CTG Reviews: Writing Crime Fiction – A 60-minute Masterclass by William Ryan and M R Hall


What the blurb says: “Everybody loves a good, juicy murder. So it’s little wonder that crime fiction is the UK’s, if not the world’s bestselling literary genre. In the first of their three 60 Minute Masterclasses, Writing Crime Fiction: An Introduction, acclaimed novelists William Ryan and M.R. Hall give an intensive and entertaining overview of the essentials of the craft.

Fast-paced, clear and accessible, Ryan and Hall distil their years of experience into a definitive guide that will show you how to turn your idea for a story into a page-turning and commercial novel. Written for beginners and experienced writers alike, the authors introduce the essential elements of a compelling story: plot, character, setting and theme, as well as advice on securing the all-important publishing deal.”

So you want to write a crime novel and you’re looking for advice?

Well, who better to guide you through the process than crime writers William Ryan – author of The Holy Thief, The Twelfth Department, and The Bloody Meadow – http://www.william-ryan.com @WilliamRyan_ on Twitter, and M R Hall – author of The Flight, The Coroner, and The Burning – www.m-r-hall.com  @MRHall_books on Twitter; both fabulous crime writers and experienced tutors of the Guardian writing masterclasses.

Structured in a step-by-step sequence helpful to prompt your thinking about each aspect of the crime novel you want to write, Ryan and Hall share their expertise and pose thought-provoking questions to help guide you through the choices you’ll need to make.

In clear, concise chapters this information-packed guide covers: what makes a crime novel; research, points of view, character creation – central and subsidiary, the dramatic world, structure and plotting, writing a novel, and how to be commercial.

With examples from classic and contemporary crime novels, this is an accessible, informative and entertaining read – perfect for reading cover-to-cover, or dipping into as and when you need some help.

So whether you’re revving up to writing a crime novel or you’ve already started and are wrestling with a work-in-progress, Ryan and Hall’s Writing Crime Fiction Masterclass is a book that you really shouldn’t be doing without.

Highly recommended.


You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:


And, if you’d like to learn direct from William Ryan, check out this fabulous Guardian writing workshop http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-masterclasses/2015/aug/27/how-to-research-and-write-historical-fiction-william-ryan-writing-course



[with thanks to William Ryan and M R Hall for my copy of Writing Crime Fiction: a 60-minute Masterclass]


#TheDefenceless Blog Tour: Writing The Defenceless by Finnish crime writer Kati Hiekkapelto


I’m delighted to welcome best-selling Finnish crime writer, Kati Hiekkapelto, to the CTG blog for today’s stop on her blog tour. For her guest post, Kati kindly agreed to talk about what it was like writing her latest book THE DEFENCELESS …

When I was writing The Defenceless, I read an article about Pakistani author Aslam Nadeem, who was locked in one room when he was writing the novel Wasted Vigil. Someone gave him food through the hatch in the door, and he requested that no one let him out until the book was finished. He stayed in that room for seven months without seeing anyone, doing nothing but writing and sleeping. My first thought after reading about his isolation, was Wow! That’s exactly what I need. To be an effective and productive writer I really do need total solitude, without Internet access – some sort of all-inclusive accommodation, somewhere far away and a secretary! Or even better, a wife.

I’ve often been asked if it is difficult to ‘return to normal life’ after an intensive writing session. The answer is yes. However, in my experience it is even more difficult to ‘return to writing life’ after an intensive period in real life. The trouble is that reality lurks everywhere, all the time, and it is often very invasive. It has the shape of family, friends, lawnmower, snow shovel, washing machine, grocery list, shopping centre, bills, and millions of other things you can not escape.

I usually work in the mornings. I like the purity of thought that occurs after a sleep and therefore I don’t allow myself to use the Internet or talk to anyone before I have written my daily words. I often disobey my own rules and check Facebook or emails. Sometimes I have to ring or text, or sit down for a chat with my children. Yes, I get disturbed, but I try to get over it. I have to. I write for between three and five hours a day and after that I answer my emails, surf the internet and take part in the usual round of social media that seems to be part of being a writer these days.

