How Trump’s Dirty Election Tactics Will Inspire Future Political Fiction Writers

donald trump political thrillers

Even devout Trump supporters can’t argue with the fact that the US president is currently trying to sabotage the November election in every way possible.

Whether it’s removing post boxes to inciting riots, he’s desperate to cling to power that he’ll stop at nothing. In that respect, he is comparable to many of the villains in some of the world’s best political crime fiction.

That’s about the only way in which he can be compared; facts really are stranger than fiction, as some of the many books about Trump prove. He isn’t the handsome, charming or charismatic leader that most political thriller writers base their plots around. Instead, he’s an overgrown child who took advantage of America’s racism and unrest to win a prestigious political position that he isn’t remotely fit to hold.

As a result, Trump now offers a myriad of exciting possibilities for the crime fiction market. The president in most political thrillers is much more intelligent and, surprisingly, less corrupt than the actual reality TV star turned president currently ruining one of the world’s biggest superpowers.

Political fiction has always taken fact and real life scenarios as its basis, even if it then turns the facts into incredible fictional tales. Most political thrillers feature highly recognisable characters, which are clearly based on real life politicians and leaders. That’s part of the joy of reading political fiction; sifting through and trying to uncover the influence that real life has had on the book. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, but it’s always there.

As such, in the near future, I’m expecting a load of thrillers that bring to life a character that’s as large as life as the Donald himself. Political writers are already using presidential corruption as a plot point; for example, James McCrone’s amazing novel Emergency Powers tells the tale of a plot to install a dummy president into the White House to give power to a dangerous secret terrorist syndicate.

However, even McCrone, with his incredible creative writing talents, wasn’t able to envisage behaviour as abhorrent and undemocratic as what Trump is doing right now in America. The man is simultaneously unhinged and deeply devious, in ways that are almost too crazy to be believed. What’s perhaps even more insane is that there are republican politicians out there actually willing to defend and support a president who is only so desperate to cling to office because he knows that, if he is outvoted later in the year, then he could face prison for his crimes during the presidency.

Honestly, I think that, before Trump actually came into power and started behaving like this, if a fiction book was published that depicted what’s going on right now, it would be derided as unrealistic. It seems almost impossible that a sitting president would do things like encourage voters to illegally vote twice while at the same time sabotaging postal votes and making racist, derogatory comments about his own people.

The man is currently encouraging domestic terrorism and praising white shooters who murder innocent bystanders, while lambasting peaceful protestors. If this were written in a novel, critics would be crying out that no would stand for this behaviour from someone in so high an office. But now, it’s actually happening in real life, which means that authors can use it as the inspiration for their work.

I’m looking forward to books where I can really see that Trump is the inspiration, and that authors are condemning his disgusting behaviour. It’ll be great to see the future of fiction rise up against this dictator and portray a world in which he is more widely condemned and punished for his despicable actions.

Overall, 2020 has been a crazy year for a load of reasons. One of the craziest has been Trump and his handling of every situation that life throws at him and his country. I’m excited to see how future writers will handle his behaviour and what he will inspire in the world of political fiction. I’m also bloody looking forward to the American public seeing sense and voting this mad dictator out in November. Until then, his on going insanity will add fuel to the fire of upcoming novels with insane presidents and corrupt politicians at their centres.

Gathering Dark Review: An Unstoppable Thriller You’ll Devour In One Go

gathering dark

As I promised in my previous post, today I’m reviewing Candice Fox’s gripping new thriller Gathering Dark.

Jumping straight into the action, the novel begins with the robbery of a cartel owned gas station by a frightened young woman with a gun. The woman working the night shift is Blair Harbour, known as ‘The Neighbor Killer’ after she shot her next-door neighbour more than 10 years ago.

She claimed he was hurting his girlfriend, but the girlfriend herself denied it and claimed the attack was unprovoked. After spending 10 years in prison, Blair is now out and determined to make a fresh start for herself and the young son she gave birth to as she began her sentence.

Her hopes of a normal life vanish when her former cellmate, a drug-taking thief, shows up unannounced and proclaims that the woman who held Blair up at knifepoint was her daughter, with whom she has a tempestuous relationship.

The girl is missing, and Blair is quickly drawn into the messy world of this young woman. Teaming up with another former jailbird, this one now a powerful gangster, and the policewoman who put her away, Blair tries to navigate LA’s sleazy underbelly to find the missing girl and bring her home.

