Sam Boush Interview: “Science fiction is the perfect genre to show the terrifying and realistic possibilities of any number of scenarios”

Sam Boush Photo

I caught up with Sam Boush, author for Sci-Fi Thriller All Systems Down, to find out more about what drew him towards this fascinating genre.

Please tell me about All Systems Down.

All Systems Down is a sci-fi thriller, based in our present day. Through cyber warfare, the North Koreans are able to cause a complete collapse of American infrastructure—banks, the electrical grid, GPS, and more. The story is focused in around a few everyday people who have to survive in cities that are crashing down around them.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing novels?

I have had a number of past careers, as a journalist and in book publishing. Most recently, I founded a small-to-mid-size marketing firm, which I sold a couple years ago. Now I’m focused full-time on writing.

Please tell me about the style you write in. What drew you towards science fiction?

Science fiction is the perfect genre to show the terrifying and realistic possibilities of any number of scenarios. Michael Crichton used the genre to describe what genetic tinkering run-amok could cause in Jurassic Park. Ray Bradbury used it to paint a world where books were scorned in Fahrenheit 451. A lot of great writing comes from this genre.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

As a writer, I read a lot of non-fiction. I hear from my writing friends, who, similarly, read a disproportionate amount of non-fiction compared with fiction. But as far as fiction goes, in the last month I’ve read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, City of Thieves by David Benioff, and several books by Stephen King.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Tom Clancy. Besides the fact that I like his books, he’s a great researcher and so detail-oriented. I feel like writing with him would be easy because of all the knowledge at his fingertips.

Anything you’d like to add?

You can read the first chapter of All Systems Down for free on my website: http://cyberwarbooks.com/all-systems-down-ch-1/

Thank you for your responses Sam, it was great to hear your thoughts.

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The Top Five Best Maigret Novels To Get You Into Simenon

maigret_itv

Although I have already expounded on the enduring importance of this popular French policeman, I felt inspired to create this, my first top 5 for 2018, following the Christmas Eve showing of Maigret in Montmartre. Starring Rowan Atkinson in his first non-comedic role on screen, the series is an excellent portrayal of this Gallic sleuth and his quest for truth in Georges Simenon’s murky Paris.

The novels share many characteristics with classic English Crime Fiction, which, at the time they were published, was experiencing its Golden Age. However, the key differentiator is the series’ setting; whilst many Golden Age works explored the private and personal nature of crime, and were often centred around private homes and intimate, family settings, Simenon instead chose to explore the wider issues France faced at that time, and as such his novels are often set in Paris or other cities, with a focus on community and shared suffering.

Much like Kurt Wallander, Henning Mankell’s depressed detective who scoured the streets of Ystad in search of devilish criminal masterminds, Simenon’s Maigret is a man who uses every sense to uncover his villains and restore order, however briefly, to the streets he views as his own.

The one problem I find with many of the screen portrayals of the character is that they often give the character an eccentricity, or they allow him to be viewed as uniquely special, as if his powers of deduction alone are enough for him to solve every case, when in fact, Simenon wrote the character as an intensely ordinary man. For example, during the first of ITV’s Maigret films, starring Rowan Atkinson, Madam Maigret, whilst speaking about why a group of policewomen had volunteered to put themselves in extreme danger, tells her husband; ‘of course they would do it for you’. This implies that it was some special magnetism that he possessed, and not the thrill of working with more senior officers on such a high profile case, that drew these women to volunteer for such a perilous task. In fact, Simenon’s Maigret is constantly portrayed as intensely normal, with no special attributes aside from his bulk, his steadfast dedication to his job and his dogged approach to his role as a policeman.

A prolific writer, Simenon produced over 75 Maigret novels, many of which are yet to be translated into English (I once tried reading a Simenon novel in the original French but unfortunately my GCSE knowledge proved no match for their strange sentence configurations and multiple noun genders), and as such I am yet to read the entire collection. However, over the years I have encountered a number of the novels that have been translated, and here are five that I think will offer a great introduction to this stoic and practical Parisian policeman.

5. The Friend of Madame Maigret: I have always admired Simenon’s portrayal of Madame Maigret, as although it is not entirely fair on women it is certainly progressive for its time. In this novel she assists her husband as he tries to prove an improbable, corpse-less murder by recounting her strange encounter with a woman and her child.

