Tim Adler- Blog Tour 14-19th July- Surrogate out now…

Tim blog tour Delighted to take part in this week’s blog tour heralding the publication of Tim Adler’s second crime thriller Surrogate. Following Tim’s debut stand alone thriller Slow Bleed reviewed here  Surrogate is an equally tense psychological thriller focusing on the possible pitfalls of choosing the wrong person to bear your child. Not all dreams come true in a good way. Read on for an extract,  and Raven’s review follows…

EXTRACT

I climbed over a hillock and then dropped down onto the sand. Despite the fog, I could make out how bleakly beautiful it was. I started trudging across the corrugated moon landscape and dug my phone out of my waterproof.

She answered after the third ring. “It’s me,” I said. “I’m here. How will you find me?”

“Don’t you worry about that,” she replied. “Just keep walking. Are you sure you weren’t followed?”

“Yes,” I lied. “I’m alone.”

She ended the call, and I turned to face the way I had come. Blankness had already swallowed up the railway station and car park, and you could barely see your hand in front of your face. I kept on walking just as Mole had instructed me to. It had become eerily quiet. The only sounds were the suck of each footfall and the occasional plangent bark of a seagull high above my head. That and the sound of my breathing. I pictured us as figures in a painting she had shown me once, a flat Dutch landscape with two tiny people walking towards each other.

She emerged out of the fog as if somebody had breathed on glass. She was pushing our baby daughter in a buggy and was weighed down with a holdall she was carrying. My first instinct was to check whether Nancy was all right. Our darling baby was buttoned up against the cold, snuggled up in some kind of sleeping bag.

Emily, too, was zipped up, wearing a parka, and my heart thickened in surprise as she removed her fur-trimmed hood.

She had shaved all her hair off.

My wife was completely bald, and she was crying…

RAVEN’S REVIEW:

  surrogateHow much is your child worth? That’s the question Hugo and Emily Cox must answer when they get a ransom demand for their child – from Alice, the surrogate mother they paid to carry their baby. The police are helpless. No law has been broken — the baby belongs to their surrogate. And Hugo has a secret he’s keeping from his wife that makes their search even more desperate. Now Hugo and Emily must find their missing daughter… even if it costs them everything they own.

Having made the leap from established non-fiction author to thriller writer, Adler’s first book Slow Bleed was well received among the reviewing community and readers alike, and I enjoyed the debut. Admittedly in my opinion there were slight flaws with the first, but what is interesting with Surrogate is the noticeable growth of confidence, and more  fluid writing style in evidence here, making for a very readable and intriguing thriller.

The story revolves around the somewhat privileged son of a business entrepreneur, whose father’s grasping and ruthless business style, has caused trouble for the reputation of the family’s insurance business, and his heir apparent Hugo. On reflection, Hugo is not a particularly bad guy and it’s interesting to see how his his world is turned upside down by meeting the flighty, artistic Emily (or ‘Mole’), and how they begin to forge a future together. Due to a nasty twist of fate, that makes them unable to conceive a child naturally, they call on the services of a surrogate to complete their family. However, Hugo is soon to discover that the female of the species is deadlier, and infinitely more devious, than the male, as a series of violent events find him framed for murder and looking for answers. I am somewhat reluctant to reveal too much of the plot, as the gradual inclusion of well-placed reveals, and surprising revelations drive the narrative forward, and shift your perspective of who is good, and who is bad. The plot is controlled throughout, and I did enjoy the confusion and angst experienced by the hapless Hugo at the hands of these women. Yes, it could be said that the plot feels vaguely familiar, but I think that Adler manipulates the premise well, and this certainly did not impinge on my enjoyment of the book generally.

Overall, the characters are well-formed, and despite the less admirable facets of their personalities, I engaged with them throughout, even the ones imbued with scheming minds and general wickedness! I did feel varying degrees of sympathy with them all as the plot progressed, as their dark motivations and damaged psyches are brought to the fore. Even though I cottoned on to one character’s secret, the pace of the story and engaging writing style carried me along nicely to the conclusion, although out of sheer devilment, and to frustrate the reader I would have used the genuinely frightening, but beautifully described atmosphere of Chapter 38 as my closing chapter. See- you will all have to read the book now to find out why…

So all in all, an enjoyable thriller, and a good choice for a summer holiday read.

