The Corpse Role Blog Tour: an interview with author Keith Nixon

The Corpse Role cover image

The Corpse Role cover image

Today I’m delighted to welcome Keith Nixon, author of The Corpse Role, to the CTG blog as part of his blog tour.

The Corpse Role is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a police procedural with a major twist at the end. This is the blurb:

When the body of a security guard implicated in a major robbery two years ago turns up in a shallow grave DI Charlotte Granger is called in. £1.2 million went missing in the heist – the money has never been found and the culprits remain at large. At the time the robbery had been major news and becomes so again, with investigative journalists, her own superiors and career criminals crawling all over the case. However, Granger’s own past threatens to catch up with her…

How did you get the idea for the story?

These things usually start with the kernel of an idea and then I add the layers and Corpse was no different. The trouble is, if I tell you the original idea, I’ll give the twist away!

What’s your writing process – do you plan first or dive straight in?

A mix of both to be honest. I put a degree of planning in up front, have a central theme, characters, some chapters mapped and an ending but the stuff in between is a mystery until I get down to the nuts and bolts of writing! It’s also fairly normal for me to hit a wall about a third of the way in and then have to take a step back and have a good look at how the narrative is working out.

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

Dream Land for sure. It’s an 8k word novella that’s now the first part of Russian Roulette – Konstantin the Russian tramp from my first debut novel and his first 24 hours in Margate. 8 days of hectic writing and editing around my day job. The Russian found his place in the world as a result of that work.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given on writing?

Never, ever give up.

Author Keith Nixon

Author Keith Nixon

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

Lots! May 11th I have I’m Dead Again being published, the third Konstantin novel after The Fix and Russian Roulette. I’m also working on the fourth in this series, a further stand alone police procedural and finally I’ll start the 3rd in Roman historical fiction series about Caradoc, Britain’s first great General, but later in the year.

Wow, that sounds like a very busy year!

Huge thanks to Keith for coming and talking to us at the CTG blog today.

The Corpse Role is out now. Recommended for fans of police procedurals, this twisty-turny tale follows DI Charlotte Granger as she investigates a chain of murders where the targets are both criminals and cops. With evidence tampered with, and no one telling the full truth, can she find those responsible before the next person dies? Told across two time-lines, this is an intricately woven tale, with one hell of a twist towards the end.

To find out more about Keith Nixon and his books hop on over to his FaceBook page here https://www.facebook.com/keithnixonauthor and follow him on Twitter @knntom

 

Event Alert: Dead Good Books announces the Dead Good Reader Awards

Dead Good Reader Awards logo

Dead Good Reader Awards logo

The fabulous team behind Dead Good Books have created six new crime writing awards which will be presented in Harrogate this July at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Created in collaboration with the Dead Good Facebook community each of the six awards celebrates a unique element in crime writing.

The awards are:

  • The Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective
  • The Val McDermid Award for Fiendish Forensics
  • The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending
  • The Dr Lecter Award for Scariest Villain
  • The Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location
  • The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book

The plan is for readers to nominate their favourite authors and books for the awards online through the Dead Good website. The nominees with the most votes will make the shortlists, and readers will then be able to vote for the final winners both online and in person at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival itself.

The awards will culminate at a special festival event on Friday 17th July with well-known crime authors including Lee Child and Val McDermid presenting the awards. Each winner will receive a specially designed magnifying glass trophy.

So, be sure to vote by hopping on over to http://bit.ly/DeadGoodReaderAwards

 

CTG Reviews: TELL TALE by Mark Sennen

Tell Tale cover image

Tell Tale cover image

What the blurb says: “DI Charlotte Savage knows who killed her daughter. As Charlotte struggles with an overwhelming need for revenge, a series of terrifying events starts to unfold on the moors … First, a bag containing clothes and a passport is found floating in a reservoir. But the girl they belong to is nowhere to be found. Then a man’s body is discovered, entombed in an ancient pagan grave. Amidst a web of corruption and lies, Charlotte must figure out who she can trust, before the killer strikes again. Or before she, herself, is driven to become the killer …”

This atmospheric police procedural makes the most of its moorland setting, using beautiful but remote areas of the Dartmoor geography as settings for some of the more brutal crimes and in doing so providing a startling juxtaposition between the wonders of the natural world and the horrors inflicted by humans.

