The Top Five Canadian Authors to Celebrate on Canada Day

Margaret Atwood

Happy Canada Day!! To celebrate, I decided to compile a list of my five favourite Canadian authors from across the genres that showcase the best that this unique country has to offer. So check it out and see if you can find something new to read on this exciting national holiday, and maybe keep going with for a bit longer if you’re so inclined. Happy Reading!

5. Yann Martel: Celebrated author of The Life of Pi, Martel offers readers a truly unique perspective on the absurdity of life. Another of his books that is well worth a read is Beatrice and Virgil, an allegory for the holocaust told through a novelist’s exploration of taxidermied animals.

4. Joy Kogawa: Japanese-Canadian Poet and Novelist Joy Kogawa writes some truly phenomenal poems which are really delve deep into human trauma and the most harrowing of human experiences possible. I have personally never read her novels, however I am told that her work is inspirational, and as such she is absolutely worth looking into.

canada writers3. Peter Robinson: Odd to think that the author of the Yorkshire based DCI Banks as Canadian, but Robinson was born in Leeds and moved to Toronto, presumably because it’s better than Leeds (although, let’s be fair here, there are lots of places better than Leeds). His novels are gripping and will keep you entertained for ages, because there are a lot of them, so what’s not to like?!

2. Louise Penny: Canadian thriller writer Penny creates harrowing and tantalising novels, which will stay with you forever. Set in Quebec, her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been translated into a number of different languages and has become a true bastion of Canadian fiction, and as such any thriller reader should defiantly check her out, especially as it is Canada Day today!

1. Margret Atwood: Renowned for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently been turned into a brilliant TV series, Atwood has also written a range of novels across a variety of genres, and her work really resonates, particularly in today’s perilous world. Her intuitive explorations of human nature are incredibly empathetic and as such everyone will find a character in Atwood’s work that they can relate to.

Advertisements

Simon Bower Interview: “As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller”

SIMON BOWER

For anyone looking for a good book to read while they laze on the beach and enjoy the heat wave, Dead in the Water is a great thriller to keep you entertained. I interviewed Author Simon Bower to learn more about the novel and how he drew on his own experiences of international travel to write it.

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

As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller. While I can appreciate some literary fiction, my personality dictates that I prefer fast-paced heart thumping suspense and mystery to beautifully crafted clauses! When I wrote Dead in the Water, I spent considerable time defining the writing style. Specifically, my first decision was to couch each chapter in the viewpoint of one of the characters. This provides a limited viewpoint that also allows a scenario to be explored from two different points of view, and at times with humour (an early example of this in the book is when Charlie and Ana see their relationship from very different points of view). I also decided to write Charlie’s chapters in the first person – it really immerses the reader in his psychological character. Finally, the vantage point of parts 1 and 2 of the Dead in the Water, is at the end of part 2, so part 3 transcends naturally into a present tense suspense. This real-time style can be liberating for the writer and the reader, since anything at all can happen. So I was attracted towards the writing style that I love and I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

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

I have always enjoyed writing and wrote a number of pieces for personal exploration during the past twenty years that I have spent living away from the UK. Undoubtedly, these projects guided the maturity of my work and allowed me to structure Dead in the Water from the outset. In terms of profession, I have lent myself to a whole array of jobs and industries in quite a few different continents – some of my most influential jobs have been when working in the communications field. Despite my keen interest I writing, time has always been in short supply. So the catalyst to put into words my plot for this book was the opportunity that presented itself a few years ago to concentrate on writing full time.

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

In order to have characters with sufficient depth, emotions, speech style and motive, I base my characters on exaggerations of real people that I know. I might not know them well, but it helps to ensure consistency of thought and the liveliness of reality. The crime elements come from a release of constraints, thinking like a kid who has not yet understood the moral lines and laws accepted in our society. What could you get away with if moral boundaries were removed and you didn’t care about the risk of a life in prison?