Surrogate is available to buy from Amazon

 

timTim Adler is an author and journalist who has written for Financial Times, The Times and the Daily Telegraph among others. His debut psychological thriller Slow Bleed went to number #1 in the Amazon Kindle psychological thriller chart. The Sunday Times called Tim’s latest non-fiction book The House of Redgrave “compulsively readable” while The Daily Telegraph gave it 5 stars. Tim’s previous book Hollywood and the Mob — an exposé of how the Mafia has corrupted the movie industry – was Book of the Week in The Mail On Sunday and Critic’s Choice in the Daily Mail. Tim is former London Editor of Deadline Hollywood, the US entertainment news website. Before that, he edited film trade magazine Screen Finance — described by Evening Standard as “highly influential” – as well as TV business magazine New Media Markets. He regularly features as a pundit on BBC Radio 4′s Today, BBC Breakfast and Sky News. Follow on Twitter @timadlerauthor

M. J. Arlidge- Eeny Meeny

eenyThe girl emerged from the woods, barely alive. Her story was beyond belief. But it was true. Every dreadful word of it. Days later, another desperate escapee is found – and a pattern is emerging. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned then faced with a terrible choice: kill or be killed. Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind? Detective Inspector Helen Grace has faced down her own demons on her rise to the top. As she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors – living calling cards – who hold the key to the case. And unless she succeeds, more innocents will die . . .

CONTAINS SPOILERS- Already having been selected for Richard and Judy’s summer book club and attracting a great deal of attention from press reviews and crime bloggers alike, I rose above my normal resistance to heavily hyped books as debut novel, Eeny Meeny- the first of a projected series- really appealed to me.

Set in and around the city of Southampton, a typical inner city, Eeny Meeny quickly reveals itself as a serial killer thriller/police procedural. Revolving around a series of double kidnappings, where one captive is called upon to make a literally life or death decision, Eeny Meeny grabs you by the throat from the opening chapter, and ramps up the terror meter inch by inch as the book progresses. As each duo is imprisoned in increasingly dark and claustrophobic locales, their lives hinge on the moral dilemma presented to them. However, as a slight weakness in the plot, I felt that there could have been a more interesting moral struggle in their psyches, as to my mind with the dislikeability of some of the captives I found the decisions rather clear cut. Also it occurred to me that one means of despatch could have been used to despatch two at the same time, recalling the poisoned berries episode in The Hunger Games, and could have frustrated our evil kidnapper’s cunning plan.

Maybe I was just overthinking, and unfortunately to further mar my enjoyment I was constantly reminded of another crime book, which used an incredibly similar premise. Overall, however, there was enough gore and violence to sate my imagination with some terrific graphic scenes, but as I felt little or no empathy with the captives’ plight, I began to lose interest in them as people, and was much more interested in which gruesome manner they would eventually meet their maker. I also found the final double kidnapping a bit too well signposted, and the last victim’s fate woefully predictable, as it is a well-used tenet that any main protagonist struggling with their inability to form an emotional connection with anybody, does eventually mange to do so, but it all ends in tears. Also, when the identity of the kidnapper was revealed, I did chuckle to myself as I had, when not long into the book, said to a fellow reader, ‘Oh, does ___ have a ___ as this would be a blindingly obvious reason for these kidnappings?” Ho hum. So all in all, a good writing style in terms of atmosphere, location and tension, let down by an all too tenuous plot.

