First Monday Crime Interview with C.J. Tudor @1stMondayCrime @cjtudor

It’s only a few days now until March First Monday Crime. Have you booked your seat? It’s going to be a fabulous evening with M.J. Arlidge, Fiona Barton, Laura Shepherd-Robinson and C.J. Tudor, hosted by Jake Kerridge. To give you an idea of what to expect, the lovely C.J. Tudor has found some time in her hectic schedule (writing, book launch, promoting The Taking of Annie Thorne, getting married – the usual!) to answer a few questions. But first let me give you the blurb for the magnificent The Taking of Annie Thorne.

The Taking of Annie Thorne

The Blurb

Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .

 

 

The Interview

CJ Tudor

Welcome to my blog, C.J. Tudor! You kindly gave me an interview for First Monday last year when The Chalk Man was published.  How’s it all been since then?

Awesome. Bonkers. Busy. Brilliant. Exciting. Knackering. Stressful. Totally worth it.

 

Is there anything you’ve learnt or experienced in the last year that you weren’t expecting?

Making so many new friends. That has been a wonderful part of the whole experience. The crime community is so supportive and welcoming, and I’m thrilled to know some brilliant, talented people who I hope will remain friends for a long time. On the downside – I have learnt not to read crappy reviews. Life is too short! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I’ve worked darn hard to be here and I’m not going to give anyone the satisfaction of raining on my parade!!

 

Your new book is The Taking of Annie Thorne (which I think is even better than The Chalk Man) Can you tell us about the story and inspiration behind it?

The inspiration came from the area where I used to live, in the north of England. Years ago, there were a lot of mines there. After they closed, the land was reclaimed.

When I was a dog-walker, I used to walk around one of the old pit sites. Something about it always felt desolate and barren. I found myself thinking about what lay beneath the ground; tunnels, abandoned machinery . . . and maybe other things.

I also went to school in a small pit village very much like Arnhill. It was probably less isolated but no less industrial and grim. A lot of kids didn’t care about learning because they knew they’d simply go and work ‘down the pit’, like their dads.

The book is set during the time of the miner’s strike in the UK. I saw first-hand how the strike tore communities apart. Many of those mining villages never recovered after the pits closed and became incredibly deprived. The theme of dying –  the coal industry, communities, and people – and the question of whether you can ever get them back, is one that runs throughout the book, both metaphorically and more literally!

 

For the audio version of The Chalk Man you had Andrew Scott and Asa Butterfield narrating. This time you have Richard Armitage. Firstly, how does that feel? Secondly, do you have your eye on anyone for Book 3?

I’ve been SO lucky with the narrators for my audio books. They have all been absolutely brilliant! It’s just so amazing to hear such brilliant actors reading stuff that came out of your head! Richard Armitage has been especially supportive of Annie Thorne. He’s fab! Book 3 is third person, multi-narrator, so that should be interesting when it comes to the audio book!!

 

Now you know what to expect at First Monday, what are you looking forward to most?

Silly question – cookies and pub!

Actually, I absolutely loved doing the panel last time. It was really relaxed, interesting and a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it even more this time as I know some of the other authors and the lovely Jake Kerridge, of course! I can’t wait!!

(but did I mention the cookies?!!)

 

Don’t worry, there will be cookies for the authors! Thanks so much for answering my questions.

 

I was fortunate enough to take part in the blog tour for The Taking of Annie Thorne and you can read my review here.

If you come on Monday then you can buy the books and get them signed. If you’re not able to be there then click on the links below for each author to find out more about them and buy their books.

C.J. Tudor

M.J. Arlidge

Fiona Barton

Laura Shepherd-Robinson

 

And if you’re now thinking, I’d quite like to go to First Monday – how do I book? All you have to do is click here.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog tour – Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz @ohneKlippo @OrendaBooks @annecater #BetonRouge

beton rouge blog poster 2019

I’m delighted to be taking part in the tour for Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz. This is the next Chastity Riley book after Blue Night, published by Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books. Thank you to Karen and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part. My blog buddy today is the lovely Karen over at hairpastafreckle so feel free to check out her post. I have the opening extract for you to read but first the blurb.

