Dead If You Don’t Review: A Realistic Police Procedural For Thrill Seekers

dead if you don't

Having previously reviewed- and loved- Peter James’ novel Need You Dead, I had high hopes for Dead If You Don’t, the latest in the world renowned DCI Roy Grace series.

Enjoying a football game with his recently discovered son in an attempt at father-son bonding, Grace is drawn into a horrific crime as the son of an established businessman and compulsive gambler is abducted. Racing against time, Grace and his team work to uncover both the kidnappers and their motives, exposing many of the father’s secrets in the process.

Exploring the issue of child abduction, James handles the crime sensitively, and the novel is both realistic and tense, dragging the reader along as Grace works tirelessly to uncover the truth and rescue the child before it’s too late.

As in the previous novels in the series, James’ expert research shines through, and the author’s strong understanding and knowledge of police procedure and the UK’s legal system ensures that readers get a realistic glimpse into the life of a top London detective.

One thing I don’t quite get is the names; James’ characterisation is excellent as ever, but I couldn’t stop laughing at key character named ‘Kip’, and, perhaps even better, ‘Mungo’, Kip’s son and the kidnap victim. Somehow these ridiculous names make it hard for me to take the narrative entirely seriously, particularly when Mungo is snatched.

Despite this minor drawback, I find the novel as engaging as any of James’ books. Both his standalone novels and his DCI Grace books have a sort of compelling charm and fast paced narrative that propels the reader through and has them hooked to the very end.

As I turned the final page I was utterly spellbound by James’ exquisite storytelling and exceptional characterisation. This is a great modern police procedural that keeps you hooked until the nail-biting finale.

 

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The Top Five Best Inspector Alleyn Novels For the True Golden Age Fan

death and the dancing footman

After my recent review of Money in the Morgue, the latest novel by Ngaio Marsh, which was finished by Stella Duffy, I decided that it was high time I did a top five list for my favourite Inspector Alleyn novels.

Cerebral, scholarly and dependable, Alleyn is a strong, proud policeman who is committed to solving often impossibly complicated crimes. Class, race and sexuality are all explored, with Marsh, a renowned New Zealand novelist, using her detective books to make numerous statements. I was an avid Marsh reader when at University, and over the years I have found many favourites, which I am really happy to share with you! Perfect for Golden Age fans looking for something new, or an avid Marsh fan looking to see what I think, there is something for everyone in my list of my favourite books featuring this stoic, intellectual detective.

5. Opening Night: Marsh is renowned for her novels focusing on the theatrical market, and Opening Night is a really good example of this. There’s a murder of a actor backstage on opening night at a London theatre, leaving Inspector Alleyn to look into the crime. Marsh understands the competitive, gossip-ridden world of theatre intimately, and as such her theatrical novels are works of genius that readers, whether they are fans or new arrivals to the bandwagon, will enjoy.

4. Vintage Murder: The leading lady of a travelling theatre troupe circumnavigating New Zealand is suspected of killing her husband at her own birthday party. With Inspector Alleyn in attendance, something goes horribly wrong during the celebrations and her pudgy, not particularly attractive husband and theatre manager is bludgeoned to death is particularly theatrical style. As Alleyn digs deeper into the victim’s marital and theatrical lives, he   finds a tangled web of secrets, lies and affairs of the heart that baffles and mystifies, keeping the reader guessing until the very end.

3. Death And The Dancing Footman: Partially set in my native and beloved Dorset, this fascinating novel portrays a malicious millionaire’s attempt to cause chaos by inviting a selection of ardent enemies to a house party for his own amusement. When the fun stops and a member of the party turns to murder, Alleyn is called in to find the culprit from among this seedy cast of characters and draw out the culprit and their motive. Another example of how class and business are used by Marsh to convey the very worst of human nature, this is a character study as much as it is a work of genius detective fiction, making it a great read for Golden Age fans looking for an exceptional example of work from this seminal period in the history of Crime Fiction.

