5 Gripping Political Thrillers Written By Former Politicians Themselves

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As former deputy Labour party leader Tom Watson announces that he’s writing a political thriller following his exit from parliament, I started to think about the other former politicians who’ve drawn on their personal experiences to write thrillers.

These books are often gritty, tense and scary because they’re based on the real-life experiences of these people who have first-hand experience of how countries around the world are lead.

It’s surprising how many politicians choose to write political thrillers, ranging from small fry right all the way up to former presidents. So, if you fancy reading a political thriller created by someone who really knows what they’re talking about, read on!

5. A Very British Coup: Labour MP Chris Mullin’s novel, which was adapted for television and had a sequel, discusses a Labour politician’s rise to become Prime Minister. Once he achieves his dream, he struggles to get his progressive policies past his colleagues and other members of the established order, who quickly conspire against to take him down.

4. Open Arms: A female British politician working in India becomes embroiled with a Billionaire arms tech genius during the middle of deepening political and racial tensions in the country, leading the both of them to question their loyalties. Vince Cable’s thriller is tense and fast-paced, giving readers an intriguing international storyline that evolves and grows with every chapter.

3. House of Cards: You may have heard of the TV series House of Cards, but you might not know that it was based on a book by Conservative politician Michael Dobbs. It follows on from the resignation of Margret Thatcher, and shows the brutal, imagined Conservative party leader election, with members of the party blackmailing, threatening and conniving against one another in a nail-biting thriller that will give you a unique glimpse into the backbiting that goes on behind the closed doors of Number 10 Downing Street.

2. The Pelican Brief: The famed novel that became a popular film, The Pelican Brief tells the story of journalists working to uncover the link between the assassinations of two Supreme Court Justices and the White House. John Grisham is a famous political thriller writer, but he’s also a lawyer, former Democratic member of the House of Representatives and a political activist who’s been working with the American political and justices systems for more than 40 years. As such, his many books are all incredible stories that are accurate representations of these systems and the complicated, often convoluted ways they work.

1. The President Is Missing: Co-authored by former president of the United States Bill Clinton, this is a gritty thriller about a potential cyber threat that keeps on giving. Created by Clinton in collaboration with serial author James Patterson, who brings out about 500 books a year, the novel seems a little pedestrian at times, but it has a lot of twists and turns, meaning it’ll keep any reader on their toes. It is about a President navigating the corridors of power and dealing with the petty jealousies and major insecurities of those who are supposed to support them, but could very well be out to destroy everything.

June Trop Interview: “I thought writing a good mystery would be the greatest challenge”

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This week I speak to June Trop about her Miriam bat Isaac Series, especially her fifth and latest book, The Deadliest Thief. She gives me a guided tour of her work and shares an exclusive piece written in the style of her protagonist.

Please talk me through your background and how you got into writing.

A transplant from New Jersey, I’ve lived in New Paltz, New York in the mid-Hudson Valley for more than thirty years. I began my professional life as a science teacher in New Jersey and moved to New Paltz when I married Paul R. Zuckerman. I taught biology at the local high school before earning a doctorate in science education from Columbia University Teachers College. Then I served as a professor of science teacher education at the State University of New York before retiring to write professionally in 2007.

When taking a course on the historical development of concepts in chemistry, I encountered Maria Hebrea, the first-century alchemist who, living in Alexandria, became the legendary founder of Western alchemy and held her place for 1500 years as the most celebrated woman of the Western World. Years later I would model my protagonist, Miriam bat Isaac, on her.

How about your protagonist, can you tell me something about her?

Actually, Miriam is right here and will tell you about herself as long as you swear by Alethia to keep her work a secret:

Times are dangerous here in Roman Alexandria. I am an alchemist, and while the goal of our league is to perfect human life—to heal, extend, and rejuvenate it—we also focus on base metals like copper and iron, to perfect them as well into gold. But that’s where we can get into trouble, big trouble. The emperor is afraid that by synthesizing gold, we will undermine his currency and overthrow the empire. And so, the practice of alchemy, even the possession of an alchemical document, is punishable by the summum supplicium, the most extreme punishment. Like the vilest of criminals, any suspect is summarily crucified, left to hang outside the city gates to serve as an appalling warning to others. And so, when an alchemical document was stolen from my home, I began to practice sleuthing. Now don’t forget: You must swear to keep my alchemical work a secret.

