Blog Tour for #Attend by @west_camel @OrendaBooks @annecater

Attend Blog Tour Poster

I’m delighted to be on the tour for Attend by West Camel. Already known for his excellent editing skills, West Camel is proving to be a very worthy author too. Thank you to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part. I have an extract for you but first the blurb.

 

The Blurb

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

ATTEND AW.indd

The Extract

Chapter 1: Anne
Anne pulled at the door, but it resisted; it clung to the jambs. She
hoped no one was passing on the balcony outside, seeing that she
couldn’t even get out of her own home.
She tugged again and recalled struggling like this once before.
When Mel had locked her in.
He’d grabbed her as she’d made a dash for the front door of their
flat. Held her against the wall, his heavy forearm at her throat;
searched her pockets for her keys and the money she’d stolen from
his wallet to buy herself a hit.
‘Now look after your fucking kid,’ he’d shouted as he locked the
door from the outside, his face a dirty blur in the frosted glass.
Julie had wailed in the next room – the insistent keen of a six-week-
old. What was it – eighteen years ago? The sound still rasped.
Anne’s hand slipped and she grazed a layer of skin off the knuckle
of her thumb. She took a breath and looked down at the key in her
palm, its grooves and notches clean and new. Mel was long gone, she
was alone and this door was just a bad fit. She tried pushing her toe
under its bottom lip and pulling the handle upward. With a bit of a
twist it opened.
She stepped out into sunlight and the smell of roasting meat.
Sunday. Her mother would be busy with the dinner right now – hot,
banging pots. Perhaps she should walk over there – have something
to eat, help with the washing-up. But Julie would be home with the
baby. They wouldn’t want Anne there, spoiling things.
As she descended the three floors to the courtyard, she heard
booming voices and shrieking kids. The Nigerian family on the
ground floor had just arrived back from church. Anne nodded to
them as she passed – the children in neat suits and dresses, the men
smart, and the women tall in their hot-coloured wrappers and stiff
headscarves.
‘Hello, how are you settling in?’ asked the mother, her children
swinging at the ends of her long arms.
‘Not bad, thank you. Getting there, you know.’ But Anne kept
moving, conscious of her mousey, messy hair, her drab jeans and
scuffed trainers.
She hurried on out of the courtyard, not sure now whether she
would call her mother. But waiting at the crossing on Church Street,
she reminded herself why she had come back, clean, to Deptford.
She pulled out her mobile phone; no credit. There was a phone box
on the other side of the road – she would call from there and invite
herself to dinner. She would make herself sound cheery and relaxed.
Rita answered loudly, but seemed to lower her voice when she
realised it was Anne.
‘Oh, hello, love. What’s up?’
‘Nothing, just settling in, you know.’
‘Need anything doing?’
‘I’m OK, I’m doing everything myself.’
‘Oh yes? Well, don’t be knocking back help when it’s offered; you
don’t know when you might need it.’
Anne gripped the phone’s stiff metal cord. ‘How’s everything
there?’
‘Alright. We’re sitting down to dinner in a minute.’
‘Oh right. I was thinking I could come over, if you don’t mind. I
just fancy a roast.’
Rita paused for a moment. ‘I’d like to say yes to you, love, but…’
‘Don’t worry, not enough to go round?’
‘Well, that, and, well, Mel’s here.’
Anne dug her nail into the graze on her thumb. ‘Come for his
lunch most Sundays, does he?’ She knew it was the wrong thing to
say as soon as the words were out.
Rita was quick to react. ‘No, but he’s been to see his daughter and
grandson a lot more than you have.’
‘I want to come now, don’t I?’
‘Well, I didn’t know that. You wouldn’t want to be here with him
anyway, would you?’
‘No, I fucking wouldn’t.’
‘Well there you are, then. What can I do?’
‘You just think he’s some fucking saint and I’m the only one that
fucked up.’ Anne heard her voice scudding away from her. ‘And Julie
thinks the sun shines out of his fucking hole. If she knew what it was
like when she was little—’
Her mother interrupted, hard and quiet. ‘She don’t, Anne. But I
do. And I also know that it was me that looked after her when you
was off sticking yourself full of that shit. So don’t start.’