2. Death In A White Tie: I’ve always enjoyed novels that explore the class divide, and this is an exceptional example. As the social season begins, the high-class members of London society are descending on the city’s most fashionable hotspots. Amid this excitement a blackmailer lurks, seeking to profit from the secrets and sins of the rich and famous. Alleyn, set on finding the fiend and bringing them to justice, invites an old friend, Lord Robert Gospell, to help him in his quest. When a body is discovered in connection with the case, Alleyn is drawn into a complicated and intriguing case that delves deep into the highest echelons of London society.

1. A Man Lay Dead: I am a big believer in reading the first novel in a series first, and whilst this isn’t always the case, in this case it is a really good idea. A murder at a country house party during, ironically enough, a game of ‘murder’, begins Inspector Alleyn’s first published case. A complicated plot including Russian’s, secret societies and class politics keeps the intrepid Chief Inspector busy as he navigates the complicated lives his suspects. A true Golden Age thriller, this is a great starter for a new Marsh reader, as well as a good re-read for a hardened fan.

Christine Gabriel Interview: “I love everything about dark fiction”

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This week I invited Christine Gabriel to talk me through her work and how she has come to define a unique writing style that appeals to her vast readership, including Iron Man. 

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

Great question! What most people don’t know about me is that I can successfully write in multi genres. Dark fiction is what I chose to put out as my debut novel. I love everything about dark fiction, and how you can entwine it with reality to the point that you can’t determine what’s real, and what’s fiction. It’s so much fun!

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?

I’ve been in the marketing field for almost 15 years. With my marketing knowledge, I was able to approach publishing houses with what I could do for them. They loved that I could help market my own book, along with their own efforts.

Then I signed with a publishing house – which shall remain nameless – and was terribly disappointed by their marketing/communication efforts, so I recovered my rights, and decided to move on.

One afternoon, I happened to be surfing Twitter, and saw PitMad was trending. Curious what Pitmad was, I decided to investigate. That’s when Pandamoon Publishing caught my eye. I sent them an email and have since been with them for over 5 years! What a happy ending, right?

Tell me all about the Crimson Chronicles series. What was your inspiration?

A good friend of mine, Stephanie Gerold, had asked me if I would write her a book about vampires. I gave her a firm no. Vampires were way overplayed at this point. Well, she kept asking, and I finally caved in. I agreed to write her a book – but without vampires (Shh, I did put ONE vampire in the book, just for her, and darn it, he ended up being everyone’s favourite character.)
crimson moon book cover

How do you draw on your own experience when writing?

I was bullied all through high school, so I spent quite a bit of time in my bedroom, writing amazing stories I could escape into. I use a lot of that experience in my writing. If I’m having a rough day, or if writer’s block hits, I think back to those dark moments in my life. I use those experiences in a positive way to help me write better and write more. It’s such a rush when you see the shock on your old classmate’s faces when they see you, and how you’ve changed. They’re even more shocked when they see what you’ve accomplished – especially when they told you would amount to nothing.

Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?

I’m currently working on a Women’s Fiction novel titled Real Men Don’t Cry. This book has made me go through an entire box of Kleenex already, and I haven’t even finished it yet. It’s going to be a good one.

What’s next for the Crimson Chronicles series? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

There are quite a few exciting things happening with the Crimson Chronicles Series. Though I can’t release any information yet, just know it’s super exciting, and fans will love it! One thing I can share with you is that Crimson Forest will be available as an audio book this fall!

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

There are a few new books I’m super excited to see released this year. Meg Bonney will be releasing her second book in the Everly series – Rosewood Burning. Her first book was phenomenal.

Another book I’m looking forward to is Nola Nash’s debut novel, Crescent City Moon. I’m a huge fan of New Orleans, and voodoo – so this book is right up my alley!

Anything you’d like to add?

I love connecting with my readers and fans. Interacting with them is what makes this worth it for me. If I can help someone escape their reality, even if just for a short period of time, that’s why I write. I do this for you guys!

