Tuesday, 6 August 2013

LA Noir

This week I've handed my blog over to Stephen Jay Schwartz, a guy whose novels have been steadily climbing Mount to be Read.

            Our distinguished host, Graham Smith, asked me to discuss the challenges of setting a detective novel in Los Angeles, where such established greats as Connelly, Crais, Parker and Kellerman already set their dramas.  I must admit, in retrospect it seems like a daunting endeavor.  How can I think I have anything new to add to a world that has been so well-described in both fiction and film?  I wonder if our current Noir masters had this same hesitation, wondering if their perspective of the L.A. landscape rose to the expectations of such authors as Chandler, Cain, Dorothy B. Hughes, Westlake, Jim Thompson, and even Nathanael West. 

            Fortunately, I had ignorance and naivete on my side.  I was a first-time author when I penned Boulevard, my novel about an LAPD Robbery-Homicide detective chasing bad guys and personal demons while struggling with his own sex-addiction.  I wasn't a big L.A. Noir reader at the time - in fact, the only real mystery/crime/thriller novels I read were the works of Jim Thompson.  I read mostly 20th Century American fiction, particularly Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald and the like.  I'm also a huge fan of the Beat Generation writers - Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg.  Throw a little Charles Bukowski in the mix and you've got my palate. 

            So, the truth is that I didn't know enough about Los Angeles Noir to be intimidated.  I didn't even know I was writing L.A. Noir.  I was just writing a little character piece about a man who was getting squeezed from all sides.  A homicide detective who discovers that a rash of recent murders are in someway connected to him, and that the killer has been stalking him in his twelve step meetings for Sex Addicts Anonymous.  My protagonist faces a difficult question:  Does he reveal his connection to the killer and risk losing the case and possibly his job, or does he keep his secret hidden while he pursues the killer, at the risk of others getting hurt along the way?  We discover that his addiction is stronger than his will to do good, and he keeps it under wraps.

            Los Angeles is the setting for this story because Los Angeles is where his addiction is born.  He became a sex-addict by cruising the boulevards - Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard - where he picks up prostitutes to satisfy his desires.  Los Angeles became a character in the book, and places such as the fictitious Coral Reef Motel become the detective's associate and confidante, described in passages such as this: 

            The two-story hotel sat like a dirty old heroin addict nodding slowly, as if recognizing Hayden from a hazy night they'd shared long ago.  The second-story windows had yellowing shades pulled half-mast like drugged-out eyes squinting at the streetlamps.

            I believe the stories that can be told of L.A. are endless.  The truth is that there are a thousand different L.A's.  Everyone who lives here experiences a different, unique perspective.  My L.A. takes place in the dark shadows of Hollywood and it focuses on a very specific experience.  Connelly's Harry Bosch, while canvassing the same landscape and even working from the same office, the Robbery-Homicide Division in downtown L.A., experiences a different L.A. from my own Hayden Glass.  Stories are driven by their characters, and a well-drawn character experiences a different, unique environment from anyone else.  I believe Los Angeles can sustain as many stories as their are storytellers, providing that the storytellers present a character whose vision of their world is original and believable.  I continue to read new, innovative authors who prove this to be true; authors like Christa Faust, Tom Epperson, Tim Hallinan, Eric Beetner, Robert Ellis and many more.  There's enough going on in the City of Angels to keep us all afloat for the next two millennium. 
Stephen's author pages are listed below along with his website and bio.

Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author Stephen Jay Schwartz spent a number
of years as the Director of Development for filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen
where he worked with writers, producers and studio executives to develop
screenplays for production. Among the film projects he helped developed
are Air Force One, Outbreak and Bicentennial Man.

His two novels, BOULEVARD and BEAT, follow the dysfunctional journey of LAPD Robbery-Homicide detective Hayden Glass as he fights crime while struggling with his own sex-addiction. The series has been optioned by Ben Silverman (producer of The Office, Ugly Betty, and The Tudors) for development as a television series.

Stephen recently finished writing GRINDER, a 3D action-thriller for HyperEmotive Films and Venture3D at Sony Studios.

Stephen is currently writing a third book in the Hayden Glass series. He can be reached via his website - www.stephenjayschwartz.com

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Ostland, the Nazis … and Me

Today on my blog I’m delighted to welcome one of my favourite authors. His name is David Thomas although he has used the pseudonym Tom Cain for his series of books about the assassin Samuel Carver. 

Before anyone thinks of getting into the whole JK Rowling nonsense about the use of pseudonyms, I should point out that when David released his first novel – the utterly excellent Accident Man – he was working as a journalist. Hence the pseudonym. 

The day this post goes live is the same day his latest Tom Cain book goes into paperback and his novel Ostland is released (under David Thomas)  have read both books and cannot recommend them highly enough. 

Anyway, here’s David talking about Ostland and the factors which drove him to write the story. 

Every novel I have ever written has begun in a single, distinct moment. Sometimes it’s a visual image, or a line of dialogue that arrives, as fleeting as a ghost in the early hours of the morning. Once it was an unplanned, hungover visit to an exhibition of Japanese art. In the case of Ostland, it was a line in a Sunday newspaper book review.

The book was ‘Berlin at War’ by the historian Roger Moorhouse. The reviewer described a story told in the book about a serial killer who preyed on solitary female travellers on the city’s ‘S-Bahn’ railway network. That was interesting enough, but then, at the end of the paragraph was a throw-away line saying that one of the detectives who had investigated the crime had subsequently become a major war-criminal.