I live in the Jewish Quarter of Alexandria, on the coast and farthest from the main necropolis. So, we inhale the scent of the sea instead of the stench of the embalming workshops. If it’s exceptionally hot or I’m carrying valuables, my bearers take me in a sedan chair to the agora, our central marketplace. Otherwise I walk to the heart of our city, this cloaca of gossip, our venue for seeing and being seen, for hearing and being heard. Approaching the plaza, I feel its vigor filter into my arteries as haranguing hawkers and hucksters, orators and priests, soothsayers and astrologers, tricksters and swindlers, magicians and conjurers, snake charmers and peddlers, wizards and sorcerers promise me a miracle for a price.

But I used to have another reason for going to the agora, and that was to see Judah. I can still dream my way to that first encounter with him, that unexpected ache when I walked into his shop. He raised his lids to look at me and then squared his shoulders with a slow, deep, almost guttural intake of breath and an even slower exhale. That sensation of his nearness, close enough for our air to mingle and for his hand to brush against mine, would ignite my private fantasies.

Tell me about your latest book.

So far, I have written five books in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series, all with three-word titles beginning with “The Deadliest…”.

In my latest book, The Deadliest Thief (Black Opal Books, 2019), the only surviving accomplice in a jewel heist vows to kill Miriam and her occasional deputy, the itinerant potbellied dwarf, Nathaniel ben Ruben. At the same time, a kidnapper seizes Miriam’s closest friend, Phoebe, and threatens to butcher her piece by piece. Miriam suspects the events are connected, but can she find her friend before it’s too late?

When Did You Discover Your Love Of Mysteries?

I became addicted to mysteries when, as an eight-year-old girl, I borrowed my first Nancy Drew mystery from a classmate.  Of course, I wanted to be Nancy Drew or at least be a detective just like her. Search as I might though I could find no secret passages, whispering walls, or unclaimed treasures. The only thing I could do was read more mysteries. When I’d read all the Nancy Drews, I graduated to Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Fortunately, with our ever-expanding genre, I’ve never run out of great mysteries to read.

So, What Was It That Made You Decide To Write Your Own Mysteries?

Aside from my own love of mysteries, I thought writing a good mystery would be the greatest challenge. Readers should have access to all the clues to solve the puzzle but, at the same time, be unable to do so. And then, the solution must satisfy. That is, readers should see that the author was fair. And finally, justice should triumph. The writing doesn’t get more challenging than that!

How Did You Turn That Idea Into A Book?

One source for plot ideas is the stories I’ve read or heard about but with a “what if” twist that would suit my characters and setting. Of course, that’s just the beginning of a plot idea. I keep a journal of them. Most of the storylines reach a dead end, but some come alive.

When I’ve fixed on a plot, I make a list of all the scenes to get from the beginning to the end and record the conflict that must occur in each scene to move the story forward. Then I create a subplot or two and insert those scenes where I want to leave the reader hanging for a while. This framework is what I use to flesh out each chapter. And, as a new idea emerges along the way, I insert that idea into the relevant scene or string of scenes.

Of course, that gets you only the first draft. But you really can’t know, really know your story until you’ve finished that first draft. Then the editing begins.

What Are Your Favorite Mystery Books To Read?

I have three: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, and A Long Line of Dead Men by Lawrence Block. I love Doyle’s stories for their atmosphere; Christie’s for their twists; and Block’s for his character Matthew Scudder, the noir streets of New York, and his dialogue. Block makes the written word sound like the spoken word. To me, these three mysteries are like chocolate ice cream. I never get tired of them.

Why Will Readers Enjoy The Deadliest Thief?

My books have won various awards, which include praise for their riveting suspense, their authentic portrayal of life in Roman Alexandria, and for bringing the reader right there. The Deadliest Thief in particular is a puzzle filled with action, a startling twist, and an array of distinctive characters that support Miriam in her pursuit of justice against the thrust of time. Although fifth in the series, The Deadliest Thief, like all the others, stands alone. You can enjoy any of them at any time. So, let Miriam take you into the underbelly of her splendid city to help solve her most baffling case yet.