This central plot links nicely with Fox’s myriad of sub-plots, including police corruption, a huge inheritance given to a police officer for a job well done, millions of dollars worth of missing money from a bank job gone wrong, and Blair’s fight for the truth about what happened to get sent to prison.

While most of the sub-plots are intriguing and help to drive the narrative forward, this last one is full of plot holes. The police case rested on flimsy evidence, which would suggest a serious lack of care from the officers involved, yet Fox still tries to push the idea that the cop now helping Blair, Jessica Sanchez, is some sort of epitome of professionalism and diligence.

That’s despite the fact that she led the case, yet didn’t even complete the bare minimum of checks before sending an innocent woman to prison for a decade. The case rested on an uneaten sandwich and a lack of a motive for the victim to attack his girlfriend, but the sandwich wasn’t DNA tested and the motive could’ve been found with even a routine background check on the victim and his girlfriend- as it eventually is when Sanchez starts applying herself.

Aside from this glaring plot hole, the novel is incredibly well written and intriguing. Once you get over the slight issue of this poor plotting, you can see that Fox has crafted an incredible cast of characters. Her dialogue is flawless and there’s a surprise around every corner, so the reader is constantly kept guessing.

All of the chapters are written in a series of different styles, including the form of letters between the missing girl and an incarcerated felon, as well as the from the viewpoint of Blair, written in the first person, and from the viewpoint of Jessica, written in the third. As such, there’s a clear distinction between each chapter and the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat.

The city of Los Angeles comes alive and becomes another character to add to the list of those who are working to achieve their own agenda. All of Fox’s characters are working towards their own ends, with Blair and the story of the missing girl caught up in the middle. Through the tangled web of stories the reader wades, getting more invested in the story by the chapter. By the end, you’re so immersed in the story that you might fail to realise, as I did, that you’ve been reading several hours past your bedtime.

From the ending, it’s clear that Fox is setting up for a sequel, or possibly even a series, based on the characters in Gathering Dark, and I for one am excited to see what’s in store for Blair, Jessica and the rest. It might not be perfect, but this is a contender for one of the best thrillers of 2020, so any follow up is bound to be good. If it’s even half as engaging and intriguing as this novel, then it’ll be a gripping read that I definitely don’t want to miss out on.

Tiger Wars Review: A Compelling Read For Fans Of Tiger King

tiger king

As long-time readers will be aware, I enjoyed watching Tiger King, the Netflix documentary series about Joe Exotic, the owner of a seedy roadside zoo in Oklahoma.

Joe’s zoo, his feud with animal rights campaigner Carole Baskin and his subsequent imprisonment for trying to hire a hit man to kill her, captured the imagination of the nation at the start of the lockdown.

While the documentary series was a hit, its ten episodes were insufficient to tell the whole sordid tale. I’ve already given you a list of books to read if you want to learn more about the animal trade, but now I’m reviewing a true crime book that delves far deeper than the show ever could.

Tiger Wars: Joe Exotic VS. The Big Cat Queen runs through all of the facets of the tale of roadside zoo owner Joe that the TV show explored, but using more detail and offering additional information.

The book takes you through many of Joe’s insane exploits, including his multiple marriages, his forays into politics, his shady business dealings, his exploitation of his staff, the abuse he doled out to his animals and more. Writer Al Cimino puts together a compelling dossier that shows how manipulative and fiendish Joe is, as well as how stupid and arrogant he was before he was eventually caught trying to hire a hit man to kill his rival.

Cimino is more sympathetic towards Carole Baskin, the animal activist and sanctuary owner that Joe tried to have murdered than the TV series. In the show, she comes across as equally as insane and shady as Joe, but the book gives a more balanced view of her strange life and the fact that much of Joe’s anger and hate wasn’t based in facts.

As Tiger Wars shows, Joe lives in a world of fantasy, with many of his tall tales either unsubstantiated or completely contested by others who were actually there. The author tries to put across an impartial tone, but it is clear that he disbelieves much of what Joe says.

He is also passionate about more than just Joe and the insane world that he lives in; the writer is also concerned about the animals he had in his care. It’s clear that America has a long way to go to change the way that big cats and other wild creatures are treated and cared for, and the book puts the flaws in the system in stark relief.

This true crime book takes a close look at Joe’s trial, which wasn’t covered in the TV show. Readers get a taste of how crazy Joe is, and how disgusting his behaviour really was. It also gives a glimpse into an area that the show didn’t let us see, which is fascinating. The book’s courtroom chapters are deeply engrossing and highlight the seedy side of exotic animal ownership in America.

