#HeadlineMurder Blog Tour: Guest Post – HOW I FOUND COLIN CRAMPTON by Peter Bartram


Today I’m delighted to welcome Peter Bartram, author of HEADLINE MURDER, to the CTG blog to tell us about the inspiration for his new Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series …

The seed for my new Crampton of the Chronicle series of crime mysteries was sown a couple of weeks after I took my first job as a reporter on a newspaper. But I only realised this years later.

   I came into the newsroom one morning and the chief reporter told me to get round to the magistrates’ court double quick. Our normal court reporter was off sick.

   This was the first time I’d been on a court reporting job. One of the cases concerned a young fellow who’d been charged with being drunk and disorderly. He was fined £5.

   Even as a rookie reporter, I knew this story didn’t merit even a single column inch. But as I made my way back to the paper, the bloke lay in wait for me. He flexed his not unimpressive muscles and made it clear that if a word appeared in the paper, I better watch my back.

   As I hadn’t anyway intended writing about his pathetic tale of puking on the highway, I passed on my way musing reflectively on how the chief reporter had been more right than he knew when he said I would meet interesting people. I mentioned the incident to him when I got back to the newsroom. He passed it on to the news editor. Who talked to the editor.

   And he decided the story would be written as long as possible for the front page. Threaten the Fourth Estate and take what’s coming to you!

   I decided to take a precautionary measure after the piece appeared. I knew of several hotels in town where if you went in the front door, you could thread your way through endless corridors and pop out at the back in a different street, usually after passing through the staff’s quarters. An ideal way to throw a troublesome follower off your tracks.

   As it happened, I never had to use the ruse, but I remembered it years later when I was writing Headline Murder. And I guess that early experience must have been one of the memories that made me realise that a crime reporter could be a great protagonist in a mystery novel.

   Anyway, here is an extract from the scene where our hero, Colin Crampton, crime reporter on the Brighton Evening Chronicle, has to throw a rival journo off his tail …

So as I stepped into the street, I stooped to re-tie my shoe lace and had a quick shufty at who was about. I wouldn’t put it past Houghton [crime reporter on the rival paper] to put a tail on me. The street was busy with shoppers. A couple of middle-aged matrons pushed passed me laden with shopping bags from Hannington’s. An old gent with a bowler hat and striped trousers ambled along smoking a pipe. A fancy piece wearing stilettos like daggers tottered by with a poodle on a leash.

Shoppers don’t spend much time standing in the same place. So it wasn’t difficult for me to spot Houghton’s nark. He was a young lad lounging beside the phone box on the other side of the road. He was reading the midday edition of the Chronicle. A nice touch to read the Chronicle rather than the Argus, his own paper. But not nice enough. He wasn’t waiting to make a call because the phone box was vacant. He’d have done better to stand inside and pretend to be on the phone. If you have to stand still when you’re on the qui vive, go somewhere where your target expects to see standing people. Such as a bus queue.

I recognised the lad as a trainee reporter who’d joined the Argus a couple of months earlier…

So after I’d re-tied my shoe, I headed towards The Lanes, the maze of eighteenth century passages in the centre of the town. As I sauntered into Meeting House Lane I caught a glimpse of his reflection in a shop window. Peregrine was doing well but he wouldn’t be ready for what I had in mind.

I hurried through The Lanes, turned right on to the seafront and walked towards the Old Ship Hotel. I slowed down and gave my tail a chance to come round the corner so that he could see me step into the hotel.

Peregrine didn’t disappoint. He still had his copy of the Chronicle under his arm as he bustled round the corner. I slipped in the door and made my way through the foyer to the restaurant. I entered the restaurant which was empty – the lunch service had long finished.

On the far side of the room were two service doors used by waiters to get between the kitchen and restaurant. I hurried over to one of them. Looked quickly behind to make sure my tail was out of sight. Slipped through the door.

In the kitchen Antoine, the head chef, was in the middle of berating a sous chef about some canapés. I caught a few choice words that hadn’t been in my school French dictionary. Antoine was everything you’d expect of a French chef – fat, quixotic, temperamental. He had a handlebar moustache and a goatee beard. He’d taken off his toque and was mopping his high forehead with a red polka dot handkerchief. When he saw me, he turned from the hapless sous chef.