I was immediately gripped by the idea of a man who was somehow transformed from the heroic figure of a detective tracking down an evil killer-rapist into the ultimate villain, a genocidal Nazi mass-murderer. I bought and greatly enjoyed Berlin at War and discovered the detective’s name: Georg Heuser. Then began months of research as I tried to piece together the story of a young man – we first meet him a few days before his 28th birthday – whose war was spent in an extraordinary and in many ways tragic journey from dazzling, golden promise to the absolute heart of darkness.

Heuser was a brilliant detective. He graduated top of his class at the police ‘Leaders School’ for men on the fast-track to the top. His reward was a posting as personal assistant to Wilhelm L├╝dtke, the chief of the Berlin murder squad, who was engaged in the hunt for the S-Bahn murderer. Heuser distinguished himself in the investigation and was the arresting officer when the killer was finally tracked down. He was then invited to co-write the official report on the investigation in the German Journal of Criminology.

What’s more, unlike most ambitious German policemen in the Third Reich, Heuser was never a member of the Nazi Party. He was not anti-Semitic. He had no psychotic or violent tendencies. Yet, in late 1941 he was sent to the Russian city of Minsk, then part of the new German colony of Ostland. And there Georg Heuser participated in a series of horrifying mass-murders. He helped plan the transportation and execution of tens of thousands of Jews. He stood in line with his SS comrades and shot men, women and children cold-bloodedly in the back of the head. And he personally executed Russian women accused of being spies, dumping their corpses in the dead of night, just as the S-Bahn murderer had done.

The obvious question is: why? What could make an otherwise decent man behave in such an appalling, unforgivable way? What went on in his head as he descended into the depths?

That is the question Ostland attempts to answer. It contains two detective stories in which Georg Heuser is the hero of one case and the villain of the other. There are three love stories, each of which I hope casts some light on the emotional and psychological impulses of Heuser, his victims and the post-war German investigators shining a light on past evils that many of their fellow-countrymen would rather have kept well hidden. And, of course, it is one more book about the Nazis.

But do we really need another one of those?

I certainly asked myself that. I’m wary of the concentration we place on the evils of Nazism as if they were in some way unique. The constant harping on the terrible crimes of fascism means that far too little attention is paid to the equal wrongs perpetrated by communist dictators: Stalin, Mao and all their imitators. Anyone with even a suspicion of neo-Nazi loyalties is rightly condemned, yet academics and politicians who never abandoned, still less repented their communist allegiances can go to their graves without a stain on their reputations. My unease at that double-standard was one the reasons why my previous book, Blood Relative had former agents of the East German secret police, the Stasi as its villains.

But the Nazis are far more familiar to us than the Stalinists and Maoists. They’re closer to us geographically, culturally and in our imaginations. And that means that there is another question asked by Ostland: would any of us, facing the same circumstances as Georg Heuser be any better than him?

No one country or ideology has the monopoly on genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass-murder, oppression or brutality. Nor can many nations claim to be completely innocent. Ostland describes in extreme detail a twisted world in which normal, everyday men could carry out atrocities so vile as to be unimaginable by any sane human being: a world in which the women who lived and worked alongside those men could happily wear coats and dresses stolen from the bodies of the dead.

Hitler and his henchmen created a psychotic system that condemned millions to extermination, and condemned those who killed them to damnation. Some say the Germans were ‘willing executioners’. I say, look at the quartermaster’s records. They reveal that the number of vodka bottles drunk by the SS men in Minsk was almost exactly the same as the number of Jews they killed. These pre-war policemen, car mechanics, teachers and farmers could only implement the Final Solution by obliterating their consciences with alcohol: one bottle per victim. They knew they were doing something unfathomably wrong. And yet they kept drinking and kept killing too.

I was talking about all this to a friend of mine who happens to be Jewish. Seeing that the experience of researching and writing Ostland had affected me very deeply he tried to give me words of reassurance: ‘Don’t worry, I know that if you’d been in Heuser’s place, you’d never have shot anyone.’

I replied, ‘That’s just the problem. I fear that I would.’

And that fear, in the end, is what this book is about.
Here's some links if you want to follow up and buy David's books
Tom Cain books UK  US
David Thomas books UK US

Monday, 8 July 2013

My Editing Heaven and Hell

 Over the last few weeks I’ve been hard at work tormenting myself to death. Yes folks, it’s that time all writers learn to love and hate; the editing of a novel.

It’s a great feeling to see your words being crafted into something meaningful and entertaining. Once or twice I’ve found little passages or a sentence that made me go “fuck yeah” such was the beauty or power of the words in front of me.

Sadly however, no sweary word has been left un-muttered at the endless repetitions, unnecessary alliteration or stuff that is just plain stupid or unbelievable or just shit.

I mean, what the hell was I thinking of when I wrote some of that nonsense? Where did all the “that’s, then’s, which’s, who’s and and’s” come from? I certainly (Shit! Just used an adverb. That’ll need edited out) don’t remember writing them. And don’t get me started on contractions!

The fact I chose to write without dialogue tags only makes things harder as I have to craft ways of informing the reader who’s speaking.

Yes my novel is getting better and altogether tighter because of this vital and necessary editing. If I’m lucky enough to get any interest from a publisher or agent, I’m sure that I’ll be handed a massive batch of suggestions to tighten it further but until that day (if that day ever comes) then I’m concentrating on getting it as good as I possibly can.

This editing has now crept into my writing on every level. After the first round of edits, I wrote a couple of short stories and I could sense the first draft was technically tighter than (Fuck. Adverb and alliteration.) any previous first draft. Even stuff I write at work or Facebook now gets the same attention to detail when it doesn’t need it.

