so maybe it’s time to find a more disgusting cheese. Like Marmite flavour, perhaps.

When I was at your book launch t’other week I asked you whether you thought genuine possession ever happened (or something like that I had after all had a glass of wine or two) – I remember everyone being fairly fascinated by your response so I’m asking again for readers of this madness.

The Bible is pretty clear that demonic possession is a phenomenon that can happen, but I do think we need to be extremely cautious in this area. Some forms of mental illness (such as epilepsy, tourettes syndrome, alien hand syndrome etc) could have been seen as demonic in ancient times. Thankfully, we’ve stopped stigmatising these natural conditions, and treat people accordingly. So I’m extremely reluctant to label someone as possessed, especially when some of the signs of possession are so easy to fake (such as increased strength, aversion to Holy symbols etc).

However, there are other signs that have been reported that are not as easily mimicked. I’ve heard reports of people levitating for example, or their eyeballs turning completely white. Plus there are cases where a subject has knowledge they wouldn’t naturally have known – so when the so-called possessed person starts spouting out secret (and specific) information on the Exorcist it’s scary. Like if a subject mocked the priest by saying, ‘Ha…I know you tried to kill yourself when you were seventeen, on the trainline to Leeds. I was there.’ If that turns out to be true and nobody knew it, it’s pretty freaky – though I guess it could be a form of telepathy and not demonic. Still though, with all these cautions in place I’m open to it happening and the Matt Hunter books certainly explore the subject of demonic influence in the world. It’s going to be a running theme, that behind every crime there may be a mundane explanation, or a sinister more supernatural one. I leave that to the reader to decide.

In a very loosely connected to the above question – How much of you is there in Matt Hunter and how much of Matt Hunter is there in you?

To be honest with you, there’s quite a bit of me in Matt Hunter. For a start he’s a trained church minister, like I am, though he’s jacked his faith in while I haven’t. He’s also a bit of a geek, which I’d say I am too. He’s more intelligent than I am, younger and more handsome, clearly. But we share a quirky sense of humour and a fascination with the bizarre.

Lettuce. Why. Just WHY?

Ha ha! So many people have spoken to me about the lettuce scene in Purged. It’s given people nightmares, which for a writer is a punch the air moment. Funnily enough the bits with the possessed Nigerian woman and the lettuce are linked to a real-life case where some nuns ate some unblessed lettuce. Afterwards they started acting crazy and were considered to be possessed. So basically I picked lettuce because it has a historical precedent and…most importantly…it freaks people out.

Last book you read that you wanted to recommend to everyone. That wasn’t one that you wrote.

I just read a great Australian thriller called Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook. Sadly Cook passed away some years ago, but the manuscript for this novel was found in his belongings, and thankfully it got published. It’s a read-in-one-sitting horror thriller where two urban professionals are chased across the Australian outback by a feral man. It’s got very little character development or extra detail – it’s just 200 pages of pure action and adrenalin. I’d also recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Strangers by Taichi Yamada and On Chesil Beach by Ian McCewan. All of which made me cry – which is good. I like books that move me.

As a Rev I know you go and give guest sermons. Having heard you speak about your novels I’d definitely be interested in hearing you in “other” professional mode (assuming that is I could walk into a church without immediately being struck down) so how do they come together? Obviously with a different approach than writing or talking about writing and horror stuff – or is it significantly different?

I speak in a lot of churches on Sundays (and am available for anybody out there, if they want to get in touch!). I don’t tend to write and deliver horror sermons (though I can occasionally drop in a few creepy facts now and again). But on the whole I just look at a Bible passage and examine what it meant when it was first written to the ancient world. I was taught a bit of Greek in Bible college so sometimes I’ll translate some of the words from the original text, so I can stay close to the original intention. Then I spend a bunch of time trying to bring the message of that text into modern life. So much of the Bible can speak into our everyday challenges. I like sermons that are fun and down to earth but that raise big questions, sometimes from unusual angles. Writing a sermon can be hard work, but when I’m delivering it, it feels kind of special. Like I’m doing something important and meaningful for both me and those who are listening.