Then I have to stop. I have to cook, do the laundry, be with my children, clean the house, meet my friends and do all that stuff that everyone else has to do too. At first my thoughts and soul are absent from these activities – they want to remain in my fiction world and I want to keep them there, too. After a while reality and its never-ending responsibilities drag my mind into my body again and the text begins to fade away. Finally I’m present in my normal life.

And then the next morning it’s time to start writing again – forget about everything else, get into the right mood, find the right words, sentences, rhythm and try to ensure that the text continues to flow, that it takes on shape as a cohesive whole. And there it is again! That temptation winking at me from the real world, which suddenly seems fascinating. Even washing dishes and Hoovering suddenly looks like a good idea, as does time spent with my family. The longer the ‘real-life’ period lasts, the harder it is to get back to writing. But back I go, because I have to. Not just because it is my job, but because I am compelled.


When I wrote my first novel, The Hummingbird, I did not have a designated room nor a good desk or even a decent chair. I sometimes wrote on the bathroom floor! (No wonder I had to go for physiotherapy several months after finishing the book.)

Nowadays my writing conditions have improved. I have a writing room and an electric desk – I like to write standing. I think my room absorbs all the feelings I want to have in the text and therefore it helps me to find the right mood every morning. Sometimes I need (or rather the text needs) a writing period longer than four hours per day and I have to pack my computer and notes and go away for couple days. When I wrote The Defenceless, I used my aunt´s cabin in Lapland. It was amazing to write murder mystery in the wilderness, surrounded by November darkness…

I envy my colleagues who can write in cafés surrounded by people and voices. I need absolute silence. Some authors also manage to write when they are travelling. Because of many foreign translations of The Hummingbird and The Defenceless, I have to spend a lot of time promoting my books abroad. It is fascinating and inspiring, of course, but it also means putting my writing aside to talk about previous books, which sometimes feels like schizophrenia. In that state of mind, I find it impossible to concentrate on writing!

The Defenceless was partly inspired by Nadeem’s Wasted Vigil. Conception of time is often circular in Eastern cultures, not horizontal as it is here in West, and Nadeem´s novel is a beautiful example of this. Because one of the main characters in The Defenceless is a young Pakistani man called Sammy, I wanted to get similar feeling of roundness in my book, as a reflection from his culture. Crime fiction is a very plot-orientated, horizontally proceeding genre and therefore I had to do my circles with a light hand. I was so happy when one Finnish literature journalist noticed my efforts! But I cannot escape reality around me, like Nadeem did, and, perhaps I wouldn’t want it after all. Maybe constant balancing between sinking down to the text and floating up to real-life duties is exactly what I need to be a productive writer. To have all the time and silence in the world and meals from a hatch would most likely make me so lonely, lazy and bored that I wouldn’t write anything worth reading. I have learned to work under in the ‘unsatisfactory circumstances’ otherwise known as ‘normal life’, and it is probably this that makes me the writer I am today.

A wife, however, would still be useful!

A huge thank you to Kati Hiekkapelto for taking over the reins of the CTG blog today and telling us about her writing process and how it felt when she was writing THE DEFENCELESS.

THE DEFENCELESS is out now from the fabulous Orenda Books. Here’s what the blurb says: “When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko. Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable, The Defenceless is an extraordinary, vivid and gripping thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.”