Anne was silent. She heard her own breath in the handset. A train
rumbled along the viaduct above her.
‘Go on then, got any more?’ said Rita. The baby cried in the
background.
‘No, Mum.’
‘Right, then.’
‘Bye.’
Anne thumped the wall of the phone box. Everything was
clenched, her throat was tight. She tried to slam the door as she
left the box, but the spring insisted on closing it slowly. Mel must
be sitting down at her mother’s table now, his fists tight around a
knife and fork, a napkin tucked into his shirt, his heavy jaw steadily
chewing through the meat. While she stood here alone, under the
railway arch, not sure where to go. The noise of a massive, empty
lorry drove her out, fiercely picking at the hem of her coat.
She wanted a fix, and had to shake her head and mutter ‘no’ out
loud – she was beyond that now. She turned into Crossfield Street,
her gaze lowered to the patches of old cobbles appearing where the
tarmac was wearing away.
She slowed down; there was a bench ahead – she could sit down
there and calm herself. It was on the edge of a green space that was
criss-crossed oddly by humps and half-walls – left over from before
the war, she always supposed. Beyond it was the white church where
she had been married to Mel. Kathleen – Mel’s sister, and her oldest
friend – had been bridesmaid. That had been the best part: her and
Kathleen in their dresses.
She looked up at the church tower, its columns and scrolls rising
above the uglier buildings around into an almost irresistibly sharp
needle. The intricate gold clock below it always surprised her by
telling the right time. And, as she looked, the bell began to chime.
When she looked down, she saw someone else was sitting on the
bench: an old woman in a dark-grey woollen skirt and shawl, a grey
bag placed beside her. She was bent over slightly and what looked
like a white sheet was spread across her lap. Anne’s step faltered –
she could not work out where this person had appeared from. The
woman glanced up as she passed, and Anne, attracted by the clean,
open face and wave of white hair, allowed herself to smile and nod.
But rather than returning her smile, the woman’s face tightened in
shock and she clutched at the edges of her shawl. Anne saw something
drop from her hand and bounce onto the ground, leaving a
twisting trail behind it. Turning her head back, Anne saw that it was
a reel of white thread. The woman made no effort to pick it up, but
stared open-mouthed as Anne walked away. Anne shook her head
again, wondering why she had bothered coming back to Deptford.
She reached the junction with the High Street and turned back
into the churchyard, where there were more benches among the
graves and rose bushes. She had always found a little peace here.
When she had rowed with her mother, or Mel or Kathleen, she would
come and sit on the stone caskets or, most often, on the curved steps
under the church’s semicircular porch.
Now, as she lowered herself onto the top step, she heard the swell
of voices from the service on the other side of the doors. The hymn’s
tune was familiar, but the words escaped her for the moment, and
she couldn’t resist a growing feeling that, after the long, meandering
journey to get herself clean, she was back where she had started.
She leaned against the pillar behind her and tried to tell herself that
things were different now: she hadn’t taken smack in two years; Julie
was grown up and had her own baby; she and Mel had divorced long
ago. But she still hadn’t seen Kathleen; and he was at her mother’s
table while she was stewing on these same cold steps.
The voices had been quiet for several minutes when the old
woman who had been sitting on the bench in Crossfield Street came
in through the churchyard gate. She strolled slowly down the path,
making a show of looking at the graves on either side, but all the
time sneaking glances up at Anne. Her clothes and her bag were
the same colour as the rain-stained stones. When she was just a few
yards away, she seemed to realise that Anne was watching her, drew
her short figure up a little and looked Anne full in the face, her lips
parted and her blue eyes wide. There was something slightly desperate
about her expression that made Anne move around on the step,
but she held the woman’s gaze and, at this, the woman approached
more purposefully until she stood nearly at Anne’s feet.