Do You Have Any Advice For Other Writers?

These precepts guide me. I hope they can bring encouragement to others.

  1. Avoid comparing yourself to other writers. You have your own distinct voice and stories to tell.
  2. Accept your failures and learn from them. In fact, if you’re not getting rejected some of the time, then you’re not taking the chances you need to improve your craft.
  3. Be grateful you have this opportunity to express yourself.

Do You Have Anything To Add?

I welcome visits and comments.

Readers can learn more about The Deadliest Thief and the other books in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series and watch the book trailers for each story on my website. I also post a weekly blog about life in Roman Alexandria on Facebook. My books are available in bookstores and online platforms. Readers can easily find them on Amazon. Most of the book trailers are on Youtube here.

Thanks for your time June, it’s been great hearing your thoughts!

Crime Fiction I’m Excited For In 2020

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A little late I know, but here are some of my top picks for crime fiction books that’ll be released later this year.

There’s some really great stuff coming out throughout the year, so read on to find see the ones I’m most excited for and find some exciting to put on your reading list.

The Memory Wood: Billed as “the must-read novel of 2020”, Sam Lloyd’s book thriller tells the story of a child who’s abducted and taken to a wood where she meets a young boy, who she thinks is a saviour but quickly turns out to be another sadist. The tale turns into a cat and mouse game that you’ll find hard to put down.

Knife: The latest in Jo Nesbo’s revered Harry Hole series sees his detective in a bad place mentally, when his luck takes another turn for the worse. One of his early collars is out of prison and out for revenge, leaving Harry set to face his past and present in one. I’m a massive fan of the Harry Hole series and can’t wait for the next instalment to see how this dogged detective digs himself out of his latest pit of despair.

The Killings At Kingfisher Hill: Sophie Hannah’s latest reimagining of Agatha Christie’s famed Belgium detective sees the finicky Hercule Poirot travel by luxury passenger coach to Kingfisher Hill, a luxury estate where a woman stands accused of a murder that her fiancé is convinced she didn’t commit. On the way, a strange incident occurs which results in a murder. Poirot will have to use all his ingenuity and imagination to solve the puzzle, which is part of Hannah’s incredible series of books featuring the Queen Of Crime’s most renowned character.

All That’s Dead: Another book in a series, this time Stuart MacBride’s gritty but gripping Logan McRae collection, All That’s Dead looks set to be another smasher. Set in the concrete jungle that is Aberdeen, MacBride’s books often feature actual real world issues, and this latest outing is no exception as McRae handles a case that showcases the still simmering tensions from the Scottish Referendum. A high-profile anti-independence campaigner goes missing, and his case plays a part in the tensions that are being played out in harrowing detail in the country’s media. McRae faces both a professional and a PR challenge as he balances the case with the constant threat of negative media attention.

The Better Liar: Tanen Jones’ thriller, set for release later this month, tells the story of a woman who decides to partner with a stranger who will impersonate her sister so that they can claim an inheritance. The story becomes increasingly complicated, with both women facing up to their lies and striving to be the Better Liar. If you’re a fan of gripping, slow burn thrillers then this is one for you to enjoy during the roaring 20s.

 

Made A Reading Resolution? How To Make Sure You Keep It

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It’s part way through January, and we all know what that means: most of you are already off the wagon.

Whether your resolution was to drink less or lose weight, doubtless you’re already part way into failing. It’s bloody difficult to keep a resolution, particularly when you going back to work and dealing with all the stresses that brings.

Personally, I can’t help with much, but if your resolution involved reading more books in 2020 than ever before, then I’m your gal!

One of the best ways to read more is to simply find books about topic you’re passionate about. There are books out there about everything, from the President of the United States to crime fiction that doesn’t involve murder and everything in between, meaning that you can find something that’ll drive you to read more.

Another option is listening to audiobooks. There’s a lot of debate around at the moment on whether or not audiobooks are really reading. Me, I think that any reading is good reading, and whilst audiobooks are in no way the same as physical books, they’re a great way to learn more on the go.

After all, we’re all busy people, and it’s that lack of time that often kills off New Year’s resolutions before the end of January. Audiobooks are a great way to keep your passion alive and inspire you to want to read more physical books, as well as introducing you to new authors and genres. They can be listened to almost anywhere, meaning that you’ve got no excuse.

