crime writer Neil White

crime writer Neil White

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the latest stop on best selling crime writer Neil White’s blog tour. Neil’s kindly agreed to let me grill him about his latest books and his writing process.

And so, to the questions …

Your latest thriller – THE DOMINO KILLER – comes out this week, can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s the concluding book in the Parker brothers trilogy and deals partially with the running thread through the first two books, the murder of their sister many years earlier. As well as that, men are being murdered in Manchester, with a link between each one. The story starts with the murder of a man in a park, and it’s discovered that the dead man’s bloodied fingerprint was found on a knife near a body a few weeks earlier. What links them, and is there a connection with Sam and Joe’s murdered sister?

Your lead characters are brothers Joe Parker (a top criminal defence lawyer) and Sam Parker (a talented detective) – what gave you the idea for them?

It was really the notion of conflict, which I hit upon by accident when I was writing my first series involving a crime reporter and a detective who were also in a relationship. What seemed to work was that the reporter wanted to know about the cases his partner was involved in, and of course she wanted to keep him out of them.

When I realised I had to come up with a new idea, I stuck with the notion of two people who are close but have conflicting roles. Two brothers on the opposite side of the legal fence seemed to fit.

It fitted also with my own desire to make the books more legal.

I’d flirted with legal elements in the earlier books, but had always worried that I would become obsessed by making them so accurate that they ceased to be interesting; a day in court can occasionally be as mundane as any other job, punctuated by delays and often filled with so much routine.

When the drama does happen, however, it’s often pretty fun. I’m a prosecutor, and I’ve been shouted at and threatened, and at one point invited outside to “resolve matters”, and that’s just from the defence lawyers (yes, really, including the invitation to a street brawl). The criminals, on the whole, have been okay.

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You’re a lawyer by day and a crime writer by night, what’s your secret to juggling these two roles?

I wish I knew it. I do what I have to do, and I don’t doubt that each job impacts negatively on the other through fatigue.

I’m not as good as I used to be after a day at work. I work just three days a week now, so I write off those nights, but I find it hard to believe that it isn’t that long since I was doing both full-time. I remember getting to the end of one of my books, I can’t remember which, and just said that was it, I was beat. I was shattered, a squeezed sponge. So I gave up a couple of days of work and now it feels more balanced.

The hardest thing is losing so much of my time. I never truly have a day off, and have taken my laptop on most of my family holidays.

What got you started writing crime fiction?

That is probably a two-part question.

What got me writing fiction? Because I always thought it was something I could do. That is just about as simple as it gets. It was something I was able to do well at school and seemed to stand me in good stead during university. I said even then that I wanted to be a writer, and at one point thought of giving up my law degree to switch to journalism, just because I thought putting words on a page was my strength.

So why crime? It’s because that’s what I read, and crime has always been my interest. As a student, I imagined myself in a courtroom, not a boardroom. I’m a criminal lawyer because I like crime. I write crime fiction because I like crime. Who couldn’t be interested in the extremes of human behaviour and emotion?

What’s your best writing moment so far?

Reaching number one in the ebook charts with my fifth book, Cold Kill. To go onto Amazon and see my book at the top of the pile on the homepage was unreal. It was something I couldn’t have imagined when I started out.

For those aspiring to publication, what advice would you give them?

That depends on what sort of publication.

If someone is aspiring towards traditional publishers, keep on plugging. If you’re good enough, someone somewhere will spot you.

If someone is wanting to self-publish through ebooks or print, engage an editor. I self-published in 2004, and it was the self-published book that got me an agent and eventually a publishing deal, but the one thing I hate about it is the failure to engage an editor. There are typos and grammatical howlers in it, and it would have been so much better for me to be proud of it still, but instead it’s the one I’m happy to see fade into history.

And, finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

I’ve just signed a deal for three books with Bonnier, under their new imprint Zaffre, and it sounds like they have exciting things planned. It’s a move of publishers but that brings new challenges and new adventures. The first book should be out next summer; once I’ve written it, of course.

