Publication Day Post – A Death in Peking @GDSheppardUK #ADeathInPeking

Happy publication day to Graeme Sheppard for A Death in Peking. I’m quite fascinated by true life crime, especially cold cases. This sounds like an intriguing book about the true story of Pamela Werner, a British woman murdered in China. Graeme has written a guest post to tell us more about this historical crime. But first, the blurb.

The Blurb

The brutal murder of 19-year-old Pamela Werner in the city of Peking one night in January 1937 shocked the world, but the police never found or named the murderer.  A best-selling book, Midnight in Peking, declared the murderer to be an American dentist, but English policeman Graeme Sheppard, 30 years with the British Police, decided that conclusion was flawed, and spent years investigating all aspects of the case and came up with an entirely different conclusion. So who did it? Who killed Pamela?

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Guest Post

Most police officers don’t read about crime in their spare time, they experience more than enough of it at work. That was certainly my position, so initially it was with reluctance that I agreed to read a book about the murder of Pamela Werner, a young British woman in 1937 China: Midnight in Peking by Paul French.

Pamela left a skating rink in the city of Peking on her own and cycled off into the dark. She never made it home. Her body was found the next morning in a shallow ditch under the shadow of the city wall. She had been badly mutilated and, most mysteriously, her heart had been stolen. The case petrified Peking’s foreign community and attracted a lot of attention. But it went unsolved.

Midnight in Peking, published in 2011 by Penguin, named the guilty party as not one, but  several local residents – an American dentist, a former US Marine, and an Italian doctor – as charged by the archived investigative letters of the victim’s elderly father, retired British consul, E.T.C. Werner. The book was a best-seller.

But I wasn’t convinced. Not at all. From a policing perspective, the evidence simply didn’t add up. I could not conceive how the British and Chinese police had somehow failed to identify suspects where the father claimed to have succeeded.

Intrigued, I visited the UK National Archives in London and examined the father’s letters for myself – some 160 typed pages addressed to the Foreign Office. And I found that my instinct had been correct. Not only were the accusations far from being objective, but they also revealed Werner’s bizarre personality and methodology; from a police perspective, in no way could the allegations be taken seriously, not without corroboration. It brought the case back to square one – unsolved.

So what had the police found, I wondered. Some eighty years after the murder I “put my police hat on” and set about investigating the crime. How far could I get? In common with the police of the day, I had no access to DNA, no CCTV, no offender profiling, no internet or credit-card monitoring, no mobile phone records; the officers in the case were largely confined to the policing basics of: securing witnesses, identifying exhibits, and divining real intelligence from mere rumour.

The problem I faced was whatever the police did possess had now disappeared: case papers, crime reports, fingerprints, exhibits. All were now lost or destroyed. I would have to look further afield.

Perseverance brings its reward. An international murder created a similar archive: from the USA to Australia, from China to Italy, from Canada to Singapore: letters about the murder between diplomats; notes and memoirs; articles in newspapers; military personnel records; church missionary documents; secret reports of espionage and political assassination. I even managed to find and speak with people Pamela had lived with just before her death – children she’d shared a home with.

Placed together, the material revealed a still wider range of suspects, even implicating the Japanese military. As to identifying the offender, the recorded quotes of British Chief Inspector Richard Dennis pointed the way for me; Pamela’s murderer was no stranger to her.

 A Death in Peking is the result: an evidence-based account of what occurred on that night back in 1937. Eighty years after the crime, sadly my work will lead to no arrest, but the book does the next best thing: it states the motive and names the most likely offender.

 

Thank you Graeme. If that’s whetted your appetite, then you can buy the book by clicking here.

 

 

 

The Author

Graeme Sheppard 2

Born and raised in London, Graeme Sheppard is a retired police officer with thirty years’ service with the Metropolitan Police and in the Northeast of England. He has commendations for crime detection and first-hand experience of many murder investigations.

His enthusiasm for history and sharp eye for telling evidence has resulted in articles in History Today. He now lives and writes in Hampshire.

You can find out more about Graeme at his website pamelawernermurderpeking.com

 

 

 

 

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A Review of @JerichoWriters

A bit of a different blog post today as I’m not reviewing a book. And Jericho Writers isn’t a group of authors living in the Palestinian Territories. Well, not this group anyway! Instead, Jericho Writers is the new name for The Writer’s Workshop and Agent Hunter. I’m going to state up front now that I’ve been offered free membership for a year in return for an unbiased review. Now you might be thinking that I’ll only offer a glowing report but highlighting little niggles actually helps Jericho Writers. If there are things not quite working then it allows them to improve their service.

