Paul Gitsham Interview: “My earliest scribblings were science fiction based, but often with elements of crime mixed in”

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Paul Gitsham is the author of the DCI Warren Jones series, as well as a teacher, Trekkie and fan of true crime documentaries- the perfect person for an interview with the Dorset Book Detective! He shares insights into his work and how he’s created such an iconic police procedural series.

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

I was always a book lover, filling my library card each week. I also loved writing stories and always wanted to be an author, but for most of my life it was little more than a hobby. My other passion is science, and after gaining a PhD in molecular biology, I spent some years doing research as a biologist, before finally retraining as a science teacher. But in all that time, I kept on reading and always had something I was tinkering with.

The first DCI Warren Jones novel, The Last Straw, is about the murder of a reviled university professor, and so my background in academia became really useful.

How does your experience as a teacher influence your writing?

The most obvious example is the novella, A Deadly Lesson. The story centres on the murder of a deputy head teacher in her office late one night. Being so familiar with the way modern schools work not only allowed me to write an accurate story, it also suggested ideas and plot twists that I could incorporate into the story.

Like anyone who works in a profession, I cringe sometimes when I see teaching portrayed either in books or on TV. Schools are dynamic, changing places and education evolves constantly. It’s really obvious when a writer is a non-teacher and hasn’t set foot in a school since they were pupils!

The other way in which being a teacher influences my writing is that Warren’s wife, Susan, is a biology teacher and I do bring that into their home life.

What drew you towards writing crime fiction novels?

My earliest scribblings were science fiction based, but often with elements of crime mixed in. When I finally realised that the murder subplot of a Sci Fi novel I was working on was becoming the dominant thread of that story, I finally realised that somebody was trying to tell me something!

By this time, my taste in books had largely gone full-circle; the first books I read as a child were Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew etc. I then read a lot of science fiction before drifting back to the crime genre. By the time I sat down to write The Last Straw, I was almost exclusively reading crime and thriller.

Please tell me about the DCI Warren Jones series and why you believe that they’re so popular?

The DCI Warren Jones series are modern police procedurals, set in a fictional Hertfordshire town. Starting with The Last Straw, they now number six novels and 4 novellas, with this year’s A Price to Pay, the most recent.

I really love a good, twisty plot with some red herrings. Something that many of my readers comment on is how normal Warren is. I realised very early on, that I didn’t want to write a broken, alcoholic divorcee – not because I don’t like those characters – but because I didn’t feel I could necessarily add something substantial to the host of brilliantly written characters that already exist. So instead, Warren is happily married without any substance-abuse problems or dark, depressive tendencies.

Many readers have found it a refreshing change! That’s not to say I don’t put him through the wringer, and he has experienced more than his fair share of tragedy, but he still passes the ‘Friday night pint test’ – i.e. would I like to go for a pint with him on a Friday evening? And yes, I think I would!

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

My partner and I are big true-crime fans; we watch a lot of dodgy documentaries on Freeview! Interestingly, it’s not the story that inspires me -after all, that tale has been told. It’s the tiny little detail that sends my imagination flying off at a strange tangent. I keep a file of ideas on my phone, usually little more than a single sentence, and I am forever adding to them. But nine times out of ten, anyone reading what I jotted down during the programme would probably struggle to make the connection between the idea and what was on screen!

In terms of writer’s block, because I write out of sequence and fit it all together at the end, it’s rarely a big problem. If a section isn’t behaving itself, I put it one side and write something different.

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

This is where I have to leave the crime genre and proudly display my geek credentials: I am a HUGE fan of Star Trek and the novels based on the series. I own hundreds and have read even more. Back in the late nineties, two Trek authors – Judith and Garth Reeves-Stevens – teamed up with William Shatner and wrote a series of fantastic novels continuing the story of Captain Kirk after he supposedly died in Star Trek: Generations. They finished after three trilogies and I doubt there will be anymore. I have read them all at least half-a-dozen times. It would be a dream to continue that series, but collaborating with the Reeves-Stevens (ideally with Bill Shatner involved, obviously). If you are reading this Pocket Books, please don’t be shy about emailing …

What do you like to read and how does this influence your own writing?

Aside from the aforementioned Star Trek novels that I still love to pick up now and again, I have been reading a lot during lockdown. Will Dean’s Tuva series are an inspiration when it comes to describing environment – I read Red Snow during a mini-heat wave but had to stop myself from turning the radiators on as I was transported to Sweden.