Having already been quite critical of the plot, I feel it would be unfair to lay into the characterisation too much, although personally I did find the main police protagonist, DI Helen Grace, a little strained. I think that the level of emotional damage that she encapsulated did feel a wee bit unbelievable, and following the well worn path of emotionally crippled detectives with addictive personalities I grew tired of her quite quickly. In my opinion, as the plot progresses it becomes abundantly clear (a) why she is like this (b) why she needs to be like this, to necessitate the outlandish plot arc and (c) her life is not going to get any better any time soon. I didn’t like her particularly, but by the same token, I didn’t enjoy not liking her, which you do sometimes get pleasure out of, with dislikeable characters. Her fellow police cohorts were neither here nor there, and I felt a compulsion on behalf of the author to tap into well-worn cliches in terms of their home lives and personal relationships. In such a competitive publishing market , I suppose there is much to be said for using the familiar and well-used tropes of a successful sub genre, so a clever move on the part of Arlidge, but there was a rigidness and, dare I say it, wooden feel to most of the characters.

Because I have a habit of not reviewing books as soon as I have read them, I do think long and hard as to how much I have enjoyed a book, and equally if I would recommend it to others. I can see that Eeny Meeny is a great choice for Richard and Judy, in much the same way as S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, as I think it will divide reader’s opinions and certainly has many points both good and bad to discuss (as I have found out discussing with others who have read it). However, I was not entirely convinced by Eeny Meeny, so am afraid that it is not at the top of my list of recommends, despite what Dick and Jude say…

Read more reviews of Eeny Meeny at:

Crime Fiction Lover

Liz Loves Books

Material Witness

Judging Covers

(With thanks to Penguin for the ARC)

This is All Around the World*

Originally posted on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...:

MCHello, All,

One of the best things about the online crime fiction community is sharing books we’ve loved, and getting ideas from others’ top reads. In that spirit, I’d like to remind you if you did know, and tell you if you didn’t, about Petrona Remembered. 

Petrona Remembered is a blog dedicated to the memory of the late and much-missed Maxine Clarke, a true friend of the crime fiction community. The aim of the blog is to develop a resource of great crime novels that crime fiction fans can use to broaden their horizons, and that those new to the genre can use to get started on their own crime-fictional journeys. I’ve no doubt Maxine would have been pleased at the idea of a blog that gathers posts by crime fiction lovers from all over the world.

Now that you’ve got the background, here’s some exciting news about…

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Blog Tour- John Burley- No Mercy

No Mercy Blog BannerTo promote the release of debut thriller No Mercy (US title The Absence of Mercy) Raven Crime Reads is pleased as punch to bring you an exclusive extract from this harrowing tale of suspense, brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit town. Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay this is a page turning thriller that will keep you hooked…

EXTRACT

This is not the beginning.

Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T-shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike-bound feet slapping rhythmically on the serpentine path he weaves through the late afternoon foot traffic. He is perhaps fifteen – not truly a young man yet, but certainly well on his way – and he walks with the energy and indifference of one who possesses the luxury of youth but not yet the experience to appreciate its value, or its evanescence.

The predator watches the young man turn a corner, disappearing temporarily from view behind the brick exterior of an adjacent building. Still, he maintains a respectable distance, for although he has an instinct for how to proceed, he now relinquishes control to something else entirely. For as long as he can remember he has sensed its presence, lurking behind the translucent curtain of the insignificant daily activities of his life. The thing waits for him to join it, to embrace it – observes him with its dark and faithful eyes. But there are times – times like this – when it waits no longer, when the curtain is drawn aside and it emerges, demanding to be dealt with.

The young man in the black T-shirt reaches the end of the street and proceeds across a small clearing. On the other side of the clearing is a modest thatch of woods through which a dirt trail, overgrown with the foliage of an early spring, meanders for about two hundred yards until it reaches the neighbourhood just beyond.

The predator picks up his pace, closing the distance between them. He can feel the staccato of his heart kick into third gear, where power wrestles fleetingly with speed. The thing that lives behind the curtain is with him now – has become him. Its breath, wet and heavy and gritty with dirt, slides in and out of his lungs, mixing with his own quick respirations. The incessant march of its pulse thrums along eagerly behind his temples, blanching his vision slightly with each beat. Ahead of him is the boy, his slender frame swinging as he walks, almost dancing, as if his long muscles dangled delicately from a metal hanger. For a moment, watching from behind as he completes the remaining steps between them, the predator is struck by the sheer beauty of that movement, and an unconscious smile falls across his face.