 

Who is the old woman and what does she want with Anne? There’s only one way to find out. You can buy Attend here.

 

The Author

West Camel

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist,
and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

 

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Blog Tour – The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup @MichaelJBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheChestnutMan

The Chestnut Man Blog Tour Banner

Well, it’s nearly the big day. I hope you’ve got everything ready. Today is probably going to be manic (it certainly will be in my house) but I want you to take just a few minutes to yourself. Grab a cuppa. Sit back and read the opening extract from The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, the creator of The Killing – the hit TV series from Denmark. Think of it as a little early Christmas present from me and publisher, Michael Joseph. Enjoy! (But maybe don’t read it late at night!)

 

The Blurb

One Tuesday in October, Rosa Hartung is returning to her job as minister for social affairs following a year’s leave of absence – granted after the dramatic disappearance of her twelve-year-old daughter. Linus Bekker, a mentally ill young man, confessed to her killing, but is unable to remember where he buried the various parts of her dismembered corpse.
On the same day Rosa returns to Parliament, a young single mother is found brutally
murdered at her home in the suburbs of Copenhagen-she’s been tortured, and one hand
has been cut off. Thulin and Hess, the detectives sent to investigate the crime, arrive at the address to find a figure made of chestnuts hanging from a playhouse nearby.
When yet another woman is murdered-this time with both hands missing-and another
chestnut figure is found, Thulin and Hess begin to suspect a connection with the
Hartung case. But what is it?
Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock, because its clear that the murderer is on a
mission that is far from over…

The Chestnut Man Jacket

The Extract

Chapter 1

Tuesday 31 October 1989
Red and yellow leaves drift down through the sunlight onto the wet asphalt, which cuts through the woods like a dark and glassy river. As the white squad car tears past, they’re spun briefly in the air before coming to rest in sticky clumps along the edge of the road. Marius Larsen takes his foot off the accelerator and eases up for the bend, making a mental note to tell the council they need to come out here with the sweeper. If the leaves are left too long they’ll make the surface slippery, and that sort of thing can cost lives. Marius has seen it many times before. He’s been on the force forty-one years, senior
officer at the station for the last seventeen, and he has to prod them about it every single autumn. But not today – today he has to focus on the conversation.
Marius fiddles irritably with the frequency on the car radio, but he can’t find what he’s looking for. Only news about Gorbachev and Reagan, and speculation about the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s imminent, they’re saying. A whole new era may be on its way.
He’s known for a while that the conversation has to happen, yet he’s never been able to screw up his courage. Now there’s only a week until his wife thinks he’s retiring, so the time has come to tell her the truth. That he can’t cope without his job. That he’s dealt with the practical side of things and put off the decision. That he isn’t ready yet to settle on the corner sofa and watch Wheel of Fortune, to rake leaves in the garden or play Old Maid with the grandkids.
It sounds easy when he runs through the conversation in his head, but Marius knows full well she’ll be upset. She’ll feel let down. She’ll get up from the table and start scouring the hob in the kitchen, and tell him with her back turned that she understands. But she won’t. So when the report came over the radio ten minutes ago he told the station he’d handle it himself, postponing the conversation a little longer. Normally he’d be annoyed about having to drive all the way out to Ørum’s Farm through fields and forest merely to tell them they need to keep a better eye on their animals. Several times now, pigs or cows have broken through the fence and gone roaming the neighbour’s fields until Marius or one of his men made Ørum sort it out. But today he isn’t annoyed. He asked them to call first, of course, ringing Ørum’s house and the ferry terminal, where he has a part-time job, but when nobody picked up at either place he turned off the main road and
headed for the farm.
Marius finds a channel playing old Danish music. ‘The Bright Red Rubber Dinghy’ fills the old Ford Escort, and Marius turns up the volume. He’s enjoying the autumn and
the drive. The woods, their yellow, red and brown leaves mixing with the evergreens. The anticipation of hunting season, which is just beginning. He rolls down the window, the sunlight casting its dappled light onto the road through the treetops, and for a moment Marius forgets his age.
There’s silence at the farm. Marius gets out and slams the car door, and as he does so it strikes him that it’s been ages since he was last here. The wide yard looks dilapidated. There are holes in the windows of the stable, the plaster on the walls of the house is peeling off in strips, and the empty swing set on the overgrown lawn is nearly swallowed up by the tall chestnut trees encircling the property. Littered across the gravel yard are leaves and fallen chestnuts, which squelch beneath his feet as he walks up to the front door and knocks.
After Marius has knocked three times and called out Ørum’s name, he realises nobody will answer. Seeing no sign of life, he takes out a pad, writes a note and slips it through
the letter box, while a few crows flit across the yard and vanish behind the Ferguson tractor parked in front of the barn. Marius has driven all the way out here on a fool’s errand, and now he’ll have to stop by the ferry terminal to get hold of Ørum. But he’s not annoyed for long: on the way back to the car an idea pops into his head. That never usually happens to Marius, so it must be a stroke of luck that he drove out here instead of heading straight home to the conversation. Like a plaster on a cut, he’ll offer his wife a trip to Berlin. They could nip down there for a week – well, at least a weekend, say, as soon as he can take time off. Do the drive themselves, witness history in the making – that new era – eat dumplings and sauerkraut like they did before in Harzen, on that camping trip with the kids far too long ago. Only when he’s almost reached the car does he see why the crows are settling behind the tractor. They’re hopping around on something pallid and formless, and not until he gets closer does he realise it’s a pig. Its eyes are dead, but its body jerks and shivers as though trying to frighten off the crows, which are feeding from the gunshot wound at the back of its head.
Marius opens the front door. The hallway is dim, and he notices the scent of damp and mould, and something else he can’t quite put his finger on.