The Blurb

On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

A smart, dark, probing thriller, full of all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the very best noir, Beton Rouge is both a classic whodunit and a scintillating expose of society, by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.

beton rouge cover

The Extract

SPAT ON
The cage is made of black metal. It has thick, extremely robust-looking bars, and it’s not particularly big. Just large enough for a grown man to fit inside if you fold him in half first. The man is about forty, maybe even forty-five, it’s hard to say for sure. He’s very thin and in pretty good shape, and his features are perfectly formed. His dark hair is cut short at the back and sides, but just a fraction over-long on top; strands fall onto his face. Combed back, the style demands a suit. But at the moment, the man is naked and injured and so far out of his senses that it’s hard for my mind to sustain the businesslike image of the guy that it’s built up without my even thinking about it. He has welts on his wrists and ankles, as if he’s spent quite a while tied up. His whole body is covered with livid bruises and scratches. And, as if I’m looking at a bloody, weeping painting, somehow I get a sense of something very much like despair – but I can’t say where the despair is coming from: from the man who’s been stuffed in the cage like a rabid animal, or from the person who’s done it. What I’m looking at seems to depict a complete absence of voluntary action.

I have to take a deep breath, and then another and another, before I can move a few steps closer.

It looks as though the naked man’s consciousness is now working its way, bit by bit, to the surface. His eyes are closed and he’s slowly moving his head to and fro while one of the two uniformed policemen tortures the padlock on the cage with a bolt cutter – it’s obviously putting up quite a fight. It’s a pretty impressive padlock – it’s about the size of a small loaf of bread and it looks a couple of hundred years old. The cage has been placed right outside the main entrance to the building. If you want to go through the revolving glass door, you have to pass the cage. Seen from the harbour, the massive glass façade resembles a gigantic cruise ship; now it’s reflecting the sun, which is pushing through the clouds in perfect time with the man in the cage coming round.

A sprinkling of onlookers stands round the cage. Some are smoking, and judging by their coolness and unobtrusively elegant clothes, a few are journalists. OK, they’re running a bit late, but they can’t just walk past this confusing arrangement on their way to work. The majority look more like tourists – part of the horde that the harbour disgorges every morning. They’re wearing little rucksacks, cropped trousers and practical jackets. It always strikes me that tourists in Hamburg look completely different from tourists in Munich or Berlin, where it wouldn’t occur to anybody to stick a sou’wester on their head. Some even have those mad, modern walking sticks. Perhaps they think Hamburg is already on the North Sea, although that’s a good thirty to fifty years off yet. It freaks me out that some people plan so far in advance, even if it’s only for one holiday. I prefer to take things as they come.

‘Morning,’ I say, coming to stand beside the two policemen.

‘Morning, Ms Riley,’ says the one standing up, who either wants to leave the other guy to get on with it or is simply above such a task. We must have met, seeing as he knows my name this early in the morning. He’s definitely in his late fifties, has a mighty belly, and there are grey curls on the back of his neck, curling under his uniform cap. The name on his police jacket reads ‘Flotow’. Ah, I remember: Station 16, on Lerchenstrasse.

‘We met at Lerchenstrasse,’ I say.

‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘Switched six months ago. Station 14, Caffamacherreihe.’ He shoves his hands in his trouser pockets in that passive-aggressive way beloved of fattish, older, not particularly tall men, and looks reproachfully at me. ‘I’d had it up to here with the red-light scene in the Kiez.’

As if the Kiez were my responsibility. When it’s more like the Kiez is responsible for me.

Sergeant Flotow turns back to his colleague, who’s still sweating and cursing over the lock. ‘Get a move on, Hoschi. The poor bloke’ll wake up soon, and then he’ll start screaming at us too.’

Hoschi grunts, and I imagine that it means something like ‘get on with it yourself, dickhead’, but, unfortunately for Hoschi, the four pale-blue stars on Sergeant Flotow’s epaulets make it abundantly clear who’s in charge here – and whose job it is to kindly get on with wrestling with the bloody lock.

‘Officer Lienen,’ says Flotow, pointing at his colleague on the pavement.

‘Morning Mr Lienen,’ I say, kneeling down beside him.

He’s nearly got the lock.

‘You’ve nearly got the lock,’ I say, trying to look encouraging. Unfortunately, encouraging looks aren’t part of my skillset, so the result is a kind of tic that nobody understands.