When this edit is complete I will be handing it over to my wife to proof read. Cue several yards of red ink on each page and more un-muttered swearing.

So peeps. Am I on the write (You see what I did there?) track or am I just driving myself insane? All comments welcome.

Future guest posts include
Tom Cain / David Thomas
Stephen Jay Schwartz

Thursday, 27 June 2013

I bumped into good friend Michael Malone the other day. We got talking about his wonderful new release A Taste for Malice, and the conversation was so stimulating I thought I'd share it.
So, after the events of Blood Tears, D.I. Ray McBain is back on the mean streets of Glasgow with A Taste for Malice. Tell us what this is all about then?
McBain is back at work - in the professional doghouse - and on filing duty. Desperate for something to do, a pair of old files intrigue him. A woman worms her way into a position of trust with a vulnerable family. The children adore her. At first. Then she has some 'fun', which soon becomes torture and mental cruelty. Then she disappears. Another case tells a similar story. The families are complaining, frustrated that no-one is doing anything and worried that more children will get hurt. But the disgraced detective, McBain is the only one who is listening. Meanwhile, in Ayrshire, another young family is relieved when a stranger comes into their lives to help them through a difficult time. The stories of McBain’s unofficial investigation and the situation this Ayrshire family finds itself in are told in tandem.
That’s an interesting set up. Lots of crime novels start off with the dead body. A Taste for Malice starts with a young woman coming out of a coma. What was going through your head when you came up with that?
Most crime novels concern themselves with the aftermath of a crime. I thought it would be interesting to give the “victim” more of a presence. I wanted this novel to be about the anticipation of a crime and the tension to come from the investigator finding the perp and saving another potential victim before the crime was actually committed.
And after the not too shabby body count in Blood Tears I wanted to try and write a crime novel without killing anyone. But, you won’t know if I’ve been successful in that regard until you read the book.
What a tease. What were the pleasures and challenges of writing the second book in a series? And did you suffer from Second Book Syndrome?
It was a real joy stepping in to a world where I knew the main characters. The team were all ready there in my head waiting to spring into action. And it was great fun being with them all again. So to speak. I have a great time writing with these guys and I hope that comes across in the book. McBain is a hoot to write. I enjoy his extremes – gives me scope to play with his dark and light side - and his willingness to say exactly what is on his mind. I often wish I was more like that. I’m a wuss. Mind you, I could do without his ups and downs.
The challenge is keeping them all fresh. Making sure they are not re-treading old ground. Displaying a little character development – but doing that in a measured way, cos ultimately I’m writing a crime novel. Readers want all that that entails.
As for SBS, that wasn’t an issue. Given that I’d written two books before I wrote Blood Tears. And also given that I wrote the book a few years back when I wasn’t aware of my audience. I think it must be worse for writers who write their first book to huge acclaim – and have all that in their heads when they are writing the next one. Anonymity sheltered me from that nonsense.
Having said that, I might have a new syndrome, TBS. Problems with the third book. I write by the seat of my pants. With no clue where I’m headed. And I’m 25,000 words in and it’s like mentally wading through treacle. I kinda know where I want to go, but as yet, the boys in the boiler room (how Stephen King refers to his sub-conscious) haven’t given me a route.
What can you tell us about McBain 3?
Nuffink. Except that it’s pencilled in for a November ’14 release. We’re going later with this one because I have another book out in February and we need to give that one some air before releasing another MJM novel. You can get too much of a good thing you know.
My thanks to Michael for allowing me to share this conversation. If anyone wants to buy a copy of A Taste for Malice or Blood Tears the links to Michael's Amazon Author Pages are below
Coming in July, I have Tom Cain / David Thomas talking about the inspiration for his excellent novel Ostland.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Promoting Other Peeps' Books

This week I’m taking a wee moment to promo a couple of friends and their new releases. Being honest, I haven’t read either of these books but I have read other stuff by both of these guys and can vouch for their writely skill.

First up is B.R. Stateham and he’s followed later on by Darren Sant.

Turner Hahn and Frank Morales Are Back

Homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are back on duty in their new novel, Guilt of Innocence.

The two are investigating a couple of murders which pushes them to the limits of their wits. One case involves the death of a very successful corporate lawyer. A high priced corporate lawyer who happens to be married to a woman who heads the largest cosmetics firm in the country. How the murder took place is perplexing enough. But as more bodies begin to drop Turner and Frank soon realize they are facing a maniacal mastermind who may very well be smarter than both of them combined.

Twists and turns, dead ends and red herrings . . . with an ending that will truly be surprising. This case has it all. And this is only case number one!

Case number two involves the disappearance of a young girl fifteen years earlier. A Cold Case File. Except it is not a cold case any longer. The girl has returned. And now lies on a cold metal table in the morgue. Someone has gone out of their way to make the homicide look like a suicide. Apparently a crime syndicate is frantic to make sure neither Turner nor Frank find out the facts surrounding the girl's disappearance fifteen years earlier. A hit man is in town grimly eliminating everyone who may have known the girl. A hit man with orders to possibly rub out Turner and Frank as well.

And again the real killer is someone whom no one would have ever suspected.

B.R. Stateham is a sixty-four year old curmudgeon who writes genre fiction. With an antiquarian's body yet with the mind of a fourteen year old boy, the author's imagination still wanders down dark alleys and mean streets looking for a dangerous rendezvous or dons a Federation uniform and straps on his waist a 20 megawatt laser blaster to go out and hunt Martian grave robbers.

Darren Sant

When branch manager Giles Macintosh arrives to open up one morning and finds an injured bum and his battered dog lying in the doorway of the bank, he little suspects what lies in store for them all.

