Raven Crime Reads Exclusive: An Interview With M. P. Wright – All Through The Night (J T Ellington Trilogy)

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083It’s an absolute pleasure to host an exclusive Q&A with M.P. Wright on the release of All Through The Night- the second book to feature the charismatic J T Ellington, and the atmospheric setting of 1960’s Bristol. With his first book, Heartman, longlisted for a CWA Dagger and having attracted widespread praise from reviewers and readers alike, there’s also the mouthwatering prospect of a forthcoming TV adaptation too. Today, Wright shares with us not only his thoughts on writing, the journey from page to screen and his influences, but also the lowdown on the world of the Mr J T Ellington himself…

heartmanHeartman was 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.

=_utf-8_B_I0FsbFRocm91Z2hUaGVOaWdodCAg4oCmLmpwZw==_=With the release of the second in the trilogy All Through The Night what is the indefatigable JT Ellington up to now, and which wrongs will he be attempting to right?

It’s the summer of 1966 and Ellington has set himself up in his Cousin Vic’s gymnasium and is eeking out a shabby living as an enquiry agent, debt collecting, divorce partitions and insurance work. He hates the work but does know what he really wants to do or what the future holds for him. Nursing a nasty hang-over he is approached by a shady administrator from a local orphanage to seek out a Jamaican GP and back street abortionist called Fowler who has stolen a number of death certificates of children previously in the care of the Walter Wilkins Children’s Home. JT is asked to find Fowler, retrieve the stolen documents and ask a simple question. “Where can the Truth be found?” It’s this strange question that leads Ellington on a journey across Bristol, the backwaters of Somerset and into the heart of darkness. Its essentially a chase story which expands on both the Heartman story and Joseph Ellington’s character.

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.

bristol It’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.

With the very visual and textured quality of your writing I was delighted to hear that Heartman has been optioned for TV. What has been your personal experience of the journey from page to screen and your involvement in bringing Ellington to a whole new medium?

Heartman has been option by World Productions, makers of BBC’s Line of Duty & The Great Train Robbery and ITV’s The Bletchley Circle. It’s been adapted by the BAFTA award winning playwright and dramatist, Tony Marchant for the BBC. Everything is looking fantastic. TV takes its time to get things on the money with a production like Heartman, and rightly so. The script, now in its third draft, is spot on and everyone involved has worked so very hard on bringing the book to life. It’s just a matter of time before we hopefully have good news for the TV guys, but it’s a patience game you have to play and you simply have to sit back and put your trust in the professionals. I have every faith that World will bring a fabulous drama. The script is, if I say so myself. Stunning!

It’s great 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 strikes 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 my books.

 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; 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!

RestlessCoffins-A-page-001 And so The Restless Coffins– the third of the trilogy beckons. Any teasers for us, and will this really be the final outing for this wonderful character?

I’d created the story arc of the Ellington series as a Trilogy. (As known as the Child Trilogy) The third book is called The Restless Coffins and sees JT return to his Barbados home to settle ‘family affairs’ and face both the organised crime lords and the array of corrupt police colleagues he’d once worked with. Since drafting that original trilogy, I am pleased to say that there will be a fourth book, The Rivers of Blood set in 1971 which I’ll start writing this autumn. I would not have return to JT’s world unless I thought the story was tight and I had something different to say with the characters. That’s certainly the case with The Rivers of Blood. I hope fans of the series will be pleased that my wily Bajan is getting a fourth outing. He’ll be a little older but still walking into the kind of unwelcome trouble he wished would leave him well along.

Life as an author in three words?

Bloody Hard Work!

Big thanks to Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions!

Mark Wright was born in Leicestershire in 1965. He was employed in various roles within the music industry before working as a private investigator. He retrained in 1989 and spent the next twenty years in the mental health and probation services in the UK, specialising in risk assessment. A self-confessed aficionado of film, music and real ale, and father of two beautiful daughters, Mark lives with his partner and their two Rottweiler dogs, Tiff and Dylan. Follow the author on Twitter @EllingtonWright

 

 

 

Tim Adler- Slow Bleed

Product DetailsA missing son.
A kidnapper who’s dead.
Nobody believes her.
Nothing will stop her.

Everything changes for Doctor Jemma Sands when she tries to save the life of a car crash victim rushed to A&E. The young woman, Toppy Mrazek, is pregnant. Jemma is faced with a terrible dilemma: either she can save the mother or the baby. Jemma saves the mother, a decision which has terrible consequences.

When Jemma’s five-year-old son Matthew goes missing, only Jemma believes that her vengeful patient has stolen her child. After all, how do you convince police to search for a dead woman, one who survived a car crash only to drown on holiday? As her world falls apart, Jemma realises she is the only one who can save her son. If somebody took your only child, how far would you go to get him back?

From its explosive opening chapter Slow Bleed grabs you by the throat and is entirely unwilling to relinquish its grip from that point on. Balancing the demands of both a thriller, and an exploration of the darker side of the medical profession and the lucrative world of the pharmaceutical business,  Tim Adler produces a tense and gripping crime read, in his first foray into the crime fiction genre.