Many thanks for answering my questions, it has been a pleasure having you on my blog.

 

Five Classic Crime Series That Need To Be Reimagined

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After my recent review of Stella Duffy’s Money in the Morgue, and in anticipation of Sophie Hannah’s next reimagining of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, I started thinking about all the other detective series that could do with a revamp. Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe have been done to death, but there are so many great series out there whose authors are gone, but could still be bought up to date by a modern fan with the panache to recreate the original writer’s passion and flare.

5. Father Brown: I’m not actually a mad fan of Chesterton’s original series of short stories about his ecclesiastical sleuth, but there is definitely scope for a revival. Some of the stories are pure genius, and I reckon with a bit of work an intrepid author could make a real good go of recreating the Father Brown series and giving it a new lease of life. The stories themselves were well-plotted, with excellent characterisation, and were only really let down by poor dialogue and bad pacing, and these issues could be addressed by a new writer as they created a new dastardly scheme for the cerebral Father Brown to uncover.

4. Tommy & Tuppence: Christie’s doesn’t really do justice to her intrepid sleuthing husband and wife duo in the four novels she penned which feature them, so it would be great to have a more modern take on them. After all, Poirot has been reinvented, but he, like Miss Marple, had a long run of excellent novels and stories created by Christie; she abandoned her Partners in Crime series after just four books, possibly due to its lack of popularity, and as such it would be great to see the pair bought back to life in a new novel.

3. Inspector Morse: I know I know, ITV have done Morse to death with their prequel and sequel TV shows, the lacklustre Lewis and the increasingly unrealistic and unlikely Endeavour. Despite this, I think there is real scope for a talented wordsmith to craft a new novel featuring our intrepid duo. Dexter’s short stories featuring Morse, as well as almost all of his novels, were unique portrayals of both academic and traditional life and the secrets that lurk within, and it would be awesome if someone could reinvent this with a new story for those of us who have re-read Dexter’s own works so many times we know them off by heart.

2. Inspector Maigret: Someone needs to write a new version of Simenon’s classic French detective and give him a new lease of life. A new case, or the portrayal of an old one, would give modern readers the chance to explore this often overlooked sleuth, who manages to be both cerebral and thuggish in equal measure. His Paris is a city of debauchery, deceit and desecration, and one in which only the toughest of cops stands a chance, and as such Simenon created a man of great strength and intellect who was able to rise to the challenge. A new Maigret novel is never a bad thing, and with a new generation introduced to the character thanks to Rowan Atkinson’s portrayal of the character, now is a great time for someone to take him on.

1. Inspector Kurt Wallander: As many of you may very well know, I am a huge fan of Henning Mankell’s dour Scandinavian sleuth, and following his death there is plenty of scope for a Nordic writer to reinvent. Although Mankell effectively ended the series with The Troubled Man, there is space for someone to revisit an old case, exploring some historical setting, event or time period and allowing Wallander the chance to intrigue, delight and surprise a new generation of readers.

Changing Christie: Heinous Or Harmless?

ordeal by innoncence 2

Following the recent furore around the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, I wondered why everyone was so upset. After all, when adapting TV shows and films Directors and Script Writers often change the plots to suit the audience.

However, many have been incredibly upset by the serious change in plotting that the writers have made. Instead of the perpetrator being the housemaid, at the instigation of the adopted son of the victim, her lover, who was falsely accused, she is in fact his mother, and neither were actually guilty. The murderer, in the show, turns out to be the victim’s husband, who is found out by his adopted children and maid, who capture him and hold him hostage in his late wife’s nuclear bunker whilst they get on with their lives.

This myriad of changes caused great consternation among die-hard Christie fans. The book had not been faithfully adapted, and as such the BBC has ruined it. These people do not seem to understand that what the BBC has, in fact done, is not created a Christie adaptation at all. It may have the same name as one of the Queen of Crime’s novels, but it does not have any of the classic traits or characterisation of her works.