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series is a masterclass in character growth. Harry is an unmovable constant – yet he never stops changing. It’s a wonderful paradox and I love being immersed in that series. If I could make a returning reader of my Warren Jones series feel just a taste of the warm, comfortable feeling I get when I pick up the latest Bosch, then I will have succeeded beyond my dreams.

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

The eBook of A Price to Pay came out in June and I’ve been exchanging notes with my audiobook narrator ready for the audio and paperback release on August 6th. By far the bulk of my sales are Kindle, but there is still something special about having the paperback sitting on my shelf, and hearing Malk reading out my words.

I am also into the final stages of next summer’s book, snappily titled DCI Warren Jones Book 7, Title TBC.

I have a ton of editing and rewriting to do, but two days ago, I wrote the scene where Warren finally charges the killer with the murder. It is a wonderful feeling.

Are you planning on using the current crisis in any of your future works, and how do you think it will affect the world in which your characters live?

In terms of the DCI Warren Jones series, I am in the fortunate position that the series’ chronology runs a few years behind the real world. I have another couple of books to go before I have to start thinking about what the hell I’m going to do about 2020 – a year that if you had pitched it to an editor as dystopian fiction 12 months ago would have been rejected as too dark and unrealistic.

The big changes will be to the standalone that I have been writing in my ‘spare’ time. I wrote a large chunk of it over summer 2019, before putting it to one side to start the next Warren Jones. I had been planning on finishing the first draft this summer before starting Warren Jones 8. However, half the book is set in July 2020. Changing the date it is set in will need significant work but won’t be impossible, however things are so uncertain at the moment that it feels risky to assume that everything will be back to normal next summer and just change all the dates to 2021 – I really don’t want to have to do it again!

So, I have decided to push on and write the next couple of Warren Jones before coming back to the standalone when I have the benefit of hindsight. I have written enough that it will definitely be finished one day, but I’m not sure exactly when!

What new books or debut authors are you looking forward to reading and finding out more about in the future?

Last weekend was the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone Locked Up online festival in aid of the Trussell Trust. My partner and I spent a LOT of money at Waterstones the day after it concluded. I’ve bought/pre-ordered a couple of old favourites: Steve Cavanagh’s next Eddie Flynn – Fifty-Fifty will be devoured at an indecent pace. As will Alex North’s latest, The Shadow Friend. Last year’s The Whisper Man was brilliant.

We have all of Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra’s signed and face-out on the bookshelf, so we are intrigued to read Midnight at Malabar House, the first in his new series. And finally, from the New Blood debuts panel, Nadine Matheson’s The Jigsaw Man sounds like it’s just up my street. It’s not due out until next spring, so I will see if I can persuade someone to send me an arc!

Huge thanks to Paul for answering my questions- it’s been a blast!

 

 

 

 

2020 Is The Summer Of Crime Fiction

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the world has gone to shit.

Between Trump, Brexit, murder hornets, the Coronavirus and the shocking way that some world leaders are handling it, police brutality and institutional racism, it’s all going down the pan.

The whole world is dealing with a pandemic and an economic crisis of epic proportions, not to mention additional genocides, political coups and general mismanagement from so called ‘leaders’ which are occurring on a daily basis in countries around the globe. All of that can be wearying for even the most stoic of individuals.

With that in mind, you need to transport yourself to a better world, while still keeping yourself alert and not completely disappearing into a fairy tale.

While books from your childhood can help you to soothe your worries, a good thriller is just what you need to transport you away from the madness and give you something to really think about.

Also, there are loads of great new thrillers out there for you to check out. If you haven’t already read Mark EllisFrank Merlin series, then I’d recommend it. Start from the beginning, or, if you’re already a fan, check out the latest instalment, A Death In Mayfair.

For anyone who loves spy thrillers, then James McCrone has a new one out called Emergency Powers. Without spoiling my upcoming review, it’s an amazing, gripping thriller that I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes spy novels, particularly governmental ones.

If classics are where you’re at, then why not try reading Raymond Chandler’s work, or buy a copy of the Sherlock Holmes short story collection. With new adaptations coming out all the time, including one on Netflix shortly, there has never been a better time than now to start brushing up and enjoying these amazing tales.

Whatever you choose to read, make it something gripping and informative that keeps you on your toes. If you read too much comfort literature, then you might find yourself slipping into complacency, so read a little crime fiction to keep your mind sharp.

Jim Eldridge Interview: “I left school at 16 and worked at a variety of jobs, but I always wanted to write”

Jim Eldridge

Having just finished Murder At The Fitzwilliam, I’m very pleased to share my interview with the author, Jim Eldridge.

Please tell me about your books. What do you think makes them so popular with readers?

