CTG Reviews: THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross


What the blurb says: “It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with Winterlong, a top-secret government operation with a shady past. At the time, they agreed a deal; he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return they’d leave him alone.

But now something has changed, and Winterlong is coming from him.

Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him – and kill him – it’s them.

THE TIME TO KILL is the third book in the Carter Blake series, and it’s one hell of a read!

The story starts with Blake accepting a new job – finding an employee of an internet tech company who’s gone AWOL with a piece of ground-breaking software. But as he starts tracking his target, Blake isn’t aware that he himself is firmly in the sights of his old employers – Winterlong – and that they’ll stop at nothing to neutralise the threat they now believe him to be.

Before long, Blake’s simple ‘find and return’ job becomes a whole lot more complicated, and he finds himself on the run. As the body-count starts to rise, Blake realises the only way to end things is to get to what Winterlong want back from him before they do. Question is, can he make it across the country to where he stashed it before them?

This is a game of cat and mouse, played between a group of deadly, armed cats and one seriously kick-ass mouse! As Blake races against time across the country, a severe snowstorm descends, and the situation becomes even more dire.

THE TIME TO KILL is an adrenaline rush from the first page to the last. Blake is a terrific action hero – he’s smart, agile, and although prefers not to kill people (even the bad guys) he’ll fight as hard as it takes to make sure the good guys win.

Packed with stunning set-piece action sequences, and an emotional punch as you discover more of the rather mysterious Blake’s backstory, this cinematic action thriller is like reading Reacher crossed with Bourne plus added fabulousness.

It’s a total must read. In fact, stop what you’re doing right now and start reading it – you won’t regret it!

You can buy THE TIME TO KILL here from Waterstones, or from Amazon here 

And be sure to check out www.MasonCross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

[note, THE TIME TO KILL had a title change after the first proofs went out, so if you see chatter about a book called WINTERLONG, they are the same!]

CTG Interviews: Ava Marsh about her new thriller EXPOSURE


Today I’m delighted to have the fabulous Ava Marsh – writer of the brilliant page-turning thrillers, UNTOUCHABLE and EXPOSURE – join me for a bit of a Q&A about her latest book EXPOSURE.

Welcome to the CTG blog, Ava.

So, your second book EXPOSURE is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

EXPOSURE follows the story of Leanne Jenkins, otherwise known as Kitty Sweet, a notorious young porn star who pleaded guilty to double murder nearly ten years ago. Up to this point, Leanne has always refused to tell anyone why she did it, but a visit from an old friend sparks an incident that convinces her to finally come clean to the prison psychologist.

EXPOSURE is set in the porn industry, and told through the eyes of Kitty Sweet (aka Leanne Jenkins). What sparked your interest in writing a thriller set in the porn world?

Having written about high class escorts in UNTOUCHABLE, it seemed a natural next step to centre a book in the other bastion of the sex trade, pornography. Again, I felt it was an industry which marginalised the women who worked in it, and I wanted to explore what that world would feel like to someone immersed in it. And it came to me very quickly that my main character would be a porn star in prison for double murder. From that premise, I had to work out why.

Kitty/Leanne is a bold yet very humanly flawed young woman, and despite her being in prison for double murder I found her instantly likeable and very easy to empathise with. What’s your process for creating such realistic characters?

Wow, now you’re really making me think! I guess writing in first person helps a great deal. It puts you inside someone’s head, experiencing the world through their eyes, reading their thoughts. But I also worked hard to provide clues within that opening chapter – the part where she rescues the little silverfish was there specifically to show that Leanne/Kitty had a softer side to the one she was portraying, along with her reactions to the news of her mother’s illness.

Occasionally I draw on things I’ve found out during research or just real life. Victor, for instance, was loosely based on a real character I read about in my research – a very nasty man indeed, who remains anonymous to this day. Generally though I have no particular formula, though I do go through a list of various character prompts and questions to develop a fuller picture of the people who appear in the book.

You include a lot of detail about the workings and goings on in the porn industry and the prison environment. How did you go about researching for this?

I’d like to say I did exciting things like go to a porn shoot or visit a prison, but the boring truth was I researched all of it online and from books. I have a kindle full of porn memoirs – if I ever lose it, people are going to think I’m either a pervert or some sort of obsessive fan.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – did you plot the story in advance or start writing and see what happened?