You can find out more about Kati Hiekkapelto on the Orenda Books website and make sure you follow her on Twitter @HiekkapeltoKati

To get the book from Amazon, click on the book cover below:


And be sure to check out all the other excellent stops on THE DEFENCELESS blog tour …





The (Not So) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl #BloodyScotland (part 2)

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

So I’m one of The Slice Girls – a group made up of crime writers, a publicist, and me – who took to the stage (actually, onto the bar) to perform a number at Bloody Scotland’s Crime in the Coo cabaret night. And this is how it happened …

I got ‘the call’, or rather, ‘the IM’ about four months ago. A short message from Slice Girls leader, Alexandra Sokoloff, that simply said, ‘Steph, do you sing?’ It was a simple question, but answering it made me feel a little like Neo in the Matrix – should I take the red pill or the blue one – what should I say? No. Yes. Kind of, well, there was that one time I sang with Danny La Rue …

In the end, I said yes. And so, it began. Well, after Harrogate in July, it began, anyway. I got sent the lyrics and the music for The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, was allocated my part (the “POP” monologue, and given instructions to practice. And practice I did. I also watched Chicago the film, watched clips of the Cellblock Tango performed on Broadway, and also by an all-male cast as part of a Broadway Backwards charity event (and the best rendition of the song in my book!).

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

But, as the months, weeks and days counted down to Bloody Scotland, I’d still only practiced on my own and in private. The fear set in. What if I forgot the words? What if I couldn’t do it in front of other people? Luckily I wouldn’t be up there alone, I was a Slice Girl now, and I’d be performing with fabulous crime writers Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday and Alexandra Sokoloff; and awesome Simon & Schuster senior publicist Elizabeth Preston. I told myself it was going to be fun (and I tried to believe it).

Before long, it was time. I arrived on Friday evening (late, as usual) at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and missed the first practice. Not such a great start, but at least I’d made it to the hotel – and the bar. I soon forgot my nerves after a few drinks, but the next day – Saturday, performance day – they were back, along with all the ‘what ifs’.

But I needn’t have worried – Alexandra had a plan. She gathered us together and had us rehearsing for as long as it took to change six people who’d never sung together into a group that might have a chance of looking like they knew what they were doing. There was choreography to learn too. And the challenge of actually getting up onto the bar in the first place (without putting our heels through the barstool covers). But we practiced, and practiced, and weirdly it was kind of fun.

So, to the evening. We met up at the hotel and headed down to the Curly Coo for our technical rehearsal at 7pm (with the bar due to open at 8pm). Dressed in our costumes we got more than a few odd looks from people out and about in Stirling. We had our rehearsal, with the lights being put up and cameras being fixed in place around us, and then, as the doors were about to be opened, I allowed myself a large glass of wine – for courage, you understand.

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

There were some fantastic performances – Val McDermid singing with Doug Johnstone on guitar, Mason Cross reading a rather entertaining one-star review, and numerous brilliant others. But I have to admit it was hard to concentrate knowing that soon we’d be up on the bar, performing our song.

When crime writer (and Maestro of the evening) Craig Robertson gave us a twenty-minute warning two things happened. First, we all got another drink, and second, we started running through our monologues, quietly, in the upstairs hallway.

Then it was time, and we made our way through the crowded bar, climbed up onto the bar (me in a far less elegant fashion than the others), and the music started …

And, you know what, it actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it’d be. All the way up to the music starting, I felt the fear – absolute and utterly terrifying. But all the practices of the day had done their work, and we all remembered our words, sung in time and had a very fun time. There’s even a bit of video around, taken by crime writer Mari Hannah – you can watch it here

So a massive thank you to Alexandra Sokoloff for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival for letting it happen, and to my fellow Slice Girls – Alex, Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday, Elizabeth Preston.

I truly had a bloody brilliant time!!

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey


L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

What happened at the brilliant #BloodyScotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!

The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).

Scotland v England

Scotland v England

On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.

In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).

Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.

The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).

The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.

But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.

If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post. 

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

CTG Reviews: THE DOMINO KILLER by Neil White


What the blurb says: “When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open-and-shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”

THE DOMINO KILLER is the third instalment of Neil White’s Parker brothers series and it fully delivers all the pulse-pounding tension, twists, and page-turning action that fans of crime thrillers crave.

The book opens with criminal defence lawyer Joe Parker being called in for a client meeting with a man charged with a bizarre theft, and detective Sam Parker involved in investigating a series of seemingly unconnected murders. But neither situation is quite as it first seems, and soon the cases collide in an explosive way that neither brother could have anticipated.

