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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Evonne Wareham talking to Leigh Russell

Evonne Wareham was born in South Wales and spent her childhood there. After university she migrated to London, where she worked in local
government, scribbled novels in her spare time and went to the theatre a lot. Now she’s back in Wales, writing and studying history and living by the sea.
Evonne writes romantic thrillers. Her debut book Never Coming Home won an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Her latest book
Out of Sight Out of Mind will be out in paperback on the 7th March 2013.

Q.       You mention on your website that your books are a form of escapism, presumably for you as well as your readers. Do you think we need fiction to offer us a break from reality?
A. I’m sure that people read for all sorts of reasons, but getting away from the humdrum, into an alternative world, has to be high on the list. In the case of the things I write, ‘escapism’ is a big factor, as my books are rather more ‘out there’ than some other varieties of crime writing. I want readers to be clear what they are getting into when they pick up one of my books. It’s feasible that anyone might have the misfortune to become involved in the type of crime depicted in a police procedural.  It’s a little more unlikely for them to encounter the type of people and situations I write about – particularly the latest one, which features two scientists who read minds. So classing my books at the ‘escapism’ end of the spectrum is a signpost to the sort of story you are going to get. I write to entertain. It’s a simple as that. I enjoy writing them, and getting into a different world, and I hope that comes over to the reader. 
Q.       You have lived in London and on the Welsh coast, very different environments, I would imagine. How much does location inform your writing? How important is it to you when writing your books?
A. Location is very important to me. I hate the cold, so my books have a tendency to take place in warm weather and warm places. I like to use beautiful settings – places that I have visited, like Italy and the South of France – I think it can add to a sense of menace to have sinister things happening in supposedly romantic surroundings, and readers seem to have responded to this. Despite the issue about sun and high temperatures, I try to include at least a cameo appearance from Wales in my books. In my first it was one small but crucial scene – in Out of Sight Out of Mind a large part of the action takes place in Pembrokeshire – but as I was in charge of the weather, it was Pembrokeshire mostly in sunshine.  

Q.       ‘I’m writing the kind of books I like to read’. Do you think that’s a given?
A The genre I write – romantic thrillers or romantic suspense – is not a prominent one in the UK. It has a much higher profile in the United States. I was experimenting with writing different kinds of romance, while reading a lot of imported American romantic suspense. It took quite a long time for the penny to drop - that I might write the kind of thing I was reading and enjoying, but set it in Europe. Then it was a matter of doing some classes in crime writing, to strengthen my ‘crime muscles’. And I also took an evening class in forensics – a bit gruesome, but invaluable on understanding things like DNA, blood splatters and arson.

Q.       As a historian, do you specialise in a particular period, and if so what attracted you to that time?
A. The historian is what you might call my day job, as I am studying for a PhD. The topic is World War Two in Wales, so it is nothing like my fiction. It’s an interesting time, with good records available. When I have finished, a little of the history might find its way into a book, but at the moment I like to keep the two separate. Very different kinds of writing, but they balance each other – when I’m stuck with one, the other welcomes me with open arms. The problem comes if I get stuck with both!

Q.       Describe your ideal writing day, assuming anything is possible.
A. Do you mean the one that starts with a walk on the beach, and goes on to include the production of an unfeasibly high word count, an e-mail from my publisher passing on a couple of glowing reviews, an astonishingly well organised half hour, exchanging witty messages on social media, the intermittent production of some simple and gloriously healthy meals and an evening with friends or family having dinner, or at the theatre?

Q.       Now tell us about your typical writing day.
A.          Well – sometimes I manage the walk on the beach. Otherwise it usually includes some permutation of wrestling with a recalcitrant computer, managing the diaries of recalcitrant family members, making tea, spending far too long messing about on twitter - reading everyone else’s messages but not posting any of my own, rummaging in the freezer at five minutes to lunch, to see what will defrost the fastest, hunting for the research book that I have started to read and now seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Making more tea.
Actually I write in bursts and I find that I function better by setting aside blocks of time to do nothing but write, with meal breaks, otherwise the day rapidly degenerates, as above!

Q.       Is there a special place where you write?
A. I do first drafts in handwriting - the legacy of years of academic and professional note taking – so I can write just about anywhere. I’m not one who writes in coffee shops, and I don’t have a study, but I do a lot of work sitting in a comfy chair in the corner of the dining room. And on trains. That is a legacy too – from the time when the only writing space I had in the day was the half hour commute to work. 