Also, you could definitely walk into a church without being struck down. Some people get the impression that God is like a ticked-off headmaster annoyed with anybody who knocks on his door – but in my opinion he’s like the best, most loving, perfect Father who sees his prodigal son on the road and rushes out to hug him and throw a party. I was very anti-Christian up until I was in my early 20s. I’d constantly pick on my Christian R. E. teacher for her ‘pointless and outdated’ religion, and I was even in a band for a while which sang about spitting on God and the Bible. Yep, I wrote that one. Then I started going to church in my early 20’s and I didn’t feel like God was waiting with a cane to whack me. I felt him throw his arms around me and my life changed forever. I know this sounds a bit whacky, but my life really has changed in so many wonderful ways because of my faith. But I hate the idea of forcing my beliefs on anybody, hence why Matt Hunter is a staunch atheist. In fact, some readers have said that Purged comes across as really anti-Christian, ha ha!

That was a bit deep that last question so let’s get back to the important stuff – if you were stuck on a desert island for no apparent reason whatsoever except that I say so and could choose 3 famous people living or dead to be stuck there with you who would you choose?

William Shatner. Without a doubt. He’d be first on the list, because I’ve loved that guy since I was a kid. Then I’ll have Stephen King because as everybody knows, he totally rules. Let’s have Elvis Presley too, cos I’d love to chat with him. Aw, hang on…I’ve used up my go’s and I ended up with all men. Bummer!

What one food did you try once then immediately wish you could delete from the planet?

I think I already answered that above. But if you want another it’s liquorice. That’s dirty food, I’m telling you.

On that note – tipple of choice?

I’m into Whiskey at the moment. I tend to drink Bourbon with just ice. Not only does it make a cool clinking sound in the glass, it makes me feel like J.R. or sumthin. I’ll also take Red Wine, lager and beer if you’re asking.

I know you compose – but what type of popular (using the term loosely) music do you enjoy just chilling out to?

I’ll listen to anything, me. My daughter loves Little Mix for example, and I’m happy to have it on in the car. I also think Bruno Mars writes some brilliant songs. But on the whole tend to listen to a LOT of film soundtracks. I like electronic music too, especially people like John Carpenter or Carpenter Brut. I’m back into Vinyl so have been buying some great albums on that. Oh, and I like cheesy lounge music too. Bit of metal, bit of funk, and I really love music from old Blaxploitation movies. Heck, I pretty much like everything.

Guilty pleasure – that one thing you feel you really shouldn’t enjoy but do (Me, its singing very loudly along to Taylor Swift songs with the windows open in Summer)

Well I’m not sure if I should feel too guilty about this, but I really got into the TV soap opera Nashville recently. My wife was watching the first season and I wandered by and just casually watched the last ten minutes of an episode. Then we both avidly watched all the seasons. I wasn’t really into country music much, but that show had me loading up my Spotify list with the Nashville albums. Which is kinda cheesy, but hey. It’s odd because I have zero interest in the popular British soap operas – but when it comes to stuff like Dallas or Prisoner Cell Block H or Dark Shadows I TOTALLY get the appeal.

What on earth made you decide to write fiction? You KNOW it’s hard right, and yet so many of you do it. And do it so well…

Hey, thanks! I just had as notion to write a novel, while I was walking in a field with my wife. The idea was for a book called Congregation – which will actually become Matt Hunter 3 if the first two sell enough and the publishers want more. Writing fiction is hard, but I’m currently writing a non-fiction book for Icon books called The Frighteners and that’s even harder! It asks why human culture is drawn to the morbid so there’s a lot of fact checking on that one – but at least I’ve been able to hunt werewolves, be chased by zombies, stay in haunted ruined churches and be surrounded by wild dogs in Transylvania for it!

The most irritating thing you can think of (please don’t say wonky wheeled supermarket trolleys I obviously do my best but I’m only one employee…)

The slap of a flip flop against the underside of a foot. That sound is like Chinese Water Torture to me.

Last thing that made you laugh.

I watched a bit of Smokey and the Bandit the other day and that always makes me chuckle.

Last thing that made you cry.

A friend of mine has been through a horrendous time of stress recently and my wife and I went to visit him for dinner the other day. We prayed for him, and as soon as I closed my eyes I felt myself filling up. Prayer’s pretty interesting – it can be boring sometimes, but at others it’s really powerful. Oh, and on the same day I took my kids to see this film called The Boss Baby, which has a scene where an older brother is lying in bed waiting for his parents to read to him, but they’re fast asleep on the couch because the baby brother is taking up all of their time. The film was trying to say that sometimes you get left out and forgotten and that got to me a bit. Maybe it had echoes of the last five years and me trying to get a book deal, ha ha!

