The Crime at Black Dudley cover image

The Crime at Black Dudley cover image

Those lovely people over at Vintage are bringing Margery Allingham’s golden age murder mysteries back into print under their Vintage Murder Mysteries banner. The book covers have been given a fantastic make-over, and the whole of the Mr Campion series will be published between May 2015 and August 2016.

One of five Margery Allingham titles published this month is The Crime at Black Dudley.

What the blurb says: “A suspicious death and a haunted family heirloom were not advertised when Dr George Abbershaw and a group of London’s brightest young things accepted an invitation to the mansion of Black Dudley. Skulduggery is most certainly afoot, and the party-goers soon realise that they’re trapped in the secluded house. Amongst them is a stranger who promises to unravel the villainous plots behind their incarceration – but can George and his friends trust the peculiar young man who calls himself Albert Campion?”

This is the first of Margery Allingham’s books that I’ve read and it’s certainly a lot of fun. With quirky characters, and a mysterious family custom involving a haunted dagger, this is a lively locked-room mystery with plenty to keep the reader on their toes as George Abbershaw tries to figure out the truth behind the strange and sinister goings on at Black Dudley mansion. As the danger mounts, and the group of London’s bright young things decide to take action into their own hands, it’s a race against time for them to escape the locked-down mansion and bring the culprits to justice.

To find out more about The Crime at Black Dudley and read an extract, hop on over to Dead Good Books to read the first chapter here

 

[with thanks to Vintage for my copy of The Crime at Black Dudley]

Measureless Night cover image

Measureless Night cover image

Today I’m delighted to be joined by Chris Culver, author of the New York Time bestselling Ash Rashid crime series. His latest novel MEASURELESS NIGHT is out today (28th May).

And so, to the interview …

Your latest book in the DS Ash Rashid series – MEASURELESS NIGHT – is out on 28th May, can you tell us a bit about it?

MEASURELESS NIGHT is the fourth book in my Ash Rashid mystery series. It’s about a detective from Indianapolis who’s recently discovered someone is murdering men and women who witnessed a murder Ash investigated many years ago. It straddles that fine line between being a mystery and a thriller, but I think it works pretty well.

Where did you get the idea/the inspiration for this story?

I come up with ideas for stories all the time. I live near St. Louis, Missouri, so we’re not short on crime, some of which is fairly interesting. So I get a lot of ideas from the newspaper. I also keep in touch with a lot of lawyers and law enforcement officials, and they give me a lot of ideas. By the time I write a book, I’ve extended that idea and twisted it so that it’s barely recognizable, but most of my ideas come from reality.

MEASURELESS NIGHT is an exception. The concept evolved over time from a very simple kernel of an idea to something much more complicated. This was one of those rare books that didn’t start with an “Aha!” moment. It started with me wondering how Ash Rashid would handle finding out that a witness to an old case of his was murdered. From there, I just started asking the kind of questions Ash would ask. Why would someone kill this witness? Who had something to gain by this victim’s death? The story snowballs from there and, hopefully, takes some interesting twists and turns along the way.

What got you started writing crime fiction?

Like most crime writers, I started writing crime fiction because I loved reading crime fiction. Even as a very young boy, I loved mysteries. When I was in third grade, I read through the entire Hardy Boys series. Before that, I read the Boxcar Children, and the Encyclopedia Brown novels. I couldn’t get enough of them as a kid.

As I got older, my tastes shifted to more serious work, and I fell in love with early hard-boiled mystery novels, especially those by Raymond Chandler and later Mickey Spillane. They were terrific books with great twists and unforgettable characters. When I sat down to write my first novel, I didn’t even consider writing anything else.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plan first or jump right in?

I’m a big planner. By the time I sit down and type “Chapter 1”, I’ve already written about a hundred pages of notes. I know reasonably well how the book will start and finish, I know all the major twists, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in the middle. I know the characters equally well.

Of course, things can change rapidly when I start writing. When that happens, I throw my notes out the window and see where the story takes me.

If you had to pick one, what’s your best writing moment so far?

Probably finishing my first novel. At the time, I thought I had written the greatest book the world had ever seen, but looking back, it was a mess. The characters were clichés, the plot meandered, and the writing was stilted at best. Despite being a miserable failure, that first book taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to work on my second book.