Jericho Writers

So, let me tell you what I’ve found out so far. Firstly, there’s a lot on offer at Jericho Writers. They have created a whole package of things to help aspiring authors including online courses (paid), masterclasses (free to members), an Agent Match (free to members) which allows you to search for relevant agents and there’s a Library of articles all about how to get published. They also set up events including the Festival of Writing in York. There’s also a Cinema section where authors, agents and publishers have been interviewed as well as an online forum for members. Basically – there’s a LOT! As I only joined a couple of weeks ago, I’ve dipped my toes into various parts of the website rather than fully dived in.

In terms of Masterclasses, I’ve watched How to Get Published with Harry Bingham and started watching a couple of others. They seemed to have been filmed at the publishing days that Jericho Writers put on. I enjoyed Harry Bingham’s class, in particular his suggestion of how to write a synopsis including both the narrative and emotional arcs of the story. I’ll be rewriting my synopsis using that idea.

In the Cinema section I watched an interview with Kate Burke. It was quite long but it was good to see an in-depth conversation and hear about how Kate works and what she’s looking for in a manuscript.

Which brings me nicely to Agent Match. I suspect that this is one of the main reasons for people joining. You could argue there are books that have lists of agents but generally speaking, it’s normally the agencies that are listed rather than individuals. Agent Match allows you to search for individuals and narrow that search by looking in different genres (although I didn’t see Poetry and we all know it’s nearly impossible to find an agent if you’re a poet). You can then add other filters such as agents who are keen to build a list or open to submissions. Nothing worse than seeing your theoretical perfect agent is closed to submissions. You can save your search and in theory have particular favourites – I haven’t quite worked out how to do that yet! But I have found new agents to consider when I’m ready to submit.

The Library is free to all as far as I can tell. I’ve just read an article on Creating a Sense of Place. This is something I find difficult in my writing and Harry Bingham has provided some top tips and given examples.

There are also online courses which do have a fee. Members get 10% discount. I’ve only looked at what’s on offer and not, as yet, signed up. They’re not cheap but to be honest, it’s rare to find anything free or cheap in the book world. I think it all depends on where you are on your writing journey and whether you have access to a creative writing course near to you. If not, then these courses may be an option. If I was going to do any of them then it would probably be the Self-Editing Course with Debi Alper as I’ve heard really good feedback about her as an editor.

If though you’re at the stage where you want a more personal view on your book then Jericho Writers do have an editing service. Prices vary with the word length but you can get a quote online first.

In terms of niggles, there was one day when Agent Match wasn’t working. I contacted Jericho Writers and I’m pleased to say they responded fairly quickly to tell me there had been some updates to the website and that was the issue. Also, I really would like to have a favourites list on Agent Match so if someone can tell me how to do that, that would be great!

Now, clearly, membership is not going to be free. It’s £195 for a year and you’ll be pleased to know that they don’t automatically renew you and you can cancel. I can’t tell you whether you should join or not. It all depends on what it is you need right now in terms of help with your writing. If you think you might be interested then I suggest you have a good look at the website jerichowriters.com to see what they offer to members and if this is something that would work for you. *STOP THE PRESS! FOR BLACK FRIDAY, JERICHO WRITERS ARE OFFERING 100 MEMBERSHIPS WITH 33% DISCOUNT. OFFER EXPIRES ON THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT 25TH NOVEMBER. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY ARE LEFT. THE DISCOUNT CODE IS jw-23nov-100. IF THE CODE DOESN’T WORK THEN ALL 100 MEMBERSHIPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN.*

As I said earlier, I’ve only just dipped my toes in and there’s far more Masterclasses to watch and articles to read and agents to search… I’m certainly going to be spending quite a lot of time on this site!

First Monday Crime December Preview @1stMondayCrime

Well, after this balmy (and slightly barmy) weather that we’ve been having, it’s a lot colder today. Christmas is on its way! And as per usual, First Monday Crime has a special evening planned on the 3rd December. Not only is there a terrific panel but there’s also a fun event. So who’s taking part?

