Thursday, 12 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Jo Jakeman

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 ...

There are so many hugely talented crime writers on the shelves at the moment, but I’ll have to pick the writer of the first crime books I read that blew my mind, and that would be Thomas Harris. I could pretty much answer all of the questions below with one of his books or characters.

See? What did I tell you? Thomas Harris all day long. It has to be Silence of the Lambs. It was a genius film of a genius book. Incredibly well acted and plotted, and it’s so quotable. Fava beans, anyone?

Peaky Blinders. I love a British Crime drama. It’s not just the stories or the characterisation of Peaky Blinders, it’s the way it is filmed, and the music that they use. I particularly love that we’re behind the ‘bad guys’ all the way. I get excited as soon as I hear the theme music.  

Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery. It’s a wonder I ever wanted to become a writer after reading about characters like her. Not only does she lock up an author for killing off her favourite character, Misery, but it seems that murder is the way she has dealt with all of her problems. In the film she breaks Sheldon’s ankle with a sledgehammer. It’s an iconic film moment, but in the book she chops his foot off with an axe and cauterises it with a blow torch. 

Sherlock Holmes. I love the wit, and the eccentricity. And there’s something about the fact that he doesn’t quite fit in to the world around him that appeals to me. 

I remember watching Tales of the Unexpected as a child and there was an episode which was adapted from a Roald Dhal story about a woman who kills her with a frozen leg of lamb and then cooks and serves it to the policemen who come to investigate the crime, niftily getting rid of the evidence.

At the risk of sounding predictable here, it’s another example from Silence of the Lambs. When Lecter manipulates Miggs into killing himself after he ‘disrespected’ Clarice, there’s no blood shed. Lecter couldn’t even touch him and yet he was still able to orchestrate Miggs’ death using nothing but his mind.

I don’t really use any blogs or websites for research unless it is something particular such as, ‘how quickly can you bleed to death’… I can waste an entire day on the internet so I’m not to be trusted with the Wifi code.

Write every day if you can. As with most things, writing gets better with practice. If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike you might be waiting a long time. It’s unlikley the words you’re putting on the page are your best work, but you can edit them later. You can’t edit a blank page.

Coffee and chocolate. Sticks and Stones was largely fuelled by Lindt Dark Caramel and Sea Salt. Which reminds me, I’ve still got a bar in the cupboard and book two isn’t going to write itself…

Jo Wakeman was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller.

Find Jo Jakeman on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @JoJakemanWrites


Publisher's description
Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.
In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Sticks and Stones was published in hardback by Harvill Secker on 12 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar - cover reveal!!

Today, I'm delighted and excited to be hosting a cover reveal for Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar. Brothers in Blood (previously published as Western Fringes) is being published by Dialogue Books on 6 September 2018.

Brothers in Blood: Read the blurb

A Sikh girl on the run.
A Muslim ex-con who has to find her.
A whole heap of trouble.
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 Zaq 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?

I am SO intrigued and hope you are too!!! 

AND NOW.... *drum roll*

Brothers in Blood: View the cover


I love this cover and what a great strapline! 
I'll be reading this very very soon!

Brothers in Blood: Read about author Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Brothers in Blood is his first novel. For everything else, he has an alibi. It wasn’t him. He was never there.

Find Amer Anwar on his website and also on Twitter - @ameranwar

BEST OF CRIME with Linwood Barclay

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 ...


Ross Macdonald. I discovered his novels at the age of 15 while perusing the twirling metal paperback rack at our local grocery store. This was usually where I found the latest Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe novel, or an Agatha Christie reprint. I picked up  Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look, by Ross Macdonald, because of the blurb at the top from William Goldman: “The finest series of detective novels ever written by an American.” That was good enough for me. Macdonald was the author who showed me the potential of the detective novel, how you could take the conventions of a mystery and use them to make a statement. 

My two favourite films just also happen to be Alfred Hitchcock’s two finest works: Rear Window and Vertigo. I go back and forth on which is number one and which is number two. They’re both brilliant, and for me, influential. The last five minutes of Vertigo are the best last five minutes of any movie ever made.