“Colin, I am working with idiots. But you have come to speak with me. No?”

“No. I’m just passing through, Antoine. You haven’t seen me.”

“I get it.” He tapped the side of his large Gallic nose. “You are on one of your histoires, n’est ce pas?”

D’accord. Just need to avoid someone.”

“Antoine’s kitchen is the gateway to freedom. No?”

“Yes,” I said.

“And the temple of the gastronomie magnifique. No?”


“But you must try one of these caviar canapés before your – how you say? – disparition. No?”


He grabbed the platter from the sous chef and shoved it towards me. The canapés looked good. I took one and bit into it.

Délicieux,” I said. “But I must go. If anyone comes after me, see what you can do to hold them up.”

“Leave it to me,” Antoine said. “I give him caviar canapés sprinkled with – what you call? – Kruschen Salts.”

“That should slow him down a bit,” I said.

“The caviar hides the taste of the salts. No?”


“He makes very loud – how you say? – framboises.”


Ici.” He pointed to his ample rump.

“Don’t give him too large a dose,” I said. “He moves in elevated company.”

I crossed the kitchen and went out through the back door.


Big thanks to Peter Bartram for stopping by today and telling us about his inspiration for HEADLINE MURDER and the Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series.

Be sure to check out Peter’s website at http://www.peterbartram.co.uk

HEADLINE MURDER (published by Roundfire Books) is out in paperback and e-book today.

To see the book on Amazon click on the book cover below:


The #PrettyBaby Blog Tour: CTG reviews Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica


What the blurb says: “A chance encounter. An act of kindness. A tangled web of lies. How far would you go to help a stranger? When Heidi Wood catches a fleeting glimpse of a teenage girl on a Chicago train platform, clutching a baby in her arms, she can’t get the image out of her head. Heidi is a charitable woman – but her husband and daughter are horrified when she returns home one day with the young woman, Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Dishevelled and apparently homeless, the girl could be a criminal – or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi offers them refuge. As Willow starts to get back on her feet, disturbing clues to her past begin to surface and Heidi must decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into something far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.”

This is a stunningly good second novel by Mary Kubica whose debut – THE GOOD GIRL – was one of my top reads of 2014.

Heidi is a caring, generous woman in a time-poor marriage complete with the challenges of a fast-growing up daughter and all the angst that can bring. She wants to do the right thing, driven by the need to help others, and so when she encounters Willow and baby Ruby she is unable to turn a blind eye like all the other commuters on the train. But bringing Willow and the baby home with her drives a wedge into the stress fractures in her family relationships, turning them from cracks to chasms. Becoming increasingly distant from her husband and her daughter, Heidi focuses on Willow and baby Ruby, even though she has no idea of the secrets they are hiding.

Both chilling psychological thriller and an emotion-filled study of a modern family’s life and the secrets they keep from each other – the doubts, the temptations, and the silent grief of a never spoken about sadness that never goes away – Pretty Baby has an ever building sense of unease that puts you on edge and compels you to turn the pages ever-faster to discover what has (and will) happen.

Perfect for psychological thriller fans.


Be sure to check out Mary Kubica’s website at www.marykubica.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryKubica

You can buy Pretty Baby from Amazon by following the link on the book cover below:


Have a read of my review of Mary Kubica’s debut novel THE GOOD GIRL here

And be sure to check out all the other great #PrettyBaby Blog Tour stops …


Murder in Malmö Blog Tour: Guest post by Torquil MacLeod

Author at market in Möllevången

Today author Torquil MacLeod is taking over the reins of the CTG blog as part of his Murder in Malmö Blog Tour.

Over to Torquil …

It was on a storm-tossed ferry from Newcastle in the middle of December that we made our visit to Sweden. On arrival in Gothenburg, we took a very slow train down the coast and ended up at a desolate Malmö Central Station at midnight. We were virtually the only people left on the train when we were met by our elder son, who had recently moved to Skåne. We drove through deserted streets and the only bright spots were the electric Christmas lights in nearly every window. It wasn’t the most promising of starts, yet it turned out to be the start of a great adventure.

