Fierce Kingdom Blog Tour Extract by Gin Phillips

This is my second post for the Fierce Kingdom blog tour, by Gin Phillips. I am excited to share this exclusive extract for you below and it is a book I thought was gripping from start to finish. You can read my review of this novel here.

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*Exclusive Extract – Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips*

5:23 p.m.

Joan scans the sand pit for any forgotten plastic men, and then she takes Lincoln’s hand and heads down the path leading out of the woods. She wonders when he will stop wanting to hold her hand, but for now they seem equally happy with the arrangement. In less than twenty steps the trees have opened up – it’s only an illusion, the seclusion of this place – and there’s the sound of the waterfall splattering on the rocks in front of the otter exhibit.

The otter is one of their favorite animals, one of the few that will still pull Lincoln from his stories. The two otters have a huge cavern‐styled enclosure with faux‐rock overhangs, and the animals curve and flip and dive in a greenish pool behind a wide glass wall. The rocks jut over the walkway, and a waterfall rushes over visitors’ heads and spills down to a turtle pond thick with lily pads and reeds and some sort of purple‐flowered stalk. The wooden footpath that winds over the pond has always struck her as the prettiest part of the Woodlands – but now it seems only empty.

Lincoln laughs next to her. ‘Look at the otter. Look how he swims.’ He still struggles with words ending in ‐er. ‘Ott‐o,’ he says, instead of ‘otter’. Lex Luth‐o. Score a goal in socc‐o.

‘I like his paws,’ she says.

‘He has paws? Not fins? Real paws like a dog or finger paws like a monkey?’

She is tempted to stop and point out the anatomy of otters. This is what she wants most for him, maybe, to see that life is full of astonishing things, to know that you should pay attention – Look, it’s beautiful, he said, staring into a puddle of gasoline in the zoo parking lot – but they don’t have time. She gives his hand a tug, and he comes easily enough, though his head is slow to turn away from the otter. As they step onto the wooden bridge, lily pads to either side of them, she wishes that they would see someone else, some other chattering fam‐ ily also running late. Not that it’s unusual to have the path to themselves. They often see no one else all the way to the exit in the afternoon, and they are pushing it closer than usual to closing time. She picks up her pace.

‘Want to race?’ she asks. ‘No.’

‘You want to skip?’

‘No, thank you.’

He plods along.

She sometimes wonders if his determination not to do a thing is in direct proportion to the amount of enthusiasm she shows for it. He continues meandering along the bridge, pausing to shrink back from a gnat or to stare down at a speckled koi. He comes to a complete stop to scratch his chin. When she asks him to hurry, he frowns, and she knows by the look on his face what he will ask for.

‘I want you to carry me,’ he says.

‘I can’t carry you all the way to the car,’ she says. ‘You’re getting too big.’

She watches his lip slide out.

‘Here’s my compromise,’ she says, before this escalates and slows them down further. ‘I’ll pick you up when we get to the scarecrows, and I’ll carry you from there. If you can do a good job of walking to the scarecrows.’

‘Okay,’ he says, although his voice is wobbly and his lip is extending more, and he is starting to wail even as he moves his feet in time with hers.

She did not, it occurs to her, specify that he could not cry as he walks. He is technically meeting her terms. It is possible that he will cry himself out in a few seconds and get distracted by some passing thought of Thor’s helmet or Odin’s eye patch. It is possible that he will only cry more loudly, and she will give in and pick him up because he has actually walked quite a long way, uncomplainingly, on his small legs. It is possible that he will keep crying and she will stand firm and make him walk all the way to the car because she does not want him to turn into one of those children who throw tantrums.

Such a system of checks and balances – parenting – of projections and guesswork and cost–benefit ratios.

A dragonfly hovers and darts. A heron picks its way along the edge of the water. The wooden path cuts back and forth through trees and wild grass.

Lincoln has stopped crying, and she’s fairly sure he’s hum‐ ming the Georgia Bulldogs’ fight song – ‘Glory, glory to old Georgia! / Glory, glory to old Georgia!’ – although as soon as she finishes the thought, he switches to the Texas Long‐ horns. No one in their family is a fan of either team, but he soaks up fight‐song lyrics as he soaks up superheroes and villains.

He is a collector. He accumulates.

Through the trees she can see the tent‐like top of the merry‐go‐round. It shines white against the dishwater sky. They pass a chicken‐wire‐enclosed exhibit for a one‐legged eagle and a near‐invisible enclosure for a pair of egrets. There are dead logs and monkey grass and lime‐green weeds. She walks toward an overhanging branch, and one of its leaves detaches, turning into a yellow butterfly and weaving up to the sky.

Finally they are back on the concrete sidewalks, which are as wide as roads. Jack‐o’‐lanterns perch on the fence posts.

