Focus: Bryant and May – The Burning Man.

bryant and may

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


Christopher Fowler

The Truth About Bryant & May

Christopher Fowler


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Publication Date: Available Now from Transworld.

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publication Date: Available Now

Source: Author Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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Touched by Joanna Briscoe. Guest post from the Author.

TouchedJoanna BriscoePhoto by Jason Alden

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

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

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


The Village of the Damned

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Praise for Touched


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


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


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


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


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


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


‘An old fashioned, scary horror story’ Sunday Mirror


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


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

Happy Reading Folks!

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

About the book:

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

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

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

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The Faerie Tree blog tour‏ with Jane Cable

9781784622220_covfairy tree

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

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

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

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

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

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Black Wood by SJJ Holliday – Blog Tour.

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Publication Date: Available now from Black and White Publishing.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

So any fan of the psychological thriller definitely needs to be getting their hands on this one – I was lucky enough to read it extremely early, even then I knew it was going to be a great addition to the crime fiction genre, since then I have read the finished version and turns out I was right. Brilliant.

What I found was a character driven story with a very haunting and expressive feel that pulled me in immediately. Jo is an intriguing character, dealing with some difficult issues stemming from a childhood trauma – but with no-one to believe her and a memory that is flaky, she feels very alone and that comes out in the way she interacts with those close to her. Not always sympathetic as a character but ever fascinating, the mystery of what happened to her and Claire all those years ago is compelling and addictive. I can’t say I liked her particularly, but one of the strengths of the story is in the fact that you feel for her anyway.

The book is an exploration of memory and emotion, how things from before can affect the after and is all the more powerful for it. There is a great depth to the psychology and feeling of it, with some authentic twists and turns to keep you off kilter, beautifully paced, it is one of those novels you sink into completely and have to shake off when you emerge back into real life.

The tale has a very “noir” feel, atmospheric and often very haunting, the heart of this is to be found in the people that pepper the pages and the background they are from – at times scarily claustrophobic, especially when delving into Jo’s head and heart, it will engage you and disturb you, surprise you and intrigue you.

It really is deliciously written, capturing the essence of village life perfectly and delivering an eclectic cast of characters, an appealing and exquisitely drawn enigma both in character and plot and overall would defnitely come highly recommended from me. Oh and beautiful job on the cover – captures the whole thing perfectly right there.

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The Last Days of Disco by David F Ross – Blog Tour.

23891429David Ross

Early in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands. A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted. The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance.

I adore a good retro story – especially when it is set firmly in my era, as a child of the 80’s for me this was funny, sometimes sad, always heart warming and I spent the entire reading experience in a daze of nostalgic innocence.

The Cassidy family are a delight, Mr Ross managing to weave around them a tale that is at turns hilarious and tragic, capturing the sense of the era perfectly – a homage to the music of the time embedded into the tale in a beautifully elegant way which gives the whole thing a depth and emotion that moves it beyond a simply family drama, evoking an emotional response in the reader that will stay with you long after reading it.

Set as it is in the Thatcher era, war looming with the Falklands, a time I remember well although from a teenagers point of view, we follow Bobby as he sets up his Disco venture, attempting to rival that of “Fat Franny” – a marvel of a character who kind of grounded the story for me – the writing is witty, ironic, perfectly paced and will drag you into that place and time in very short order. Gary’s story is compelling as we see him through army training and hovering over all this is the very real threat the Falklands war. It is amazingly well drawn, authentic and it is actually quite difficult to review in the sense that nothing I say can quite capture the ambience of it.

It is a tale of consequences, with heart and soul, a coming of age tale set in difficult times, David Ross has written a terrific terrific story that will have you laughing out loud one moment and sobbing into your pillow the next. Once I had gotten my head round the Scottish flavour of it all (brilliantly real unsurprisingly) there was no stopping me and I read it fast – the musical imagery at the core will have you putting your dancing shoes on, I challenge anyone to read this book and not end up having a boogie – but the heart of it is emotionally resonant and absolutely unforgettable.

Highly Recommended. Get your dancing shoes on!

About David:

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP.

The Last Days of Disco is published by Orenda Books and is Available Now.

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You Belong to Me by Samantha Hayes – Blog Tour.


Today I am very happy to join the blog tour for “You Belong to Me” by Samantha Hayes – here she tells us about the Perils of being and author. You can find my review and purchase information right after that!