One criticism I have of the book is that it doesn’t go much beyond the narrative that the show used. Joe’s eccentric life included many chapters, but the book chooses to shed more light on tales that fans of the show already know about. It would have been nice for the author to explore some unchartered territory and bring readers a unique insight into Joe’s madness.

However, the book is incredibly well researched, so the reader is presented with the full picture, as opposed to the edited version that the show gave us. Also, because the author has explored all of the available sources of information, including court documents and newspaper records, the reader can see the full extent of Joe’s illegal and immoral activities. It does have to be said, that the book sometimes doesn’t give the reader the exact source of the quotes it uses, so it can be hard for the reader to understand exactly how the information was obtained.

Something that makes me laugh about the book is that it is unevenly censored. In some parts, the author refuses to quote Joe because he uses expletives, or he simply uses the word expletive to cover a rude word. Then the next chapter, the book uses the words ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ without a care in the world. Alongside some typos and minor grammatical errors, this issue makes Tiger Wars feel rushed, like the author hurried to get it out in time to capitalise on the Tiger King fad before it passed.

When all is said and done, I enjoyed reading Tiger Wars and delving deeper into the murky world of Joe Exotic. The book also gave me more insight into the serious lack of legislation in America around the ownership of exotic animals, and how this issue can cause major problems for the animals themselves. In that respect, despite its flaws, the book outperforms the TV show, which focused exclusively on Joe and turned him and his questionable zoo into a freak show. The book is informative, as well as entertaining, making it the perfect read for fans of the show and animal lovers alike.

Transference Review: A Gory Mystery Not To Be Missed

transference

In the sequel to Untethered, John Bowie, who I had a great interview with previously, transforms the city of Manchester into a brutal extra character to add the list of strange, perverted and generally intriguing individuals.

The second novel to feature John Black, Transference [Love + Hate In Rain City], and picks up with the character living in witness protection in Bristol. After having offended gangland bosses in his hometown and helped to send many, including some big names, to prison, he’s now hiding out and keeping his head down.

He’s not long for the southern city or the quiet life, however, as Black is desperate to leave and return to his old stomping ground, Manchester. He had been driven out by Mr Big following an incident his club, where Black worked as a bouncer, and which led to arrests and unrest.

Following the news that the notorious gangster is soon to be released from jail, Black, a PI and writer, contrives a fairly implausible way to get himself a new case. He rings a bingo hall, and then asks for all of the people who’ve just ticked off the number 27 to be bought to the phone.

Then, he asks about a vague case, until he finds a suitable mark whose son, a student living away from home, recently died in mysterious circumstances. Black takes on the case, and then leaves Bristol on a trip back to his past, where he works on the death of the boy, as well as the perilous task of confronting his own demons.

The police set Black up with a job as a security guard turned admin guy at the block of flats from which the boy fell. The case has barely started, but quickly Black realises that the boy’s death was no accident or suicide, as the police are trying to claim to his distraught mother. He also started to notice connections between the case and his past, leading him on a self-destructive journey back into the heart of the murkiest parts of the city.

The writing is impressive, and at points it is incredibly poetic. Some paragraphs read like angst ridden punk rock lyrics, whilst others are beautifully atmospheric. The story turns incredibly dark and gory at times, and violence is peppered throughout, but somehow the author manages to make the gore interesting, not off-putting as it can be in the hands of lesser writers.

Characterisation is Bowie’s strong suit- the author creates a unique and intriguing cast of characters that keep you guessing. Some feel realistic, others like ethereal beings whose movements and thoughts can’t be predicted. All of them are intriguing and unique- from the former stripper turned literary agent to the gang lord ruling over Manchester and desperately trying to torment Black.

The book is mostly written in the first person, from protagonist Black’s perspective, and the character is what could be described as an unreliable narrator at times, particularly when he’s drunk. I’ve seen plenty of men give ‘the death stare’ before, and trust me, they’re not nearly as hard as they think they are. Most of the time, people get out of the way because they think you’re nuts, not tough.

Black’s narration pushes the novel forward, and it reads like a taught thriller full of twists, turns and the absurdity of real life. At times, Bowie takes things too far, and becomes too poetic; an early example is a list of barred patrons of a grimy pub, which Black reads off the wall as he searches for his own name. The list is far too detailed and lyrical to be realistic- most barred lists just have a photo, name and occasional notes telling bar staff to steer clear or call the management.