During that first wintry visit, I was captivated by the landscape of Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden. Part of the time we stayed in Ystad with a police detective based in the town. She has become a firm friend (and police adviser), as has her ex-partner, who still serves as a detective in Ystad. At that time, I was interested in writing film scripts and worked on a number of projects with a producer friend. Among the scripts I came up with, two were crime-based ideas. Both were set in southern Sweden, and one specifically in Malmö.

It was then that I discovered Henning Mankell, quite by chance, in a bookshop in Newcastle – he only had a couple of translated novels out over here at that time. I was amazed to discover that they were centred in Ystad and the surrounding countryside that we were becoming so familiar with. Soon the trickle of Scandinavian crime novels became a steady stream. With my “screenwriting” career going nowhere fast – particularly once I realised how virtually impossible it is to get scripts as far as filming – I decided to dust off an old script idea and turn it into a novel. That was Meet me in Malmö.

Though the central figure, Anita Sundström, was to be a Swedish police inspector, I wanted to give British readers an outsider’s view of the country – my view. The novel was a basic introduction to Sweden, as home-grown Swedish writing – just as crime writing from any other country – assumes a certain degree of local knowledge and cultural understanding in its readers. In all four of my Malmö Mysteries, I have attempted to fill in some of the gaps.

I also wanted Anita to be different from many other fictional detectives. Unlike Kurt Wallander, Harry Hole, Morse, Rebus and even Jane Tennyson, she’s only one of a team. She’s not running the investigations. She’s only a cog in the machine and has to work within those restrictions. She can’t be the maverick figure. It’s her role within the team that leads to tensions.

The other main character in the story is Malmö itself. My son called it home for several years. It’s a pleasant city – particularly in the summer with all its beautiful parks. It’s also a cultural melting pot with a large immigrant population. Thanks to the opening of the Öresund Bridge in 2000 linking it to Copenhagen, it has transformed itself from backwater town into cosmopolitan city. This is Anita Sundström’s beat.

The journey of Meet me in Malmö was a tortuous one. After I’d written it I did the usual rounds of literary agents. Not one was remotely interested and the only feedback I got was a suggestion I change my name to a Scandinavian one (Torquil is actually Norwegian in origin), as nobody would buy a Swedish crime novel written by a Brit. The other gem was to avoid using the name Malmö in any subsequent novels in the series. I ignored both pieces of advice and I’ve been quite happy with the results.

Eventually, I found a hardback publisher. But after its short run sold out, they showed no desire to republish. They did put it out as an ebook and it probably sold about ten copies in a year. So, when I got my rights back, I decided to repackage it with a new cover. As it has spent nearly two and a half years in Amazon UK’s top 2000 ebooks, the decision has been justified. And then last year, I was approached by small independent publisher, McNidder & Grace. They are bringing out all four books this year. Murder in Malmö, the second in the series, is coming out now, with Missing in Malmö in September and Midnight in Malmö in October/November.

Though a fifth book is planned for later next year, I am currently writing an Anita Sundström novella set round a murder at Christmas. And as I write this, we are about to set off on yet another trip to Skåne to visit our Swedish grandson, whose parents have just moved to Ystad. My Swedish journey has come round full circle.

You can find out more about Torquil MacLeod over at his website http://www.torquilmacleodbooks.com

To check out Murder in Malmö over on Amazon, click the book cover below:


And be sure to look out the other stops on the Murder in Malmö blog tour …

MinM blog tour pic-2

Guest Blog: Douglas Skelton, author of DEVIL’S KNOCK, talks about why he writes Crime Fiction



Today I’m handing over the controls of the CTG blog to crime writer Douglas Skelton. To mark the publication of DEVIL’S KNOCK – the third book in his Glasgow-based crime series – I asked Douglas to tell us about what attracted him to writing crime fiction …

The memories come in fragments…

I’m maybe 7 or 8, sitting on the floor of our flat in Springburn in Glasgow, writing. It’s a story called ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ – hey, I was a kid, cut me some slack – and it dealt with the murder of a TV personality. And no, I can’t remember whodunit…

I’m about 10 or 11, living in what was then the new town of Cumbernauld, when I pick up ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and read it. I don’t understood it all – it was a simpler age – but I finish it…

Two or three years later, I’m in another former new town, East Kilbride, and being sent to the library by my mother with the instruction, “Get me a murder story.” Naturally, I read a few…

Is that why I write crime?