How much do you hate me right now?

My hate levels for you are at the same zero percent they always are. I’ll let you know if they change, but let’s face it, Liz, I seriously doubt it.

Thank you!

Thank YOU!

About the Book:

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The Burial Hour Jeffery Deaver – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

The only leads in a broad-daylight kidnapping are the account of an eight-year-old girl, some nearly invisible trace evidence and the calling card: a miniature noose left lying on the street. A crime scene this puzzling demands forensic expertise of the highest order. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are called in to investigate.

Then the case takes a stranger turn: a recording surfaces of the victim being slowly hanged, his desperate gasps the backdrop to an eerie piece of music. The video is marked as the work of The Composer…

Despite their best efforts, the suspect gets away. So when a similar kidnapping occurs on a dusty road outside Naples, Rhyme and Sachs don’t hesitate to rejoin the hunt. But the search is now a complex case of international cooperation – and not all those involved may be who they seem. All they can do is follow the evidence, before their time runs out.

Book 13 in the Lincoln Rhyme series then, unlucky for some but not it seems for Jeffery Deaver who has written another page turner featuring his fascinating and fun characters Lincoln and Amelia.

The Burial Hour takes them out of the country and out of the  comfort zone, but all else remains the same as far as quality goes – again wonderfully engaging forensic detail and a twisted mystery that keeps you guessing. Added to that there was Ercole Benelli, an Italian character that I rather loved.

There’s a change in atmosphere as we hit political issues and in this story the author tackles some very current issues, as well as weaving an intense and clever mystery that works on many levels. I’ve always loved the forensic side of these that does such a great yin yang with the crime elements and the writing is beautifully perceptive and hugely readable.

Overall The Burial Hour does exactly what you expect and hope it will do -and then some – I’m still a huge fan of this series as I have been from the moment I read the first page of The Bone Collector. Keep them coming I say.

Series highly recommended.

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Latest Reads: Mad Chloe J Esposito

Publication Date: 15th June from Michael Joseph

Source: Netgalley

‘There’s something you should know before we go any further: my heart is in the wrong place. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you…’

Perhaps that’s why nothing in Alvie’s life has ever gone right? Until now.

She can finally abandon her credit card debt – and her fruitless three-way relationship with Tinder and Twitter – when fate gives her the chance to steal her identical twin’s perfect life.

It’s just a shame Beth had to die to make Alvie’s dreams come true.

She may be an accidental murderess, but who can blame her for taking lemons and making lemonade? Well… Beth’s husband might, and the police, but only if they can catch her.

So begin seven days of sex, violence and unapologetic selfies – one wild week that sees Alvie break every rule in the book. She never did have much respect for boundaries.

It might be madness, but rules are meant to be broken. Right?

This book was insane for all the right reasons – I banged through it, once you meet Alvie Knightly you won’t want to turn your back on her, no way!

Mad is a whole pile of fun, sexy, sassy, murderous and intensely funny at times, I sat there reading it giggling away to myself I’m fairly sure people around me thought I might be mad. What? Sssh…

Anyway, Alvie has a twin. She hates her twin. Alvie is also a bit crap at life but kind of takes it all in her stride. Off she goes to visit her sister in Italy, her sister with the gorgeous husband, tons of cash and beautiful home, a baby and the life Alvie feels she should be living. When circumstances turn slightly, well, mad, Alvie seizes her chance to step into those high high heels.

This novel cracks along with frenetic, addictive style, beautifully descriptive in hot and heavy fashion, the author sets the scene, pops Alvie into it and off we go on a purely brilliant ride. Alvie has no filtered thoughts, finds she has a violent streak, observes life with a wittily intelligent outlook and manages to get into a whole load of trouble, using only her intuitive impulses to keep herself out of the danger zone. It is highly entertaining, first page to last, also quite bloody, gorgeously racy and beautifully provocative. I loved it.

So glad this is a trilogy. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know. I’m in it all the way. Bring on book 2.

Alvina Knightly: Uncensored. Unhinged. Unforgettable.

Yep – you got that right.

Highly Recommended.

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