Blog Tour – Exile by James Swallow

EXILE by JAMES SWALLOW

Today I’m very honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for James Swallow’s latest book – Exile, the follow-up to Nomad. I have a little extract to whet your appetite but to give you a bit of context, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

MOVE OVER JASON BOURNE, MARC DANE IS HERE . . .

A vicious Serbian gang whose profits come from fake nuclear weapons. A disgraced Russian general, with access to the real thing. A vengeful Somali warlord, with a cause for which he’d let the world burn. A jaded government agency, without the information to stop him. Only one man sees what’s coming. And even he might not be able to prevent it . . . Racing breathlessly from uncharted CIA prisons to the skyscrapers of Dubai, from stormbeaten oil rigs off the African coast to the ancient caverns beneath the city of Naples, Marc Dane returns in the incredible new action thriller from the internationally bestselling author of NOMAD.

 

The Extract

Brett inclined his head, his eyes flicking away to glance at something that the camera on his end didn’t show, then back once more. ‘Dr Amadayo,’ he began again. ‘Forgive me for disrupting your evening, but as I am sure you understand, my employers are eager to communicate their concerns to you. And you have been rather difficult to reach over recent weeks.’ Brett’s accent was like the BBC World Service radio broadcasts Amadayo had listened to in his youth, every word balanced, cut to length and positioned in exactly the right place. There was a strangely soulless, machine-like quality to the man, which Amadayo found slightly unsettling. His milk-pale face, his straw-like hair and watery blue eyes seemed unnatural. He reminded the Somalian of albino children he had seen in Tanzania, and Amadayo half-wondered if, like them, the Englishman’s body parts would be worth money if made into charms post-mortem.
He nodded and widened his smile for the camera. ‘It is I who should be begging your forgiveness!’ Amadayo faked a contrite tone. He shook his head. ‘So much work to be done here, you know? So many people with needs to be dealt with and hands held out. It takes up all of my time.’
‘That is why we agreed to have you work as our representative in Somalia, because of your connections,’ said Brett. Personally, Amadayo had always thought of himself as a partner more than an employee, but he let that go for the moment. ‘But we are concerned about a lack of visible progress.’
‘Oh?’ Amadayo raised an eyebrow. Outwardly he maintained an air of quiet concern, but his heart was racing. The shirt stuck to his back like a second skin. ‘I have done everything the Combine has asked of me –’
‘We prefer you not to use that name again,’ Brett snapped, with a wince.
Amadayo bristled at the Englishman’s tone and pressed on, masking his worry with a rising anger. ‘How long have I been helping you in my nation? Your past transactions in Puntland and elsewhere – who ensured that those would proceed without issue?’
‘And you have been paid handsomely for your brokerage,’ came the reply. ‘That guarded compound where you sit? My employer’s money made it possible for you to live in such luxury. And safety.’
There was a threat buried in the words, but Amadayo didn’t waste time on it. This man was half a world away, and the things that Amadayo did fear were far closer than he was.
But then Brett looked out of the screen at him, and it was as if the pale man reached into his thoughts and pulled that fear out across the distance. ‘You enjoy your comfortable life, doctor. You like to say you are the man who knows all the names, the one with a friend in every town and village. But how much of that is true?’ He came closer until his face nearly filled the screen. ‘You promised stability. You told my employers your influence could make that happen. But it has not.’

 

Wow. I’m not sure I like the idea of Brett or Dr Amadayo. Seems that Marc Dane has a very tough assignment on his hands. If you like the sound of this then you can find out more about James Swallow and buy his books here.

Feel free to check out the other stops on the tour for reviews over the Christmas period and into the New Year.

 

The author

James Swallow is a scriptwriter and veteran author with over 750,000 books currently in print around the world. He was BAFTA-nominated for his writing on the critically acclaimed video game DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION.

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Blog Tour – That They Might Lovely Be by David Matthews

TTMLB BLOG TOUR part 1

Today, I’m welcoming David Matthews onto my blog. His book That They Might Lovely Be, has just been published by John Hunt Publishing. He’s telling me (and you!) about his ideal day.