This story has the perfect balance between procedural detail and high intensity action. There’s a real immediacy to the writing and a chilling sense of jeopardy right from the outset that carries all the way through the book to the show-stopping finale. As the story develops, and the brothers’ cases become increasingly intertwined, the tension rises ever higher – making this one of those books that has you reading well into the early hours, desperate for sleep but unable to resist reading just one more chapter.

But this book isn’t just about the action. There’s a real emotion kick too, delivered as the brothers get closer to identifying the man who was responsible for their sister’s murder back when they were teenagers. As the stakes ramp up, they are forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to get justice – putting their careers, their friendships, their families, and their lives on the line.

THE DOMINO KILLER is a fantastic read. It stands alone, but if you’ve not read the first two books I’d urge you to go back and start at the beginning of the series – it will be well worth it.

Utterly authentic and captivatingly compelling, this story grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned right from the first page to the last.

An absolute must-read for crime thriller fans, and one of my favourite books of 2015.


To find out more about THE DOMINO KILLER you can read my interview with Neil White here, check out his website at www.neilwhite.net and follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1965

You can get THE DOMINO KILLER from Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:



[With thanks to those lovely folks at Sphere for my copy of THE DOMINO KILLER]

#TheGirlWhoBrokeThe Rules Blog Tour: an interview with Marnie Riches


Today I’m delighted to be hosting the last stop on THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES Blog Tour and to welcome the fabulous Marnie Riches to the CTG blog for a chat about her wonderful Georgina McKenzie thriller series.

So, to the questions …

Your second book in the Georgina “George” McKenzie thriller series – THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES – came out in August, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Girl Who Broke the Rules sees George studying in the UK for her PhD in criminology. Interviewing violent sexual offenders on their use of pornography during the day, she is working as a cleaner in a Soho strip club by night to fund her studies. But when the mutilated bodies of two working girls are found in Amsterdam’s red light district – seemingly sexually motivated murders – and Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, George is only too happy to work as a consultant for her old friend. The hunt for The Butcher takes George and van den Bergen through the seedy underworlds of Amsterdam and London’s Soho, where they rub shoulders with human traffickers, a backstreet surgeon and a leading pornographer. Hitting dead end after dead end, eventually George seeks the guidance of one of Broadmoor Hospital’s most infamous patients – the dangerously charming and warped serial killer, Dr. Silas Holm.

The series is set primarily in Holland, what was it that attracted you to setting a thriller there?

As a student of Dutch, I lived in the Netherlands for a year in the early nineties. Particularly after seeing the popularity of Stockholm and Oslo in Scandi-Noir crime fiction, when it came to write my own crime thriller, Amsterdam seemed like a perfect location. It’s stunningly beautiful, with architecture and a rich cultural history to die for. But pay a visit to the coffee shops and take a stroll past the prostitutes’ booths and sex shops of the red-light-district and you can imagine so many stories springing from those red-lit alleyways and canalside brothels…

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

I have always loved thrillers. As a child, I read Peter Benchley’s Jaws and adored the adrenalin rush of turning those pages. Then, when The Silence of the Lambs came out, I was hooked for life – utterly seduced by the evil genius of Hannibal Lecter and the inventive sadism of Jame Gumb. It was terrible perfection! With crime thrillers, I love the sense, as a reader, of having a jigsaw puzzle to piece together. It’s always a challenge to see if I can solve the mystery before the narrator gives me the answers. I love a killer twist. There’s a certain escapism in the violence for a big softy like me, and principally, crime thrillers are stimulating political and anthropological portraits of our world. All of these elements also appeal to me as a writer, except I’m in the driving seat, deciding what form the action, the twists and the violent intrigue should take!

Do you have a favourite crime/thriller novel or a crime writing hero/heroine?