I would have to say that this a genuine easy reading thriller, that as the story ebbs and flows, leading the reader in unexpected directions, you will fair whip through this. With the central character of Doctor Jemma Sands, a professional and steady woman of good character and a seemingly settled home life, Adler seems to take a genuine delight into uprooting everything she holds to be true and most treasured, and turning her world upside down. From her initial interaction performing a life saving operation on the mysterious Toppy Mrazek, Jemma’s life goes into tailspin, as she discovers an emotional connection between her duplicitous husband and Toppy, but most tellingly that Toppy is in no way, shape, or form the woman she appears to be, and will prove to be Jemma’s arch nemesis. As Toppy begins to malevolently influence all corners of Jemma’s comfortable life, our intrepid doctor must draw on all her resources to outwit her opponent, particularly when her child’s life is threatened. For me, this was the most successful aspect of the book, as Adler really seemed to tap into the female mentality and the ‘lioness’ instinct, that is demonstrated by both women. Although it is quickly evident that Toppy possesses a singularly devious and self assured character, that shapes and dictates her less than honourable deeds, it is interesting to see how Jemma grows in stature and strength, as she is thrust into a whole host of dangerous situations, and how those around her seek to manipulate her. As she is led down blind alleys, and placed in danger- particularly by those she puts her trust in- she begins to think outside her own complacent reality, and proves herself a more than worthy adversary to the troublesome Toppy- but who will come out on top?

With my normal honesty, I won’t pretend that the plot was without flaws and there were certain incidents that did require a little leap of faith by the reader, particularly in relation to a brief sojourn across the Channel, and sometimes a little too much reliance on slightly clunky coincidences. However, such is the breathless pace of this thriller, any small kinks in the general story arc can be forgiven to keep the action moving forward. As the reader’s empathy is aroused by our emotionally bruised and battered heroine,  you are quickly moved from chapter to chapter, to see the next twist in Jemma’s nightmare. A good page-turner overall.

Tim 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

David Jackson- Cry Baby

DJIt’s every mother’s nightmare – the abduction of her baby. That’s how it starts for Erin Vogel when she is attacked and left unconscious in her apartment. When she awakes, it is to find that Georgia, her six-month-old daughter, has been taken. But Erin is given a chance to get Georgia back. At an unthinkable price. Like most mothers, she has always said she would do anything for her child. Now the strength of that bond is about to be put to the ultimate test. And when her actions arouse the interest of a certain Detective Callum Doyle, one thing is inevitable: a confrontation that will be as explosive as it is unforgettable…

A real highpoint of the publishing year for me, is a new addition to David Jackson’s excellent Detective Callum Doyle series. But fear not, gentle (but criminally minded) reader, if you have not sampled the wares of Mr Jackson before, because Cry Baby proves an easy entry point into the pre-existing series, and then you can relish the experience of playing catch-up with the others. Everyone’s a winner…

The book grabs your interest from the get-go with a young mother, Erin Vogel, experiencing the nightmare scenario of the abduction of her baby, Georgia. To add to her general torment, she finds herself under the surveillance, both visual and audio, of the disembodied voice of her daughter’s abductor- a voice commanding her to kill six random strangers before midnight the following day. If she reneges on the deal her baby will die. Jackson ramps up the tension of this twisted mission in spades, as we bear witness to the utter mental and physical turmoil that this produces in Erin, and the fear and indecision she experiences in selecting her victims. Just how can she choose who deserves to die in order for her baby to live? This is not a premise for a story that I have encountered before and Jackson, to his credit, handles it beautifully, speeding up and slowing down Erin’s mission accordingly to keep the tension on a knife edge throughout, and I am revealing nothing more. You are in for a treat…

As I said, this is another book featuring Detective Callum Doyle, a smart-mouthed but commited New York cop, who displays all the quick-wittedness and moral integrity, that we relish in our cop protagonists. He’s not having a great day at the office, when news of these seemingly random killings break, juggling the needs of both this case and the appearance at the station of a man with Rainman abilities professing to have killed his mother. Doyle dubs him Albert, as in Einstein, and the additional narrative that develops from their interactions is both poignant and humorous, providing a sliver of light relief from the moral trials of Erin in the opposing storyline. Jackson, once again demonstrates the mordant and clever wit that his character Doyle is synonomous with, whether he be joshing on with his colleagues, or using his acerbic wit to frustrate his superiors. Its deftly handled and a real shining point of the book.

With the benefit of having read the three previous books, Pariah, The Helper and Marked, I am pleased to say that Cry Baby more than came up to scratch. I enjoyed the very singular and particular focus that this book had on one day in Doyle’s life, with less emphasis on his outside distractions. The plot was perfectly judged, both in content and pace, cut through with humour and a satisfying degree of violence! Oh- and there might be a twist or two along the way. Enjoy!

David Jackson is the acclaimed author of the crime thriller series featuring New York detective Callum Doyle. Pariah, his debut novel, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. It is published in the UK by Pan Macmillan, and various audio and foreign rights have been sold. Follow-up novels in the series are: The Helper, Marked, and Cry Baby. The Guardian newspaper said of David’s writing: ‘Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.’ More information about David and his novels can be found on his website at www.davidjacksonbooks.com where he can also be contacted. He goes under the name @Author_Dave on Twitter

Read Raven’s reviews here:

David Jackson– Pariah

David Jackson– The Helper

David Jackson- Marked