Fantastic! Thanks so much to Neil White for taking the time to come and chat to us on the CTG blog today.

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Be sure to check out Neil’s latest thriller – THE DOMINO KILLER – which is out this week in hardback. Here’s the blurb: “When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realizes that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier. Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents. Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”

You can also now get your hands on THE DEATH COLLECTOR in paperback now (released last week). Here’s the blurb: “Danger sometimes comes in the most unexpected guises. The Death Collector is charming, sophisticated and intelligent, but he likes to dominate women, to make them give themselves to him completely; to surrender their dignity and their lives. He’s a collector of beautiful things, so once he traps them he’ll never let them go. Joe is drawn into the Death Collector’s world when he becomes involved in a supposed miscarriage of justice, and when the case becomes dangerous, Sam is the first person he turns to. In this gripping thriller, danger lurks for not only the Parker brothers, but also those closest to them.”

To find out more about Neil and his books hop on over to his website at www.neilwhite.net and follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1965

 

The New Blood Panel

The New Blood Panel

On Saturday (after a rather late night on the Friday) I started my day with the New Blood panel.

To a sold-out audience, Val McDermid talked to debut novelists Renee Knight (Disclaimer), Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory) about the inspiration behind their books, their journey to publication, and what they had planned for their second books.

It was a real treat, especially as I’ve read, loved and reviewed Renee Knight and Clare Mackintosh’s books – find the reviews here for Disclaimer and I Let You Go. And wonderful find out more about Ben McPherson’s chilling psychological thriller about a seemingly ordinary family caught in the middle of a murder investigation, and Lucy Ribchester’s fabulous sounding historical murder mystery set in the world of suffragettes and trapeze artists – two more books to add to my To Be Read pile for sure!

 

Authors Paul Finch and JS Law

Authors Paul Finch and JS Law

After the panel I caught up with some friends for lunch before heading across the lawn to the tent where Headline Publishing had set up a submarine-themed game of battleships to celebrate the launch of JS Law’s debut novel (on 30th July) TENACITY.

 

 

Here willing volunteers battled it out in a game of wits and rum. Author Paul Finch was victorious in a game (pictured here with JS Law). I have to admit that I didn’t play the game – but I did get my picture taken with JS Law.

 

After that, I caught up with Graeme Cameron, author of NORMAL – which was one of the books available for festival goers to bag (if they were fast) from the bookshelves. I was chuffed to get myself a copy – and have Graeme sign it for me.

 

JS Law and CTG

JS Law and CTG

Then it was off to the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs. South Challenge Cup football match (you can read my post on the game here).

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t make it to any panels on Sunday morning. It was either that or the fact that it’s impossible to move more than a few feet at Harrogate without bumping into friends – hours seem to pass in a flash.

 

But all too soon the weekend was over and I was saying my goodbyes to all the fabulous crime folks and heading home weighed down by as many books as I could carry.

 

 

Graeme Cameron pointing to his book NORMAL

Graeme Cameron pointing to his book NORMAL

If you’ve not been to the festival before I seriously recommend that you check it out and make a plan to go next year – it really is a crime reader’s heaven.

 

You can find out more here

 

The 2016 programme chair is best selling crime writer Peter James – so go on, book now, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

 

The Quiz!!

The Quiz!!

 

The Ref and The Players - The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

The Ref and The Players – The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

One of the great new additions to the festival programme this year was the football match. At 6.30pm on Saturday evening two teams of brave crime writers lined up to be counted in a passionate and thrilling match for the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup.

The teams, pictured here at the start of the match with Referee Mark Billingham, were:

  • For the North (sponsored by Fox Spirit): Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Nick Quantrill, Col Bury, Howard Linskey, Vincent Holland-Keen, Dan Stewart and Graham Smith.
  • For the South (sponsored by Crime Files): Tim Weaver, Chris Ewan, James Law, Graeme Cameron, Tom Witcomb, Adam Hamdy, Ian Ayris and Darren Laws.

