Blog Tour for The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Unquiet Dead Blog Tour Poster

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, published by No Exit Press. Thank you to them for a copy of the book and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Unquiet Dead Cover

 

Blurb

One man is dead.

But thousands were his victims.

Can a single murder avenge that of many?

Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?

In this important debut novel, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a compelling and provocative mystery exploring the complexities of identity, loss, and redemption.

My review

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In June, I received some slightly sinister postcards. I was a little perplexed until I saw No Exit Press written on the reverse. If I could give a prize for best publicity campaign – No Exit would win with this, hands down. But I was still none the wiser as to what the book was actually about. With such phrases as ‘This is a cat and mouse game. Now it’s your turn to play’ and ‘As you took everything from me, you asked if I was afraid’, I was expecting a book about a serial killer. And in some respects, that’s what I got but not in the form I was expecting.

Unquiet postcard2

Set in Canada, Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty are called in to investigate the death of a man, Christopher Drayton, who was found at the bottom of Scarborough Bluffs (large cliffs in the Toronto area). To begin with, Rachel has no idea why they’ve been called in – it doesn’t really fit with the remit of their department. But she soon discovers that her boss, Khattak, knows far more than he’s letting on. Disturbing letters found in the dead man’s safe, suggest that Christopher Drayton wasn’t the man people thought he was.

The Unquiet Dead focuses on the genocide of the Bosnian Muslims. Those two phrases on the postcards are real words that people said and formed part of the testimonies given in evidence afterwards. It’s terrible to think that this mass murder took place in my lifetime in Europe. I wonder why I didn’t know more at the time. Was there not enough press coverage or did I just not pay attention? Either way, I should have noticed more. And so should have the rest of the world. There are sections in the book that focus on that period. It was these flashbacks that captured me most, despite their horrific nature. They are incredibly moving and made for tense reading, not knowing the outcome of the people involved. Would they survive the conflict?

The rest of the book moves at a speed more akin to Inspector Morse than Line Of Duty. So if you like fast-action thrillers, then this may not be for you. This is far more thought-provoking and is written in a beautiful literary style. Of the two officers, I felt I knew Rachel Getty more by the end. Esa Khattak is still a bit elusive. But this is the start of a series so I’m sure that more will be revealed about the mysterious Inspector Khattak in due course.

Although there is now relative peace in Bosnia, I’m sure the pain runs deep. This book is like a clenched fist unfurling, allowing us to see the scars etched there. Thank you Ausma Zehanat Khan for revealing them.

To buy the book click here.

About the author

Ausuma photo

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her widely acclaimed second novel, The Language of Secrets, was published in 2016. Among the Ruins, her third mystery was published in the US in February 2017. She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning in 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives. A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms. Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto. Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.  Ms. Khan practiced immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband. Author photo taken by Athif Khan. For more information visit : www.ausmazehanatkhan.com Follow her on Twitter  @AusmaZehanat

 

 

 

Cover Reveal for Lost In The Lake by AJ Waines

I’m very honoured to be part of the team for the cover reveal for AJ Waines’ latest book, Lost In The Lake. Before I let you see it, here’s a little bit about it.

 

The blurb

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

The second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series, Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

Pre-Order on Amazon from 13 July 2017

Release date: 7 Sept 2017

 

So, are you ready? I think this is a gorgeous cover!

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About the author

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AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 & 2016 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) in 2016. She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or join her on Twitter, Facebook or on her Newsletter.

 

So, when can I pre-order the e-book, I hear you cry? From today!

Click here for the UK – 99p!

Click here for the US – $1.28!

 

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Blog Tour for The Green Bicycle Mystery by Antony M. Brown

GBM Blog Tour Poster

When I was asked to be a part of this blog tour, I was very intrigued by the book – the curious death of Bella Wright, a cold case from 1919. We’re so used to forensics being used today that we forget these skills and techniques were in their infancy at the beginning of the last century. So to whet your appetite a little more, I have an extract from The Green Bicycle Mystery for you, plus my own verdict.