Q.       I’m writing two series so that as one manuscript ends, the next is clamouring to be written, with regular deadlines every few months.  Tell us about the freedom and the challenges of starting out afresh with each book.    
A. Freedom – it’s great to have a fresh slate and go in whatever direction you want. Except when the fresh slate turns into a blank mind J The challenges are, of course, building a new world every time, working to engage the reader with your characters – and making sure there is consistency in the quality and the tone of the writing. Readers always expect the next book to be as good, if not better, than the last – as is their right – and that applies to a series or a stand-alone. In the case of a stand-alone I think they also expect to be in territory that is somewhat familiar in style, if not in content. I realise that I am on slightly dangerous ground with my second book, in that it has a paranormal twist. A lot of people will not read paranormal at any price. I have my fingers firmly crossed that readers will be willing to come with me on this. It is not a fangs and furs paranormal – the protagonists are most definitely human – and their mind reading gifts are a source of hazard and danger, something that they have to struggle come to terms with and learn to manage. I hope that the feel of the book, the emphasis of shared danger and the growing relationship, will carry the reader along.

Q.       You are a self confessed romantic, claiming ‘there is nothing better than receiving red roses and a heart bedecked card’.  Yet you talk about your ‘bottom drawer’ manuscripts. Might a bit of detective work reveal that the real love of your life is writing? As a historian, how important is writing fiction in your life?
A. There’s still a lot to be said for the big, classic romantic gestures, or they wouldn’t survive. Receiving
flowers, even if it is only a posy picked from someone’s garden, is always a special thing. Writing is, of course, a huge part of my life, whether that is fiction, or academic writing, I love both.  My work as an historian is very different – but I must admit that some of my favourite discoveries are the small human and domestic things that come through in official files – doodles and comments in margins. They rarely contribute to the research, but they are lovely to find.

Q.   In a recent blog post you said your current WIP, about a heist, crept up on you unexpectedly. Can you tell us about it, and how it is progressing?
A. That was the result of watching a lot of old movies over the Xmas holidays. I love the ones with complicated robberies – all that planning and preparation. It appealed to the side of me that likes to over-egg her plots. I started to think that it would be fun to write a heist book and then it began to unravel in my mind to the extent that I think it will be the next full book. (I have a couple of novellas almost completed that I really do have to finish first!)  It most certainly wasn’t in the forward plan and it’s not yet clamouring to be written, but it has all the signs. At the moment it is still at the thinking stage, but I already know quite a lot about how it will develop, which is a good/ominous sign, depending on how you look at it. One thing is perturbing me – it has arrived with a scene set in the snowbound Brecon Beacons. Given that I dislike cold, that is going to be a real test of willpower – but you see there is this corpse, buried in the snow…
Never Coming Home - Winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award 2012

Thursday, 21 March 2013

‘Rage Against the Dying’ by Becky Masterman

Published by Orion,
28 February 2013.
ISBN: 978-14091-4-367-7

What does a retired FBI agent do when something in her past starts to catch up with her? In Brigid Quinn’s case, the answer certainly isn’t keep walking the dogs and making the meatloaf with the new husband she adores.

By chapter two of this high-octane thriller, Brigid is knee-deep in an old serial killer case which has haunted her for years. It has suddenly sprung back to life after a lull of several years, and a smart young agent who reminds her of herself thirty years ago convinces her that it’s going in the wrong direction.

Soon Brigid is in over her head; dogs, meatloaf, even marriage fall victim to the instincts and hardwiring that made her the best when the Bureau was her life. She is the only one who sees that, despite overwhelming forensic evidence, something is seriously amiss with the investigation.

Then a suspect dies, and the task becomes even harder.

It’s the nature of thriller fiction that good will triumph against the odds; here, those odds are stacked sky-high against Brigid right from the start, and the roller-coaster tension hardly eases up at all. But she is well up to the task. Female protagonists of a certain age are thin on the ground in crime and thriller fiction, and capable, inventive 50+ Brigid makes a refreshing change from feisty young detectives and indefatigable action heroes.
Masterman portrays her warts and all, and she leaps off the page and makes you root for her. In fact, the cast of varied and three-dimensional characters is the novel’s great strength – that and the inhospitable Arizona landscape and climate, which come complete with tarantulas, coyotes, searing heat and flash floods when half the annual ten inches of rain falls within an hour.