 

An Ideal Day

I don’t know why there are so many semi-derelict houses in the villages in France. When we bought ours, for the price of a broom-cupboard in South London, it had been empty for eight years and on the market, steadily depreciating in value, for four. Whatever the cause, I am grateful that this is the case. It has meant that re-locating to south-west France can be more than a pipe-dream.
Our house was a wreck. As far as I was concerned, this was ideal. The scope for DIY-ing was considerable. Acquiring the house coincided with stopping teaching and focussing on writing so I found myself faced with a delicious tension – never being at a loss for something creative to do. I could fashion new stories out of words or renovate an old house into a new home.
My ideal day might start waking to a recollection of having heard the nightingales singing during the night. I had never heard a nightingale before spending time in France and I had to Google the song, on first hearing it, to make sure it really did match. Once up, the day would begin with some routine chores: short drive to the boulangerie or, in winter, raking out the ash and getting the wood-burning stove going to warm the rooms before others in the family were up. I might take a cup of tea into the garden and ponder, reading a hymn from my school-days’ copy of Songs of Praise and setting the day straight with prayer.
The next two hours would be devoted to writing, picking up the notes I’d left from the day before. On a good day, getting into the swing of writing would come easily; the sub-conscious would have been paving the way, processing ideas from the days before. The plot would unfold without any characters behaving in contrary ways. The dialogue would be natural but also further the story-line. The right words would spring effortlessly to mind with sets of vocabulary identifying themselves as thematically significant. Two hours hard at it and I’d be pleased with what I’d written whilst knowing that, if I carried on for much longer, what I produced would start to wobble and I’d end up scrapping much of it the next morning. It is far better, I have decided, to leave notes for the morrow and turn my hand to something else.
‘Something else’ in France means working on the house or garden. The more transformational the task the better. I’d rather build than decorate. I’d rather plant than weed. When a place has been neglected for nearly a decade, the scope for ‘doing’ is almost limitless.
I am aware that I have described an ideal day where nobody else features. This is probably still a reaction from nearly forty years of teaching. The legacy of all that time in a people-dominated career has been a craving for solitude. I am perfectly happy in my own company with no-one else’s agenda to accommodate. It is completely selfish and is probably not at all healthy. The thing is, I get jittery and nervously agitated (sometimes to the extent that I go into a manic overdrive cleaning or rearranging the contents of the shed) if I don’t carve out the space to write or create.
So if I find myself on my own for days and days and if I begin to suspect that an absence of human contact is turning me morose, then I can fall back on the people my imagination has concocted for my stories. They are a mixed bunch but make for fascinating company.

 

Thank you so much for that, David. I’m not too sure about all the renovating but a little getaway in France sounds perfect for writing.

 

The Blurb for That They Might Lovely Be

TTMLB cover

No—one thought Bertie Simmonds could speak. But , when he is heard singing an Easter hymn, this is not so much the miracle some think, but a bolt drawn back, releasing long–‐repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences… A decade later, Bertie marries Anstace, a woman old enough to be his Mother, and another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Beginning in a village in Kent and set between the two World Wars, That They Might Lovely Be stretches from the hell of Flanders, to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which transcends the conflicts of class and war.

 

 

 

About the author

David Matthews

David Matthews grew up in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire. Following his degree at King’s College London and various jobs, including selling personalized matchboxes and working in a Covent Garden printing house, David became a teacher. He taught English for twenty-two years and was a head teacher for eleven. His play ‘Under the Shadow of Your Wings’ was professionally directed and performed in the summer of 2015, as part of Croydon’s heritage festival. He now divides his time between family life in Croydon and renovating a cottage in south-west France.

You can buy That They Might Lovely Be

here.

 

 

 

My Top Ten Reads of 2017

This year, I’m determined to only have a top ten. Choosing these ten books has been incredibly difficult. So I have to mention some of the other novels that almost made it onto my list. SJI Holliday has spoilt us this year with two incredible books – The Damselfly and The Deaths of December. Daniel Pembrey’s Night Market is a brilliant sequel to The Harbour Master. Marnie Riches’ new series set in Manchester looks to be as good as her The Girl Who books. Born Bad is the first. Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series goes from strength to strength with Quieter Than Killing. I just hope she hasn’t predicted this winter’s weather. Block 46 from Johana Gustawsson sent shivers down my spine and Louise Beech had me in tears with Maria In The Moon. David Young’s Stasi Wolf transported me to East Germany and threw light on hidden history. I could write about even more but it’s time to focus on my top ten reads. I do have a top three but the other seven are in no particular order. Kicking off is a new kick-ass heroine.