Wow, so many to choose from. Whatever the last series I binge-watched is usually the one I think is the best I’ve ever seen. But there are standouts. Happy Valley, The Night Manager, Ozark, Homeland, The Americans. What do they all have in common? Intriguing characters. Plot is important, but character is always the grabber.

The Joker, especially as portrayed by Heath Ledger. No one else even comes close in terms of pure evil. 

Columbo, hands down. The raincoat, the cigar, the “Oh, just one more question.” Best TV detective ever. In novels, Lew Archer, the private eye created by Ross Macdonald. He’s not quirky. There are no gimmicks. He asks questions, pursues leads, driven by an underlying sense of justice and a belief that exposing buried secrets to sunlight has a purifying effect. 

Speaking of Hitchcock, wasn’t there an episode of his old TV show where a woman killed her husband with a frozen cut of beef, then cooked it up and served it to the investigating officers? The cops ATE the murder weapon. Beat that. 

When the truck goes over the cliff at the end of Steven Spielberg’s Duel. 

Has there ever been a day when I did not go on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database? Every evening when we sit down to watch TV, we see something that prompts any number of the following questions: “What did we see her in before?” “Where do I know him from?” “What was that other movie with, you know, the guy? The one with the hair?” “Is this the season finale, or is there one more?” “Which episode was it where Diane first meets Frasier?” “Is the music for this movie done by the same guy who did the music for that other movie, because it sure sounds similar?” There’s nothing IMDB does not know.

Read. Also, read. And finally, read. Anyone who thinks they can write a novel without having read A LOT probably thinks someone can perform open heart surgery without having gone to medical school. If you’ve passed that hurdle, then write. Also, write. And finally, write. Be writing, even if the only person who is going to read this work is yourself. I’d written three or four novels by the time I was 25. My first was published when I was 49. Persist. 

An occasional chocolate chip cookie can be very motivating. 

Linwood Barclay is one of the most successful thriller writers of the 21st Century.  His debut, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, was a critically acclaimed No 1 bestseller and his novels have sold millions of copies around the world.  He is the author of, amongst others, NO SAFE HOUSE, A TAP ON THE WINDOW, TRUST YOUR EYES, BROKEN PROMISE and FAR FROM TRUE.  He lives near Toronto with his wife.

Find Linwood  on his website, on his Facebook page and on Twitter - @linwood_barclay


Publisher's description
Paul Davies, a small-town college professor, has narrowly avoided death when he accidently disturbed a murder scene.  The killer, his colleague and friend, hit him over the head with a shovel and only a passing police car saved him from joining the other victims.
Eight months later, Paul’s colleague is in jail and Paul is attempting to rebuild his life.  He has not yet returned to work, he suffers flashbacks and memory loss and he is in therapy.  He decides to write the story of his experiences to make some sense of how the killer, a friend who took Paul under his wing when he first arrived at the college, could have carried out such cruel murders.  As a gift, his wife buys him an old-fashioned typewriter.
That night, as his wife and son lie asleep, Paul wakes to a noise downstairs: the clear, sharp tap of the typewriter keys.  But the house is empty, the door and windows locked.
Is Paul losing his grip on reality?  Is the trauma of the attempt on his life too great to endure?  Or is someone trying to make him think that he is going mad?

A Noise Downstairs is published by Orion Fiction on 12 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Monday, 9 July 2018

MY WRITING DAY with Jane Isaac

I am delighted to welcome Jane Isaac to Off-the-Shelf Books today, to talk about her writing day! After He's Gone was published on 20 June 2018.