 

john-author-photoDuring his undergraduate years, John also trained as a paramedic/firefighter and served for many years in that capacity in a busy 911 jurisdiction in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C.  He later completed a Master of Science program in medical pathology at University of Maryland, Baltimore and went on to attend medical school, earning his Doctor of Medicine from Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, Illinois.  He then returned to Baltimore to complete an emergency medicine residency training program at University of Maryland/Shock Trauma Center.

After graduating from residency, John moved with his family to California, where he began work on his first novel.  Four years later, the manuscript was purchased by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.  The Absence of Mercy  was published in November of 2013.  It received the National Black Ribbon Award in recognition of an author who brings a fresh voice to suspense writing.

John and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay area where he works as an emergency department physician.  He is also hard at work on his next novel. Visit John’s website here: John Burley.com

Dan Smith Blog Tour- The Inspiration Behind Red Winter

Dan Smith Blog Tour (2)

Delighted to welcome Dan Smith to Raven Crime Reads to mark the release in paperback of Red Winter which transported readers to the icy wastes of 1920′s Russia. Kolya has deserted his Red Army Unit to return to his wife and children, but finds his home village silent and empty. The men have been massacred in the forest and the women and children have gone. In this remote, rural, Russian community, the folk tales mothers tell their children take on powerful significance. The terrifying legend of Koschei, The Deathless One, begins to feel very real, as Kolya discovers as he embarks on a quest to find his wife and children, and tries to outrun the dark secrets of his past. Here, Dan explains the inspiration for this haunting and atmospheric thriller…

It’s not always easy to explain exactly where a story has come from. Often it starts with the smallest idea, not much more than a fleeting thought that takes root like a seed carried on the wind. But once it settles, it puts out its web and catches other ideas that happen to be blown its way. The seed of Red Winter came to me on the icy breeze that whipped across the snow in The Child Thief. There’s a moment in that novel when the main character is alone in the woods and remembers the stories about Baba Yaga that his mother told him when he was a child; stories his wife repeats to his own children; stories that encouraged me to delve a little deeper into the strange world of Russian folk tales.

I read many of these skazkas, about peasants making deals with the devil, corpses coming to life, cheaters being punished, witches, and lucky drunkards, but there was one particular character who stood out. Koschei the Deathless. He is a terrible, demonic figure who cannot be killed; a creature who steals the hero’s wife, forcing him to endure a series of arduous tasks in order to rescue his beloved. Koschei stayed with me, a shadow lying locked behind a closed door in my thoughts, until my own children turned the key and let him out.

One afternoon I was walking in some local woods with my family when my son suggested we detour from the track. We ventured away from the other walkers and pressed on into the thicker trees. We found ourselves deeper in the woods, where the gnarly trunks grew close together, and when the sun began to set, the cold air darkened and the world felt like a more dangerous place. Of course, I remembered the skazkas and, getting into the spirit of the spooky woods, I told my son and daughter about Baba Yaga and about Koschei the Deathless. Well, like Luka in The Child Thief, my skin began to prickle at the thought of there being something out there, watching through the trees, and I was relieved when we finally came out of the woods onto the path leading back to our car. Safe and sound.

But what if I had been alone? And what if I had returned home to find my family gone? What if Koschei the Deathless had whisked them away?

Raven’s review:

untitledFollowing his remarkable Ukranian set thriller The Child Thief, Smith returns with another foray into the dangerous and inhospitable territory of Eastern Europe, transporting the reader to the icy wastes of Central Russia 1920. From the very first page you are instantly filled with a sense of dread observing through a returning soldier’s eyes, a village lying still and silent with only the sounds of nature to fill the void. As Nikolai Levitsky observes the Marie-Celeste like environs of his former home, it becomes clear that something evil has cast its pall over the village; the men have been slaughtered and along with these men’s families,  Levitsky’s wife and children are nowhere to be found. Could this really be the work of Koschei, the Deathless One, a terrifying figure from Russian folklore or  is Levitsky’s fate tied to the consequences of a country in the grip of political and military terror…