After all, the book uses Arthur Calgary as a form of principal detective, rather than the blubbering mental patient that the show transforms him into. In the book the character, accompanied by others, doggedly explores the blasé secrets, petty scandals and sad affairs of the principal cast of suspects, all of whom are neatly contained within the family home, being either family themselves or servants. Like many of her novels, Christie crafted a unique ending for Ordeal By Innocence by having the innocent be a master manipulator who actually played a key role in the murder. Having his accomplice as the housemaid allows Christie to criticise both the class system and the treatment of women at the time.

Whilst the BBC adaptation might make minor observations about class and gender, as well as making a clear racial statement by casting a black actress in the role of one of the victim’s adopted children, none of these allusions are particularly impactful, and are muddied by the adaptation’s lack of sincerity and sheer lavishness- the costumes are better thought out than the plot throughout, and the dialogue has been woefully neglected in favour of stunning panoramic views of lakes and vast tree lined forests.

I can completely understand why Sarah Phelps chose to change the adaptation so drastically from the original: not only does this allow her to put her own stamp on the work, but it also makes for better TV. After all, the novel relies on the reader being completely transfixed by the notion that Jacko is innocent and the author’s copious red herrings to steer them towards a nail-biting conclusion, whereas, spread over three episodes, the TV series would struggle to build and maintain such tension. As such, Phelps not only intensifies the characters, making many much more bitter or shrill than they are in the novel, but also completely changes the plot in order to make it memorable. After all, the fact that I am writing this post about it proves that this divisive move has worked. All publicity is good publicity- right?

Overall, it is my firm belief that the BBC has effectively not made a Christie adaptation at all, and whilst I am not sure I would go so far as to say that this Easter’s Ordeal By Innocence is an outrage, it is certainly not fit to bear the Queen of Crime’s name.

Money in the Morgue Review: A Creative Continuation Of Marsh’s Classic Series

Money in the Morgue

Exciting news for Golden Age fans as Ngaio Marsh’s unfinished Inspector Alleyn novel has been completed and published by Stella Duffy. Marsh was one of the founders of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, and I enjoyed a lot of her novels, so I was intrigued to see how Duffy had interpreted her work.

The novel opens with a list of characters and a map of the principal setting, followed closely by the line ‘So closely did these events follow the arbitrary design of a play that the temptation to represent Mr Glossop as an overture cannot be withstood’ in the opening chapter. Despite the indications, do not be fooled into thinking this is anything like a play- the novel is far too evocative and emotionally charged to be a play script.

Instead, this is an emotional rollercoaster depicting the horrors of the Second World War from a rural New Zealand hospital. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is holed up at the remote Mount Seager Hospital, where the reader finds him pretending to be ill as part of a covert mission. Listening in on the small worries and petty grievances of the staff and patients, Alleyn is on the trail of the sender of mysterious coded messages, which are believed to be the trigger that brings a Japanese submarine into New Zealand’s territory.

His work is interrupted by the arrival of the aforementioned Mr Glossop, a payroll clerk on his rounds whose car mysteriously breaks down. Stranded at the hospital with the payroll, he is forced to take refuge at Mount Seager, leaving the money in the care of the formidable matron. When the money disappears from the safe where she placed it on the night a storm hits and an ill patient dies, Alleyn is called upon to investigate the sinister goings on. The death count quickly rises, leaving Alleyn with more than just espionage to worry about.

Bundled together in an isolated hospital, cut off from the outside world, Mount Seager’s inhabitants, include a group of quarantined soldiers, the hospital’s long-suffering staff, and a number of civilian patients. The group’s personal problems, compounded by the knowledge that there is a criminal in their midst, creates tension and causes havoc with the intrepid Inspector’s investigation.

Much like Jill Paton Walsh’s continuation of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels, in Money in the Morgue it is hard to tell where Marsh’s writing ends and Duffy’s begins, which is the sign of a truly great collaboration. Tension is established from the very first paragraph, and the exceptional characterization, coupled with the ever-present shadow of the war that trails through the novel like a specter at the feast, create a truly thrilling novel that is almost impossible to put down.