They take a few steps into civilization, and she glances over at the merry‐go‐round. It is still and silent; the painted giraffes and zebras and bears and gorillas and ostriches are frozen. Lincoln used to love the merry‐go‐round, although he would only ride a zebra. Now the carousel animals have rubber bats and tiny Kleenex ghosts floating around them, hanging from the wooden framework. She and Lincoln are close enough that the white canvas top covering the carousel spreads over them, bright and calm.

‘Mommy,’ he says. ‘Carry me.’

‘When we get to the scarecrows,’ she says, ignoring his arms stretched toward her. ‘Just a little farther.’

He doesn’t protest this time. They hurry past the merry‐go‐round, toward the food court and the Kid Zone Splash Park, with the fountains of shoulder‐high water still arcing onto the blue‐raspberry‐colored splash pads.

‘Medusa’s been here,’ Lincoln announces, and she looks beyond the spraying water to the shaded spot with the stone statues of a turtle, a frog and a lizard. These days, anytime they see stone figures it is a sign that Medusa has passed by. Spider‐Man has been here, he says to spiderwebs.

‘Those poor guys,’ she says, because it is what she says every time they pass Medusa’s victims.

‘They should have kept their eyes closed,’ he says, because it is what he says every time.

She glances at the darkened glass of the Koala Café, with its shelves of plastic‐wrapped sandwiches and Jell‐O and hard‐boiled eggs, but she sees no sign of movement inside. The plastic chairs are upside down on the square tables. The staff usually close down the restaurants and lock the buildings fifteen minutes before closing time, so she’s not surprised.

Off to their right is the playground with the rock moun‐ tains and swinging bridge. Once upon a time, Lincoln was interested in Antarctica, and the big rocks were icebergs. Then last spring he was playing knights and castles on the swinging bridge, yelling at invisible kings to bring out the cannons and to fill the catapults with rocks. Now that same bridge is always Thor’s rainbow‐colored pathway to Earth. In a year Lincoln will be in kindergarten and these days of superheroes will fade and be replaced by something she can’t guess, and then at some point the zoo itself will be replaced and life will have gone on and this boy holding her hand will have turned into someone else entirely.

They are making good time now, scurrying past the gift shop and the wooden cut‐out where a kid can stick his head through a hole and pretend he is a gorilla. They slow down by the algae‐clogged aquariums at the edge of the children’s area – Lincoln cannot resist looking for the giant turtle – and an older woman appears a few yards in front of them, just around the curve of the aquarium walls, staggering backward slightly. She is holding a shoe.

‘The rock’s out, Tara,’ she says, and there is a certain cheerful desperation in her voice that identifies her as a grandmother. ‘Come on, now.’

Two blonde girls, surely sisters, come into view, and the grandmother leans down, holding out the shoe to the smaller girl. Her hair is in pigtails, and she looks a little younger than Lincoln.

‘We’ve got to go,’ says the grandmother as she works the rubber sandal onto a small foot. Then she straightens.

The little one says something, too quiet to hear, even though they are all within a few feet of each other now. Several flies tap against the aquarium glass.

‘I’ll take them off when we get to the car,’ says the grand‐ mother, out of breath. She takes an off‐balance step, holding the girls by their wrists. The girls blink at Lincoln, but then the woman is propelling them forward.

‘That’s a grandmother,’ Lincoln says, too loudly, stopping suddenly enough that he jerks Joan’s arm.

‘I think so, too,’ she whispers.

Joan glances toward the older woman – there is a flowery chemical smell in the air, perfume that reminds her of Mrs Manning in the sixth grade, who gave her and no one else a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins on the last day of school – but the woman and her grandchildren are gone now, already past the curve of the final aquarium.

‘If I had a grandmother, is that what she would look like?’ Lincoln asks.

He has been fixated on grandparents lately. She hopes it will pass as quickly as all his other phases.

‘You do have a grandmother,’ Joan says, tugging him for‐ ward again. ‘Grandma. Daddy’s mommy. She was here at Christmas, remember? She just lives far away. We need to go, sweet.’

‘Some people have lots of grandparents. I only have one.’

‘No, you have three. Remember? Now we’ve got to get going or we’ll get in trouble.’

The magic words. He nods and speeds up, his face serious and resolute.

There is another popping sound, louder and closer than before, maybe a dozen sharp cracks in the air. She thinks it might be something hydraulic.

They’ve come to the edge of a pond – the largest one in the zoo, nearly a lake – and she catches a glimpse of swans cutting through the water. The path forks: the right branch would lead them around the far side of the pond, up through the Africa exhibit, but the left will take them to the exit in a few less seconds. She can see the green‐and‐red flash of the parrots up ahead, unusually quiet. She likes their little island in the middle of all the concrete – a bricked‐in pool with a grassy mound and spindly trees – and it is always their first and last stop, the final ritual of every visit.