 

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

 

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Lori Anderson, Florida bounty hunter, kick-started the New Year into action. With mounting medical bills for her daughter, Dakota, Lori is forced to take a high risk bond capture. But this is not your average criminal – it’s Lori’s former mentor, JT. He taught her everything she knows. How on earth will she catch him?

You can buy Deep Down Dead here.

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry

The Dry recently won the CWA Gold Dagger. Pretty impressive for a debut. Set in Australia during a devastating drought, police officer Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for a funeral, after leaving twenty years before. He has to confront secrets both past and present. The setting of a town gripped in a two year drought is compelling and adds to the tension of the story.

You can buy The Dry here.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant

I read this book on my summer holiday and absolutely loved it. Not exactly a crime book but a crime does take place. At first, I found Eleanor a little bit annoying, as does everyone in the novel. But it wasn’t long before she won me over. This is a book that made me howl with laughter one minute and then sob the next. It’s featuring on Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 this week.

You can buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine here.

 

Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill

High res TTOCB

I do love my police procedurals and Mark Hill has created a rather special new officer in the form of DI Ray Drake. Set in two time periods, Hill twists the two stories together but just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, the story swings in another direction. A stunning debut.

You can buy Two O’clock Boy here.

 

Sealskin by Su Bristow

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Again, this isn’t a crime book as such but starts with a man making a terrible mistake and he has to live with the consequences. Based on the Selkie legend from Scotland., Sealskin is packed full of atmosphere and is beautifully written.

You can buy Sealskin here. 

 

The Lies Within by Jane Isaac

The Lies Within

Another one of my favourite police procedurals is the DI Will Jackman series by Jane Isaac. In this novel, Jackman is on secondment to the Leicestershire Police Force and has to investigate the murder of a young woman. Jane Isaac often writes from two points of view and so we also see the story from the victim’s mother. I think this is Jane’s best book so far.

You can buy The Lies Within here.

 

 

Race to the Kill by Helen Cadbury

Race to the Kill

It’s bittersweet to include this novel in my top ten but it absolutely has to be here. Sean Denton has to be the most loveable police officer ever created. We’ve seen him move from being a PCSO to PC and now, in this final book, a DC. It’s terribly sad to think that this is the last book due to Helen’s death earlier this year. I’m sure she had far more Sean Denton stories to tell. Sean goes through quite a lot in this novel but it ends with hope.

You can buy Race to the Kill here.

 

 

And now, the top three. Coming third…

 

An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence

This is such a clever book. It starts with the murder of a young woman but quickly changes direction. It’s the story of Linda Moscow and her son Gabriel. Not only are there multiple viewpoints but there are also different time periods. Very skilfully, McBeth also shows the same scene but from two different views. But the thing that got me most with this book, was how real it felt. Dealing with historical abuse, this novel is disturbingly relevant. It’s a book that stays with you, long after you finish it.

You can buy An Act of Silence here.

 

 

Oh dear. Choosing between the last two was so difficult. There was one debut that came storming in at the beginning of the year and set the bar for everyone else. But like the last round of the high jump, another book just inched over that bar. So coming in second (but first in the debut stakes):

 

Rattle by Fiona Cummins

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‘On still nights, when the curve of a winter moon is smudged in the flow of the River Quaggy, the dead clamour for him.’

This is the opening line to Rattle. It sets the tone and the atmosphere for the book. Fiona Cummins has created one of the creepiest serial killers – The Bone Collector. He’s no ordinary grave snatcher as he has specialised tastes. Told from multiple viewpoints, including those the Bone Collector seeks, I ‘rattled’ through this book last Christmas holidays. It was impossible to put down. I’ve had the opportunity to read the sequel, The Collector (due out next year) and I can tell you now, it’s already booked its place in next year’s top reads.

You can buy Rattle here.

 

 

So who is first, I hear you cry. Who sneaked over that bar? Well, this is the second book from this author. He recently won a prestigious award for his debut novel. His second book is even better.

My top read of 2017 is (drum roll please)…

 

All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

ATWG - Final Cover

‘There was moments so pure and perfect I almost can’t bear them. Maybe a sunrise so stark that line between us and the heavens blurs to nothing but a smudge.’

