Five Fictional Detectives With Interesting Professions

fther brown

This post actually came about when I saw that someone had visited The Dorset Book Detective by searching for the phrase ‘detectives with odd professions’. This got me thinking: a lot of fictional detectives did actually have pretty weird jobs.

Whilst many detectives were simply policemen, private eyes or even rich, bored peers, many of them had real jobs, some of which were pretty unusual. After all, they do have to pay the bills even if they are secretly detecting on the side. So I’ve rounded up five of the detectives with the weirdest jobs for anyone who’s interested.

5. Corinna Chapman, Baker: Created by Kerry Greenwood, the phenomenal Australian writer who also created the amazing Phryne Fisher, Corinna Chapman is a baker who reluctantly turns detective to solve a range of mysteries. She earns her crust (sorry not sorry, all my puns are exceedingly good!) by creating scrumptious treats, but her skills as a detective are used to uncover a range of mysteries including fraud, theft and much more.

4. Dr. Lancelot Priestley, Mathematician: John Rhode’s detective becomes a leading forensic officer, but in the earlier books he features in he is a mathematician, and he works with the police to share his scientific skills and knowledge, later becoming a detective and assisting the police in their work.

3. Thorpe Hazell, Train Enthusiast: Ok, so technically his role is detective, but it’s his fascination with railways that sets this quirky crime solver apart. He’s obsessed with railways, and as such he’s able to solve seemingly impossibly crimes, making him something a bit out of the ordinary in the world of detection.

2. Father Brown, Priest: Whilst some of G. K. Chesterton’s stories about his methodical catholic priest are a little far-fetched, you still have to admire his tenacity, intellect and understanding of human nature. Well-read and cerebral, this unique priest is

1. Monsieur Pamplemousse, Food Critic: Michael Bond’s ingenious food critic and his cute bloodhound sidekick, Pommes Frites travel across France sampling the tastiest cuisine and solving the most complicated and ingenious mysteries.

The Olympian Review: A Glitzy Jet-Setting Thriller

the olympian

Having recently interviewed author Mark Atley I was keen to read his debut novel, The Olympian.  

The titular Olympian is a guy called Samuel, who is being blackmailed by a bookie while on a family vacation. His holiday is intercepted by a bookkeeper who is determined to get back money that someone else skipped town with.

Set in an all-inclusive Mexican resort owned by a cartel, it features a strange cast of characters that are all equal parts evil, strange and dastardly. As more characters from both Samuel’s past and the cartel’s roster of criminal associates arrive the plot thickens and the reader is drawn into a complex plot involving love, money, drugs and much more.

There’s Johnny, an escaped criminal on the run from his bondsman and his bookie with a load of stolen cash, as well as a journalist and her cameraman, attending a bizarre intervention that is quickly derailed by everyone else’s criminal activities. The plot quickly spirals forward and the reader is propelled on a strangely compelling journey.

The only downside The Olympian is the slightly stilted dialogue. Ately’s characters are intriguing, two-dimensional individuals, yet they speak like robots that have, at one point read a Raymond Chandler novel.

For all of its dialogue flaws, the novel is still fast-paced and deeply thrilling. Readers are invested in following the plot as it rattles on towards a gripping finale. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and with so many characters the reader has to work hard to keep on top of who’s aligned with whom as each moves to outwit the others.

At the end of the day, I’m impressed by Atley’s debut and keen to find out what’s in store for his next book. The Olympian will be a tough act to follow, but with a few enhancements any future books have the potential to be bestsellers.

 

 

 

Five Ways To Make Yourself Read More Books

reading 4

There’s a meme going around on social media that discusses the issue of the world getting dumber. It says something about how people who read twelve books over summer should get something free: what depends on the meme you see, there are loads of them out there. Some say a holiday, some free coupons for stores. Whatever it says, the message is the same: read more books and you’ll learn more.

That’s true to a point, but reading also leads you towards better critical thinking, and allows readers to understand when to believe or absorb knowledge and when to question and examine it. It teaches you valuable life skills that cannot be obtained through any other pastime.