First up on the panel is Erin Kelly, author of He Said/She Said, a twisty tale about a couple who give evidence in a rape trial. Her new book, Stone Mothers will be out next April and I love the blurb for this:

‘The Victorians used to call their mental hospitals stone mothers,’ I say. ‘They thought the design of the building could literally nurse the sick back to health.’

Marianne grew up in the shadow of the old asylum, a place that still haunts her dreams. She was seventeen when she fled the town, her family, her boyfriend Jesse and the body they buried.

Now, forced to return, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never forgave her for leaving, is finally threatening to expose the truth.

Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built; the husband and daughter who must never know. Even if it means turning to her worst enemy…

But Marianne may not know the whole story – and she isn’t the only one with secrets they’d kill to keep.

Sounds great! Really looking forward to reading this.

 

Now, to my absolute shame, I have to confess something – I haven’t read any Mick Herron books. Yet. I do plan to rectify this at some point because I’ve heard such wonderful things about Jackson Lamb and Slough House. Mick will be telling us about his latest novella, The Drop, which features Solomon Dortmund rather than Jackson Lamb. Here’s the blurb:

Old spooks carry the memory of tradecraft in their bones, and when Solomon Dortmund sees an envelope being passed from one pair of hands to another in a Marylebone cafe, he knows he’s witnessed more than an innocent encounter. But in relaying his suspicions to John Bachelor, who babysits retired spies like Solly, he sets in train events which will alter lives. Bachelor himself, a hair’s breadth away from sleeping in his car, is clawing his way back to stability; Hannah Weiss, the double agent whose recruitment was his only success, is starting to enjoy the secrets and lies her role demands; and Lech Wicinski, an Intelligence Service analyst, finds that a simple favour for an old acquaintance might derail his career. Meanwhile, Lady Di Taverner is trying to keep the Service on an even keel, and if that means throwing the odd crew member overboard, well: collateral damage is her speciality.

A drop, in spook parlance, is the passing on of secret information.

It’s also what happens just before you hit the ground.

Ooh, sounds very interesting.

 

Now, it’s important to feature an author who just uses his or her’s initials and in December, J.A. Marley will be fulfilling this brief. Godsend is the sequel to Standstill in the Danny Felix series. Want to know a bit more about it?

It has been eighteen months since Danny Felix pulled off the robbery of his life.  His plan brought London to a standstill, but at a heavy price.

Now, living a quiet life running a charter fishing business in the Florida Keys, Danny is trying to come to terms with the death and destruction he had unwittingly unleashed. However, the low profile is beginning to wear thin and he soon starts to crave the adrenalin rush of his former criminal ways.

Little does he know that three very different women are about to enter his life and turn it upside-down. Soon Danny finds himself right back in the action.

But why has he been chosen? And does he have the appetite to pull off another job where the stakes are so lethally high?

Sounds like a high octane thriller to me!

 

Now, I’m sure we can rely on Will Carver to slow things down a bit. I mean, with a title like Good Samaritans, surely this is the perfect book for the season of goodwill to all men (and women). Ha! Not a chance! Here’s the blurb:

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…
Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

OK, maybe not that peaceful then but definitely one to read at Christmas anyway.

And keeping charge of all four authors is fellow novelist, Kevin Wignall. His latest book is To Die in Vienna.

He’s seen something that could get him killed. But what?

Freddie Makin is a spy for hire. For a year he’s been watching Jiang Cheng, an academic whose life seems suspiciously normal. To Freddie it’s just a job: he never asks who’s paying him and why—until the day someone is sent to kill him, and suddenly the watcher becomes the watched.

On the run from whoever wants him dead, Freddie knows he must have seen something incriminating. The only trouble is, he has no idea what. Is the CIA behind all this—or does it go higher than that? Have his trackers uncovered his own murky past?

As he’s forced into a lethal dance across Vienna, Freddie knows one thing for sure: his only hope for survival is keeping the truth from the other side, and making sure the secrets from his past stay hidden.

 

So that’s the panel for December and it’s going to be great. But wait. I promised you a fun event. Last year we had authors pitching their worst book ideas. The winner was Leye Adenle with All that Glitters isn’t a Scam (if I’ve remembered that correctly!). And it appears that Leye’s prize is to come back to First Monday to present, along with Marnie Riches, Christmas Blind Book Date! Yes, I’m already laughing at the thought of this. The contestants are Susi Holliday, Katerina Diamond, Claire Seeber, Steph Broadribb and Angela Clarke for the Girls. For the Boys, it’s J.S. Law, Chris Whitaker, Paul Burston, Simon Booker and Kevin Wignall. There’s going to be a lorra’ lorra’ laughs!