If you’ve read Tall Oaks, then you probably think you know what to expect from Chris Whitaker. Tall Oaks was laced with dark humour. But All The Wicked Girls is something else entirely. Without the humour to fall back on, Chris Whitaker’s writing is laid bare and is not found wanting. Utterly beautiful. It has a similar setting of small town America. Grace, in Alabama, seems like a lovely little town on the face of it but dangerous undercurrents flow through Grace and the surrounding area. Teenage girls are going missing and there’s talk of a monster taking them. When Summer Ryan disappears, it’s up to her sister, Raine, to find her.

When I love a book, I normally race through it. Not this time. I slowed down to savour it, to drink it all in. It’s an extraordinary book and therefore, my top read for 2018. Brave and fierce, Chris, brave and fierce.

You can buy All the Wicked Girls here.

 

Well, that’s my top ten for this year. The more eagle-eyed of you may have noticed that there’s a book missing. One that I absolutely raved about. I chatted with the author and we agreed that maybe it should go into next year for a very good reason. Western Fringes by Amer Anwar would have been in this year’s list and he would have been giving those top three books a run for their money.  However, something amazing has happened for Amer. He originally self-published Western Fringes but it’s now been picked up by Dialogue Books. It’s due to be published by them on 6th September 2018 and I can reveal that it’s new title will be Brothers in Blood.

In fact, next year is shaping up to be a fabulous year for books. Not only will we have the re-release of Amer’s book but there will be sequels coming from Fiona Cummins (The Collector), Steph Broadribb (Deep Blue Trouble) and Mark Hill (It Was Her). Add to that, Rod Reynolds third Charlie Yates story (Cold Desert Sky), Rhidian Brook’s new novel (The Killing of Butterfly Joe) and a sequel from Alex Caan (First to Die). So if I thought I had problems choosing my top ten this year, it’s looking almost impossible for 2018!

I have two more blog tours before Christmas but this is my last slightly more personal post. So I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you for reading my blog this year and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

First Monday Crime Christmas Special

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love sent to me, 12 writers writing…

Yes, I know that’s a bit screwed up but last night, on the 4th of December, First Monday Crime didn’t just give us 4 amazing authors to delight and dazzle us but 12! Claire McGowan introduced us to the first panel – Chris Whitaker, Susi Holliday, Louise Jensen and Mel McGrath. Later, after a quick cookie break, Chris and Susi were joined by 8 other authors to pitch their best worst ideas to the audience. But first, the Christmas panel.

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Claire asked the panel to tell introduce themselves and talk about their current books.

Chris introduced himself as ‘award-winning author’ and rightly so! In October, his debut novel, Tall Oaks, won a prestigious Dagger Award. But Chris was here to talk about his second book – All The Wicked Girls. It’s set in the small town of Grace in Alabama. (He originally set it in England. It became clear very quickly that it wasn’t going to work in that setting). Summer Ryan, the golden girl of Grace, goes missing. It’s up to her troubled sister, Raine, to find her.

Susi’s Christmas-themed book is The Deaths Of December. There’s a Christmas serial killer on the loose. When an Advent calendar is sent to a police station, depicting crime scenes rather than the Nativity, grumpy DS Eddie Carmine and DC Becky Greene have only 9 days to find the murderer.

Mel introduced herself as the ‘old-timer’ of the panel. Personally, I think ‘wise and experienced’ is a much more apt description. Mel’s first book was published in 1996 and she’s written both fiction and non-fiction. (More on that later). Her current book is Give Me The Child. A couple, Tom and Cat, are woken up in the middle of the night by the police. They have with them an eleven-year-old girl, Ruby. Her mother is dead and she claims that Tom is her father. What are Cat and Tom going to do? The idea for this story came from a family that Mel knows. They had adopted a child and soon, disturbing things started to happen.

Louise’s book, The Surrogate, is about an infertile couple who need a surrogate to help them have a child. Kat’s friend, Lisa, offers to help her and Kat’s husband, Nick, to have a baby. This is a dual-time book looking at the current day and in the past, when Lisa and Kat were close childhood friends.

Claire mixed in some Christmas questions with the literary ones. First question – what makes Christmas essential?

Mel McGrath is secretly The Grinch. She finds the best way to deal with Christmas is to ignore it.

Susi Holliday isn’t a massive fan of Christmas either but as long as she has Baileys and a Chocolate Orange, she’s happy. [Maybe I could add Baileys to my cookies?]

