Willow Walk Book Launch and Review

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Susi Holliday’s second book, Willow Walk, was officially launched last night at Waterstones, Piccadilly and she was interviewed by fellow author, David Mark (Dead Pretty). David asked Susi how her criminally good imagination had started. She told us a great story from her childhood when at the age of 12, she was left in charge of her younger siblings while their parents popped out. Her younger brother, aged 5, came to tell her that there was blood all over the kitchen – on the floor, the walls – everywhere. Susi’s first thought was that she wasn’t going to go and investigate. Scared that her parents had returned and been murdered in the kitchen, she called the police. It was with a mixture of relief and probably some embarrassment, that they told her it was a flood, not blood. And so a vivid imagination was born!

Susi grew up in a small town in Scotland so it’s not surprising that she has set her books in a fictional small town. She puts that down to laziness on her part (she didn’t want to have to do loads of research) and as small towns often don’t change that much, she used her memories for her background. Likewise, she didn’t look up too much about police procedural for her books. A small station only open for three hours a day – she figured the police officers could do what they like!

Susi claims that she can’t write literature (some of us might disagree with her on that!) but she has an incredible knack for getting into people’s heads. In order to keep those voices clear, she wrote a few chapters at a time in one voice before switching. There is a group of letters, from one character to another, that she wrote in one go. And she then sent them out to bloggers as a teaser.. She’s writing the third book in the trilogy at the moment but has plenty of ideas to keep her going for future books.

One of the loveliest things that I’ve noticed about crime writers, and David Mark reiterated this, is how incredibly supportive they are of one another. So it was no surprise to see plenty of other crime authors, bloggers and publishers in the room, as well as friends and family. And those who couldn’t make the actual launch, turned up at the pub afterwards to carry on the celebrations. It was a great night – thanks for inviting me, Susi!

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Review

Willow Walk is the second in a trilogy of books written by SJI Holliday, set in the fictional, sleepy town of Banktoun in Scotland. The first book, Black Wood, was released last year and introduced us to Sergeant Davie Grey. Policing Banktoun isn’t too taxing for Davie. In fact, he’s a bit worried that the station may be closed down and he’ll have to decide his future.

But in the meantime, it’s summer and the fair has come to town. It’s normally harmless fun but Davie likes to keep an eye on things, especially as there’s been some incidents of young people taking a new legal (or not so legal anymore) high and becoming very ill. And his old friend DI Malkie Reid is dealing with an attack on a woman so Davie lends a hand. So there’s a bit of work to do but it still leaves time for his new girlfriend, Marie. Except Marie, suddenly, isn’t so keen anymore. But then, Davie doesn’t know about Graeme.

SJI Holliday has a wonderful way of capturing her protagonists’ voices. Clear and distinct, we’re drawn into each of their own little worlds – Laura, 16, who has her first proper boyfriend; Marie, who’s secret past is about to catch up with her; Davie who’s unsure what the future holds for him and then there’s Graeme. I’m not going to say too much about him but SJI Holliday has written, quite possibly, the creepiest set of letters ever. And after reading them, you’ll never name your child, Graeme.

A fabulous creepy read and absolutely five stars from me.

If you want to know more about Susi Holliday then you can follow her on Twitter on @SJIHolliday

And thank you for the chocolate too. It helped me to write this post!

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First Monday Crime – June

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Well, for Crime Reading Month, First Monday Crime really pulled it out of the bag with the panel – Peter James, Sharon Bolton, Chris Morgan Jones and Mark Hardie.

Peter James has just released his 12th Roy Grace book called Love You Dead. Peter talked about how he finds inspiration in real life crimes. He’d wanted to write about a Black Widow for a while, and after meeting a real life one in a prison where he was teaching, he had his idea for his femme fatale. Added to that are venomous reptiles (he explained the difference between poisonous (ingested) and venomous (bite)) and he had the idea for his plot.

The Searcher is Chris Morgan Jones third book. The first two were about Ben Webster who is part of an investigative agency. This book though focuses on Isaac Hammer, Ben’s boss. When police raid Hammer’s offices and accuse him of hacking, he has to use his own skills to discover who is really responsible. His journey takes him to Georgia to discover the truth.

Sharon Bolton, author of the DC Lacey Flint series, has written a standalone for her new book. Daisy In Chains looks at the real life phenomenon of women who fall in love with serial killers. Her initial inspiration came from Myra Hindley and Sonia Sutcliffe. Hamish Wolfe, a surgeon, good looking, has a legion of female fans who regularly send him letters in prison. The fact that he’s a serial killer doesn’t appear to put them off.