My Writing Day
By Jane Isaac

It’s six years since my first book was released (and eight since I first started penning novels) and my writing routine and lifestyle has seen many changes. In the early days, I wrote when the mood took me, fitted the words around my day job, my trusted computer balanced precariously on my lap, wherever I perched myself. I know some writers manage this juggling match brilliantly, but it’s always been a challenge for me and I found I was sacrificing more and more family time with every book. My daughter was getting older and kept reminding me she’d be off to university soon. I needed to make some changes, to spend more time with her. So, last year, I handed in my notice at the day job and made the decision to write full time, at least for a while.
My husband embraced my decision wholeheartedly and moved his guitars (well, most of them!) out of the spare room. A desk was installed, followed by a noticeboard, a computer and a chair. There’s plenty of colour in my new office. I’m the Queen of Post-it pads and have a kaleidoscope of notes attached to my whiteboard. The room doesn’t have much of a view, although I am accompanied by a bookshelf, the smallest in the house so I've filled it with my comfort books; those I can whip down and read when I'm looking for motivation. 
When I finished the day job, I imagined dropping my daughter at school in the morning and driving back through the country lanes while pondering plot points and character traits. In reality, I listen to the morning news while dashing back to walk the dog and complete my chores. It’s almost 9.30am by the time the dog and I traipse up to my office to begin work.
I’m prone to procrastination and find I can easily while away a couple of hours reading posts on Facebook or chatting on Twitter, so I have to be disciplined. I don't check emails or social media until I’ve made some progress on the scene I’m currently working on. I’ll work until 3pm when I have to do the school run and walk the dog. If it’s been a good day, I’ll be completely absorbed and forget lunch. If it hasn’t, I’ll have shifted about, snacked constantly, and dipped in and out of social media. Often I’ll be back at my keyboard in the evening, catching up with admin, or penning some more words. Occasionally I’ll have an event or a talk to prepare for.
My new title, After He’s Gone, marks the first in the DC Beth Chamberlain series. Beth is a Family Liaison Officer which offers an intriguing new angle on a murder investigation, for me. Liaison officers spend a lot of time with the family, updating them on the investigation and feeding back information and often get very close. And since most people are killed by someone they know or someone close to them, it affords the opportunity to unravel some really intriguing secrets! I’ve just finished the first draft of the second in the series, which is scheduled for release later this year, and am now working on an outline for a third. I find I plan more with every book; the whiteboard on the wall of my office is currently filled with drawings, photos, mind maps and notes for my new project.
Sometimes there’s a hiccup in my script, a moment's blindness. It happens. It's always happened. The only way I can cope with it is to remove myself and do something different like research a plot point, or a new scene. It’s lovely to go out and visit potential settings, meet with people for coffee, or read up for background. I probably do far too much of it, only a trickle will find its way into the novel, but I think it convinces my brain I’m still being productive when the words don’t flow!

About Jane Isaac
Jane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the 'eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.' The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by
After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.
You can find with Jane at, on Facebook here and on Twitter - @JaneIsaacAuthor.

About After He's Gone

After He's Gone
By Jane Isaac
You can buy the book from Amazon UK here.

 ‘The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’ 
You think you know him. Until he’s dead.
When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them. 
As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. 
Even the dead…

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Good Samaritans
By Will Carver
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 15 September 2018; Paperback - 15 November 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach
Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…

My verdict
On the day Good Samaritans arrived in the post, I thought I'd just 'check it out'.

So I read the first page...

        Then I read the first chapter...

                 Then I read the whole book...

                            And then, that evening, I tweeted this:

I loved Michael Grothaus' Epiphany Jones, also published by Orenda Books. On the surface (or if you read the blurb), Good Samaritans is nothing like it - the stories are very different, the subject matter too. But inside, I found the same quirkiness, darkness and humour, again packaged neatly in a brilliantly written, additive read.

Short chapters switch seamlessly between the lead characters, which prompted me to read 'just one more'. I should have hated so many characters but I loved them all instead. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things behind closed doors. Good Samaritans? Definitely... but only on their own terms. Who knew insomnia could be so dangerous?

Good Samaritans is sexy, dark, explicit and graphic in places, so certainly not for the fainthearted. It's twisty and twisted too. Is this love story? Oh yes, but not necessarily in the way you think. It's certainly a tale of lust, obsession, control and desperation.