‘Ørum, it’s the police.’

There’s no reply, but he can hear water running somewhere in the house, so he steps into the kitchen. The girl is a teenager. Maybe sixteen, seventeen. Her body is still sitting in the chair by the table, and what’s left of her ruined face is floating in her bowl of porridge. On the linoleum on the other side of the table is another lifeless figure. He’s a teenager too, a little older, with a gaping bullet wound in his chest and the back of his head tilted awkwardly against the stove. Marius goes rigid. He’s seen dead people before, of course, but never anything like this, and for a brief moment he’s paralysed, until
he takes his service pistol out of the holster on his belt.

‘Ørum?’

Marius proceeds further into the house as he calls Ørum’s name, this time with his pistol raised. Still no reply. Marius finds the next corpse in the bathroom, and this time he has
to clap his hand to his mouth so he doesn’t throw up. The water is running from the tap into the bathtub, which has long since filled to the brim. It’s spilling onto the terrazzo flooring and down the drain, intermingled with the blood. The naked woman – she must be the teenagers’ mother – is lying tangled on the floor. One arm and one leg have been separated from the torso. In the subsequent autopsy report, it will emerge that she has been struck repeatedly with an axe. First as she lay in the bathtub and then as she tried to escape by crawling onto the floor. It will also be established that she tried to defend herself with her hands and feet, which is why they have split open. Her face is unrecognisable, because the axe was used to cave in her skull.
Marius would have frozen at the sight if he hadn’t glimpsed a faint movement out of the corner of his eye. Half hidden beneath a shower curtain dumped in the corner, he can make out a figure. Cautiously, Marius pulls back the curtain a little. It’s a boy. Dishevelled hair, about ten or eleven. He’s lying lifeless in the blood, but a corner of the curtain is still covering the boy’s mouth and it vibrates weakly, haltingly. Marius swiftly leans over the boy and removes the curtain, picking up his limp arm and trying to find a pulse. The boy has cuts and scratches on his arms and legs, he wears a bloody T-shirt and
underwear, and an axe has been dropped near his head. Finding a pulse, Marius leaps to his feet.
In the living room he grabs feverishly at the telephone beside the full ashtray, sending it tumbling to the floor, but by the time he gets hold of the station his head is clear enough to deliver a coherent message. Ambulance. Officers. Asap. No trace of Ørum. Get going. Now! When he hangs up his first thought is to hurry back to the boy, but then abruptly he remembers that there must be another child: the boy has a twin sister.
Marius heads back towards the front hall and the staircase up to the first floor. As he passes the kitchen and the open basement door, he stops short. There was a sound. A footfall or a scrape, but now there’s silence. Marius draws his pistol again. Opening the door wide, he shuffles gingerly down the narrow steps until his feet find the concrete floor. It takes his eyes a moment to adjust to the dark, and then he sees the open basement door at the end of the corridor. His body hesitates, telling him he ought to stop here, wait for the ambulance and his colleagues; but Marius thinks of the girl. As he approaches the door he can see it’s been forced open. The lock and bolt are discarded on the ground, and Marius enters the room, which is lit only dimly by the grime-smeared windows above. Yet he can still make out a small shape hidden well back beneath a table in the corner. Hurrying over, Marius lowers his gun, bends down and peers underneath it.
‘It’s okay. It’s over now.’
He can’t see the girl’s face, only that she’s shaking and huddled into the corner without looking at him.
‘My name is Marius. I’m from the police, and I’m here to help you.’
The girl stays timidly where she is, as though she can’t even hear him, and suddenly Marius becomes aware of the room. Glancing around, he realises what it was used for. He’s disgusted. Then he catches a glimpse of the crooked wooden shelves through the door to the adjoining room. The sight makes him forget the girl, and he walks across to the threshold. Marius can’t see how many there are, but there are more than he can count with the naked eye. Chestnut dolls, male and female. Animals, too. Big and small, some childish, others eerie. Many of them unfinished and malformed. Marius stares at them, their number and variety, and the small dolls on the shelves fill him with disquiet, as the boy steps through the door behind him.
In a split second Marius realises he should remember to ask Forensics whether the basement door was broken down from the inside or the outside. In a split second he realises something monstrous may have escaped, like the animals from their pens, but when he turns towards the boy his thoughts swim away like tiny, puzzled clouds across the heavens. Then the axe strikes his jaw, and everything goes black.