Personally, I’ve always been a firm believer that reading helps you to learn and is of vital importance to everyone, of any age or profession. A friend of mine objects to her little boy being made to read in school. I can’t understand why, and I’ve argued the toss with her over it a few times. I just can’t understand why she doesn’t want him to read more- I think it’s a good thing kids are taught the importance of reading young. She thinks he does it enough at home, but, as I’ve stated previously, not only is that not true of all kids, but it’s also not the point.

Reading is one of the fundamentals of learning: if you read enough, something will stick. It can be hard, however, to get people to do it. That’s why schools try to get kids to start young. If you didn’t start early then here are five ways you can push yourself to read more and, most importantly, enjoy it.

5. Look for books about things you enjoy: Be it a certain sport, animals, a brand you like buying or anything else, find a hobby or pastime you enjoy and then seek out books about it. There are hundreds of books about virtually anything; even the most obscure of topics has a few that you can seek out. You’ll learn more about the hobby you like and come to enjoy reading about it.

4. Read books linked to shows, games or films you like: With that first point in mind, if you enjoy a particular film, series of even video game, try and find the books that they were based on, or that have been based on them. That way you’ll be able to get yourself to experience new books and learn new things.

3. Become a member of your local library: Books, like pretty much everything, can be bloody expensive at times. So by becoming a library member you will have access to some of the latest releases for free! You’ll also be supporting a valuable resource for your community, so there are literally no downsides.

2. Don’t limit your reading material: Whether it’s graphic novels, comics, young adult novels or those trashy easy-readers that they stock in abundance at charity shops, the calibre of your reading material doesn’t matter. So long as you’re reading and enjoying it, that’s all that matters. I would recommend varying your reading material as much as possible, but if it makes you happy then you do you.

1. Make reading a part of your day: Whether it’s right before bed, after the kids are asleep, on your commute, during your lunch break or in the morning over breakfast, pick a time and read. Have a favourite reading spot and make sure you always read once a day. You can vary your routine and read at other times too, but by making it routine you will get yourself into the habit and be more like to read on the regular.

Paul Harrison and The Issue Of Society’s Obsession With Serial Killers

paul harrison

It’s funny how things happen. I recently noticed an article about a bloke who was claiming to have interviewed some of the world’s most renowned serial killers, but whose claims have now been called into question. 

While reading the article I recognised the name of one of my favourite crime publishers, Urbane, who published the latest of the author’s 30 odd books, Mind Games, at the end of last year. Their statement about the book being pulled from sale, and their offering the profits from the sales to charity, is an exercise is great, class PR.

Then I realised that I recognised the name Paul Harrison as well. I went onto Facebook and realised that my friends had actually had tickets to Harrison’s recent lecture seminar, Interviews With A Serial Killer.

With these coincidences, I was fascinated by the story of Paul Harrison and his questionable claims that he has interviewed some of the world’s most famous killers, including the Kray twins, Peter Sutcliffe and Ted Bundy. He claimed to have worked with the famed FBI Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia and to have interviewed more than 70 serial killers.

However, recently his claims were called into question by a number of different sources, including Sutcliffe and former members of the Quantico team. Harrison himself seems to have confirmed this in a now deleted Facebook post in which he tried to claim that the sensationalizing was done at the behest of his promoters.

Personally, I know that Urbane would never incite someone to tell what amount to all out lies, and I find it hard to believe any promoter or agent would either. After all, there’s a key difference between exaggerating a small amount to sell more tickets and completely fabricating interviews, which are the charges levied against Harrison.

Whatever the truth may be, the fact of the matter is that Harrison commanded large sums of money for his books, talks and insight into the minds of serial killers. This begs the question: why are we so interested?

I’ve often wondered why people are so intrigued by serial killers and, for that matter, serial liars. I have some experience with the latter, and it’s a horrible thing to have to go through, and whilst I have no experience with serial killers, any death is a horrific experience. One so vile and degrading must be a genuine challenge for those left behind.

So why does everyone want to know about serial killers? Some of them are almost like macabre celebrities, with some like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy gaining legions of female fans, many of whom were weirdly sexually attracted to them.