Giles does the decent thing and calls for help, then puts the incident out of his mind. However, having been witness to things he cannot explain, he feels drawn to the man and tries to track him down … only to find he has vanished.

But who is the enigmatic, homeless Frank? Why are two very nasty men trying to find him? Why has a prostitute been abducted? And what does the future hold for Giles’s seriously ill son, Jake?

As the story unfolds, the tension increases and the true nature of Frank’s amazing secret begins to be revealed. The stakes are high as the criminal and the supernatural come together for a final, inevitable showdown.

Darren Sant was born in 1970 and raised in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire which is in the United Kingdom. He moved to Hull in East Yorkshire in 2001.

A life long avid reader he always wanted to be a writer. However, teenage years, girls, work, pubs and football provided adequate distraction until his late twenties. After attending a few creative writing classes he started writing poetry. After moving to Hull he joined a writing group called the Renegade Writers who gained infamy by doing performance poetry with a Rock N Roll ethos. Following the split of the Renegade Writers he settled down a little and didn't write for a while.

He became interested in writing again when his friend, Nick Boldock, introduced him to the Radgepacket series by Byker Books. These anthologies had a gritty urban feel to them and prided themselves on being "Industrial Strength" fiction. He has now contributed to three of the Radgepacket anthologies:

Coming soon I have Daid Thomas / Tom Cain
Next week the usual witterings, half-baked theories and rants

Monday, 27 May 2013

Lee Child Interview

This week I'm delighted to share a recent short interview I did with Lee Child.

1) You have just been awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger for your contribution to crime fiction. How did it feel to be honoured in this way and how do you feel joining such icons of the genre who have previously won this award?

I assumed they had confused me with someone else, or maybe all the other candidates had died. It’s a very prestigious award and a huge honour, and I’m not worthy of it. I’m just a hack and a scuffler, and to be compared to the previous winners is absurd. They’re my heroes, and occasionally to be in the same room as them is a thrill. To be on the same award list as them is amazing.

2) Being upfront and honest from the start, I should say that I haven’t yet got to see Jack Reacher, despite having read ‘One Shot’ years ago and all of your books as they came out. My reticence in this respect is because I’m a reader not a viewer. From the feedback you’ve had do you find that readers have gone to see it because of their following of Reacher or that they have been readers like me who have not yet put a book down long enough to watch a film? (I should say at this point that the casting of Tom Cruise did not affect my decision in any way as the Jack Reacher in my head looks nothing like any actor I’ve seen).

Anecdotally I think readers are basically fans of storytelling, so most of them like movies too, especially those movies that set out simply to tell a good story, which I think “Jack Reacher” does. Some Reacher fans stayed away, because they wanted to retain their personal vision, but most went and most of them liked it.

3) Your background in TV is well documented. Your own journey saw you fired from Granada TV and yet you end up with one of Hollywood’s top A listers starring in a film based on one of your books. Would you describe the premiere of Jack Reacher as the highpoint of your writing career and how did it feel to have that experience?

Well, my attitude is that books are books, and movies are movies – in other words, they’re parallel events, not sequential. So as a writer, no, the highlight would be my first number one, or maybe a year like 2008 when I was number one in hardcover and paperback in the US and the UK, or 2011, when the four number ones were simultaneous. That’s cool. The London premiere was fabulous and glamorous for sure, but it was the movie people’s night, not mine.

4) I’ve read articles on the Worldwide Web of Lies which said there won’t be a Jack Reacher sequel. Can you tell us the truth, will there be a sequel and if so which book is it based on?

The truth is … we don’t know. The movie was extremely profitable, so numbers-wise the incentive is there, but there are hundreds of moving parts, and anything can happen. My personal guess is yes, there will be a sequel – certainly the “no sequel” report was wrong and misquoted. Which book? Probably one of the rural, back-of-beyond stories, to contrast with the urban feel of the first one.

5) Coming back to the books, in ‘A Wanted Man’ and ‘Worth Dying For’, Reacher for once had a destination. ‘Never Go Back’ is released later this year. Will Reacher make his planned rendezvous or are there more obstacles in his way?

Yes, Reacher finally gets there. But – no surprise - he finds big problems waiting for him.

6) What are you currently working on and what else does 2013 hold in store for Lee Child and Jack Reacher?

Right now I’m co-writing a TV pilot with my daughter, which is a total delight. In September I’ll start the 19th Reacher book – assuming I’m offered a new contract. I never take anything for granted.

My thanks to Lee for answering my questions and Chris Simmons at Crimesquad.com for arranging the interview and allowing me to share it here.

Still to come - David Thomas / Tom Cain.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Future of Reading

An awful lot has been written about the future of reading and I thought it was about time I had my say.

With mobile phones, eReaders and audio books competing with traditional paper books there has been an awful lot, both spoken and written about the demise of the book. Can I just point out that it’s all bullshit. Readers read. End of argument. Sure the delivery platform may change but the desire to read a good story doesn’t.

I’m going to hold up my own son Daniel as an example. He reads every day. Sometimes he’s been known to lay down his Nintendo or Wii and pick up a book. His best friend is also a reader. They swap books with each other on an almost daily basis. I’ve overheard them discussing books on more than one occasion. Daniel received two books from Father Christmas. He’d finished them by the time we’d travelled the hour and a half journey to my mother-in-laws.

Once when we were in the supermarket Daniel wanted me to buy him an ice-cream and some books. I gave him the £4 change in my pocket so he could get what he wanted. Not having enough for both he bought the book.