I’m a half-and-half sort of girl. I need the bones of the story – roughly what happens to whom and why – before I can start writing. I’m amazed by those authors who sit down to a blank document and begin typing, with no idea where they’re going. I’ll usually flesh out an outline and some character studies, so I have a basis from which to dive in. But I’m very flexible – when things occur to me as I go along, I’ll go back and make changes there or then, or put them on a snagging list for the second draft. Things always change, at least a little bit, as you get to know your characters and plot more intimately.

And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

Hopefully plenty of tea, cake and sunshine! On the writing front, I’m halfway through one first draft, while brainstorming another new idea, despite having promised myself lots of time off after a very demanding schedule for the last 18 months. Somehow it seems easier to carry on working than sit around feeling guilty for not doing any writing. Perhaps this was because I was severely blocked for many years before I embarked on fiction, and now I’m always haunted by the sense that I need to make up for lost time.

A big thank you to the wonderful Ava Marsh for letting me grill her about her latest thriller – EXPOSURE – and here’s to a summer filled with tea, cake and sunshine!

In case you’ve not seen it, here’s the blurb on EXPOSURE: “In a world without boundaries it’s hard to know where to stop … Kitty Sweet isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before. She’s an infamous porn star, imprisoned for double murder. As damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming. But once no different from you or I. Kitty’s past is full of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld most people can only imagine, and lived to tell the tale … This is her story.” You can read my review here

EXPOSURE is out now. Buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

And be sure to follow Ava Marsh on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh



The #WhereRosesNeverDie Blog Tour: Gunnar Staalesen guest post – The Game is Afoot


Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to Gunnar Staalesen for the latest stop on his WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE Blog Tour. Gunnar Staalesen is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over five million copies. His guest post is on “The Game is Afoot” …

There is a certain European Championship going on at the moment, as most European citizens will know. As I write, we don’t know who will win. Will it be England? Spain? Italy or France? What if Iceland won! Or Wales! The only thing I know for sure is that it will not be Norway. Our team did not even qualify!

From time to time, I visit schools in Norway to meet some pupils and talk about my books, and there is inevitably lots of time for questions. One question I am often asked by the boys is: What is Varg Veum’s favourite English football team?

There is a tradition in Norway, not only to support our own local team, but also of the English teams. This tradition stems from the late 1960s, when they started to show games from the Premier League on Norwegian TV (NRK was the only channel at that time), and all of the men (and some women) who had a TV at that time watched the football with their friends or their children. Those who did not have a TV went to their neighbors to watch it there. Premier League football was essential viewing! The very first game to be shown was Wolverhampton versus Sunderland, on 29 November 1969. Wolverhampton won 1–0. At that time the games were free to watch, but now we have to pay for the pleasure!

We did not have a TV and nor did most of our neighbours, so I was in my twenties when I watched my first English football game on TV. This was the period when George Best was playing, and as I always have loved the more artistic players, I liked to watch him, even if I never became a real Manchester United supporter. When I was a teenager, we heard a lot about Tottenham, so I made the decision to support them. I also have a son who is an ardent supporter of Liverpool, so I dare not say anything against them…


My team – in Norway – will always be Brann from Bergen; Brann is the Norwegian word for Fire! The most famous player from Brann was a local ‘George Best’, Roald Jensen. ‘Mr Jensen’ played for Hearts in Edinburgh in the 1960s and early 1970s, and was one of the best players ever to come from Norway.

So what is Varg Veum’s favourite English team? I thought a lot about it, and I found the answer. When he is asked that question, he always answers: ‘Nottingham Forest, because of Robin Hood.’

Have an excellent European Championship – and may the best team win!

Big thanks to Gunnar for dropping by the CTG blog today.

WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE is out in paperback this month.

Here’s the blurb: “September 1977. Mette Misaer, 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 …”

You can buy WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE from Waterstones or Amazon

And be sure to check out all the other great stops on the Where Roses Never Die Blog Tour …



OMG I am so incredibly excited to be a part of this cover reveal – playing number two in the one-two “double trouble” exclusive reveal along with the Queen of Bloggers LizLovesBooks – and revealing the fabulous cover for my good friend MARK HILL’s debut crime thriller – THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY. 