4. Maigret Travels: A multi-millionaire is found dead in the same hotel as a struggling countess, who later flees, with Inspector Maigret in pursuit. Although this is one of the later novels to feature Maigret, it is a really thrilling tale that makes for a great introduction to this tough, hardened detective.

3. The Crime of Inspector Maigret: A true moral dilemma, this fascinating novel explores a complex case as our intrepid French detective embarks on an international chase that quickly turns deadly. One of the faster paced Maigret books, this is a real page turner that kept me hooked from the very beginning.

2. My Friend Maigret: Transported to the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles in search of the killer of a small time crook who had claimed to be a friend of his prior to his death, Maigret explores the island’s petty grievances and uncovers a number of startling revelations. With a Scotland Yard Inspector in tow desperate to find out the secrets behind his success, the dour French Inspector is on top form in this visceral, emotive and intensely human novel.

pietr the latvian1. Pietr the Latvian: As always, it is my firm belief that the first novel in a series is always the best place to start, and Pietr the Latvian is a really strong book, offering an enticing glimpse into Maigret’s Paris and the evil that lurks within. Beginning with a simple trip to the train station to intercept a criminal, Maigret happens upon a crime scene as soon as he arrives, and is plunged headfirst into a thrilling adventure that will take him deep into the international underworld as he searches for not only the murderer but also the true identity of his victim.

Patricia McDonald Interview: “My approach is to firstly visualise myself as each character”

Pat McDonald

In my first interview for 2018 I spoke to Patricia McDonald about her work and the influences behind it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

After many years of writing formally and academically, I found the crossover into fiction required a loosening of my prose style into a more informal one. My approach is to firstly visualise myself as each character, how they would act, think, talk and relate to each other. Writing a book is similar to reading one; if you can’t see or hear the character then it is impossible to read the story they are involved in. It’s the author’s job to talk to the reader and a great compliment when a reader tells you they liked the ‘inner voice’. Writing style is as much about format and presentation and in this I like to experiment a little, otherwise one book is much the same as another. My humour series (The Penny Series) is written as the thoughts of Benjamin Matthews my anti-hero and to write the book from his view point came out of a need to keep a sense of humour whilst recovering from my first brain tumour operation. To have a male humour author write ‘Pat speaks fluent bloke’ was a superb compliment.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?

My career as a Social Scientist took me into research in health care including medical (heart disease), mental illness (working in an old Asylum) and mental handicap and latterly many years with the police. I went back to writing fiction when I found myself one of the first casualties of the cuts in policing budgets after seventeen years of service as a project and programme manager. I began where I left off and approached my writing career like any other programme of work, and since crime, criminals and policing was then the biggest part of my world, I sat down and began my first book Getting Even!

Please tell me about your books. What defines your writing style?

My first books are: The Blue Woods trilogy: Getting Even; Revenge is best served cold; Rogue Seed and Boxed Off. These were meant to be my one crime book. The truth is I had a real difficulty in ending stories and the first book (662 pages!!) had to be carried on to the next as ideas flowed fast. I created all three as a book in its own right, centring on characters Luc Wariner and Addie Carter of a Major Crime Unit. I believe my main writing style is characterisation; it is certainly something I admire about other writers. I try to make them real believable people, who have real lives and this aspect of writing is important to me, the crime and investigation, and police procedures are secondary. I believe that is true for both police personnel and even for criminals, neither of them defining themselves by solving crimes or committing them, these are incidental to their lives. I have been described as gritty, but I prefer realistic with an edge.

Later and more recently I have moved on to explore paranormal themes (Breaking Free and Echoes of Doubt) and humour (A Penny for Them, The Penny Drops, and A Bad Penny – coming soon), whilst still maintaining the crime genre.

I have just begun The Ravages of Time which brings an asylum theme into a modern day detective story. I like to explore how peoples’ past lives influence their present day choices rather than write a story in a vacuum of their current lives.
Pat McDonald Books

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I describe myself as a ‘free flow’ writer; I sit in front of a blank page or screen and begin to write. I do not plan my stories; they evolve, as do my characters and what happens to them. In this respect I have to read and reread for continuity and unresolved issues. I like to intersperse ‘back story’ in italics to enhance the main story or develop the character.