I’ve been very fortunate that the readers who discover my books seem to respond well to them, first during the time I was writing children’s books, and latterly when I’ve been writing historical crime fiction. This new direction in my career as a writer took place in 2016 with the publication of Assassins, a crime novel set in 1921 featuring Chief Inspector Stark and his assistant, DS Danvers, published by Severn House.

I had been a scriptwriter for TV and radio for 40 years since 1970 until 2010, and then primarily writing children’s books, with over 90 published. The book was well received and led to a sequel Shadows of the Dead. Shortly after this my new literary agent (my previous agent only dealt with children’s books) introduced me to Susie Dunlop, publishing director at Allison & Busby, and from this came my Museum Mysteries series, which I’ll expand on in my answer to Question 4.

Again, fortunately, these have been well received by readers, and I believe that’s because the readers like and have sympathy for the lead characters, Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton, as they did for DCI Stark and Sgt Danvers in the two Stark novels. During my 40 years as a scriptwriter I learnt that what audience, and readers, want is a good story with sympathetic lead characters, and interesting other characters, and they like to follow those lead characters through a series and see how they and their situations develop.

You write across a range of genres and for a variety of readers: how do you adjust your writing style?

Yes, I have written across a wide range of genres, both as an author and a scriptwriter. For me, whether I’m writing for adults or children of any age (I’ve written for picture books aimed at 3-year olds, as well as television series for young children and sitcoms for adults) the key is much as I set out in my answer to the previous question: what audience, and readers, want is a good story with sympathetic lead characters, and interesting other characters. This applies whether the lead character is human, animal, an extra-terrestrial alien, or even a plant. Will the readers like that character?

The only real adjustment is in the language used: for very young readers the words have to be very simple so they can understand the story; with the level of language increasing as readers get older. Even this is aimed at an “average” reader for this age range, because I’ve known 8-year olds reading books written for adults, and 14-year olds struggling with simple texts. Often this is because they are dyslexic, and I have written some books for the specialist publisher, Barrington Stoke, aimed at the dyslexic teens. My background as a teacher helped. From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, in addition to scriptwriting, I was a teacher, working mainly in schools in disadvantaged areas in the Luton area. I came to specialise in working with children with literacy problems, and was proud of the fact that every child who left my sessions left able to read.

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

I left school at 16 and worked at a variety of jobs, but I always wanted to write. During the late 1960s I was a performance poet, including an appearance as guest poet on John Peel’s Radio 2 late night show. In 1970 I got commissioned to write a thriller novel, basically pulp-fiction.

It was called Down Payment on Death and appeared in 1971. In that same year I pitched an idea for a radio sitcom to the BBC about a small rural railway station. They liked it and a pilot was made, starring Arthur Lowe as the stationmaster, with a support cast of Kenneth Connor, Liz Fraser and Ian Lavender. It was called Parsley Sidings. The audience liked the pilot show, and I was commissioned to write a series, and then a second series. In all, I wrote 21 episodes.

The main factor for me was that I was paid a lot more for my work as a scriptwriter than I was for the thriller novel; so although I wanted to continue writing crime fiction (my favourite genre), the bigger money was more attractive, especially with a family to support. And so I became a scriptwriter, first writing sitcoms and sketch shows for BBC radio, and then for television for BBC and ITV.

By 1983 working in comedy had begun to pall, the atmosphere in comedy is often stressful with lots of egos trying to dominate, so I changed to writing for children’s television. This was hugely enjoyable. For the next 24 years I wrote for various children’s TV series, including creating series of my own (Uncle Jack, Time Riders, Monster TV, and Powers were just some) and BBC radio comedy-drama (my Radio 4 series King Street Junior ran for 100 episodes over 20 years from 1985-2005). In all, during my time as a scriptwriter I had 250 TV scripts and 250 radio scripts broadcast. I wrote not only for BBC and ITV but also for American TV (e.g. Disney). But by 2010 things at both BBC and ITV were changing, including all my producers taking retirement. It was time for a change.

What’s the inspiration behind your murder at the museum series? How did you create Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton? 

As I mentioned earlier, I’d left scriptwriting behind and continued writing books for children (which I’d been doing at the same time as scriptwriting since 1990), but deep down I wanted to get back to where it had all began for me in 1970, crime fiction for adults.