The novel is Masterman’s debut, though it emphatically doesn’t show. She writes with an assurance which many more experienced authors lack, and has created a sizzling page-turner which left me hungry for more. Brigid Quinn is a role model for women of a certain age everywhere!
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Becky Masterman is the acquisitions editor for a press specializing in medical textbooks for forensic examiners and law enforcement. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.  Becky lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband. Rage Against the Dying is her first thriller.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

‘No Mark Upon Her’ By Deborah Crombie

William Morrow, 
February 5, 2013. 
ISBN: 978-0-06-199062-5

In the opening pages of Deborah Crombie’s 14th novel, DCI Rebecca [“Becca”] Meredith, an Olympic contender and a senior officer in West London’s Major Crimes unit, is found dead in the waters of the Thames near her home in the town of Henley, 35 miles from London.  The events that follow take place, amazingly, over a period of about a week.  I say ’amazingly’ because so much happens, in a terrifically plotted novel.  The case falls to Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, of Scotland Yard’s Murder Investigation Team, with some aspects of it falling to his bride, Gemma James, DI with the Notting Hill Police.

The book is filled with wonderfully drawn characters, including not only both the protagonists but also Kincaid’s partner, Sgt. Doug Cullen, about to become a first-time homeowner and nervous at the prospect; Gemma’s colleague, Melody Talbot; Becca’s ex-husband, Freddy; Kiernan Connolly and Tavie Larssen, members of the SAR [Search and Rescue], or K-9, team as well as its four-legged members, Finn, a Labrador retriever and Tosh, a German shepherd, every bit a part of the plot as are their human partners.

The common thread among several of the characters is a love of – in fact, a passion for – rowing or, to be more specific, sculling, a very specific skill employing the use of sleek racing shells, apparently a world of its own.  Just how much so is made very clear through the author’s use of quotes, preceding the start of most chapters, from various publications on the subject, as well as Ms. Crombie’s own prose in the early pages, describing the victim shortly before she is killed:  “she sat backwards on a sliver of carbon fiber narrower than her body, inches above the water, and that only her skill and determination kept her fragile craft from the river’s dark grasp.”

The James/Kincaid family dynamic of ‘his’ [Kit], ‘hers’ [Toby - - their respective 14-year-old sons], and ‘theirs’ [Charlotte, the mixed-race 3-year-old foster child they are planning to formally adopt], is a constantly active one that makes the protags’ personal lives every bit as engaging as their professional ones.

The author comments “Things were always so much more complicated than they appeared on the surface,” and employs mini-cliffhangers throughout, maximizing the suspense, as well as some shocking revelations, producing several OMG moments.  But I’ll leave those
discoveries to the readers of this highly-recommended novel.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Deborah Crombie was born in Dallas and grew up in Richardson, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, the second child of Charlie and Mary Darden. A rather solitary childhood (brother Steve is ten years older) was blessed by her maternal grandmother, Lillian Dozier, a retired teacher who taught her to read very early. After a rather checkered educational career, which included dropping out of high school at sixteen, she graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with a degree in biology.
She then worked in advertising and newspapers, and attended the Rice University Publishing Program. A post-university trip to England, however, cemented a life-long passion for Britain, and she immigrated to the UK, living first in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then in Chester, England.
After returning to Dallas and working for several years in her family business (manufacturer’s reps for theater concessions) while raising her daughter Kayti, she wrote her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novel. A Share in Death (Scribner 1993), was subsequently given Agatha and Macavity nominations for Best First Novel of 1993. All Shall Be Well, Leave the...