Or, given my age when writing ‘Cock Robin, which I thought at the time was a book but was really a short story, was there something buried in the genes?

As a whippersnapper I also read westerns and a smattering of science fiction but soon I was sucked into the world of horror and the supernatural.

Now, though, apart from the occasional John Connolly or James Oswald, it’s straight-up crime all the way.

Although it was fiction I had my eye on, my introduction to publication was true crime. It seemed a natural progression from newspaper reporting although my approach was always as a storyteller rather than a journalist. That had its limits, of course, and I was always very much aware that I was dealing with real people with real feelings.

That was why, about halfway through my true crime period – which stretched to 11 books – I became more interested in historical cases.

Around this time I was also involved in investigation work for a couple of Glasgow solicitors. They were very thorough in their approach so this saw me not just taking statements from prosecution witnesses – what we call in Scotland a precognition – but also finding fresh witnesses and evidence.

I was, to all intents and purposes, a private eye, a gumshoe, a shamus. I even had a trench coat.

This introduced me to real crime and criminals in a way that my limited journalistic experience never had.


So when it came time to make the leap from crime fact to crime fiction, I suppose it was only natural that I’d put what I’d learned into my writing – and approach the genre from the point of view of the criminals.

My anti-hero, Davie McCall, is a tough guy. He’s a crook and he’s hard and he can look after himself. But he has a code – he doesn’t hurt women, children or animals. He tries to keep civilians – straight arrows – out of it.

In short, he’s an idealised version of the classic Glasgow hard man.

I gave him a tragic past and a vulnerability that only the reader can see because it was important to me that he be sympathetic.

And I surround him with a cast of characters who are good and bad and downright evil. Hopefully, though, even the worst of them has a touch of humanity.

I’m going for believability rather than absolute realism for these are thrillers. I’m telling tales not exposing the reality of Glasgow’s underworld. I want the reader to be thrilled, to laugh now and then, even cry, for I have a melancholy turn to my own nature and that comes out in the writing.

There are three in the series so far. The final one is due out next year.

Davie’s already been through hell.

I hope you’ll join his journey, see how it turns out.

Douglas Skelton is the author of BLOOD CITY, CROW BAIT, and DEVIL’S KNOCK, all published by Luath Press.

DEVIL’S KNOCK is out now. Here’s the blurb: “The brutal Jarvis clan clawed their way out of their council house by way of the veins and noses of the city’s drug users’ and gained notoriety throughout Glasgow for their violence and fierce family loyalty. Their power is uncontested but when “Scrapper” Jarvis stabs Dickie Himes to death outside a nightclub, all hell breaks loose and Davie is pulled back into the fray.”

To find out more about Douglas Skelton and his books hop on over to his website at www.douglasskelton.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @DouglasSkelton1

To check out DEVIL’S KNOCK on Amazon click on the book cover below:



The Jump Blog Tour: CTG interviews Doug Johnstone about #TheJump


Today I’m delighted to welcome author Doug Johnstone to the CTG blog as part of his blog tour marking the launch of his new thriller THE JUMP.

And so, to the questions …

Your latest book – THE JUMP – is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

The book is all about Ellie, a woman in her forties who is struggling after the suicide of her teenage son six months ago. Her son jumped off the Forth Road Bridge near their house in South Queensferry, and the story opens with her finding another teenage boy on the bridge about to jump. She sees a chance at redemption for what she thinks are her failings as a mother, but in reality she gets sucked into a whole new nightmare that threatens everyone around her.

I’ve been skirting around the issue of suicide for a long time in my writing, and this book feels like a culmination of that obsession. I wanted to write about the loss and lack of resolution for those left behind by suicide, how there are no easy answers, but I wanted to embed that in a thriller storyline. Hopefully The Jump manages to pull that off, but I guess readers will have to decide for themselves. Although Ellie does some terrible things, I think she’s the most sympathetic central character I’ve had in a book, and hopefully, if I’ve done my job, the reader will care about what happens to her and those around her.

How did you get into writing thrillers – what was it about the genre that attracted you?

I kind of fell into it really. My first two books were less obviously thriller-ish, though they were marketed as crime books by the publisher. I’ve always read thrillers and crime, in fact, I never really thought about the distinction between any genres of book when I was reading and then also when I first started writing. All good books have conflict at their core, and more often than not that involves criminal activity.