Aside from this, the novel is an engaging one. It’s the second in the Black Viking series, named after Black, the protagonist, and the Viking being that appears to him as a vision when his physical strength is waning and the going gets really tough. The Viking image is a bold and striking one, and the author uses it well to show Black’s mental instability and dogged determination.

All in all, I enjoyed Transference, and I’d be interested to read the next novel in the series. It’s not perfect, but there’s a lot to like about this gritty and grim thriller, and it keeps you enthralled until its bone-chilling ending. There’s clearly more to come, and I’d be interested to see what’s next for Black.

Heather Barnett Interview: “People from my past pop up in my writing”

Heather Barnett headshot smaller version

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing thriller writer and fellow copywriter Heather Barnett about her debut novel and upcoming projects.  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What led you to start writing thrillers?

I love the thought that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and I’m naturally drawn to the humour in a situation: both those things always inform my writing style. Which might sound odd for a thriller writer, but my debut is more of a light-hearted mystery than a gritty thriller.

I didn’t set out to write a thriller: I had an idea about a top-secret organisation and when I started exploring it, the story lent itself naturally to the pace and twists of a thriller.

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

My background’s in marketing and my day job sometimes involves copywriting, but it’s a very different kettle of fish to my fiction. I’ve always loved writing and have written short stories, poems and novels throughout my life, but this is the first time I’ve been published. (Unless you count a poem in a children’s anthology when I was ten. Which I do.)

People from my past pop up in my writing – never as whole characters but I’ll amalgamate different personality traits and mannerisms to create the people in my stories. I love larger-than-life characters so whenever I meet someone like that in real life I’m mentally tucking them away for future inspiration.

Talk me through your debut novel and why you think readers will love it.

At its heart, Acts of Kindness is about the power of human kindness – so I hope from that point of view people will find it up-lifting. It’s also a bit of escapism to transport readers into a world that’s softer round the edges than ours, peopled with characters you can root for, characters you can laugh at, and a few you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley.

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

I think for me inspiration is a cumulative process. It’s more like mixing together different ingredients that combine to create a new whole, than one single light bulb moment. The inspiration for Acts of Kindness was witnessing commuters helping a woman who’d fallen down the stairs at Paddington station, intermingled with wondering what was behind some grand stone gateposts that I used to drive past in Wiltshire. Those disparate things swirled around in the back of my mind and came out as the secret OAK Institute, which is at the core of the book.

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

Jane Austen. Without a doubt. There wouldn’t be any collaboration though, just me watching on in awe and supplying her with pens, paper and cups of tea.

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

Yes, I’ve written a romantic comedy called Lord Seeks Wife that will be published by Serpentine Books in summer 2021. It’s like a modern-day PG Wodehouse set in a quintessential English village with plenty of eccentric characters and some unexpected twists.

Are there any new books that you are looking forward to reading over the next few months?

It was my birthday recently so I’ve got a whole stack of new books to read including The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and Humankind by Rutger Bregman.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for asking me to do the interview Hannah!

Thanks Heather for answering my questions, it’s been lovely to learn more about your amazing work.

Emergency Powers Review: A Terrific, and Timely, Modern Spy Thriller

emergency pwers

As I mentioned in my previous post about why you should be reading crime fiction and thrillers this summer, today I’m reviewing the latest in the Imogen Trager novel Emergency Powers.

Author James McCrone writes an engaging and dynamic spy thriller in this latest in this incredible series.

From the very beginning, the reader is plunged into an intriguing conspiracy. Following on where the last novel left off, in the first chapter the new President, Diane Redmond dies in mysterious circumstances.

Her Vice President Bob Moore is installed as the new President following the death, and this sets in motion a diabolical plan, the full details of which are withheld from both the reader and Agent Trager.

The novel follows Trager as she tries to wrangle with her demotion from golden girl to the FBI’s problem child and uncover the truth behind the incredible events unfolding at Capitol Hill and further afield.

The action jumps between Trager’s work, which revolves around hiding her true purpose behind sham taskforces and sifting through data, the new President’s office, where everything is running far from smoothly, and several other intriguing sub-plots.

These include the investigation of Trager’s boyfriend Duncan and the taxi driver who was blamed for the car crash that almost killed them both and the desperate work of an on the run operative who’s now trying to turn into an informant, with the one disadvantage that he actually has very little useful information.

