Thursday, 29 November 2018

A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan

A House of Ghosts
By W. C. Ryan
Published by Zaffre (4 October 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .

My verdict
I loved this spooky book, with its wartime theme, haunted house and claustrophobic Island setting.

House of Ghosts is an old-fashioned ghost story set in 1917, mixed with Christie-type classic crime and espionage. It's grim, dark and chilling, highlighting the mental and physical scars of the returning soldiers and the grief of the families of those who didn't return from the war at all.

Here, you have a locked room scenario, with an authentic array of characters trapped on a windswept island off the Devon coastline, a murderer among them. There are grieving hosts, dubious clairvoyants, dedicated staff and some unexpected house guests. The two main characters, Kate and Donovan, investigate lies and deception, murder and sabotage. The house, Blackwater Abbey, is a character in its own right, with its ghostly corridors, secret passages and tunnels and creaky floorboards.

Short snappy chapters keep the storyline moving at a fast pace, with lots of cliffhangers, heart-pounding moments and surprises in store. I was having such a great time reading this murder mystery that I really didn't want it to end. Despite its unsettling nature, the book is filled with humour, creating an enjoyable atmospheric read. I don't know if this is the start of a series. But I'm hoping there will be another book featuring Kate and Donovan, with more espionage and ghostly goings-on.

Perfect for dark stormy nights, as well as cold winter one!

Friday, 23 November 2018

Susi Holliday's spooky holiday snaps!

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Lingering by S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday. I love looking at Susi's holiday posts on social media, as she's been to some fascinating (and often scary-looking) places. So I asked her if she would share some of her spookiest destinations on Off-the-Shelf Books today. The Lingering was published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2018.

Susi Holliday's spooky holiday snaps!

Growing up near Edinburgh, there was never any shortage of eerie places to discover in my youth – the old town streets are oozing with dark history, especially Mary King’s Close - the street full of plague victims that was blocked off – while all the inhabitants were still alive; and Greyfriars Kirkyard – the most haunted graveyard in the world – where George ‘Bloody’ Mackenzie imprisoned the covenanters and left them there to die. So, with that morbid history imprinted on me from the start, it’s no great surprise that I developed a fascination with the creepy and macabre on my travels… here’s a small selection of my favourites.

A scary Mexican saloon

No Scum Allowed Saloon’ – a bar in White Oaks, New Mexico. Once a mining community, and now officially a ghost town, this place was once frequented by Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. We stayed in a dilapidated mobile home on an old rock mine… and didn’t sleep a wink. 

Eerie desert sands

On the same trip, we visited White Sands National Monument – an eerie desert of gypsum and calcium sands, bordering the White Sands Missile Range, where they tested the first atomic bomb.

Haunting Chinese memorial

Nanjing Massacre Museum, China – a haunting place filled with the bones of the dead. I found out about it after reading Mo Hayder’s book ‘Tokyo’ and became fascinated by a dark period of history that I had previously known nothing about. This led me to read Iris Chang’s book ‘The Rape of Nanking’ – and it was only when I saw the memorial to her here that I found out that she had committed suicide two years earlier, purportedly haunted by her research.

Statues of remembrance

Jizo Statues, Kamakura, Japan – another thing I learned about in Mo Hayder’s book – these are statues to remember unborn babies. It is believed that as the babies did not have the chance to build up good karma on earth, Jizo helps smuggle the children into the afterlife in the sleeves of his robe. Beautiful concept, but chilling, nonetheless.

Gothic Yorkshire ruins 

Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire – classic gothic pilgrimage spot, famous for being the place where Dracula came ashore as ‘a large dog’ and proceeded to climb the 199 steps which lead up to the ruins. The steps are a bit of a challenge, but it’s a must-do to get the full experience. There’s a youth hostel attached to the abbey, which is still on my ‘must-stay’ list.

Dracula's Transylvanian castle

Bran Castle, Transylvania – the famous ‘Dracula’s Castle’ – very difficult to get to, and while it’s a fascinating place, the journey there via a (possibly) psychotic Romanian taxi driver was more frightening than Bram Stoker’s book, the true story of Vlad the Impaler, and the tourist-eating brown bears that roam the mountains, all put together.

Czech church of bones

Kutna Hora Ossuary, Czech Republic – a church full of bones, apparently decorated by a mad monk… again, while the place itself was quite eerie, it was far more chilling walking the streets of this almost deserted town in the Czech countryside.