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

‘Spies of Warsaw’ by Alan Furst

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
6 January 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-7802-2220-2

Poland, 1937, is on a tightrope between two hostile powers, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union . Warsaw, the country’s capital, is seething with rumours, plots and counterplots. It is the job of Jean-Francois Mercier, military attache at the French Embassy, to learn what he can of German plans for rearmament. He recruits what spies he can, German nationals, some activated by greed such as Edvard Uhl who wants money to keep his mistress, the so-called Countess Sczelenska, others by moral outrage at or political opposition to the Nazi regime. Mercier, as spymaster, has to keep everything in play which includes trips into Germany, the heart of danger, to fnd information and make contacts, and helping the escape of those of his spies unlucky enough to incur the suspicions of the Gestapo. Moreover, he must try and convince his remarkably obtuse superiors in Paris that the danger is not only to Poland but to France herself. Then Mercier is secretly contacted by the Rozens, an elderly Jewish couple, long time Bolsheviks and spies for the Soviet Union: they have been summoned back to Moscow where Stalin is purging his former comrades, the Old Bolsheviks, in a series of show trials. Mercier is prepared to help them escape in return for the information they have gleaned for the Soviet Union. And throughout all this there is the growing love between Mercier and the Polish Anna Szarbek, a lawyer with the League of Nations. 

This novel was first published in 2008 and was made into an exciting TV thriller recently shown on BBC4. It is one of a number of novels by Furst set in the period leading up to and including World War II, many of which feature Eastern Europe locations. I thought it was excellent, well-written and interesting. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Other novels by Alan Furst include Spies of the Balkans, Mission to Paris, The Polish Officer.

Alan Furst has lived for long periods in France, especially in Paris, and has travelled as a journalist in Eastern Europe and Russia. He has written extensively for Esquire and the International Herald Tribune.

Friday, 15 March 2013

‘Chance of a Ghost’ By E.J. Copperman

Berkley Prime Crime,
February, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-425-25168-3

Alison Kerby returns in the fourth Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman.  Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious ten-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths.  It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see the ghosts.

At Paul’s urging, Alison had obtained a private-investigator’s license, and her services as such are sought by her mother’s own ghostly friend, who wants Alison to find out who killed him.  While his death six months previously was deemed to have been of natural causes, he is convinced he was murdered.  The investigation morphs into a search for the ghost of Alison’s father, who died five years ago, but whose ghost has been strangely absent of late.  She is aided in her efforts by her mother, her daughter, her best friend Jeannie, and her present [living] houseguest, who is a retired cop and delighted at the opportunity to do what he did best, and misses a lot, as well as by Paul and Maxie [who Alison refers to as her  two
“non-breathing squatters”].

As with every book in the series, this newest entry contains the same unbeatable combination:  a terrific plot and great if quirky humor [if you like that sort of thing – and I do!!].  I particularly loved the line about the heating system in Alison’s ancient Volvo, which was “roughly as efficient as the United States Congress, which is to say it made a lot of noise but got very little done.”  The protagonist’s slightly bemused attitude toward the apparent fact that ghosts actually exist, and that some people could see/hear them, seems perfectly reasonable.  This book, as were the earlier entries in the series, is thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

E.J. Copperman is the pseudonym of a well-known mystery novelist, now embarking on a type of story that includes some elements of the supernatural as well as a fair number of laughs. And the Copperman novels will have a different attitude, a different setting and completely different characters than anything that has come before, so E.J. really is a new author.  A New Jersey native, E.J. has written for such publications as The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, American Baby and USA Weekend. Night of the Living Deed is the first E.J. Copperman novel. It was followed by An Uninvited Ghost, Old Haunts, A Wild Ghost Chase now, Chance of a Ghost.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

‘Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now’ By Margaret Coel

 Published by Berkley Prime Crime,
September, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-425-25271-0

This novel, the newest in the widely acclaimed Wind River Mystery series, is a little different from its predecessors.  While still featuring Vicki and Father John, the thrust of the book is well in the past: the late 19th century, to be exact, when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show toured Europe featuring various Indian groups, including Arapahos like Chief Black Heart.

It appears that the regalia worn by the Chief went missing when the tour came to an end, only to be discovered when the building in which it was hidden was being demolished.  The items were purchased by a local rancher and donated to the museum at the St. Francis mission.
However, en route from Germany the shipment is hijacked, and Vicki and Father John, as usual, have to come to the rescue.  The mystery includes the murder of the donor, who might have known more about the stolen goods.  Complicating the investigation is a feud between two Arapaho families with lineage back to the principal players way back when.