In particular, historical crime fiction, which had become my favourite genre. I had acquired a new agent, and – as previously mentioned – she arranged for me to meet Susie Dunlop, publishing director at Allison & Busby to talk ideas. Susie was the one who raised the topic of a series of historical crime novels investigating murders in famous museums. We both agreed that late Victorian times would be best because that had been a time of great social change and scientific discoveries. Susie wondered if we could base it around Frederick Abberline, the famous Victorian detective who led the investigations into Jack the Ripper. I liked that idea very much, but my concern was that if our lead character was a real person it could limit us to where Abberline had actually been at different times. I’ve always felt that if a real person is used in a fictional story, it should fit with what that person was actually doing, and where, at that historical time. After discussion, we agreed a compromise: that our detective would be a fictional member of Abberline’s squad. And so Daniel Wilson, private detective, ex-Scotland Yard, was born.

But every lead detective needs a partner, someone to discuss cases with. Who would be Daniel’s partner?

During my time as a scriptwriter I often worked on scripts where a relationship of clashing opposites was at the heart of things: two people with opposing ideas, or life experiences that meant they were at odds with one another, but eventually (and reluctantly) they realised they were tied to one another. I’d always enjoyed writing this, and realised that audiences like it, too, as they waited for this ‘odd couple’ to face up to what everyone else could see – that they were made for each other.

We had in Daniel someone who’d risen through the ranks to become an Inspector at Scotland Yard. He came from the poorest of backgrounds (just how poor we only discover in the new book, Murder At The Natural History Museum. He still lives in Camden Town in London, what was then an notorious slum area. So his partner needed to be the opposite of all of this. A woman of the same age, educated, upper middle-class, socially aware, highly intelligent, well known in her own right. And so became: Abigail Fenton from Cambridge; studied at Girton College, and gained fame as an archaeologist, especially with her work on the Pyramids in Egypt. Forthright, determined, and not afraid to upset people.

For those who want to know how things developed between them, please do check out the first in the series: Murder At The Fitzwilliam.

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When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

 I often find myself returning to books I have read and enjoyed before: namely: P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster; Simenon’s Maigret stories; Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes; and Edward Marston’s Railway Detective novels. I also love Raymond Chandler, and George Orwell’s work, including Animal Farm, 1984, and his essays.

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

This is a difficult one because some writers can be very prickly to work with. For example, I admire George Orwell, but by all accounts he could be quite difficult. When I was scriptwriting I often collaborated with other writers; scriptwriting is one of the most collaborative forms there is – which is why the list of writers credited at the start or end of a TV show or film is often quite lengthy.

One of my most enjoyable collaborations was co-writing with the wonderful and brilliant Malorie Blackman on all three series of her ITV children’s sitcom Whizziwig, developed from her book of the same name. But some were not as emotionally enjoyable. On reflection, I think I would choose P G Wodehouse.

By all accounts he was happy to collaborate when writing all those Broadway musical comedies he worked on, and I would have learned so much from him.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My next book will be Murder At The Natural Mystery History Museum, the fifth in my Museum Murders series, which will be coming out in hardback in August. And then, early next year, Murder At The Ritz Hotel, the first in a new series set during World War 2 and featuring DCI Edgar Coburg, a veteran of World War 1 is out. I am very excited by both of them.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward coming up?

I always look forward to any new book by Edward Marston in his Railway Detective and Home Front historical crime series; and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, set during WW2. As someone born towards the end of WW2 and who grew up in the 1940s, this period resounds within me.

Anything you’d like to add?

Just thank you, Hannah, for letting me share this with you and your readers.

Thanks to Jim for answering my questions; you’ve given some really insightful responses!

 

The Top Five Jesse Stone Novels For Fans Of Gritty Police Procedurals

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Finding a new series to obsess over has become my recent mission, thanks to the crummy situation in the world and the UK government’s singular lack of organisation or common fucking sense.

As my country’s leadership has decided that testing isn’t a good idea and the economy takes precedence over human lives, my future, for the safety of myself and others, will be spent mostly indoors.

Even as the UK reopens, and everyone starts queueing around the block for cheap socks from Primark, I’m still reluctant to venture out, which means I’ve got a lot of spare time to fill.

So, with so much time spent indoors or lounging in my scrubby garden to look forward to, I’ve had to find a new series to keep myself occupied.

It was this, combined with my love for Tom Selleck, Kathy Baker and Viola Davis that led me to start watching the Jesse Stone adaptations made for TV a few years ago.

TV and films help to keep me occupied a little, but what I was looking for was a new book series. Books don’t require the internet, which in my house, lags a lot because of overuse. They also don’t need batteries, and can be read in the sunny garden or curled up in bed on lazy days.

Watching these shows got me interested in the Robert B. Parker novels that inspired it and introduced me to a new set of books to enjoy.