Lienen looks at me, his eyes narrowed to slits. His expression conveys such violent contempt for his boss that I think: Hoschi, you and I should go for a beer, preferably right now.

‘Exhibiting a person in a cage,’ I say. ‘That’s properly sick.’

‘You should have seen what was going on here when we arrived,’ says Lienen, shaking his head in a way that’s half annoyed and half confused.

‘What was going on?’

The padlock gives – crack – way and falls apart. Lienen stands up. He holds the bolt cutter like a baseball bat.

‘Well,’ says Flotow, ‘people weren’t exactly acting civilised.’

Lienen pushes back his cap and wipes the sweat from his brow.

‘Meaning?’ I ask.

‘They were doing something very unpleasant,’ says Flotow.

Aha. Doing something very unpleasant. Do I really have to winkle every detail out of him? I more or less plant myself in front of Flotow.

‘Don’t make me winkle every detail out of you,’ I say. ‘What was the situation in the moment you arrived? And what is it now?’

He sucks his teeth, nods in an oh-so-it’s-like-that kind of way, straightens his trousers without taking his hands out of his pockets, which leaves them pulled up much too high, then rocks to and fro on his toes and looks at me like I’m a badly brought-up child. I look back as truculently as possible, and because he can’t decide on the spot which of us is stronger, he decides not to let it come to that.

‘The woman at reception rang us,’ he says. ‘That was about half past eight. She said something about an unpleasant crowd of people outside the building. And that she thought someone was in danger. But she wouldn’t be more precise, not even when pressed.’

Lienen kneels in front of the cage again and tries to cover the naked man with one of those gold thermal blankets.

‘And then?’ I ask.

‘We set off,’ says Flotow.

He still has his hands in his trouser pockets, and he’s still trying to run me aground.

But he thinks better of it.

‘There were about fifty people,’ he says. ‘They were just standing there. And some of them – I literally had to look twice because I couldn’t believe it – they were spitting at the cage. When we pulled up in the patrol car, they went into the building.’

You were lucky, old man.

‘It was dead quiet,’ says Lienen, ‘and they were spitting. It was creepy.’ He doesn’t look at me – keeps his eyes on the man in the golden cape. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. It felt like it could escalate at any minute. They looked like predators, just before they fall on their prey. They weren’t even taking photos, and people take photos of everything these days. They really were just standing there, spitting, and working the poor bloke over with their eyes.’

‘Were you able to get their details?’ I ask.

‘A few of them,’ says Lienen. ‘But there were too many, and they hurried away and vanished inside.’ He nods towards the glass façade. ‘The place is massive. And there were only two of us. The CID guys are here now, in the foyer, still trying to pin a few people down.’

He twitches the foil blanket straight. The things are so damn slippery that a bit of the person the foil’s meant to be protecting is always left sticking out.

‘And somebody had to call an ambulance first,’ he says.

‘True,’ I say. ‘Where’s it got to, anyway?’

The man in the cage is starting to move. He puts his left hand to his face and tries to support himself on his right. The gold foil slips. Lienen speaks softly to him.

‘Call them again, please,’ I say to Flotow, then I kneel in front of the cage next to Lienen.

The man opens his eyes and glances enquiringly at us: Am I dead?

Bottom left, at the foot of the steps, a brown Mercedes races into my field of vision. The driver spins the tyres with a screech, then he stops, gets out, stretches somewhat awkwardly and climbs the steps just as fast as he drove up.

 

You can buy Beton Rouge here.

 

The Author

simone buchholz

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as the second Place of the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

 

 

 

Review – Ashes of America by Fergus McNeill @fergusmcneill #AshesOfAmerica

A huge happy publication day to Fergus McNeill for Ashes of America. Thank you to Fergus for giving me a copy to read.