Intertwined in the tale are descriptions of what it is like living on a reservation, now and in the distant past, and the effect on the lives of Native Americans.  The plot is well-presented, with the requisite suspense to keep the reader wondering what comes next.  The real question, always present, is the relationship between Vicki and Father John and what, if anything, will ever develop. Recommended.
Reviewer:  Ted Feit

Margaret Coel is a native Coloradan who hails from a pioneer Colorado family. The West — the mountains, plains, and vast spaces — are in her bones, she says. She moved out of Colorado on two occasions — to attend Marquette University and to spend a couple of years in Alaska. Both times she couldn't wait to get back. She is the of the author of the acclaimed Wind River mystery series set among the Arapahos on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation and featuring Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

‘Distant Shadows’ by Jane-Marie Barker

Published by Austin & Macauley,  2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84963-176-1

In 1935 two men commit an armed robbery in the course of which one of the robbers kills the night watchman. Neither man is ever caught, each successfully masking his identity for many years. But murder will out . . .  eventually.

The murder is recounted in the prologue to this novel, the remainder of the story being told in two parallel narratives, 1957 and present-day. In the present day, Zoe Peterson is surprised and puzzled when she is at her grandparents house and two policemen call, Detective Inspector Bygrave and the dynamic and handsome Detective Constable James Clark to whom Zoe is instantly attracted, a feeling which he clearly reciprocates. It appears that the perpetrator of the 1935 murder is still alive and has written to confess his crime, but he still hiding behind an alias, and the police think that Zoe’s grandparents may be able to help them even though neither was alive at the time of the robbery. In the 1957 narrative a young woman named Cathy Redwell is starting a new job but is aghast to find that her boss is Stephen Adams - 5 years previously they had fallen profoundly in love only for Cathy to discover that she is Stephen’s illegitimate half-sister. Now their passionate attraction to each other still endures but Cathy cannot bear either to tell Stephen the truth or to pretend that their love can ever be fulfilled.

The author avoids any confusion between the two narratives by putting one in the first-person present tense and the other in the third-person singular past tense. At the same time a number of important issues are raised in both narratives.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Also by the author: Beneath the Daisies.
Jayne-Marie Baker writes mystery thrillers with a romatic twist, and has an unlimited capacity to adore cold cases and double time lines. She enjoys murder mysteries minus the blood and guts, loves all things literary, cats, elephants and butterflies. As a creative person, she enjoys reading as much as writing it, dancing, spending time with her family and friends, and looks forward to the future with ambition and hope.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

‘The Silence’ by Sarah Rayne

Published by Severn House, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8248-6

Although Stilter House is set in a remote part of Derbyshire, it is the house where antiques dealer Nell West’s dead husband spent much of his childhood, so she is more than happy to visit (with her young daughter Beth) to value the contents.

The house stands on the ground which a much older property  -  in which Isobel Acton committed murder; - once stood, but Nell is unaware that the house is said to be  haunted.

When Michael Flint, Nell’s lover, receives a letter telling him that Nell and Beth shouldn't go to Stilter House ‘because ‘Esmond is still there’ Michael is alarmed. Unable to contact Nell, or the writer of the letter, to obtain more information, Michael decides to leave Oxford and follow Nell to Derbyshire to warn her.

But already Nell has experienced some very odd incidents and is worried about Beth, who has made a friend, a young boy who plays the piano.

Eerie, scary, macabre, this is Sarah Rayne at her best. Slowly the events of the past unravel, and in horrifying detail we learn the secrets of Stilter House.  This is the third in this haunting series and is as unputdownable as the earlier two.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the series are: Property of a Lady, The Sin Eater.

Sarah Rayne began writing in her teens, and after a Convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, embarked on a variety of jobs. Her first novel was published in 1982, and since then she has written more than 20 books, including eight psychological thrillers, which have met with considerable acclaim, including the nomination to the long-list for the prestigious Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year 2005 for Tower of Silence, (originally published in 2003). In 2011, she embarked on a series of books with a ghost-theme, featuring the antique dealer, Nell West, and the Oxford don, Michael Flint, who first make their appearance in Property of a Lady.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

‘Something You Are’ by Hanna Jameson

 Published by Head of Zeus,
6 December, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-908800213

Every book should be judged on its merits, without taking into account the publisher’s marketing hype. But once in a while, there’s a piece of information in that promotional ballyhoo which becomes impossible to ignore. So it is with Hanna Jameson and her debut novel. She was just seventeen years old when she wrote it: an achievement worth trumpeting by any standards, and one which intruded over and over again as I read the book. Not because there’s any evidence of inexperience or naivety: rather the opposite. Jameson is clearly a born writer, with all the necessary skills firmly in place.

