Tuesday, 30 May 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Rod Reynolds

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 

James Ellroy. The same answer I always give! He's divisive for many readers due to the style and content of his novels, and his last few haven't been that great - but his run from 'The Big Nowhere' through to 'The Cold Six Thousand' encompasses five books and fifteen years and I don't think any crime writer has hit and maintained as high a bar as that body of work. The author that hooked me on reading again, and made me want to be a writer.

Heat. The Pacino/De Niro face off is the iconic scene, but just watch how Michael Mann develops his characters, gives everyone a reason and a motivation for what they do and makes you root for both sides even as they hurtle into each other. A novel in film form. And that ending... 

The Wire. Not an original choice, but the series that paved the way for what television has become. Opened the door again for complex, character-driven, niche-appeal, long-form drama. 

Pete Bondurant from Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy. A mob hitman, right wing nutjob and self-admitted murderer of over 500 people. Not my cup of tea, in real life. And yet somehow he's the hero of the first two books... 

James Lee Burke's Clete Purcell. Dave Robicheaux is the protagonist of the series, but he's a bit too po-faced for me. His former partner in the New Orleans PD, Purcell, is more like it - hard drinking, violent, quick to anger, slow to consider consequences - but loyal, tough, fearless, and very funny. Burke uses him sparingly, too, which is a lesson for all authors. 

The B-movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on the same real life murders as my debut novel, so I watched it for 'research'. It claims at the start that everything depicted in it is true, only the names have been changed. In the film, a young woman is murdered with her own trombone when the killer attaches a knife to it, ties her to a tree, and stabs her to death by playing the instrument. Needless to say, this did not happen. 

That part in the original Robocop where the villain falls into a vat of acid and then gets hit by a car as he's dissolving was pretty shocking when I saw it as a kid! 

So many great blogs out there - this one not least among them. For aspiring writers, I'd always suggest getting on Twitter. The crime writing community on there is big, active and very welcoming - it's definitely the best introduction to the scene. 

Read your work aloud. It's the very best way to pick up on clunky dialogue, prose that doesn't work and passages where the pace lags. 

Coffee. I try not to snack while I'm writing because I'm a terrible chocolate fiend, so I stick to coffee - although too much sends me a bit mad...


Rod Reynolds was born in London and, after a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, he decided to get serious about writing. He completed City University's Crime Writing Masters course and his first novel, THE DARK INSIDE, was published by Faber in 2015. The sequel, BLACK NIGHT FALLING, was published in hardback and ebook in August 2016 and in paperback in March 2017. Rod lives in London with his wife and two daughters. 

Find Rod Reynolds on Twitter - @Rod_WR


Publisher's description
And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone's throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call...'
Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it's less of a story Charlie's chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it's too late. 

Black Night Falling was published by in paperback by Faber on 2 March 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 26 May 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Louise Beech

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 

In The Cut by Susanna Moore is a phenomenal book. It doesn’t shy away from dark and taboo topics, yet is stunningly, achingly beautiful. The prose is to die for. (ha!) It’s one I read regularly because it makes me happy to have eyes, makes me strive to be a better writer, and blows my mind.

Gone Baby Gone is a very under-rated but fantastic film. It came out in 2007, right around the time Madelaine McCann went missing, and so I think (due to the subject matter) it didn’t have the full/wide release intended/deserved. It’s a cracking story with a twist you really don’t see coming.

The darker the better for me, so I loved The Fall, Luther, and The Shield. God, The Shield had the best final few episodes of a series I had ever seen. I needed therapy to get over it.

I’m a little bit in love with Dr Hannibal Lecter. Who could not love a man who won’t tolerate rudeness? A man who can draw beautifully, is super intelligent, and won’t kill you if you extend him a little courtesy? 

Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect. The character is so under-stated, so perfectly played by Helen Mirren, and so absolutely real that you forget you’re watching fiction. (Columbo is a close top favourite, but that’s for privately sexual reasons...)