For those looking to get published, what advice would you give them?

I’d suggest a writer look at every option he or she has available because there are advantages and disadvantages to every choice. An enormous publisher has market clout and the ability to get books into Walmart, Cosco, and everywhere in between. That’s great if your publisher is willing to put every resource it has at its disposal into your career. Chances are that won’t happen unless your name happens to be James Patterson. In fact, chances are quite high that they will give you excellent editing and a terrific cover but no marketing support whatsoever. Your book will come out, sit on store shelves, and no one will ever hear about it. That’s just how this business works.

At a smaller publisher releasing fewer titles, you’ll probably get more attention from the marketing department. Unfortunately, they will likely have fewer resources than a larger publisher and fewer options to help push your book.

You can also self-publish a book now. This is a hard route, but it’s one worth considering. You keep a larger percentage of the book’s sale price, but you pay for everything—editing, cover design, formatting, etc. In addition, you’ve got to do your own marketing. This route has a steep learning curve, but it’s one worth considering in a market that’s increasingly shifting to digital.

Author Chris Culver

Author Chris Culver

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

To be honest, I don’t know. Right now, I’m a stay-at-home dad who occasionally writes books. We’ll see how that goes.

 

Big thanks to Chris Culver for dropping by to see us and talking about his writing.

Chris has also given readers of the CTG blog a lucky peep at MEASURELESS NIGHT …

Measureless Night – what the blurb says: “Detective Sergeant Ash Rashid wants little out of life: a steady job, a quiet place to call home, and a healthy family. Now three hundred days sober, for the first time he can see his happy ending forming on the horizon.

Then patrol officers find the body.

The victim has chemical burns on her arms, two broken legs, and a gash on her throat so deep it exposes the vertebrae of her neck. Then they find a second body and then two more. The killings aren’t random, far from it. Each victim testified in a murder trial ten years ago, one that launched Ash’s career. Each of them helped put a very dangerous man in prison, and now each of them has paid the price.

Ready or not, Ash will soon learn the true cost of his happy ending. Because very dangerous men have a knack for reaching through walls. Ten years ago, Ash helped send a predator to death row. Now someone plans to make him pay. And she’s willing to kill everyone who stands in her way.”

What Chris says about the book: “Measureless Night is the fourth novel in my New York Times bestselling Ash Rashid series. Big picture, it’s the story of a detective who’s trying to solve a grizzly murder and protect others from being murdered as well. At it’s heart, Measureless Night is a mystery, but it has a lot of suspense elements as well.

On a slightly smaller scale, it’s the story of an average man who’s trying to balance the various roles he plays in life. He’s a devoted father, a loving husband, a dogged detective, and a religious man among other things. Those various roles are in constant tension, which is something, I think, most of us can relate to. In my own life, I’m a dad, a husband, a writer, etc. It’s not always easy to balance work and family, especially with a young child.”

EXCERPT:

The picture was a wide-angle shot of Michelle Washington’s body. Someone had ripped off her shirt and bra. A dark liquid glistened against her brown skin, forming a word from her neck to her navel. I felt sick, but I forced my face to remain impassive, a skill I had picked up from several years working homicides.

“The liquid is probably blood, and it says slut,” said Bowers. “Someone cut off her hand—before she died, according to Dr. Rodriguez—and then used her fingertips as a brush.”

I’ve been a police officer for a long time, even spending a couple of very good years as a homicide detective. Rarely did I hear things that took me aback, but this did. You’ve really got to hate somebody to dismember her while she’s alive, to hear her scream as the knife strikes bone, and to keep going until the deed is done.

“How’d you connect her to me?”

Bowers glanced up from his phone, but then glanced back at the screen. “She had your card in her purse.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “And you can’t think of any reason why someone would want to hurt her?”

I started to tell him no, but a sick thought hit me. Michelle and I hadn’t met by chance. Ten years ago, she and her brother had witnessed a murder. It was one of the first homicides I ever worked, and their testimony helped send a violent and very well-connected gang leader to prison for murder. I didn’t often keep up with the criminals I put away, but Santino Ramirez had a special place in my heart. He was the first and only man I ever sent to death row. Unless he won a last-minute appeal, he’d get a needle in the arm in a couple of days. The world would be a better place without him.