Creepy Cornwall moors

The Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall – nothing much to report during the day, although walking across the moor in the fog is quite an experience – but come night-time, when the bus parties of cream-tea tourists have departed, this place is more than a little creepy… another place where I didn’t sleep a wink!

About S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as 'Dark as a smoker's lung.' She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad. 

Find S.J.I Holliday on Facebook, on her website and on Twitter - @SJIHolliday

About The Lingering

The Lingering
By S.J.I. Holliday
Published by Orenda Books (15 November 2018)

Publisher's description
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution...

Here's a snippet from my review: 'Susi Holliday has created a brilliant combination of psychological thriller and ghostly mystery - a 'chiller thriller' or 'ghostly noir'.'

Read my full review here.

Follow the Blog Tour

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Turbulent Wake by Paul Hardisty - cover reveal!

Today, I'm delighted and excited to be hosting a cover reveal for Turbulent Wake by Paul Hardisty, which is being published by Orenda Books in May 2019.

As many people know, I love Paul Hardisty's Claymore Straker action-packed environmental thriller series. Well, he's now written a standalone literary novel, also set in exotic locations such as Africa and the Caribbean. 

But before I show you the cover of Turbulent Wake, you must read the blurb. 

*drum roll*

Turbulent Wake: Read the blurb

Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life. As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?
 Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss ... of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.

Sound great? It certainly does! 
I can't wait to read it - Paul's writing is outstanding
and his books are filled with emotion. 

AND NOW.... *drum roll*

Are you ready????

Turbulent Wake: View the cover

I love this cover! You know how a picture speaks a thousand words? Well I can't wait to read the thousands of words behind this one! It's SO moody - calm on the surface but hiding plenty of trouble (just look at that stormy sky!). Plus what's behind the mist? A search into the unknown, perhaps? All of the Orenda covers reveal something about the story inside. 
We'll just have to wait until next year to find out more! 

Turbulent Wake: Read about author Paul Hardisty

Canadian 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 rebels), 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 CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia. 

Find Paul Hardisty on Twitter - @Hardisty_Paul

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

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

By Matt Wesolowski
Published by Orenda Books (Ebook - 15 November 2018; Paperback - 15 January 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher’s description
On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

My verdict
A missing child, a grieving father, a neglectful alcoholic mother, things that go tap tap tap in the night, local folklore, creepy forests... Plus gripping writing, authentic dialogue, heart-pounding tension and a final twist that I seriously didn’t see coming!

Yes, as you may have guessed, I loved Changeling.

I read this book in around 2.5 hours, unable to tear myself away. Pretty impressive, considering I was going through a major reading slump at the time, unable to find a book to maintain my concentration. It takes a lot for a book to 'scare' me so I don't have a problem reading these books alone at night, when everyone else has gone to bed. But Changeling is very very unsettling, and I found myself gripping the pages tightly as I read - and then jumped when a door banged somewhere in the house.

Changeling explores of the case of seven-year-old Alfie Marsden, who went missing in a forest in 1988, after slipping out, or being taken from, the car while his father investigated a strange tapping sound. The young boy hasn't been seen since, dead or alive.

Changeling is definitely my favourite of the three Six Stories books so far. I'm not sure if that’s down to the emotional subject matter, chilling storyline or overall creepiness of the prose. All three books feel very real, from the array of believable characters to the atmospheric settings. In fact, part of me is convinced that these are genuine cases and genuine podcasts and that Matt Wesolowski has a secret life as a crime podcaster (which means he IS his character).

To explain, if you haven't read a Six Stories book before, all three of the books are written in a unique format - six podcasts hosted by elusive online journalist Scott King who is exploring cold cases. The podcasts are all very dark, highly thought-provoking and intriguing, as each new character reveals snippets of information about the case, building the tension, intensifying the suspense and layering the mystery at the heart of the story.

You could easily read Changeling as a stand-alone. But I would recommend reading all three books anyway. They’re all brilliant, very different despite following the same format and prove that Matt Weselowski is one of the best emerging horror/crime writers in the present day.

Bring on the next one! (I hope there is a next one...)