I use the title of my books as a theme that runs throughout, usually relating to most or all the characters, whilst the main crime story plays out around them. For example, Breaking Free is about Livia’s attempt to break from her past, one which she has blocked off certain parts of. In so doing she finds an old chest in the attic of a house she as just bought, it contains the journals of a WW1 woman with a similar name and the telephone calls she is getting at 03.33 asking her to help the plaintive voice, sets her off on a quest to set someone else free; being stalked herself reminds the reader of her needs in Breaking Free.

I also try to leave certain things open for the reader’s own imagination to ponder on or may even want to reconnect if it’s a series.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I read anything and everything (within reason). As a child I read the children’s section of my local library and was granted permission to move up to the adult section (supervised choice) before the appropriate age. I read a large number of classic authors, joined a book club and bought as many as I could, mostly thrillers, psychological thrillers, historical fiction etc. I think that makes me a bibliophile (together with the number of lode bearing book cases around my entire house!)

Since social networking/connecting with so many authors I read/review a variety that catches my eye and some that are particularly good i.e. Gary Dolman, Ian Hutson, Aaron David, J.P McLean and numerous others. I believe you have to read to be able to write as some have influenced me greatly. Without Aaron David and Ian Hutson’s brilliantly funny work I would never have attempted humour, I found it encouraged me in that direction. And being a ‘free flow’ writer I get triggers from other people I meet and writer’s work, that isn’t their plots, maybe just a word that reminds me of some experience that leads me on to write something new or something within the book I’m currently writing.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I have collaborated on writing books academically and know it’s the hardest thing to do (at least for me). I wouldn’t want to on fiction and I’m afraid I don’t understand how people can take other author’s well-established characters and continue the story. I suppose it could be seen as a compliment to Jane Austin or Emily Bronte and I may have wished I’d written something superb that other people have written, but I just don’t understand why anyone would want to write in another person’s style.

Collaboration to me is like taking a jigsaw puzzle and splitting the pieces in two, the picture created may never resemble anything like each of you imagined.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

I have just published Echoes of Doubt (a month ago), which takes a character, Bart Bridges, who dropped out of Boxed Off where he entered the Witness Protection Programme. As Cyrus Bartholomew, ex PI, he has become the clock maker in his shop Time and Tide, in an unremarkable seaside town where he has been living for two years. Feeling safe from his adversaries he begins to doubt his own safety when the old gentleman next door in the art gallery is found violently murdered in his bed.

My book A Bad Penny (third in the Penny series) is about to go into the publishing process. I have come to like to have two books in progress at the same time, one serious and one amusing. So I have The Ravages of Time and also just begun Pennies from Heaven, both to keep me focussed as I am suffering from the side effects of the Gamma Knife surgery I had a few months ago for a returning brain tumour and writing and editing helps me to accommodate them.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I always have a few books ready and waiting to read now I have submitted to this Kindle thing which came free on my last telephone upgrade, that isn’t to say I don’t buy other people’s books, I always do even if I’m given an advanced copy.

I await with bated breath for Gary Dolman’s book about, Grace Darling, English lighthouse keeper (who I believe he is related to down the years), for J P McLean’s next book in The Gift series, for Aaron David’s sequel to The Tale of the Ancient Marina (‘All the loft insulation you can eat’), for Ian Hutson’s ‘dog with the Bakelite nose’ to join his ‘cat with electric goggles’, newcomer to my world Michael Spinelli to follow up on WAKE (a story that stopped me from eating until I had finished it! I can afford the weight loss) and so many more talented authors.

Anything you’d like to add?

A message to all writers, beginner writers and anyone who aspires to write – just do it, write all those ideas in your head down and forget about trying to conform to someone else’s idea of how you should do it. You may never be a Shakespeare, an Agatha Christie or a Stephen King; you may actually excite the reading world by just being YOU. Everyone has a story to tell.

Many thanks to Pat for taking the time to answer my questions; you can learn more about her work HERE.

 

I’ll Keep You Safe Review: A Thrilling Tale of High Fashion in the Highlands

I'll keep you safe

The name may sound a little twee but Peter May’s latest thriller is anything but. Focused on the breakdown of a marriage held together by a desperate quest to turn a dream into a reality, the novel is a slow burner, but the plot doesn’t fizzle out, leaving readers haunted by the exquisitely evil plot.

Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane are a husband and wife team from the Scottish island of Lewis, who weave and market Ranish Tweed, a unique variety of Harris cloth which, thanks to the interests of a malevolent fashion designer, quickly moves from country chic to high fashion. As the firm’s star soars the couple’s relationship sours, with Niamh left recoiling from an anonymous email informing her of her husband’s infidelity. When she finally has the strength to confront him whilst on a work trip to Paris, he leaves, only to be killed by a car bomb alongside the woman Niamh believes he was having an affair with. Originally suspected to be terrorism, the police soon see that the bomb was meant to kill the car’s occupants only, and suspicion switches to Niamh, leaving her with the twin burdens of uncovering the true depth of her husband’s betrayal and absolving herself of his murder.

The murder takes place in a city that has only recently encountered much real life tragedy, and May plays on this tense atmosphere, using his police detectives to convey the public fear as the reader is left briefly uncertain as to the novel’s direction. As terrorism becomes less likely, the reader and detective Sylvie Braque are left desperately chasing after Ruairidh’s memory in search of the truth about what happened.

Switching between first and third person, past and present tense, May’s novel charts the lies, deception and deceit that are, in his universe, inherent in marriage. His descriptions evoke a sensory overload as he bombards the reader with the sights, sounds and smells of his beautifully crafted settings; from the bland, banal Paris with its wealth and its intricacies to the Highlands of Scotland, where the constantly tempestuous weather creates a sombre mood, the settings are as intricately crafted as the characters.

Short, blunt sentences drive the narrative forward at a breath-taking pace, as May skilfully conveys a vast amount of information quickly and efficiently. The characters are so vividly portrayed that, at times, they almost become too heavy handed, like the pantomime villain-esq fashion designer Lee Blunt, but May’s crisp dialogue, punctuated by alternating first/ third person chapters keep the reader’s interest throughout whilst the plot sweeps along succinctly to a dramatic conclusion.

At its heart, I’ll Keep You Safe is a classic thriller that delves deep into the murky tangle of emotions that often hide beneath seemingly benign personalities.

Crime Fiction I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

new year 2018

Happy New Year! It seems like only yesterday that I was writing this post for 2017, but here we are, 12 months later, looking into the latest releases for the year ahead. As ever there are loads of great things happening in the world of literature in 2018, particularly Crime Fiction which, as you probably already know, is a particular passion of mine.

Thanks to the tense political and social spaces we currently inhabit, there is a vast array of material for writers to draw from and to parallel. From the world leaders bent on inciting war no matter the consequences to the changing international marketplaces, the economic bubbles and the technological marvels that are constantly testing our moral fabric, 2018 looks set to be as fraught and challenging a year as its predecessor, and as such readers will be spoiled for choice as writers from across the various genres explore these phenomenon and the ways in which we deal with them.

Everyone from big names through to smaller writers is releasing something exciting and shiny and new for 2018, making this another great year to find some truly exhilarating novels to really sink your teeth into.

Among the big names releasing a new novel this year in the Crime Fiction market is J.K Rowling, under the, frankly pointless, pseudonym Robert Galbraith, who is reportedly releasing a new Cormoran Strike novel, which is believed to be called Lethal White. The fourth in the series, this latest novel follows on from the previous book’s excitement, so Lethal White looks set to be a thrilling treat for fans of this tough, rugged detective and his supportive sidekick.

Additionally, early in 2018 Peter May is releasing his latest novel, I’ll Keep You Safe. This globe trotting tale, set predominantly in Scotland, takes on the issues of family and how well you can truly know someone, as Niamh Macfarlane faces the challenge of exploring the betrayals of her late husband whilst proving herself innocent of his murder. As the police close in she is driven deeper into a web of lies, deceit and shocking home truths, offering a promising start to the New Year for thriller fans.

Later in the year acclaimed Scandinavian writer Jo Nesbo is also releasing a new novel, entitled Macbeth, offering an innovative take on the Shakespearean classic that will really shake things up for Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Fans of Nesbo’s fast paced narratives and snappy dialogue will be looking forward to this one, as it combines the moral questions of Shakespeare with modern topics including drugs and police hierarchies.

The usual suspects are also due to release new work, and I have high hopes for Guy Fraser-Sampson’s Hampstead Murders series to continue and offer yet another unique twist on Golden Age Crime Fiction later this year.

Overall, I’m invigorated by the range of new books and detectives being introduced in 2018, and feel that this year will offer even more exciting developments for the Crime Fiction space. Happy Reading Everyone!