And there are horrors in this story. It’s gritty and brutal in places, with ritualised killings, animal sacrifice and frenzied attacks woven into the twisty, turny tale. As the police take forward several investigations – the discovery of a man’s body in a shallow grave, the search for a missing woman, and the killings of Dartmoor ponies on the moor – the different plot strands interweave and separate, challenging the reader to piece the clues together before the detectives do.

This is the first of Mark Sennen’s DI Charlotte Savage series that I’ve read, and I did feel that perhaps I was missing out by jumping straight into this book (the fourth) rather than starting at the beginning of the series (which I will now go and do!). This was largely due to the emotive incident that happened in a previous book and the huge influence it has on Savage’s behaviour and decisions in this one. There are flashbacks to bring a reader fresh to the series up-to-speed, so you do get a flavour of past events as you read forward, but personally I wanted to get a sense of who DI Charlotte Savage was before the tragic event occurred.

That said, Tell Tale does make for a good standalone read. DI Savage, a respected and high calibre detective, is still reeling from the shock and grief of past events. This influences her, both in her work and home life, and adds an air of unpredictability to her reactions and actions as she tries to piece together the chain of events that led to the incident in her past, while working the murder investigations she is faced with in the present. This ratchets up the tension page by page, and challenges both DI Savage, and the reader, to solve the cases before another victim is claimed.

Recommended for fans of gritty police procedurals.

 

[with thanks to Avon for my copy of Tell Tale]

CTG Reviews: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Any mystery connoisseur worth their salt knows that whether it’s being used as a villain’s nefarious weapon or keeping their favourite detectives going, food plays a major role in the genre.

From the comforting breakfast cuisines of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mrs Hudson to the poison-laced meals of Agatha Christie’s fictional victims, food not only provides major plot twists but also defines characters.

Considering how intertwined food and murder fiction are, Mystery Writers of America presents The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White – former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and New York Times best-selling author of the Bailey Weggins mystery series.”

Okay, so I don’t usually review cookbooks, but as you can tell from the title, this one is a little different! With over a hundred different recipes in the book – some based on author’s favourites and others their character’s usual choices – there’s some really yummy (and unusual) recipes to try.

You can learn how to make Harlan Coben’s ‘Myron’s Crabmeat Dip’, Frankie Y. Bailey’s ‘Whole Wheat Wild Blueberry Lemon Pecan Muffins’ (which sound amazing), and David Housewright’s ‘Corn Chowder’ (I love corn chowder). There’s even a ‘special guest’ recipe from Richard Castle (the detective character in ABC’s hit TV show – CASTLE) – for the very apt ‘Morning-After Hotcakes’.

For me a few recipes stand out above the rest …

Sue Grafton’s ‘Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich’ – this is a fabulously simple recipe, and includes peanut butter, yummy!

Kathy Reichs’ ‘Shrimp Scampi’ – this Southern seafood recipe looks amazing!

Linda Stasi’s ‘Mystery Baker: Original New York City Cheesecake – New York Cheesecake is my absolute favourite dessert, and this recipe is mouth-wateringly gorgeous!

Coffee, black (in my favourite mug!)

Coffee, black (in my favourite mug!)

And then there’s the drinks …

You can make like Peter James with what he refers to as his rocket fuel to kick off his evening writing – ‘The Peter James Vodka Martini Writing Special’ (complete with ‘twist’ and ‘olive’ variations).

Or opt for a ‘strong and silent’ option and take Lee Child’s ‘Coffee, Pot of One’ – a recipe that helps you brew the perfect coffee, and pick the perfect mug to drink it from.

Whichever you go for, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is a great, and rather different, recipe book to add to your collection. It includes a number of food related facts about mystery authors and their lead characters, and is beautifully presented with fantastic pictures of the food.

It makes me hungry just looking at it!

CTG Reviews: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Time of Death cover image

Time of Death cover image

What the blurb says: “The Missing: Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up, and from which she long escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused: When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

The Dead: As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe that they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.”

So, declarations first, I have to confess that I’m a huge fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series and so I couldn’t wait to read the latest book TIME OF DEATH (published today – 23rd April).