What strikes me most about the book is the breadth and depth of Smith’s depiction of location and atmosphere, as we follow Levitsky’s cross country quest in search of his family. As a reader your senses are assaulted at every turn with the harsh and uncompromising nature of the landscape, chilling you to the core as the weather and terrain hamper Levitsky’s progress. In my naivety I believed that there are only so many ways of describing the biting conditions of a Russian winter, but Smith consistently implements such vivid descriptions of these surrounds that further embed themselves in your mind, constantly enriching your reading experience. Likewise, the grim realities of survival within these conditions are unflinchingly described throughout, so much so that you cannot look away and that touch on your humanity as to how people can carve a life for themselves with so much poverty and fear. Not only do they have to survive the daily grind, but find themselves unwitting victims in a turbulent and blood-stained period of Russia’s political history.

No character embodies these characteristics more than Nikolai Levitsky himself, a soldier and officer, now compelled to desert, who is cast into an emotional turmoil by the death of his brother, the disappearance of his family, and a man striving to come to terms with and escape from the horrors he has witnessed in the theatre of war. Levitsky is an essentially moral man, beginning to question his deepest held beliefs and assuming the role of a questing knight as his journey unfolds, and by his interactions with those the damaged souls he encounters along the way; Anna, a young girl who has lost her family, and with Tanya and Lyudmila, two fearless women who have their own reasons for tracking the Koschei. As their courses collide with the vestiges of Levitsky’s previous military life, there are powerful scenes of violence and heartbreak that are truly haunting, and which typify not only the propensity for immoral actions in a war torn country, but what betrayals people must stoop to in order to survive.

With its spare and uncompromising portrayal of  the historical period, the intertwining of perfectly placed references to traditional Russian folklore, the harsh environment that chills you to the marrow throughout, and a cast of characters that cannot fail to engage the reader, Dan Smith has produced another remarkable thriller.

Growing up, Dan Smith followed his parents across the world to Africa, Asia and South America. Now living in Newcastle with his family, his writing is still inspired by all corners of the globe. His debut novel DRY SEASON won critical acclaim and an array of prize nominations, including a shortlisting for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. His second novel DARK HORIZONS was followed in 2012 by THE CHILD THIEF and in 2014 by THE DARKEST HEART. Find out more about Dan at  www.dansmithbooks.com Follow on Twitter @DanSmithAuthor

 

International Crime Month- Launch Event- Waterstones Piccadilly July 9th 2014

Calling all crime fiction lovers!

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Leading independent publishers Serpent’s Tail, Melville House, Europa Editions and No Exit Press get together to bring you International Crime Month, a celebration of one of the most vital and socially significant fiction genres of our time.

The launch event will take place at Waterstones’ Piccadilly on the 9th of July at 7pm.

Authors Mallock (Europa) and Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail) will discuss their writing with Barry Forshaw, author of Euro Noir (No Exit Press) and one of the country’s foremost authorities on crime fiction, and with Serpent’s Tail founder Pete Ayrton.

Join us for a glass of wine and a unique opportunity to meet some of Europe’s most twisted criminal masterminds….

More info on Waterstones’ website.

The event is free but places are limited: please reserve your place in store, via 020 785 12400 or email piccadilly@waterstones.com.

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An Interview With M. P. Wright- Heartman

Mark-Wright-Full-195x260Heralded as the crime debut of the year and cited as The Devil In A Blue Dress meets Chinatown, Heartman certainly brings something new and fresh to the British crime writing scene. Set in Bristol 1965, Wright has created not only a compelling and thought-provoking thriller, but introduces the world to Joseph Jermaine ‘JT’ Ellington, an ex-cop with a tragic past and a broken heart. Ellington, however, soon discovers that Bristol in the Sixties is far from the Promised Land, and when his investigative services are called upon when a vulnerable young woman disappears, JT faces hostility not only from the local community but also the unpleasant experience of a harsh British winter. Calling on his wits and his not-so-honest cousin for help, JT finds himself adrift in a murky world of prostitution and kidnapping where nobody can be trusted…

Delighted to host this Q&A with author M.P. Wright who reveals a little more about the world of JT Ellington, the allure of revisiting Bristol’s shady past, and his own writing influences. My review of Heartman follows the Q&A…

Heartman is your debut novel introducing us to the world of Joseph Tremaine ‘JT’ Ellington. Can you give us a quick synopsis of the plot to introduce readers to the atmosphere and setting of the book?