Sure, he’s grown up watching my wife and I read, but I grew up with my parents reading infrequently, and I have had a book on the go since the age of eight. Daniel is now eight and he reads just as much as I do, has reader friends as I do and as he has grown older his love of reading has grown, as mine has.

So there you have it. As long as there’s young readers there will always be a demand for books. Personally I don’t care what platform my son chooses to read on. I’m just a proud father watching a child expand their mind.

P.S. It’s just a shame he’s gonna have to wait a few years before he can read any of my stories. I might have to write something without violence or sweary words just for him to read.

In other news Crime and Publishment is set to return in 2014 and is promising to be a fantastic weekend of crime writing courses. We’ve been lucky enough to attract such stellar names as Chris Ewan, Zoe Sharp and Michael Malone as tutors. Darren Laws of Caffeine Nights will be teaching attendees how to pitch to a publisher and will also be accepting pitches.

More information on Crime and Publishment can be found here.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Journalism to Authordom. A well worn path travelled anew.

My guest post this week is from Matt Bendoris - a journalist, who like many others before him - turned his hand to novel writing. Here's what Matt has to say about how his day job has helped his new ambitions.  

I honestly don’t believe I could have written a crime novel without becoming a journalist first.
Why? I’ve actually met and interviewed the bad guys I’m writing about. I have had to quiz a former terrorist leader while his bodyguard sat menacingly nearby.
And I have spent countless hours in the company of Archie ‘Mad Dog’ McCafferty – convicted for four murders in Australia.
Archie once even called me during the middle of a police siege (he was ‘allegedly’ holding family members hostage). I even got to the dubious privileged of hearing him being over-powered by the long arm of the law while on the phone. (Fortunately no one was hurt in the incident!)
The flip side of the coin is I’ve also interviewed First Ministers and the Prime Minister where it’s like a scene straight out of The Thick Of It.
And I’ve witnessed the growing influence of the PRs and agents in the candy floss world of showbiz, where they can make you believe a nasty piece of work is actually a lovely, caring person.
It’s those journalistic experiences that money simply cannot buy.
So I doth my cap to the hundreds of other crime novelists who come from various other backgrounds to write best-sellers.
But I couldn’t have written my book without my nearly quarter of a century working on newspapers in Scotland and London.
Matt Bendoris has been a journalist for 24 years.
He started as a pop columnist for the Glasgow Guardian, before working as a feature writer for The Scottish Sun, followed by The Sun in London (where a once youthful Matt was hired by a once youthful Piers Morgan), The Daily Record and The Mirror in London (when he was hired for a second time by Piers Morgan who was clearly suffering from amnesia).
Matt returned to the Scottish Sun in 1996, where he is currently Chief Feature Writer.
In 2004 he released his first book, a ghost written autobiography of TV stars The Krankies called Fan-Dabi-Dozi, on Blake Publishing. This contained the ground breaking exclusive that the duo had once been wife swappers, which suddenly became a Twitter sensation in 2011 - sadly far too late to help with the book's sales.
While in 2005 he wrote the autobiography Simply Devine for Scottish singer Sydney Devine, on Black& White Publishing, with every national newspaper in Scotland running stories on its more salacious content!
But when Matt’s work relocated to Glasgow city centre in 2007 he began writing his debut crime novel Killing With Confidence on his BlackBerry, which is released in March 2013.
This year will also see the publication of his second crime novel, The Ned Detective, which he co-wrote in a mad, seven week frenzy during 2012.
My thanks to Matt for the post. I've been lucky enough to read Killing With Confidence and can honestly recommend it.
Next week it'll be a post from me and then the week after I'll be posting my interview with Lee Child.
July will see a guest post from Tom Cain and his alter ego David Thomas.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Research on Prostitution

This week, I have a very enlightening post from Ruth Jacobs on researching a very difficult topic.

Research on Prostitution

In the late 1990s, I undertook a dissertation on prostitution. I had been studying criminology, and within that, I was examining female criminal activity, and noticed the lack of females in certain types of crime and their prevalence in prostitution, which in most societies is not a crime, but classed as ‘deviant’ behaviour in sociological terms. I knew the importance of firsthand accounts when undertaking such a project and, being somewhat wayward and spending time in London’s underworld, I had friends who worked as call girls.

Three of my friends generously agreed to be interviewed. And one of those video interviews, which was fully transcribed in 1998, was published on Amazon in 2012. That interview was with a woman referred to as Q. She was one of my closest friends at that time in my life. As she is no longer alive, all the royalties from that short publication, In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call Girl, are donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity working to end sexual exploitation.

Because Q and I were so close, I am sure that is what enabled her to be completely open in her interview with me. She spoke freely and without inhibition about her feelings on all aspects of her life in prostitution, from working as a call girl, as she was at that time, back to the days she first entered prostitution at fifteen years of age, forced by a pimp to work the streets. She said how she felt raped by those clients. But those men were not clients. Children do not have clients. Those men were child rapists. And daily, she was raped.

The other two women I interviewed, referred to as R and S, were also good friends of mine, but we were not as close as Q and I were. I knew much about their lives already, having spent a great deal of time with them as friends. One of them used to smoke crack with her clients in a room in her flat while her baby was asleep in the other room. She ended up losing custody of her child. But both R and S were guarded in their interviews. And because I knew them, it was painfully clear they putting on as much of a front as they could muster. The missing information wasn’t mentioned in my dissertation because it was only right to use the words they had shared during their interviews. It would also not have been right to ask leading questions, and the semi-structured interviews were led by what the women were comfortable with sharing.