Parker was a prolific novelist before his death in 2010, and alongside the Jesse Stone series he also created the Spencer For Hire novels, which inspired a recent Netflix film with Mark Wahlberg. As well as crime fiction, he also wrote modern western novels and his books have been enjoyed by many readers over the years, so I thought that they were worth checking out.

Using the magic that is Internet shopping, I was able to procure some of these novels, and I’ve been loving them ever since the first one turned up at my door.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this enticing series, then check out my top 5 picks!

5. Split Image: In this last in the series written before he died, Parker turns what appears to be low-level hit on a lowly foot solider for a local mobster into a complicated case that tests Stone’s personal and professional resolve. He soon finds himself entangled with an out-of-town private detective who might be more involved with the case than he originally thought, leading to an array of startling revelations. The novel is a brilliant depiction of the alcoholic, workaholic small town cop, and a must-read for fans of the series.

4. High Profile: A salacious talk show host is found hanging outside of Paradise, with a second death following hot on its heels. The two bodies are connected, but Stone still finds it hard to identify a single, viable suspect. He’s stonewalled by the victims’ families and irritated by riled-up locals, making the investigation even more challenging.

3. Killing The Blues: Continuing Robert B. Parker’s legacy, Michael Brandman writes an engaging thriller that perfectly captures the character. I hadn’t actually planned to buy a Jesse Stone novel that wasn’t written by Parker, but I added it to my cart before I realised, and in hindsight I’m very glad that I did- it was a happy accident. The book continues Stone’s adventures, as he comes to believe that car thieves are operating in Paradise and contends with an old enemy who’s out of prison and out for revenge. In the middle of all of this, he’s got to deal with a new town publicist who is eager to turn Paradise into the New England version of Woodstock. Then the car thefts turn deadly, and Stone quickly finds himself in a perilous position.

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2. Sea Change: Jesse Stone faces a sordid and confusing case when a woman’s dead body washes ashore. After a tough process of identification, Stone and his team uncover a web of lies, deceit, steamy sex scandals and much more. Connected to the murder is a rape allegation, which leads the intrepid detective into the sordid and opulent local yachting scene. This intriguing and fast-paced novel shows the seedy side of Paradise and the small-town challenges that Stone faces as Police Chief.

1. Night Passage: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it yet again: When you’re reading a book series, you should try to begin at the beginning. Night Passage is the first Jesse Stone novel, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Fired by the LAPD and dumped by his wife, alcoholic detective Jesse Stone reluctantly takes a job as head of police in a small town called Paradise. What appears to be a serene New England town quickly shows its true colours as a hotbed of crime and mystery. From political intrigue to murder and mobsters, the wise-cracking, quick-witted mess of a police chief is quickly out of his depth and thrust into a series of dangerous adventures.

Bill Todd Interview: “As a kid, I made up adventure stories in my head”

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Author Bill Todd, who created the Danny Lancaster series, talks me through his work and why it’s so popular with readers.  

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

As a kid, I made up adventure stories in my head, in bed, in the dark, picking up where I’d left off when the light went out the next night. If real life is not fully grabbing my attention I’ve always had a tendency to return to an escapist story in my imagination.

I was drawn to crime fiction by the huge opportunities it offers to explore any field of human activity. Create a believable character and the world is his or her oyster.

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

Being a journalist, you have an inquiring ‘what if…?’ mind which is a big help writing non-fiction and fiction.

Most of my working life has been spent on local and national newspapers. Nationals have the big headlines to tell the big stories but my heart has always been in locals. It’s more intimate and a good local paper is a real public service, probing, informing, entertaining.

They are suffering badly these days as a result of social media and now coronavirus. But it’s amazing how many problems suffered by a lonely pensioner for months or years can suddenly be fixed when the local rag wants a quote from the source of the difficulty.

The job puts you in lots of fascinating places – criminal, political, celebrity – and you meet all sorts of people. All of this, every little detail, is fertile ground for fiction.

My books are based in Brighton but scenes are set in all sorts of places and many of my travel destinations have featured. These include Namibia in West Africa. I love a desert and the Namib is awesome.

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

If knowing what attracted readers was an exact formula everyone would do it. It’s the alchemist’s great secret.

My Danny Lancaster crime thrillers have a loyal following but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t welcome more.

Danny fans seem to like his character and outlook on life although he does manage to infuriate them at times. Readers also respond well to the characters around him such as artist Wanda Lovejoy and Detective Inspector Pauline Meyers.

The relationships and settings are recognisable and accessible and readers seem to enjoy being drawn in.