The extract

THE GREEN BICYCLE MYSTERY

Cold Case Jury Collection

by Antony M Brown, published by Mirror Books

In the first of a new collection of intriguing historic murders, Cold Case Jury presents The Green Bicycle Mystery. Don’t just read about a murder… solve it!

Constable Alfred Hall, was puzzled by the doctor’s conclusion that Bella Wright had died accidentally. He spent all day looking for clues at the scene of the tragedy. In the evening, he found a bullet squashed in the road. He summoned the doctor again. This extract picks up the story.

EXTRACT from mid-way through CHAPTER 3: COLD LIGHT OF DAY.

8:40pm. Dr Williams stood next to PC Hall beside the makeshift mortuary table. “At least we have some daylight,” he said. “It was such poor light last night, wasn’t it?” To Hall, it sounded as if the doctor was already making excuses for his superficial examination the night before. It was regrettable that a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians had ignored the circumstantial evidence that pointed away from a brain haemorrhage: the lack of blood on the victim’s clothing and bicycle. Hall resisted the urge to mimic Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of Silver Blaze by asking rhetorically: “What about the curious blood splatter on the raincoat?” To which the doctor would have denied there was any, setting up the wonderful retort: “Indeed, that is the curious thing.” Instead, Hall pointed deferentially to the puncture wound on the left cheek. “What do you think?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the doctor in surprise, as if it had been the first time he had seen the body. “That looks like a gunshot wound, Constable.” He bent over to examine Bella’s face more closely. “Do we know who the poor thing is?”

“We have a name,” Hall replied cautiously, “but it’s not been confirmed.”

“Ah, I see,” the doctor said. “Is she local?”

“I cannot say any more, I’m afraid.”

“Quite so.”

Williams noted that the left cheek had been scratched and the left eyelid and eyeball were also injured, probably as a result of the fall to the ground. He then focused his attention on the obvious wound. “There is a puncture wound about one inch beyond the lateral canthus and about half an inch below.” For Hall’s benefit, he traced the two dimensions with his index finger from the corner of the eye. “You see, the puncture is surrounded by a collar of chafed skin, classic signs of a gunshot wound.”

From his jacket pocket he removed a leaded pencil which he inserted into the aperture. The pencil went upwards and backwards into the brain. “A projectile has clearly penetrated the zygomatic bone. This appears to be the entrance wound. We will know by tracing its trajectory through the body.” He unpinned Bella’s blood-stained straw hat and passed it to Hall.

“It looks like it has gone through the hat too,” the constable observed. The doctor looked up and saw that Hall had pushed his index finger through a small hole on the top right of the crown of the hat. Williams parted her hair, which was thickly matted with congealed blood. At the back of her head, about three inches above the right ear, was an oval wound approximately one-and-a-half inches long and half-an-inch wide.

“That looks like an exit wound,” Hall remarked.

“Indeed it does, Constable. This young woman has been shot, for sure. There needs to be an autopsy.”

GREEN BIKE MYSTERY_LATEST

My verdict

As I wrote earlier, I was intrigued by this book. I normally only read crime fiction. This true crime novel is set out more as a barrister talking to a jury, laying out the evidence from both sides and then inviting you, the reader and member of the jury, to make your choice.

I have to be careful in how much I tell you as I don’t want to be accused of leading the jury in a particular direction. However, I don’t think I’m giving away much by telling you a little bit about the case.

Bella Wright was discovered in a country lane, next to her bicycle, in the late evening on Saturday 5th July 1919. She’d last been seen with a man on a green bicycle. As you can tell from the above extract, it wasn’t until the next day that the Doctor and police discovered that she had been shot. As well as presenting the evidence from the case, Brown also considers other theories for Bella’s death, given over the years.