I swallowed a lump in my throat and hoped I was wrong about what I was about to say.

“She testified against Santino Ramirez ten years ago,” I said. “His old gang might have just called her out.”

 

To find out more about Chris Culver and his books be sure to check out …

 

Snowblind cover image

Snowblind cover image

I’ve been raving about this book for a while now and so I’m really thrilled to be a part of the Snowblind blog tour. Written by Ragnar Jónasson, Snowblind is published by fabulous new publisher Orenda Books and translated from Icelandic by crime writer Quentin Bates.

What the blurb says: “Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses?

Distanced from his girlfriend, Kristín, both by the geography and the unspoken upset each feels with the other from their reaction to Ari’s job move, Ari feels increasingly alone. Tómas, his boss, is one person who helps him feel more part of the community, but it is Ugla – living now in Siglufjörđur as a self imposed exile for a tragedy in her past – who he connects with most. Before long it’s a relationship that starts to create complications of its own.

Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand.

Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series – Nightblind – that’s out next year.

Highly recommended.

 

To find out more about Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind

You can follow him on Twitter @ragnarjo and his publisher @OrendaBooks and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur

Find out about Quentin Bates’ experiences of translating Snowblind from Icelandic in his guest post here

And get a glimpse at the Snowblind book launch here

Also, be sure to check out all the great tour stops on the Snowblind Blog Tour …

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The Other Half album cover

The Other Half album cover

Today is the release day of something rather wonderful. Best selling crime writer Mark Billingham and award-winning country duo My Darling Clementine have come together to collaborate on a fabulous album – The Other Half.

Here’s what the blurb says: “With her best years seemingly behind her, a former Las Vegas showgirl works double shifts in a rundown Memphis bar. Alone and estranged from her daughter, Marcia lives life vicariously through her customers and the everyday tragedies of people falling in and out of love. These are moving tales of grief and heartbreak, lust, murder and domestic horror. Serving beer and burgers as these very different stories unfold, Marcia reflects on her single doomed shot at happiness. Then one day, she receives a phone call that changes everything …”

I was super lucky earlier this week to go to the launch event for the album and got to hear some of the story performed live. It’s breathtakingly good – great story, fascinating characters, amazing music and vocals – and transports you right there to the bar in downtown Memphis where Marcia works.

It’s a perfect pairing of spoken word and songs woven together to tell a hauntingly compelling story of heartbreak, horror and hope.

Simply wonderful – a real must-listen.

Mark Billingham & My Darling Clementine on stage

Mark Billingham & My Darling Clementine on stage

The album is available on CD, Audiobook and limited edition vinyl. On it Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine are joined by special guest performances by brilliant actor David Morrissey, singer-songwriter legend Graham Parker, and the Brodsky Quartet.

To listen for yourself, hop on over to The Other Half website to hear a clip http://www.theotherhalfshow.com/content/the-album

And, you can watch them perform The Other Half live on their UK tour (I’ve already booked my ticket!) – for dates and venues head over to http://www.theotherhalfshow.com

To find out more about Mark Billingham hop over to http://www.markbillingham.com and follow him on Twitter @MarkBillingham

To find out more about My Darling Clementine pop over to http://www.mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk and follow them on Twitter @My_Darling_Clem

 

[I bought my own copy of The Other Half]

 

 

Killer Women logo

Killer Women logo

Last night I was thrilled to attend the launch event for the fabulous new Killer Women group. Held at the lovely Collyer Bristow Gallery, with a plentiful supply of gorgeously yummy wine from Naked Wines, it was a brilliant evening.

Set up by Melanie McGrath and Louise Millar, Killer Women is a group of fifteen established female crime writers: Jane Casey, Tammy Cohen, Helen Giltrow, Paula Hawkins, Alison Joseph, Erin Kelly, Anya Lipska, Colette McBeth, Melanie McGrath, Kate Medina, Louise Millar, Kate Rhodes, Helen Smith, Louise Voss, and Laura Wilson.