Mark Hardie is a debut author who hasn’t let disability get in the way of writing. Mark lost his sight 14 years ago and has worked hard to be able to get to this position and is about to release his debut – Burned and Broken. DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell have to tread carefully as they investigate the death of a fellow officer.  Especially as the dead officer was under internal investigation.

James Kidd, from The Independent, was asking the questions and one he asked was – is there a line you won’t cross?

Mark Hardie felt that gratuitous scenes should only be there for a good reason. He has disturbing scenes in his book but there are always distressing real life scenes.

For Sharon Bolton, the line doesn’t worry her. The world is already a scary place and is natural to our human condition. We’ve been pouring our fears into scary stories for centuries and these allow us to come to terms with what terrifies us. Stories offer us resolutions that we might not get in real life.

Peter James suggested that William Shakespeare is the greatest crime writer of all time because he examined the human condition and laid it bare – just as crime genre does today. There’s nothing that Peter’s written that hasn’t happened worse in real life.

Chris Morgan Jones suggested that a writer has a responsibility to fully imagine what is happening, no matter how horrific, before writing it.

A question from the audience was do you plan or allow your stories to develop?

It’s like a journey for Chris Morgan Jones. He knows his ultimate destination and roughly how he’s going to get there but circumstances change and throw him off course. So he starts with an initial plan but may end up with a very different book.

Sharon Bolton agreed but as crime stories often have complex plots, she likes to have a detailed plan. But this could vary with each book.

I loved Mark Hardie’s honesty – he has no idea where he’s heading! He starts with characters and set pieces and takes it from there.

Peter James does plot to a certain extent. He starts with a theme, characters and has an ending in mind. He normally has the first 20% planned out. But he loves it when something pops out and if you don’t surprise yourself, you won’t surprise your readers.

Once again, I have written far too many notes to put into this post but I’ll leave you with the final question from the audience – do you feel pressure to do better with each book?

Peter James – Yes! (There was a swear word preceding that!) He tries to raise the bar with each book but still has a panic moment part way through.

Chris Morgan Jones wouldn’t want to keep writing the same book over and over again so he would look to change things, even though certain elements would still be needed.

Sharon Bolton is very aware that you’re only as good as your last book! And like Chris, you can’t keep writing the same book over and over again.

Mark Hardie’s book hasn’t yet been published so he’s wondering if he can write at all!

 

First Monday Crime will be back on the 4th July with Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth, Anna Mazzola and Beth Lewis. Tickets can be bought for £5 from http://www.goldsborobooks.com

 

If you want to follow any of the writers on Twitter then

Peter James – @peterjamesuk

Chris  Morgan Jones – @ChrisMJAuthor

Sharon Bolton – @AuthorSJBolton

Mark Hardie – @Markhardiecrime

First Monday Crime – @1stMondayCrime

 

Crime Reading Month

Of course, for me, crime reading is an all year round pursuit but June is the official crime reading month. So if it’s not your usual genre, then now would be a good chance to try something different. You don’t have to go out and buy books either. You could borrow a copy from your local library and the authors don’t miss out – there are public library royalties. The Crime Readers’ Association has organised talks and you can find out more on http://www.crimereadingmonth.co.uk . If you’re in London then there are free talks at Paddington Library on June 8th, 6.30-9pm with SJI Holliday (I’ll be reviewing her new book Willow Walk in the next couple of weeks), Claire Seeber, Graeme Cameron and Simon Toyne. William Ryan will be at Marylebone Library on the 9th June and SJI Holliday, William Shaw and Rebecca Whitney will be at Victoria Library on June 13th.

If you want something a little more substantial than a talk, then how about a short course on European Crime Fiction? This will take place at the British Library on June 28th, July 5th and 12th, lead by crime fiction expert, Barry Forshaw. This is an Adult Learning course so there is a cost to it. For more information http://www.bl.uk/events/death-in-foreign-climes-european-crime-fiction

Or perhaps you have the urge to write but not too sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve started a manuscript and need some guidance. Well, if you’re a night owl, then check out All Night Write in Brighton 18-19th June. Starting at 10pm, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to authors and create some elevator pitches. Check out http://www.88londonroad.com for more details.

First Monday Crime will be back this coming Monday at City University, London and there are still tickets available through http://www.goldsborobooks.com. So if you’re a fan of Peter James, Sharon Bolton, Chris Morgan Jones or Mark Hardie, then come along!

I’ll have some new reviews in the next couple of weeks, including my first Icelandic Crime read – Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson. Happy reading!