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With a large crowd of spectators assembled to watch them the match kicked off and right from the start the competition was fierce. The North, with great form from their convincing win at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match last year, started strong, but the South were determined to give them a challenge and at first possession seemed equally held.

Then the first goal came – from Luca Veste for the North – and from then on the goals from the North kept on coming.

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A short time later it seemed like the South might shorten the gap with Tim Weaver putting the ball in the back of the net. But the goal was disallowed because it occurred after Craig Robertson saved a goal from Tom Witcomb – whose momentum took him illegally (but accidentally) into the box where he illegally (accidentally) flattened Craig – both players were still on the ground when the ball went in the net). Despite some player protests, Referee Mark Billingham stood firm in his decision to disallow the illegal goal, and the teams played on.

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The action was fast and the teams were cheered on as they chased the ball up and down the field with vigor and determination right to the final whistle. Although the South played valiantly to the end, this match was all about the North – with the final score standing at 6-0 to the North. The goals scored by Luca Veste (1), Howard Linskey (2) and Col Bury (3). Craig Robertson saved two penalties.

The match was a real crowd pleaser, with the enthusiastic crowd cheering on the teams the whole way through. But this sporting event didn’t pass without the sheading of blood, sweat and (probably) tears. Confirmed injuries included a fractured wrist (Graeme Cameron) and a fractured ankle (Luca Veste) – and it’s worth noting the grit of these players as they played on with their injuries, Luca still managing to hit the bar and post after his.

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As the triumphant North held high the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup later that evening, talk was already turning to the 2016 rematch, and the rigorous training schedules that the players would be putting in place in preparation.

Massive kudos to all who played. It was a fabulous event and one that I’ll be super excited to see return in 2016!

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

[with thanks to Kat Miller and Luca Veste for the excellent action photos]

Going to the crime festival at Harrogate is a bit like entering another world – a world populated entirely by crime writers and crime readers. A perfect place for a crime fiction addict like me to hang out!

The Irish Noir panel

The Irish Noir panel

So I arrived on Thursday afternoon in time for the opening party (of course!) and the announcement of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. This year the highly coveted barrel trophy was won by the fabulous Sarah Hilary for her brilliant novel Someone Else’s Skin. [FYI: the partying went on well into the night/morning]

On Friday I managed to make it to breakfast (just before the food was cleared away) and after a few strong coffees was ready to skip along to the Irish Noir panel. This lively event, with Steve Cavanagh, Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee and Adrian McKinty, saw the authors discussing why they’d chosen to set their books where they had (in Ireland or not, and in the far past, recent past or present), what their writing influences had been, how the troubles had shaped them as writers, the challenges of research – including the danger of being sucked down the rabbit hole by Google and Wikipedia – and many other topics.

Killer Women

Killer Women

Then it was time for lunch and drinks on the lawn where I caught up with some of the wonderful Killer Women (pictured) Anya Lipska, Helen Giltrow, Louise Voss, and Helen Smith.

Then it was time for the Yorkshire Pride panel with moderator Nick Quantrill posing the questions to Lee Child, Steve Mosby, Frances Brody and Peter Robinson around the central topic of Yorkshire. Lee Child spoke of his fond memories buying sweets with his grandma in Harrogate, Steve Mosby spoke of creating a Leeds-like place to set his novels in, and Peter Robinson and Frances Brody spoke about the Yorkshire settings – both present and past – of their novels.

As soon as the panel ended it was a quick sprint along the corridor to the Dead Good Reader Awards – luckily not arriving too late for one of the special ‘The Widow’ themed cocktails (pictured) of blood orange and bubbly!

