It’s OK To Give Vouchers As Gifts If They’re For Books

book vouchers

With the Black Friday madness still well and truly underway, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about gift giving.

Specifically, a lot of people have been talking about what they’re giving their friends and family for Christmas.

A few members of my family receive book tokens of Waterstones’ vouchers from me every year, for the simple reason that they never bloody tell me what else they want. Being fans of books, I buy them vouchers so they can choose the book they want when they spot a shiny new title that they don’t want to wait for.

Some of my friends think this is uncaring and not very imaginative; after all, as my Christmas Gift Guide, the 2019 version of which will be out shortly, proves, there are many great gifts for books lovers. Why don’t I just use my imagination and buy them one of those?

The answer is simple; I don’t know them well enough to get them something they’d genuinely love and make use of. Even some of my family members and I aren’t that close, and as such I make do with gifting them vouchers to spend on the books that will make them happy.

Personally, for all the cute bookmarks and cherished notebooks I’ve been given over the years, nothing has ever made me so happy as walking into a bookstore and spotting something I want, then thinking; wait, I have a voucher I can use for that!

As someone on a budget, and who buys most of her books second-hand, I’m always reluctant to buy myself brand new books as soon as they come out, because they’re pricey and I’m guaranteed to already have a huge stack of books that are still waiting to be read. I’m also very impatient, and as such I always love having a voucher in case I want a book that I’m desperate for.

What I’m trying to say, in my roundabout way, is never be ashamed to give vouchers if they’re for books. Books are the most personal and generous gift you can give to anybody, but if you don’t know them well enough to choose for them, or are concerned they already have it, a voucher is the next best option.

Clothes vouchers often feel impersonal, and subscriptions sometimes feel a little redundant when you think that the money is often whisked straight out of their bank account anyway, but book vouchers will forever be a great gift for readers. Never be afraid to give them; they will always be well received.

Kim Booth Interview: “I think police procedures can be quite complex”

a-cruel-deception

Another awesome interview with a true crime writer today as I speak to Kim Booth, who wrote about an intriguing fraud case in his book A Cruel Deception. Read on to find out more about his book and how his former career as a policeman has influenced his writing.

How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards
true crime?

I would describe my writing style “as it comes” really with true crime I write it as it is. You cannot really “Sex up” true crime as the facts of the offence are already established. I was drawn to true crime as having spent a career investigating numerous offences of different types I have always been interested as to why the offender commits the offence and how they were caught. I have been involved in the investigation of about 29 murders from domestic murders to contract killings, kidnaps and extortions a couple of serial killers with a bit of corruption thrown in.

In one instance I was present on surveillance when three contact killers arrived and shot our surveillance suspect in the head not knowing that he was under surveillance (the story is subject of a future book). I have specialised in offences of fraud over the years and have investigated just about every type of fraud going including a £350 million “Ponzi” scheme during which I travelled and conducted enquiries into foreign jurisdictions in Japan New Zealand The Bahamas U.S of America and Canada working with the local enforcement agencies.

My first true crime book is A Cruel Deception, which is the true story of a fraud I investigated. The family involved were financially ruined by the offender and it lasted 6 years until I came along. The victims an elderly couple were so embarrassed at being conned that they asked me to write a book about their experience also to act as a warning to others. I had to promise I would write the book but had to agree that it would be published after they had both passed on, which I did and that’s how it came about. In my opinion fraud is the crime where the effect it has on the victims is all too often underestimated as the repercussions can last for years afterwards. It is also so severely under resourced by the police and is in fact getting more and more common.

Tell me about how your background in the police? How do you draw on your experiences in law enforcement in your writing?

I have “survived” a 35-year career within the police and mainly in investigative roles. The roles have included general CID for a number of years, Detective Sergeant in the drugs squad, Head of Special Branch and Detective Inspector in charge of the Fraud Squad now Economic Crime Unit. I was previously on the regional Crime Squad (now National Crime Agency specialising in “cropping” (Rural surveillance). I have also been in charge as D/I of the Hi Tech crime Unit investigating all offences of internet crime involving frauds and paedophile offences on-line.

In an investigative role in the police you encounter so many different scenarios and offences committed that some do have a lasting effect and help to develop an enquiring mind, which does help in investigations. It really doesn’t surprise me anymore how devious and cruel people can be to each other.