So far I’ve written seven Danny Lancaster books, including one of short stories. I’ve also written three short military history books based on family papers – my father’s diary in France 1944, a great uncle’s war in Palestine in 1917, and the story of a young woman on course to be the RAF’s first woman pilot who was killed in an air crash.

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

Most often I’ll be wandering along, mentally miles away, when an idea comes out of nowhere and hits me. It’s almost like a physical blow.

I develop the idea as far as I can, then push it away and try to ignore it. I never start writing until the compulsion is overwhelming. Then, if the idea seems sound, a first draft comes pouring out.

I used to spend long periods in my home office, the record is 17 hours. Now, pre-lockdown, I favour cafes or pubs using my mobile phone and a neat little foldable bluetooth keyboard.

After many years working shifts in noisy offices I’m able to screen out any surrounding noise.

What books do you enjoy reading yourself and how do these books influence your work?

I enjoy many varied crime writers. I started with the likes of Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins and, of course, Conan Doyle. It’s hard work following authors I enjoy while discovering new ones.

There’s a long list that features Simon Kernick, Peter James, Vaseem Khan, Stuart MacBride and Peter Robinson. Not forgetting the many talented indies such as Andy Barrett whose gritty crime books are based on his work as a real life CSI.

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

Shakespeare would be wonderful to work with. His dialogue is razor sharp and he wrote some cracking crime stories.

If I had the skill I’d step into the shoes of Philip Kerr. Sadly, he died in 2018 and I really miss his wonderful Bernie Gunther books.

Beyond that, I’m probably too much the solitary observer to collaborate effectively.

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

I’ve been working on a number of projects including a new Danny Lancaster plus a standalone crime thriller. I’ve made a bit of a mistake here because it’s like trying to ride two horses at once. Very soon I’ll have to pick one and gallop it to the finish line.

During my travel writing I kept a personal diary. After visiting 50+ destinations it runs to more than 500,000 words. A lot of that is what I had for breakfast and laundry arrangements but I’d like to edit it down to the interesting experiences and encounters. I also have a handwritten children’s story written and illustrated by my grandfather in the 1960s for my brother and I. It’s about two caveboys and I’d like to do something with that.

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

I like to keep my options open as widely as possible. I like to be surprised and am always prepared to shoot off at a tangent if something promising bobs up.

One thing I have to do is avoid JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike books. My main character, Danny Lancaster, is also a disabled ex-soldier. Danny appeared in print before Strike but I don’t want to risk any subliminal cross-contamination. That said, Danny’s fans have very firm views on Lancaster versus Strike.

Anything you’d like to add?

I would urge readers to discover some of the hugely talented indie authors out there. Many of their books are as good, or better, than the big bucks famous names, and often much cheaper, even free.

I’d also urge readers to review, review, review – even if it’s just a few words. Authors are really encouraged by reviews and a brief comment on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, is a real boost. Also, support on social media is vital oxygen for one-man-band indie writers with no in-house PR machine.

And finally… thank you, Hannah, for inviting me to feature on your blog and thanks to your readers for their time – Bill Todd.

Thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re interested in learning more about Bill and his books, then you can find out more here.

No Signal Review: A Dystopia To Rival The World Outside

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As the world struggles with its own dystopian reality, I thought now was as good a time as any to review a book set in an even more challenging and controlling world.

The second in the iMe series, and the follow up to the incredible Proximity, is another thriller sci-fi masterpiece.

Author Jem Tugwell delivers a searing indictment on technology, control and surveillance as he brings back DI Clive Lussac, a disenfranchised policeman with very little to do now that technology has rendered his job essentially void.

Following the events of Proximity, not much has changed in Tugwell’s compelling setting. Everything and everyone is still tracked through iMe, although many are now campaigning for less state control and more personal freedom.

On the other side of the debate is a tyrannical church, which Clive is compelled to attend by his girlfriend and his doctor, as they both believe it will help him to curb his cravings and make positive changes to his lifestyle and mood.

At the same time, a sinister game is being plotted and played in Europe, with contestants playing to win a coveted place in the Forbidden Island augmented reality universe.

The game takes place in the UK, and when contestants travel here they are forced to wear iTourist bracelets, which track their every move and interaction, much like the iMes that citizens wear.

When these game contestants take drastic measures to take themselves off-grid, Clive finally has some proper work to occupy himself with. It becomes apparent pretty quickly, both to Clive and the players, that this is no ordinary game. Something sinister is happening here, and it’s up to Clive and his limited team to find out what and stop it before it wreaks havoc.

