Ward Parker Interview: “I was the kind of kid who was forever hidden away somewhere with his nose in a book”

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As he prepares to launch his latest thriller, I invited Florida author Ward Parker to share an insight in his writing and the influences behind it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards mystery and thriller writing?

In early adulthood I was heavily influenced by Hemingway’s style, for better or worse. In contrast to his terse, controlled prose, the steam-of-consciousness approach of the American Beat Generation also appealed to me, as well as the strong narrative voice of Salinger. So I suppose my style is a combination of constrained and verbose, depending on what’s happening in the story at the time. If that make sense!

My mother is always reading mysteries—or whodunits—as she calls them, so that influenced me growing up. I also loved the escapist aspect to thrillers. I was the kind of kid who was forever hidden away somewhere with his nose in a book, and at a very early age I decided I wanted to try my hand at it. One thing about a mystery: It’s such a fundamental type of plot. The struggle to solve some sort of mystery drives many stories in all genres.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?

When I was very young, I read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small and decided I wanted to become a novelist and veterinarian. I gave up on being a vet, but the writing part stuck. I’ve dabbled in journalism and ended up as an advertising copywriter and creative director for most of my career. In advertising, you’re under constant pressure to keep your copy short, the opposite of a 70,000-word novel. But the field does teach you to write to your target audience, which is helpful in commercial fiction.

Drawing on my past was a big inspiration for my debut novel Pariah. In my early twenties, I lived in a cottage community on a former pineapple plantation in Florida, along the shore of a tidal lagoon called the Indian River. The nutty people who lived there and the intoxicating subtropical atmosphere demanded that I write about them someday.

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?

Pariah is the first book of an amateur-sleuth thriller series from Pandamoon Publishing in the U.S., the book involves the story of Zeke Adams, a former tabloid journalist trying to live a more respectable life managing the cottage community in Florida he inherited from his father. But he stumbles upon drowned Haitian migrants on the beach and finds out the human smugglers might be holding a half-sister he never knew he had. Trying to find her is complicated when identity theft causes his name to appear on the sexual offender database and the police suspect him of more crimes.

Coming out shortly, also from Pandamoon, is The Teratologist, the start of a new historical mystery/horror series set in Gilded Age Florida. It’s about a physician who encounters supernatural monsters. In the first book, he teams up with Mark Twain in Palm Beach to find a serial killer who kidnapped a young patient. But in the process, he discovers supernatural forces that challenge his scientific mind—and threaten his life. A teratologist is a medical specialist who studies congenital abnormalities; an extreme example being the Elephant Man. “Teratologist” comes from the Greek word for “monster.” It’s just crying out to be in a horror story!

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I’m inspired by my past, my nightmares, my anxieties and the vagaries of human nature. The fragile, unique environment of Florida greatly inspires me, too.

I believe the subconscious mind really drives the writing process and if you have writer’s block, it’s about your conscious mind getting in the way and blocking the subconscious. At least for me, it’s when I want to do something that’s not right for the story. For example, I make a bad plot decision or force a character to do something he or she doesn’t want to do. To fix it, I like to work on something else for a while, then return to my project with a fresh perspective so I can find a different path forward instead of banging my head against the wall.

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

I’d love to do a wacky Florida book with Carl Hiaasen and/or Tim Dorsey. They’re big influences on me and love this state as much as I do.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Before the end of 2018, the next Zeke Adams mystery should hopefully be coming out. I’m giving it a bit more humour than the first book.

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

My fellow writers at Pandamoon Publishing include some great writers who push the boundaries of the mystery genre. To name just a few, Dave Housley is coming out with a detective story about a vampire on the final tour of the Grateful Dead. Susan Kuchinskas has private detective noir series set in near-future Los Angeles and Laura Ellen Scott is due for her third instalment of a literary mystery series set in Academia.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thanks so much for speaking with me and giving a new author a voice.

It was truly amazing to hear from you Ward, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want to learn more about Ward and his work you can HERE.

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Fingers in the Sparkle Jar Review: Much More Than Just A Boy and His Bird

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Chris Packham’s inventive and unique memoir is much more than a story about a young boy and his kestrel; it’s about the challenges that he faced in a time when people did not understand him. The book touches beautifully on a number of tough topics including mental illness, attempted suicide, family breakdowns and desperation.

