Monthly Archives: February 2013

CRIME SPREE FOR HARROGATE ANNOUNCED

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Europe’s largest celebration of crime writing has announced its headline Special Guest authors, revealing a strong female line-up.

Val McDermid, who chaired the first ever festival in 2003, returns as Programming Chair of the 2013 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate, to mark a ‘Decade of Crime’

Special Guest authors are Jackson Brodie creator Kate Atkinson, Chief Inspector Wexford author Ruth Rendell interviewed by Jeanette Winterson, Charlaine Harris – whose Southern Vampire Mysteries inspired TV’s True Blood and The Woman in Black’s Susan Hill. Men hold their corner with Inspector Rebus creator, Ian Rankin, award-winning crime novelist and poet, William McIlvanney and Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, which recently hit the big screen starring Tom Cruise.

The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is hosted at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, where Agatha Christie was famously found in 1926 after her disappearance sparked a national manhunt.  Attendees are invited to join over 80 of the world’s most celebrated crime authors ‘in conversation, in action and in the bar’ from 18 to 21 July.

Val McDermid said: “When I was ‘persuaded’ to chair the Programming Committee for the first festival all those years ago, what tempted me to take it on was the prospect of helping to showcase the range and quality of contemporary crime writing. I know that my passion for this genre is shared by the thousands of readers who have attended our events over the years, and we’ve all had some memorable encounters with those writers who have given us so much delicious, disturbing terror over the years. 2013 will be no different.”

The full programme will be announced over the coming weeks, and individual tickets and rovers will go on sale in the spring. You can secure your place at the Festival now by booking a Weekend Break Package, which includes 3 nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation and a weekend rover ticket, giving you access to all Festival events. To book your Weekend Package call the Festival Office on 01423 562303.

Keep up to date with all the latest news and programme announcements at www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime and on Twitter @TheakstonsCrime

The Festival will be releasing details of participating authors every day on their website and through Twitter in the run up to the full programme being announced.

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The Damage by Howard Linskey

Published by No Exit Press

Unknown‘There’s a thought that keeps me awake at night; I have to be lucky every time, they only have to get lucky once.’


David Blake is a worried man. He should be enjoying the high life now he’s Newcastle’s ‘Top Boy’, the man who controls everything in the city that’s worth controlling. He lives in exiled luxury, while his brother Danny and trusted right-hand men, Palmer and Kinane, take care of business and make sure no one steps out of line. The money keeps on rolling in and Blake is sharing his life with the girl that he loves, Sarah Mahoney. Shame he had to murder her father to save his own skin but at least she doesn’t know anything about that.
Blake never wanted to be boss but who else is savvy enough to deal with all of the firm s problems; like Braddock, the rogue drug dealer, who s keeping too much of the take, and The Turk , Blake s new source of product who s taken a million Euros down-payment on a shipment that never arrives. Newly-crowned Glasgow crime lord, Alan Gladwell, wants to do business with the firm and the deal makes sense but can Blake really trust the man whose brother he brutally murdered. Then there is his obsession with the beautiful but troubled Simone, who chooses to work in one of the firm’s massage parlours when she is so much better than that.
When one of his men takes two bullets in the back and someone tries to kill him, Blake struggles to stay in control.
From the heroin-laced high rises of Newcastle to the seedy back streets of Bangkok, in a world of contract killers, corrupt politicians, bent detectives, coke snorting footballers, fixers, hookers and pimps, Blake is in a race against time to find his potential assassin and discover the truth in ‘The Damage’.

I’ve met Howard Linskey and am very glad to report that he’s a very nice chap indeed. I say this with more than a slight sigh of relief as, if that had not been the case, then I could quite easily be currently in hiding, fearing that he might have some ‘friends’ who might just pay me a visit for the fact it’s taken me so long to get round to reading ‘.The Damage’.

I read a majority of the novel yesterday, which I should now refer to as ‘The Long Good Saturday’ for its masterful take on the criminal underworld which manages to successfully make the reader at times love and hate its characters in equal measure in much the same way as we once felt sympathy for the villains in a certain classic Bob Hoskins’ movie. A thoroughly enjoyable ride through the dark streets of Newcastle and much further afield, ‘The Damage’ does exactly what it says on the tin and if that striking jacket image that looks torn from the movie ‘Sin City’ doesn’t already convince you, trust me you are in for some tough gangster action throughout.