‘Start practicing your parrot caws,’ she tells him.

‘I don’t need to practice,’ he says. ‘I just want to see the scarecrows.’

‘We’ll have to look at them while we walk.’

A long row of scarecrows has been propped along the fence that circles the pond. Many of them have pumpkins for heads, and Lincoln is fascinated by them. He loves the Superman one and the astronaut one – with the pumpkin painted like a white space helmet – and especially the Cat in the Hat.

‘All right, sweet,’ she says.

He drops her hand and lifts his arms.
She glances along the fence, spotting the bright‐blue

pumpkin head of Pete the Cat. About halfway down the fence several scarecrows have fallen. Blown down by the wind, she assumes, but, no, it hasn’t been stormy. Still, the scarecrows have collapsed, half a dozen of them scattered all the way down to the parrot exhibit and beyond.

No, not scarecrows. Not scarecrows.

She sees an arm move. She sees a body way too small to be a scarecrow. A skirt, hiked indecently over a pale hip, legs bent.

She is slow to lift her eyes, but when she looks farther, past the shapes on the ground, past the parrots, toward the long, flat building with public bathrooms and doors marked employees only, she sees a man standing, facing away from her, unmoving. He is by the water fountain. He is in jeans and a dark shirt, no coat. His hair is brown or black, and other than that she cannot see details, but she cannot miss it when he does finally move. He kicks the bathroom door, his elbow coming up to catch it, a gun in his right hand, some sort of rifle, long and black, the narrow end of it stretching like an antenna past his dark head as he dis‐ appears into the pale‐green walls of the women’s bathroom.

She thinks there is another movement around the parrots, someone else still on his feet, but she is turning away by then. She does not see more.

She grabs Lincoln and heaves him up, his legs swinging heavily as he lands against her hip, her right hand grabbing her left wrist underneath his bottom, linking her arms.

She runs.

*Blog Tour* The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett

Today, I’m really excited to be a part of the blog tour for The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett. As part of the tour I have some exclusive author content from Simon talking about the Forensic research which goes into the successful David Hunter novels (big thanks to Simon for sharing). Pssst…don’t forget to check out all the other stops on this fabulous blog tour!

*Forensic Crime Writing by Simon Beckett*

Before I visited Tennessee’s renowned Body Farm in 2002, I’d never really given forensics much thought. I was making my living working as a freelance journalist, and although I’d already written several novels they were all psychological thrillers. So when I got off the plane into the humid Tennessee heat, I’d no idea that this trip would lead to my writing a long-running series about a forensic anthropologist.

I’d been commissioned to write about highly realistic crime scene training that was being held at the Body Farm, at the time the only facility in the world to use human cadavers to research decomposition. The course was aimed at providing practical forensic experience for US police officers and CSIs, and although the crime scenes they had to process were carefully staged, the bodies used in them were very real.

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On the last day, I was given a pair of white overalls by an instructor and cheerfully told to help excavate a grave containing a body buried six months earlier. It was a surreal experience, and I came away both affected and impressed by what I’d seen. It also provided the inspiration for The Chemistry of Death, the first in my series about British forensic anthropologist David Hunter. A specialist in analysing badly decomposed, burnt or damaged human remains, Hunter is an emotionally wounded narrator through whose eyes we see this grimly esoteric world. It’s therefore vital for him to know what he’s talking about. Which means I have to know what he’s talking about as well.

Since I’m not a forensic expert that boils down to background research. A lot of it. The internet has made accessibility to information easier than ever, providing it’s used selectively, and I’ve also acquired a respectable collection of forensic text books. But whenever possible I prefer to consult a real-life expert, whose knowledge is based on actual experience. If I want insight into, say, the effect of fire on human bone, then I’ll ask a forensic anthropologist who has carried out work in that field. It’s the same for other factual aspects of the stories, whether it’s police procedure, rare neurological conditions or caving: if you don’t know something, find someone who does.

Occasionally my requests for help have been declined, which I can perfectly understand. I’m not sure how I’d feel if a completely stranger wanted to pick my brains either. However, most experts I approach have been happy to assist, and seem to enjoy puzzling over the sometimes-bizarre questions I throw at them. For which I am immensely grateful, since it contributes a degree of authenticity to the books it would otherwise be hard to achieve.

Obviously, this sort of relationship shouldn’t be abused: these are busy, professional people, and I try to keep my questions short and to the point. But gathering the information is only part of it: the real work for the writer comes with integrating it successfully into the narrative. The temptation is to include all those arcane details you’ve so painstakingly discovered, but that’s a mistake. Fascinating as they may be, it’s important to remember that they’re meant to inform and support the story, not overwhelm it.