This story takes Tom out of his usual city surroundings on a visit to the countryside for a romantic break with his partner Helen Weeks. But it doesn’t stay a relaxing holiday for long. When Helen recognises the wife of the man accused of the abduction of two schoolgirls from a small Warwickshire community, their holiday is cut short as they head to Polesford for Helen to support her old school friend who is in the grips of a suffocating media presence, and whose community, and social media, is vilifying her and her family.

With Helen preoccupied with her friend and acting increasing distant, Tom does what fans of the series might anticipate – he starts to look at the facts of the case, at first piquing the interest of the local police, and then (as he spots the holes in their evidence and theories) becoming an irritant. Once he realises the investigation isn’t as thorough, and the case as well proven, as the locals are saying, he’d determined to find out the truth behind the abductions and get to the remaining missing girl before it’s too late.

Taking Thorne out of his London comfort zone is genius move. He hates the countryside, especially the thought of antiquing and walking, but through the course of his (unofficial) investigation he has to embrace everything the area has to throw at him – floods, pigs, a lot of characterful locals, and the kind of claustrophobic environment where everyone knows each other’s business.

Being the outsider, and not officially involved in the case, he’s able to follow his instincts unchecked, and starts to find he’s actually rather enjoying his holiday. He even manages to entice his friend, and talented Pathologist, Phil Hendricks, out from the city to help him. They still haven’t really spoken about what happened on Bardsey Island (in the previous book The Bones Beneath) and the personal cost to Phil (and Thorne) that resulted, but their friendship is a strong as ever and their banter is, as always, a joy to read.

TIME OF DEATH is filled with mystery and intrigue from the abduction case Tom is investigating, it also layers on a growing sense of unease that coming back to the place she grew up has unearthed some deeply buried secrets that Helen has kept well hidden. The consequences of both will have ramifications for both Helen and Tom.

Masterfully written, this is another fabulous instalment in what I think is the best police procedural series around today.

It’s a book that from the first chapter I just couldn’t put down. A real must read for crime fiction fans and one of my favourite books of 2015 so far.

Highly recommended.

 

[with thanks to Little, Brown for my copy of Time of Death]

 

 

CTG Reviews: Personal by Lee Child

Personal cover image

Personal cover image

What the blurb says: “Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he’s asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.
Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta. He’ll need to uncover who did the hiring and what’s behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders.”

As a massive fan of Lee Child’s writing, I must confess that it was a huge thrill and a privilege to get to read an advance copy of PERSONAL.

In PERSONAL – the latest novel and nineteenth in the Jack Reacher series – Reacher spots an advert in the Personals from a military colleague asking him to get in touch. He owes this guy from way back and so Reacher being Reacher, he makes the call and finds himself pulled into a high profile case that threatens international security.

There’s been an attempt to assassinate the French president. The sniper fired from a range of fourteen hundred yards, more than three-quarters of a mile. There are very few people in the world that could have made the shot, and one of them has a bad history with Reacher. Question is, was he the one who pulled the trigger? And, if he was, can Reacher track him down before he tries again at the London G8 summit?

Partnering up with young agent Casey Nice, Reacher follows the trail, taking him from the US to Paris, on to London and back to the US. But with half-truths and bureaucracy at every turn, the inter-agency team remains a step behind their person of interest. With the time ticking away, Reacher takes matters into his own hands – in a way that only he can.

This is a fabulously fast paced, action packed story, with all the twists and turns you’d expect from a Reacher novel. Reacher himself is as witty and smart as ever, and a strong mentor for Casey on her first operational mission on overseas soil. And it’s great to see Reacher making a trip across to Europe. I particularly loved the London scenes, and picturing this great character in locations that I know.

Cinematic and slick, this heart-thumping, page-turning read is a must for all thriller fans.

Highly recommended.

 

PERSONAL is out in paperback on the 23rd April.

[with huge thanks to Transworld Books/Bantam for my copy of PERSONAL]

Guest Post: Quentin Bates on Stepping into the Translation Zone #Snowblind

Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates

Today, crime writer Quentin Bates takes the reins here at CTG HQ to tell us about his recent experiences in translation – working on the fabulous novel Snowblind from Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson (published in English by Orenda Books) …

It has been something of a step into the unknown. All right, I’ve done plenty of translation before from my adopted second language, Icelandic, a language that 320,000 Icelanders and a couple of dozen non-Icelanders speak. It’s a long story, but I lived there for a long time, boy meets girl and all that stuff, and found myself staying a lot longer than originally intended.