I love an unusual object. Like when Roald Dahl had a character kill someone with a lamb joint, then cook it and eat it. Once defrosted, none of the police could figure out what the weapon had been. Thomas Enger ‘did it’ with an icicle. And wasn’t there a film (can’t recall which?) where a woman killed men with sex? I’m trying to come up with something unusual for book five. Maybe an egg whisk? Lawnmower? Watch this space...

Just about every death scene in the film Seven has stayed with me since the first time I saw it back in 1995. Who can imagine being forced to eat until your stomach explodes? Having to eat your own flesh? Being starved for a year until you eat your own tongue? It’s not for the faint of heart. So, it was definitely for me.

There aren't any specific websites I use. I just tend to google the topic I'm interested and see where it takes me. Trust me... I've been places.... Also, I use my own experiences...

Your voice is all you have that’s really you. We all have the words, the grammar, some ability. But only you can write the way your heart dictates you should.

I’m limiting those these days. When I’m being a good girl I drink lemon in boiled water. But when I’m bad... biscuits. Or boiled brain with a side of relish....

Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Find Louise Beech on her website and on Twitter - @LouiseWriter


Publisher's description
On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she's leaving, he doesn't come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she's befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor's foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband's secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

The Mountain in my Shoe was published by Orenda Books on 30 September 2016.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman
By Joe Hill
Published by Gollancz
Paperback - 19 January 2017

Publisher's description
Nobody knew where the virus came from. FOX News said it had been set loose by ISIS, using spores that had been invented by the Russians in the 1980s. MSNBC said sources indicated it might've been created by engineers at Halliburton and stolen by culty Christian types fixated on the Book of Revelation. CNN reported both sides. And while every TV station debated the cause, the world burnt.  Pregnant school nurse, HARPER GRAYSON, has seen lots of people burn on TV, but the first person she saw burn for real was in the playground behind her school. But when she realises she has become infected, she is determined to find a way to survive - at least long enough to see her child born. No matter what is left of the world for them to live in.

My verdict
Joe Hill is certainly a talented writer with plenty of imagination - not surprising when you realise his father is Stephen King.

The Fireman features great writing, sharp dialogue and a complex page-turning plot. A powerful fungal infection, causing people to burst into flames, is devastating the world. At the heart of the story is Harper Grayson, a pregnant nurse who is now infected and wants to keep living for the sake of her unborn child.

The book is a mix of horror, action, science fiction, dystopian thriller, mystery and romance, with more than a hint of zombie fiction (although the infected retain their sense of self). The author has put ordinary people in an extraordinary situation - and you, as the reader, see how they survive, cope and pull together as the world burns around them.

At 765 pages, The Fireman isn't a quick read - and it's also heavy in your hands. I did feel that there was some 'overwriting' here, slowing down the pace at times - some of the background narrative and irrelevant conversations could have been cut. I guessed certain twists too, although this didn't detract from my enjoyment.

Overall though, the book is emotionally charged, action-packed and filled with depth. There are many themes running through it, including hope, acceptance, fear, shame, love and a sense of belonging. Highly enjoyable - just make sure you give yourself plenty of reading time for this epic journey.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through Lovereading.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


From Thursday 18th May 2017 to Sunday 21st May 2017, I went to CrimeFest in Bristol for a second year. The crime fiction festival weekend was filled with panels and socialising, meeting old friends and making new ones. 

Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel is a fantastic conference hotel. There are three floors for panels and discussions, plus the large bar with outdoor terrace and two lounges for socialising and meetings. Plenty of lifts and stairs - I used the stairs a lot more this year (you'll find out why at the end of this blog post)!

There's not much opportunity to see Bristol if you spend all of your time at the panels and bar. So Joy Kluver and I decided to explore near the hotel on Thursday evening and also on Friday afternoon. It was great to get out of the air conditioned environment too.

Joy and I went to a variety of panels, and all of them were informative and very entertaining. We could, and maybe should, have gone to more than we did.

Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood
Mary Torjussen, Steph Broadribb, David Coubrough & Lucy V. Hay with moderator Karen Robinson.