The Perils of Being an Author – by Samantha Hayes


Everyone knows that authors lounge around in silk pyjamas, dictating a few genius words before lunching at The Ivy and napping the afternoon away. But there are downsides associated with this tough job and, because I like lists, I thought I’d compile one to highlight some of the perils of being an author and dispel any myths. It’s very much a light-hearted look at a few literary liabilities, but just ask any author and I’m sure they’ll agree…


  • Authors don’t wear silk pyjamas. We wear jeans (old and ripped) or grubby tracksuit bottoms. The baggier the T-shirt the better, and hair is unkempt not because it’s fashionable, but because we just had to get that brilliant idea down on paper and completely forgot to look in the mirror.
  • Everyone you know is suddenly ‘going to write a book’. Hear this enough times and you’ll start to wonder if your career really is just a hobby. But authors are generally lovely people and will politely ask what the book is about, when all we really want to say is, ‘When you see your doctor, do you tell him you’re going to perform your own surgery, because really, how hard can it be?’
  • There’s no such thing as a free book. (Apart from on Amazon sometimes.) Be prepared for all your friends, friends of friends, and distant relatives of distant friends to request an endless supply of books at no cost. Get your own back by asking your accountant mate to do your tax return for nothing, or your hairdresser friend for a free cut.
  • Writing books is a lonely business. There is no water cooler gossip, no lunching with a friend from the next desk, no dress-down Friday (remember, every day is already dressed down), and there’s no one to bring in cake for your birthday. On the upside, the office Christmas party is cheap, and you don’t suffer Mortified Monday because no one sees what you got up to with the photocopier. (Actually, there is no photocopier.)
  • When you become an author, everyone will want to ‘pop in’ or phone you for hours at a time. I realise this contravenes point 4 slightly in that the loneliness is self-imposed, but authors just want to write. No, we have to write. Suddenly everyone wants to visit for tea, for a chat, to see how you are. Would you ‘pop in’ for coffee if I worked in a bank? Working from home clearly means, ‘I’m lounging around doing nothing so feel free to take up half my day, even though my deadline is tomorrow morning.’
  • Being an author is insecure. Authors sign contracts usually for two, maybe three books at a time. After that… well, you hear that tumbleweed blowing about? That’s an author’s job security. Of course, we always hope our latest book will be greatly received and well-reviewed, but it’s a tough business. If you don’t immediately secure a new contract, you will spend a year unpaid writing the next book in the hope it will sell. (Top tip: I always use the self-service check-out at supermarkets so that if I need to apply for a job there, I’ll already be trained up).
  • Everyone will want to know how much you earn. Ask them back.
  • Authors are largely at the mercy of reviews. Now, I fully accept that if an author writes a duff book, then the bad reviews must be taken on the chin. But not many jobs allow strangers to personally comment on a year’s worth of hard work and potentially take down a career. We don’t get the chance to publicly comment on a hotel receptionist’s miserable attitude, or a car mechanic’s shoddy work for the rest of the world to read. Be prepared to develop a thick skin beneath your grubby T-shirt—but also allow yourself to melt a little when readers and reviewers do enjoy your work!
  • Writer’s block. I have included this because many authors suffer from it, but really it’s a blessing rather than a peril. It’s way better than a tummy ache, or a migraine, and the grown-up literary equivalent of the dog eating your homework. Writer’s block implies something great is about to burst forth from your temporarily-hindered mind, not that you just fancy a day off.
  • Wearing the author’s uniform will guarantee you need to go out (yes, actually outside!) at a moment’s notice. I once made a dash to Asda in Author’s Standard Attire, and I couldn’t resist a peek at the book section. A shopper was holding my book, presenting the perfect hand-selling opportunity. ‘It’s really good,’ I said, sidling up, pointing at it. ‘Have you read it?’ she asked. ‘I wrote it,’ I replied proudly. Cue the disbelieving look before she scuttled off. She must have been wondering where my silk pyjamas were.


My Review:


Isabel left England to escape her past. For the first time in months, she’s beginning to feel safe. But then a letter shatters her world once more as she learns of her parents’ death in a car crash. Reluctantly she returns home, unable to shake off the feeling she’s being watched but determined not to let fear rule her life any more.