There are also masses of memorabilia and collectors out there are willing to pay a fortune for obscure items such as household belongings that once serial killers once owned. Hundreds, if not thousands of books have been written on the subject of some of the world’s most renowned murders, and films, documentaries and TV shows have been dedicated to some of the most frightening examples of human malice.

What often fascinates people is the unknown; things they do not have regular access to and do not understand. It’s a bit like zoos and aquariums: we can’t all go wandering off into the Sahara or to the North Pole, so we must content ourselves with seeing these animals in captivity, and have caused them pain in order to put them within easy reach of ourselves so that we can see them and find out more about their lives.

This, I think, is the fascination with serial killers. Their behavior is so unlike that of an ordinary person, yet they outwardly seem so normal, that they become almost freakish in our minds. We get this urge to find out more about what drove them to commit horrific acts, and then to lie about them or hide them from the world. Their behavior is something we simply cannot comprehend, so we instead rely on interviews, books and other forms of insight to try and understand them.

In the end, such understand will probably never come, but still our insatiable thirst for knowledge continues. Through all that, there are those who will seek to exploit this, just as there are in every market, and whilst it’s a shame to hear that Harrison’s claims aren’t true, his fabrications are every bit as strange and fascinating as those he was lying about.

 

Mark Atley Interview: “As far as writing, I’ve always wanted to tell stories”

Mark Atley

This week I spoke to Mark Atley about his writing and the inspiration behind his books.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard is the book that I am truly passionate about and it epitomises my writing style to me. That book was how I found Crime Fiction. Not mysteries. Not thrillers or suspense. Crime Fiction.

I re-read it every year, sometimes multiple times a year. It’s funny but I actually hated Get Shorty the first time I read it. I didn’t understand the book. Been writing for years. Started my novel writing with thrillers. Started there, because of Vince Flynn. Like me, he was dyslexic. Also, he had a dream and executed it. Then, I fell in love with Daniel Silva, and decided I can’t write a thriller like they do. So I decided to write smaller stories. I couldn’t do fantasy. Couldn’t get any of my Science Fiction to work. Figured, I know crime, because I grew up in a cop household—why not start there? For several years, I studied crime fiction, reading all the greats. Started with Raymond Chandler, and then progressed to current greats.

After college, I worked in sales but was told I’m too honest for it so I quit that job to be a cop. I figured there’s nothing wrong with jumping into research with both feet. Started in the county jail. That’s a great place to learn about crime and people. That year, I read a few of Leonard’s books, and didn’t connect to any of them. And then I did. They were good. I saw what he was trying to do, and it clicked. Behind Leonard came Ken Buren.

Then, in my writing, I made the transition to present tense and my mind opened.

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

Career wise, I’ve had a lot of “jobs”, but they weren’t really jobs. I went to school for journalism, because I wanted to write and do live-event production, like what you see on ESPN. I realized I’m too honest for journalism, but loved writing stories from the local crime blotter. I worked in live-event production for a decade producing small gigs around town. Best job in the world, because the production stuff taught me a lot about pacing and storytelling, while working the switchers and directing. After school, there weren’t any jobs in this area so I worked in sales for couple years and did okay. It wasn’t great. During all that, I waited tables and bartended. Except I’m not a great bartender, I can’t remember the drink recipes.

I don’t know what it is like for others growing up, but I wanted to do what my father did. He was a cop. He’s retired. I think he tried to get me to do something else. I don’t know if he wanted me in law enforcement. He’s always said if someone wants to be in law enforcement they need to go to school for something other than Criminal Justice, because everyone has a Criminal Justice Degree. He had several reasons why being different would be good. Journalism was a good choice for me, because gave me all the skills a good investigator needs to have.

As far as writing, I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I challenged myself to write and finish a couple novels. They sucked, but I finished them.

Please tell me about your books and what you think draws readers to enjoy them.

Recently, my novel The Olympian published. I want readers to enjoy it and I want them to be entertained.

The novel follows several people at a Mexican All-Inclusive Resort. It’s pure Crime Fiction. I call it an ensemble novel, because it’s told from multiple points-of-view. I wanted to write a novel based on Michael Phelps. I challenged myself to write a laconic good guy any Leonard fan would recognize and never be in his head. Both ideas turned into The Olympian.