I suppose I write domestic noir, if you want to define it, thrillers about ordinary people like you or me getting sucked into horrible, extraordinary, tragic situations. Hopefully the reader then wonders what they would do in a similar situation. I’ve always been interested in how ordinary folk act under extreme pressure – we all like to think we’d do the ‘right’ thing, but morality is never black and white, and I have a lot of sympathy for people doing wrong things in seemingly impossible circumstances. So that’s what I write about.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

I’m somewhere in between. I like to be pretty organized before I begin the first draft, but I don’t have everything nailed down in terms of plot. I usually have a pretty clear idea about the opening few scenes, and the same goes for the final few chapters, but I deliberately leave a little bit of a grey area in the middle to get to where I’m going to. So much of the story depends on the characters and how they react to the crap you’re throwing at them, you have to leave a little wriggle room there. Plot ultimately stems from character, so if I need to change ideas about what happens because of the way the book is progressing, then I’m happy to do that.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

It’s kind of banal advice, but just keep at it. Getting published can feel like a war of attrition sometimes, like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, but you just have to keep plugging away at it. Keep reading all the time, even the rubbish books teach you something and act as inspiration to write better. And keep writing all the time, you get better and better at it without even noticing sometimes.

It’s good to be clued up about the industry, but writers should never try to chase whatever they think the next big trend is going to be. For one thing, that bandwagon will be long gone before you can get on it, but more importantly, you’ll be writing something that isn’t true to yourself. Write the story you want to read, write it as well as you can, and eventually, hopefully, people will notice. Don’t be disheartened!

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

I’m currently re-drafting the next novel, a kind of femme fatale thing set in Orkney that starts with a plane crash and gets nastier. I’ve still got a fair bit to do on that, so that’ll take me to the autumn, then I usually spend a month or two working on new ideas before I settle down to the next book. I have a few kicking around at the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it while I’m still working on something. Apart from that, two of my books are optioned for film and television, so hopefully there will be some movement there, and I also work part-time at Queen Margaret University as a literary fellow. Plus I’m looking after my two young kids, so plenty to be getting on with!

Massive thanks to Doug Johnson for stopping by to chat about his latest book THE JUMP and tell us about his writing process.

THE JUMP is out now. Here’s the blurb: “You can do anything, if you have nothing left to lose. Struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her teenage son, Ellie lives in the shadows of the Forth Road Bridge, lingering on its footpaths and swimming in the waters below. One day she talks down another suicidal teenager, Sam, and sees for herself a shot at redemption, the chance to atone for her son’s death. But even with the best intentions, she can’t foresee the situation she’s falling headlong into – a troubled family, with some very dark secrets of its own.”

To find out more about Doug Johnstone and his books hop on over to his website at www.dougjohnstone.wordpress.com/novels/ and be sure to follow him on Twitter @doug_johnstone

To look at THE JUMP on Amazon click on the book cover below:


And be sure to check out these other fab stops on THE JUMP blog tour …



CTG Reviews: #Untouchable by Ava Marsh


What the blurb says: “Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return.

Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

This is a pulse-pounding crime thriller with a difference – it includes a lot of up close and centre-stage sex.

Stella (real name, Grace) is an escort by choice. She enjoys her job and the financial freedoms it brings, although she does sometimes wonder if she’ll ever be able to stop. That all changes when another high-end escort she recently worked with is murdered. Suddenly she’s feeling on edge with even her regular clients.

Unwilling to believe the Police’s version of events, and plagued by the feeling that her friend was killed for something she knew rather than who she was, Stella can’t move on. Taking matters into her own hands, she sets out on her own search for the truth, but as she begins to get closer to finding the identity of the killer it becomes clear that her quest could have deadly consequences.

Unflinchingly authentic, this thriller gives a peep into the world of a high-class escort, from the clients and the money, to the drama and tension the profession causes in their personal relationships [but beware, if you don’t want to read graphic sex scenes, this book might not be your thing!]. It’s a real page-turner of a read – darkly funny at times, heart-breaking at others – with a riveting mystery at its heart.

As pacey as Lee Child, racier than EL James, and utterly gripping – Untouchable is unmissable!