 

Now that’s what you call a beginning! If you want to read in then I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. The Chestnut Man is due to be published on 10th January 2019. You can pre-order here.

Thank you to Jenny Platt at Penguin Random House for inviting me to take part.

 

The Author

Søren Sveistrup

Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon The Killing which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries.
Søren Sveistrup (born 1968) holds a master of Literature and History from the University of Copenhagen and has graduated as script writer from the Danish Film School.

Top Ten Reads of 2018 @ameranwar @SJIHolliday @ClareEmpson2 @WilliamRyan_ @Rod_WR @william1shaw @elisabeth04liz @willrdean @FionaAnnCummins @markhillwriter

It’s come to that time of year again. I’ve been staring at a list of thirteen books wondering how I’m going to reduce it to just ten. And then I think about all the books that I haven’t managed to read yet this year. This is agonising! The good news is that I do have a definite top three. But let’s start with the other seven in no particular order.

brothers-in-blood-cover

I’m going to begin with a book that absolutely has to be in my top 10 reads, not least because I actually read it last year when it was called Western Fringes. This stunning debut was originally self-published by Amer Anwar but then something remarkable happened. New imprint, Dialogue Books, picked it up and it was released in September 2018 under the new title of Brothers in Blood. It’s a gritty thriller set on the mean streets of West London, mostly Southall and Hounslow. I adored this book because I know the area well and I could picture it all. Amer’s journey to publication is almost as complicated as his plot! You can read all about that and my original review here.

You can buy Brothers in Blood here.

Him

I’ve read a few more psychological thrillers this year and the one that impressed me most was Him by Clare Empson. This debut is about obsessive love and the destruction it can cause. It’s wonderfully claustrophobic both in content and intensity. You can read my review here.

You can buy Him here.

It Was Her

My favourite sub-genre of Crime is Police Procedural and there’s been an amazing selection of cop stories to choose from this year. One that sticks out in particular is It Was Her by Mark Hill. DI Ray Drake has to be the most complex and flawed detective I’ve read in 2018. Along with DS Flick Crowley, Ray has to find the Goldilocks killer. You can read my review here.

You can buy It Was Her here.

Next up are two ghostly books that swept me away in genre crossover delight!

The Lingering - ebook cover

The Lingering by SJI Holliday is a truly creepy psychological thriller. Susi has managed to blend just the right amount of fear and creepiness together to create this atmospheric tale. My main piece of advice – don’t read it in the bath! You can read my review here.

You can buy The Lingering here.

A House of Ghosts

A House Of Ghosts by WC Ryan wins the cover of the year award. The gold design is embossed onto the black cover and is very tactile! The novel matches up too with a ghostly/Golden Age murder mystery/spy thriller story. It’s perfect for a winter afternoon’s read. My review is here.

You can buy A House of Ghosts here.

OK, this is getting hard now. Two spaces left but five books in contention. I’m going to mention the three that are so close because they are truly wonderful books – Overkill by Vanda Symons, My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland and After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac. All have amazing police officers (and one amateur detective) and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

So, the next two before my top three. In some respects, these two are poles apart but they’re linked by their protagonists. Both are newspaper journalists.

Cold Desert Sky

Charlie Yates returned this year in Cold Desert Sky, the third in the series by Rod Reynolds. The action moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas as Charlie searched for two missing young women. I love the authentic American style and language that Rod uses – it’s never overdone. You can read my review here.

You can buy Cold Desert Sky here.


Photo courtesy of Will Dean – thank you!

Moving now from the desert to a cold, frozen forest. I think it’s fair to say that Will Dean has burst onto the Crime genre scene with Dark Pines. Tuva Moodyson has captured my heart as the outsider journalist in the small Swedish town of Gavrik. Not bound by allegiance to the town, Tuva sets out to unveil a serial killer no matter what the cost. You can read my review here.

You can buy Dark Pines here.

So, here we go. My top three reads of the year. I think number one might surprise you!

Coming in third…

salt lane cover

Oh how I loved this! I read it very quickly (always a good sign). For me, everything just came together – plot, setting, atmosphere and the wonderful DS Alex Cupidi. I loved the way that William Shaw wove the different threads of the story together to create an intricate tale. The second in the series, Deadland will be out in May next year. I can’t wait. You can read my review here.

You can buy Salt Lane here.

And second… I’m not sure if this author is going to love me or hate me for this.