Emma Dyer has been brutally murdered, and her father wants revenge; he employs ruthless hit-man Nic Caruana to hunt down the killer. Nic becomes more closely involved with Emma’s family and friends than is comfortable, and narrowly averts serious trouble as he pursues his mission.

Jameson creates a scenario, a character set, a plot with the surest of hands. The prose is crisper, more fluent and better constructed than I’ve found in many a novel by people two or three times her age; and she creates an all too believable world in powerful and horrifying detail. That unsavoury world was what gave me a problem. They call it noir, but it’s much blacker than that. In this world graphic violence is routinely the solution to a dispute, and occurs so often that the characters take it in their stride and cleaning up the consequences is no more of chore than vacuuming the carpet. It’s a world where every other sentence spoken contains the f-word and worse; where hard drugs and firearms are everyday currency, and self-harm and casual sex are a way of life. And there isn’t a single character to like.

Jameson’s account of it makes the reader see, smell and taste it in all its seedy, often sickening detail, in much the way Simon Kernick and Andrew Grant have before her. I was all too ready to believe that people like Dyer, Caruana and bent cop Brinks exist, and that this down-and-dirty underworld is based on a reality most of us prefer to sidestep. But I could hardly bear to think that a girl of seventeen would know about such things, or have the imagination to create them on the page. The problem, which shouldn’t be a problem at all, is that she does it so well. It’s compelling and riveting; it grabs the reader and holds the attention.

It’s not for the faint-hearted or weak-stomached. But on this showing, Hanna Jameson will go far. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Hanna Jameson is 22 and lives in Brighton, where she studies American History & Literature at University of Sussex. She is quite uncomfortable with referring to herself in the third person. She loves whiskey, Nick Cave, ballet, Breaking Bad, airports... She has good hair. She also swears frequently, so sorry about that.

‘The Dance of the Seagull’ by Andrea Camilleri

Published by Mantle, 14 March 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4472-2871-4 (Hardback)
28 February 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4472-2992-6 (Royal Trade Paperback)

The Camilleri stories featuring Inspector Montalbano of the Sicilian police will be familiar to BBC 4 viewers. This is the latest addition to the series.

It begins with Montelbano, awake at dawn, witnessing the strange dance of a seagull on the beach outside his house before it dies. Montalbano is puzzled by this but he is about to collect his girlfriend Livia prior to a short holiday on the island. But just before they set off Montalbano realises that his colleague Fazio is missing. It appears that he was investigating a possible smuggling ring at the port; when Montalbano and his second-in-command Augello go to the port they find evidence that Fazio has abducted at gun-point. Then a witness tells Montalbano that he saw Fazio being beaten up in a remote rocky location; worse, the area is pitted with dry wells used by the Mafia for disposing of corpses. When Montalbano and his colleagues search the wells they find two bodies - but neither is Fazio. Is he alive or dead? And will Montalbano ever have his holiday with the long-suffering Livia?

This is a highly exciting and enjoyable story which convincingly depicts life in Sicily with all its maddening inefficiencies, its corruption and the ever-present sinister and shadowy Mafia. Yet at the same time there is warmth and humanity: the banter between Montalbano and his colleagues, even the bumbling but lovable Catarella, is sharp but affectionate. And the way of life, with good food and the ambience of the ancient and beautiful island, is well and attractively presented.

All in all, an excellent addition to the Montalbano canon and well worth reading.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Other novels by Andrea Camilleri include The Shape of Water, The Age of Doubt, August Heat and The Scent of the Night.