Trager’s personal life quickly catches up to her professional one, leaving the reader on edge as she navigates this challenging issue. The author handles it with skill and weaves tension throughout the narrative, so that the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat.

Throughout the novel, McCrone cleverly makes the mystery not what happened, but why. The reader understands that the Faithless Elector plot revolved around vote rigging and installing specific leaders in the White House, but we’re not told why and what end goal the conspirators are working towards. We know that a takeover is planned, but we’re always slightly unsure of where the action will lead us next, and it’s this that keeps the narrative moving.

By withholding this information and skilfully teasing the reader, the author is able to create a riveting narrative and a novel that is very difficult to put down. I read it surprisingly quickly, because I simply couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Despite the speed at which the plot progresses, and the tedious work that the characters have to involve themselves in to obtain the information they need, McCrone doesn’t just dump information on the reader. He uses his formidable writing skills to craft a novel that is by turns informative and engaging. You never feel like you’re reading a chapter full of explanation and dull facts, for these are skilfully weaved into the narrative. Equally, even when the characters are engaged in mundane tasks, such as sifting through seemingly endless records and files, the inherent danger in their work remains ever-present. It is this feeling of constant menace that pushes the novel forward towards its startling and, frankly, brilliant conclusion.

McCrone has timed the release of Emergency Powers to perfection; after all, America is currently in the grip of one of the most scandalous elections by, quite possibly, the most corrupt president in its history. It might be set in the future, but the novel remains incredibly relevant, particularly given the current situation.

With that in mind, the novel takes on a sobering air, as it serves to prove that even the most innocent of actions on the part of the US government can have sinister consequences.

In all, I’m a huge fan of Emergency Powers and think that the book is the perfect summer read for anyone that loves fast-paced thrillers. It beautifully combines the bureaucracy of a spy thriller with the tantalising chase that’s usually seen in detective novels.

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

Paul Gitsham Headshot - Hi-Res

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

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

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

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

How does your experience as a teacher influence your writing?

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

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

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

What drew you towards writing crime fiction novels?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Signal Review: A Dystopia To Rival The World Outside

no signal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why We Need More Female Spy Writers

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Recently I reviewed The Treadstone Resurrection, a brilliant novel that forms part of the Jason Bourne universe.

The book is gripping and enticing, but it lacks one crucial element; the presence of any realistic female characters.

Even in the male-dominated security landscape, women still play a vital role, and if you’re describing just about any scenario then it will doubtless include numerous women.

What this novel lacked was women who were anything more than mindless lovers. They were all obsessed with the men they were connected to, and as such were simply an extension of them.

In real life, women are much more complicated and actually have free will and independent thoughts. I have never met, or heard of, or witnessed, a woman unbuttoning her blouse in the presence of a man she fancied. Yet that’s genuinely a scene from The Treadstone Resolution! 

If you really think about it, most of the women in popular spy novels and movies are either eye-candy or staff. James Bond is one of the best examples I can think of; in the books, his women either sleep with him or mother him. In the films, it’s pretty much the same story.

The reason that these books are all utterly clueless about women is because they are, pretty much, all written by men. The spy novel genre is dominated by men, and if we want to enjoy reading about better female characters in spy novels, then that’s going to have to change.

As women are great readers of spy novel and thrillers, and big readers in general, we should be able to get a foothold in this market, but when you visit a bookshop and check out the spy thriller section, you’ll see a noticeable absence of female names. We’re able to work a wide range of jobs now, and female authors have made big names for themselves in the writing arena, but unfortunately the spy thriller genre remains a male-dominated space.

Women have started to make headway, but that doesn’t mean that things are perfect. We still need more women to write spy novels, and for publishers to push their books with the same verve and vigour as they do the latest John Le Carré.

By encouraging women writers to tackle the spy thriller genre, publishers could also help women readers to enjoy it more.

After all, one of the biggest barriers for many women who are eager to tuck into a new thriller is the lack of believable, relatable female characters. It was literally the only criticism I had of The Treadstone Resurrection, which was otherwise an amazing and gripping read.

So, in summary, I’m eager for more women to write and publish spy thrillers. For a major, meaningful change to happen in the industry, the publishing market needs to open its mind and start welcoming and encouraging more women to write books in this genre.

In the meantime, if you or know of a female spy thriller writer, or a male one who writes great depictions of female characters, then reach out and I’d be happy to work with you to promote your work. I think it’s valuable to have lots of great representation of women in this market, so I’m always here to support writers and help them grow their readerships.