Blog Tour: Know Me Now by CJ Carver

Today, I’m thrilled to be hosting the next stop on the Blog Tour for Know Me Now written by CJ Carver and published by Bonnier Zaffre. As part of the tour, I have some exclusive extract from the author herself sharing her experience on writing fiction and how her research influences this.

First up the Blurb:

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A SUICIDE. A MURDER. A CONSPIRACY. 
DIGGING UP THE PAST CAN BE DEADLY . . .

A thirteen-year-old boy commits suicide.

A sixty-five-year old man dies of a heart attack.

Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 officer, is connected to them both. 

And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.

But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret.

A secret someone will do anything to keep buried . . . 

Stranger than Fiction by CJ Carver

I always immerse myself in research, learning as much as I can so I can write with authority.  At least, that’s my excuse when I find myself at the airport headed somewhere I’ve never been before. Like Macedonia. Or Kosovo. Queensland. Alaska.

If I hadn’t actually travelled to Alaska, I would never have created the character Malone, who dresses head to toe in animal skins and has what appears to be a dead rabbit sitting on his head.  Also, I wouldn’t have met the Alaskan trooper who, when I was talking with her, took a call from a householder who needed help getting a moose out of her house.  Apparently it had walked through her open sliding doors and when it tried to turn around, its antlers got stuck, panicking the creature into trashing the entire ground floor.  The Trooper drove over there quick smart, and shot the beast.  Everyone on the street had fresh moose to eat for the week.

In Macedonia, I was researching human trafficking.  It wasn’t exactly a tourist destination back then and the international community were convinced I was some kind of spy and wouldn’t let me go anywhere on my own.  Which was probably a good thing as I was eternally grateful for my government escort in the Tetevo region, part of which was run by a particularly brutal gang back then.  They’d ‘break’ young girls into prostitution, and when one particular girl tried to run away, the gang leader hacked off her head and roped it to the front of his car as a lesson to the other girls.

I’ve met SOCO’s, DCI’s, SAS, SIS, RMP’s and fighter pilots.  You would be amazed what people tell a stranger.  Perhaps I have the kind of face that elicits confessions, but I am constantly amazed at what stories I hear.

Like the fisherman in Queensland who took me out in his little tin boat to show me where the biggest salt-water crocodile lived.  He told me about the giant cod caught out at sea the previous week, nearly six-foot long, and how when it was gutted a man’s head rolled out.  Morgan cod hoover up their food off the ocean bed, and the head was apparently wholly intact when it rolled onto a filleting table at the A Fine Kettle o’Fish filleting factory in Cairns.

When I wanted to use this as a plot device, my editor wouldn’t have it.  She insisted that it was too unbelievable even if it was true.

What about a drug that erases memories?  Another snort from my editor, but this is actual science, and became the basis for my first Dan Forrester thriller, Spare Me The Truth.  If scientists can remove a specific memory from the brains of rats while leaving the rest of the animals’ memories intact, why not humans?

I love true-life stories.  They are oxygen to my creative mind and if I didn’t listen half as well, I have no doubt I wouldn’t hear quite as much.

©CJ Carver 2017

About the Author:

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CJ Carver is a half-English, half-kiwi, author living just outside Bath. She lived in Australia for ten years before taking up long-distance rally driving – she has driven London to Saigon, London to Cape Town, and completed 14,500 miles on the Inca Trail.

Since then she has written nine critically acclaimed novels that have been published in the UK, USA and translated into several languages.  CJ’s first novel Blood Junction won the CWA Debut Dagger and was short listed for the USA Barry Award for Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year.  Spare Me the Truth, the first in the Forrester and Davies series, was shortlisted for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel Award.

Know Me Now isn’t quite out yet, but the good news is you can preorder the ebook which is out on the 14th December, or the Paperback which is out on 11th January 2018 from Amazon here or Waterstones here.

To find out more about CJ Carver follow her on Twitter at @C_J_Carver.

Don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on this blog tour!

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Blog Tour Extract: Find Me

Today, I’m hosting the next stop on the Find Me blog tour which is published by Head of Zeus. The novel Find Me is written by J.S Monroe. For the blog tour, I am pleased to be able to share an extract of the novel to give you a little taste of this book.

The blurb:

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Five years ago, Rosa walked to Cromer pier in the dead of night. She looked into the dark swirling water below, and she jumped. She was a brilliant young Cambridge student who had just lost her father. Her death was tragic, but not unexpected.

Was that what really happened?

The coroner says it was. But Rosa’s boyfriend Jar can’t let go. He hallucinates, seeing Rosa everywhere – a face on the train, a distant figure on the hillside. He is obsessed with proving that she is still alive. And then he gets an email.

Find me, Jar. Find me, before they do…

Find Me Extract:

Jar had considered group-emailing the office from Paddington, to explain his own lateness, but he wasn’t sure how it would have gone down: ‘Just seen my girlfriend from uni who took her own life five years ago. Everyone tells me I’m imagining things, that I must move on, but I know she’s alive, somehow, somewhere, and I’m never going to stop looking until I find her. She wasn’t ready to die.’

He has told Carl everything, but not the others. He knows what they think. What’s a prize-winning young Irish writer, debut collection of short stories a critical if not commercial success, doing in the seventh circle of office hell in Angel, chasing web-traffic figures by writing click-bait on Miley Cyrus? It was unfortunate that the first piece he was asked to le was on writer’s block: ten authors who had lost their mojo. Sometimes he wonders if he ever had it.

In recent months, he has seen Rosa increasingly often: at the wheel of passing cars, in the pub, on top of the Number 24 bus (front seats, where they always sat when they were in London, riding up to Camden). The appearances have their own name, according to the family GP back in Galway: ‘post-bereavement hallucinations’.

His father has other ideas, talking excitedly of the spéirbhean, the heavenly woman who used to appear in Irish visionary poems. ‘How can you be so insensitive now,’ his mother chided, but Jar doesn’t mind. He is close to his da.

He spent a lot of time at his home in Galway City in the immediate aftermath of Rosa’s death, trying to make sense of what had happened. His father owns a bar in the Latin Quarter. They would sit up late, talk through the sightings, particularly one, on the Connemara coast. (He did all the talking, Da listened.) Some he knows are false alarms, but others, the ones he can’t challenge…

‘You look like death, bro,’ Carl says, slumping down in his chair, which lets out a hiss of air. ‘Just seen a ghost?’

About the Author:

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Jon Stock, now writing as J.S. Monroe, read English at Cambridge University, worked as a freelance journalist in London and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. He was also a foreign correspondent in Delhi for the Daily Telegraph and was on its staff in London as Weekend editor. He left Telegraph in 2010 to finish writing his acclaimed Daniel Marchant spy trilogy and returned in 2013 to oversee the paper’s digital books channel. He became a fulltime author in 2015, writing as J.S. Monroe.

His first novel, ‘The Riot Act’ was shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for its best first novel award. The film rights for ‘Dead Spy Running’, his third novel, were bought by Warner Bros, who hired Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) to write the screenplay. It is currently in development. He is the author of five novels and lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife, a photographer, and their three children.

To find out more about J.S Monroe follow him on Twitter at @JSThrillers .

Find Me can be purchased via Amazon here.

As always don’t forget to check out all the other stops on this blog tour.

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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:

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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

To buy this from Waterstones click here.

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.