Andrea Camilleri is the author of many books, including his Montalbano series, which has been adapted for Italian television and translated into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Japanese, Dutch, Swedish, and finally, English. He was born at Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento. His style is very particular as he mixes Italian and local dialect without however making it unreadable for those who are not from that part of Italy. Camilleri has won numerous homestigious literary awards in Italy as well as in France. He is married with three children and four grandchildren, and lives in Rome.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mike Ripley

Mike Ripley is the author of the award-winning ‘Angel’ series of comedy thrillers.  He has won the Crime Writers Association 'Last Laugh Award' twice, first in 1989 with Angel Touch and then again in 1991 for Angels in Arms. Mike was also a scriptwriter for the BBC comedy-drama series Lovejoy (1986–94), which starred Ian McShane as a lovable rogue antique dealer.
For ten years Mike served as crime fiction critic for the Daily Telegraph and on the Birmingham Post for a further eight, reviewing in all over 950 crime novels..
In 2003 he suffered a stroke, and wrote an account of his recovery, Surviving a Stroke, which was published in 2006.
Currently he writes the "Getting Away With Murder" column for the online publication Shots. He is also the series editor at Ostara Publishing, which specialises in reprinting classic mysteries and thrillers.

Today I have the opportunity of putting to him some questions.

Q Mike, you have written fifteen novels featuring Fitzroy Maclean Angel. Can you tell us about the origins of Angel?  Is he based on an amalgam of people, or pure imagination?
A All fiction writers tend to be something of a Frankenstein, creating their characters out of bits of real people. Roy Angel was inspired by one particular friend from university days, but with certain traits removed and others added from other people. There may even be a little bit of me in there, though I’m not admitting to it.

Q After eleven books in the ‘Angel’ series, in 2002 you published Double Take , a stand-alone about how to get away with robbing Heathrow Airport – a kind of Italian Job for the 21st century. What prompted this? An experience at Heathrow?
A Double Take started life as a film script which was entered for a competition and was my attempt to try and bring the Ealing Comedies of the 1950s up to date. It didn’t win anything and never got optioned so I did a ‘novelisation’ which the Do Not Press published alongside the script. The script took me three days to write. Perhaps I should have taken longer…

Q After 20 years working in London you moved to East Anglia and became an archaeologist. I notice that in Angel Underground (2002) Angel infiltrates a dig in Suffolk, so is this something that you have always wanted to do?
A I’ve actually lived in East Anglia (never in London) for over 40 years and becoming a Field Archaeologist at the age of 46 was, I suppose, my mid-life crisis. I read history at university and have been a crime writer and reviewer of crime fiction, so I suppose you could say I’ve always been paid to speak ill of the dead! It was rather cool being the only crime writer who really did find bodies on a regular basis; though they were usually 1,500 years old.  My experiences on dig sites led to both Angel Underground and then my first historical novel: Boudica and the Lost Roman.

Q You wrote two further non-series books in 2005 and 2007, set in AD 60 and AD 1066 respectively.  Does this mean no more ‘Angel’ books or are you just having a break from Angel?
A I followed Boudica  (Roman Britain) with The Legend of Hereward  (East Anglia at the time of the Norman Conquest) because I saw them as two parts of a trilogy looking at ‘Great British Losers’. Both were heroic figures but neither won their particular corner. The third in the series was always planned to be ‘King’ Arthur who probably existed as 5th century Christian warlord fighting a series of civil wars, but eventually losing out to the pagan ‘Anglo-Saxons’. As I started to do the research, I moved the story back to incorporate the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Friesians so that you had the invading ‘English’ fighting with the Romano-Britons as to who would rule Britannia in the power vacuum left by the retreat of the Roman Empire. The result was a bloodthirsty saga spanning the years 450 – 520 AD called First Kings which, hopefully, will find a publisher this year. The ‘Angel’ series came to a full stop (or at least a semi-colon) with Angels Unaware, the fifteenth in the series, which was published in 2008, twenty years to the day after the first one appeared. I think I tied up all the loose ends, but I didn’t kill him off, so Fitzroy Maclean Angel may yet appear again: older but probably not much wiser.

Q  In 2003 you suffered a stroke and out of this experience came Surviving a Stroke, an account of your recovery. I understand this helped you regained the use of your left hand, as you used a mechanical typewriter. Which came first, the desire to tell the story of your experience or the physical need to become active? Was one a by-product of the other?

Initially, my brilliant idea to use a manual typewriter to get my left hand and arm working again was so that I could go back on the computer and finish the book (Boudica) I had been working on when I had my stroke. Once that was done, I set about recounting my stroke experience really with a view to helping the partners, carers and families of stroke survivors, which I have done as a volunteer with the charities the Stroke Association and the Blood Pressure Association.

