Friday, 29 January 2016

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

The Woman Who Ran
By Sam Baker
Published by Harper Collins (28 January 2016)
ISBN: 978-0007464357

Publisher's description
When someone is under your skin, there is only so far you can run…
She can run.
But can she hide?
Helen Graham is a new arrival in a tiny Yorkshire village, renting dilapidated Wildfell Hall. The villagers are intensely curious – what makes her so jumpy and
why is she so evasive?
Their interest is Helen’s worst nightmare. Looking over her shoulder every day, she tries to piece together her past before it can catch up with her.
With everything she knows in fragments, from her marriage to her career as a war photographer, how can she work out who to trust and what to believe?

Most days she can barely remember who she is…

My verdict
The Woman Who Ran is a psychological thriller about a woman in hiding, following an apartment fire in Paris. The book kept me intrigued until the final pages, as I wondered what or who she was running away from - and why.

Helen Graham can't remember why she was in that burning apartment, and runs off to a Yorkshire village to try to regain her memories of that night. She attempts to stay off the local radar, but the villagers are intrigued about this mysterious woman living in the dilapidated Wildfell Hall. Retired journalist Gil is drawn to Helen and begins to investigate her background. He soon discovers that she's an award-winning news photographer, who was married to a well-known British war journalist who died in the apartment fire. But why is she now in hiding?

The plot moves along at a reasonable pace, as Gil stumbles upon a story of trauma, passion and deception and Helen recovers her memories. You can tell this book is written by a journalist, as the main journalist character is a NICE guy, rather than being portrayed as ruthless and immoral (as in so many other books). I can see this book appealing to fans of other popular psychological thrillers, such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through Lovereading in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Born Survivors - Wendy Holden for Holocaust Memorial Day

It's Holocaust Memorial Day today (27 January 2016). I am delighted that WENDY HOLDEN is joining me on my blog today as my Author in the Spotlight. Wendy's book - Born Survivors - was published by Sphere in October 2015. 

Please tell us about your latest book?
Born Survivors tells the story of three young women pregnant by their husbands during World War Two and praying for a brighter future. Their babies were born weighing just three pounds within weeks of each other in the most horrendous of circumstances. By the time they arrived, the Nazis had killed their fathers and their mothers were ‘walking skeletons,’ living moment to moment in the same concentration camp. Somehow, all three women managed to survive. Against all the odds, their babies did too. Seventy years on and now living in America and Britain, these ‘siblings of the heart’ have come together for the first time to tell the remarkable stories of the three mothers who defied death to give them life. It has been published in 21 countries and translated into 16 languages so far. Without doubt, it is the most important book I will ever write.

How did you come across the story?
By luck. I was reading something late one night online about a woman who had died in Canada in her 90s. She had been a prisoner in Auschwitz – just like my three mothers –and had given birth to a baby there, which had died. It occurred to me then that I have never read anything about babies born in concentration camps and my research led me to Eva Clarke and her mother Anka. She lived just over one hour from me in Cambridge, England, and having spent an emotional day with her I asked if she would do me the honour of letting me write her mother’s story. She reached out, touched my arm, and with tears in her eyes said: “I have been waiting for you for 70 years.” I told her I believe her story to be unique and that I have never found anything written about babies born in the Holocaust before. She told me that until 2010, she believed she was unique too but then discovered two other babies in America and they had since become very close. I knew then that I had to tell all three stories together in one volume spanning the war in Europe and Hitler’s attempted destruction of the Jews.

Why are you so interested in history and war?
I grew up in a family that had been deeply affected by war. My father fought the Japanese in Burma and my mother’s fiancé was killed aged 19 parachuting into Germany. She also lived through the London Blitz. Then when I became a journalist, for a while I was a war correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph and travelled all over the world covering conflicts. The experience scarred me and I suffered from a mild form of PTSD following my return to England. What struck me most about all that I had seen, though, were the great acts of courage and kindness that people were capable of even in the worst possible circumstances, or perhaps because of them.