The two times that I’ve been called for jury service, I’ve not been able to attend for good reasons – sitting my A-Levels and several years later, being very pregnant. So I didn’t have the benefit of experience when reading. This doesn’t matter though as Brown expertly lays out all the evidence in story form as well as original documents. So there is plenty for the reader to consider. And at the end of the book, you decide what you think happened to Bella Wright.

I’m tempted to tell you what I thought but I won’t. There’s an online forum that will allow you to do that. I really enjoyed the experience and found that I had to concentrate hard to make sure I noted all the evidence. I’m glad to hear that Antony M. Brown is writing about more cold cases. I’m sure he has plenty to choose from!

 

About the author

AMBS

 

Antony M. Brown is an award-winning essayist, former magazine editor-in-chief and member of the Crime Writers’ Association. He published several Cold Case Jury e-books – true crime mysteries in which the reader is invited to deliver the verdict on what they believe might have happened – before signing a four book deal with Mirror Books in January 2017.

 

Website: http://www.coldcasejury.com  

Blog: http://www.ccjforum.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ccjury

If you want to find out more about Antony M. Brown and buy the book then please click here.

I’d like to thank Antony M. Brown and Mirror Books for my copy of the book. Also thanks to Nicola Slavin for organising the blog tour.

 

 

 

Blog tour – An Act Of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence Blog Tour banner

I’m honoured to be taking part in this blog tour. I read An Act Of Silence a little earlier this year and was blown away by it.

An Act of Silence

 

The blurb

These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him where they had sex. The next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning.

Linda Moscow: loving mother to Gabriel. Linda promised herself years ago that she would never let her son down again. Even if it means going against everything she believes in – she will do anything to protect him. She owes him that much.

Gabriel Miller: the prodigal son. He only ever wanted his mother’s love, but growing up he always seemed to do the wrong thing. If his mother could only see the bad in him – how could he possibly be good?

How far will a mother go to save her son? Linda’s decision might save Gabriel, but it will have a catastrophic impact on the lives of others. What would you do if faced with the same impossible choice?

 

My review

Sometimes, there are books that you read that just make you stop in your tracks. The reality of the book becomes your reality, the fear, your fear and the horror, your horror. I wrote a few words down as I was reading An Act Of Silence – harrowing, disturbing, intense and heart-wrenching.

The last book that made me feel like this was Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (it was my top read of 2016) and I don’t think that’s coincidental. There are similar themes between the two books, albeit McBeth’s has a distinctly British flavour to it.

The phrase ‘National Treasure’, conjures up a variety of faces – some who are genuinely revered; others who are now infamous. Colette McBeth tells the story of Linda Moscow and her son, Gabriel, through different time periods and multiple viewpoints. Very skilfully, McBeth even shows the same scene but from two different views. This is a book that starts off in one direction – with the murder of a young woman – but leads to something else entirely. An Act Of Silence has a plot worthy of Line Of Duty (if not better) and would make great TV.

I don’t want to give too much away about the story but there are plenty of twists. This was a book that I read late into the night and snatched times during the day, in between writing and looking after children – in fact the children were left to their own devices and didn’t complain. It’s a book that stays with you, long after you finish it. This isn’t just down to great characters and a twisty plot, but superb writing as well. This was the first book I’ve read by Colette McBeth – it won’t be the last.

To find out more about Colette and buy An Act Of Silence, click here.

 

About the author

Colette+McBeth

 

Colette McBeth was a BBC TV News Correspondent for ten years. Her debut novel, PRECIOUS THING, was published in 2013 and THE LIFE I LEFT BEHIND in 2015. She lives in Hove with her husband and three young children. You can find Colette on @colettemcbeth and Facebook/colettemcbethauthor.

 

 

 

 

 




 

First Monday Crime – July

It was a warm evening in Browns and sadly, our last time in the old magistrates court for First Monday. The crime panels will be back in October, over at the original venue of City University in Angel. But we left Browns on a high with Fiona Barton, Susie Steiner, T.A. Cotterell and Valentina Giambanco. Jake Kerridge was asking the questions.