Now, if I can just work out how to get these shackles off, then I’ll be out of this deserted warehouse – nice of Linskey to leave me some water and chocolate though !

Keith

 

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Stalkers by Paul Finch

Published by Avon

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Time’s up. You’re Next.

“All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.”

Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenberg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called ‘Nice Guys Club’ they hit a brick wall. They’re the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want.

Provided you pay the price…

From the keyboard of former cop and journalist, Paul Finch, a writer who started out writing episodes of The Bill, comes Stalkers, and the terrifying premise it holds within its pages!

In a time where the daily news events seem to worryingly wash over us, regardless of just how grim some true life horrors seem to be, Finch has still managed, in a similar vein to authors like Stuart MacBride, to come up with something that really is a  tough at times but, nevertheless, very rewarding read.

The opening sequences are the very thing of great horror movies, with bluff after double-bluff of the reader knowing something bad is about to happen to a character, but managing to keep those pages turning as with each stage of the journey we are given short and merciful release before its back into the darkness and the worrying and the tension being racked up more notches. Stalkers is a novel that has come as a clear result of Finch’s background, interests and experience – the having been a cop, coupled with being a writer of horror fiction and movie scripts has certainly congealed in such a way as to create a great and sinister premise with a new DS on the block, in Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenberg, for crime lovers to follow.

Unknown-1But there’s a skill in Stalkers too, and one I find sadly lacking in a lot of crime novels that might tread similar stories. Finch seems to know when best to take his foot off the accelerator when it comes to some scenes. I won’t spoil things here, but suffice to say that at a fairly early point in the novel at the close of a chapter I nearly put the book down and didn’t pick it up again as I felt I’d read beyond my comfort zone. But I continued to the next page, then flicked back, and it was only then that I realised that what the author had managed was to make me think that what I’d read was far worse, far more detailed than it was. In fact, he’d pretty much closed a door on a scene that was about to unfold, but had given enough information to leave me no doubt in my mind as to what was about to happen without actually writing it. In a way, I guess that again harks back to the best moments in horror movies, where the audience is convinced they saw more blood, more horror on the screen, whereas actually it was the skill of the director to put the germ of the ideas in the viewers heads – and that, as it was for me in Stalkers, is sometimes so much more powerful than pages and pages of gore.

With the cases of nearly forty missing women on his mind, ‘Heck’ clearly has his work cut out from the get-go, but his uninvited side-kick in the form of feisty Lauren Wraxford proves a very useful and dedicated ally as he works with, and then behind the law, in his investigations.

Finch has created a very likeable central character, but shows his skill as a storyteller through all the other players in the story as well – the fact that someone who signs up for what the ‘Nice Guys Club’ are offering and then constantly loses his lunch just thinking about what it has led to him becoming illustrates that the author is thinking around his characters and they are very much more rounded than just names on a page.

Stalkers is a very dark premise and read but, as a result and of the fast paced narrative, it’ll have you by the throat until you get to the end.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Heck when the second book in the series ‘Sacrifice’ is released.

Keith 

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Win a Kindle Fire in the ‘ALL FALL DOWN’ Treasure Hunt – The final clue is here….

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To celebrate the release of ‘All Fall Down’ by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, here’s your chance to win a kindle fire thanks to Harper Collins.

Firstly, to whet your appetite for the book, click here for an exciting extract.

And here, Louise and Mark talk about their latest book, read on for the question you’ll need to answer and then click here to get in the game and submit your treasure hunt entry.

You’ll need the answers from the other blog tour locations, the previous one you can find here, for all the clues you can go to the Voss and Edwards Facebook page, and make sure you get your entry sent in to killer reads by 28th February. Good luck.

075145-FC3DWriting ALL FALL DOWN:

Louise:   Years ago, I came up with the idea of setting a novel at the now-defunct Common Cold Unit (CCU) – a scientific research facility that used to be based in Salisbury.   This was a real feature of my youth, a place where  cash-strapped students used to volunteer to be given a cold in return for a bit of money. I thought it would make a really original setting for a novel. When I first told Mark about it, I had in mind a sort of gentle love story about two volunteers meeting and bonding over Kleenex,   Mark, however, had other ideas.