Working as a feature journalist helped, since that typically involved writing with authority on unfamiliar subjects, as well as presenting often complex information in a concise and readable way. On occasion that led to misunderstandings: after one magazine article about how to cook the perfect chip (journalism isn’t all trips to Tennessee) I received several interview requests myself, as though I were the expert rather than the chefs I’d spoken to.

But that’s a sign you’ve done your job as a writer. When someone picks up a David Hunter novel, I want them to believe he really is a forensic expert, talking about what he knows best. The research itself is only a part of that.

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So now for the Blurb:

‘Composed of over sixty per cent water itself, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom as the air seeps out. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years. But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise . . . ‘

Once one of the country’s most respected forensics experts, Dr David Hunter is facing an uncertain professional – and personal – future. So when he gets a call from Essex police, he’s eager for the chance to assist them.

A badly decomposed body has been found in a desolate area of tidal mudflats and saltmarsh called the Backwaters. Under pressure to close the case, the police want Hunter to help with the recovery and identification.

It’s thought the remains are those of Leo Villiers, the son of a prominent businessman who vanished weeks ago. To complicate matters, it was rumoured that Villiers was having an affair with a local woman. And she too is missing.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity. He knows the condition of the unrecognizable body could hide a multitude of sins. Then more remains are discovered – and these remote wetlands begin to give up their secrets . . .

About the author:

Simon Beckett December 2016

After an MA in English, Simon Beckett spent several years as a property repairer before teaching in Spain. Back in the UK, he played percussion in several bands and worked as a freelance journalist, writing for national British newspapers and magazines. Some of his more memorable assignments included going on police drugs raids, touring brothels with a vice unit and trying to learn how to win a gun fight in Nevada.

To buy this from Amazon just click here

To buy this from Waterstones click here.

To find out more about Simon Beckett follow him on Twitter  or check out his website here.

Blog Tour: Deadly Game by Matt Johnson

Today I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for Matt Johnson’s new novel Deadly Game, published by Orenda Books. I have something a bit different today, with the 35th anniversary of the death of Matt Johnson’s friend and colleague WPC Yvonne Fletcher coming up, I handed over the reigns to Matt to talk about her loss and what happened on that fateful day.

Before I hand over, I wanted to share with you the blurb for Deadly Game – plus don’t forget to stop off at all the other stops on this tour!

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Blurb:

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK.

To buy this on Amazon click here.

To find out more about Matt Johnson follow him on Twitter @Matt_Johnson_UK.

 

Now over to Matt.

Losing a friend by Matt Johnson

17th April sees the 35th anniversary of one of the worst days I have ever experienced. It is a day when a friend and colleague was shot and killed. Three decades later, despite the identity of the killer being known, he remains a free man.

On 17th April 1984 I was a 27 year old advanced car driver working in central London on a police traffic car. WPC Yvonne Fletcher was a 25 year old officer on the Vice Squad at West End Central Police Station. My wife of the time served on this same squad. Yvonne was one of her best mates and part of our circle of friends.

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Yvonne had been at a house-warming party at my home a few weeks before this fateful day. My lasting memory of her is of seeing her sitting at the bottom of the stairs in my house, looking relaxed and chatting with friends.

At 10.18 am Yvonne was with a small contingent of officers supervising a demonstration outside the Libyan Peoples Bureau in St James Square, London. Her fiancé was among the officers with her. Yvonne had her back to the Bureau.

Without warning, someone in the Libyan bureau fired a Sterling submachine gun into the group of protesters and police officers. Eleven people were hit by bullets, including Yvonne.

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Severely injured WPC Yvonne Fletcher being helped by colleagues

An ambulance was quickly sent to the scene and my patrol car was sent to escort the ambulance to the Westminster Hospital.

Anyone who has worked in central London will know just how quickly a major incident can cause the streets to become blocked. Main roads rapidly snarl up and the side streets and rat runs that the taxis and locals use, soon follow. Gridlock is the result.

Getting the ambulance to the hospital proved to be a nightmare. We were forced to drive onto pavements and, on several occasions, we had to get out of the car to get vehicles moved so we could get through. At that time we were aware that the casualty was a police officer, but didn’t know who.

I remember that the ambulance overtook the police car just before we reached the hospital. We had to get out of the car to clear traffic from a junction and the crew seized the opportunity to make progress and get through. When we pulled in behind the ambulance, Yvonne had already been taken into the emergency area. I remember seeing the fantastic efforts and the work that was being put in by the nursing staff to help her. They were fantastic and couldn’t have tried harder.

Yvonne died from her wounds one hour later. She had been shot in the back and abdomen.

After escorting the ambulance, my car was sent to help with the traffic chaos that followed the start of the resulting siege.

I went home that afternoon and switched on the six o’clock news. It was only then that my former wife and I learned that the murdered officer was our friend.