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson

Somewhere Beyond the Sea
By Miranda Dickinson
Published by Pan (14 June 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Can you fall in love with someone before you’ve even met?
Seren MacArthur is living a life she never intended. Trying to save the Cornish seaside business her late father built – while grieving for his loss – she has put her own dreams on hold and is struggling. Until she discovers a half-finished seaglass star on her favourite beach during an early morning walk. When she completes the star, she sets into motion a chain of events that will steal her heart and challenge everything she believes.
Jack Dixon is trying to secure a better life for daughter Nessie and himself. Left a widower and homeless when his wife died, he’s just about keeping their heads above water. Finding seaglass stars completed on Gwithian beach is a bright spark that slowly rekindles his hope.
Seren and Jack are searching for their missing pieces. But when they meet in real life, it’s on the opposing sides of a battle. Jack is managing the redevelopment of a local landmark, and Seren is leading the community campaign to save it.
Both have reason to fight – Seren for the cause her father believed in, Jack for his livelihood. But only one can win. With so much at stake, will they ever find what they are really looking for?

My verdict
Somewhere Beyond the Sea was as magical and sparkly as the seaglass that features heavily within the story.

This is a book about family and grief, love and friendship, with a strong heartwarming 'feel good' focus. It provided me with a much-needed break from my usual crime fiction reads at the time. It's sad and moving yet also uplifting and hopeful - a sweet and poignant read that reminded me of a Meg Ryan film, a cross between You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.

I loved the Cornish setting, and author Miranda Dickinson really brings the location and characters to life with her vivid descriptions. Jack and Seren narrate alternative chapters so I got to know both of them very well, which meant I then cared strongly about the story. I could almost smell the sea and hear the waves, as I imagined myself walking along the beaches in search of seaglass stars.

A perfect book for cold evenings snuggled under a blanket (with a glass of wine and box of chocolates). And yes, it made me shed a few tears by the end!

Monday, 12 November 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Merle Nygate

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 ...

John le Carré – he can’t be beaten. Graham Greene and Len Deighton.  Can I have all three?
I’m not at all sure I can choose between them. They span the Cold War which fascinates me even though my novel, The Righteous Spy is contemporary. I suppose my fascination with the Cold War goes back to school.  When I was 15 we learnt about the Berlin Wall; the idea that there was a wall in the middle of a city and that half the city was associated with a different country was so ridiculous that I thought I must have misunderstood what the teacher was saying.

At the moment my favourite film is Imperium.  I watched it recently and thought Daniel Radcliffe as FBI undercover agent, Nat Foster was remarkable. Radcliffe plays both an American nerdy FBI agent and a convincing supremacist when his character infiltrates far right groups.  It’s a very human piece showing the different sides’ vulnerabilities.  Based on an account written by an FBI agent it has the literary ring of truth.  On reflection, the film would probably have worked better as TV.

The Wire is the best TV show I’ve ever seen. I watch it every few years and each time I notice something new.  Again, this is a well-researched piece. David Simon wrote a book called Homicide, A Year on the Killing Streets.  David Simon knows this world as a former journalist and it is a brilliant series full of psychological insight and nuance, not to mention terrific drama; think Shakespeare. It’s best to watch it with subtitles because the slang is difficult to understand until you get into it. 

Dix in Dorothy M Hughes’ In a Lonely Place.  Although Dix is pretty creepy, this book and the author were a discovery for me when I did my MA in Crime Fiction at UEA. The title was on the reading list and before then I’d never heard of Hughes.  Dix is a psychopath who stalks women in Los Angeles. He’s not unlike Ripley in Highsmith’s books but Dix stalking the swirling mists of post war Los Angeles is brilliantly realised. 

My abiding fondness for Sherlock Holmes is because he was the first detective I ever read and the stories still work.  I love Holme’s analytical and deductive skills and there’s some of that in Petra; one of the characters in The Righteous Spy.  What’s more, when it came out, the TV adaptation with Jeremy Brett was the highlight of the viewing week and it was the best TV ever. 

Bernard Samson is a great spy.  He’s in the nine-book series by Len Deighton that starts with Berlin Game. Like The Wire, it’s a series I re-read every few years. Samson is an outsider in MI6 and he is wonderfully irreverent.  He has a great sense of humour which I think is an important attribute for a spy and he’s his own man. 

Opiates would be my favourite weapon because I am a wimp when it comes to pain and opiates are said to be about as painless a murder weapon as possible. 

Alex Leamus and Liz Gold at The Berlin Wall in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.  I like it because the entire way through the book I was expecting them to survive, to get over the wall – and then they don’t. It’s such a vivid scene and so tragic but it is the only possible ending.