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Firstly, a little something about the books.

Fiona Barton’s second novel is The Child. Kate Walters, the reporter from the first book – The Widow – is back and investigating a new story. The inspiration came from an article that Fiona had seen a long time ago when she was a reporter and it had stayed with her – a mummified baby that had been found wrapped in newspaper and buried.

T.A. Cotterell’s debut novel is What Alice Knew. It’s considered to be Grip Lit or as Joanne Harris described it ‘my old man’s a wrong ‘un’. When Alice discovers that her husband has done something wrong, she has a choice to make.

Valentina Giambanco’s book, Sweet After Death, is the fourth in her Detective Alice Madison series, set in Washington state in the US. Leaving Seattle behind, Alice and her team go to Ludlow (not even a one horse town – maybe just a donkey) to investigate the first ever murder in the small, remote town. Valentina wanted to create a locked room mystery with the wilderness as the walls.

Persons Unknown is the sequel to Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed. Manon Bradshaw is back but she’s moved from the MET to Cambridge to join the Cold Case team. But when a murder takes place close to the police station where she works, she can’t help but investigate.

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Jake asked about writing multiple viewpoints or very different viewpoints.

Fiona has several voices in her book. The narrator is written in 1st person with her others in 3rd person.

TA Cotterell changed his narrative voice from the husband to the wife after suggestions from agents. His wife was a little dubious that he could write from a female perspective. She did have to give him some tips on how to apply mascara.

Valentina Giambanco has another strand in her story about a 15 year old boy who has an abusive father. She was inspired by a documentary about a man who decided to violate his parole. He took his whole family and barricaded them in for 15 years.

Susie has other viewpoints as well but Jake asked her if she thought of her novel as a campaigning book – highlighting how young black men are dealt with by the police. As well as how young black men are treated in the UK, Susie is particularly concerned with how they’re treated in the US.

And what are our authors reading?

Fiona Barton – The Dry by Jane Harper

Susie Steiner – The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

TA Cotterell – Rock Bottom by Michael Odell

Valentina Giambanco – an Andrea Carter novel but I can’t remember which one she said (sorry, Valentina & Andrea!)

 

So, as I wrote earlier, First Monday has broken up for the holidays and taking a very well deserved break. I’m sure we’ll hear more in the autumn about the line-up for October.

 

You can find out more about the authors and buy their books by clicking on the links below:

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Fiona Barton – click here

TA Cotterell – click here

Valentina Giambanco – click here

Susie Steiner – click here

 

 

 

 

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And finally, I just want to pay tribute to the wonderful Helen Cadbury. I’ve only met Helen once and it was at First Monday last year – the first one in fact! I love Helen’s Sean Denton series and I was devastated to hear of her death last week. My thoughts are with her family and friends. It’s lovely to know that her legacy will go on with two more books published later this year – a volume of poetry and the third Sean Denton book.

Western Fringes by Amer Anwar

I’m very excited to have Amer Anwar on my blog today. Amer’s debut novel, Western Fringes was published earlier this month. It’s a fast-action, explosive thriller and I absolutely loved it. But more of my review later. After reading the book, I had a few questions for Mr Amer…

AmerAnwar03

 

  1. Did you visit all the pubs mentioned in Western Fringes? If so, which was your favourite?

Yes, I did. I visited all the main ones that feature. It was “research”, obviously, so I’d take a friend along and we’d have a couple of drinks while I’d make some notes and diagrams, got a feel for the place and then we’d just spend the rest of the evening there ‘soaking up the atmosphere’. Hard work, I know but somebody’s got to do it.

I’m not sure about picking a favourite. They all have good points. The Scotsman and the Black Horse both do really good Indian food at very reasonable prices. The Hare & Hounds is in a lovely spot near Osterley Park and has a nice garden and outdoor space, great for summer, while the London Apprentice is a historic pub right on the river Thames in a part of Isleworth that has a very village-like feel to it.