The following day, I was assigned as a driver to the SAS team that had been brought in and stationed at a nearby RAF base. My job was to run the lads around, in short I was a gofer and taxi driver. I made frequent trips to the infamous ‘blue screen’ that was built to block the view into the square and I was present on the night that something amazing happened.

Yvonne’s hat and four other officers’ helmets were left lying in the square during the siege of the embassy. Images of them were shown repeatedly in the British media. They came to represent something quite iconic as a symbol of unarmed police officers who had been attacked so ruthlessly.

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What happened was that a PC, acting completely on his own, ran into the square and snatched Yvonne’s hat. There were shouts of ‘get back, get back’ from the firearms officers but the unarmed PC was determined and fast. As he returned to the blue screen, he was bundled away by a senior officer and a firearms officer. I never did find out what happened to the PC but I suspect he got into trouble.

Fact is, what he did was a reckless thing to do. It is quite possible that the hat may have been playing a part in the hostage negotiations that were going on behind the scenes. We will never know. But what I can tell you is how much that PCs actions lifted the spirits of people like me who were sitting watching while the ‘powers that be’ seemed to be doing very little. Grabbing Yvonne’s hat from under the noses of the terrorists stuck two fingers up to them and told them what we thought of them.

To that anonymous PC, I say thanks.

The ‘Peoples Bureau’ was surrounded by armed police for eleven days, in one of the longest police sieges in London’s history. Meanwhile, in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi claimed that the embassy was under attack from British forces, and Libyan soldiers surrounded the British Embassy in Tripoli.

No satisfactory conclusion was reached in the UK, and following the taking of six hostages in Tripoli, the occupiers of the Bureau were allowed to fly out of the UK. The Tripoli hostages were not released for several months, ironically almost on the exact day that the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher was unveiled.

In July 2012 Andrew Gilligan of The Sunday Telegraph received reliable reports that Salah Eddin Khalifa, a pro-Gaddafi student, fired the fatal shot. Unlike a previous suspect named as the killer, Mr Khalifa is known to be alive and may, one day, be arrested. He is currently living in Cairo, a city to which he moved as the Gaddafi regime crumbled.

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Yvonne’s death is still the only murder of a British cop on UK soil to remain unsolved.

But, we haven’t forgotten.

About Matt Johnson:

Matt2016Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for 25 years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result.

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Blog Tour: Cursed by Thomas Enger

I’m really pleased to be a part of the Orenda Books blog tour for Cursed a new novel in the Henning Juul series by Norwegian writer Thomas Enger. So now it’s my turn on the tour, I have some exclusive author content today from Thomas discussing the Curse of Being a Writer – (big thanks to Thomas for sharing his thoughts with us).

*Exclusive Author Content*

The Curse of Being A Writer: by Thomas Enger

First, if you are a bit confused by the title of this blog post – I consider “being a writer” the best possible occupation in the world. It’s what I’ve been dreaming about my whole adult life, probably since I was around 16. I feel so fortunate to be able to do this for a living, and I hope that I can continue to be inspired and to have readers around the world for as long as I live.

A lot of people also look upon the whole “being a writer” thing with an ounce or two of romanticism. “It sure sounds lovely to be a writer, to sit somewhere and just chuck your thoughts and creative ideas down into a computer, and then have someone print it and read it.” I totally agree with that. It’s a privilege, one I wouldn’t change for anything.

But it definitely is a curse as well.

Let me explain what I mean.

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Being a writer, for me, means that I never shut down. Never. I’m always on the lookout for stories, for characters, for bits and pieces here and there that I can put into my novels or short stories. When I’m watching a movie, my mind is half present in the story which unfolds in front of me, whereas the other part is churning, thinking of how I can put a spin on this or that idea, this or that scene, if a piece of this or that character is something I can put to good use in another character or scene.

When I’m out walking the streets of Oslo, or New Delhi for that matter, I’m not just looking at the buildings or the cars or the flowers. I’m taking mental pictures for later, I’m constantly thinking about ways to put my experiences into my books. That means I’m secretly taking notes in my head as I meet other people, whether they are complete strangers or close family. Like I sometimes tell my readers, with a wry smile on my face; anything you say and do when you meet me, can and will be used against you.

I’m the same when I’m reading the newspapers, or when I’m watching the news, when I talk to my kids or my kids’ friends, when I taking the bus or the tram, when I’m going through security at the airport, or when I’m out running in the streets of Oslo or even when I’m reading a book. My mind never shuts down.

So how do I relax? How do I unwind?

Well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure. I have found that playing a round of golf with my friends is very good for my brain. When I’m out there hacking that little round ball from A to B, or, in my case, Z, I’m almost completely absorbed into playing. It’s just the best form of escapism for me.