But to get back on track, I’ve done bits and pieces of translation before, almost all of it fairly grim technical and news material, although there was a novel I translated years ago for the fun of it and eventually wound up publishing myself as an e-book. It’s here if you fancy a look, but I warn you, it’s not a crime story and there are no murders in there.

It was a surprise that there are so few Icelandic crime writers translated into English. For a long time there were only two, the two everyone knows about, Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Then they were joined by Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson with a handful of books and Árni Thórarinsson with only one and it’s a shame as Árni’s books are excellent, refreshingly different with a journalist as a protagonist rather than a detective or a lawyer. It has long been a mystery to me why so many Swedish and Norwegian crime authors seem to make it seamlessly into English, while their Danish, Finnish and Icelandic counterparts have been left behind, even though they frequently seem to be published in every other language; but not English.

But now there’s one more. A bunch of us conspired to get Ragnar Jónasson published in English, pulling strings and passing the word to kick-start the process.

The excellent Karen Sullivan was in the process of setting up her new imprint, Orenda Books, and was able to publish six books in her first year. She managed to secure Ragnar’s Snowblind, his debut novel (published on 20th April on Kindle and 15th June in paperback) as well as his latest novel, Nightblind.

So this is where the step into the unknown began. I was sure I could produce a translation, and hoped it would be up to Karen’s exacting standards, very much aware that for a new publisher with a limited number books in its first year, each book has to count.

Translation is different from writing your own stuff. There are similar technical aspects, but it calls for a different set of skills. There’s no plotting to worry about as the author has already done all the heavy lifting there, but while technical translation calls for precision and accuracy, literary translation also calls for accuracy, but in a different way.

Snowblind cover image

Snowblind cover image

A technical handbook needs to be as close to the original as possible, while still making sense, as anyone who has bought a Chinese-made DVD player with a badly translated handbook will understand. With a novel it’s more about being faithful to the spirit of the author’s words than to those words themselves.

Sentences might need to be rolled together, as Icelandic uses short, sharp sentences. Like this one. That don’t work in English. Punctuation is also a headache and it has taken me years to figure out that a full stop in Icelandic isn’t necessarily the same as a full stop in English. The nature of an Icelandic full stop can depend on the context and it can be the equivalent of a semi-colon, or even a comma, just a pause in a narrative rather than a break, but the context is all-important.

Then there are the idioms that need to be rendered into English, and often enough there isn’t any direct translation that does the original justice or captures the right feel. So some suitable parallel phrase has to be found. Worst of all are jokes, especially a joke or a phrase that relies on an untranslatable play on words. This is where the translator has to go out on a limb and trust instinct that the replacement joke, which may be nowhere even close to the original wording, is strong enough to capture the elusive feel that the author was looking for.

All this has to be achieved without crossing the often very elastic line from being a translator into the other world of being an editor. There should never be a temptation to improve on an author’s work, only to interpret it in the best way possible, and it’s well known that a poor translation can ruin a good book. On the other hand, an inspired translation can lift a good book and make it into something outstanding.

These days I find myself looking for the translator’s name as well as the author’s. I know that if a book translated from French has Frank Wynne’s or Ros Schwartz’s name on it, I’ll be in good hands. The same goes for Anthea Bell, that queen among translators who produced those inspired English-language versions of Asterix the Gaul that were part of my childhood, plus so much else… then there’s Don Bartlett for anything from Norwegian, and this list goes on.

So it has been a challenge. Translation has also been better that the most fiendish crossword for keeping the grey cells active, almost as fiendish as the plotting of Ragnar’s book. There has been much silent muttering and poring over dictionaries, and my vocabulary of obscure Icelandic words has certainly grown.

Would I do it again? I already am… Look out for Nightblind next year, and hopefully a few more of Iceland’s stable of crime writers appearing in English in the next few years.

A huge thank you to Quentin Bates for dropping by today to talk about stepping into the translation zone, and for giving us a peep behind the scenes at Snowblind.

Summerchill cover image

Summerchill cover image

Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson is released as an ebook today and in paperback on 15th June. Here’s the blurb: Siglufjörður: 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 snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Quentin Bates’ latest book Summerchill (the next in his popular Gunnhildur Gísladóttir series) is out on 7th May and available now for pre-order. Here’s the blurb: 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.”