The CIA website is packed with ideas for spy writers.  I came across the website when I was researching The Righteous Spy and desperately looking for a potential story. By that stage, I’d written about nine outlines for various ideas and none of them were convincing and they seemed derivative which they were, being based on other spy stories. On the CIA website I came across a review for a non-fiction book called Gideon’s Spies by Gordon Thomas.  It was described as the inside story of Mossad and included interviews with former directors and intelligence officers. This book was the turning point for me. I close read, marked it up, made detailed notes and extrapolated the information I needed for a second document.  From that document I brainstormed and identified the various different types of true espionage stories.  For example, there seem to be different types of assassinations; revenge assassinations in the aftermath of terrorist attacks; strategic assassinations to kill enemy nuclear scientists; liaison assassinations where Mossad may kill on behalf of another intelligence service; warning assassinations when an arms dealer is wounded or killed as a warning to other arms dealers.  There were also disinformation and recruitment operations that had rich fictional possibilities and, of course, the ubiquitous, ‘find the mole’ story. 
From the list of documented operations, I brainstormed 13 different one-sentence scenarios before narrowing them down to the ideas that eventually became The Righteous Spy.
My other favourite website is The National Archives. It’s another treasure trove of stories and the bookshop is a great source of non-fiction spy books.

Decide your theme and develop your characters before you hit the page.  That’s my process which I wouldn’t want to impose on anyone else, but it works for me. Although I didn’t have a story until I did the research, I knew that I wanted to write about good people doing bad things.  For me knowing the theme of a story is like a compass, or maybe a torch in the dark; it gives me something to get back to and shows me the way ahead if I get lost. So, I always start a piece of work asking myself the ‘What’s it about?’ question.  The second stage is understanding the characters, who they are and what they want. 

Apples, nuts and a lot of water.  Chocolate and coffee for short bursts.  From time to time the chocolate and coffee habit can get somewhat out of control!

Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as 'outstanding’. If you are intrigued about her background check out her website

Find Merle Negate on her website and on Twitter - @MerleNygate


Publisher's description
Eli Amiran is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now, he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience. 
The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and the CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil. 
But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly... 

The Righteous Spy was published by Verve Books on 18 October 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 9 November 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Will Carver

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 Good Samaritans blog tour

to share his BEST OF CRIME ...

I’m playing catch-up on a lot of the recent crop of crime writers but I loved Simone Buchholtz’s Blue Night. My first toe in the water came from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley and that has (obviously) been a tough act to follow. I really enjoyed David Jackson’s Callum Doyle series - Pariah, Marked, The Helper. They were wonderfully quirky and funny and smart. I look forward to reading Don’t Make A Sound. But, for me, the best is Sarah Pinborough. I think she probably throws away ideas that are better than most of the things out there. And she can write anything. Crime, horror, erotic fairytales… I enjoy the fact that they are different. Crime plus weird. Behind Her Eyes was a deserved and long overdue hit but if you haven’t read them, you should go back and try The Death House, The Language of Dying and her Dog-Faced Gods trilogy.

When I think of the crime films I like they are very different to the crime that I write. I like American gangster movies like The Godfather or Mean Streets, and any kind of courtroom drama. I don’t think I could write something like that but I love to watch them. For some reason, the first film that came into my head was Primal Fear. And I think it was even better because the first time I watched it, I had no idea about the twist at the end. I would’ve been looking out for that all the way through and it would have tainted the viewing. It was a real sucker punch because I usually guess these things.

This took me no time to consider. X-Files. Great writing - the best coming from Carter and Spotnitz. People often say that they liked the first season and then it started to get ridiculous. That’s usually when I start swearing at them. That first season was a worldwide phenomenon - and rightly so. It was scary and thought-provoking and funny and tense. It had everything. One-off comedy episodes and procedural episodes. But it was all the mythology episodes that kept me hooked, the governmental conspiracies and just what happened to Samantha Mulder. For six years, each new season was better than the last. I remember watching all of season six in one day, on video. It’s the best one. It has the two-part Dreamland story and the Two Fathers/One Son double-hitter. Amazing. (Think I could name almost every episode off the top of my head.) And the characters were iconic. Mulder. Scully. Deepthroat. X. Lone Gunmen. Cigarette Smoking Man. Krycek. Skinner. Eugene Tooms. Then they bring in John Doggett to replace the missing Mulder in season eight. And you think you’ll hate him and it’s going to be rubbish. But he’s brilliant in a totally different way and you still love the show. And Scully is better, too. I think there’s something for every kind of crime fan in this show and the level of writing never lessens, even if season nine turned out to be a heartbreaking anti-climax. But that is being rectified with the new episodes.