The Collector final cover

Just pipped to the post again is Fiona Cummins and The Collector. The sequel to Rattle (second last year) is even more breath-taking, tense and incredibly atmospheric. Mr Silver managed to escape the clutches of the police last time but will he evade capture again? It’s simply stunning. Fiona’s new book, The Neighbour is out in April 2019. I’ve had the chance to read it and I have just one word for you – wow! You can read my review of The Collector here.

You can buy The Collector here.

So, which author has managed to squeeze in ahead of the rest to take the number one slot? Well, if you’ve read my reviews this year you’ll have noticed that I haven’t used the ‘E’ word – extraordinary. But there’s a book that’s been in my heart since near the beginning of the year. I keep thinking about it. I read it very quickly at the time. It made me laugh and sob. Officially, it’s not a Crime book. Yet, it’s about the greatest crime of the 20th century.

My Top Read of 2018 is…

The Good Doctor of Warsaw

This is achingly beautiful. Based on the true story of Dr Janusz Korczak and two of his helpers, Misha and Sophia, The Good Doctor of Warsaw brings to life the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto during WW2. This may sound like a heavy topic but Elisabeth Gifford has written this with a lightness of touch that stirs the soul with hope. It’s hard to put into words just how this book made me feel but, with hindsight, it’s most deserving of this word – extraordinary. You can read my full review here and an interview with Elisabeth Gifford here.

You can buy The Good Doctor of Warsaw here.

So, that’s my top ten reads for 2018. It really was a difficult decision and even now there are books popping up in my head – The Chalk Man, First to Die, The Killing of Butterfly Joe, Cross Your Heart…  I’d love to know your favourite read so feel free to comment below. I have a couple more blog tours before the end of the year but I’m going to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year now!

But just before I go, I want to give you a little taster of an event at my local library in January. You can come and meet two of the authors from my top ten and hear more about their books.

USvUK noir

Blog Tour – #TooFar by @jasonstarrbooks @noexitpress

Too Far Blog Tour poster (2)

It’s my pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Too Far  by Jason Starr, published by No Exit Press. Thank you for asking me to take part. I have an extract for you to read but first the blurb.

 

The Blurb

One night. One date. What have you got to lose?

Jack Harper isn’t a bad man, but he’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a mediocre job just trying to keep sober. The only good thing in his life is his son. When an old college friend introduces him to a new extramarital dating website, he tentatively reaches out to find a distraction from his misery. But when he goes to meet up with his steamy online date, he quickly realises it was a dire choice.

Soon, Jack finds himself desperately trying to prove his innocence for crimes he did not commit, and the life he once had – unhappy as it was – is nothing but a dream. Now, he’s living his worst nightmare. . .

Too Far cover

The Extract

After the playground I went with Jonah and a few of his friends and their moms and babysitters for frozen yogurt at Sixteen Handles on Second Avenue. On the way home Jonah and I swung by Agata & Valentina on First Avenue to pick up some groceries. We’d had Chinese a lot lately, and I thought it would be nice to have a home-cooked meal for a change.

I made a garden salad and one of my specialties – chicken cutlets and rice pilaf. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly difficult to sauté a few chicken breasts and prepare packaged rice pilaf, but it’s the thought that counts, right?  Maria came home and saw dinner on the stove.

‘You cooked?’ She sounded surprised.

‘Yeah, just thought it would be nice to mix things up for a change.’

‘Great idea,’ she said.

She went into the bedroom to change out of her work clothes.

During dinner, Jonah told us all about what he’d learned in science class in school

and about Pokémon Go. It was nice to have a pleasant dinner with my family. For the first time in a long time things seemed normal. Maybe if I continued to make an effort, things with Maria would improve. Maybe we could have a date night, talk more, and enjoy each other the way we used to.

 

‘It’s too bad they don’t teach Pokémon on the fourth grade exam,’ I said to Maria.

‘Yeah, that’s true.’ Maria suddenly seemed out of it.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked.

‘I’m not sure,’ she said, wincing, as if she had a sour taste in her mouth. ‘I have to go lie down.’ She headed into the bedroom.

 

Later, after I tucked Jonah in, I heard Maria in the bathroom, throwing up violently.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked, concerned.  She couldn’t answer, but I caught a glimpse of her very pale face.

‘Close the door,’ she said.

For the next half-hour, she couldn’t leave the bathroom.  I made periodic offers to help her, but she insisted that I leave her alone.

Finally, she left the bathroom, looking like she’d been through hell.

‘Jesus, you should lie down again,’ I said. ‘Can I get you something? Water? Ginger ale? Imodium?’ She stood near the bathroom, looking disgusted, holding her stomach.