If you’re keen to include more physical books on your 2020 reading list, then try keeping a diary of all the books you’ve read this year. That’ll make you more aware of how far you’ve come and everything you’ve read.

You could also invest in some fancy books, like rare or illustrated editions of classics or old favourites that you haven’t read in a while. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you put your money where your mouth is and invest in something to help you with your resolution, then you’re much more likely to keep it than if you don’t. That’s why loads of people take out pricey gym memberships at this time of the year.

At the end of the day, there’s no hard and fast way to make yourself read more, but if you keep at it then the results will be worth the effort. You’ll have an increased vocabulary and gained knowledge you’d never have if you didn’t read widely and frequently. I hope these tips help and if you think of any of your own that work for you then I’d love to hear about them. Best of luck and happy reading!

5 Great Books To Read If You Want To Learn More About Donald Trump

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As the world girds its loins in anticipation of a potential third World War thanks to the American President’s recent act of terrorism against Iran, which saw him order commander Qassem Soleimani to be killed, you might want to learn more about the man responsible.

Whilst checking out his Twitter account might be an idea, he’s renowned for exaggerating, bending the truth and, quite frankly, outright lying.

So, how can you find out more about the man behind the madness? Reading books by those who’ve studied him and the way he behaves, both as a business leader and a President is probably the best way. As such, here are five of the best books out there on the Donald.

5. A Warning: Written by an anonymous person who claims to be a ‘senior Trump administration official’, this expose is filled with shocking insights into the way the 45th President runs his version of the White House. Expanding on an article published in the New York Times previously, the book goes into detail on the way that America is being led, and it’s pretty scathing. An eye opening read for those who want to find out more about what goes on inside the Trump administration (spoiler alert: not a lot, and not very quickly).

4. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership: The memoir of former FBI director James Comey, this book shares a lot of Comey’s personal experienced working alongside the Trump administration. Appointed by Barack Obama, the revered Lawyer was sacked by Trump for failing to do his bidding and back down on his quest to find and showcase the truth about Russia’s interference in the election that had won the President his seat. As such, his book gives an honest and open account of the Presidents that Comey has served under, in his varied roles, and paints a portrait of Trump as the most shambolic and corrupt of the lot of them.

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3. It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America: You might already have realised by now that Trump’s policies, such as his family separation, concentration camps on the Mexican border and his revoking of many funding options for lower-income American families, will have a lasting impact on the country and the world. However, you might not understand the full extent of what Trump and his handpicked cronies are doing. If you want to find out more, then David Cay Johnston’s book is the perfect read for you. It shines a light on exactly what’s going on and the lasting legacy of hurt that Trump’s policies and actions will have on the American legal, justice, political and economic systems. From the climate to his border wall and everything in between, the book is a no-holds-barred showcase of all the damage that Trump’s White House is causing.

2. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House: An explosive book when it first came out in 2018, Michael Wolff’s expose on the Trump administration remains relevant and important reading to this very day. As a journalist, Wolff was given unprecedented access to lawmakers, governors and others within Trump’s inner circle, and he details all the revelations they offered to him in horrifying detail. From the President’s disinterest in his work, through to his nepotism and bullying leadership tactics, it’s all laid out so you can see the stark reality of what is happening to America if you read this gripping book.

1. Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump: Revered Sports Writer Rick Reilly explores how the way that Trump plays, and lies about playing, golf, shows a lot about who he is, both as a man and a leader. Interviewing some of the best golfers, course managers, tournament organisers, fans and caddies in the industry, Reilly paints a picture of a chaotic man who tries to control the narrative even when simply playing golf. Trump’s intriguing relationship with the game is shown in harrowing detail, and the book highlights just how deceitful, dishonest and disconnected the President really is.

M.C. Beaton Obituary

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Happy New Year to everyone. We begin the Roaring ’20s with some sad news: M.C. Beaton, whose real name was Marion Chesney, has died at the age of 83. 

She left this world on the 31st December 2019, meaning she never even got to see the dawn of a new decade.