As he did in his first novel, Tugwell has displayed exceptional knowledge of technology, and the ability to explain it brilliantly. There are no wordy explanations or info dumps here; just a gripping thriller that draws you in and doesn’t let go until its jaw-dropping final chapters.

The plot races along thanks to the author’s storytelling prowess, with very few stops to describe the events or technologies involved. Every character, plot twist and setting seamlessly weaves its way into the story, making the book very hard to put down.

The result is a thrilling adventure that takes readers around the world and into the depths of human desperation. Unlike the first in the series, No Signal doesn’t focus on a murderer; this time, it’s about a network and the extreme lengths it will go to achieve its ambitious goals.

So, if, like me, you’re completely aghast by the state of the world right now, then transport yourself to a slightly worse one with the help of this incredible writer.

 

 

Maj Sjöwall Obituary

maj

At the end of April, in a year that has sadly heralded a great many obituaries and broken up so many families, Maj Sjöwall, beloved crime fiction writer and translator, left us.

She died after a prolonged illness and is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

A renowned journalist and prolific translator, Sjöwall was perhaps best know as the co-creator of the Martin Beck series, which she wrote alongside her late third husband Per Wahlöö.

The novels were a unique project, a series of 10 which each took the reader a little further into the mind and work of its titular detective.

The novels went on to be an international success, and helped to pave the way for the dramatic popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction, also known as Nordic Noir, worldwide.

Thoroughly researched, the Martin Beck novels told the story of a damaged contemporary Swedish society and the depravity to which it had sunk. The authors made the novels into a unique blend of social commentary and gripping thriller, which would form the basis of the style of crime writing that we know and love today.

Their work influenced many of the greatest Scandinavian crime fiction authors of all time, including the incredible Henning Mankell.

With several children to care for, Sjöwall and Wahlöö always had limited finances, and often struggled to make ends meet. Like many of the best writers in the world, their poverty and struggles led them to create rich, fascinating works of fiction.

Today, the Martin Beck novels are renowned around the world, and have been turned into revered movies and TV shows, and have earned their creators many awards. Sjöwall, like many other creators, had cameos in the acclaimed Swedish TV series based on her books.

After the death of her collaborator and husband in 1975, Sjöwall went on to continue her work as a journalist and translator. She also published several books in collaboration with other acclaimed writers, showcasing her versatility and immense narrative skills.

In these dark times, it is a shame to lose yet another writer and valued member of society. The last Martin Beck novel was published 45 years ago, but to this very day the legacy of those incredible novels lives on. Unfortunately, neither of their creators do, but we should feel blessed that they lived fulfilling lives which gave us these phenomenal books and helped to push an entire genre of writing, Scandinavian crime fiction, onto the global literary stage.

Three Perfect Liars Review: A Unique Thriller That Keeps You On The Edge Of Your Seat

three perfect liars

Following my previous review of Heidi Perks’ Now You See Her, which I loved, I was excited to check out her latest novel, Three Perfect Liars.

This innovative book tells the tale of three very different women and the series of events that culminates in a fire and a murder.

It begins with Laura, who is returning to work following her maternity leave to her job in an advertising agency and expecting her temporary replacement to be leaving. However, when the young woman not only remains at the company, but also retains Laura’s biggest account, she becomes suspicious of her motivation.

Switching between the perspectives of Laura, her young colleague/ rival Mia and Janie, the wife of company owner, the novel shows an overview of all of their opinions and ideas, and how their lives become intrinsically linked over the course of the story.

The story is told through a range of mediums, including interviews with staff at the advertising agency after the fire and flashbacks to the events that occurred in the lead-up to the tragic event.

A uniquely structured novel, Three Perfect Liars gives little away, and the reader doesn’t actually find out who has been murdered until it’s almost over. Instead of telling us what’s going on, Perks drives the narrative forward by slipping in small details, leaving the reader constantly clamouring for more.

Perks uses a variety of narrative structures in this book, including interviews, time jumps and intense dialogue. With these different styles of creative writing, the author is able to bring into play a variety of ideas and complications, including the role of women in society, the treatment of working mothers, and many more. They’re all introduced in a unique way, so that the reader doesn’t feel preached at, but rather that they are seeing these issues in action.

It’s this approach, combined with the tension that seeps through every chapter, which makes it so hard to put this novel down. Despite its immense heft, I still managed to finish it in less than two days, which is no mean feat when you have a full-time job, part-time blog and still want to have as much as a life as you can when you’re stuck in your home.

So, if you’re looking for an enticing, gripping thriller to get you through the lockdown, then Three Perfect Liars is an ideal choice for you. Although as mentioned above, you should be warned that you’ll get through it very quickly because you won’t be able to put it down!