Then she said, ‘I think it was the chicken.’ ‘I don’t see how that’s possible,’ I said. ‘I cooked it thoroughly and it definitely wasn’t spoiled. I remember checking the date on the package. I really think you should force yourself to drink some water.’ ‘Did you clean the knife?’ she asked.

‘Of course I cleaned it,’ I said.

Actually, I thought I’d cleaned it, but I couldn’t remember for sure.

‘I mean before you made the salad,’ she said.

‘Yes, of course I cleaned it,’ I said. ‘I mean I don’t remember not cleaning it.’

‘So there’s a chance you didn’t clean it?’

‘I cleaned it, I’m sure,’ I said. ‘Besides, I’m not sick and Jonah isn’t sick. It’s obviously just a virus, or something you ate at work. It’s going around. Four kids were absent in Jonah’s class today.’

‘I know the difference between food poisoning and a virus,’ Maria said, ‘and this isn’t a fucking virus. It must’ve been salmonella from the knife you used to cut the chicken.’

I understood why Maria was upset, but I didn’t like how she was taking it out on me.

‘You don’t have to curse,’ I said, ‘and are you actually accusing me of giving you salmonella?’ ‘I can curse whenever I want to curse,’ she said, She was about to add to this when her face turned grayish-white. She rushed back into the bathroom, slamming the door.

‘Why’s mommy so mad?’

Jonah had heard the door slam and came out of his room. He looked worried.

‘She’s just not feeling well,’ I said. ‘But she’ll be fine, I promise.’

‘Okay,’ Jonah said and returned to bed.  I sat on the couch for a while, trying to relax. I felt bad for arguing with Maria, especially within earshot of Jonah, but the dynamic was typical. It seemed like whenever I made an attempt to try to improve my marriage or open up communication, it somehow backfired.  Trying to distract myself, I went online on my laptop.

I checked Facebook – Rob had posted a selfie of himself with a big smile in front of the big clock at Grand Central Station – and I discovered that the Powerball ticket I’d bought the other day had no correct numbers. I was about to close the browser when I remembered Rob talking about that extramarital dating website; what was the name of it?  Dangerous Hookups? No, Discreet Hookups, that was it.

For the hell of it, I checked it out.

The welcome page was the silhouette of a man sitting on a beach. As I dragged the cursor over the man, a silhouette of a shapely woman appeared next to him. Then above the couple the words appeared:

Marry for companionship, cheat for happiness

I was about to close my laptop, but then I thought, What the hell? and clicked enter.

 

Well, clearly the moral of the story is always clean the knife after preparing  raw chicken!

You can find out more about Jason Starr and buy the e-book here.

 

The Author

Jason Starr author photo Nov 2018

Jason Starr is the international bestselling author of many crime novels and thrillers and his books have been published in over a dozen languages. Many of his books are in development for film or TV. Starr’s bestselling crime novels include Cold Caller, Nothing Personal, Fake ID, Hard Feelings, Tough Luck and Twisted City, followed by Lights Out, The Follower, Panic Attack, Savage Lane and his latest novel, Too Far. He is one of only a handful of authors who have won the Anthony Award for mystery fiction multiple times. He was born in Brooklyn and lives in Manhattan.

 

December First Monday @1stMondayCrime @mserinkelly @will_carver @jamarleybooks

So, I spent yesterday morning slaving over a hot oven, baking 120 cookies to take to First Monday. Was it worth it? Yes, of course it was! Not least because all the cookies were eaten.

We had a slightly shorter panel (timing wise) but just as entertaining. Erin Kelly, JA Marley, Will Carver and Mick Herron were answering questions from Kevin Wignall and the audience.

FM Dec 18.1

First question from Kevin – what are the authors reading?

Kevin kicked it off with A House of Ghosts by WC Ryan.

Erin has had a sneak preview at Claire McGowan’s next book, What You Did.

Will has just finished the new book from Simone Buccholz with Beton Rouge.

John (JA) Marley has also been reading A House of Ghosts as well as the latest book from James Lee Burke (I think it’s called Robicheaux: You Know My Name but I might be wrong!).

Mick has recently reread To Kill A Mockingbird and also enjoyed A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott.

 

What about the authors’ road to publication?

Mick has been published for 15 years bit it’s only in the last few that he’s gained a readership with his Slough House/Jackson Lamb series. The thing that’s really helped him is that libraries have stocked his books. His publisher actually dropped him after Slow Horses but an American company continued to publish him. He was ‘rediscovered’ when his current editor found a copy of the US book.