And if that’s not enough for you, I might bring some cookies as well. See you on Monday 3rd December. Don’t forget to reserve your seat here.

 

 

 

 

First Monday Crime – November with @1stMondayCrime @WilliamRyan_ @lizzienugent @FionaAnnCummins D.B. John @JakeKerridge

It was a cracker of a night at First Monday Crime, complete with accompanying fireworks. Our sparkling authors were W.C. (William) Ryan, Fiona Cummins, Liz Nugent and D.B. John. Jake Kerridge was in charge.

First up are the all-important books.

Star of the North

D.B. John’s second book is Star of the North, set in North Korea. David actually lived in Seoul in South Korea for several months and visited North Korea for a couple of weeks. He was fascinated by the reaction of North Koreans when Kim Jong-Il died in 2011. There wasn’t a dry eye because they all knew they would be punished if they didn’t show public grief. He saw first-hand the huge personality cult of the Kim dynasty, as well as the lights that only shine bright in the capital of Pyongyang and the malnutrition in the villages that still exists after the famine in the 90s. He’s tried to base his novel on true events. In his story a young American woman is kidnapped from a South Korean beach. Her twin sister is recruited by the CIA to find her. In the past, North Korea did abduct random people from beaches. Notes are included with the novel because some of the facts seem so far-fetched.

A House of Ghosts

A House of Ghosts is the new novel from W.C. Ryan. Set in 1917 on an isolated island in December, Blackwater Abbey is a very haunted house. We see them through the eyes of Kate Cartwright who sees ghosts everywhere, so much so that she’s actually a bit bored by them. She particularly sees the drowned sailors in fishing ports. There are lots of different styles that have influenced William – Agatha Christie, John Buchan and Georgette Heyer for a tongue-in-cheek romance. The book also explores WW1 and the interest in spiritualism at this time. With so many soldiers missing in action, families often turned to spiritualism to find out information about their loved ones.

Skin Deep

Ireland, London and Monaco are the destinations for Skin Deep by Liz Nugent. The book begins with the protagonist, Cordelia, on the Riveria. Liz likes to put her characters in extreme situations and then see how they deal with it. For Cordelia, there’s a gruesome discovery in her apartment. The book goes back to her childhood on a small island off the coast of Ireland. It wasn’t until after she’d finished writing the book that Liz realised that this little island was very much like Cordelia – beautiful, wild and dangerous.  Another influence was the song ‘Lady of a Certain Age’ by The Divine Comedy – a lady whose beauty and luxurious lifestyle were rapidly fading.

The Collector final cover

The Collector is the sequel to Fiona Cummins’ Rattle. Originally there wasn’t going to be a follow-up as Fiona doesn’t always like neat endings. She only decided to write The Collector after talking to the editor at Pan Macmillan when Rattle was out on submission. The editor was very keen to know how the story ultimately ended. Fiona wanted to create a troubled, young man who would be an heir for the Bone Collector aka Mr Silver. He had no children of his own and his crimes had been handed down to him through his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Fiona is particularly interested in why people commit crime and how upbringing can affect this. So there’s sections in the novel looking back to Mr Silver’s childhood and how it shaped him. As Jake pointed out, by writing about children, Fiona was really wringing our hearts. As a former journalist, Fiona has covered many tragedies and the most important part was to tap into emotion – to find the personal details – that would hit home. Fiona gave the example of the Westminster Bridge attack. You might hear that five people have been killed and feel quite sad. But once you know their names and their reasons for being in London that day e.g. a holiday of a lifetime or a mother on the school run, there’s an emotional connection. And it’s this kind of connection that Fiona wanted to create in Rattle and The Collector. [And having read both, I can confirm that she’s absolutely achieved this.]

FM Nov 18

So with all these incredibly dark stories, Jake asked if you have to have a dark side to be a crime writer?

For D.B. John, he’s obsessed with tyrannies and what happens to society in a totalitarian state with a strong personality cult. His first novel, Flight From Berlin, was set in 1930s Nazi Germany and his next one will be in Putin’s Russia. He wonders if his fascination stems from being bullied at school.

William Ryan thinks the most important thing is to work out the motive for the killer and that then makes it interesting. He’s also written about Nazism and Stalinism and how tyrannies start.