The prolific author has written a wide range of crime fiction books, mostly Golden Age style police procedurals or private eye tales. She also wrote romance novels, which, alongside some of her crime writing, were written in historical periods. Using a number of pseudonyms,  of which M.C. Beaton was just one, she wrote many books, some of which topped global bestseller lists.

Her two renowned detectives were Scottish policeman Hamish Macbeth and private detective Agatha Raisin. She also wrote standalone mystery novels and a series of Edwardian crime novels. 

Both Macbeth and Raisin are revered among crime fiction readers, and have become cult thanks to TV adaptations and their vast number of appearances in Chesney’s books.

I’m not going to pretend that I enjoyed her work: I’ve written about my dislike of her Agatha Raisin novels in detail previously, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect Chesney as a writer.

After all, over the years she wrote hundreds of books, many of which sold millions of copies. Her work was translated into many other languages and her characters will live on for many more years.

Her books have influenced the crime fiction genre and will remain a staple of the market. The TV shows of her books are still being created, and doubtless her works will continue to inspire other writers in creating new characters and narratives that’ll drive the crime fiction market forward.

Her other works, which include historical mysteries and other books, will also remain staples of their respective genres. As well as being a writer Chesney also had a loving family, and was a grandmother. She had a great many passions and interests, all of which shaped her writing.

Chesney’s books might not have been something I enjoyed, but they were completely fearless. I might not have liked reading her work but I definitely admired her bravery and her dedication to proving that women could be just as dangerous and daring as any man.

In all, whilst they may not be everyone’s favourites, there’s no hiding from the fact that Marion Chesney’s writing will remain an inspiration and a reference point for writers and readers over the years to come, and that they have already shaped, and will continue to influence, the crime fiction space. 

The Books To Buy With Your Vouchers This New Year

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Another Christmas, another round of book vouchers for bibliophiles. And we all know what that means- another trip to the bookshop!

If you’re at a loss as to what you should buy yourself with your pretty vouchers, here’s a roundup of some great new books in stores now for you to buy a new copy of.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee By Casey Cep: This true tale of the courtroom drama that Harper Lee hoped would become her version of In Cold Blood is a great true crime option for those seeking something gripping, thrilling yet humbling and human all at the same time.

The Testaments By Margret Atwood: There’s a reason the sequel to the acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale won the Booker Prize in 2019. If you’re a fan of the first book, or the TV series it inspired, then I suggest that you give this latest novel a go. It’s an inspiring tale of struggle and suppression that resonates with many of the political and social issues women still face today.

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference By Greta Thunberg: It’s important that we keep listening to this brave young woman and her crusade to change the world for the better. Her book is an extraordinary tale of her hard work and her theories on what the population needs to do to change things. A great read for those who want to do something to help.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse By Charlie Mackesy: A renowned cartoonist, Charlie Mackesy has created this sweet volume to act as an antidote to all the frightening news and scary tales we hear in today’s modern society. It’s a great choice for readers of all ages, and will definitely give you something to think about this New Year.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas By Adam Kay: It might not be Christmas anymore, but Adam Kay’s incredible short follow-up to his deeply amusing and yet thought-provoking book This Is Going To Hurt is a great read at any time of the year. If you want to know more about how the health service copes over the festive period and still enjoy a laugh then this is the book for you to treat yourself to with your hard earned (as I’m sure they were, if putting up with your relatives all year counts as work) book vouchers.

Agent Running in the Field By John Le Carré: Master of the spy novel John Le Carré delivered another scorcher in 2019, and it’s well worth a read if you’re a fan or you like reading twisted tales of super spies finding their way through the mysterious world of international espionage. His work is informed and inspiring, and makes for great films, so read the book before the film is even in the works to be one step ahead of everyone!

Thirteen By Steve Cavanagh: A twisted thriller that keeps the reader on their toes constant changes and red herrings, this is a fascinating book that’s definitely one to check out if you like crime fiction. With the strap line ‘the serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury’ it’s easy to see why you’ll be gripped by this clever novel. Played out as a courtroom drama crossed with an insight into the mind of a calculating killer, this book has a taut plot that you won’t forget in a hurry.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and treat yourself! Happy reading and have a lovely New Year, thanks for all the support and love over 2019. I hope 2020 will be an even better year for everyone!