Shhhhhhhhh: Keeping Secrets and Telling Lies
Moderator Valentina 'V.M.' Giambanco with Rod Reynolds, Andrea Carter, Julia Crough & Lucy Dawson.

What Are You Hiding?: The Dark Side of Human Nature
Moderator Stanley Trollip (of Michael Stanley) with Luke McCallin, JOhana Gustawsson, Dough Johnstone and Jørn Lier Horst.

Partners in Crime: Male/Female Police Duos
Moderator Sarah Ward with Luca Veste, Sarah Hilary, Anne Randall and Stav Sherez

In the Spotlight: Sam Carrington
When Murderer Becomes Muse: Inspiration From Working With Prisoners

You Are Not Alone: Giving Your Protagonist Family and Friends
CL Taylor, Thomas Enger, Gunnar Staalesen, Llouise Beech and Lucy V. Hay

Journalists: Characters Who Tell Stories for a Living
Moderator Rod Reynolds with Anne Coates, Matt Wesoloqski, Antti Tuomainen and Walter Lucius

The Modern Police Procedural: Are We Really the Good Guys and Girls?
Elizabeth Haynes, Fergus McNeill, moderator Alison Bruce, Valentina 'V.M.' Giambanco and Sharon Bolton

Escaping the Shadows of the Past: When Your Protagonist Can't Forget
Thomas Enger, Katerina Diamond, Simon Toyne and Ragnar Jonasson with moderator Elizabeth Haynes

The bar wasn't as packed as last year - noticed by several people, not just me. But I actually enjoyed it more this time as it was easier to relax and chat to everyone there. Lovely to spend time with authors, publishers/editors and bloggers/reviewers in the bar and lounge and outside the panel rooms. I even chatted with an agent for a while. Great fun too, especially group selfies and toffee vodka at 2am! Only a few photos of me though, as I try to avoid them!

Goodie bags
Brilliant CrimeFest bags this year, with Orenda Books featuring on the other side. Three books in each bag. I decided I didn't want one of them (and no, I'm not saying which book), so I left it on the 'swapsies' table. Since I have 'just a few' books to read, I decided not to replace it. Lots of promotional leaflets, postcards and bookmarks to pick up too. These are the two books I kept - The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue and The Black Sheep by Sophie McKenzie.

Ragnar Jonasson bookmarks handed to me by Orenda Books (ignore the terrible photo). Some are now on their way to fellow blogger Kate Moloney (Bibliophile Book Club) in Ireland!

Books to buy
The CrimeFest book shop was well stocked, and there was an opportunity after each panel to queue up for authors to sign purchased books. I decided this year to be strict with myself, as I couldn't carry many books home. But I have come away with a long list of books to buy. I did buy Simon Toyne's The Boy Who Saw, as I loved Solomon Creed, the first in the series. Plus Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. This is one of my favourite psychological thrillers and until CrimeFest I only had the e-book. Great to see both Simon & Elizabeth again.

One of my most memorable (but not necessarily enjoyable) experiences of CrimeFest 2017 was being stuck in a broken down lift for around 10 minutes with Joy Kluver and an author who needed to get to her panel! Both were great company though, and none of us panicked! I'm not claustrophobicbut it did take all of us a few hours to pluck up enough courage to get back into a lift (especially on our own)!

CrimeFest was a fantastic weekend - costly, yes, but I believe it was well worth the money. You can reduce the cost if you don't stay at the Marriott Hotel. 

Hope to see some of you there next year! 

Visit the CrimeFest website here to learn more about the weekend and see updates about the 2018 festival.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Howard Linskey

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


for his Hunting the Hangman blog tour

to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 

John Le Carre – his books are beautifully written and have page-turning plots, complex characters and wonderful subtlety. I love ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ and ‘Smiley’s People’ but my all-time favourite book is ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, which manages to be a mystery, a whodunit, a thriller, a social commentary and a devastating account of the cost of betrayal all at once. It’s a marvelous book. 