John met his publisher at CrimeFest – a great way to meet people! He’s with Bloodhound Books.

Will had three books published over five years ago. The first one did well but not the second and third. He took a break and then found Karen Sullivan at Orenda who was willing to take a risk.

Kevin had been with Hodder but was then dropped. He’s now with Amazon and his sales figures are very good.

Erin’s first book was The Poison Tree which was made into a TV series. She had three more books out but sales were slowing down so she took a break. She then wrote the Broadchurch novel. She found a new editor before writing He Said/She Said which is her first big seller.

FM Dec 18.2

So what’s next for our authors?

Erin – Stone Mothers will be out next April. It’s based on a Victorian asylum. There’s a man and a woman and dead bodies.

Will is working on a few ideas. His agent has told him that one of them is completely bonkers so that’s probably the one he’ll go with.

John is finishing off the third in the Danny Felix series as well as writing a standalone set in Belfast about the hunger strikes.

Mick delivered a book just last week and is now having a bit of a break.

 

A question from the audience – what do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Will likes being on his own. No one else is there so he doesn’t have to have a pointless conversation about EastEnders while making his coffee.

For Erin, one life isn’t enough. As a writer she gets the chance to live several lives at no risk.

John finds that writing sometimes takes him by surprise. He ends up writing something different from planned.

Writing is very absorbing for Mick so he’s glad that he can do it full-time now.

The freedom of time is also important for Kevin.

 

There were a few more questions from the audience but my hand had given up by then with all my scrawling.

 

It was then time for a cookie break before moving onto the rest of the entertainment for the evening – Blind Book Date.

FM Dec 18.3

Leye Adenle was asking the questions to find his perfect book for Christmas. Trying to convince him to choose their books were Susi Holliday, Karin Salvalaggio, Johanna Gustawsson, Claire Sebber and Angela Clarke. Leye was looking for a strong female lead, as in, how many kgs could she lift? I think Johanna might have won that round with her female in Keeper lifting a dead male body. Next, Leye wanted to know what drink would go best with the book. For me, Susi nabbed that one with a Bailey’s Hot Chocolate to read with The Deaths of December. Leye’s final question was, what’s so gripping about the book that he’ll want to put down his drink. Karin had the clever plan of putting subliminal messages to drink into her story. She’s in talks with a few drinks companies. Of course, Leye couldn’t decide so he chose them all.

FM Dec 18.5

Next up were the men – Simon Booker, Chris Whitaker, James Law, Paul Burston and Kevin Wignall – who had to woo Marnie Riches. It takes a lot to woo Marnie and she certainly put them through their paces. First up, the men had to write a limerick about their books. I think it’s fair to say that some hadn’t quite understood the concept of a limerick being only five lines long. But they were all very funny with a couple of near misses (think about what rhymes with hunt) that were suddenly changed into other words. I would say that Simon had the best limerick but Chris has to be congratulated on his epic poem (definitely not a limerick). Next the guys had to tell an anecdote (true or false) about writing their novels. Personally I think James won this. He used to be a submariner in the Navy and when he was working on his first draft, he got a colleague to read it for authenticity. It might have been too authentic as James was called in to speak to the Royal Navy Police about whether or not he had breached the Official Secrets Act. Lastly, Marnie wanted to know where the authors would send their protagonists/ antagonists on holiday. Since Kevin’s character Freddie Makin is already in Vienna, he wondered where else he could go. Butlins on Barry Island perhaps. Sadly that shut over 20 years ago so maybe Freddie should stay in Vienna and go on the Big Wheel. Like Leye, Marnie couldn’t make a decision so thought she’d read them all over Christmas.

If you’re still looking for some books to buy for presents or for yourself then

For Erin Kelly click here.

For Will Carver click here.

For JA Marley click here.

For Mick Herron click here.

For Kevin Wignall click here.

For Paul Burston click here.

For JS Law click here.

For Chris Whitaker click here.

For Simon Booker click here.

For SJI Holliday click here.

For Karin Salvalaggio click here.

For Johanna Gustawsson click here.

For Claire Sebber click here.

For Angela Clarke click here.

For Marnie Riches click here.

For Leye Adenle click here.

Now you go. That will keep you busy for a while!

 

The hilarity continued at the pub and the last of the cookies were consumed (hooray!). So that’s it for 2018 for First Monday. It’s been a great year full of fabulous authors. But we don’t have to wait too long for more. First Monday will return in January!

*By the way, does anybody know what #ticketyboo was all about?*