I’ve read previous novels from this author and have always very much enjoyed them – but I have to say with “You Belong to Me” I think the ante has been upped considerably – I ADORED it, could not put it down, it was terribly addictive and every time I thought I could pop it aside for a moment and do some housework or something, Ms Hayes would pop another humdinger happening in there and onwards I went…

We meet Isabel, hiding away in India from what we are not sure, when she receives some horrific news which forces her back to England. Meanwhile, Lorraine Fisher is suffering anxiety from a previous case and also feeling the pressure of a new one. Told from several points of view over time, a picture begins to develop of a dark and twisted mind…

Very clever writing here, drawing you into Isobel’s world – a sinister place to be as we discover what exactly she has been running from. Some terrific psychological insight to be had into all the characters – plus some deliciously enticing twists and turns and a very real sense of menace – making this a top notch psychological thriller.

It definitely crept up on me – perhaps not one I should have been reading as darkness fell due to the fact that it is really very authentic, with events being entirely possible. A constant need to look over my shoulder developed and for me, that is the sign of a really engrossing and captivating story. So this absolutely comes Highly Recommended from me – most especially for those readers who enjoy a tense read with a twist in the tale.

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Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton. Blog Tour. Guest Post.


Today I am very pleased to welcome Glen Erik Hamilton to the blog. Past Crimes is a terrific thriller which I shall be reviewing in a separate feature very soon, but that comes Highly Recommended from me.  Here he talks about writing. And procrastination.



Lead Me Not into Procrastination


(or, How I Became a Better Writer using Masochism)


by Glen Erik Hamilton © 2015


When people ask me how long it took to write my first book, I’m not quite sure what to tell them. Some of the ideas were there when I first started writing a few years ago, but there were lots of abandoned characters and plotlines before I settled on the notion of what eventually became my debut novel. It’s probably a better question to ask how many books I wrote, page-count-wise, before writing that “first” one.


But my second book, part of the deal with the first, was on deadline. That was a whole different rugby game (baseball is not nearly bruising enough to make a suitable comparison). I had to become a lot more disciplined in my planning and much more ruthless in selecting ideas. Above all, I had to produce pages. Quickly.


And you and I know that ain’t easy, brothers and sisters.


The first rule, as authors more diligent and successful than I have avowed, is simple: Anything that is not writing is Not Writing. Not research. Not thinking. Not comparing ideas and challenges and gripes with other writers. Only putting words on the page.


So here are tips that have worked for me. They might also work for you, or they might not, and there’s a little whiff of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do therein. But by golly if they don’t result in pages when I adhere to them.


One caveat: If you try these tricks and it feels awful at first? Like you’ve painted yourself into a corner?




Caught in a Web

I cannot stress this one strongly enough. The internet is not your friend. It’s the biggest distraction in the modern writer’s life. You should be without access to the web when writing. Completely.


I can hear the rationalizations now: “But research…” “Sometimes I need to just…” “My backup service…” All of which ignore the cardinal rule, above. Get thee behind me, Google.


When I rented a tiny cave of an office for two months to finish the second Van Shaw book by the deadline, I specifically requested no internet service. In addition to saving some serious money (How much per gig??), it forced me to limit my online time to whatever was possible using my phone as a hot spot, which was pretty much just loading the day’s work to Dropbox at the end of the night. Anything that needed researching, I scribbled down to look up later, after writing time.


Which reminds me: Turn off the damn phone. You can play your turn on Words with Friends later.


Timing is Everything

For as much as all of us balancing day jobs and families with writing crave uninterrupted blocks of time, it can be a scary prospect to sit (or stand, if you prefer) and write for three or four hours a night. On weekends, ten or twelve hours can loom like Godzilla. So I have to break it up, without letting myself wander too far afield.


I have two timers I like to use, depending on my mood. The first is just a simple digital watch which I set to beep every forty-five minutes or so. I allow myself ten minutes to get up, get coffee, wash my face, whatever, BUT I also have to get a little exercise during those minutes. I call it the Big BUT Rule. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is. Pushups or knee bends or sun salutations or my favorite, banging my head against the wall. Just so long as it gets the blood moving.


The other timer is an hourglass from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. It’s actually a fiftythreeminuteglass, because quality control is slipping at the ol’ Magic Kingdom. But I use that to my advantage. Fifty-three on, seven off (timed with the digital watch, above.) The nice thing about using the glass is seeing the sand flow through. It’s both peaceful and yet somehow gives a sense of urgency to the work. Maybe it’s the Mansion’s gargoyles staring at me.