Dead in the Water is one of a new wave of hybrid genres. It’s a thriller, but before that it’s realistic and a mystery too. Three books in one. The one constant throughout my work is a very strong sense of place. I draw inspiration from locations I know intimately, taking the reader to parts of France, to Amsterdam, New York, London and Oxford, to name a few. When I wrote the manuscript, it was not one contiguous drafting journey – I dipped and delved into different parts of the book, and this meant if I ever met a wall, a way around it soon appeared by working on another point in the story, then going back to it.

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

Writing the first draft for Dead in the Water was a solitary endeavour. However, developing it with my editor, Kate Taylor, was a productive collaboration. Suddenly I could share the responsibility and she was terrific at editing out superfluous details. However, I have not really considered collaborating to write a book, like Clive Cussler and James Patterson tend to do. Although I love the idea of working with Iain Banks, who has sadly left us, it would probably be most fruitful to work with someone who could bring a truly different perspective to the table – a CIA agent, or a convicted killer.

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

I’ve begun planning a sequel to Dead in the Water. It certainly won’t be simply an extension of the first, but so many people are craving to know what happens next. I won’t say too much, to avoid spoilers, but it would also be set globally, have some of the same characters and occur after the end of the first book.

Other than that, I have a keen interest to work on a book that is more speculative in nature. I enjoyed Matt Haig’s The Humans in part owing to its completely normal setting, but with an utterly abstract twist.

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

I’ve mentioned a few writers, but the one that keeps getting away is Terry Hayes. I enjoyed his debut novel I am Pilgrim, despite some reservations of stereotyping, and very much look forward to his belated next release The Year of the Locust. I also like to check out new writers and I have a few of those to try out. One example is Strangers on a Bridge, by Louise Mangos – the plot sounds intriguing.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

My book has been released by a UK indie publisher, Middle Farm Press, and the odds are stacked against ‘David’ when ‘Goliath’ and all the collaborators hold all the cards. Dead in the Water is stocked in some bookshops but for now, our distribution is limited mainly to the biggest online consumer direct suppliers. We are working on improving this, but need to demonstrate demand, so we are most appreciative for the support we get for either the eBook or paperback. Finally a hearty thanks to Hannah for conducting this interview and I hope you enjoy Dead in the Water!

Thanks for answering my questions Simon, it has been awesome to hear your thoughts.

 

 

A.B. Patterson Interview: “I spent most of my police career as a detective”

568 hi-res

This week I caught up with former Detective A.B. Patterson to learn more about his writing and how he draws on his time in the police to help him create memorable crime fiction.

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

I didn’t set out to write crime fiction when I first started messing around with words. However, that old advice of “write what you know”, combined with (starting about ten years ago) reading a lot more crime fiction, prevailed pretty quickly. I do want to write other stuff as well- more on that later!

Style-wise, I am firmly in the hard-boiled and noir camps with my crime fiction. I enjoy reading that style immensely, and so it came naturally to try writing in it. And the more I do, the more comfortable I am with it. One of my big likes about this style of crime fiction is its accent on characters and social commentary. To me, those two aspects are more important than plot. So my writing is gritty and realistic – not for the faint-hearted!

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

I spent most of my police career as a detective, and most of that working in child abuse and paedophilia. Then vice squad for my last 18 months before I resigned. I’ve also worked in investigating government corruption since I was a cop. So, it’s the wealth of experience in terms of cases I’ve worked on and the types of people I’ve met, both in crime and corruption work, that have given me a treasure trove of material on which to base my fiction. I’ll run out of time in my life before I run out of story ideas. I’m very fortunate in that regard. Connected to this is my deep-seated loathing of power abuse, whether it be victimization by criminals, corruption by government people, or workplace bullying. My background, both personal and professional, has me wanting to look after the underdog, so this comes through in my writing, as it is a driving force in me.

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

Sure I want to spin (hopefully) good yarns which entertain people, but one of my big motivating factors in wanting to write is to tell people what actually goes on out in society, both in terms of crime and corruption. The majority of the storylines I’ve used so far are based on truth, to varying degrees. So the sorts of criminal acts and corrupt behaviours you read in my work do actually occur out there.

I also get a kick out of being able to have my main protagonist achieve a certain justice, when in reality this often is not the outcome, sadly. And I like to have a PI as my main character, rather than a cop, as that allows less adherence to the rules. He can be more flawed, which is so much fun.