Q Currently you write a regular column ‘Getting Away With Murder’ for Shots, an  online publication I greatly enjoy, may I say.  You write for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times and the Birmingham Post among others. Additionally you lecture on crime-writing at the University of Cambridge, so I hesitate to ask do you have a regular working day? 
Not any more. Of course, for over 20 years I was a commuter to a day-job in an office in London and in fact wrote the first Angel book on the train. For many years I would write only on Sundays, though naturally I’d be thinking up plotlines and noting down bits of dialogue (and jokes) constantly. These days, the working day is governed by what comes in by email or by mail – I get sent around 300 crime novels a year to review and edit and publish between 12 and 16 titles – but I try and do some ‘personal’ writing every day, even if it’s only something scurrilous for my Getting Away With Murder column, to which I contribute about 60,000 words a year.

Q Is it true that comedy doesn’t translate?’
A Probably; and of course comedy dates. I have been very disappointed never to have been seriously published in America because American editors didn’t seem to ‘get it’ – even though all the American readers I’ve met did. On the other hand I have been translated into German, Spanish, Thai and, most successfully, Japanese though never into any Scandinavian language, which confirms my suspicions about Nordic crime writing…

Q Do you still do scriptwriting?
A   Given half a chance I would, but television production is so fragmented these days, I think you have to work very hard to maintain a network of contacts and then just hope you are in the right place at the right time. It’s a young man’s (or woman’s) game – and so it should be.

Q I am very interested in the reprinting of some of the wonderful books now out of print . Pleased to hear that you are the series editor at Ostara Publishing, which specialises in reprinting classic mysteries and thrillers.  How did that come about?
I was very excited when I was asked by Ostara to create their Top Notch Thrillers imprint in 2009. The idea was to rescue some of the unjustly forgotten Great British thrillers of the Sixties and Seventies; thrillers I grew up with but which have been out of print for far too long. We’ve republished 28 titles so far, with four more coming in 2013 and I am really proud of the fact that we have got authors such as Geoffrey Household, Francis Clifford, Alan Williams and Berkely Mather back in print and in front of a new readership. Last year the owner of Ostara, Andrew Cocks (a near neighbour whom I first met 35 years ago when we both worked at Essex University) asked me if I could establish another imprint, Ostara Crime, which revived more recent British crime fiction from the 1980s and 90s.  Whereas the majority of Top Notch Thriller authors have all been male, our first four Ostara Crime authors are all female.   In our first six months, we’ve reissued three titles each from Christine Green, Denise Danks and Janet Neel (Baroness Cohen) with three from, Lesley Grant-Adamson coming out in the next couple of months. The Ostara philosophy is simple: we don’t do complete backlists, we select authors and specific titles which show all the different styles of crime fiction and we produce (we think) a high quality trade paperback as well as an eBook version. 

Q Equally, I am passionate about new writers. There is some marvellous talent emerging today. You are co-editor of the three Fresh Blood anthologies promoting new British crime writing. Can you tell us something about that? 
A   I used to be very passionate about new writers and felt so strongly that the John Creasey Award for new writers was being down-graded (in the 1990s) that I resigned from the Crime Writers Association. The first Fresh Blood anthology was a response to the fact that the Creasey Award was not made for two years because, presumably, there were no interesting new writers around. We found people like Christopher Brookmyre, Charlie Higson, Stella Duffy, Ken Bruen oh, and somebody called Lee Child – I wonder whatever happened to him?

Q  Are you working on a new book, and if so is it a stand-alone or an Angel?
A  I’ve got two completed novels being considered by publishers at the moment, though neither are ‘Angels’. I am currently working on a non-fiction social history of the Golden Age of British Thrillers from 1953-1987.

Thanks, Mike, for a most interesting chat.

Angel Series
Just Another Angel (1988)                             Angel Touch (1989)
    Angel Hunt (1990)                                          Angels in Arms (1991)
          Angel City (1994)                                           Angel Confidential (1995)
     Family Of Angels (1996)                                That Angel Look (1997)
Bootlegged Angel (1999) Lights, Camera, Angel (2001)
Angel Underground (2002) Angel on the Inside (2003)
Angel In The House (2005) Angel's Share (2006)
Angels Unaware (2008)

Non-series Novels

Double Take (2002) Boudica and the Lost Roman (2005)
The Legend of Hereward the Wake (2007)

Non Fiction

      Surviving a Stroke (2006)