'The Widow' cocktails

‘The Widow’ cocktails

From the thousands of votes, the winners of the first ever Dead Good Reader Awards were announced as …

  • The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book: The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
  • The Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective: Vera Stanhope (Ann Cleeves)
  • The Val McDermid Award for Fiendish Forensics: Time of Death (Mark Billingham)
  • The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending: The Skeleton Road (Val McDermid)
  • The Dr Lecter Award for Scariest Villain: You are Dead (Peter James)
  • The Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location: Amsterdam – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die (Marnie Riches)
Award winner Marnie Riches with her agent

Award winner Marnie Riches with her agent

And there was still much to come. The next event was Mark Billingham in conversation with Eddie Izzard. This session, to a packed out audience, was one of the major highlights of the festival. With great banter, packed full of anecdotes and laughs, they talked about some of the stranger venues they’d played on the comedy circuit, what it’s like to die on stage, how to deal with hecklers, through to the need to continuously challenge yourself, and how everyone can keep learning – even if they’re 90. The hour seemed to pass in a flash, and I for one could have continued to listen to them all night.

The final session of the day (starting at 10pm) was The Black Art of Criticism panel with moderator N.J. Cooper posing the questions to panellists Jake Kerridge (the Telegraph’s book reviewer), and authors S.J. Parris, Stav Sherez and Ann Widdecombe. It was a playful panel who debated how they approached reviewing, and how they took being reviewed, with plenty of entertaining discussion.

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The Black Art of Criticism panel

And so, at 11pm as the events of the day drew to a close, I headed to the bar – where I stayed until the early hours of the next morning.

To be continued …

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What the blurb says: “Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that area closest to you.”

Out this month, Sarah Ward’s debut novel – In Bitter Chill – perfectly captures the hauntingly chilling atmosphere of the best Nordic Noir crime fiction, within a closer to home Derbyshire setting.

This intricate mystery follows Rachel Jones as she tries to piece together why Sophie Jenkins’s mother would commit suicide thirty years after the abduction. Now a professional genealogist, Rachel is no stranger to digging through public records to connect seemingly unrelated information and family histories. She starts putting her skills to use investigating the events around the time of Mrs Jenkins’s death, and in the process unravels a complex web of secrets and lies which have devastating consequences.

Meanwhile, DI Sadler, DS Palmer, and newbie DC Connie Childs are working the case too. As they wade through old case files from 1978 and the facts from Mrs Jenkins’s suicide, they are unable to find a connection. Then a woman is found murdered, and the mystery surrounding the cases deepens – someone is still guarding the secrets of the past, and they’ll kill to do so.

In Bitter Chill is a haunting debut. Beautifully written, with a complex and compelling mystery at its heart, it pulls you deep into the secretive community of Bampton from the first page to the last.

Highly recommended for fans of Nordic Noir and detective crime fiction.

To find out more about Sarah Ward hop on over to her website at www.crimepieces.com/ and follow her on Twitter @SarahWard1

 

[With thanks to Faber for my copy of In Bitter Chill]

 

And be sure to check out all the other fabulous stops on the blog tour …

In Bitter Chill blog tour

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cover image

What the blurb says: “When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.

That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

Since reading the first couple of chapters of The Samaritan in a teaser sampler last September I’ve been dying to get my hands on this latest book by Mason Cross. And let me tell you, the wait has certainly been worth it!

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets. Question is, can they get to the killer before the killer gets them?

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story.

With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. And I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

A fabulous must-read for thriller lovers – and one of my top reads of 2015 so far – I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 

[with thanks to Orion Books for my copy of The Samaritan]

 

 

Today I’m super excited to reveal the cover of Orenda Book’s next novel by best selling author Gunnar Staalesen – WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE – and to tell you a bit about it …

WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE sees the return of PI Varg Veum. In September 1977, Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge …

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Gunnar Staalesen has been dubbed “the Norwegian Chandler” and is the award-winning author of over 20 books, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE has been translated by Don Bartlett – the foremost translator of Norwegian crime fiction – who has also translated the books of Jo Nesbo, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Per Pettersen.

I’ve heard fabulous things about this book, and the cover looks really darkly chilling. It will be published in June 2016 – so make a note for next year’s must-read list.

It looks like another cracker from Orenda Books and I can’t wait to read it!

 

Be sure to hop on over to the Orenda Books website to find out more about this and all there other fantastic books at www.orendabooks.co.uk