Will Carver- Nothing Important Happened Today #BlogTour

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today. That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another. Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

Another day, another challenge, and another book that will prove exceedingly hard to review, being quite unlike anything else I have read this year. Here goes…

This is a beautifully structured book, moving the reader effortlessly between multiple characters and viewpoints drawing us deeper and deeper into the disturbing world of recruitment into cult, and the destructive consequences that arise. A multitude of victims pass through our consciousness as the book progresses from sharply contrasting walks of life, and as Carver interrogates the minutiae of each of these lives, it brings the reader to a heightened understanding of how a conceivably better exit plan is within their grasp. The book is tinged with a sadness and sense of hopelessness for many of the characters, but equally with some who ironically seem enlivened by the prospect of being involved in something they deem powerful and important, ending their lives on their own terms with seemingly little coercion. Carver cleverly conceals the source of this rapidly spreading cult, providing a knotty mystery for his readers as to how this small seed of destruction gathers such a momentum so quickly and so widely, and just what is the real motivation of its founder or founders? I loved the way that Carver focusses on a series of ordinary lives that will resonate with many readers, and the individual stories of dissatisfaction, underachievement, frustration, debt or emotional barrenness that overtakes their will to live with such devastating consequences.

Fuelled by Carver’s own authorial intervention on the disconnectedness of life in the modern age, dependent on the virtual world  of clicks and likes as our one-to-one human interaction is slowly being chipped away at, and the appeal of being part of something like a cult to renew the feeling of connectivity, the book provides a scathing indictment of the world we live in. Carver pummels our consciousness with his observations on life, poverty, cults, social media, even serial killers’ body counts (and how some of them got it so, so, wrong in their preferred killing methods!) the book progresses with a rhythm and cadence incredibly similar in feel to parts of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, with it’s equally dispiriting observations on life and conformity. We all recognise the dark nature of humanity, the undermining of human connection by a world we inhabit through screens, the division and inequality of society which undoes those less able to cope with its challenges, but is the lure of the cult really the best way to overcome these challenges? Yes, this book takes the reader to some very dark places, but as Carver underscores the book with his usual dark, mordant wit this makes the book an overall less gloomy affair than this review has probably led you to believe. An intelligent, morally questioning and challenging read, that raises issues of certainty and doubt in equal measure, and is all very scarily plausible indeed…

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

Missed a blog tour post? Catch up here:

Blog Tour- Joe Ricker- Guest Post- The Truth In Talking

joe-rickerTo coincide with the publication of his collection of crime stories, Walkin’ After Midnight, Joe Ricker has written a guest post on the very nature of being a writer, and how like Fight Club, it’s sometimes best not to talk about it…

The Truth in Talking

“Larry Brown taught me about writing by not talking about writing. When I moved to Mississippi and started working at City Grocery, I had no idea it was the “writer” bar. After a determined endeavor to move beyond a busboy and bar-back, I finally became a bartender who was trying to become a writer. At least at City Grocery there was a higher level of prestige as a bartender in a bar that catered to writers. That I was trying to be a writer made it all the more tempting to want to talk about it.

But I never talked to Larry Brown about writing because Larry Brown never talked to me about writing. I wanted him to, wanted him to mention it, maybe say: “I heard you’re trying to be a writer.” He didn’t, and I’m glad he didn’t. I think about that now, the embarrassment I feel even reflecting on the times that I wanted to talk about trying to write. Back then, I was only putting words on paper. Too many people believe that makes them a writer; that printing off the pages filled with letters and words and paragraphs is writing. Nothing is further from the truth. Anybody can do that. Not everybody who tries to be a writer can be a writer or will be a writer.

Being a writer is making the words yours, not the pages that they’re slapped against. So it doesn’t bother me that Larry Brown and I never talked about writing. I talked about my fly rod and fishing for brook trout in New Hampshire mountain streams. He talked about bass fishing in the murky waters of Mississippi. We drank Budweiser at the copper bar that was more of a home to me than any other place I’ve lived. I took shots of chilled peppermint schnapps while he sipped his at room temperature. I told him about getting my ass kicked by the cops behind the bar one night. He found that amusing.

In an interview, Larry said about his writing that at the very least it was honest. The truth isn’t always pretty, but sometimes around an ugly truth there’s a beautiful lie. And that’s the power of fiction, in being a writer. I rarely find the type of honesty in talking that I do in writing. And all I’ve ever wanted of my writing was some kind of truth, an honesty that will take a firm hold, like something that can’t be pulled easily from the ground and cast away like other garden weeds. I want my words rooted in the reader’s mind, and I don’t think that can be done unless it’s honest. When I knew Larry Brown I was just a bartender, so I kept my mouth shut about writing and got that man his beer.”