I think anyone who’s interested should visit them all and make up their own minds.

 

  1. Slightly scared about asking this – how do you know how to write all those fight scenes?

Ha! Well, I have a very cinematic imagination, I visualise everything clearly when I’m reading or writing, and I also used to box a little. When I’d shadowbox, I’d always imagine an opponent in front of me and what punches they’d be throwing and how I’d counter. Same on the punchbags. So, when it came to writing the fight scenes in the book, it was an extension of all that same technique.

I basically acted out each fight scene in my lounge – if anyone had seen me prancing around throwing punches and elbows, they’d probably have been pretty worried about me. I always made sure there was no one else around when I was doing it.

I’d picture the setup, what the attackers would do, how Zaq would react and choreographed it all, to make it flow and seem as realistic as possible. I’d work out where each of the characters would be, how they’d attack and how Zaq would defend and counter. I’d jot down notes as I went along – whether coming in with a left elbow would be more natural after a straight right, that kind of thing. It also helped me figure out when there would be openings for the attackers to land blows on Zaq. I wanted the violence to feel real.

There are quite a few fights in the book, but each of the scenes are actually very quick, they don’t take up a lot of pages, the action is kept short and sharp, except in just a couple of places.

 

  1. Are you excited about the rise of Asian Crime Writers in Britain? I am!

Yes, absolutely! One of the main reasons I wrote Western Fringes is because I love crime and thrillers but there was no one writing anything like that with Asian characters or settings. I spent a lot of time in Southall in my teens and there were loads of real characters around and all kinds of stories about stuff going on. I thought it’d be a great setting for a thriller, with characters like the ones I was hearing about and I really wanted someone to write one. But no one did. So, when I finally started writing myself, I knew I was going to write a thriller and I knew it was going to be set there.

Seems I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. There are now several Asian crime writers on the scene, each with their own particular spin on things and it’s great. Hopefully it’ll encourage others to try as well. It’s wonderful to see something of yourself and your experiences reflected in popular culture, it makes you feel an integral part of it, not just an onlooker and it also gives others some insight into the British Asian experience.

It should also make for some new and exciting books to look forward to, which is only a good thing.

 

  1. What’s for you next? More of Zaq?

I’m working on a second book at the moment, one which doesn’t feature Zaq or Jags. It has a new character, also a British Asian and it’s still very much a crime thriller in the vein of ‘Western Fringes’.

I’d originally thought to write a Southall trilogy with Zaq and Jags and had some vague ideas for the next two books – but now I’m thinking of combining those ideas into a single book, which might be my next project after I finish the one I’m currently on. It also depends on how well Western Fringes does and if anyone wants more of Zaq and Jags.

 

  1. Slightly cliched question but who are your Crime writing influences?

It’s not a cliched question – it’s one I’m always interested in whenever I read an interview or a Q&A with an author. As both a reader and a writer, I like to know about the books and writers that have influenced other people.

As for my own crime writing influences, there are three particular names that leap out; Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale and Richard Stark.

I think it was Elmore Leonard that really drew me into reading crime, before that I was mainly reading horror, WWII and fantasy. The first Leonard novel I read was ‘Killshot’, about a professional hit man and a small time crook, who start working together on a scam and, through a case of mistaken identity, end up in conflict with a builder. It was a real revelation. The writing was tight; the characters weren’t super smart sleuths or damaged detectives, they were criminals and ordinary people; the dialogue was fantastic, smart, cool and funny; and the plot was excellent. I’d never read anything like it before and it turned me into a lifelong fan. I bought and read all of his crime novels after that and even some of his westerns too.