To find out more about Ava Marsh pop over to her website at http://www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

To buy UNTOUCHABLE from Amazon, click on the book cover below:


Also, be sure to check out these great stops on the UNTOUCHABLE blog tour …

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#Untouchable Blog Tour: CTG interviews Ava Marsh


Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on Ava Marsh’s UNTOUCHABLE blog tour, and interviewing the author herself. UNTOUCHABLE is a sizzling new crime thriller that’s published this month, and is one of my must-reads of the year.

So, to the interview …

Welcome, Ava. Your new book UNTOUCHABLE is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

Certainly. It’s the story of Stella, an expensive London call girl, who stumbles into a top-level conspiracy when a friend and colleague is found murdered in a hotel room. Nothing about this death adds up for Stella, who finds she can’t leave it alone. But uncovering the truth comes at a high price, especially for a woman whose past refuses to stay buried.

How did you get the idea for the story?

Two things converged. One, I was interested in writing crime, and when the whole Fifty Shades thing broke out, it occurred to me that perhaps a slightly racier thriller might be a good way to go. But I was also curious about high-end sex work, as it seemed that call girls, who often ‘service’ the rich and powerful, enjoy a great deal of insight into those men’s private lives. Untouchable was born with the idea that such insight might include something impossible to ignore.

UNTOUCHABLE is a crime story set in the world of high-class escorts. How easy (or not) was it to do the research you needed?

Much easier than you’d imagine. Escorts working at this level have a lot of downtime – they might only have a few appointments a week – so a lot write or blog about their work. Most famously, Brooke Magnanti, otherwise known as Belle de Jour, though I deliberately avoided reading her novels, good as they are, for fear of unconscious plagiarism.

And yes, I know some people in the business. Intelligent, well-educated, professional women who decided to escort for all sorts of reasons. Obviously they had some interesting tales to tell.

What’s your writing process – do you plan first or jump right in?

I plan. I’d be too scared to embark on a complex thriller without having a pretty clear idea of where the story was going. That said, I leave plenty of room for inspiration or a change of heart.

Usually I’ll do a rough outline, and split that into chapters, working further on the plot until I have enough scenes to start writing. Then off I go, though there’s always a lot of swapping things around until I get a structure I’m happy with. And of course you get to do it all over again during publisher edits.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

  1. Learn your craft. Writers are made rather than born, and there are dozens of ways you can learn how to write well and structure a novel – creative writing courses, books, online programmes, there’s a wealth of material out there to help you on your way.
  2. Grow a thick skin. You are going to face rejection a lot. Even when you find an agent, your book will be rejected on submission. Even when you secure a publisher, there’s still a thousand ways for that novel to be unloved – failing to garner online promotions or deals, getting shitty reviews, not being picked for prizes or festival slots. And so on and so on. Try not to be too downhearted when that first wave of ‘no’ hits you. Perseverance is everything in this game.
  3. Be nice. Be nice to other aspiring writers, be nice to published authors, be nice to the gatekeepers. Just be as nice as you can, given that writing is a difficult and often frustrating line of business. And by nice, I mean reciprocate. Make sure you’re bigging up others as well as yourself, and be grateful when they return the favour. Don’t make it all about you.

And finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

Err… work. Further editing on my next book, Exposure, about a young porn star who ends up in prison for double murder. More promotional stuff. And my tax return is looming larger by the day. Oh, joy.

On the bright side, I’m brewing up an exciting new idea. Something I can’t wait to get stuck into, so that’s sustaining me through the grittier side of things.

And wine. I predict the rest of the year will involve some choice bottles of red.

Huge thanks for making the CTG blog the latest stop on her UNTOUCHABLE blog tour. To find out more about Ava pop over to her website at http://www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

UNTOUCHABLE is out now. Here’s the blurb: “Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return.

Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

To order it via Amazon click on the book cover below:



And be sure to check out the rest of the fabulous UNTOUCHABLE blog tour …

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Guest Post: Hester Young on the inspiration behind THE GATES OF EVANGELINE


Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to Hester Young, author of THE GATES OF EVANGELINE – the first book in a fantastic new crime series featuring journalist Charlie Cates, and set in Louisiana.

Over to Hester …

Louisiana is the kind of place that almost writes a mystery for you.