Joe Ricker is a former bartender for Southern literary legends Larry Brown and Barry Hannah. He’s driven a cab and worked in the Maine timber industry. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Rose & Thorn Journal, and The Hangover. Walkin’ After Midnight is his debut short story collection. He blogs at www.iceshack.wordpress.com and www.theopiate.wordpress.com 

 

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Raven’s review:

I’ve just had the pleasure of reading this collection of dark and compelling stories, seeped in retribution and revenge. Ricker delves deep into the underbelly of New England, with the same adept focus on characterisation and sense of place as writers such as Frank Bill and Daniel Woodrell, that you will find yourself completely immersed in the lowdown dirty lives that Ricker presents. I particularly enjoyed Ecdysis (the Greek for shedding of skin) where a silent man seeks retribution on his mother’s killer, and Closer, which unnerves and disturbs in equal measure, with a central protagonist of a seemingly mild-mannered librarian, drawn into a dark world.

All of Ricker’s stories in this collection are spare and uncompromising, but bring to bear the contrasting moods and characteristics of the humanity contained within them. The stories are littered with despair, brutality, and essentially flawed characters (largely due to environment and circumstance), but there are also glimmers of poignancy and even love, which make them all the more hard-hitting, but also emotionally real.  If you like your crime with a good slice of gritty and violent noir, and are ready to embrace the dark side of Ricker’s imagination, then this is the book for you, but don’t expect any happy ever after…

PRAISE FOR WALKIN’ AFTER MIDNIGHT:

Joe Ricker is a hard-boiled poet in the tradition of Charles Bukowski. He writes of lonely, scarred men, damaged women, and of haunted places we all know. These shorts are served straight up with no chaser. Like the best of noir, it’s about people with few options and often no way out. Highly recommended.”

Ace Atkins, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Forsaken and The Redeemers

Tough yet lyrical, bristling with hard-won wisdom, these stories knock you out of any comfort zone you may have found and into the red. Ricker knows people, violence and landscape. He knows truth, too. And these stories beat their fists like drums.”

Tom Franklin, New York Times Bestselling Author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

(With thanks to Eva at 280Steps for the ARC)

The Touched Blog Tour- Guest Post- Joanna Briscoe

 

Joanna BriscoeRaven Crime Reads is pleased to welcome Joanna Briscoe , whose latest novella Touched is out now.  Joanna is the author of Mothers and Other Lovers, Skin and the highly acclaimed Sleep with Me which was published in ten countries and adapted for television.

With her new book,  Touched, Joanna has produced an unsettling and gripping tale set in a small rural community in the 1960’s. Rowena Crale and her family have recently moved into an old house in a small English village. But the house appears to be resisting all attempts at renovation. Walls ooze damp. Stains come through layers of wallpaper. Ceilings sag. And strange noises – voices – emanate from empty rooms. As Rowena struggles with the upheaval of builders while trying to be a dutiful wife to her husband and a good mother to her five small children, her life starts to disintegrate. And then her eldest and prettiest daughter goes missing. Out in the village, a frantic search is mounted – while inside the house reveals its darkest secret: a hidden room with no windows and no obvious entrance. Boarded up, it smells of old food, disinfectant – and death…

Here’s Joanna to tell us more…

JoannaBriscoe_jalden“While I was writing my fifth novel, Touched – a story with a paranormal aspect commissioned by Hammer Books – one of the elements that most fascinated me was that the humans became nastier and the unexplained presences more benign as the novel progressed.

I hadn’t planned for it to work out that way, but though the reader’s tense focus remains on unexplained smells, stains, faces half seen at windows, and an ‘imaginary friend’, what’s really going on beneath that surreal, supernatural surface is that the living, breathing humans are wreaking havoc. The criminals of the piece are the Pollards, a benign seeming couple who undoubtedly do a lot of good and are much loved, but who think they can behave outside the law.

I also set the novel in 1963, when Britain was in time warp of 1950s culture, and when children were still allowed to roam the countryside. My younger characters are allowed a freedom and independence that only a ‘neglected’ child would be granted today, and so there is space and opportunity for dark acts.

The supposedly perfect Hertfordshire village of Crowsley Beck, with its bright grass green, its pretty children and lovely cottages is the setting, and again, I wanted to explore what happens beneath the surface of such an ideal place. The novel deals with physical beauty in terms of both place and person. One of the children, Jennifer, is spectacularly beautiful, but it is that very beauty that provides her downfall.

The crossover of crime and the supernatural was an interesting one for me as a writer. While the spectral suggestions play on minds – or are created by those minds themselves – the real criminals play with actual human lives, with disastrous consequences. Beauty is power, but it can also mean that people lace their frustrated fascination with punishment, with possession, and warp its innocence. Writing Touched made me plunge into some of the darker recesses of my mind and come up with events that surprised me….”

Touched by Joanna Briscoe, published by Hammer, is now out in paperback. To find out more visit Joanna Briscoe’s website at www.joannabriscoe.com . Follow her on Twitter @JoannaBriscoe