Personally I believe that Marsh would be proud of what Duffy has created in Money in the Morgue. An undeniable Golden Age crime story, this is one of those novels you will finish and immediately want to restart. There are so many nuances and literary flourishes, as well as nods back to Marsh’s earlier work, that will make you want to keep reading so as not to miss anything.

Clive Allan Interview: “I have also been drawn to stories with a regional or local theme”

Clive Allan

Former Policeman Clive Allan talks me through his work and how he draws on his experience in the force to enhance his atmospheric novels.

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

To answer your first question, I suppose I would really need to go back to my childhood, and the books I read when I was very young. The very British Enid Blyton mysteries, featuring the Famous Five and others, initially come to mind. Then, when I was a little older, the American Hardy Boys series was a favourite of mine. The simple, colloquial writing style employed by the authors of these childhood books made them eminently readable, allowing me to concentrate fully on the plot and characters. Henceforth, my love of mysteries and thrillers was born. In later years I studied English literature at college, and was introduced to Shakespeare, Jane Austen and the like. As impressive as the classics are, I regularly found that interpreting these often complex works and the coded language of their creators, a mystery in their own right!

As an adult, and having chosen a career in the police service, I not surprisingly immersed myself in the works of a wide range of crime fiction and thriller authors, some the megastars of their genre, and some not so well known. Those who impressed me the most, created characters that were gritty and believable, often through clever use of dialogue and imaginative disclosure of their personal lives and life experiences.

I have also been drawn to stories with a regional or local theme, especially those relating to areas I know well. The Brighton based Roy Grace books by Peter James are a notable example. When I started writing, I wanted to take this concept a step further, transporting the reader to a place when they turned the first page, that by the time they had read the last, they never wanted to leave. It was a challenge that I found irresistible and still do.

So, when I retired, after thirty years of policing, I started work on my first novel, The Drumbeater. It was a project that I had long wanted to embark upon and now at last had the time to commit to. It was to be a work that embraced all the elements I have described above, and with a sizeable chunk of historical context, the other great interest that has remained with me since my youth.

How do you draw on your past as a policeman in your writing?

I was lucky enough to experience a wide range of policing activities during my long career with Sussex Police. I worked as a uniformed patrol officer, a detective and a firearms officer, to name but a few. Then, as I worked my way up through the ranks, I experienced these activities from different perspectives, for example, managing significant incidents including those involving firearms, rather than being part of the front-line response. All in all, I developed an oversight of the world of policing that few authors who have not been in my position can ever aspire to. So, when it came to creating the characters of police officers in my books, I’d like to think I fully utilised my experience to ensure they were plausible, engaging and hopefully interesting. The cops featured in my books are creations that relate to one or more real people, incorporating character traits I have come across over many years: straight talking, courageous, cynical and often possessing a wickedly dry sense of humour. Most importantly they need to be human, flaws and all, but not dysfunctional. There are too many of them in the world of crime fiction already!

When it comes to describing police operations, I have tried to depict these and the processes behind them in as realistic a way possible. Having said this, a certain degree of licence is needed to progress the story apace and keep the reader hooked.

Taking all this into account, making my protagonist, Detective Inspector Neil Strachan, a Scottish policeman, presented its own challenges. The policing and legal systems in Scotland differ somewhat to those in England. As such, they have their own distinctive procedural elements and links to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. So, my work was cut out from the start, requiring some considerable research! Thankfully, those Scottish police officers, serving and retired who have read the books, have provided me with very favourable feedback, so much relief all round!

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

My first Novel, The Drumbeater, centres on the sleepy Scottish fishing village of Glendaig. Very little has ever happened there, until one day in 2009, two hillwalkers discover skeletal remains buried on a remote beach. The evidence points to murder, to a crime dating back seventy years to World War Two. From here on in, the story diverges. The narrative follows Detective Inspector Strachan, graduate historian, and now career cop, as he slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the buried bones. Alongside this, the reader is introduced to the residents of Glendaig seventy years earlier, and a tale of subterfuge, escape and astounding loyalty. The two strands of the story finally coalesce, to provide what I hope is a memorable climax.