This is one hell of a read – I can say that because I’ve been allowed a super early preview of this gritty London-set crime thriller – and folks, it’s something really very special.

Here’s the gorgeously fabulous cover – a thing of glass-breakingly, ice-shatteringly loveliness …


And here’s the blurb:


One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY is the first in the DI Ray Drake series and, if you like your crime thrillers twisty-turny, high on drama and grit, and packed with gasp out loud moments, this is going to be just your thing.

Trust me, you will not want to miss THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY when it’s published on 17th November 2016!


The #Exposure Blog Tour: CTG Reviews EXPOSURE by Ava Marsh


What the blurb says: “In a world without boundaries it’s hard to know where to stop … Kitty Sweet isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before. She’s an infamous porn star, imprisoned for double murder. As damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming. But once no different from you or I. Kitty’s past is full of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld most people can only imagine, and lived to tell the tale … This is her story.”

Porn star Kitty Sweet is in prison for double murder, but she’s never told the secret of what really happened. When a long lost friend visits, bringing some upsetting news, Kitty’s offered some sessions with a therapist. She figures why not, she’ll turn up and play along.

When the therapist suggests Kitty writes the story of how she came to be in prison, she’s initially wary. Still, she starts at the beginning – at how she came to work in the porn industry – and finds the process cathartic. As Kitty writes, exposing the glamorous and seedy sides of the industry, and the fears and the disappearances that haunted her and her fellow co-stars, it becomes increasingly clear that Kitty became entangled in a darker side of porn than she had realised existed – one she couldn’t turn a blind eye to. One that ultimately cost her everything she held dear.

Kitty Sweet is one of those characters you can’t help but want to spend time with. She’s funny, impulsive, self-doubting and generous. Her world might be one you’ve never been part of, but her worries and flaws are identifiable with, and that makes her seem very real.

EXPOSURE is a true page turner. It’s unique and hard to squeeze into a single sub-genre – it’s a thriller for sure; a tale of deceit, and exploitation, and murder. It’s also a tale of friendship, of love and of heartbreak with a real emotional core. And the twist at the end, well, let’s just say it’s not many books that can make me cry – and this one did.

Buy it. Read it. I hope that you love it as much as me.


EXPOSURE is out now. Buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

You can follow Ava Marsh on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

And be sure to check out all these great stops along the EXPOSURE Blog Tour …


The #EpiphanyJones Blog Tour: Michael Grothaus talks about The Importance of Dissatisfaction In Writing Well


Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on The Epiphany Jones Blog Tour, and am handing over the hot seat here at CTG HQ to  Michael Grothaus to talk about why dissatisfaction is important in writing well.

Michael is a novelist and journalist who spent years researching sex trafficking, research which is put to use in his debut novel EPIPHANY JONES. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, he has a degree in filmmaking, and as a journalist writes about creativity, tech, subcultures, sex and pornography, and the effects of mass media on our psyches.

Over to Michael …

The Importance of Dissatisfaction In Writing Well

In my novel EPIPHANY JONES there are two main characters. There’s Epiphany, for whom the book is named after, and then there’s Jerry Dresden. As you’ll soon discover when you start to read the book, Jerry isn’t in a good place when the story begins. He suffers from a horrible psychological affliction where he sees people who don’t really exist and he can interact with them—having conversations, even being able to “feel” them when he “touches” them—as easily as you or I can interact with each other.

But perhaps what’s worse is Jerry is also an addict, but instead of the usual addictions novelists write about—booze, drugs—Jerry has a porn addiction. But as with most addictions, Jerry’s addiction to porn comes from trying to dull the pain of past tragedy. Because of his psychological afflictions and addiction Jerry can be a pretty cynical, dissatisfied, angry guy.

When people finish reading the book, I’m not really surprised to hear them say “I started off not wanting to hang out with Jerry, but by the end of the book I loved him.” What does surprise me is more than a handful of people have added “You seem like such a nice, happy guy, Michael; I had no idea you had that much anger in you.” And some even then add “So, were you addicted to porn?”



Now for the record: no, I’ve never had a porn addiction. But, hey, you write a first person story about a guy who has a porn addiction and some readers are just going to think it’s autobiographical. I get that. I do.