The book kept me guessing and certainly kept me engrossed, with many 'laugh out loud' moments and pages read with a gasp. It's an incredibly hard book to review without giving anything away - and I really do hope that other reviewers are equally as careful. This is a book that needs to be read 'blind', just using the blurb on the jacket as your guide.

To sum it up - I loved this book and will happily shout about it from the rooftops! In fact, I'm sure I will over the coming months (and beyond). And I'll never look at bottles of bleach in quite the same way again.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Authors' Creative Pursuits - Louise Mangos

Authors are a very creative bunch - and for many of them, this isn’t only with words on the page. From drawing to painting, pottery to needlework, composing to singing, here’s a look at some authors’ creative pursuits.

I am delighted to welcome 




Have you always been creative – and not just with words? 
Before I could write, my creativity involved sketching ponies at the kitchen table from morning until night. I loved to draw with coloured pencils. Since I could spell my name I’ve always wanted to write. My first successfully published endeavour was a poem about my mum for mother’s day when I was eleven years old. It won a school competition and was published in our local paper. 

Have you always enjoyed painting or is this a more recent hobby of yours? If it's a more recent hobby, did you start it for any particular reason?
I was introduced to acrylic paints in my mid-twenties. Then there was no looking back. I tried oil paints for a while, but was put off by the lengthy drying time between the stages of ‘layering’ my work and the smell of turpentine around the house. Since my free time is taken up with fewer sporting activities now that I’m getting older, I spend more time writing and painting.

How often do you paint and how easy is it to find the time?
I have a fixed time that I paint with a mentor once a week for a three-hour session. Otherwise I fit my painting at home around my writing. If I didn’t have the obligation of painting with my mentor I probably wouldn’t have the motivation to do it regularly. I can, on the other hand, always find time to write ;o)

Do you do any other arts and crafts?
I’ve always been crafty. I loved to make gifts for my family from Blue Peter ideas when I was a child. I also enjoyed sewing for a few years, and made some money designing fun fleece hats for kids. I make my own Christmas and birthday cards, have done some decoupage and love photography. I often walk with a camera to capture images for my next painting project. I worked in our local Swiss school in a volunteer capacity for a few years, mainly to teach the kids extra English, and ended up using crafting projects to make the learning more exciting.

Do you think painting (or the time you spend painting) helps with your writing and overall wellbeing?  
Painting and writing fiction go hand in hand. They both involve creating images, the first with colour and the second with words. Voltaire said ‘Writing is the painting of the voice.’

Do you enjoy painting anything in particular?
My favourite subjects are landscapes, particularly those with mountains, clouds and water. I feel so blessed living in Switzerland where these three elements are in daily abundance.

What have you been painting recently?
I’ve recently finished a painting of autumn leaves on one of the cobbled-stone streets in our village. You can see the progress of the work through the three images. 





Louise writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, which have won prizes, placed on shortlists, and been read out on BBC radio. Her debut psychological thriller Strangers on a Bridgeis published today, July 6thby HQDigital (Harper Collins). Louise lives on an Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

Find Louise Mangos on her website here and on Twitter - @LouiseMangos

I'm hoping to feature more Authors' Creative Pursuits
on Off-the-Shelf Books in the future. 

So if you're a published author and have a talent for arts and crafts, music, photography, baking or other creative activities, and would like to feature on my blog, please do get in touch!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Attend by West Camel - an Orenda Books cover reveal!!

Today, I'm delighted and excited to be hosting a cover reveal for Orenda Books. Before I tell you about the book, I should tell you who the author is. But even that's a bit of a surprise, as the author originally popped his book into the submissions file under a different name. Sneaky, huh? (I've been meaning to ask him which name he used).

So, that MAY give you a clue about who the author is. If not, here's another clue. He's already a well-known, established and essential member of Team Orenda. 

Worked it out yet?

Time for a drum roll...