The Well of the Dead was released last year as a sequel to The Drumbeater. Set in April 2010, the novels centre around the brutal murders of distillery owner, Duncan Fraser, and his wife Laura, which shock the small rural community of Glenruthven in Strathnairn, to the east of Loch Ness. Neil Strachan once more finds himself delving into the past. This time, he and his new partner, Sergeant Holly Anderson, go head to head with a ruthless and violent criminal, apparently obsessed with his Jacobite ancestry.

Again, the story furcates between 1746 and 2010, as Strachan investigates an ancient clan feud and a mystery dating back to the Battle of Culloden. As if this isn’t enough, he also finds himself forced to confront personal problems of his own. His long-term partner, Catriona Duncan, is acting strangely, causing him to suspect that she is having an affair. The young detective’s determination to bring the Frasers’ killer to justice, and to uncover the truth behind his erring partner’s behaviour, test him both personally and professionally. He finally reaches the point where his judgement becomes blurred and his reputation is on the line. I’ll leave it there!

As I have alluded to before, I think the books appeal not only to fans of crime fiction, but to the thriller genre in general. Readers with an interest in Scotland and its turbulent but romantic history, or in the case of The Drumbeater, more recent military history relating to World War Two, will hopefully enjoy these books. But I’ll leave the final word to two of my reviewers who I suppose sum it up from a reader’s perspective.

“There’s so much here for devotees of police procedurals right through to lovers of beautiful Scottish landscapes and, with a sea mist drifting from many of its pages, this book (The Drumbeater) will also find an enthusiastic welcome from those interested in naval history.”   Marcus Case

“Reminded me of holidays spent in the Highlands and made me feel like packing a bag to return there straight away, or at least once I’d read the book right through to the end.”   Caryl Williams

Tell me more about Inspector Neil Strachan. What do you believe attracts readers to your character?

When I set about creating the character of Neil Strachan, I asked myself what sort of cop I wanted him to be. Not surprisingly, plausibility was very much on my mind. One thing was for sure. I didn’t want him to be one of those dysfunctional characters that often feature in detective stories. You know the stereotype, heavy drinker, probably alcoholic, living alone in some seedy flat due to a failed marriage. I could go on. That is not my experience of a modern detective, whatever their rank, in today’s police service. Yes, real cops have their problems and reflect society as a whole, but seldom to the extent portrayed in popular fiction. In fact, I defy anyone to go into a bookshop and find me more than a handful of examples of a police related protagonist who leads a near normal life!

Thankfully there are colourful characters still to be found in CID offices, but senior detectives must also be highly professional these days. They need to be part psychologist, part scientist and part lawyer. Oh, and an old-fashioned copper too, when required! They also need to manage large teams of people, deal effectively with the media and a host of other agencies. That’s a little difficult when your life is all but falling apart! So, Neil Strachan was going to be different, an academic, young in service, and career driven, a modern police manager who relates well to his staff but is certainly no pushover. He is also a red-blooded male, passionate in his beliefs, but not without flaws, and harbouring a touch of youthful immaturity at times.

I suppose he is the amalgam of several ex colleagues, including me, when I was a young detective, struggling to make a name for myself. Overall, I’m pleased with the finished product; Strachan is a nice guy from a generally stable background, masculine in every way, but by no means perfect. It seems to have worked, particularly for one lady reviewer who admitted that she’d developed a crush on him by the time she had finished reading The Drumbeater!