But what those same readers are right about is the anger. That dissatisfaction Jerry feels? That comes from me—at least part of it. And that dissatisfaction, I believe, is essential to being a good writer. Why? Because I’ve never met anyone who was completely satisfied, content, and happy who could write well.

I know people who want to “be writers” (whatever that means) who are wealthy, or privileged and never wanted for anything, or have never had a health problem, or never experienced significant loss—and none of them can write well. I know people who don’t care about politics, or the environment, or poverty, of the suffering that goes on around the world—and none of them can write well.

These people are not bad or stupid or foolish—indeed, they are all very fortunate (or lucky). Yet because of this rare good fortune they lack dissatisfaction, which is the single most important resource that writers have—if they use it wisely. Dissatisfaction spurs anger and anger can be used productively. Productively, it’s what gets you in front of your keyboard to write a story holding a mirror up to society so it can see itself as it really is. It’s what spurs you to write characters that challenge readers’ assumptions about why people are the way they are. It’s what allows you to create worlds as which you wish ours would be (or warn against what ours may become).

We would not have the masterpiece 1984 if George Orwell was not dissatisfied with the imperialism of his own government and the totalitarianism of other governments. We would not have THE GLASS BEAD GAME had Hermann Hesse not been dissatisfied with the lack of individualism among intellectual elites. And we would not have THE GREAT GATSBY had Scott Fitzgerald not been dissatisfied with the failure of the American dream.

As for me, I’m dissatisfied with things in life: our obsession with celebrities when there are real issues to pay attention to; the prevalence of sex trafficking that goes mostly unnoticed; the hypocrisy of those who condemn people with addictions but have their own vices securely locked away from prying eyes.

And yes, I’m happy too. But I’m also happy to be dissatisfied where dissatisfaction is justified. Dissatisfaction is a powerful tool for creativity and you can’t write well without it.


Big thanks to Michael for chatting to us on the CTG blog today.

Michael’s debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out this month. Here’s what the blurb says: “A man with a consuming addiction. A woman who talks to God. And the secret connection that could destroy them both … Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins. 

A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core. You’ll laugh when you know you shouldn’t, be moved when you least expect it and, most importantly, never look at Hollywood, celebrity or sex in the same way again.”

To find out more about Michael Grothaus visit his website here and follow him on Twitter @michaelgrothaus

You can buy EPIPHANY JONES by clicking the link here to go to Waterstones or click here to go to Amazon

And be sure to check out all the other great stops on the blog tour:


*Calling All Reacher Fans* Event Alert: Andy Martin (and Lee Child) at Prospect Book Club on 20th June


If you’re a Reacher fan then you’ll probably want to check out the June gathering of the Prospect Book Club, London.

On Monday June 20th, Andy Martin – Cambridge academic and number one Lee Child fan – will be joining the Book Club to discuss his book REACHER SAID NOTHING –  a book about Lee Child and the writing of his most recent thriller MAKE ME. Lee Child will also be joining the event via video link to answer audience questions, and give his perspective on his time with Andy. I’ve seen these two writers in conversation, and I’m sure this will be a very fun event!

To find out more and to get tickets click here 

What the blurb says about REACHER SAID NOTHING: “On 1 September 1994, Lee Child went out to buy the paper to start writing his first novel, in pencil. The result was KILLING FLOOR, which introduced his hero Jack Reacher. Twenty years later, on 1 September 2014, he began writing MAKE ME, the twentieth novel in his number-one-bestselling Reacher series. Same day, same writer, same hero. The difference, this time, was that he had someone looking over his shoulder. Andy Martin, uber Reacher fan, Cambridge academic, expert on existentialism and dedicated surfer, sat behind Lee Child in his office and watched him as he wrote. While Lee was writing his Reacher book, Andy was writing about the making of MAKE ME. REACHER SAID NOTHING is a book about a guy writing a book. An instant meta-book. It crosses genres, by bringing a high-level critical approach to a popular text, and gives a fascinating insight into the art of writing a thriller, showing the process in real time. It may well be the first of its kind.”

You can read my review of REACHER SAID NOTHING here and my interview with Andy Martin here

And you can read my review of MAKE ME by Lee Child here