Guest Post: Hester Young on the inspiration behind THE GATES OF EVANGELINE

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Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to Hester Young, author of THE GATES OF EVANGELINE – the first book in a fantastic new crime series featuring journalist Charlie Cates, and set in Louisiana.

Over to Hester …

Louisiana is the kind of place that almost writes a mystery for you.

From the moment you first turn down an old, unpaved driveway and see that curtain of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, you’ll feel secrets. Stroll past the mossy crypts of a New Orleans cemetery, and you’ll wonder what walks there at night. When you take a swamp ride and suddenly find yourself facing the green-gold gaze of an alligator, it’s almost impossible not to imagine what else those dark waters might be hiding.

This is the world of my novel, and I often feel that I did not really choose it as my setting at all. It chose me.

Louisiana came to me the same way that it appears to my protagonist: in a dream.

I was sitting in a rowboat across from a young boy, surrounded by forbidding swampland. The child told me his name and age. Let me tell you how I died, he said, and when I awoke, I could not shake his horrible story from my mind.

I didn’t know then that I had stumbled upon the opening of a novel. In the thin, early morning light when all is quiet and everything seems possible, I began to wonder if perhaps this boy might be real, if he might be waiting for me somewhere in the Louisiana swamps.

The dream stayed with me for days, weeks, months. When the boy in the boat’s tale began to blend seamlessly with a tragic premonition my grandmother once had—then I knew I had the elements of a story. A boy, long missing. A grieving mother with premonitory dreams. A beautiful and sprawling Southern estate. A swamp that holds a terrible secret.

The only way to exorcise a story is to tell it.

I made three research trips in total. Husband in tow, I toured a trio of Louisiana plantation homes, cruised through the murky swamps, explored a handful of towns in Cajun country, and even experienced the joyful celebration that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mostly, I ate an appalling amount of food. Though each trip gave me new material, it was my first that most shaped the book.

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That April, I was newly pregnant. As the trip began, I was practically dancing at the thought of my impending motherhood—in stark contrast with the main character of my book, Charlotte, whose frightening dreams begin after the death of her young son.

Sometimes the stories we create echo faintly in our own lives.

Days later, I found myself in a New Orleans hospital, weeping as a gentle nurse informed me that I had miscarried. In the rawness of that moment, grieving what was really only the idea of motherhood, I came to understand my protagonist in a new way.

For me, Louisiana will always be a place of ghosts, of lost children. But it is also a hopeful reminder of the good that lies ahead. I haven’t forgotten that hospital and the baby that never was, but now I have another image of Louisiana to carry with me: my one-year-old son perched high upon his father’s shoulders, wide-eyed and joyful as he clutches a string of Mardi Gras beads.

That, I hope, is the Louisiana that I have captured in The Gates of Evangeline, a place of light and darkness and all the strange shadows in between.

A massive thank you to Hester for dropping by to talk about Louisiana and the inspiration behind her novel THE GATES OF EVANGELINE.

THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is published today (13th August). Here’s the blurb: “When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees – if she can make sense of them.

The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust – and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.”

To find out more about Hester Young pop on over to her website at www.hesteryoung.com/books/ and follow her on Twitter @HesterAuthor

And to check out THE GATES OF EVANGELINE on Amazon click here.

 

Guest Post: Talking about Locations – author Neely Tucker on the places featured in MURDER, D.C. and THE WAYS OF THE DEAD

 

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Author Nelly Tucker on March, 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Author Neely Tucker (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Today crime writer Neely Tucker is taking the reins of the CTG blog to talk about the real life places, and events, that have inspired his two recent books THE WAYS OF THE DEAD and MURDER, D.C. 

So, over to Neely …

“The Ways of the Dead” and “Murder, D.C.” are based on very real Washington neighborhoods with very real histories, and both novels are based on very real events.

“Ways” takes as its inspiration a real-life serial killer named Darryl Turner, who police say killed as many as nine women, most of whom were in the low-end drug trade. He killed all of them on or near a two-block long street called Princeton Place. It’s about two miles north of the U.S. Capitol. In the late 1990s, when the novel is set, this was a predominantly black neighborhood, in which older residents were middle class and took very good care of their homes, but were surrounded by drug dealers and crack houses (abandoned buildings where addicts get high).

The recent film, “The Butler,” about the long-time butler to several U.S. presidents, is about a man who lived in this neighborhood.

In 2000, as the court reporter for The Washington Post, I covered the initial proceedings against Turner. The contrasts of the neighborhood struck me, and that was the beginning of “Ways.”

“Murder” moves about four miles south, to a little-visited part of D.C. known as “Southwest.” Here’s your handy travel tip: D.C. is divided into four quadrants, with the U.S. Capitol acting as the dividing point. “Northwest D.C.” is the land north and west of the Capitol, and so on.

Southwest DC is a tiny quadrant, just south of the Capitol and quickly cut off by the Washington Channel or the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, there were at least two “slave pens,” or jails where enslaved African Americans were kept and sold, in the area.