Going for a swim, too, in a warm country, also helps. But I’m sort of just stuck with my curse, which is having a brain that’s always searching for ideas.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I’m sure a lot of us know exactly what you mean, Thomas – I know I do!

So now for the blurb:

Cursed

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests.

Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

About the author:

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Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young
Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

To buy this from Amazon just click here

To buy this from Waterstones click here.

To find out more about Thomas Enger follow him on Twitter @EngerThomas.

Don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on this tour – it’s too good not to miss!

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Blog Tour: Corpus by Rory Clements

Today, I’m super pleased to be hosting the next stop on Rory Clements’ Corpus blog tour, published by Zaffre.

As part of the tour I can reveal I have some exclusive content from the author himself on the books that inspired Corpus, along with a fabulous prize to win one of two, hardback copies of the novel – you lucky people! As always don’t forget to stop off at all the other stops on this blog tour – #Corpus

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First up it’s the Blurb: 

 

1936.
Europe is in turmoil.
The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.
In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.
Spain has erupted in civil war.

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.

In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?

When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe – and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson…

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*Exclusive Author Content*

The Books That Inspired Corpus

I have read and delved into bucket loads of books in researching Corpus, my new 1930s thriller. But some stand out as more inspirational than others. Here are my top picks of both fact and fiction.

Memoirs & Diaries

Nothing compares to a diary if you want to discover the real atmosphere of a certain time in history. I was fortunate to be able to call on two of the finest diarists in my research – Harold Nicolsons Diaries & Letters and Chips by Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon. Both men give an insider’s view of the ruling class in the 1930s and should be read for pleasure not just to garner information.

For a very different perspective, there’s George Orwell – his gritty memoirs Homage To Catalonia and The Road To Wigan Pier provided first-hand accounts of the Spanish Civil War and the appalling living conditions of the northern working classes in England.

Biography

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre is the story of Soviet spy Kim Philby and the friends he betrayed. It’s all true, of course, but it is so well written and packed with such fascinating stories that it reads like a first-rate thriller.

Thrillers

Some thrillers are ‘counterfactual’ – ie they assume history panned out in a different way. For instance, the premise of Fatherland by Robert Harris, SS-GB by Len Deighton and The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick is that the Nazis won the war. I love them all, but Corpus fits more into the ‘secret history’ pigeonhole. And the best of these, for me, are The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins and The Day Of The Jackal by Freddie Forsyth. Great fun, truly thrilling – and they certainly inspired me.

1930s Novels

Sometimes a novel can tell you as much as a history book. Two novels in particular gave me a wonderful insight into 1930s Germany. The first was Flotsam written in 1939 by Erich Maria Remarque (author of All Quiet On The Western Front) and the second was Mr Norris Changes Trains, written by Christopher Isherwood in 1935.  Flotsam tells the heartbreaking story of the migrants fleeing Hitler or cast out by him but unable to find refuge in other countries. Remarque loathed the Nazis (who had burned his books) and moved to Switzerland. Sadly, his sister Elfriede stayed and in 1943 was guillotined for ‘undermining morale’ by saying that the war was lost. Isherwood’s book, meanwhile, describes Berlin in the time of transition from democracy to tyranny.

Cambridge Novels

Two novels set in Cambridge taught me a great deal about the way the university worked in the early part of the twentieth century. The Masters by C.P.Snow is set in a fictional college (believed to be Christ’s) in 1937 when the Nazis were threatening. The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald also takes a fictional Cambridge college as its setting.

About the Author

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Rory Clements is the bestselling author of the John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers. His six acclaimed novels, Martyr, Revenger, Prince, Traitor, The Heretics and The Queen’s Man, follow Elizabeth’s Intelligencer, John Shakespeare, brother to the playwright William, through the dark underworld of Tudor England as he unmasks the traitors and conspirators who plot against the Queen.

Rory Clements won the Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award in 2010 for Revenger, and has been shortlisted for CWA Awards for Martyr, Prince and The Heretics. A TV series is currently in development. To find out more about Rory Clements check out his website here.

 

To buy this from Amazon just click here

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Now for the Fabulous Prize offered by Zaffre

*This Comp has now closed and the winners notified*

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN ONE of TWO COPIES of CORPUS BY RORY CLEMENTS

  •  Retweet one of my tweets about the giveaway (@emms_rachel), OR comment on the post below. (You’ll need to follow me on Twitter, so that I can send you a direct message if you win.)
  • Rules: 
Only one entry per reader.
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • I will draw the winners at random. There will be no cash alternative
  • The competition closes for entries at 13.00pm GMT on Thursday 9th February 2017
  • My decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

*Blog Tour Deep Down Dead Part Two*

As I said earlier, I have interviewed JT from Deep Down Dead, as part of the blog tour, which I must say was one of the most challenging interviews I have ever had to do. You’ll see what I mean anyway.