Chris Whitaker has two young sons so they’ve been on Christmas build-up since the summer. The boys are insanely excited.

Louise Jensen is looking forward to have all her family around the table for Christmas lunch.

Back to the literary questions – the path to publication.

Chris pretty much told us his life story so I’ll attempt to condense it. When he was younger he was mugged by someone trying to steal his phone. He was stabbed in the process. This left him in a pretty bad way so he wrote to help himself get over the trauma. He later became a City Trader but he really wanted to write. He quit his job without telling his wife (never a good idea) so wrote Tall Oaks as quickly as he could. He didn’t really know what to do next but sent it out to some agents. He was fortunate to get offers very quickly.

Susi’s background is in Science and she still works as a statistician for a pharmaceutical company. She always wanted to write though. She first met her agent when he dropped a drink on her foot at Harrogate. She asked him for his card. Four years later, she sent him her book. Getting the agent was simple – it’s everything else that’s been hard!

Mel had lots of jobs in her 20s but got sacked from them all (although organising a strike may have not gone in her favour). She came up with a proposal for a book and sent it out to someone who’s surname was Profit. She thought it was a good omen. She got a deal.  A later memoir about her grandparents revealed that her family had criminal connections with the Kray twins no less. So this got Mel into writing Crime.

Louise was told by her school Careers Advisor that she would never be a writer. Much better to get a job in an office so she could still be a good wife. She did as she was told. Later, Louise had an accident that left her in a wheelchair for four years. She wrote for therapy and that lead to her first book. She got an agent quickly but then the agent decided to change career entirely. Thankfully, Louise managed to get another agent.

OK, there were lots more questions from Claire and the audience but I’m going to finish with a Christmas one. Best Christmas film?

Mel – The Grinch

Susi- Die Hard

Chris – Bad Santa

Louise – Die Hard

A fab festive panel for Christmas! Normally at this point, I’d be finishing up my post. But not this time, there’s a bit more to come. After a quick break to buy books and eat cookies (I made 130. I think people enjoyed them), it was time for 10 authors to pitch their best worst ideas to the audience and a select panel of experts made up from the First Monday Crime team – Katherine Armstrong, Liz Barnsley, Joel Richardson and Steph Cleary.

At this point, I mostly put down my pen so that I could properly listen to these ‘fantastic’, or should I say, ‘fantastical’ pitches. Howard Linskey was MC and did his best to keep everyone in line. The authors were Lisa Hall, James Carol, Susi Holliday, Mason Cross, Rod Reynolds, Leye Adenle, Abir Mukherjee, Chris Whitaker, Derek Farrell and Neil White.

There were plenty of fabulous ideas from murderous quilting circles to dinosaurs to some dodgy behaviour near a canal. My cookies even made it into Lisa’s pitch – at this point though, I’d like to state that as far as I’m aware, no one has ever become comatosed as a result of eating my cookies.

There were some corkers though, that were so bad they were good. Susi’s Panda Cannibals was definitely a hit with the panel. Rod’s story was set in space, although it would have worked equally as well on Earth. Abir had us chuckling with a new detective agency set in Africa – Great Uncle Bob’s Detective Agency, featuring Bob, aged 93 and a former President. Chris told the story of Christopherson (not sure if I’ve spelt that right), an award-winning, talented genius of a writer who isn’t fully appreciated until his no.1 fan kidnaps him. (Any resemblance to Misery is purely coincidental).

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But the overall winner, chosen by the panel, and I heartily concur, was Leye Adenle, with his sparkling pitch for Not All that Glitters is a Scam. Leye, a well-respected Nigerian author (currently without representation), told us the incredible story of the man behind fineboyjoe@gmail.com, who’s doing his best to raise money by sending out emails to unsuspecting victims, sorry, people. One woman in Somerset decides to help him. It’s a story of money, scams (sorry, not scams), kidnap, ransom and love. Will it end well?

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So, First Monday Crime ended in a very crowded pub! Everyone seemed to enjoy the panels and pitches, the Secret Santa and the wine. And also my cookies. I ate the last of the 130 cookies on the train on my way home. First Monday Crime will be back in February. Details of authors will be confirmed soon. Happy Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

If you’d like to find out more about the panellists and their books then:

For Susi – click here

For Chris – click here

For Mel – click here and also here

For Louise – click here