These sensitive issues are handled with exquisite care, as Packham navigates through his life, sharing his passion for nature and how this kept him going through even the darkest of times.

Although the memoir is primarily about Packham’s relationship with a kestrel he raised as a boy, it touches on many aspects of his life. Packham creates a suburban jungle through his narrative, and shares his experiences exploring this; from sneaking out late at night to catch a glimpse of a fox and her cubs to the eponymous ‘sparkle jar’, a jar of small, shiny fish that is tragically smashed by bullies.

All of these small tragedies and small triumphs, such as the neighbour who takes an interest in Packham’s kestrel and his ecstatic experiences at the cinema watching Ring of Bright Water, which led to him falling in love with otters, are told from varying viewpoints and in different tenses to create a unique narrative that is both memorable and engaging.

Each section of the memoir ends with a chapter in which we hear Packham talking to a counsellor of some description about his life and where he believes certain habits or emotions began. Such a personal account of Packham’s life is incredibly moving, and by the end I was practically crying, which is a no mean feat. The beauty Packham invokes through his stunning depictions of the natural world works hand in hand with his varied writing styles to create a book which is both emotive and intellectually stimulating.

Thanks to the vast array of different experiences that Packham manages to pack into this extraordinary memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is both universally understandable and simultaneously extraordinary, and I personally believe that it is a genuine must-read.

Competition Time! Comment to Win A Copy of Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell!

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Hey! In a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to be taking part in a blog tour for former Police Detective Caroline Mitchell’s thriller Silent Victim. To celebrate, I’m running a competition where you could win a copy of the book.

The novel focuses on Emma, a woman who truly has it all. A beautiful son, a loving husband and a dream job. Life only seem to get better when her husband, Alex, is offered a promotion and plans to move his young family to a new home. But Emma has a terrifying secret. In her back garden lies the body of a school teacher who seduced her as a teenager and Emma is responsible for it being there. Knowing she cannot leave without disposing of the body, Emma returns to rid herself of it once and for, only to discovers it gone. Panic and terror lead to a confession of the crime to her husband, who promises to stand by her no matter what.

But Emma’s revelation shakes them to the core. As the idyllic life they once led becomes unhinged, soon both find themselves tangled in a web of deceit and as a chain reaction of events take place, their perfect existence begins to implode. Splitting the story between three voices, Caroline draws on her police officer experience to present the complex and blurred lines between victim and predator, innocence and guilt, deceit and protection.

All you have to do to win is comment below with why you are looking forward to reading the novel. The most passionate, innovative answer will win! I’ll announce the winner on 9th March when I review the book, so get commenting to win!

 

The Top Ten Police Detectives of All Time

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I’ve recently done the top ten best private detectives of all time, and as such I felt it was only right and proper to do the same for the other end of the spectrum; the police detective.

Police detectives abide by both the constructs of the law and their own personal beliefs. They often face many hurdles that private detective do not have to deal with, making them a great means of delivering both human drama and exceptional criminal investigations. They often work alongside private eyes, supporting them and giving them the stability, resources and legal standing that they need to get their result.

As such, they occupy a unique space within the Crime Fiction space, and therefore it is with great excitement that I showcase my top ten favourites. As with my piece on private detectives, I quickly realised that five would never be enough, so have a look and see what you think!

10. Frank Merlin: As a relatively new kid on the fictional police detective block, Mark Ellis’ tough yet charming London based detective might seem like an odd choice for this list, yet I was so enthralled by him in the latest novel, Merlin at War, that I felt compelled to go out and buy the previous two novels and read more about this rugged man and his dogged pursuit of right in a turbulent time.

9. Charles Parker: ‘Parker Bird’ as he is affectionately known by his colleague and later brother-in-law Lord Peter Wimsey, is a more interesting character than he lets on, and although he is less well-read and educated than his colleague, he makes up for it in dogged determination and sheer hard work, something which his noble friend cannot boast.

8. Inspector Bucket: Often noted as one of the first police detectives in fiction, the character appears in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, assisting the wealthy protagonists in their investigations and acting as both a constabulary figure whose authority is seen as absolute, but also as a figure who highlighted the class issues abundant at the time. Believed to have been based on several real life Scotland Yard detectives, as it was commonly acknowledged that Dickens was intrigued by the newly formed division there and observed and interviewed many of its detectives, Inspector Bucket can be seen as an example of the very first police detective character, and therefore acts as a template for many later fictional incarnations of himself.