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

The Highlands of Scotland is a magical place, where history and folklore percolate every inch of its desolate and moody landscape. So, who couldn’t be inspired by this gem of a location? The theme of the Neil Strachan mysteries has been to inject aspects of Scotland’s turbulent past into a modern-day crime thriller. So, as far as historical inspiration is concerned, the options are almost endless. Having owned a home in the Highlands for eleven years, I have travelled extensively around the region, and have read widely about its history. There are of course, aspects of this subject that interest me more than others, for example, military history. I was partly inspired to write The Drumbeater, having read about a high security prisoner of war camp in remotest Sutherland, a camp that held the most notorious of all captured German servicemen, including U-boat crews. Historically, no one ever managed to escape whilst incarcerated in Scotland… but what if someone had been successful? I had also read about Operation Drumbeat, a not so well known element of the U-boat war in the Atlantic during 1941-2. So, I asked myself, how could this secret German initiative be woven into the story? The Drumbeater is the result.

Moving on to my second book, the iconic Culloden Battlefield was a short drive from our Highland home, a place my wife and I visited on many occasions. My fascination with the story of the battle and the Jacobite rebellion that led up to it, was quickly piqued. Once again, I read widely about this short conflict and its final, brief, clash of arms. From those stories, some almost lost in the fog of time, The Well of the Dead was born. The well, incidentally, is an actual location in the heart of the battlefield, and the events that took place there in 1746 play a pivotal role in the book’s plot.

Touching briefly on the issue of writer’s block, I have to say I have never personally recognised this as a problem. I do occasionally gaze out across the fields from my study window, seeking the best choice of words to reflect what I want to convey to my readers, but I never struggle with the development of my plot and characters. This is perhaps because I fastidiously pre-plan the progression of the story in skeletal form, chapter by chapter. So, by the time I come to engage in the fun bit… the creative writing… all the historical, technical and plot related elements are already in place. I also raise a detailed background profile of all my major characters, so detailed in fact, I get to know them intimately. Though, much of what I create in these in-depth profiles never finds its way into the finished book!

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

This is a difficult one. There are of course many authors I would aspire to emulate and learn from, but perhaps, if I were pushed, I would seek to collaborate with Scottish author, Peter May. Having read many of his books, particularly those relating to the Isle of Lewis, I believe we would probably see eye to eye when it came to devising a plot! He too, writes thrillers that seek to immerse the reader in the very landscape in which his story is based. He evocatively brings the hebridean scenery to life, with considerable attention to small details and creates characters that are believable and beautifully portrayed. Like my books, specific themes, run through his storylines, some relating to the present day, such as the crisis relating to the global bee population in Coffin Road, and some to the past. An example of the latter would be the mass emigration of Scots following the Highland clearances in Entry Island.

I also enjoy May’s writing style and would refer to my comments in your first question to qualify this view. Here is an author who allows the reader to concentrate on the story and enjoy his descriptive narrative, without the constant need to reach for a dictionary!

I wish I had read his books before embarking upon mine. There is a lot they could’ve taught me, and if I had the chance to work with him, he still could.

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

A year has now passed since the publication of The Well of the Dead, during which time I’ve been busy extending and renovating our Georgian cottage. However, I’m now getting the urge to put Neil Strachan through his paces once again and have been laying the foundations of a new mystery that may well feature the remote and mystical island of St Kilda. Watch this space!

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

He may not be a crime writer, but I have recently developed a liking for books by author Leslie Thomas who wonderfully evokes the trials of everyday life in wartime Britain. I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying The Dearest and the Best, a novel based in the New Forest, an area close to our home He’s by no means a new writer when it comes to reputation, but his books are certainly a new addition to my kindle!

When it comes to crime fiction and thrillers, Mark Billingham’s two new DI Thorne novels, Love Like Blood and The Killing Habit are certainly on my “to read” list, as is Panic Room by Robert Goddard, another of my favourite authors.

Of course, it goes without saying, I will be looking forward to Peter May’s next offering, when it comes. I’ve just read his latest book, I’ll Keep You Safe and can honestly say this has been his best Hebridean thriller so far (in my view).

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much, Hannah, for inviting me to talk to you about my writing experience to date and my books. It has been my pleasure to contribute to your brilliant site, and to join the host of very talented authors who have been previously featured.

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been awesome. You can read more about his work HERE.