In case you missed it, Mark Hill’s debut novel Two O’Clock Boy was published last week. It’s a fabulous read. I got in there early and read it last autumn when it was released as an e-book. If you missed my review then I’ve put it at the end of this post. Talking to lots of authors, especially debut novelists, you quickly discover that publishing a book is a team effort. Apart from the author, there’s an agent, an editor and a publicist that are all involved too. As fab as Mark is, I thought it would be good to hear from someone else on that team. Ella Bowman, Mark’s publicist, has kindly written a piece about what it was like to work on Two O’Clock Boy. Over to you, Ella!
‘Great to be contributing to a stop on the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy. This book occupies a space in my heart (no kidding!), and here’s why:
When I was interviewing for this job over a year ago, I was sent a pdf of a book for which I had to plan a publicity campaign for discussion. This was that book. My set text. And the pressure to enjoy it? Great. You want to be enthused for obvious reasons; to think your career hinges on the feigned excitement for a book, well that doesn’t seem right and good, does it? No it don’t! (Note, publicists: never be nervous of this – every book has its merits, and sometimes the most rewarding projects are the more unlikely ones, anyway)
Way back in 2011 (or 2012 was it? Those bygone days when Barclaycard sponsored Boris bikes – you’re too young to remember!) I was emailing Mark about a spy thriller I was working on, and he mentioned he was writing a book. I’m always impressed by the dedication it takes to try to write more than an email’s worth (a blog post! Not something I’ll get into the habit of doing)… let alone to do it successfully. Still, little more was said than ‘good one, Mark. Hope it goes well’ etc. and our relationship as grateful publicist to fondly-regarded and dedicated crime blogger cemented over the years and I thought little more of Mark’s plans for his literary career.
And so it was that I was finally given the manuscript for one Mr Mark Hill’s Two O’Clock Boy and? And I loved it, thankfully. I peeled each page off the pile with exclamations of delight and awe; both for the book’s structure and characterisation, but also because each scene evoked the totally new. There was no failed innovation here; nothing of the ‘I would have liked to have heard more from…’; ‘it didn’t quite explain…’; ‘I wasn’t convinced’: it was all so confidently executed, so fresh and compelling and yet familiar. I love a police procedural, I love the teasing out of facts before the ‘no bloody way!’ denouement. Sure, it’s not just about the whodunit?, part of the art of crime is the getting there – the journey, not the destination (!) – so then it seems ludicrous to me that Mark is able to write this likewise brilliantly. It’s like he fell into an Obelisk-type cauldron of penmanship when he was young.
And then working on it has been a consistent joy, too, where readers have been responding so warmly to DCI Ray Drake and the dark investigation of which he’s part; asking me for it before my morning alarm; bleeding us dry of proofs before we’ve made plans for them, that sort of thing.
It’s great that it’s finally out there, because DAMN it’s a corker of a book, and I hope it does marvellously. I’m happy to report that Mark’s not going away any time soon, which is absolutely the correct order of things. Start reading him now, and be an early champion of a future great.
On that correct order of things, it’s time I signed off.
Time you bought a copy of Two O’Clock Boy.
Thank you Ella!
So what did I think of Two O’Clock Boy? Well…
Recently promoted, DS Flick Crowley is feeling slightly nervous. Her immediate boss, DI Ray Drake, has promised that she’ll be in charge of the next murder investigation that comes in. And when it comes, it’s a big job – the murder of three family members. Not only does Flick have to prove herself to the team, she has to deal with DI Drake who seems intent on steering her in the wrong direction. Sifting through the lies and secrets, others are destined to die before Flick finally finds the answer.
Set in two time periods with multiple viewpoints, this is a devilishly good debut. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, Hill swings it round in another direction. In the end, you don’t know which way is up and, more importantly, who you can trust. His characterization of the two main police officers – DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley – is excellent, with their home life reflecting their unravelling. There are plenty of characters in this novel but they all have a part to play. In fact, it’s almost like an elaborate game of Guess Who? as people are eliminated until we have the key players left at the end. But of those who are still standing, who is the murderer? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Rumour has it that Mark Hill is working on a second DI Ray Drake book so there’s more of Drake and Crowley to come.