Favourite thriller is The Silence of the Lambs. Favourite heroine is Lisbeth Salander because she’s unusual, insanely bright and a kickass rebel. Easy! Favourite anti-hero is Hannibal Lecter because he’s such an elegant, evil charmer. I’m not sure about a true hero. I often find heroes in the thrillers I’ve read a little Alpha Male for me. Even Harry Hole has a bit too much testosterone going on. So, I’ll be cheeky and say van den Bergen, because he’s exactly the sort of man I wanted in a hero.

What about your own writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

Working with a structured two to six page synopsis as a guide, I write the first draft in one go. A novel usually takes me about a month to research and three months to do the actual writing. When the first draft is finished, I give myself a month to edit. I tweak and refine, chop out the rubbish and then replot the whole thing to ensure the high points are in the correct places. Then, I polish again and send my manuscript out to my agent and my editor.

When you write do you picture actors in the roles – if so (or even if not!) who would you be your dream cast for George McKenzie and Chief Inspector van den Bergen?

I never picture actors in the roles when I’m writing. My characters exist as real people in my head. But I have recently been asked the question several times – who would I like to see playing George and van den Bergen on the big screen? George is an outspoken London girl, so the actress would have to have real screen presence. Marsha Thomason, maybe or Naomie Harris. Perhaps Nathalie Emmanuel. As for van den Bergen, I was thinking the other day that if you gave George Clooney grey contact lenses, he might do! He has that silver fox thing, going on, although he’s a bit beefy. It would have to be an attractive, ageing man who could play a miserable bastard beautifully.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

Principally, write a lot. Write as much shit as you can until you get really good. Then, brace yourself, because you’ll get rejection after rejection. Grow a thick skin. Believe in your story. Try to attain the same standards as your literary heroes. Mainly, never give up. You’ve got to really want to get published because it’s very, very hard. Only a lucky few have their first attempts picked up. Most toil on for decades. I’d been writing seriously for just shy of ten years and had penned thirteen novels before my “debut” came out! Six were published children’s books but the rest…just practice!

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

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows should be out in November 2015 – I’m writing the final scenes now. When that manuscript is handed in, I’m going to take some time off and kick around some new ideas. I have a contemporary women’s novel on submission to editors. It’s a funny story about mid-life crisis, so fingers crossed, we’ll see that on shelves by late 2016. And, of course, I’m going to be talking to readers and bloggers on social media about my thrillers, because the whole point of writing them was to see them read and enjoyed!

A massive thank you to the wonderful Marnie Riches for dropping by the CTG blog and letting me ask her so many questions.

You can check out my review of the first book in the Georgina “George” McKenzie thriller series – THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE – here.

Here’s what the blurb says about THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES: When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic. Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running. The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…”

To find out more about Marnie Riches hop over t0 her website www.marnieriches.com and follow her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches

If you’d like to see THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES on Amazon click on the book cover below:


And be sure to visit all the other fabulous tour stops on THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES Blog Tour …

Blog tour

#TheDarkInside Blog Tour: CTG reviews The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds


Today I’m thrilled to be kicking off the #TheDarkInside Blog Tour with my review of The Dark Inside.

What the blurb says: “In this town, no one is innocent. 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.

But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job …”

This debut novel from the uber-talented Rod Reynolds serves up a perfect slice of American noir.

New York reporter Charlie Yates is a damaged man. Haunted by career problems and a failing marriage, he’s alienated many of the people close to him. With his employers desperate to be free of him for a while, he’s sent to cover a spate of double murders in Texarkana. He’s angry and isolated in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place, but as he starts to make acquaintances with the locals and gets up to speed with the facts of the murders, he realises that the town, and the people in it, are hiding many more secrets than they’re willing to share.

Charlie digs deeper, but as he gets closer to the truth, he’s also getting closer to Lizzie – the charismatic sister of one of the victims – making them both a target. As the story hurtles towards its high-stakes, adrenalin-fuelled climax, Charlie will have to risk everything he holds dear if he is to succeed in bringing the murderer to justice.

Like a lovechild of Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald, with a smidgeon of Jim Thompson on the side, this is a relentless, dark and gritty tale about a man who cannot let go until he’s uncovered the truth of what is really going on inside the close knit community of Texarkana.