It was a friend of mine who introduced me to Joe R. Lansdale’s work. He lent me an American edition of ‘Mucho Mojo’ because at that time Lansdale’s work wasn’t published in the UK. What a revelation. ‘Mucho Mojo’ is the second book in what’s become the Hap and Leonard series and I love all of them. They’re set in a relatively poor part of East Texas and follow the (mis)adventures of friends Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. What really stands out about the books are the first person narration from Hap’s POV and the friendship between the two main characters. Their constant bickering, name calling and mickey-taking is just so spot on and funny and true. Quite a few people have commented on how much they like the relationship between Zaq and Jags in ‘Western Fringes’ – well, you don’t have to look too far to see where I got my inspiration to write them the way I did. That’s not to say these are lightweight cozy mysteries, they’re not. They’re actually pretty dark, with murders and bursts of visceral violence, and they also touch upon racism, poverty, love and life. And Lansdale has written many other excellent novels too, ‘Cold in July’ being another particular favourite crime novel.

Another very major influence is Richard Stark and his Parker novels, a series about a professional robber. The first book, ‘The Hunter’ was filmed twice, first as ‘Point Blank’ and then as ‘Payback’. I actually got into the books after watching ‘Payback’. I loved the amoral hardness of the character and his single-minded determination to go up against anyone who’d crossed him. The original run of the series was from 1962 – 1974 and was unfortunately out of print here in the UK. However, following a 23 year break, Stark revisited the character and started writing some new books in the series, which were available and so got those and whizzed through them. A lot of things had changed in 23 years but the writing and the character hadn’t – they were both still fantastic. I read all the newer books but still wanted more. When, eventually, the University of Chicago Press reissued the whole of the original series, I snapped them up and read them all, right from the very beginning. I also bought anything else I could find by Richard Stark and also those he wrote under his own name, Donald E. Westlake (Richard Stark was just one of a number of pseudonyms Westlake used). The writing is lean and stripped-back, much like the character of Parker himself. There is violence and killing and Parker does some pretty nasty things at times but even so, the brilliant thing Stark does is, he still has you rooting for him. A truly great series.

One final thing I want to mention is the book that really made me want to be a writer. I’d never thought of writing a book before then, but when I finished reading it, I was totally blown away, the sheer scope and imagination of it – and even more importantly, how it made me feel. I remember thinking, wow, if I could make people feel emotions the way this book’s made me feel, that would be the best thing in the world. That was when I first knew I wanted to write.

Thing is, none of my teachers at school or college ever told me it was something I could do, or something worth pursuing – even though they knew I could write. I was getting pulled up for copying essays because my tutors didn’t believe I could write as well as I did. Even so, no one suggested that I might want to look at writing as a career, so I never thought it was something I could do. I still had the ambition though, deep down, and knew I’d give it a try someday, I just didn’t know when. Turned out to be 20 years until I started writing and another 12 to actually get published. Through all that time, I never forgot that particular book and how it made me feel and the desire to write it ignited in me.

And what was that book? ‘Magician’ by Raymond E. Feist. A fantasy novel, but oh, so much more than just that. It’s an epic tale of friendship, growing up, family, love, war and everything else. And it has dragons. And magic.

And it made me want to write – which was probably the best magic of all.

 

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Amer, and good luck with the book!

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The blurb

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.

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 he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages, as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

Finding the girl will be one thing. Keeping her, and himself, alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead, is going to be another.

 

My review

You know, there are times when you get so excited by a book that you want to jump up and down. For me, Western Fringes is that book. However, I am a bit biased. No, I don’t personally know the author [although we have now met since I first wrote this review in the spring]. And I’m not Asian either. But I did grow up in West London, so this book was like going down memory lane. I could picture the streets and landmarks mentioned. This made the book totally alive for me.

When I first started reading it, I thought two things. Firstly, I could see why Western Fringes won the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. The opening puts us straight into the action with a great introduction to Zaq and the plot. Secondly, I did wonder though if the premise of the book – finding Rita – could actually last for a whole novel. Well, it did, and with great aplomb. Because finding a missing girl is a lot harder than you think, and in the process, Zaq finds a lot more than he’d bargained for.