If you go along the National Mall today, by the Air and Space Museum, you are less than two hundred meters from an antebellum slave pen. There was also a very large slave auction house just across the river, in Virginia. Again, if you saw the film “12 Years a Slave,” that’s where the man was actually first held.

So I created a fictional knob of land,  Frenchman’s Bend, imbued it with the combined histories of these nearby slave pens, and set it along the waterfront. It’s a cursed, gothic sort of place that no one wanted to touch after the Civil War, due to horrors that had gone on there. Think of it as an open-air haunted house.  By the late 20th Century, it’s a very unpleasant drug park, the most violent place in the most violent city in America — which D.C. really was at the time.

Murder, D.C. cover image

Murder, D.C. cover image

Welcome to the real estate upon which turns “Murder, D.C.,” and the fate of Sully Carter.

Huge thanks to Neely Tucker for stopping by to talk Locations.

MURDER, D.C. will be published in hardback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “When Billy Ellison, the son of Washington, D.C.’s most influential African-American family, is found dead in the Potomac near a violent drug haven, veteran metro reporter Sully Carter knows it’s time to start asking some serious questions – no matter what the consequences.

With the police unable to find a lead and pressure mounting for Sully to abandon the investigation, he has a hunch that there is more to the case than a drug deal gone bad or a tale of family misfortune. Digging deeper, Sully finds that the real story stretches far beyond Billy and into D.C.’s most prominent social circles.

An alcoholic still haunted from his years as a war correspondent in Bosnia, Sully now must strike a dangerous balance between D.C.’s two extremes – the city’s violent, desperate back streets and its highest corridors of power – while threatened by those who will stop at nothing to keep him from discovering the shocking truth.”

The Ways of the Dead cover image

The Ways of the Dead cover image

THE WAYS OF THE DEAD will be published in paperback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “The body of the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington, D.C. It is murder, and the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys from a notorious gang.

Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects that there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know. With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge due for a court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry, in spite of some very dangerous people telling him to shut it down.”

To find out more about Neely Tucker and his books hop on over to his website at www.neelytucker.com and follow him on Twitter @NeelyTucker

The hidden Blog Tour: Guest Post by Emma Kavanagh – The Psychology of Police Shootings

HIDDEN cover image

HIDDEN cover image

Today, I’m thrilled that the CTG blog is playing host to Emma Kavanagh’s hidden blog tour. With a PhD in Psychology, and a career working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel how to handle extreme situations, Emma’s used her expert knowledge to create hidden – a gritty, tense, page-turner of a book that will be published in hardback on 23rd April.

Here’s what the blurb says: “He’s watching. A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently. Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarty is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman – before it’s too late.

She’s waiting. To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety – both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks.”

Now, it’s over to Emma to find out more about The Psychology of Police Shootings – Attentional Spotlighting …

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through a crowded room. Your senses are assaulted with a cacophony of noise, voices, music, the scraping of a chair on tile. There is food cooking somewhere – you know because you can smell it. And that smell makes your stomach growl, the sound of it vanishing into the chaos that surrounds you.

Then you see something. A flash of metal.

You stare at it.

It can’t be.

A figure moves in front of you, but you don’t see who it is or what they’re doing, because all of your attention is focused on that flash of metal. You bob your head until you can find it again, your heart pounding. You tell yourself that it cannot possibly be.

Then you see it and your mouth goes dry.

He has a gun.

Once you have seen it, once your brain has run through identification options in order to positively identify that this thing in front of you is in fact a weapon, your adrenaline will kick in. The fight or flight reaction taking effect. Whatever else unfolds around you, your attention will be trapped, caught on the hook that is the weapon – the thing that could kill you.

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

It makes sense, doesn’t it? That evolution should design us to pay attention to things that can present a danger to us. We only have so many cognitive resources, and so when something threatening appears in our environment, we often experience what is known as attentional spotlighting – the focus on one particular object with the exclusion of everything else.

Now, imagine what this will mean for a firearms officer. We train them to look for weapons within their environment. Especially guns. A gun can kill them, not to mention the innocent civilians that surround them. BUT! Once they have spotted a gun, their next job is to keep their attention as open as possible. In other words, we’re trying to force them to fight back against the teachings of evolution. Because when your attention is focused on the gun alone, you may not see the child that is running towards you, directly into the line of fire. You may not see that there is another gun, this one closer, its owner with their hand on the grip.

We do this with training, by putting officers in high-stress situations and teaching them to countermand their own natural instincts. We train these officers over and over again, so that, when their lives are threatened, they are able to perform in a way that will save their own lives, and those of others.

A massive thank you to Emma Kavanagh for joining us today and for giving a glimpse into this specialist area of training.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK and for a sneaky peak at hidden hop over to Dead Good Books to read an extract … http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

And be sure to drop by next week to read our full review of hidden.

Also, make sure that you check out all the other fabulous tour stops taking place as part of the blog tour:

Hidden Blog Tour