Between them they write in many sub-genres of crime writing from psychological thrillers to procedurals, to political thrillers and more – just look at the fantastic range of books on display last night (pictured). And as a group they’re looking to connect with readers through a range of fabulous sounding activities from talks at festivals to events at libraries and bookshops, to debates around women and violence, interviews with crime writers and criminal justice experts, and much more.

books by the Killer Women

books by the Killer Women

It sounds like a great idea to me, and I can’t wait to see the Killer Women in action at their next event.

To find out more about Killer Women and their upcoming events, talks, debates, workshops and giveaways hop on over to their website at www.killerwomen.org and follow them on Twitter @killerwomenorg

 

 

Summerchill cover image

Summerchill cover image

What the blurb says: It’s the tail end of a hot summer when half of Reykjavík is on holiday and the other half wishes it was. Things are quiet when a man is reported missing from his home in the suburbs. As Gunna and Helgi investigate, it becomes clear that the missing man had secrets of his own that lead to a sinister set of friends, and to someone with little to lose who is a fugitive from both justice and the underworld. It becomes a challenge for Gunna to tail both the victim and his would-be executioner, racing to catch up with at least one of them before they finally meet.”

This pacey novella is a perfect weekend read. Published this month, it continues Quentin Bates’ popular Icelandic detective series and, at 142 pages, is a perfect stop-gap to tide you over until his next novel comes out.

The story focuses on Logi, a carpenter (amongst other things!) who finds himself doing a job for some people who turn out to be rather dodgy. As one incident leads to another Logi finds himself getting deeper into trouble and is soon forced to take some dramatic actions of his own.

As their investigation for the missing man encounters dead ends and non co-operative witnesses Gunna and Helgi have to draw on all of their resources to piece together what has happened. The story thunders along as both criminals and police race to locate their target before its too late.

Although the story follows Gunna and Helgi’s investigation, it’s more about the criminal underworld lurking beneath the surface of Reykjavík. It immerses the reader into the world Logi becomes drawn into, highlighting some of the illegal practices and the ways in which criminal gangs extort money from the vulnerable and unsuspecting.

Recommended for fans of Icelandic noir and police procedurals.

You can find out more about Quentin Bates by hoping over to his website at www.graskeggur.com and follow him on Twitter @graskeggur

You can also read a guest post by Quentin Bates on his experiences in translating Icelandic Crime fiction here

 

 

 

 

The Lie cover image

The Lie cover image

I’m delighted to be part of the #TheLie Blog Tour, and for the tour stop today I’m posting my review of this fabulous psychological thriller …

What the blurb says: “Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .”

How well do we really know our friends, and how strong are those bonds when they’re tested to the limit? These are two of the questions C.L. Taylor’s latest psychological thriller prompts the reader to think about as they follow the dual storyline narratives of The Lie to their explosive conclusion.

The story pulls you in straight away, and the flowing narrative holds you captive until the final page has been turned. It’s a story packed with tension, twists and turns, immersing you into Jane’s world and feeling the fear inside her building as she’s contacted by someone who can’t possibly be alive. Or can they?

Deeply unsettled, Jane relives the horror of the past through a series of flashback chapters which transport her (and the reader) back in time to the ‘trip of a lifetime’ she took with her then best friends – Daisy, Leanne and Al – to Nepal. As they travel from their hotel to a remote retreat in the mountains it soon becomes clear that the ripples of tension and jealousy within the group are rising, and it’s not long before the friendships start to unravel with devastating consequences. As the creepy, shocking truth (and serious danger they’re in) becomes more apparent in the Nepal timeline, the threat level in the present escalates to a critical level.

I can’t really say much more about the story without giving away some of the excellent twists, but what I will say is that C.L. Taylor has brilliantly captured the complex and changing dynamics between the four young women on their adventure turned nightmare, bringing them to life in a wholly believable (and therefore very scary!) way. Jane is a wonderfully complicated character – she’s passionate about her job at the animal sanctuary and determined and bold in dealing with the difficult characters she encounters, yet claustrophobic and terrified into panic when a trigger to a memory from the past is pressed. She’s a character that I found myself really caring about and rooting for.

High drama and high stakes, this is a real pulse-pounder of a psychological thriller and a must-read for 2015.

Highly recommended.

 

You can find out more about C.L. Taylor and her books at www.cltaylorauthor.com and follow her on Twitter @callytaylor

And be sure to check out all the other #TheLie blog tour stops …

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