Whistle While You Work

I find music to be hugely helpful in writing. It can set a mood, muffle outside sounds, lend me energy and keep me focused. But there is a catch. (Are you seeing a pattern with these provisos yet?)  It has to be music that won’t distract. Since I’m working with words, for me that means nothing with lyrics – nobody else’s art pushing its way into mine. Especially if it’s better, damn them.   And nothing TOO energizing, otherwise I’m back to the head-banging mentioned above. I like Mozart. Oscar Peterson. Ana Vidovic. Andres Segovia. George Gershwin. Miles Davis. All very different spirits, for different empathies of character.


Who’s a Good Boy?

My wife would be the first to tell you that I’m simply a large bipedal dog with slightly better grooming habits. She might waffle on the grooming part. In any event, the training process is the same: Reward good behavior with treats. Finish two pages? Have a cookie. Complete a couple of chapters? Pizza time. Finish a whole darn book and be gifted with a week of slack – whatever I wanna do on any night. Usually that means James Bond movies and consuming more imperial stout than a Kiev fraternity house.


In all seriousness, victories in writing are hard-won. Big achievements – finding an agent, getting published, receiving a great review – are of course worthy of big celebrations. But those don’t come along often, and for many, it takes some brutally tough work before benefits can be reaped. So you gotta draw your own finish lines, and give yourself the treats you earned when you cross ‘em. You deserve that.


And if you haven’t crossed those lines just yet: Get back to work.


BIO: Glen Erik Hamilton is a Seattle native, who lived aboard a sailboat as a boy, and grew up finding trouble around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family. Past Crimes is his first novel.


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For fans of LEE CHILD’s Jack Reacher and DENNIS LEHANE’s Kenzie and Gennaro, an unputdownable series debut, from a thrilling new voice in American crime writing

‘A zipline ride of a thriller, plummeting through the back alleys of Seattle … Hamilton has crafted a compelling new hero in Van Shaw.’ Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestseller

If my grandfather’s letter had stopped at the comma, I would have tossed it in the trash… only the last three words mattered. If you can. That passed for please, in the old man’s way of talking… If you can scared me a little.

Meet Van Shaw – soldier, ex-con – as he returns to his native Seattle after a decade’s self-imposed exile. Answering voices from his past, he finds a whole heap of trouble, and himself the prime suspect in the brutal attack on his grandfather. Drawn back into the violent, high-stakes life he tried to leave behind, he has to try and see right from wrong amid the secrets and resentments of those he was once closest to.

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Blog Tour – Obsession in Death by J D Robb

24785885Romance novelist Nora Roberts

Publication Date: Available Now from Piatkus

Source: Publisher Review Copy

A crisp winter morning in New York. In a luxury apartment, the body of a woman lies stretched out on a huge bed. On the wall above, the killer has left a message in bold black ink: FOR LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, WITH GREAT ADMIRATION AND UNDERSTANDING.  Eve Dallas is used to unwanted attention. Famous for her high-profile cases and her marriage to billionaire businessman Roarke, she has learned to deal with intense public scrutiny and media gossip. But now Eve has become the object of a singular and deadly obsession.

I was very happy to be asked to join the blog tour for this title because it brought me back to a series I have always enjoyed – admittedly I have not read every one, Eve Dallas is a character I return to sporadically but I never get lost, always find myself immediately back into Eve’s world and Obsession in Death was no different.

In this instalment, Eve becomes the focus of a killer – disposing of people who he perceives as having done her a wrong. Eve may be used to attention, what with her family ties and her high profile solve rate but this will test her to her limits as she tries to discover which of those in her circle could be hiding a deadly secret.

Set as they are, slightly in the future, I always find these fascinating and well constructed novels with a well imagined world of new technology mixed in with a terrific police prodedural – the best thing I find is the relationships between the characters, most especially that of Eve and Roarke, two equally obsessed people who compliment each other perfectly.

Despite being book 40, you can still easily dive into this series  – here if you like, or choose a previous novel – there is no problem with reading them standalone, or as a set. Which is a pretty good achievement considering how long these have been going- I remember reading Naked in Death years ago and since then I have been in and out of them regularly. Obsession in Death was an excellent addition – the mystery element was beautifully drawn and intriguing, characters both old and new have great depth and substance to them and overall it really was a stonking good read.

A definite recommendation from me for any Crime Fiction fans especially if you like something a little bit different from the standard. Excellent stuff.

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