Mark: I have always been fascinated by pandemics – when SARS and bird flu broke out in the noughties, I read all the news reports with a mixture of fear and excitement.  When Louise told me her idea for a book set at the CCU, I immediately thought it was a great setting for a thriller. I had just read The Da Vinci Code, and wanted to write something with that book’s pace, and a conspiracy, and I knew that Bird Flu was heading our way so thought it was great timing.

LOUISE:  Why not?  I thought.  Mark’s plot ideas about rogue scientists manufacturing deadly viruses with which to hold the world to ransom sounded a lot more exciting than what I’d envisaged, anyway.  And as soon as he came up with the title Catch Your Death, I was completely sold.

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MARK: When we wrote Catch Your Death, it was never intended to be the start of a series. We saw it as a standalone novel. So we were surprised when we received a number of reviews that stated that we had obviously left things open for a sequel. As far as we were concerned, we had told Kate Maddox’s story and wrapped it up but with a hint at the end that the story might continue, though we intended it to carry on only in the reader’s imagination.

However, when Catch Your Death became a hit, we started to think that perhaps there should be a sequel after all. Inspiration hit me one morning on a crowded commuter train, while I was squashed between an armpit and a briefcase. Somebody in the carriage sneezed, and I started to think about how rapidly a virus would spread through the train.  I whipped out my iPhone and tapped out a rough idea for a new Kate Maddox book. By the time I reached my destination, I had an outline for a story, which I emailed to Louise so we could start fleshing it out.

LOUISE:   We knew we wanted to ramp up the drama in All Fall Down, and develop the three main characters (Kate Maddox, her partner Paul, and Kate’s young son Jack) to make them all a lot more proactive than before.  They all, in different ways, take control of their own destinies – although not without various sets of disastrous consequences.   I particularly enjoyed writing the sub-plot of eight-year old Jack stowing away in an Airstream with his buddy Tyler, and embarking on a perilous road-trip across America with Tyler’s older brother at the wheel.

MARK: We were also determined to have more science in this book – but written in an exciting and easy-to-understand way. We wanted to show how Kate and her team would go about researching the virus and trying to find a cure. As neither of us have any kind of scientific background (we both failed science at school) we sought help in the form of Dr Jennifer Rohn, who runs a site called Lablit.com. She helped us create our deadly virus, explained what might happen in the lab, and eventually read the manuscript and pointed out all the bits that were wrong and needed to change. Importantly, she also helped us dream up various ways in which someone could maim or kill someone else in a lab-based fight scene…

LOUISE:  Even though we only wrote it last year, I actually struggle to remember which of us wrote which parts – I know that Mark wrote the scientific bits and I wrote the Jack/road trip chapters, but we wrote it so fast that quite a lot of the rest is a bit of a blur!  I’m pleased that the pace turned out to be as fast as we’d hoped.

MARK: We set it in California because we wanted the book to be a big, bold adventure story painted on the broadest, most cinematic canvas possible. After what was already a high-stakes adventure in Catch Your Death, we wanted to up the ante with a bigger threat to the world – because this time the virus is already out there – plus nastier villains, more frantic action and even more peril for Kate, Paul and Jack. We like to think of it as Catch Your Death turned up to eleven.

Early reviews have been fantastic, with one reviewer describing it as “Outbreak meets Die Hard” which, come to think of it, is what we were aiming for!  We’re really proud of this book and hope that people like it. We love hearing from readers and you can contact us through our Facebook page: facebook.com/vossandedwards.

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And here’s your question – answer it and the others preceding it for a chance to win a kindle fire:

How have early reviewers described All Fall Down?

Good luck, and don’t forget to keep up with Mark and Louise via their website or twitter: @mredwards @LouiseVoss1

Keith

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Jane Casey on her new book ‘How to Fall’

Jane Casey is already well-known to crime fiction fans for her excellent books to date, but she was kind enough to drop by to tell Books and Writers a little about her latest book ‘How to Fall’ which is certain to gain her yet more readers and fans through the fast growing YA market.

imagesIt was probably inevitable that I would try to write a YA novel at some stage, but like all the best twists, I didn’t see it coming.