Really, the novel’s setting could be anywhere; I just needed something I was familiar with. It’s not about the resort. It’s about the people. I hope that’s what draws readers.

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

I wrote a series character in a trilogy of mysteries that were in first-person. At one point, I had a contract with a publisher to have these novels published. But two things happened, one I can’t talk about due to NDA and I read Adrian Mckinty’s Sean Duffy series. I realized I sucked at writing in first person. I found it tedious and limiting, which made it very difficult to finish the novels. I felt exhausted. It wasn’t very fun. One thing I do to motivate myself to write is read author interviews. I read old interviews with Elmore Leonard. I realized writing should be fun. I wanted to read more stories like his, but didn’t feel like there was anyone out there doing that.

There are, but that’s how I felt. As such, I decided to write the stories I wanted to read, which included weird characters and strange situations. I like writing in scenes. Leonard said he would write from the best point-of-view for that scene. That worked for me.

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

I read everything. I love most of what I read. On Twitter, I like to write quick blurbs about what I liked in a book. Sometimes I put what didn’t work. I don’t mention books I didn’t like.

When I’m writing, I can’t read Elmore Leonard, Don Winslow, Lou Berny, William Boyle, Adrian McKinty and many others. I end up trying to sound like them. I wait and reward myself with reading them when I finish a novel.

When I’m writing, I do research, read whatever catches my fancy, and read Science Fiction. Because I’m a detective, I have to take a break from the crime fiction, and I have found a love for Star Trek novels. They are great to read before bed and some of them are master classes in character interactions. Think Spock, Kirk, and McCoy—doesn’t get any better than when they are bouncing off each other in a scene.

Check out James Blish’s Spock Must Die! As far as Trek lore, there are some issues, but as far as story. It really works.

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

With regards to dead writers, I would select Hunter S. Thompson, George V. Higgins, Chester Himes, and Elmore Leonard. I think the reasons are pretty obvious at this point. Thompson would just be fun. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a must read, and really captures a scene. Himes would just be plain cool. And Leonard, well because he’s the master and it’d be good to have his approval.

When it comes to living writers I would go with Lou Berney, Attica Locke, Walter Mosely, William Boyle, and J. Todd Scott. Berny, because he’s an Oklahoman, too. Locke, because she’s great. It’d be fun to do a different point-of-view novel with her. Mosely, because who wouldn’t want to work at with a master. Boyle, because he’s writing stories I want to read. J. Todd Scott, because he’s just a great guy. He’s been very supportive. I’d love to work with him. Or have a beer.

In fact, I’ll just have a beer with any of them, or coffee.

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

Right now, I am trying to find an agent. To be honest, I’m having a hard time finding someone that wants to work with me.

I have rewritten that series character in 3rd Person and hope to bring those characters to the world soon.

I finished two novels this last year: American Standard and Green County, and they are wonderful novels. I hope you get to read them soon. I’m trying to find representation for American Standard.

American Standard is a Crime Fiction ensemble novel, approximately 100,000 words, told in multiple viewpoints, about George Winslow, who steals money from a social media company that’s a front for a cartel, to make good on a gambling debt. The cartel hires Salvatore “Sal” Lambino (The Good Guy) to find George, because he’s the best at finding people. The FBI hires a hit-man, Maxwell—not Max, don’t call him that (The Bad Guy) to find George and quietly bring him in, because the FBI wants to run George against the cartel without tipping off the cartel. The cartel just wants George and everyone else involved dead, including the girl George falls in love with—Sal’s assistant, who has her own intentions—and the tough guy that’s in love with her. Current comparative titles to style and characters would be Lou Berney’s November Road or William Boyle’s A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself.

The other novel, Green County, is similar in structure and set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s about what happens when an informant dies. The characters in this novel are based on several people I work with, which isn’t something I normally do, but really worked in this novel.

Check out Ink and Sword Magazine (on Twitter) December 2018 Crime Fiction issue to find two of my short stories, including one that stars Sal from American Standard.

As always, I’m working on the next novel and have several planned after that.

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

I’m excited to read J. Todd Scott’s next novel. I’m really looking forward to the last Alex Segura Pete Fernandez novel.

