#BlogTour- A. L. Gaylin- What Remains of Me

gaylinJune 1980: 17-year-old Kelly Lund is jailed for killing Hollywood film director, John McFadden Thirty years later, Kelly is a free woman. Yet speculation still swirls over what really happened that night. And when her father-in law, and close friend of McFadden is found dead – shot through the head at point-blank range – there can only be one suspect. But this time Kelly has some high-profile friends who believe she’s innocent of both crimes…

Being a fan of contemporary American crime fiction, and particularly those featuring ‘damaged’ female protagonists, such as Jax Miller’s Freedom’s Child and Emma Cline’s The Girls , I’m incredibly pleased to report that the trinity is now complete with this truly compelling novel from A.L. Gaylin, What Remains of Me.

Front and centre of this tale of redemption, revenge and murder, is the figure of Kelly Lund, convicted of murder at a young age, but now having served 25 years for the crime, still battling with her readjustment to life on the outside. Lund is a powerfully constructed and multi-faceted character who gets under your skin, and toys with your empathy as the tale unfolds. Her naivety as a seventeen year old girl, finding herself enveloped in the starry world of Hollywood and its nefarious temptations, is beautifully balanced with our view of her post-incarceration, and the damage this has wreaked on her emotional make-up. The barren emotion and dark shadows of her marriage is set against the frail and tentative emotional connection she makes with her neighbour Rocky, as she struggles with her past actions coming to impact on her new life. I found the lines drawn between the teenage and adult Lund with those connected to her past and present lives, with some particularly nasty skeletons emerging from the closet, were never less than utterly believable, and emotionally engaging throughout. The frailty and imperfections of Lund, as she seeks to make sense of the deeds attributed to her, drive the plot on, and her surrounding cast of characters, and their own failings both in their actions towards her, and their own pernicious acts are constantly surprising, and sometimes deeply disturbing. Gaylin’s fearless and uncompromising eye on the world of celebrity, and those that grow up in its shadow with their attendant emotional problems, is crucial to the playing out of this twisted tale, and grips the reader as our alliances to the main players shifts and changes.

What I liked most about this book is the control of pace and reveal that Gaylin uses, echoing the central theme of the seedy underbelly of the Hollywood crowd, who lie at the centre of the book. There is a real sense of zoom and focal adjustment, as Gaylin seems to anticipate perfectly how closely to bring the reveals into focus, and when to leave the reader hanging slightly by pulling away from certain story strands at exactly the right time. and then bam, another twist socks you right in the kisser.

Equally, Gaylin’s description of location, offsetting the glamourous Hollywood world of Lund’s teenage cohorts, against her new existence in the barren desert flats is beautifully realised, and providing another surreptitious reference to the morally bankrupt excesses of the movie fraternity, against the cleaner moral life of frugality, and engagement with the natural world. There is also a wonderfully dispassionate style to Gaylin’s writing, so it feels that the moments of revelation and emotional intensity are slightly dampened down, to add to the overarching feeling of sadness that permeates the story. In this way, the book exhibits the twin attributes of a nod to the best of hardboiled noir, fused with the emotional sparseness and literary prowess of contemporary American fiction.

So with its blend of strong characterisation, assured plotting, attention to location, and moral ambiguity, What Remains of Me, ticked every single box for this reader. It loitered in my head for some while after finishing it, and that for me is further testament to how good it was. No hesitation in the Raven’s mind that this is one highly recommended read. Excellent.

 

 

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PRAISE FOR WHAT REMAINS OF ME
‘Completely absorbing with a knock-out twist’ – Harlan Coben
‘You’ll stay up late to read this’ – Laura Lippmann
‘Full of crackling energy and heartache’ – Megan Abbott
‘An exceptional book by an exceptional writer. Gaylin is an expert at acute emotional observation combined with seamless plotting. I adored this book.’  – Alex Marwood
 
 

A. L. Gaylin’s first job was as a reporter for a celebrity tabloid, which sparked a lifelong interest in writing about people committing despicable acts. More than a decade later, she wrote and published her Edgar-nominated first novel, Hide Your Eyes.
 
She’s since published eight more books, including the USA Today and international bestselling Brenna Spector suspense series, which has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Thriller awards and won the Shamus awards. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, daughter, cat and dog

(With thanks to Arrow Books for the ARC)

Catch up with, or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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Blog Tour- Exclusive Guest Post- Simon Toyne- ‘Solomon Creed Meet Leo’

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A big Hollywood extravaganza welcome to you all for day two of the Simon Toyne Blog Tour, celebrating the release of his gripping new thriller Solomon Creed. The Raven is particularly delighted to host an exclusive guest post by an author with stars in his eyes. Possibly. As long as Leonardo hasn’t heard about Cleethorpes…

“So this is how it happened.

Agent: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio wants to option Solomon Creed.’

Me: You’re kidding.’

Agent: ‘I am so not kidding.’

Me: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio?’

Agent: ‘Yes.’

Me: (long pause)

Agent: ‘He’s an actor.’

Me: ‘I know who he is.’

This is, more or less, what happened to me a couple of months ago.

41OgxOimpgL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I was standing in my living room, staring out of the window at the garden and trying to reconcile the utter domestic ordinariness of my situation with the words I was hearing. I felt sure my agent was about to crack up and say ‘only kidding!’, only my agent doesn’t do stuff like that, she’s very professional and not generally prone to Jackass style japery- so it had to be real. Except it couldn’t be. I was born in Cleethorpes. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t option books written by people from Cleethorpes. It just doesn’t happen.

After that initial, surreal phone-call it all went quiet for several loooong months while a contract was drawn up, argued over, re-drawn, argued over again and eventually signed. In all that time I carried the news around like a hot coal, desperate to show it to people, blow on it and say ‘look how it glows’ but instead I had to hold it tight in my hand, feeling the keen burn of it while pretending I wasn’t holding anything at all.

This became particularly frustrating in the run-up to publication, exactly the time you want to shine the brightest light you can at your book and say ‘look at this one, look at mine, someone really famous thinks it’s good, you need to buy this book and read it before Hollywood ruins it,’ but I couldn’t. I tried to tell myself that it wouldn’t happen, that something would go wrong, and that Hollywood does indeed ruin most books anyway so I was better off out of it. I even started working on an anecdote of how Leonardo Di Caprio ‘nearly’ optioned Solomon Creed, wondering if I could actually get a bit of mileage out of that instead, trying to phrase it in such a way that it didn’t end up sounding like my book had been considered and then ultimately rejected. But I never did quite the wording right in my head.

 

Green-Hollywood-Sign-Green-CelebritiesBut now the deal is done, or as done as it ever can be in Hollywood terms, and I can finally show you the red hot thing I’ve been carrying around all this time. The pragmatic side of me still knows that an option is just an option, and that Leonardo DiCaprio may change his mind, and that the option will elapse in a year’s time anyway (and that Hollywood tends to ruin books anyway). But that same voice is also whispering to me another truth now, and that is that books written by people from Cleethorpes don’t get optioned by A-list Hollywood superstars. So who knows. Stranger things have already happened.”

 

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Don’t forget to follow the rest of tour and find out more about the mysterious

Solomon Creed…

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