Having tried for many years to escape my own reality and past trauma, I identified with R and S for their need to hold back, not to face the pain, and even more so in the setting of an interview, rather than us sitting round smoking crack. My dear friend Q, who is longer alive, gave everything she could in her interview. And if you read In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call, though you will see Q’s pain and torment, there was also far more she had suffered in life than what was disclosed in that interview. She was an angel. The most beautiful soul. And Soul Destruction: Unforgivable is dedicated her.

Soul Destruction: Unforgivable

Enter the bleak existence of a call girl haunted by the atrocities of her childhood. In the spring of 1997, Shelley Hansard is a drug addict with a heroin habit and crack psychosis. Her desirability as a top London call girl is waning.

When her client dies in a suite at The Lanesborough Hotel, Shelley’s complex double-life is blasted deeper into chaos. In her psychotic state, the skills required to keep up her multiple personas are weakening. Amidst her few friends, and what remains of her broken family, she struggles to maintain her wall of lies.

During this tumultuous time, she is presented with an opportunity to take revenge on a client who raped her and her friends. But in her unbalanced state of mind, can she stop a serial rapist?

Soul Destruction: Unforgivable was released 29 April 2013. Available worldwide from all major online retailers in paperback and e-book.
Ruth Jacobs writes a series of novels entitled Soul Destruction, which expose the dark world and the harsh reality of life as a call girl. Her debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, is released on 29 April 2013 by Caffeine Nights. Ruth studied prostitution in the late 1990s, which sparked her interest in the subject. She draws on her research and the women she interviewed for inspiration. She also has firsthand experience of many of the topics she writes about such as posttraumatic stress disorder, rape, and drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to her fiction writing, Ruth is also involved in non-fiction for her charity and human rights campaigning work in the areas of anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

Further information and contact details:

Soul Destruction website: http://soul-destruction.com

Author Website: http://ruthjacobs.co.uk

Ruth’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rujacobs

The Soul Destruction Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SoulDestructionSeries

My thanks to Ruth for this excellent and insightful post.

Next week I have Matt Bendoris guest posting and then it's back to my own ramblings, although I have an Interview with Lee Child and a guest post from Tom Cain scheduled in the near future.

Monday, 29 April 2013


This week I am delighted to introduce one of the stars of the Brit Grit revolution – Howard Linskey. Howard’s books are all excellent reads and I have had the privilege of reviewing all three. They are earthy, gritty and compulsive reading. Anyway, enough from me, here’s Howard.

For the past three years now I’ve been living with a gangster. It’s been a dysfunctional and abusive relationship but you might be surprised to learn that he took the brunt of the violence not me. In three books now; ‘The Drop’, ‘The Damage’ and ‘The Dead’, which has just been published by No Exit, I have taken great delight in placing my Geordie, white-collar criminal, David Blake, in trouble again and again. Blake has been beaten up and shot at, chased by men on motor bikes then threatened with imprisonment, torture and execution. He has been targeted by hit men, assaulted by Police officers and forced to fend off an attacker in his apartment, using nothing but an urn containing the ashes of his girlfriend’s mother. 

Blake is no saint however and he, in turn, has killed people in all three books; with knives, guns, machetes or simply by ordering their deaths. Not bad for a man who never actually considers himself to be a gangster. Blake’s life is pretty stressful, so he has occasionally turned to drugs but, being an old fashioned, northern lad, he tends to prefer booze or, on occasions, women to relieve that stress. He is not the best boyfriend material however, having cheated on his girl with minimal guilt, and is unlikely to empathise with you if you’ve had a hard day at the office, as it is unlikely to have been as tough as the 24 hours he has endured.

And what has David Blake given me in return for all of the grief I’ve put him through? Well, plenty. Apart from the obvious relief and joy that comes with finally becoming a published author and seeing my name on a book cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a first time novelist. Would anybody read my book, would anyone actually like it? Thankfully they did and they do. I have had some wonderful moments because of Blake. I’ve been reviewed positively by, amongst others, The Daily Mail and The Times; the latter naming me as one of their top five thriller writers of the year because of ‘The Drop’, an accolade that I still can’t quite believe, even now. Frankly I’d be happy to have that one etched on my tombstone.

In the north east in particular, the books have gone down really well and I have received a stack of messages from folk who enjoyed reading a story that is set in an area they know. I’ve been interviewed in all of the local papers, made numerous appearances on BBC Radio Newcastle and even been on TV. I’ve also given away my books in competitions on NUFC.com, the web site for exiled Newcastle United fans around the globe, which I think gave me almost as much pleasure as the Times review. ‘The Drop’, renamed ‘Crime Machine’, has been published to great reviews in Germany, so ‘The Damage’ will follow it there next year and, in the Autumn, Harper Collins will publish both books in the U.S. God knows what they will make of my Geordie gangster in America.

The only thing that could possibly top all of the above is the e-mail my publisher received from someone claiming to work for David Barron, producer of the Harry Potter films. He had apparently bought a copy of my book, read it, loved it and wanted to turn it into a TV series. This seemed a tad unlikely but it turned out, astonishingly, to be true. A few weeks later I was sitting in my agent’s London office in a meeting with David, who turned out to be a very nice bloke indeed. I spent a pleasant hour or two with the man behind the most successful movie franchise the world has ever seen, discussing the practicalities of bringing David Blake to the small screen. The scripts are being developed by JJ Connolly, another top man, who wrote the great British gangster flick, ‘Layer Cake’. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to watch David Blake being put in peril all over again; this time on the telly.

Now that the trilogy is finally complete, I’m not going to say whether Blake, or his large assortment of supporting characters from the Newcastle underworld, will ever make a re-appearance. That’s dependant on me coming up with a strong enough storyline. The last thing I want to do is churn out two dozen very similar books, on auto pilot that, like Hollywood sequels, fall foul of the inevitable law of diminishing returns.

