Trace and Eliminate Review: Inspector Stark Is Back And Better Than Ever

trace and eliminate

After having interviewed author Keith Wright I was excited to check out the second in his Inspector Stark series. I had to wait a little while but eventually I received a copy and was keen to check it out.

Set in the 1980s, this latest in the Inspector Stark series sees the dogged detective battle against both his own demons and the seemingly motiveless murder of a solicitor.

A hard-working family man seemingly with everything going for him, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for anyone to kill him. As Stark and his team race to find the killer a second, equally motiveless murder occurs, and the team has to work even hard to prove themselves to be ahead of this evil killer.

This is only the second in the Inspector Stark series, yet somehow he feels like a long established character with his own quirks. Yet, despite this, he doesn’t feel like a tired caricature; Stark is as individual as it gets, and his team all work together well, interacting in a natural way that makes this book exciting, thrilling yet at the same time completely believable.

The characterisation is the real selling point for this novel, with the core detectives, their suspects and witnesses all perfectly crafted so as to be both suspicious and at the same time believable. Many obvious but often-overlooked traits, such as pride, envy and intuition are all shown here in all their glory, making readers sympathetic to the character’s and their situations.

One thing I would say, and it’s literally my sole criticism, is that at times the language is a little clunky. There’s a lot of hedging that goes on, with phrases like ‘a bit’ used with alarming regularity at times. At others, the novel is exceptionally witty and intense, with the author taking control of the narrative and driving it towards intense conclusions that leave readers guessing with every new clue discovered and every new lead followed.

In all, this is a great historical novel, and as such if you’re a fan of old school detectives then Trace and Eliminate is the book for you.

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Bodies From The Library 2 Review: Another Incredible Anthology Celebrating Golden Age Crime Fiction At Its Finest

bodies from the library 2

Initially, I found out about Bodies From The Library when someone recommended it as something I would enjoy.

They were completely right, and the first edition of this unique anthology of forgotten stories from some of the greatest golden age crime fiction writers was a real hit. I later looked into it and discovered that the anthology is linked to an event of the same name, which explores golden age writing and the influence it had on the crime fiction genre as a whole.

When I found out there was going to be a second edition I was excited to get my hands on it and see what new forgotten tales (some of which are actually previously unpublished) of this often underrated sub-genre editor Tony Medawar had in store.

This second collection is as ingenious, unique and perfectly curated as the first. Medawar has selected some real gems from previously overlooked authors, as well as old favourites such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as writers whose work has been forgotten over the years such as Q Patrick and Jonathan Latimer.

There is a truly diverse selection of tales here, from play and radio scripts through to dialogue driven short stories, descriptive narratives through to longer, almost novella-esq works. The stories are all written in English but are set around the world, and there are a variety of different writers here so that the reader can really delve into the depths of crime fiction, rather than settling on the more common authors and the predictable detectives.

Each story is accompanied by a short description of the author and their other work, offering readers a chance to find out more about the writer, their lives and the role they played in the crime fiction market during their day. Many of the authors were members (in some cases influential ones) of the Detection Club, the renowned dining club for crime fiction authors, and through his descriptions of their lives and works Medawar weaves a unique timeline of the club and its rich history of inspiring some of the greatest works of crime fiction that the world has ever seen.

If you need any further reason to check out Bodies From The Library 2, you need look no further than the Q Patrick thriller Exit Before Midnight. This ingenious tale is incredible and the perfect choice for the anthology, and its worth picking up a copy just to read this one story, although you’d be mad not to keep going afterwards.

At the end of the day, such a perfectly collected anthology is a testament to the hard work and dedication Medawar and his associates put in to showcasing the golden age of crime fiction. For those interested in the genre, this is a must-read.

Marcel Berlins Obituary

marcel berlins

On 31st July 2019 the world lost a truly inspirational crime fiction reviewer. Proud Frenchman, former lawyer and discerning traveller, this man was a true maverick who had often-derisive opinions that were nonetheless well researched, well argued and often ahead of their time.

For example, he was not a fan of national service and refused to participate, which at the time was considered unpatriotic but is now considered, by many, to be a sensible course of action.

Having fled Nazi-occupied France as a child, Berlins travelled the world, and he claimed to have learned perfect English by reading Agatha Christie novels. Later, he drew on this knowledge to become a popular figure in the literary world, regularly writing reviews for revered publications such as the Guardian and the Times. He also hosted a popular Radio 4 programme on the law and was a visiting professor in journalism for the City, University of London.

He was also an expert pianist, and he combined all of these unique and disparate skills to offer his opinion on crime fiction in a way that hadn’t seen before and will never be seen again. He could get straight to the issue of any book with ease and fully understood the problems or perfection that the author had created.

Through his understanding of the law and his ability to make it easily accessible to ordinary readers with no prior understanding he was able to take apart even complicated books, plots, narratives or storylines and unpick the intricacies with ease. He understood what readers were looking for from crime fiction and offered an honest opinion on whether they were getting it or not. Witty, dry and often downright hilarious, his reviews were a great source of joy for many and, in some cases, were better than reading the book itself.

As a crime fiction blogger and reviewer myself I have always respected Berlins and I understand that his loss is a great blow to the reviewing community, and the entire crime fiction market. When he died of a brain haemorrhage at the end of July, in losing Marcel Berlins the world lost a true genius.

Crime Fiction Treats For Summer

reading in summer

In the heat (if you’re lucky enough to actually get some) it can be fun to read escapist fiction and whisk yourself away to some distant land.

Many of my friends are taking away cheap, trashy romance novels, or books about travel when they go away on holiday.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit different but still as enjoyable, you could spook yourself and take a thrilling trip into the dark underworld with some great crime fiction.

In the summer, when we’re lucky and get some nice weather, which isn’t mad often because I live in the UK, I’m a big fan of grabbing the latest thriller and settling down for a read. After all, thrillers and detective novels are as escapist and, in many cases, as easy to read as most trashy romance novels, but many also incorporate really good writing techniques in as well.

Therefore, you can easily get through a good thriller and still be reading something well crafted and creative, rather than one of those awful cheap romances everyone seems to take to the beach.

August and the summer months are also a great time in the world of book buying, with many authors bringing out exciting new titles. Ian Rankin, Peter May and, everyone’s favourite, Stephen King, all have new releases out this summer, and as such there’s something new for everyone to try.

There are also some ace new thrillers and true life crime books out there right now, including Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, which is a really gripping book for fans of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

In all, thrillers and crime fiction books are a great way to go if you want something interesting, gripping but easy to escape into this summer. While you’re away lounging on a beach you can lose yourself in the latest murder case and let your imagination run free.

Five Fictional Detectives With Interesting Professions

fther brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

paul harrison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mark Atley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything you’d like to add?

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

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

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

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

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