 

The Blurb

What if the past came back to haunt you… but it wasn’t the past you remembered?
It’s 1953, and an optimistic America is shaking off the hurt of World War II. Russia is defeated and Germany is now an ally.
Former soldier Frank Rye is a small-town cop in rural Missouri, but the war has left him cynical and selfish. When his actions lead to the murder of a fellow officer, guilt drives him into a vengeful hunt for justice.
His search for the killer will drag him deep into his own past… to the wartime summer of 1944, when he was stationed in neutral Switzerland… to a clandestine world of love and lies.
To unmask the killer, he must uncover the truth about the war… and about himself.

ashesofamerica_cover

My Review

Frank Rye is not a particular nice cop. Or indeed a nice man. He sends one of his colleagues, Pete Barnes, to go and do a job that Frank was specifically told to do. It could be that he was too lazy to do it himself or maybe it’s because he took the opportunity to sleep with Pete’s wife. Unfortunately, Pete is killed. And it’s not long before Frank realises that he was the intended target.

Jump back nine years to 1944. Frank Rye is an earnest young man, keen to serve his country on the battlefields of Europe. He’s pulled away from the main action to become a translator, working in intelligence in Bern, Switzerland.

What happens to turn Frank from a dedicated intelligence officer to downbeat, cynical cop?

This standalone is a very different book from McNeill’s DI Harland series. Speculative or alternative histories about the outcome of WW2 have been done before. However this is a new approach. The book works on the premise that after a German surrender, they fight with the Allies against Russia. It makes for a very different Europe. However, it’s very subtlety done and it’s the backdrop for the story, rather than the main event.

Frank Rye is both hero and anti-hero, depending on which time period you’re reading. McNeill deftly switches between the two, always leaving the reader on a cliff-hanger, inwardly cursing Fergus for swopping at a really good bit!

As well as Rye’s different personalities, we have two very different settings with Midwest America and Switzerland. Fergus McNeill manages to convey both with authenticity. And with that comes temperament. In the dry heat of a Midwest summer, tempers are frayed and actions are somewhat hasty. But the chillier mountain air of Switzerland brings cool heads at a time where clear thinking is imperative, not just for Frank, but for the whole of  Europe.

Both of these stories would have worked on their own as novellas but combined together they’re pure genius. We move smoothly from US Noir to spy thriller, with speculative history thrown in for good measure, and all without jarring. To often books are pigeon-holed into genres when all we really need to ask is – is this a damn good story? And in this case, the answer is a resounding yes!

 

Ashes of America is available on Kindle and can be bought  here.

 

The Author

Fergus_McNeill_author_photo

As well as writing crime novels, Fergus McNeill has been creating computer games since the early eighties, writing his first interactive fiction titles while still at school. Over the years he has designed, directed and illustrated games for all sorts of systems, including the BBC Micro, the Apple iPad, and almost everything in between.

Now running an app development studio, Fergus lives in Hampshire with his wife and their very large cat. He is the author of Eye Contact, Knife Edge and Cut Out, plus the short novella Broken Fall.

 

First Monday Crime – Feb 19 with Will Dean, Lucy Foley, Gytha Lodge and William Shaw @1stMondayCrime @willrdean @lucyfoleytweets @william1shaw @thegyth @BarryForshaw3

It’s been two months since we were last together for First Monday Crime. Christmas is now a distant memory and 2019 has kick-started with some pretty amazing books. Will Dean, Lucy Foley and Gytha Lodge were joined by William Shaw, a replacement for Christopher Fowler who was ill. Ever the professional, you wouldn’t even have noticed that William had come at the last moment. Barry Forshaw was asking the questions.

So, what are those all-important books about? Inspiration behind them and all that!

Will Dean’s latest novel is Red Snow, the sequel to Dark Pines. The story is a few months on from the first book and it’s February. The coldest time of the year in Sweden. Journalist, Tuva Moodyson, is driving in Gavrik and notices a crowd of people standing outside the liquorice factory (a very gothic-looking building). Since it’s about -20 degrees, a group of people standing still on the street is a mystery. Tuva joins them and sees a man climbing one of the two tall chimneys. Then he falls to his death. To find out what has happened, Tuva has to go into the factory to talk with the man’s family. Whilst there, another body is found… Barry asked if Will lives in a town like Gavrik. Will’s home is in a forest near a small town, similar to his fictional Gavrik. Only difference is that he has a biscuit factory in his town and every Christmas the place smells of gingerbread. (I would definitely prefer that to aniseed!)