7. Jack Robinson: My love of Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phyrne Fisher novels is by now well known and evidenced by my top five and interview with the author herself. However, whilst the protagonist represents everything that is great about female detectives, she is often ably assisted by the constabulary in the form of Inspector Jack Robinson, as well as Constable Hugh Collins and an assortment of other junior members of the Melbourne police. Jack and Hugh are the two reoccurring police characters in the series, and the inspector in particular offers a fascinating glimpse into Australian police characters. He is described as a man whose appearance is so boring and unremarkable that people have been known to forget what he looks like half way through conversing with him, making him ideal for sneaking up on suspects. He is also so unmemorable that he blends in anywhere, and this, combined with his dogged determination and vast experience in the force make him the ideal ally for the daring socialite turned private eye that is Miss Fisher.

6. James Japp: Agatha Christie’s reoccurring policeman, who regularly assists private detective Hercule Poirot, Japp is an incredibly underrated character. To my mind he is woefully undervalued, particularly in the TV and film adaptations of Christie’s brilliant Poirot novels. Although he is not perhaps as prolific as Superintendent Spence in the novels, he is certainly more inclined to use the private detective to his advantage, and Japp is often seen playing up to Poirot’s ego to gain the information or assistance he needs. His canny ability to elicit the support required is unique and shows the ingenuity and understanding of human nature which Poirot often lacks.

5. John Rebus: Ian Rankin’s indestructible detective, who gets booted off the force or almost killed more times than you can shake a stick at, is a great example of the blurred lines between private and police detectives. He often does not adhere to the law, making him a virtual outsider in the force, but his strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the force keep him coming back every time.

4. Logan McRae: Stuart MacBride’s atmospheric novels showcase the detective skills of the luckless McRae, who is a punching bag for every gangster in Aberdeen, but also an intelligent and sensitive explorer of human nature. He often uses a combination of street smarts and emotional understanding to get his man and stop some of the most vicious criminals north of the border.

3. Endeavour Morse: Colin Dexter’s cerebral, intelligent yet socially inept Inspector is a truly intriguing, heart warming character who often shows the very best of human nature whilst working to uncover those who show it at its worst. His vast education and brilliant mind combine to create a man who is able to decipher even the most vexing case, and alongside his kind and sweet Sergeant he is able to take on whatever Oxford has to throw at them. Both characters are very different in the books from those portrayed on TV, and in the books the older, kinder Sergeant Lewis is a great foil for the young, impetuous Inspector of whom he is so fond.

2. Jules Maigret: As you can see from my top five, Georges Simenon’s intrepid Parisian policeman is both fascinating and engaging, and his dogged approach to catching his criminals makes him a truly exceptional policeman and an inventive protagonist. You would think that reading about a man so ordinary he blended in almost anywhere as he went about the rigours of chasing criminals around Europe would be dull, but thanks to Simenon’s exceptional writing and brisk narrative the result is the opposite, which is probably why Maigret was written into more than 75 novels and remains a popular figure in the media today.

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1. Kurt Wallander: Henning Mankell’s detective is often dubbed ‘the Swedish Inspector Morse’, and with good reason; both men are intelligent yet grumpy and often bad with people, as well as sharing diabetes and a fondness for opera and classical music. Also, both series are strongly rooted in their settings, for Morse it is Oxford, whereas Wallander walks the streets of Ystad and the wider Skane region in search of his criminals. What separates them is the tone of the novels; whilst Dexter’s Morse often deals with class related crimes depicted in a gentle, benevolent manner, Mankell shows Wallander dealing with truly disgusting acts of violence and degradation, with the character often resorting to tough tactics to restore order and allow justice to prevail.

 

Alex Macbeth Interview: “The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie”

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This week I caught up with The Red Die author Alex Macbeth to learn more about his writing, inspiration and the books that have influenced him.

Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for crime fiction in particular?

My debut novel The Red Die is a crime fiction title set in Mozambique. It has elements of espionage and is essentially a political-thriller-cum-detective-novel.

My main character Comandante Felisberto is a single father with two kids who has jurisdiction for a district of 130,000 people with nothing more than a handful of officers and one battered police car.

The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country. Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?

What was the first crime fiction novel you read and how did it draw you into seeking out more books of this genre?

The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. But it was later when I discovered Henning Mankell and Nordic Noir that I really became passionate about the genre.