Bristol, 1965. Joseph Tremaine “JT” Ellington, an ex police colonial police officer with a tragic past and a broken heart, has left his native Barbados in search of a better life in the Mother Country. But Bristol in the Sixties is far from the Promised Land and JT faces hostility from both the weather and the people. Then local mogul Earl Linney approaches him. He needs JT’s help finding Stella Hopkins, a young deaf and mute West Indian woman who has gone missing, and who the police aren’t interested in searching for. With rent due, and no job, JT has little option than to accept.

Your characterisation is incredibly well-realised and the life you breathe into them- a real mix of the entertaining, the tormented, the bad to the core, or the heroic. Your main character Joseph in particular is a wonderfully multi-faceted character. From which corner of your imagination or life experience did you conjure him from and others within the piece?

Ellington as a character came to me very easily. I’d mapped out a huge back story and had a moleskine notebook containing his family history, much of it created from my own imagination, some of it garnered from research into family histories on the island of Barbados. I’ve had the luck to travel to the Caribbean and many of the Southern states of the USA, especially Louisiana. I wanted to hang around JT’s persona a strong layer of credibility and a sense of the real whilst giving the readers a feel for an ‘Old Age’ detective, that harks back to the times of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. I say to my daughters that JT is the hero I could never be, but his Cousin Vic, is in some ways (I’m shamefaced to admit) very much me. His humour and no nonsense attitude certainly hark back to my own rather irascible personality. Carnell and Loretta are very much ‘Real People’ who I have known for a long time. They know who they are but I’m not telling. They are two strong characters in the book that I’m very proud of.

6216382-largeIt’s always a brave authorial decision to set a book outside of the present era. What focused your attention on this era in particular and how did the idea to use Bristol (instead of the much favoured setting of 1960‘s London) present itself?

Of all the questions I’ve been asked about Heartman, ‘Why Bristol?’ is the one that is sprung on me most. Originally I’d tried to set the book here in my home town of Leicester, but logistically and on scale, it simply didn’t work. Bristol is a big and beautiful city. Its also strong connected to the West Indies in a commercial and commerce sense, most certainly historically for all the wrong reasons; slavery being the foremost. Heartman is set in St Pauls which sits just outside of Bristol city centre. It was ghettoised early on by greedy, white landlords who packed in new immigrants from the West Indies who had travelled thousands of miles to the mother country seeking work and the promise of ‘Streets That Were Paved with Gold’. What they got was far from the truth. Cramped tenement homes, badly paid jobs nobody else wanted and not always the warm welcome that the British political state had promised them either. Bristol was the right place for JT to make his new home. I wanted to put him in a world that was both familiar and alien. Ellington understands how British society works to some degree, he’s witnessed firsthand the White ‘Officer Class’ of the Barbadian Police Force in which he used to serve but at the same time is knocked for six by a country that is far removed from the Caribbean life he has led.

Obviously the subject matter and setting of the book required a degree of research on your behalf. How did you go about this and did you have anyone in your immediate circle whose experience of this period you could draw on directly?

Firstly, lots of first hand interviews, speaking to the residents of St Pauls today, especially those who lived there in the 1960’s. Their insight was invaluable. I spent time in the pubs that both JT & Vic frequent in Heartman, talking to locals, getting a feel for a specific time and place, the patois, the food and drink. St Pauls is a very special place, I love it. My partner and her family are from Bristol, their lilting Somerset accents helped when I was writing about West Country characters. I’ve been lucky to travel across Somerset which is a beautiful county. There such a lot of scope for the future novels in respect of plot and setting that can be drawn from the region.

 I was delighted to see the huge influence on and the respect you have of, James Lee Burke, and also your mention of Walter Mosley. What is it about these two writers that really strike’s a chord with you, and is it relevant in any way that they are both American?