Liz Nugent doesn’t have a dark side and gets all her angst out on the page and then moves on. She leaves her characters in the laptop and doesn’t get nightmares from her stories.

Fiona Cummins isn’t tormented by her characters. It’s more life experiences that affect her and her writing – being scared of the monster under the bed as a child, being stalked at age 15 and family illness – all those fears fed into the book and it was cathartic to write it all down. She might scare herself with writing late at night, home alone or with researching real life stuff. But she’s a sunny person really – she likes to bake and has a puppy!

 

A member of the audience asked about the problems of research. Both William and David said that researching guns (even historic ones) were a problem because there was always someone who would point out a mistake. For Liz, there was a particular condition she wanted to use in a story but all the experts said it wasn’t possible until she find one who said it was unlikely but possible. That was good enough for her. Fiona’s latest manuscript was read by a pathologist who told her that her method of murder was completely impossible which meant having to find a new one!

 

All that was left to do was to buy some books from Big Green Bookshop (thankfully we live in a society that reads books rather than burning them on a bonfire) and head to the pub. For those of you who couldn’t make it you can buy the books at your local bookshop or online.

D.B. John – click here

W.C. Ryan – click here

Liz Nugent – click here

Fiona Cummins – click here

First Monday Crime will be back on Monday December 3rd with a spectacular panel and some Christmas entertainment! And as it’s Christmas, I’ll make lots of cookies to bring! So don’t forget to reserve your free seat at First Monday Crime

 

 

Blog tour – #TheLingering by @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @annecater

Lingering blog poster 2018 (1) (1)

I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Lingering by SJI Holliday today. Thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for asking me to take part. My blog buddy today is Nicola over at shortbookandscribe.uk

The Blurb

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for a fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home,with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

The Lingering - ebook cover

My Review

I had the great privilege of interviewing Susi at my local library recently, along with William Ryan. It was great to hear about some of the influences behind The Lingering, particularly Susi’s own experience of staying on a commune. I’m sure she’ll be saying more about that in some of the guest posts on the tour. But what about the book?

Well, I loved the opening with that incredible sense of smell – ‘There’s an unfamiliar smell in the air today. Something like wet pine cones and mulched earth. A hint of old sweat, something sweet, like a lily, and the sticky ripeness that comes from unwashed bodies.’ From those first three sentences, I knew I was in for a treat.

We know from the outset that something is a bit off with Jack and Ali but of course, our natural inclination is to think that there’s something wrong with the community. Especially with all the list of rules – no internet, no contact with the local village, no regular contact with family and friends on the outside – all advised rather than completely forbidden, giving the idea that you still have control. And how many times can you eat mouli?!

The setting – Rosalind House – exudes creepiness from the beginning – ‘we don’t go into the North Wing’. It has a long history of wrongdoings from persecuting women as witches to sadistic treatments for patients with mental health issues. There’s the idea of once you go into Rosalind House, you’re there for life. Only a few leave.

There are some fantastic characters as well. To begin with I wondered why Angela was written in the first person but that becomes clear later in the book. I definitely preferred being in her head than anyone else’s! The people in the community appear to be lost and looking for meaning in their lives. Jack and Ali want a fresh start but they seem to be escaping rather than searching for meaning. In the first part of the book, Smeaton Dunsmore is the archetypal commune leader – softly spoken, very controlled (and controlling), and the font of all wisdom and knowledge. All with subtle sinister undertones. In the second part though when Smeaton becomes one of the narrators, we see him more as an ordinary man – insecure and his ideal of always trying to see the good in people blinds him to evil. His lack of discernment has catastrophic consequences.

I also liked the diary entries from the 1950s which slowly reveal the true nature of what happened in Rosalind House at that time.

But the real stars of the show are the ghosts – just the right balance of creepiness! From the obvious things of lights flickering or a coldness coming over you, to the wet footprints or being held down in the bath. Nothing was over the top and the feeling of discomfort is there from the very beginning.

This is a standalone but, although things are tied together at the end, there are still questions that need answering. This is a perfect read for autumn/winter. Just as the trees are stripped of their leaves, The Lingering lays bare the secrets and lies of Rosalind House and its inhabitants, both past and present. A deliciously chilling and creepy read.

 

The Lingering is available as an e-book now and the paperback is published on 15th November. To buy/pre order, click here.

 

The Author

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S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung.’ She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.