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

I’ve been a journalist for more than 10 years. I currently write a weekly newsletter for The Local Europe and before that I worked on media projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and East Africa for five years at MiCT International, based in Berlin. I became interested in writing at a young age. My mum is a writer and so was my dad.

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

I am always looking to discover new crime fiction and it’s hard to pick out a few titles because there are so many great ones. Camilleri’s Montalbano series resonates with me because I grew up in Italy, but I also really like Boris Akunin’s Fandorin novels.

I also enjoy reading contemporary African literature – although in the last five years I have mainly read crime fiction.

Nordic Noir has no doubt had a huge influence on my writing. I love all of the ten Sjowall and Wahloo novels – the Martin Beck series – but I am also a big fan of Henning Mankell. I also have to mention Alexander McCall Smith’s The Nr. 1 Ladies Detective Agency as an influence in terms of cozy detective writing in southern Africa. I’ve also been influenced by Moussa Konaté (Mali) and Deon Meyer (SA), two great African crime fiction writers.

Recently I’ve really enjoyed Parker Bilal’s novels, featuring private investigator Makana, which are set in Egypt.

Every time I read a crime fiction title I try and learn something new, whether it’s a tiny trait in how a detective is portrayed or a larger plot device. This is only the beginning of my journey as a crime fiction author and I’m always looking to learn from other writers.

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

George Simenon reportedly wrote many of his masterpieces in a weekend so I’d love to watch how he did it that one Saturday night.

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

A sequel to The Red Die will be out in 2019.

Many thanks to Alex for answering my questions, it’s great to hear from a fellow Mankell fan! You can find out more about Alex and his work HERE.

 

Audiobooks: Revolutionary or Ruining Reading?

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Recently some friends and I started to wonder if audiobooks would spell the end of real reading. Much like the Kindle before it, the audiobook has become a symbol of a new age in the reading market. Although the Kindle and eBooks have so far failed to outstrip real books in terms of sales and popularity, audiobooks are constantly growing, but will this put an end to the traditional book?

Over the years, Audiobooks have been billed as the new eBooks; a cool new means of getting existing and previously hesitant readers into the latest books and classic tomes. The idea is far from revolutionary, yet recently many new firms and platforms have sprung out of the woodwork as the literature market continues to seek new and innovative ways to entice customers to buy their products.

With the constant rise of firm such as Audible, it is no wonder that audiobooks are becoming more popular as consumers enjoy easier access to them. However, I have always wondered if they are ruining the real reading experience by providing a sort of rubbish version of actually reading a book. Is it better to read the words than it is to hear them spoken aloud?

To be honest, it is my belief that audiobooks, as they are today, have been around for donkey’s years in the form of radio shows. When I was a kid I listened to BBC Radio 4 exclusively for the dramatic readings it did of books. In the days before everyone had a computer and could Google things on demand, they were a great gateway into finding new authors I liked and reading the books for myself. That’s how I started reading Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond novels, and, they introduced me to Dorothy L Sayers fantastic Lord Peter Wimsey. These books were already in my parent’s house, but I had never even thought of looking at them until I heard them spoken aloud on the radio. The voices bought the stories to life and I couldn’t wait to have a copy in my hand to read for myself.

That, in my opinion, is the role that audiobooks play today. They allow people to get a taste of books, and then explore them for themselves. Whilst I am sure there are many who will simply skip the reading stage, there will be many more who have never previously dreamt of reading who will pick up books in earnest once they have heard them spoken.

C.L. Williams Interview: “I read more non-fiction than anything”

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This week I speak to Luke, A.K.A C.L. Williams, a poet who is due to release his first novel shortly.

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

As far as writing poetry goes, my writing tends to be one of two styles; lyrics or free verse. I started writing poems similar to song lyrics because of my love of music. I listen to almost every genre. Given how much poetry and song have in common it not only became easy to write a poem like a song, I can tell a story in a poem that feels like a song. I also write free verse because when I was writing my last poetry book META- (Complete) my only focus was delivering my feelings, not writing a good poem. As it turns out me writing my feelings was what made those who like my books take much enjoyment in reading META- (Complete) As far as writing fiction goes, I don’t think I’ve discovered a specific writing style for myself just yet. I’m still learning what I’m good at writing and what I need to work on, I’m also still discovering what genres I enjoy writing and which ones I need to improve upon.