I have an idea for a new book and I’m afraid there’s no space for David Blake in this one. I owe the fellah a great deal but I’ve been seeing other people lately; in my mind’s eye at least. I’m going to take a break from Blake for a while, to allow some different characters to live with me instead. However there is no way I am ever going to forget the man and everything he has done for me. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll come crawling back to him.

Howard's debut novel The Drop was voted as one of the Top Five Thrillers of 2011 by The Times. Harry Potter producer David Barron and JJ Connolly, author of Layer Cake, are joining forces to produce a TV adaptation of The Drop. The follow-up novel The Damage was voted a top Summer read by The Times.

Howard Linskey has worked as a barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management jobs. Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter, Erin. Howard is a long-suffering Newcastle United fan.
His website can be found at Howardlinskey.com

My thanks to Howard for the guest post.

I have Ruth Jacobs next week followed by Matt Bendoris. After that It'll be little old me for a few weeks although I also have an interview with Lee Child to post and a future guest post from David Thomas / Tom Cain coming in July.


Monday, 22 April 2013

A Call to Action

This week's guest post is Matt Hilton taking about new vehicles for old writing. 

Back in ye olde days, when Knights were bold and ebooks weren’t invented… 

…I wrote short stories. The thing was, I didn’t sell too many of them or even get them published. It wasn’t through lack of trying. I used to send them off to print magazines and answered calls for submission to yearly print anthologies and such like. Maybe – or should that read probably? – the stories weren’t up to scratch.  It’s highly likely. There was also the problem that so many other writers were doing the same thing that an unknown like me didn’t stand a chance of getting in. But it didn’t put me off writing. 

These days I’m best known for writing action thrillers, primarily my Joe Hunter series, the eighth of which – Rules of Honour – was published this February by Hodder and Stoughton, but I also still enjoy writing short stories as and when I can. In fact, that’s not totally true. I write them as a matter of course. It’s my way of getting through the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. If ever I’m at a stall on the latest novel, I’ll switch tack and write a short. It serves to clear my head, while working in a different voice, and subconsciously while going through that process I’ll work out the problem that was holding up the novel. When writing these shorts I’m not picky on the genre.  I’ll happily write crime fiction, gritty slice of life, humorous crime, horror, heroic fantasy and also larger than life, over the top action stories that take me back to my early reading roots. 

I was born in the mid-1960s, and was in my early teens by the end of the 1970s. At the time I was already reading voraciously (as well as writing), but it wasn’t the kind of books boys of my age would normally have been attracted to. I was reading from my father’s stash of ‘Men’s Adventure Fiction’ and my favourites were the likes of Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, Nick Carter, Edge and Adam Steele. It made sense that my writing would reflect my reading habits, and even back then I was churning out my own pastiches. Over the intervening thirty years I’ve never lost that love for action books, and when setting out to write my Joe Hunter series firmly intended giving a nod to those old influences.

With Joe Hunter I’ve to be mindful of modern thinking and ideology, and try to keep them contemporaneous and largely up to date. But that doesn’t stop me allowing my imagination to wander when penning (or typing) my short stories.  

I was late to grasp hold of the eBook bandwagon. In fact, I resisted it. I’m a hopeless romantic who longs for ye olde days, and it took me a while to catch on. When I looked around something was happening and it was good. Genre fiction was making a comeback, and the eBook was the new platform for it. I saw an opening where ‘Men’s Adventure Fiction’ had a viable new publishing route, and I grabbed at it. 

My original plan was to put together a collection of my own stories, but then I had an epiphany. I wondered how many other writers out there shared similar influences to mine, and who also had a few over the top actioners lying around with no home for them. So, instead, I decided I’d put out the call for submissions for a project I called ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1. To my surprise and delight, dozens of stories flooded in, and some of them from well established household names too. I put out the collection of 37 action packed stories a little under a year ago, and though not a blazing success by way of sales, it has been well received and has gained some glowing reviews from readers. On the back of writers and readers’ enthusiasm it fired my own enthusiasm for the old style action stories again. 

So much so that I’ve decided to go for another blast of pulse pounding action. Yes, I’m putting together ACTION Volume 2, with a mind to publishing it as an ebook late May or early June 2013. 

Okay, this isn’t an advert for my latest collection (well, not really), but to show that there are viable options for your own stories these days. I guess it’s about finding the right vehicle. The options are wide open now, through eBooks, POD, and even self-publishing ventures. ACTION Volume 1 would never have been picked up by a traditional publishing house, but it’s now out there, being read and enjoyed by many, and has opened the door for ACTION 2 to be also published. What I’m trying to say is, all those stories you thought would never sell, well, maybe they just might. It’s about checking out other ways of attracting a readership, and though I’m late to the ball, I’m hopefully here to stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an ACTION Volume 3 further down the line.
Many thanks to Matt for a great post which certainly struck a chord with me.

Future guest blogs
Howard Linskey - 29th April
Ryth Jacobs - 5th May
Matt Bendoris - 12th May
Lee Child Interview - TBC
Tom Cain / David Thomas - July

Monday, 15 April 2013

Multiple Viewpoints

I recently read an excellent novel called The Catch by Tom Bale. Tom is one of the undiscovered gems of UK thriller writing.  

Such was the brilliance of the writing, I campaigned to my editor at Crimesquad.com to make Tom Bale our Author of the Month for April. He duly got that honour and my review and interview may be found here. 