As well as writing, you also advise other writers on police procedure, can you tell me a little about this side of your work? Have you worked with anyone exciting you can talk about with me?

I was approached a number of years ago by an author I met at a lecture on crime writing and he asked me if I could read his WIP and check it with regards to the accuracy of the police procedurals. I have been doing it ever since for a small number of authors. It’s not a paid situation but I do enjoy helping fellow authors with their books and reading their stories.

I think police procedures can be quite complex and it is important for them to be absolutely correct, as there will always be somebody who will be critical or find fault. I only advise authors who make contact but I have two or three regulars, one being Nick Louth of the Body Found series. I’m only too pleased to be of help.

What do you read yourself and how does this influence your books?

I mainly read true crime, terrorism and books on crime such as Robert Whiting Tokyo Underworld (having spent two months there following the fraud money) books on drugs dealers and investigation anything true crime orientated. Obviously I also read the crime fiction books author send me to check out procedural issues. I have found on occasions that the truth can actually be stranger than fiction. If I wrote some of my experiences down people wouldn’t believe them!

What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?

Having fulfilled my promise to write A Cruel Deception I have been challenged light-heartedly to write a crime thriller, which I have nearly completed. It also contains details of some M.Os of actual cases that I have been involved with which will serve for a good purpose to keep the reader thinking!   After that I have two more true crime books to write outlining certain murders I have investigated, one being a serial killer and a drugs investigation that resulted in a murder and a contract killing. I think that’s enough for now!

In your work as an advisor to other writers, do you have any big projects coming up you’re happy to discuss?

No really big projects, but I have been contacted by a film company that has shown an interest in A Cruel Deception, let’s see where that goes!

Anything you would like to add.

Corny as it seems I joined the police to help people and solve things. After having dealings with a fraudster I encountered whilst working in the hotel industry, I was interviewed by the CID. I thought, “I could do that”

I have taken great pleasure in investigating serious offences and putting people where they belong but I must add that it has not been hassle free over the years- but it has been worth it!

Thanks for the invite. I shall keep plodding on as they say!

A big thank you to Kim for taking the time to answer my questions!

Donald Trump Junior: A Great Example Of How Not To Promote A Book

triggered

The worst leader in the history of the world’s son has recently released a book, which has quickly proved to be a master class in bad book PR.

Seriously, if a book PR company was going to release a guide on how not to promote your book, they’d fill it with stuff exactly like what Donald Trump Junior is doing right now.

The book, named Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, discuss Trump’s fanciful notion that the left hates everyone and is filled with hateful bigotry, including an entire chapter dedicated to transphobia.

Coming out of a renowned fascist whose father is currently running concentration camps at his country’s border and separates migrant children from their parents, saying that the left is full of hate is, in my opinion, a bit much, for there you go.

Throughout the campaign to promote the book, Trump Junior has been behaving, frankly, bizarrely. His book recently got to the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list for non-fiction, but the listing has a dagger next to it, indicating that it includes bulk purchases.

Prior to this, Trump Junior and his girlfriend walked out of a campus appearance at the University of California after being heckled by far right supporters who were fans of theirs.

Whilst the pair were afraid of liberals heckling them and telling them that their hate filled diatribe should stop, it was actually people who’d turned up to support them that shouted at them and caused them to leave, after the couple declined to host a question and answer session.

Despite Trump Junior stating that he loves answering questions, he decided that he didn’t want to, and this led to repeated chants that eventually drove him and his girlfriend to rant at the audience before departing.

Such pathetic and hypocritical behaviour is what he is accusing the left of in his book, so it’s more than a little surprising and really bed press for his book, which clearly isn’t making the splash in the literary market that Trump Junior might have hoped.

At the end of the day, it’s little surprise that Donald Trump Junior, named after the world’s biggest baby crossed with a Cheeto, is a pathetic man-child whose book is a load of fascist crap, but I am surprised that he hasn’t got a better PR team to at least make it look like he’s trying to promote this book properly.

Nate Hendley Interview: “The best way to keep the reader interested is to tell a compelling story”

Nate - author pic new (website)

As a lover of true crime novels I was honoured to interview Nate Hendley, a Toronto-based journalist and author who has written several books, primarily in the true-crime genre. Here’s what he has to say about his work and the books he loves to read.