Lucy Foley has previously written historical novels. The Hunting Party is her debut Crime book. Old university friends decide to have a party for New Year’s Eve and go to a remote hunting lodge in Scotland. They party pretty hard and then things start to go wrong. Old resentments come to the fore. And on New Year’s Day, a body is found. Although the book is set in Scotland and Lucy got the original idea for it when staying there, she actually wrote the book in 40 degree heat in Iran! Celebratory occasions are good for murder as emotions are heightened. At Christmas with family, people might regress back to their childhood roles. Or friends may have a set image of how you used to be, not realising that you’ve changed.

William Shaw’s latest novel is Salt Lane, featuring DS Alex Cupidi. She was a character in The Birdwatcher and some readers didn’t seem to like her. (Personally I love her!) So as she was a character that caused conflict, William decided to write her as his main protagonist for Salt Lane. Set in Romney Marsh – reclaimed land – the book looks at the issue of migration. Kent is quite reliant on migrant workers, especially farmers. When you make something illegal, you create criminality. This was something that William wanted to explore.

Gytha Lodge is a trained singer but her passion for writing has finally won out. She first wrote a book at 14 and even sent it to Transworld. She did get a personal note saying she wasn’t quite there yet. Thankfully she has persevered and the result is her debut novel, She Lies In Wait. The book is set in the New Forest and runs from 1983 to the present day. In 1983 a group of teens headed into the forest for a night of drinking and debauchery. One girl didn’t come back and her body is found 30 years later. The detective investigating used to be at school with the group.

FM Feb 19 1

Barry asked how the authors dealt with writing characters of the opposite sex and whether any of their characters were based on people they knew.

William Shaw asked a lot of women about writing a female character and the best advice he was given was to think about how women talk to other women when there are no men in the room.

Lucy Foley checked with male friends and family members to make sure she was getting the male voice correct. And she couldn’t possibly comment on whether any of her characters were based on people she knew.

Will Dean’s character, Tuva Moodyson, is a deaf, bisexual, Swedish woman who hates nature. You couldn’t get more opposite from Will. But he makes sure he’s as empathetic and accurate as he can be. He uses an accuracy reader to check the details on deafness. His character, Cici Grimberg is based on his mother and grandmother.

Gytha Lodge felt there was a little bit of herself in each of her characters.

FM Feb 19 2

Since I’ve already written a lot, I’m just going to look at one more of Barry’s questions – how do they get on with their editors?

For William, a book is not written by one person. He understands that editors are under pressure to produce books in a certain way for the market.

Lucy used to be an editor so knows all about this. It’s a collaborative process but at the same time there will be things that are sacrosanct in your MS that you might have to fight for.

Will has just been through book 3 with his editor. She’s very wise and gives suggestions. He may not take onboard the idea but it makes him understand that it needs to be improved in someway.

Gytha’s had lots of edits with lots of comments but that’s helped to produce new ideas.

 

There were some great questions from the audience but I had to put my pen down at that point after scribbling away for so long. If you’d like to come along to the next event on March 4th then reserve your seat by clicking here.

 

To buy or pre-order the books

Click Will Dean

Click Lucy Foley

Click William Shaw

Click Gytha Lodge

Click Barry Forshaw

 

Blog Tour – The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor @cjtudor @JennyPlatt90

 

the taking of annie thorne blog tour banner 2

Well, I’m deeply honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor. I actually had the chance to read the book before Christmas via NetGalley so when I saw there was a tour, I jumped at the chance to join in and tell you all about this amazing book! Thank you to Jenny Platt for inviting me to take part. But before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

 

My Review

Wow! I loved C.J. Tudor’s debut, The Chalk Man but she’s definitely taken a step up with The Taking of Annie Thorne. The two books are similar with regional, small town settings and a past history that threatens the present day. Something happened to Joe Thorne’s little sister, Annie. Something dark, macabre and tragic. And it’s happening again.

I enjoyed the character of Joe and his cynical approach to life. He’s returned to his home town of Arnhill and his old school to teach English. Has he come back for noble reasons because he wants to make a difference? Possibly not. We quickly discover that Joe has secrets and vices too – alcohol being one of them.  Now, as a former member of this profession, I’d like to point out that not all teachers are alcoholics but sarcasm does seem to be a default setting for most of us. Sometimes it’s the only way a teacher can cope. And it’s certainly the only way that Joe can cope as he confronts his past and the truth about his little sister.