Ian Lomond Interview: “I chose to be in control of my own release and path as an author”

Death Investor - Front Cover

This week I get to introduce you to a new name in crime fiction: Ian Lomond, who is self-publishing his debut novel Death Investor.

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

My writing style is human centred and dialogue driven – you can hear the characters and see their movements through their dialogue and interactions with each other. In crime, there is always more behind the words than the meanings themselves. A “no comment” can mean so much, or “I don’t remember” is frustratingly ambiguous!

Crime fiction let’s me share my favourite locations, build special characters, and invite you to my favourite bars and restaurants, with action and investigations leading you through the front door. I think it’s a wonderful format to share a city, and it’s people. For me, crime fiction let’s me extend what I think is possible – could someone do that, can technology aid that crime, would greed lead someone that far?

What is your background and how did you get in to writing? How do you experiences when writing fiction?

My career is in managing people and technology, and I’ve done this in many industries, including a decade in the law and justice sector. These experiences, combined with a role that allows me to constantly learn about new organisations and meet new people, provides a platter of ideas and stories to draw from, extrapolate and exaggerate. Through this, I did a lot of dry business writing, reports, submissions and so forth. So, I use this experience, practice and discipline when writing fiction.

Please tell me about your book. How did you come to write it and who is it aimed at?

Death Investor is a crime mystery novel that follows two detectives in tracking down the killer of Peter Maher, a software developer murdered after sharing his new technology idea.

The detectives are Rebecca Reid and Mark Kidman. Rebecca is younger, and whilst recognised for her experience, lacks the confidence of the older Kidman. Together, they navigate the streets and clues that lead them to a successful property developer with a criminal past and political connections, and a rough, old time street criminal, who now owns a pub.

The pair uncovers the software the victim developed could track someone without their consent, using their phone’s Bluetooth and WIFI connections, and linking that to credit card purchases. In fact, several governments are rolling out very similar mobile apps right now to trace and track COVID19 cases. This story reflects on the power of digital surveillance software, and the lengths that people might go to keep their location and history to themselves.

Through other characters, I can share an insight into a few of Sydney iconic suburbs and locations – Kings Cross and its dark and dubious history, the Sydney Harbour, The Bay Run, Lane Cove and even the delicious delicacies at Newtown and Merryland’s.

It was important to have a female protagonist in this series from the outset. Detective Rebecca Reid grows in stature and confidence through the story, and there are plans for this to continue over the next two stories in the series.

You’re publishing your novel yourself: tell me about this process?

I chose to be in control of my own release and path as an author and have published independently. This does mean that your team is just as important, and finding editors, beta readers, cover designers and a support crew you gel with is critical to achieve publication, and retain some sanity in the process!

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

This is a great question! I really admire Ian Rankin and his Rebus series, so it would be tempting to say him. However, I would have to say Stephen King, for a few reasons.

One, his no nonsense approach to writing is as relevant now as it was when he release On Writing two decades ago. His no victims spared, no holds barred deliver on what it takes to be a better writer then you are now is fantastic and inspiring.

My style often shares the nuances of the surroundings – it’s those details that I recall often with an emotional connection, and I try to bring that across in my work. However, striking the balance between detail and action is a work in progress – something I think King could definitely influence me on.

Thirdly, he has the master touch of building characters, making them angelic, making them dark, making you love or hate them. I can’t help but think I would enjoy and learn so much in company.

Finally, he has a corgi nicknamed “The Thing of Evil”! I love dogs, and meeting The Thing of Evil would be surreal.

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

The sequel to Death Investor is in draft mode. The title is Pipeline of Death, and it centres on the murder of a CEO of a gas pipeline company. There are many interests at play in such a company – money, power, environmental. The possibilities on how I could shape this story to share Sydney CBD, and the wilderness of The Blue Mountains has me excited. Detective Rebecca Reid is dealing with a troubled teenager daughter, whilst trying to focus on the investigation, and Detective Kidman relies on his instincts, but perhaps too much.

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

Chris Hammers Silver is on my to be read list – it was released in 2019, and his second novel, after Scrublands. His sense of place and descriptions of locations are wonderful. I have also beta read a few fantastic stories, and I keeping an eye on their authors – I am hoping to see and support their releases this year!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I would like to share that as debut novelist, the step to hit publish, and share your work is exhilarating and scary and wonderful all at the same time, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect on that journey here in the interview.

Huge thanks to Ian for answering my questions; I love to work with up-and-coming authors. You can find out more about Ian and his work here.