The novel focuses on a tired friendship and moral choices and uses multiple viewpoints to tell the story. As my own humble work in progress uses multiple viewpoints I was keen to seek the author’s opinion. So here it is. 

Everyone’s got a point of view. That might be true in life, but not always in fiction – and the matter of perspective is one of the most important decisions that a writer has to make. 

It was Graham’s recent question on the subject that made me appreciate how strong my preference is for writing in the third person with multiple viewpoints. Even as a reader, I have to confess that I sometimes recoil if I pick up a book and see it’s written in the first person. The story has to be all the more compelling to overcome my reluctance to spend an entire novel inside the mind of just one character. 

After all, if prose fiction has a unique selling point, surely it’s that it allows the writer to convey what his or her characters are thinking? We can explore their deepest fears, secrets and desires in a way that’s simply not possible in other forms of storytelling: cinema, theatre, gaming and so on. 

And if you have the ability to reveal that inner dialogue, why limit it to only one or two characters? I tend to like populating my stories with a large cast, so it seems natural to explore the viewpoint of most, if not all, of my main characters. It certainly helps to enrich the story – and in crime fiction in particular, I think it’s a lot easier to create complex antagonists if you can explore their motivations and reveal their psychological make-up. 

Switching viewpoints helps to keep the story fresh and interesting. Adding the viewpoint of a minor player can be a great way of providing insight into the main characters. In my novel BLOOD FALLS there’s a character called Vic Smith who only appears in two chapters, and yet quite a few readers have mentioned the impact made by his little cameo role. 

But for all my love of multiple viewpoints, there’s one strict rule that I try to adhere to: no head-hopping. That’s when we’re privy to one character’s thoughts in one sentence or paragraph, and another character’s in the next. Not only is it confusing, but it also has a strangely unsettling effect, jolting the readers out of the story. Far better, I think, to use scene breaks to denote a change of viewpoint, much as a filmmaker will switch between cameras to tell a story from different perspectives. Used effectively, it’s a device that can bring your characters to life as vivid, three-dimensional people. 

Massive thanks from me to Tom for this post. 

April is the month for guest posts so here is the line-up to date. 

22nd – Matt Hilton

29th  - Howard Linskey

To follow later in the year

Tom Cain / David Thomas Guest Blog

Lee Child Interview

Monday, 8 April 2013

Choices, Choices - An Editor's Quandary

This week I am delighted to welcome Darren Sant and Craig Douglas to my blog. Darren & Craig are the guys behind Near to the Knuckle site and a cracking new anthology called Near to the Knuckle: Gloves Off.
Here's Darren talking about some of the choices they faced when compiling the anthology.

I suppose one of the biggest problems when choosing which stories to include in the anthology was one of theme. Some of the submissions were an easy choice, they had all the boxes ticked. However, we had a number of beautiful written, well plotted tales sent in that were obviously from folk who had never actually visited the site and seen what we are about. We couldn't put a story in about a kitten called Tiddles next to a tale of murder and revenge. Much as I like kittens, cosy warm, fuzzy fiction just isn't us and more importantly it isn't our readership.  

We weren't looking for perfect grammar, although it always helps, we wanted the right kind of story written well enough that the idea or the twist struck us hard. Near To The Knuckle is about that shock factor and that can come from a subtle story or a blood and guts thriller. So whilst Craig and myself were looking for something very particular within our stories we never felt that we were tied exclusively to the crime genre. We have included a supernatural tale and a comic tale because they fit superbly our idea of what Near To The Knuckle is. 

There was one story that made me do a double take. The problem? It was too NTTK even for us. A very controversial theme and even the title made me wince. How can we put this story out without being lynched I thought? Well after furious emails back and forth between Craig and Myself and re-reading the story we realised that on reflection the author made a good point and dealt with the theme in an adult way and we should not shy away from the validity of his point just because aspects of it made us uncomfortable. Which story was it? You'll just have to read the anthology and make your own minds up. 

We also had to make a conscious decision not to favour friends and supporters of the site. We based anthology places purely on merit. For this reason you'll notice one or two new names that you won't have seen related to the site before. For me the most exciting part was opening each new submission to see what dark world awaited my eager eyes. I know you’ll enjoy the dark delights Gloves Off has to offer. 
The anthology can be bought from Amazon UK here and Amazon.com here

Darren Sant was born in 1970. He grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and moved to Hull in 2001. He is happily married to Julie who tolerates him with the patience of a saint. His childhood was spent in an area very much like the Longcroft estate and he looks back on it with fondness.  If you’d like to know more about Darren you can find his website here:  http://darrensant-writer.yolasite.com/ And you can find him on Twitter as @groovydaz39 & @longcroft_tales

Craig Douglas hails from nowhere and lives in Rugby. He was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, but his northern accent belies this fact. He has live mainly a nomadic lifestyle since as a child moving between MOD posting to another and subsequently feeding his appetite for adventure by joining the Army. Twenty two years has seen him playing out active roles in both empire building and stabilisation.

He knew of his writing potential when he was 14 and a teacher identified this. His work was read out to the class frequently much to his embarrassment. The years have seen a steady development in his writing and only since coming back from a particularly violent tour of Afghanistan he began to write again. His debut work in print was 'The Likely Lads' which featured in Radgepacket Volume 2. He has work in 3 other volumes in that series, one of which features the dreaded See You Next Tuesday word more than in an Irvine Welsh novella whose title had the very same despicable word.

Craig is currently studying for an English Degree with the Open University. He writes a weekly blog which can be found at Gritfiction.com. He is partner in crime to the Near2theKnuckle website and has worked on the 'Gloves Off' Anthology.

He lives in Rugby with his wife and two children.