How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards crime writing?

My style largely stems from the fact I work as journalist. I like to state the facts and tell a story while avoiding too much moralizing. I describe the actions of people in detail but don’t attempt to explain what they were thinking at a given time, unless I have direct knowledge of their thoughts, derived from interviews, reports or personal correspondence. I like to write in a direct, lean fashion that avoids too many flashy words unnecessary explanations.

I was drawn to crime writing almost by accident; ever since I was very young, I always wanted to write a book. I did write a few (unpublished) books in the fiction genre (primarily action type stories). In the early 2000s, an opportunity came up to write books for a Canadian publisher. The publisher was looking for short, punchy “pop history” books (that is, non-academic books about historic events or people). I pitched them a book about Edwin Boyd, a notorious Toronto robber from the 1950s. They liked the pitch, I wrote the book and they proceeded to suggest other topics to me, primarily in the crime genre. I accepted and became the publisher’s “go-to” person when it came to crime writing.

I like the crime genre because it’s extremely broad: you can discuss history, social issues, politics, personalities, cultural events and psychology all in one book. For example, I wrote a book about bandit duo Bonnie and Clyde that delved into the socioeconomic conditions they operated in (that is, the Great Depression of the 1930s) and how they actually had better guns and faster cars than most police departments at the time.

Tell me about how your background in journalism. How does this influence your writing?

My background in journalism has been extremely helpful to me as an author. When you’re a journalist, you learn the importance of deadlines, word count, interview techniques, research techniques and self-discipline. Journalists don’t have the luxury of “waiting for muse to strike” (unless they’re looking to lose their job). They have to be prepared to write a story any time, any place under just about any circumstances. All these attributes help in getting books done.

What aspect of your books do you feel attracts your readers and makes your work so hard to put down?

Storytelling. Keeping the reader interested. The best way to keep the reader interested is to tell a compelling story, usually based around people rather than an issue. Nothing will draw a reader in than a good story. Nothing will turn a reader off faster than a dry, dull recitation of facts or pompous opinionating.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Are there any specific exercises or tricks you use to get your creative juices flowing?

As a journalist you learn quickly how to sit down and write, even when you’re not in the mood. That said, there are certain helpful tricks that can kick-start creativity. I call one of these techniques, “Trick Yourself to Write”. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to do any real writing on my book today. I’m just going to put down some information/data in point form.” Write down your info/data—in rough form. Then, start “fleshing the points out”—adding details, transforming data/info into proper sentences. Then turn these proper sentences into paragraphs. Keep going. You will often end up writing several complete pages—even though your actual goal was much more modest.

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

Truman Capote ,author of the classic true-crime book, In Cold Blood, would be an interesting person to collaborate with. He never took notes (he claimed he had a photographic memory) and he had a weird, squeaky voice and theatrical mannerism. Yet, he did a brilliant job covering the murder of family in rural Kansas in the 1950s (the subject of In Cold Blood). Capote was accompanied by his friend, Harper Lee, the future author of the classic anti-racism novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, during his Kansas travels. It would have been fascinating to watch the two of them in action, interviewing locals and gathering facts about a horrendous crime.

What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?

I am playing around with some ideas for future books. Most of these ideas are based on historic crimes that occurred in Toronto. I live in Toronto so I figure I might as well cover my hometown. And it’s a lot easier to research a Toronto crime when you live in Toronto (as opposed to say, a crime that happened in the Baltics).

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

Anything by Jeff Guinn (click here to see his books on Amazon). Amazing writer who books about Jim Jones (the cult-leader who oversaw the mass suicide of his followers at Jonestown in South America) and Charles Manson. Guinn did a huge amount of research for these works and did a great job demystifying both Jones and Manson (who have achieved cartoon-like “super villain” status among many crime writers).

I also love Erik Larson (click here to see his books on Amazon). I’ve read two of his books, Devil in the White City (which tells two separate stories, about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers who was murdering people in Chicago) and Dead Wake (about the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, an ocean liner, by a German submarine, an action that brought America into the First World War).

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for hosting this blog. Writers hugely appreciate people who promote writing. Not enough people do.