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Location: The Hinkey Harlow bourbon bar, Jacksonville, Florida

Interviewer: CKT Blog aka Rachel Emms.

Interviewee: James Robert Tate (JT). Bounty Hunter

 

The Hinkey Harlow is an old speakeasy tucked down a side street a little ways out of downtown Jacksonville. It’s not a place I’d ventured before, but JT insisted that if I wanted to meet face-to-face, this was the place he’d be. Seeing as I’d flown out there for the interview I thought I’d better agree to his terms.

The bar is all dim lighting, dark polished wood, and gleaming bottles of bourbon. I spot JT immediately. I can count the number of patrons on one hand, and he isn’t easy to miss –  a big guy nursing a glass at the end of the bar.

I cross the room, my heels knocking a steady beat on the scuffed floorboards. No one looks up. As I get closer I see he was little older than I’d imagined, the lines etched deeper around his eyes, his blond hair a little greyer. Hot though. Definitely hot.

I say hello, and he nods to the stool beside him.

I climb onto it and order us both a bourbon. I’d been warned he doesn’t say much, so I know it’s up to me to ask the first a question. I’m feeling nervous. He doesn’t make small talk and he’s got this stillness, an intensity, about him. When he looks at me with his vivid blue eyes I almost forget my first question.

Bounty Hunting is a pretty niche occupation, how did you get into the business of being a Bounty Hunter?

He stares at me as I’m asking the question, his expression unreadable. He stays silent for so long I’m not sure if he’s going to answer at all. Then, just as I’m about to ask another one, he nods.

JT: Oftentimes I don’t like looking backwards. I prefer moving forwards, looking at what’s ahead rather than behind, if you know what I mean? But, what I will tell you, is that everyone finds their own way into the life. Folks come from just about everywhere. Sure a lot are retired military or cops, but that’s not essential. Might give you a head start on the tracking and the practicalities, but there’s a whole bunch of legal stuff that you need to get learnt.

How long did it take you to train as a Bounty Hunter and have you always lived by your unique set of rules?

He narrows his eyes, squinting at me. I can tell he’s suspicious.

JT: You seem real interested in what I do, you looking to start in the business yourself?

No, I tell him. I’m just interested to know more about him. I nod at the bartender, have them pour us both another bourbon.

JT: Learning is something that’s never done. I learn as I go along. Find new ways to do things. Make mistakes too.

He looks away a moment, like he’s remembering something, someone. Then turns back to me.

JT: The rules came about from my learning from mistakes. I started out with eight, then added a couple more:

  1. Never trust no one
  2. Be prepared, always
  3. Limit your risks
  4. Don’t make assumptions
  5. Create your own blueprint
  6. Always have a plan
  7. Focus on the facts
  8. Force only as necessity, never for punishment
  9. Pick your moment real careful
  10. Past behaviour can predict future behaviour

A friend of mine added another one, number eleven, no so long ago: Use whatever you’ve got to get the job done. Like I said, I didn’t make that one. I might use it though.

What is your favourite thing about being a Bounty Hunter?

JT: The freedom. I’m my own boss. I take the jobs I want. I’m not bound to an office or any corporate bullshit.

What do you do to relax when you aren’t collecting a runaway felon?

JT: I like fixing up old cars. I’ve got a 1968 Ford Mustang. If I get time I might get another.

You have quite a history with Lori, but how did you feel seeing her after all this time?

He shakes his head.

JT: That’s personal.

How did you feel when you realised Lori had brought her daughter, Dakota, along to pick you up? I can imagine it’s not the type of situation you would’ve imagined yourself in.

He frowns.

JT: That’s another personal question. I told you I don’t answer them. What I will say is that chasing a fugitive is a dangerous job. It’s no place for a child. Me and Lori, we’ve had words about that.

And lastly, you’re a pretty fearless guy, but what is your biggest fear?

He holds my eye contact and I see a whole range of emotions past through his expression. I realise my mistake, it’s another personal question, and he’s already warned me off asking them. But I wait, hoping he might answer.

JT: There’s a bunch of things I try not to think on. Not sure I’m ready to talk about them just now.

He gives me a half smile as he gets down from the barstool.

JT: Pleasure meeting you. And thanks for the drink.

I want to thank him for letting me pick his brains, but I can’t get the words out. Instead I smile (mysteriously I hope) and watch him turn and walk away.

To find out more about JT, Lori and Dakota all you’ll need to do is purchase a copy!

To buy this from Amazon just click here

To buy this from Waterstones click here.
To find out more about Steph Broadribb aka Crime Thriller Girl follow her on Twitter at @crimethrillgirl  or check out her website here.