What other books have you written about war?
Tomorrow to Be Brave tells the true story of Susan Travers, the only woman in the French Foreign Legion and was published globally. Behind Enemy Lines tells Marthe Cohn’s remarkable story of being a Jewish spy who risked her life after losing a sister to Auschwitz and her fiancé to a firing squad. Till the Sun Grows Cold tells the story of British teacher Emma McCune who married a Sudanese warlord and was then killed while carrying his baby. Kill Switch is the memoir of a British army major who was wrongly imprisoned in Afghanistan for a crime he didn’t commit. Biting the Bullet told the story of what it was like to be married to the SAS. Shell Shock details the story of the mind at war and how the experiences of soldiers at the front shaped modern-day psychiatry. Mr Scraps is a novella about a stray dog caught up in the London Blitz. The Sense of Paper was my first novel and tells of a former war correspondent haunted by her experiences, who loses herself in the work and materials of JMW Turner to try to reconcile herself with the ghosts of her past.

What or who inspires you?
Finding humanity in inhumanity. Generosity. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. And of course, fine writing. I only hope that one day I can come a little closer to what some of my personal heroes have already achieved.

If not a writer, what job would you do?
If I had my time again, I’d take a fine art degree and put my fledgling and entirely amateur ability as an artist – inherited from my grandfather - to much better use.

What does Holocaust Memorial Day mean to you?
Because of my own history and my interest in war, I have always marked these important anniversaries and memorial days in quiet reflection of the things I have witnessed and of those whose lives I have written about. I was raised a Christian although I rarely go to church these days but my father always taught me that we could be ‘Christian with a small c’ and try to be good people without having to kneel before any altar. This year will be especially poignant for me and the ‘babies’ after the worldwide publication of Born Survivors. Eva Clarke and I shall be appearing on Clare Balding’s Good Morning Sunday show on BBC Radio 2 on Jan 24 and later that day we’ll both be taking part in the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.

Born Survivors
By Wendy Holden
Published by Sphere (15 October 2015)

Find it on Amazon here.

About Wendy Holden
Wendy Holden, also known as Taylor Holden, is an experienced author and novelist with more than thirty books already published, including two novels. She has had numerous works transferred to radio and television.

She lives in Suffolk, England, with her husband and two dogs and divides her time between the UK and the US.

Find Wendy on her website and follow her on Twitter - @wendholden

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Why locations count by David Mark, author of Dead Pretty - an author guest post

I would like to welcome David Mark to my blog today, to talk about the importance of locations in his DS McAvoy novels. DS McAvoy novels have brought readers from all over the world to the streets of Hull - the same streets David walked as a crime journalist. The David's 5th DS McAvoy book Dead Pretty is being published by Mulholland Books on 28 January 2016. 

Why locations count
By David Mark

I’m not very good at remembering stock answers to the questions that novelists tend to get asked.

When people query where I get my ideas from, or why I’ve made my lead character a Scottish giant, or whether I’m as angry as they are about the casting decisions in Jack Reacher, I don’t really have anything to trot out. So when people ask me why I write about Hull, I actually stop to think about it. I ponder. I stroke my chin and treat myself to some deep cogitation. Then, like all authors, I ask Google. I did that for you, just now. I typed ‘Hull’ into the search engine, and the local newspaper headlines flashed up. The second item involved a naked man assaulting three police officers on the Bransholme estate when they warned him to stop jumping on cars.

“Ah,” I thought, nodding sagely. “That’s why.”

Location isn’t always crucial to the success of a novel. Conan Doyle did just as well when he took Sherlock travelling as he did when he left him in Baker Street. Jane Marple regularly ventured out of the comfort of St Mary Mead and Jack Reacher has made a career out of behaving like the Littlest Hobo and turning up wherever Lee Child feels like dropping him.