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d love for people to buy my book. What author wouldn’t?

But what I would like is to hear from readers what worked and what didn’t for them. You can find me on Twitter. Let’s talk about books. Also, I’d love for readers to leave reviews for books they have read, including mine. Reviews matter.

Also, if you find yourself on twitter, watch my feed for authors you should be following. There’s some great advice and interactions happening there.

Lastly, listen to WriterTypes Podcast. Those guys are doing some great work.

It’s been great hearing from you thank you for answering my questions and giving us an insight into your work!

Exeter Deserves To Be A City Of Literature

Exeter city

Recently, I heard the news that Exeter has been successful in progressing through the first phase of a process to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Just four UK cities can gain endorsement from UNESCO’s UK Commission to join the Creative Cities Network and Exeter was one of these. The city’s application now goes into an international competitive process.

The bid, led by Exeter City Council, is a partnership with a range of organisations, including Exeter City Council, Exeter Culture, The University of Exeter, Devon County Council, Libraries Unlimited, Literature Works, Exeter Cathedral and Exeter Canal and Quay Trust. Literature Works, the literature development agency for southwest England, wrote the bid on behalf of the steering group.

If the city is successful in its application it will enable Exeter to use the prestigious title of City of Literature and produce a four-year cultural programme of activity for the communities of Exeter and the region. The network of UNESCO’s Creative Cities will also enable the city to develop international partnerships and opportunities for the benefit of its communities and the cultural sector.

Personally, as someone who lived in close proximity to Exeter for most of her life and studied at its respected University for a year to gain her Master’s degree, I have to say I wholeheartedly believe the city deserves this status.

After all, it has a myriad of facilities that benefit cultural and literary scholars, including the University and its amazing film studies library and cutting-edge hub.

The vision for the programme is for Exeter and the wider region to be a destination for writers and a city of readers. The programme aims to engage a range of communities in the creation and appreciation of wide-ranging works, both existing and new, and develop a love of reading.

This is a great focus for the programme, as many readers already flock to the West Country as a haven for independent bookshops and stunning literary destinations such as Lyme Regis, the setting for The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Dorchester, the birthplace and lifelong home of Thomas Hardy.

As such, the city deserves to benefit from its prime location and enhance its already exceptional events, facilities and amenities that revolve around culture and literature. This is a stunning city and one that already has many great claims to fame, and adding the status of being classed as a City of Literature will help it to flourish and offer new services for readers that it has not before been able to.

It will also help the surrounding communities. Being set in a rural area, Exeter is bordered by many small towns, most of which struggle for culture, business, tourism and amenities such as transport. If Exeter does achieve City of Literature status then these surrounding towns and villages will also receive greater footfall and be able to welcome more tourists and visitors, resulting in more business and better facilities for locals.

Overall, with the results due in November 2019 we will know by the end of the year if this amazing and culturally relevant city has been granted this prestigious honour. Personally, I think it deserves nothing less.

 

A Killing Sin Review: A Gripping Thriller To Enjoy While You Laze Around In The Summer Sun

a killing sin

Whilst searching for a read to keep me company over the warm summer weekend, I found A Killing Sin lounging on a pile of books to be read, which is worryingly tall.

So I decided to give it a go. I had been a bit sceptical about this book since I received it. After all, a book about Islamic terrorism could be full of lazy stereotypes and boring one-dimensional characters.

Instead, K.H. Irvine has created a really great novel that perfectly blends thrills and human emotion to really make the reader think and keep their attention throughout.

In a world much like ours but in the slight future, three completely different women, joined by a fragile university friendship, lead separate lives, until one day draws them all together and changes their lives forever.

There’s Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, who dons a burqa and, completely out of character, heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community.

Meanwhile, her friend Ella Russell, a struggling journalist, leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror and find out some facts that may be hard to swallow.

Finally, Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage.

All of these three women’s lives are entwined in this one day as the leap between normal people and extremists blurs. Jumping between times, spaces and actions, the book is fast-paced and requires your attention: but don’t worry, it’s so gripping you won’t want to put it down!

So if you’re searching for your perfect summer thriller, look no further. A Killing Sin will keep you hooked from page one and won’t let you go.