Both James Lee Burke and Walter Mosley have influenced my own writing immensely. I could waffle on endlessly about the reasons, but to be concise, both writers offer up to the reader an important quality in their main characters of Robicheaux and Rawlins – and that’s integrity. Yes, both men are flawed but they are very real on the page and I wanted to emulate that in my own characters, flaws and all. Burke and Mosley’s characters are not heroic and JT Ellington is far from being a hero, but there is a heroic nature that develops in the man which is unfurled by his strong moral compass. He’s a man who is forced into a job he really doesn’t want. Desperation and necessity are what dictates his decisions as Heartman’s story develops. The relevancy of the American author angle is that I wanted to bring some of the ‘Man Alone’ feel to the current British Crime Fiction arena. Not in the ‘Maverick’ detective sense of the police procedural but as in the Hammett/Chandler/MacDonald world weary and cynical feel. I hope I’ve created that kind of vibe in Heartman.

If you can put it into words how would you describe the journey through embarking on the first sentence of the book to the brink of publication?

A long, hard slog… And I’ve been very lucky. Publishing is a glacially slow process at times. Any writer out there expecting to find success overnight is going to be in for a real shock. There are a lot of knockbacks at first and nothing good happens overnight. As a writer you have to believe in your material, hone down the prose and have great characters that readers will want to fall in love with. I was also blessed to meet my literary agent; Philip Patterson of the Marjacq Agency in London. Phil has guided me through the good and bad. I’ve also been aided by some great writers who have been so supportive to my work over the past 18 months; Peter James, Emyln Rees, Mari Hannah, Anne Zouroudi, Stav Sherez, Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen and Luca Veste. They all deserve a mention and a big drink!

With a huge degree of relief it looks like there may be further adventures for JT. Is there another book in the pipeline?

There certainly is! It’s called ‘All Through the Night’ – though that may change. I’m currently editing the final draft. The first 20 chapters are with my amazing editor; Karyn Millar over at Black & White, she’ll be scrutinizing JT’s next moves for me whilst I polish the last part. I’m really pleased with the feel of the new book. It’s bigger in scale logistically and a little pacier, but it retains the atmosphere and tone of Heartman. Familiar faces return and there are some great new characters who are introduced. During the summer I have two TV scripts to complete; ‘Empty Arms’ and a Spanish Civil War drama, ‘Skimming Stones across the Ebro’. Then in the spring of 2015 I’ll set to work on Ellington’s third novel. All I can say about that is that J T will be returning to Barbados to face old demons. I’ll keep you posted.

On the cusp of what looks like being a fairly decent summer, and without the distractions of the sporting calendar, what books are you hoping to tackle on your summer/holiday reading schedule?

I’m a massive Bond fan, so William Boyd’s ‘Solo’ will be dipped into, Alan Furst’s ‘Midnight in Europe’ and Jim Burke’s new stand alone, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ coming out in September will be on my bedside for sure.

 

Mark Wright was born in Leicestershire and worked in the music industry before changing career to become a Private Investigator. He retrained in 1989 and spent the next twenty years in the mental health and probation services in the UK. A self-confessed aficionado of real ale, Mark was recently named ‘Writer In Residence’ at his local pub, The Salmon Inn Free House, as part of an initiative to encourage discussion amongst writers, readers and real ale fans. Heartman is Mark’s debut novel and is published by Black & White Publishing 1st July 2014

Raven’s Review

HEARTMAN-final-170x260Always keen to bang the drum for debut crime authors, I was more than intrigued by the premise of this one by M. P. Wright. Mentally riffling through my crime knowledge, I failed to think of a single book that had used the backdrop of 1960′s Bristol, and equally that focused on the significant changes on its demographic following the influx of immigrants to Britain in this period. My curiosity was piqued and, like many other reviewers, I was more than pleasantly surprised by Heartman.