The pace of this book never lets up and I’m slightly apprehensive about ever meeting Amer Anwar. His knowledge of fight scenes is a little worrying! [We’ve now met and he’s lovely. Don’t let than mean moody picture put you off.] There is a particular scene that made me wince (I am a wimp though) but it was in keeping with the storyline and revealed more about some of the characters and the lengths that they will go to, to get what they want.

This is a terrific thriller and an outstanding debut for Amer Anwar. I really hope he has a few more Southall stories up his sleeve.

You can buy Western Fringes here.

 

About the author

Amer Anwar grew up in West London. He has worked as a warehouse assistant, a comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and as a chalet rep in the French Alps, before finally landing a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and working in the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Western Fringes is his first novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday Crime – June 2017

It seemed more like February than June as we gathered together for First Monday Crime. Thankfully, the welcome inside for our four fabulous authors was a lot more welcome. Joining us was Abir Mukherjee, Ruth Ware, James Oswald and debut author, Imran Mahmood. The inimitable Barry Forshaw was in charge of the evening.

FMC June17

Abir Mukherjee is an accountant by profession from Scotland. His first book, A Rising Man, was the start of a series set in India during the period between the two world wars, when the UK still occupied it. His new book, A Necessary Evil, continues the story of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force.

The film rights for Ruth Ware’s debut, A Dark, Dark Wood, were bought by Reese Witherspoon and is about a hen night that goes very, very wrong. Someone described the book as ‘does for friendship what Gone Girl did for marriage’. Ruth’s second book was Woman in Cabin 10 and her latest is The Lying Game, published on the 15th June. It’s about four old school friends who reunite after their time at boarding school.

James Oswald is a farmer by day and a writer by night. As he said himself, there’s not much that can be done on a farm after dark – not that’s legal anyway! Initially self-published, James writes two books a year. His latest in the Inspector McLean series is Written In Bones.

Imran Mahmood seemed very much at home in the old magistrate’s court at Brown’s. You Don’t Know Me is the barrister’s debut novel. Set in a court room, the book is the closing speech from the defendant. In a sense, the character is based on all the people that Imran has represented but is nameless.

Barry asked what writers have influenced the panel. Are there any ‘ghosts’ behind their writing?

Agatha Christie is an influence for Ruth Ware and people have commented on that. Although, as Ruth pointed out, her characters swear more and get very drunk. As she has small children, Ruth has little time for research so an amateur detective character is much easier to write than looking up police procedural.

For Amir, he’s more influenced by living writers such as Philip Kerr and Ian Rankin. Although William McIlvanney was a huge influence on him too.

Imran’s book is about gangs so naturally, his influence is Enid Blyton – very dark and the Famous Five is basically a street gang.

James likes to put the ghosts in his novels as the supernatural plays a part in his books. As he started off writing comic and Sci Fi, Stan Lee and Iain Banks have been influential.

There was a question from the audience asking what’s the hardest part about writing.

Both James and Ruth agreed that the hardest part is when self-doubt kicks in around the 30k mark in a manuscript.

For Imran, editing is the hardest part. It’s easy to lose the thread of the story as you make changes.

Amir chose guilt. As he’s still working full-time as an accountant, he feels guilty about the time he spends away from his family as he writes in the evenings and weekends.

FMC3 June17

And so, First Monday Crime came to a close. I’m not sure yet about details for July but if you can’t wait that long for your crime fix, then Crime in the Court is on Thursday 29th June at Goldsboro Books. Come along and meet some of your favourite crime authors. I went last year and loved it. Sadly I can’t make it this time (I’m not sobbing, really). Tickets are £5 and can be bought here.

FMC2 June 17

To find out more about the authors and buy/pre order their books:

For Abir Mukherjee, click here

For Ruth Ware, click here

For James Oswald, click here

For Imran Mahmood, click here