Blog Tour: What Alice Knew by T.A Cotterell

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting the next stop on the What Alice Knew Blog Tour by T.A Cotterell. So, as part of the tour I have some exclusive content from the author interviewing Nell, Alice’s teenage daughter, along with my review. Don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on the Blog Tour!

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Blurb:

How far would you go to protect someone you love? Would you lie to the police,
knowing your loved one is guilty as charged, or would you watch their life fall
apart because of a terrible accident?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

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*Exclusive Author Content*

Interview with Nell:

  • What’s your earliest memory of your parents?

I have kind of a bad memory but the first thing I think I remember was when we went to visit granny at Highlands just before Arthur was born. I remember going on a walk with mum and dad and uncle Matt. It was so cold but I had a fluffy pink coat on and yellow duck wellies. Me and Uncle Matt were running so fast (or fast for a four-year old) holding hands and mum and dad were talking about adult things and dad waved but I don’t think mum saw us zoom past.

  • What’s your greatest fear?

I have a maybe irrational fear of being on my own. I know it’s weird, I’m not four anymore, but I just prefer it if I know someone’s in the house with me. Whether it be Arthur playing some mindless game or mum in her own world painting, I just feel much more at ease knowing there’s somebody there.

  • Do you get on better with mum, dad, or brother and why?

Probably my dad because although he’s always busy he tries to find time for us and if mum is ever away he always comes home early and makes whatever we want for supper. I love my mum. She loves to do girly things like shopping and taking my friends out for lunch. But when she’s on a painting she can be distant and get irritated easily. Arthur and I don’t always get on. Even before he starts to annoy me, he’s annoying me. It’s like, after all these years, I can anticipate what’s to come so I get ready to shout for mum or dad before he’s even started being annoying.

  • Have you ever kept a secret from your family?

I don’t tell them that much, especially not about my social life. Mum hears the odd thing, especially if something drastic happened at school. Sometimes she gets angry or takes something seriously and sometimes she doesn’t. Dad is more calm and predictable, so if I’m upset I probably would tell him. I don’t tell anything to Arthur ever since he ratted that it was me and my friend Eve who stole some wine before we went to Grace’s party. I got grounded for a week.

  • What did you think when your dad didn’t come home that night?

To begin with I wasn’t worried like he often comes back late if something’s gone wrong at work, but I was up on a group call with my friends till really late when suddenly I clocked it was almost midnight and neither he nor mum were home. I checked my texts and realised it was pretty weird they hadn’t let me know. It isn’t the kind of thing they’d forget (especially dad). I called him first but there was no answer, so I guessed he must be in an emergency. Then I called mum. I did get worried because there’s one thing about dad: he always does what he says he’s going to do.

  • Do you believe your mum when she says everything is fine?

I used to. But now I sometimes feel she says whatever is needed, like a white lie to keep us all happy, particularly if she’s painting and doesn’t want to be distracted. The night when dad didn’t come home I could hear some doubt or surprise in her voice even though she pretended there wasn’t. Maybe she thinks I’m too young to know. Which is ridiculous as I’m nearly 15. It might be true for Arthur though. That night she said it was all fine when it blatantly wasn’t so that’s when I got a bit worried.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this novel with its easy writing style, vivid descriptions and fully rounded characters who I were so unpredictable I wasn’t sure which direction the novel would take.

This novel takes you on Alice’s and Ed’s journey where a shocking secret bubbles to the surface threatening their lives which will alters their relationship and themselves.

I had no idea what to expect from this book but boy was I surprised! The author kept the truth hidden from the reader and also kept Alice’s true motives at bay until the very last moment which was very unexpected.

There are a number of themes in the novel including the question of morality and responsibility and the effect of living with a lie where much of the action in the novel centred around. I loved the change in Alice’s character as she slowly became more and more erratic which for me really showed the moral dilemma she was struggling to deal with.

I thought Ed was a very interesting character as he was someone who on the surface you thought you knew and trusted but underneath lay something else which I think was part of the charm of his character. By the end of the novel I found myself sympathising with him even though I knew it was wrong.

I won’t say too much more as I don’t want to spoil it for you but what I will say is this novel was full of tension and Alice’s claustrophobic world really made it feel like I was right there with her – I literally had no idea what she would do next and every time I thought I had her sussed out she turned round and surprised me again.

About the Author:

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T. A. Cotterell read History of Art at Cambridge University. He worked in the City before resigning to become a freelance writer. He is now a writer and editor at the research house Redburn. He is married with three children and lives in Bristol.

With thanks to Rebecca Hunter at Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House for my advanced review copy.

This novel isn’t out until December 2016 as an E Book and Trade Paperback in April 2017 but the good news is you can preorder this book from Amazon just click here

To find out more about T.A Cotterell on Twitter at @TACotterell1.