It’s hard to decide between my two favourites. Patrick Bateman and Hannibal Lecter. There is something so compelling about a pure psychopath. That complete lack of empathy and guilt. That they have a way of forming a relationship - often adversarial - but you know they would kill that person they seemingly respect without thinking about it. But what I like about these is that they are so unapologetically psychotic but they are also suave and smart and, though you know you shouldn’t, you kind of like them and maybe even want them to get away with it. It messes with your head. That’s why they are the best.

Part of me doesn’t want to say Sherlock Holmes because it seems too obvious. But I like him for many of the same reasons that I like Bateman or Lecter. He’s the smartest and he knows he is. He can be mean and tactless but you still like him. The books are great, the TV show is great and the films are pretty good, too. It comes from the writing, of course, but it is the character that makes it. 
Still, I’d have to put him in second place behind the unforgettable Dale Cooper. He’s intelligent and individual and unorthodox. To stand out as a bit weird in a place like Twin Peaks is not easy. It’s his heart and morals that draw you into the character, though. He’s the outsider, the city guy drawn into a country town with a seedy underbelly. And he embraces the community. He talks to the Log Lady like she’s anybody else in the world. That’s what makes the final minute of the show what it is. It’s Dale Cooper and how much we are all routing for him.

There’s an episode of X-Files called Soft Light. A scientist is caught up in a freak accident while experimenting and anyone who comes into contact with his shadow dematerialises. He doesn’t want to kill anyone but he can’t help it. A unique murder weapon, I’d say.

The opening of the French film Irreversible is a chaotic spiral of a journey that ends with some guy getting beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. It all looks like it’s done in one shot. But the brutality of the way his face is crushed is just horrifying. 
But the scene that lived with me is from American History X. And you don’t even see the victim die. Derek Vinyard - played by Edward Norton, who should’ve won the Oscar that year, despite Roberto Benigni’s excellent performance in Life is Beautiful - catches someone trying to rob his house. He takes him down to the road, at gunpoint, forces him to the floor and instructs him to, ‘Put your fucking teeth on the kerb’. Then you see him lift his foot above the burglar’s head and you hear the burglar’s teeth scraping against the kerb, and then it cuts to black as Vinyard starts to bring his foot down. It will haunt you. Utterly horrifying and angry and brutal. I watched that film six times at the cinema… Nothing has come close to that death scene. 
And then I saw Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99 and there are about twelve deaths that are equal to or worse than either of the ones I have mentioned. It was not the film I was expecting at all.

A couple of books ago I fell down a rabbit hole when I found a website where you could read police interview transcripts and listen to interview tapes. But now, I use YouTube as one of my main research aids. (When starting a new idea.) It’s great to pick up soundbites and old interviews or news pieces. If you want to know about serial killers, you can get lost in some of the clips they have. What I love most is that you can get hold of things that aren’t on DVD or iTunes or whatever. They might be old or were never popular or were made on a low budget so even back when they were made you had to search for them. 
Recently I’ve watched a 9-hour documentary on the siege at Waco. I’ve done a couple of hours delving into the Jonestown massacre. I watched 12 minutes of interviews from former members of Heaven’s Gate. And that’s before you find all the spin-offs. I think it’s a wonderfully varied and accessible way to build up an understanding of something. I’ve been using it to get a feel for my latest book, while developing an idea of the motivation behind the central character. 
I wouldn’t suggest writing an entire book based on what you find on YouTube but it’s a valuable online resource when starting out with an idea and you’ll quickly get to know whether you want to pursue it any further.

Ignore writing tips. 
I start writing at midnight. Don’t do that. It’s shit. Unless it works for you because you can’t sleep and the idea of getting up at 6am to hammer out word fills you with dread. 
I edit as I go along. Don’t do that. It’s stupid. It breaks up the flow. Unless that works for you because you hate editing a book once it’s written and you want your first draft to be as close as possible to the final draft. I’d rather tidy up 2,000 words of mess at a time than wade through 90,000 words just because I had to get an idea down. 
Some writers plot every chapter and some put more focus into character. 
Some people think NaNoWriMo is a great idea and others think that style is horse shit. 
Find what works for you.
If you look after twins all day and get no respite until 6pm, it doesn’t matter if you’re a morning person, you’ll probably have to become a night writer. Even though you’re shattered. 
If you want to smash out a book in a month, you are not going to be an edit-along-the-way kinda writer. So don’t do it. Don’t be half-arsed because it will come across in your writing. 
Write what excites you. If it turns you on to write about vampires fucking and sucking each other’s necks, do it. If you love drilling down into the minute procedures of a police investigation, do it. And do it with vigour. Because the reader can (usually) tell. 
One tip that I think is worthwhile is don’t ask for feedback from somebody who loves you. It’s so unfair to put that pressure on them. And your parent/sibling/partner is never going to tell you that you’re rubbish and you shouldn’t ask them to. Find someone who will tell you the truth. Stephen King doesn’t type ‘The End’ and the book goes to print, he needs somebody to tell him the parts that are crap. And then he has to fix them. 
My parting words, my writing tip: Do something else. If you can. Anything else. Because it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not what you think. Last year Good Samaritans was getting rejected for being too dark or not literary enough or not having a strong female character(?) and I was sat at home selling my computer on eBay so that I could afford some lentils. Don’t that. It’s crazy. 
Unless that works for you. Because you’re not scared by that idea. Then, as Hemingway said, you need to ‘Sit at that typewriter (laptop) and bleed’.