Arnhill is a town that’s never recovered from the closure of its mining pit. It’s a place that most kids escape as soon as they’re old enough. So Joe Thorne’s reappearance causes ripples across the community and there are some who do their best to keep the truth buried. Can Joe dig through the layers of lies before its too late?

As the story unfolds, the creepiness that’s there from the beginning, begins to ratchet up until it reaches screaming pitch. Cleverly, C.J. Tudor doesn’t explain everything, leaving the reader’s imagination to conjure up possible answers. And I think I can get away with saying that the ending is just as chilling as the beginning. A truly magnificent book!

 

You can pre-order The Taking of Annie Thorne here.

 

The Author

CJ Tudor

C.J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

 

 

US vs UK Noir – Author Event at West Barnes Library with Rod Reynolds and Amer Anwar @Rod_WR @ameranwar @MertonLibraries

USvUK noir

I can’t believe I forgot to write this post! I’m going to blame it on the fact that we had such a great time on Monday night that I slept REALLY badly! Think it knocked my brain out for the rest of the week. I was definitely buzzing after our US vs UK Noir event. Rod Reynolds, author of The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky, represented the US while Amer Anwar, debut novelist with Brothers In Blood, was carrying the flag for the UK.

Both authors started by telling us about their books. To give you some idea about what they said, here’s the blurb for each.

Cold Desert Sky

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

 

Brothers In Blood

THEY’RE NOT BOUND BY FAMILY. BUT A FAMILY COULD TEAR THEM APART.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

 

Back to the evening. As the theme of the event suggests, we wanted to know more about the setting and why they chose it.

 

For Rod, it was discovering a true story – the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders – that sparked the idea for his debut, The Dark Inside. While he was out there doing some research, he came across another town called Hot Springs. Looking into its history, the town tied nicely in with the first story and that became the setting for Black Night Falling. The Mob feature in the second story which then linked perfectly for Los Angeles and Las Vegas for Rod’s most recent novel – Cold Desert Sky. Setting the stories in 1946 is great for atmosphere but it’s not always easy for Charlie Yates (Rod’s protagonist) to find a telephone!

Amer grew up in West London, so he didn’t have to travel far to research Southall and Hounslow for Brothers In Blood. For Amer, it wasn’t the setting as such that gave him the idea but rather the people he knew in the area. He wanted to read a novel about Asian life in Britain. When he realised that no one else was going to write it, he thought he’d give it a go. Little did he know just how long it would take – over 10 years! I can’t do Amer’s publishing story justice in just a few words. If you ever get the chance to meet Amer, ask him to tell you the tale. But make sure you’re sitting down with a drink in your hand. You’re going to be there for a while! The one thing I can tell you though is that Amer’s story is one of perseverance. If you’re feeling discouraged in your writing life, then take comfort from Amer.

Rod had a much easier road to publication. He went from starting to write to published in 3 1/2 years! Both Rod and Amer did MA courses which helped to focus and fine-tune their writing.

 

 

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But we come to the highlight of the evening! I always think it’s a good idea to prep the authors on my questions. Except, I had a mystery round for them. They knew there was something but had no idea what. Well, to really decide which is better, US or UK, we had to have a quiz. And what better way of testing their knowledge than naming classic US or UK TV themes! There were 12 intros altogether for them to guess. Rod and Amer had to write down their thoughts before I asked the audience for the answer. I have to say – the audience were very good! I even had a few bonus questions for the authors to answer in relation to the shows. It was a lot of fun! And the winner? Representing the UK, Amer took the win by just 1 point!

I want to say thank you so much to Rod and Amer for coming along and being such good sports. They were a hit with the audience and someone has already said to me that I should get them back again. Maybe when they have new books out.

Thank you also to the Friends of West Barnes Library who make these events happen. I couldn’t do this without them.

And talking of events, keep Monday 18th March free when Rhidian Brook, author of The Aftermath and now a movie starring Keira Knightley (out March 1st) and Elisabeth Gifford, author of my top book of 2018, The Good Doctor of Warsaw, will be coming to chat about the real-life inspiration behind their novels. I’ll let you know when booking opens.