The absolute stand out feature of this book is the characterisation of not only the highly credible and empathetic JT Ellington, whose investigative services are called upon when a vulnerable young woman disappears, but unusually every character no matter how large or small their part in the book. With Wright’s pitch perfect descriptions of their appearance, speech, temperament, humour and their interaction with others, every character reaches out from the page with clarity and most importantly believability. Ellington is a masterful creation, and although I did doubt the weighty comparison to Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, he is revealed as a man of contrary mood, a strong moral core, yet haunted by the tragic events of his past. I loved the interplay between him and his cohorts, in particular his colourful and avuncular cousin Vic, a loveable rogue and a bon vivant of the highest order, all too keen to get sucked into Ellington’s investigation and to get a piece of whatever action follows. Equally, the slow-witted but faithful friend Carnell and his sassy wife Loretta, provide another source of comic relief, in what is, all told, a dark and sordid narrative. The balance between the lighter moments and the seedy nature of Ellington’s investigation is perfectly weighted throughout, and there are some moments in the story that do cause you to take a breath with the intensity of emotion that accompanies the gradual reveals and heightened violence of the plot.

The resonance and realisation of this cultural and social period is first class, with Wright effortlessly recreating the sights, sounds and atmosphere of not only the 60′s but of a harsh Bristolian winter. I loved the cranky responses of the main characters to the inclement weather, compared to the balmy tropical climates that they have left far behind them. The specific references to the time period are spot on and the responses and frustrations of immigration from both sides of the fence are balanced throughout. Supported by the flowing cadence of his character’s speech that rhythmically carries you along, as well as an utterly gripping plot, suffused with vile characters, sordid goings-on and a good smattering of violence, Heartman does not disappoint on any level. A strong contender for a place in my Top 5 of the year and a remarkable debut.

(With thanks to Black & White Publishing for the ARC)

 

June Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)June has been a pretty terrific month all round it has to be said with a host of different crime reads and a little bit of acclaim!  Not only am I celebrating my two year anniversary  of Raven Crime Reads, but also thanks to Margaret at the Bleach House Library was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger award now proudly displayed on my site. Thanks also to all the bloggers and authors who have tweeted, and left such lovely messages in response to this- I’m feeling the love! I also took part in Marina Sofia’s series at Finding Time To Write where she asked me some great questions about what started my passion for all things crime- it was fun! Not only has June unveiled another selection of great crime reads, but July is shaping up to be equally busy with my involvement in four blog tours and a teetering stack of excellent new releases to get stuck into, as well as the distractions of a certain football competition in Brazil.  I won’t dwell on the continuing issues with my eye, but rest assured, even visually challenged the reviews will continue. Have a good month everybody!

Raven reviewed in June:

Doug Johnstone- The Dead Beat

William Shaw- A House of Knives

Steve Mosby-The Nightmare Place

Dwayne Alexander Smith- Forty Acres

Owen Laukkanen- The Professionals

Jean-Luc Bannalec- Death In Pont Aven (www.crimefictionlover.com)

John Harvey- Darkness, Darkness (www.crimefictionlover.com)

John Gordon Sinclair- Blood Whispers (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Stephen Booth- The Corpse Bridge (www.crimefictionlover.com)

And so to Raven’s Book of the Month which caused the usual headache with such an enjoyable selection of reads this month. The final outing for Charlie Resnick in John Harvey’s Darkness, Darkness was both a step back in time, and a poignant close to a wonderful series. Once again, William Shaw delighted me with A House of Knives, the second in his sixties-based series which opened with A Song From Dead Lips and this new one carried the momentum of the first again featuring the wonderful characters of DS Breen and TDC Tozer.  I was also completely mesmerised by Dwayne Alexander Smith’s debut novel, Forty Acres, which provided a wholly original spin on the emotive issue of slavery, in both shocking and thought-provoking fashion. A book I will be talking about and recommending for a good while I suspect.

 

picture1_0However, this month I am plumping for Doug Johnstone- The Dead Beat, which not only took me back to the delights of my record collection, with its brilliant musical references, but also proved a dark psychological thriller, that captured my imagination and was highly emotive throughout. Loved the Edinburgh setting, the characters, the shifting timelines,  and the powerful yet sensitive handling of the effects of death and mental instability on familial relationships. A great read.