It’s different for me, and my central character, Aector McAvoy. I write what Amazon loves to refer to as ‘police procedurals’. In essence, that means my main protagonist is a serving policeman rather than an amateur or some poor bystander who gets caught up in the mix. I write about a Detective Sergeant on the murder squad in Hull. Why? Well, Oxford was taken. So too was Edinburgh. Bergerac has got Jersey sewn up and it would be arrogant to think I could do Nottingham better than John Harvey. And, to be fair, I know next to naff all about any of those cities.

The thing is, when I wrote the first McAvoy book I hadn’t seen a great deal of the world. I’m from Carlisle, which is a perfectly fine place to be from, but I left there at 18 and my memories tend to be those of a miserable teenager with purple hair who thought the world would get better if people got behind new Labour leader John Smith …

I’ve been a journalist in a few other towns, but I wouldn’t call myself anything other than vaguely familiar with the geography. I know the streets of Nottingham a bit. I know how to get from Bella Italia to my old bedsit without getting shot and I know how to get in through the delivery entrance at the Evening Post building without being seen so I could sneak to my desk and pretend I’d been there for hours. But that’s hardly enough of a connection to make it the setting for my books.

The simple truth is, I set my books in Hull because it’s the only place I can imagine those stories being set. I came to Hull in 2000 to work for the Yorkshire Post and knew it as a punchline. As far as I was concerned it was a fish shop 50 miles down a railway siding and it was to be no more than a stepping stone on my way to bigger and better things.

Trouble is, Hull is fascinating. If you have a relatively artistic and enquiring soul, you can’t help but be seduced by the place. The architecture is extraordinary. The history oozes through the cobbles like daisies and slime.  The people talk funny and the men who drink in the Old Town pubs are full of stories about how they saw their best friend’s head taken off by the trawl doors 70 miles off the Norwegian coast in 1964.

Perhaps it was simply the fact that it was where I spent most time as a journalist. I got to know the courts and the police stations. I sat in the living rooms of grieving wives, mothers, husbands and fathers and looked at their family albums as they told me of the agonies their loved ones had endured at the hands of the monsters who snatched their lives. I knew the coppers. I knew the geography, I knew which pubs my fictional characters would be most likely to drink in and what McAvoy would need to wear if he was going to be staking out a building off Cleveland street (there’s a vicious cross-wind).

Familiarity, then? A simple, pragmatic approach to location? I know Hull, so I’ll set it there. Perhaps. But in truth, and I may have to get a bit existential here, I think McAvoy was destined for hull before I even met him. I can’t picture him anywhere else. I can’t imagine his boss, Trish, living anywhere other than her little semi-detached in Grimsby. When the accused is in the dock, he’s in the dock at Hull Crown Court – feet from where I used to sit scribbling down their denials and lies.

All told, it’s probably a little of everything. My books are based in Hull but they may not always stay there. As I see more of the world I might take McAvoy to new locations. I might not. For now, Hull is where McAvoy calls ‘home’. It’s a city I know; a city that fascinates, intrigues and inspires. But even if my accountant could swing the research flights with HMRC, I wouldn’t feel comfortable setting the same stories in Barbados. The air would feel wrong. The clouds wouldn’t move the right way. The people wouldn’t take the way they do in my imagination. And more importantly, McAvoy’s freckly skin would burn in the sun.

Dead Pretty
By David Mark
Published by Mulholland Books (28 January 2016)

Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.
One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won't let either of them go until justice can be done.

But some people have their own ideas of what justice means...

Find Dead Pretty on Amazon UK here.

All about David Mark

David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post - walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.
His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the competent and incompetent investigators; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

He has written four novels in the McAvoy series, Dark Winter, Original Skin, Sorrow Bound and Taking Pity. Dark Winter was selected for the Harrogate New Blood panel, a Richard & Judy pick and a Sunday Times bestseller. He is currently reader in residence for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. 

He lives in Lincolnshire with his partner, two children and an assortment of animals.

Follow David Mark on Twitter - @davidmarkwriter