I write so late that this isn’t really a thing for me. I can’t have coffee at that time so I tend to have water or whisky. And I’ll try to not eat or only have fruit because I’ve done all my eating for the day. People who stay up late tend to consume 500 more calories per day than those who got to bed at a ‘normal’ time. So be careful if you enjoy cake or biscuits while you are writing, if you’re a night owl. Writer’s arse is a real thing.

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.
He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children. 

Find will Carver on his Facebook page and on Twitter - @will_carver


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...

Read a snippet of my review
'Good Samaritans is sexy, dark, explicit and graphic in places, so certainly not for the fainthearted. It's twisty and twisted too... I loved this book and will happily shout about it from the rooftops!'

To read the rest of my review, click here.

Good Samaritans is being published by Orenda Books in paperback on 15 November 2018 - out now in ebook!

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Jenny Blackhurst

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 ...

Sophie Hannah. She’s an incredibly clever writer with an acute observational talent. Her books are like reading a social commentary wrapped in a twisty mystery with a sprinkle of comedy. The proudest moment of my career was when my quote was included on the hardback of Did You See Melody? It was on the back but still, pretty cool.

Se7enA killer uses the seven deadly sins against his victims, sounds like just another serial killer thriller but there’s a wicked twist and some beautiful use of character. What’s in the box?

Broadchurch. Aside from the David Tennant factor, Broadchurch was one of the nation’s biggest water cooler TV dramas in years. I loved it for the tight, claustrophobic feeling for the small town where everyone has something to hide. It’s not even a particularly original theme, young boy is killed… whodunnit, but an amazing cast and perfect setting set it apart from the rest. 

Gretchen Lowell. A beautiful but deadly serial killer who manages to infiltrate the investigation looking for her and make the lead detective fall madly in lust with her. If it wasn’t for the killing people aspect I’d totally want to be her. 

Dr Gideon Fell. I feel like Dr Fell is one of the most underestimated detectives in fiction. Although I’m cheating a little here – he’s not a real detective in the sense that he works for the police force but then again neither was Sherlock Holmes, was he? Gideon Fell has all the ingenuity of Mr Holmes, just without the recognition. 

Umbrella spike. I picture a debonair killer in a smoking jacket, played by Tom Hardy, killing people with a very sharp ended black umbrella. Perhaps there would be a scene where it rains and he has to use the umbrella, rain washing droplets of blood onto the street and swirling into the drain.

Any from a Saw movie. Or at least the two inches of screen I could see through my fingers. I love those films, and the murder scenes are always ingenious.

... BLOGS/WEBSITES great videos on Chris’ website on how to plot, how to increase productivity etc – also love his books, 5,000 words an hour and Lifelong Writing Habit. 

Don’t try to write on an empty stomach. You’ll only have to get up twenty minutes in for crumpets. Best to keep a drawer full of snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate on your desk. Like the Girl Guides say – Be Prepared. 

Crumpets. With oodles of melted butter oozing from the squishy holes. Maybe some cheese melted on top. And caramelized onion chutney… Excuse me… I have to go.

Jenny Blackhurst grew up in Shropshire where she still lives with her husband and children. Growing up she spent hours reading and talking about crime novels - writing her own seemed like natural progression. The Night She Died is Jenny's fourth novel. 

Find Jenny Blackhurst on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @JennyBlackhurst


Publisher's description
On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death. 
What drove her to commit this terrible act? It's left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery. 
Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie's darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all... 

The Night She Died was published in paperback by Headline on 1 November 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.