And now back to the cover reveal... 

I am delighted to reveal the cover for Attend by Orenda Books editor West Camel. Not only is he a brilliant editor, but I have been told (on good authority - i.e. by Karen Sullivan herself) that he is a fantastic writer too. Attend is being published by Orenda Books in December 2018.

As we all know, Karen Sullivan is very picky when choosing her authors (and books), which why the Orenda books are of such high quality, so I'm sure that Attend is going to be amazing. I can't wait to read West's book to discover his writing for myself!!!

Attend: Read the blurb

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

I am SO intrigued and hope you are too!!! 

AND NOW.... *drum roll*

Attend: View the cover

I love this cover! 
And I'm desperate to read the book to discover the significance of the needle and thread.

Attend: Read about author West Camel

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

Find West Camel on Twitter - @west_camel

For ALL of your Orenda news, visit the Orenda website and follow @OrendaBooks on Twitter.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds. Cold Desert Sky is being published by Faber & Faber on 5th July 2018.

Cold Desert Sky
By Rod Reynolds
Published by Faber & Faber (5 July 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher. 


Publisher's description
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?

My verdict
I can't believe that it's nearly two years since I last spent time in the company of Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie. But I've just checked and it is! A few pages into Cold Desert Sky and I don't feel like I've been away from them at all. I also realise how much I've missed them.

Rod Reynolds is a master at creating authentic crime fiction steeped in American noir. His books are set not only in the US, but also in the 1940s. So it's no mean feat to make them feel very real, and he certainly does just that. His descriptions are evocative and atmospheric, his dialogue sharp and spot on.

Charlie Yates is an experienced journalist trying to find two women who have disappeared in the glamorous, glitzy world of Hollywood. He certainly isn't a pushover and isn't afraid to take risks, but he also has plenty of heart. Lizzie is far more than Charlie's wife, or 'sidekick' - she's an equal partner, feisty and opinionated, and his voice of reason. They have a loving relationship, independent when they're apart but also reliant on one another when they're together.

Cold Desert Sky takes us on a rollercoaster journey as Charlie and Lizzie go in search of the truth, looking for these two young women. They've managed to put their lives in danger and it's going to take a lot for them to wriggle their way out of it, with a mobster on their trail. But who can they trust along the way? Paranoia seeps through the pages, and the stakes are high.

Yet again, Rod Reynolds has written a fast-paced read. And with that ending, I hope there will be more Charlie Yates to come.

Follow the Blog Tour

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Claymore Straker's Journey - The Abrupt Physics of Dying

Claymore Straker is the main character in Paul Hardisty's Straker series, which is published by Orenda Books. These are action-packed, and also thought-provoking, environmental thrillers. With each book, I have followed Straker's emotional & ripping rollercoaster journey, and I have learnt so much about environmental issues and political climates around the world too.

There are four books in the Straker series so far - An Abrupt Physics of Dying, The Evolution of Fear, Reconciliation for the Dead and, recently published on 30 May 2018, Absolution. I am a huge fan of these books and recommend them highly!!

Today, Paul Hardisty talks about Claymore Straker's Journey through his first book, The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

Here's a little about the book first:
Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company's oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die.
As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country's oil wealth, Yemen's shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions.
As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is what it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA's most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.
Gritty, gripping and shocking, The Abrupt Physics of Dying will not only open your eyes, but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.

And now over to Paul:

"The first book of the series, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, is set in Yemen in 1994 as the civil war erupts. I was there at the time, and wanted to write something that would capture the time, the sheer chaos and terror of the place, and the really bad stuff I saw. I was working on it for ten years, on and off, but it wasn’t until I got to Australia that it really came together. 
Clay is in Yemen working as an engineer with the burgeoning oil industry, in the loneliest place he can find, trying to escape his brutal past - trying to escape himself.  There he meets Rania, a beguiling, troubled journalist who is researching the Islamic uprising in the country. She is Muslim, he atheist, a scarred veteran of South Africa’s war in Angola, haunted by the memories of what he saw and did. 
As Yemen descends into chaos, and kids start dying in the villages close to the oil company’s operations, the pair are thrown together in a search for the truth. Their journey begins."
The Abrupt Physics of Dying was one of the first books I reviewed on Off-the-Shelf Books. 
You can find my review here.  
About Paul Hardisty