The Godfather – though don’t ask me to choose between parts one and two as they are both sublime. Michael Corleone’s journey; from the young guy who doesn’t want anything to do with the family business to mafia king pin who loses his soul, is so watchable I can never turn it off if it’s on late night TV, despite owning the DVD. It’s one to watch over and over again. Great acting, wonderful writing and superb lines abound. I can probably recite every one of them. 

Band of Brothers or Our Friends in the North, though my guilty pleasure is Game of Thrones. Band of Brothers is the best and most realistic portrayal of war I have ever seen. Our Friends In The North is a moving journey through three decades of north east politics, crime and enduring friendships. The three main actors, unknown at the time, went on to play James Bond (Daniel Craig), Dr Who (Christopher Eccleston) and, in the case of Mark Strong, just about every Hollywood villain of the past decade. 

Hannibal Lecter. I’ve yet to come across a scarier human being in any book or film; a man who will happily slaughter and eat you then wash you down with a nice Chianti. “I do wish we could chat longer but I’m having an old friend for dinner.” 

Saga Noren from the Bridge, as played by Sofia Helin, because she is eye-rollingly bonkers. Not sure how someone so ‘out there’ could actually function as a police officer but her social alienation makes for excellent drama and very often great comedy, particularly when she comes out with something wildly inappropriate, which she so often does 

I instantly thought of the oar that Tom Ripley uses to beat Dickie Greenleaf to death in a boat in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. It’s a shocking episode from a dark book about an immoral man and great storytelling.

When Michael Corleone confronts his brother in law Carlo Rizzi in the Godfather, because he was responsible for his brother Sonny’s death, Carlo fears the worst. That’s until the new godfather convinces him he would never kill his sister’s husband and his actual punishment is exclusion from the family business. He even gives the man a plane ticket and they put his suitcase in the boot for him. Then Carlo gets into the car to find gangster Pete Clemenza in the back seat waiting for him. ‘Hello Carlo’ he says before efficiently garroting the traitor, as the car slowly drives away, watched by a vengeful Michael and his Consigliere. Carlo’s foot goes through the front windscreen too and as it twitches that’s all we see of his final death throes.      

I go on NUFC.COM every day, which is a great site for long suffering Newcastle United fans. What has it got to do with crime writing? Not much at first glance but my characters often have the surnames of obscure but popular Newcastle players. It’s an in-joke that only Newcastle fans will get. I love this site so much that every year we do a competition giveaway on it when my books are published and it gets a great response. 

Be your own worst critic during editing before you send anything in and keep going. Momentum is what’s needed to complete a book, so a few hundred words a day most days will get you there in the end. 


Is wine a snack? I think it should be. I’m a terrible grazer so I try to avoid actual snacks while writing, otherwise I’d be huge. I’ll say coffee instead then, which is writer’s fuel as everybody knows.


Howard Linskey is the author of three novels in the David Blake crime series published by No Exit Press, The Drop (2011), The Damage (2012) and The Dead (2013). The Times newspaper voted The Drop one of its Top Five Thrillers of the Year and The Damage one of its Top Summer Reads. He is also the author of No Name Lane (2015) and Behind Dead Eyes (2016), the first two books in a crime series set in the north east of England featuring journalists Tom Carney & Helen Norton, published by Penguin. Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin.

Find Howard Linskey on his website and on Twitter - @HowardLinskey


Publisher's description
Bestselling author Howard Linskey’s fifteen year fascination with the assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the holocaust, has produced a meticulously researched, historically accurate thriller with a plot that echoes The Day of the Jackal and The Eagle has Landed.
2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on a man so evil even fellow SS officers referred to him as the 'Blond Beast’. In Prague he was known as the Hangman. Hitler, who called him 'The Man with the Iron Heart', considered Heydrich to be his heir, and entrusted him with the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish question: the systematic murder of eleven million people.
In 1942 two men were trained by the British SOE to parachute back into their native Czech territory to kill the man ruling their homeland. Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik risked everything for their country. Their attempt on Reinhard Heydrich’s life was one of the single most dramatic events of the Second World War, with horrific consequences for thousands of innocent people. 

Hunting the Hangman is being published by No Exit Press on 25 May 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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