Thanks to Nate for answering my questions! For more information about his books and background, please visit his website at www.natehendley.com or click here to check out his books on Amazon.

New Cambridge Murder Mystery Ready To Preorder

version to tweet

Following on from my interview with Charlot King, I’m pleased to announce that she’s got a new book coming out soon called A Christmas Mystery. 

I’m a recent convert to festive themed books, so I’m very excited for this upcoming novel, which is the forth in her Cambridge Murder Mysteries series.

In the latest instalment in the series, protagonist Professor Elizabeth Green, a professor of poisons, attempts to solve murders before everyone opens their presents on Christmas Day. As her peers are found dead in the College, the professor has her hands full trying to uncover the truth.

The new book will be available in Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge, this Christmas, joining Charlot’s other three books, Poison, Cursed and Blood Moon. You can preorder it on Amazon HERE.

Addressed To Kill Review: A Creepy Christmas Crime Story

COVER FOR ADDRESSED TO KILL

The newest instalment in the Inspector Stark novels features a chilling Christmas mystery, as Keith Wright delivers another thrilling instalment in this incredible series.

In 1987 Inspector Stark is gearing up for another busy Christmas, having just enjoyed his station’s festive shindig, when on Christmas Eve the body of a young woman is found having been brutally raped and murdered in a park.

Switching between viewpoints, Wright paints a picture of a deeply twisted murderer with a strange modus operandi revolving around toying with his victims before raping and brutally murdering them.

As such, Stark and his team are forced to spend the festive season battling to find the culprit before he attacks again. With many leads to follow and a variety of red herrings put in their way, the team have their work cut out if they want to uncover the truth.

Wright isn’t afraid to delve into the gritty details of sordid crimes such as this, and as such this book, much like the others in the series, has many enticing details that will engage and thrill crime fiction fans. For those who love reading creepy, dark novels full of suspense, this is the book for you this winter.

It’s not as atmospheric as it could be, but Wright has a way of pushing the plot along so you hardly notice, and instead quickly become wrapped up in the disturbing world of the killer and the police’s obsessive hunt for the truth. Stark and his team, as well as the other characters readers encounter, are all deeply human and well-rounded, making the story believable and engaging.

Overall I was incredibly impressed by Addressed To Kill. I’m not usually a big fan of Christmas themed books, but in this novel Wright shows how the festive season makes victims more unsuspecting and gives killers opportunities they don’t usually have, making it an eye-opening and gripping tale that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.

 

His Dark Materials Proves Fantasy Is Better As TV Shows Not Films

his dark materials

The BBC’s new adaptations of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy proves that fantasy novels deserve to be made into TV shows, rather than films.

The Northern Lights, the first book in critically acclaimed series, designed originally for children, was adapted as a film a few years ago and renamed The Golden Compass.  

The film was a flop, for the simple reason that it tried to fit so this vast book, with all of its exposition and explanation, into one film. It was a long film, but not long enough to fit in all of the knowledge required to make viewers fully understand the concepts and worlds Pullman created.

The appeal of the show, rather than the film, is that it doesn’t ‘tell’ the story so much as it shows you. There are no huge info-dumps, nor any rambling conversations that are exclusively exposition designed to fill you in quickly before something else happens. Instead, the show draws you into the world of Lyra and Pan, showing you everything that happens whilst not overwhelming you.

The critical success of the TV series also shows that fantasy epics belong on television, not in films. HBOs beloved Game Of Thrones is another good example of a book set that would’ve made an awful film series, but as TV show it flourished (until the writers went and blew it on the final series).

Sometimes films can bring fantasy books to life, as is the case with Lord of the Rings, however it can be argued that the films are far too long, and would be better off serialised on TV. Indeed, Amazon has commissioned a series based on Tolkien’s epic novels, proving that the stories have yet more potential that, I don’t think, more films could fulfil.

Overall, it’s clear to see that fantasy belongs on TV. Adapting it for films means cramming it into too little time, or creating far too many, far too long movies that are hard to sit through. The best way to experience fantasy is always to read it, as that way you can let your imagination run away with you and really immerse yourself in the ideas and new worlds the author has created. However, if you’re going to watch fantasy, I urge you to watch a TV show version of your favourites, rather than slogging your way through a boring film