Read about Paul Hardisty's life experiences and qualifications, and you'll understand why he writes his Straker books!
Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK revels) and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

Follow Claymore Straker's Journey

To learn more about all of the Claymore Straker books, visit:
Monday 2nd July - @Lizzy11268
Wednesday 4th July - @dakegra
Thursday 5th July - @grabthisbook
Friday 6th July - @sjroth21

You can find Paul Hardisty on Twitter here. Plus check out the Orenda Books website too!

Monday, 2 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Ruth Ware

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 her The Death of Mrs Westaway blog tour

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

It's too hard to pick just one overall, so I am going to cheat a little and pick an author that had a huge influence of The Death of Mrs W - which has to be Daphne du Maurier. She is wonderful at setting, but most of all, I think she is an expert at taking you inside the mind of her protagonist, immersing you into their fears and hopes and suspicions in a way that I aspire to do.

Oooh... tough one... I'm torn between Dial M For Murder, which I just adore, and Gaslight. Both are wonderful studies in female paranoia-or-is-it - that growing sense that something is wrong, when everyone is telling you it's not. Gaslight deserves to be far better known, though it has given us the psychological abuse term "gaslighting" - to persuade something that they are suffering from paranoia and imagining things when really they are in the right. 

I'm a sucker for Murder She Wrote. What can I say - I just love everything about it. Jessica Fletcher is who Nancy Drew aspires to be when she grows up.

I have a soft spot for the killers in Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers - I can't say anything more without spoiling the plot, but it's so ingeniously done.

It has to be Miss Marple. Jessica Fletcher aside, there are simply not enough kick-ass old ladies in fiction, and Miss Marple is doing her best to redress the scale.

Mmm.... it's probably the frozen leg of lamb in Roald Dahl's Lamb to the Slaughter. Partly because it's so ingenious, and partly because my own grandmother almost (unintentionally) did for my father in the same way, when she bopped him playfully on the head with the Sunday joint, not realising it was still frozen.

I think it has to be the scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent (John Travolta) shoots Marvin (Phil LaMarr) in the face by accident in the middle of a conversation. It's so brilliantly shocking and yet banal the first time you see it - I watched the film in the cinema and I remember the horrified screech from the audience followed by the nervous disbelieving laughter as the situation sunk in. In a film (and industry) in which violence is fetishised and feted and choreographed, it's a clever reminder that in real life it's often just dumb and random. 

I actually don't follow a whole lot of crime blogs and websites because that doesn't tend to be the aspect of my books that I spend most time researching. For example for The Death of Mrs Westaway, the thing I spent most time researching was actually tarot, which features quite heavily in the plot. In my books the crime itself is often comparatively unimportant in a weird way - it happens off screen or in the past, so my focus isn't on that, it's more on character and how people interact, which you can research anywhere from Reddit to Facebook to just plain old real life. However I did love the podcast Serial, in spite of having some moral reservations about the effect on real life people of how it was played out.

Just crack on and do it, is my advice. You can find endless excuses to procrastinate - waiting for the perfect tranch of clear time, or the perfect plot, or the perfect computer or writing course. None of that really matters. If the story is good enough, the rest doesn't matter, and if it's not, then none of those factors will plaster over the cracks. 

Anything with cheese in / on / around. Mmmm....

Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark WoodThe Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game were smash hits, and she has appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Timesand New York Times. The film rights to all three books have been optioned and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

Find Ruth Ware on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @RuthWareWriter


Publisher's description
When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast. 
There's just one problem - Hal's real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger's funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her. 
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

The Death of Mrs Westaway was published by Harvill Secker on 28 June 2018.

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