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

I got into writing while I was in middle school. Not many like how I got into writing but as a kid, I did not enjoy reading. My lack of reading affected my grades in English class. However, when we had to do writing assignments in English class, my essays, short stories, and poems would get A’s and in many cases I was not trying. One poem I wrote in either seventh grade or eighth grade not only ended up in the school newsletter, it also ended up in my local newspaper. After that, I slowly started writing stuff on my own and would send it to various contests and websites. I only won one of the contests but if the option to be published on a website or in a book was there I ended up on those websites or in those books almost every time. As I got older, I was given the suggestion to try and publish my poems in a book. Here we are years later and I just released my eighth poetry book The Paradox Complex and I’m about to release my first novel The Escape of Ernest Frost.

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

With my poetry books the biggest thing that defines what I write is about personal experiences or specific feelings and making sure that what I’m writing about can also connect with the reader. My earlier poetry books were focused on telling the reader “you’re not alone in what you go through”; more recently, it has been talking about struggles and coming to love and accept someone for who they are.

With fiction, I’ve noticed my love of comic books is seeping into my writing style because with a comic book, many tend to end with a cliff-hanger to get you to buy the issue coming out the following month. With my fiction work, I tend to make many of my chapters end with a cliff-hanger because I want my reader to continue reading the book.

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

I feel the biggest one that is present in both my poetry and my fiction work is the human condition. I’m always writing about how one feels, what their struggle is, and how they can overcome it. There are other ones that have been repeated but the human condition is easily the biggest one I’m always writing about.

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

As I mentioned earlier, being a reader of comic books has easily become part of my writing with cliff-hanger endings for chapters in my fiction work.

I also read a lot of non-fiction, I read more non-fiction than anything. Given how much more personal my poems have become over the years, I can easily credit my love of non-fiction to me wanting to be more personal with my own work.

My favourite author is Neil Gaiman, while I can’t say his work has been influential. I can say the fact he has so many different types of books out has been influential on me. In the past few years, he’s released novels, non-fiction, comic books, and a short story collection. I recently released a fantasy novella, I just released a poetry book, and I’m about to release my first novel.

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

I’d have to pick William Shakespeare. I know I’m not the only one who would say he is the best writer ever. Not only would I be able to say I’ve worked with the best. I know I would learn a lot from him and it would make me a better writer in the process.

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

My newest book The Paradox Complex is actually the first of FIVE BOOKS I plan to release this year. My next book is my first novel, a suspense thriller, The Escape of Ernest Frost which I’m hoping to have out in late March or early April. It’s about a guy who gets kidnapped by a group of clowns and is forced into a cat and mouse game. He not only has to survive the night, he also has to find out why he was taken by this group of clowns.

I’m releasing a horror novella titled Dream Awake in the summer, it’s about a character who keeps having nightmares about being killed by someone, only for that person to show up in the real world and tell the main character they plan to kill the protagonist in the real world as well.

Late summer, I plan to re-release my book of love poems I did a few years ago titled Aspects of Love it’s being retitled Aspects of Love 1.5 and it’s the original book, a few poems that did not make the original cut, and a few brand new poems. My reason for doing this is because the first book was released under my real name, Luke Wood, and the eventual second volume is being released under my pen name, C.L. Williams. I thought both volumes needed to be released under the same name to avoid confusion.
By the end of the year, I plan to release my second novel, it currently does not have a title but it’s about a family overcoming the odds when struck with bad luck.

I also recently backed a Kickstarter for a comic book/tabletop game called The Empowered and I created a character for the comic book. The guys writing it mentioned summer being their goal on releasing the comic book.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to moving forward?

One of my friends, someone I actually knew before writing, is Criss Jami. He recently re-released his last few books. I’m waiting for my copies to come in the mail. I know he’s more than likely writing something, but he usually doesn’t reveal his plans on book releases until the book is released. As a fan of his work and as a friend I already know I’ll be buying whatever he does next.

When my books started gaining more readers one author that showed support and I have also given my support in return is K.N. Lee. I bought one of her most recent books, she releases more stuff than I do and sometimes it’s hard to keep up but when she mentions a new book, I buy it. Of her books, I’m currently reading Half-Blood Dragon.

Anything you’d like to add?

My newest poetry book The Paradox Complex is available in print and on digital on Amazon. And thank you Hannah for the opportunity to be on your website! It is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it has been a pleasure. You can find out more about his work HERE.