I’m not at the “popular” stage yet, too early in my writing career. But I do intend to write for the rest of my life, so I’m in it for the long term. If I become popular, then great. What I really want is just to be able to earn a living out of writing, and not have to do more mundane work. When I get to that point, I’ll be a very happy man.

Of course, being a self-published author means that there’s a long road to build one’s profile and grow a readership. So, all the more reason to work hard at it.

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

Well, as earlier discussed, my professional background and the cases I’ve worked on are a huge inspiration. So is the desire to tell people what goes on in society, even though it is dressed up as fiction. I also come up with random ideas when I see things. I always carry a notebook so those flashes of inspiration can be jotted down and not lost to the daily noise of life.

For example, I saw a TV documentary a few weeks ago about trafficked African girls working as prostitutes in Italy. That gave me a germ of an idea for a short story, which is now complete and has been submitted to a magazine in the US. You just never know when ideas will come up. If I sit down and try to come up with ideas and write, then sometime that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Earlier on, I used to get frustrated with writer’s block (we all get it along the way). Now, I find it easier in two ways. The first is that as I have become more disciplined at writing most days, even if it’s only for 20 to 30 minutes, I am finding that words flow much more easily. It’s almost as if productivity breeds itself. The second point is that I don’t let myself sit there and get frustrated any more – I simply put the pen down and go and do other related tasks, like research or editing some previous writing. The pernicious trap of writer’s block is that it also feeds on itself.

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

What a great question. And so hard to choose an answer. Well, for my style of crime writing, there’d be a few deceased authors – Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, James Crumley all jump out. But I’m going to go with a living author – Ken Bruen from Ireland. An American reviewer likened my style to Bruen’s, and I love his books. Why? Because he writes it gritty and noir with flawed people everywhere – exactly the world I write in. I could pick several others, but I’d be here a while.

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

Absolutely. The manuscript for my second novel, Harry’s Quest, is in final editing stages now and I expect to publish it in July/August this year. It’s the sequel to Harry’s World.

I’m also working on a number of short stories, and I’ve decided to put together a set of them into a book, either later this year or early next. I have written a number of Harry short stories, but in the first person rather than the third, so this has been a fascinating adventure, writing my main man as “I” instead.

Another project I started a while ago, but need to get back to, is a novella called The Scent of the Wattle. It’s a dark tale about child abuse and paedophilia, fiction still, but very much drawing on the work I did in that area. Again, there are things I want to say and put out there.

And I alluded to writing other genres before. One of my favourite reading genres, aside from crime, is dystopian fiction. So I definitely want to try my hand at that. And, of course, the more I sit and think about it, the more project ideas that will emerge. I love that about being a writer.

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

I’m a hopeless addict when it comes to buying books, so my TBR piles are huge, despite the fact that I read on average a book a week – my target for this year is 60, and I’m on track. I’ve been getting into crime and pulp anthology magazines since last year, hence my foray into short story writing, of which I’ve had two published now in Switchblade magazine, an excellent hard-boiled and noir anthology. Aside from the short story being a wonderful format, and I think even more appealing in the current age with people being so time-poor, these anthologies are a great way to find new authors. And then you can go looking for their books if you like their style. So I have “discovered” many indie crime writers and am starting to read their books. Some favourites so far are: Preston Lang, Alec Cizak, Scotch Rutherford, Todd Robinson, J.D.Graves, and Travis Richardson.

There is so much good writing out there, especially in the indie and self-publishing worlds. I think a lot of the best writing out there is overlooked by the mainstream publishing industry, which, after all, is purely commercial in its interests.

If I could give some advice to my younger self, a key point would be “Read more!” Oh, and another one would be “Write!” I wish I’d started that earlier. Still, I’m trying to make up for it now.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for showing an interest in speaking with me. Aside from having to do “other work” to pay the rent and bills, I do feel very fortunate to have found exactly what I want to spend the rest of my days on this planet doing. I just want to write more and more.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions; it’s been a pleasure hearing from you. You can find out more about him and his writing HERE

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.

 

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”

C-NtsEvXsAA8K3Q

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

poirot-sophie-hannah

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.