I read a lot of teen novels; I always have. I love it for the page-turning, gut-wrenching, heart-warming stories so many great writers tell.

I worked as a children’s books editor before becoming a full-time writer and I specialised in YA because that was where my heart lay. I edited some famous, talented, successful and award-winning writers. I acquired some bestselling books for my list. It was rewarding, and challenging, and fun.

But that was work.

Writing was my addiction.

It was the thing that got me out of bed at 5.30 in the morning so I could get a couple of hours in before getting ready to go to the office. It was how I spent my weekends and bank holidays. It was my escape from the day-to-day round of admin and meetings and contracts – the bits of the job I found hard work. I was never going to spend my spare time writing the kind of book I was editing, because it was too close to my everyday work.

I wrote my first crime novel because the idea wouldn’t let me go, and because I read crime novels for fun when I wasn’t submerged in children’s manuscripts, and because I live with the ultimate author’s guide to crime and the law (my husband is a criminal barrister).

After years of storing up bad karma by rejecting thousands of would-be authors (but always nicely!) I was picked off the United Agents slush pile and given a chance. That chance became The Missing, and I got a new career. I’ve just delivered my fifth adult crime novel, and I already know what I’m going to write for the sixth, because that’s my wonderful job.

New readers keep getting in touch to tell me that they like what I’m doing, and that I should do more. It’s a dream come true, literally. And yet, this time last year there was something missing. There was another story I wanted to tell, for a different readership.

images-1I can’t help writing any more than I can help blinking, and I know I would have written How to Fall even if no one had wanted to publish it. I was fortunate that somebody did want me to write it, so once again I’ve had the joy of seeing an idea become a book. There aren’t many better feelings in the world.

How to Fall is about a teenage girl named Jess who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her cousin Freya, a sweet-natured artist who fell off a cliff and died. My editor described it as ‘Mean Girls with murder’, and that’s pretty accurate – everyone has a secret or two to hide and one of them is prepared to kill to prevent the truth from getting out. It’s a book I loved writing, with characters I can’t wait to revisit in the sequel. For all that, it feels like a big risk to be coming out with something new for a different readership.

I have no idea whether How to Fall will do well or disappear without a trace. I don’t know what my current readers will make of it, if any of them buy it. I don’t know what the YA fans will think of me. But I do know this: in writing it, I followed my own best advice.

Despite my background as a commercially minded editor, it’s to trust your instincts. Write the story you want to read, and worry about what happens to it later. Whether the book gets published or not, let your characters live and act out their tale, for your own satisfaction. That’s how I’ve always worked, and how I will probably continue to work. Even if I don’t know where it will take me, I know it will make me happy along the way.

A very big thank you to Jane for stopping by and, thanks to Random House, we have copies of ‘How to Fall’ to give away to three lucky winners – just leave a comment below and your twitter name or email address, changing ‘@’ to ‘AT’ to avoid those pesky spambots – good luck !

Keith 

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Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Published by Bantam Press

UnknownThe dead can’t speak to us,’ Professor Madoc had said.

That was a lie.

Because the body Patrick Fort is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things.

Life is already strange enough for the obsessive Patrick without having to solve a possible murder. Especially when no one believes a crime has even taken place. Now he must stay out of danger long enough to unravel the mystery – while he dissects his own evidence.

But as Patrick learns one truth from a dead man, he discovers there have been many other lies rather closer to home…

I found this a brave change of style from Belinda Bauer, although in many ways it’s a return of sorts to the jigsaw-like plotting of her breakthrough novel, Blacklands, with a crime story told in this case with several almost episodic tales that weave through and against each other to a satisfying conclusion.

The central character of Patrick, who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome is interesting, likeable and, at times, very humorous as he takes much of what he is told exactly on face value whilst, all the while, carrying out his investigation of what, if it is murder, is likely to be the least violent murder to have occurred in crime fiction in some time.

In many ways that’s what I found refreshing about Rubbernecker – it’s a prime example that, to create a great crime fiction novel, there doesn’t have to be a reliance on bloodshed and violence.

With each successive novel, Bauer manages to create fiction that is very easily, and enjoyably, read and absorbed page after finely crafted page. But it does leave the reader with a problem – just how do you remove the dark images and themes therein from your mind afterwards….?

It’s a great problem to have – and a great read.

Keith

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