From the moment you first turn down an old, unpaved driveway and see that curtain of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, you’ll feel secrets. Stroll past the mossy crypts of a New Orleans cemetery, and you’ll wonder what walks there at night. When you take a swamp ride and suddenly find yourself facing the green-gold gaze of an alligator, it’s almost impossible not to imagine what else those dark waters might be hiding.

This is the world of my novel, and I often feel that I did not really choose it as my setting at all. It chose me.

Louisiana came to me the same way that it appears to my protagonist: in a dream.

I was sitting in a rowboat across from a young boy, surrounded by forbidding swampland. The child told me his name and age. Let me tell you how I died, he said, and when I awoke, I could not shake his horrible story from my mind.

I didn’t know then that I had stumbled upon the opening of a novel. In the thin, early morning light when all is quiet and everything seems possible, I began to wonder if perhaps this boy might be real, if he might be waiting for me somewhere in the Louisiana swamps.

The dream stayed with me for days, weeks, months. When the boy in the boat’s tale began to blend seamlessly with a tragic premonition my grandmother once had—then I knew I had the elements of a story. A boy, long missing. A grieving mother with premonitory dreams. A beautiful and sprawling Southern estate. A swamp that holds a terrible secret.

The only way to exorcise a story is to tell it.

I made three research trips in total. Husband in tow, I toured a trio of Louisiana plantation homes, cruised through the murky swamps, explored a handful of towns in Cajun country, and even experienced the joyful celebration that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mostly, I ate an appalling amount of food. Though each trip gave me new material, it was my first that most shaped the book.


That April, I was newly pregnant. As the trip began, I was practically dancing at the thought of my impending motherhood—in stark contrast with the main character of my book, Charlotte, whose frightening dreams begin after the death of her young son.

Sometimes the stories we create echo faintly in our own lives.

Days later, I found myself in a New Orleans hospital, weeping as a gentle nurse informed me that I had miscarried. In the rawness of that moment, grieving what was really only the idea of motherhood, I came to understand my protagonist in a new way.

For me, Louisiana will always be a place of ghosts, of lost children. But it is also a hopeful reminder of the good that lies ahead. I haven’t forgotten that hospital and the baby that never was, but now I have another image of Louisiana to carry with me: my one-year-old son perched high upon his father’s shoulders, wide-eyed and joyful as he clutches a string of Mardi Gras beads.

That, I hope, is the Louisiana that I have captured in The Gates of Evangeline, a place of light and darkness and all the strange shadows in between.

A massive thank you to Hester for dropping by to talk about Louisiana and the inspiration behind her novel THE GATES OF EVANGELINE.

THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is published today (13th August). Here’s the blurb: “When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees – if she can make sense of them.

The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust – and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.”

To find out more about Hester Young pop on over to her website at www.hesteryoung.com/books/ and follow her on Twitter @HesterAuthor

And to check out THE GATES OF EVANGELINE on Amazon click here.


#BloodyBlogTour Day 9: CTG interviews Dr Kathryn Harkup – author of A IS FOR ARSENIC


Today I’m thrilled to be part of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival #BloodyBlogTour and delighted to be welcoming the fabulous Dr Kathryn Harkup to the CTG blog. Kathryn’s background as an avid Agatha Christie reader, and chemist with a doctorate on her favourite chemicals – phosphines – plus loads of postdoc research, makes her perfectly placed to investigate just how much science fact went into the fiction of Agatha Christie’s novels. Her book A IS FOR ARSENIC: The Poisons of Agatha Christie does just that.

It’s a fascinating read, investigating fourteen of the poisons Christie used in her books and looking at the scientific reality behind the poisons, the feasibility of getting hold of them, administering them, and detecting them historically and in modern times, and comparing actual cases with the murders written in Christie’s books.

So, welcome Kathryn to the CTG blog. Let’s kick off with my first question …

The premise of A IS FOR ARSENIC – a book focused on fourteen of the poisons Agatha Christie used, and the novels she used them in – is so intriguing. What was it that first gave you the idea?

It came about from a discussion with my editor at Bloomsbury. At first I was going to base each chapter on a different Agatha Christie book, but as I started researching it I realised it would be better to base the chapters on the poisons and draw on several different books for each. As I worked on it, and chatted about what I was doing with friends, I got asked the question ‘are you ordering it alphabetically?’ I wasn’t at that point, but when they asked me it seemed a great idea.

You say in the book that you’ve been a Christie fan since you were a teenager. How did you decide which poisons to feature in A IS FOR ARSENIC?

Well, the ones everyone knows were easy to pick – like cyanide and barbiturates. Some poisons have the most fascinating histories, in the way they were used, or in medical terms, so I picked them too. The science is subtle in Christie’s work, but it’s all there, so I re-read all her books, made a list and revised down from there. The list of novels including arsenic and cyanide was huge, but including Sparkling Cyanide was an obvious must!

In the book, you show how each poison was used in Christie’s novels, and investigate the feasibility of its use both at the time the novel was written and in the present day. How did you go about researching this?

Lots of background reading! Scientific texts and Christie’s novels. My Google search history is amazing – I must be on all kinds of watch lists! The British Library was great, they answered all my many questions and were so helpful. Reading isn’t a chore when what you’re looking at is so interesting. I just wish I could have fitted in more [to the book]!

What was your favourite part of the writing process?

The reading and the research. I love learning new things so any opportunity to do so is fantastic. As the focus of A IS FOR ARSENIC is so specific I had a clear goal and could be really structured in now I did the research.

Have you been tempted to follow in Christie’s footsteps and write a novel?

No! I absolutely couldn’t. I’m in awe of people who do. Having read 83 of her books I’ve only once guessed the murderer! I’d be rubbish at writing fiction – I’m creative in some ways, but not in that. You could say that the focus of my work is very different to Christie’s – my aim is to illuminate how things are done, Christie’s was to disguise and cover.

If you had to pick one Christie novel, which would you say was your favourite?

For sheer fun it would have to be the ABC Murders, but there’s no poison in that. So, if you’re after a poisoning one, I’d pick Five Little Pigs as it’s so well plotted, with the poison symptoms threaded so brilliantly into the plot.

You and Christie share a passion for chemistry. Do you think that reading her books had any influence on your choice for career?

I’d like to say yes, but I doubt it did. It was the problem solving aspect of Christie’s books that I loved so much. And you could say it’s the problem solving, puzzle, aspects of science that interests me. In terms of the chemistry in her novels, I think it probably passed me by back then. Christie explains all the necessary information, but does it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re having a science lesson.

Christie was a pioneer of her time, both in terms of her writing and also as a women working in a scientific profession. Still today there are far fewer female than male scientists; what do you think can be done to encourage women into science?

I think it’s great that there’s lots more popular science around now. It makes everyone more aware of science. When Christie was working and writing science was a lot more distant – it was mainly done by men who’d been to University – but now it’s more accessible. I would really encourage anyone – whatever background or gender they are from – who wants to do science to do so.

You’ll be appearing at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in September. What can the audience look forward to hearing about during the event?

All sorts of disgusting stories about horrible poisons! It’ll be good fun. Christie has a great humour to her books. Also, as far as it’s possible, I’ll talk about the good things about poisons too. The main thing I want to do is to show how awesome Agatha Christie is and how great the science behind her books is too.

And, finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

I’ll be very busy this autumn going all over the place talking about Agatha Christie and her poisons. I’ll also be doing more research and more writing. I have the best job!

Huge thanks to Dr Kathryn Harkup for spending time chatting to us about A IS FOR ARSENIC: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.

Kathryn is appearing at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in Stirling on Saturday 12th September. To celebrate 125 years since the birth of Agatha Christie, Kathryn will be joined by novelist Ragnar Jonasson – an Agatha Christie expert who has translated fourteen of her books into Icelandic. Together they will offer unique insights into the work of the enduringly popular author who’s still an influence and inspiration to crime writers around the world today. To find out more and book tickets, hop on over to the Bloody Scotland website at www.bloodyscotland.com/event/the-poisons-of-agatha-christie/

And be sure to check out A IS FOR ARSENIC: The Poisons of Agatha Christie – it’s a fabulous read and a real must for fans of Agatha Christie, murder mysteries, and anyone who wants to learn more about the real life science behind the poisons used in fiction. The book is published on 10th September by Bloomsbury. To find out more and pre-order, click here to go to Amazon.

And don’t forget to check out the rest of the wonderful stops along the #BloodyBlogTour …