Inspired by the true story of the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders, with deeply drawn characters and a vividly claustrophobic atmosphere, THE DARK INSIDE is an utterly engrossing debut and one of my top reads of 2015 – an absolute must-read for all thriller fans.

Do yourself a favour and go buy this book – believe me, you’re not going to want to miss it!


You can find out more about Rod Reynolds by following him on Twitter @Rod_WR

The Dark Inside is published today! To see it on Amazon click on the book cover below:


And be sure to check out all the other fabulous #TheDarkInside tour stops …

Dark Inside_blog (8)

CTG Interviews: John Altman about his latest thriller DISPOSABLE ASSET


Today I’m delighted to welcome John Altman to the CTG blog to talk about his new book DISPOSABLE ASSET.

So, to the questions …

Your latest thriller DISPOSABLE ASSET is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

DISPOSABLE ASSET is about a CIA-sponsored assassin who kills an Edward Snowden-like figure in Russia, and then finds herself on the run not only from the Kremlin and the Russian mafia, but from her own agency handlers.

It’s also – like all my books – about loyalty and treason, and the tension between ideological and personal motives. The question that fascinates me is: What makes people spy for their countries, and what happens when their own interests diverge from those of their agency?

In this particular story, the theme of privacy, and lack thereof, permeates everything. The cutting-edge technologies used to track the assassin drive home the very reasons someone might have fled American to expose intelligence overreaches in the first place. And the backdrop of a Russia that ever more closely resembles an artifact from the Cold War portrays where these overreaches might wind up in a worst-case scenario.

Was Edward Snowden’s flight to Russia the inspiration for this book?

Actually, this story started developing years before Snowden. I had the character of the assassin, a ‘disposable asset’ – a young female runaway developed by the CIA, used to complete a high-stakes mission, and then discarded to cover their tracks. La Femme Nikita was an early influence. But the book wasn’t quite jelling. Once the Snowden angle came into it, however, everything fell together.

You’re American, with no intelligence background (that we know of); how did you research DISPOSABLE ASSET?

I do a lot of reading about espionage and intelligence, and in this case also about Russia. I also travelled to Russia several times, and talked at length with Russian friends, and also with some intelligence veterans. Reading provides valuable context, but I find that only primary research really lets me get the little things right. Someone said that good research is like an iceberg – most of it remains invisible below the surface, and the reader sees only the tip peeking above the water.

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

I grew up loving science fiction and horror. And for years, all through my teens and into my twenties, I imitated these books as a writer, and failed to get a publisher interested. Then I went through a mystery phase: Sherlock Holmes and Ed McBain and Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. When I was almost thirty years old, I discovered 1970s-era political thrillers – Eye of the Needle and The Day of the Jackal – and they just clicked with my writing style. My first try in this vein was the World War II spy thriller A GATHERING OF SPIES, which found a publisher. And I’ve been writing spy thrillers ever since.

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

I’m of the Stephen King school – instead of planning everything in advance, I like to throw characters into a situation and then watch them try to fight their way out. My favorite stories are always driven by characters. But spy thrillers do require some tricky plotting, so I usually have some general sense of where the story is heading, some primary plot beats in each of the three major acts. I just don’t know exactly how the story is going to reach these beats. And sometimes it ends up going somewhere else entirely.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

Keep plugging. Not only will you get better, but there is an element of luck involved – the right book crossing the right editor’s desk at the right moment. And never forget that a writer is someone who writes, not someone who gets published. Don’t let your feeling of worth depend entirely on outside feedback. Easier said than done, of course; a little validation (and a paycheck) helps a lot. But with the advent of self-publishing and e-books, the industry is a lot more open to self-starters than it used to be – just ask E.L. James.

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

I have a four-year-old son and a nine-week-old daughter, so I expect the rest of 2015 will involve mostly playdates and changing diapers! I’m trying to squeeze in some work on a new thriller, but sleep deprivation makes it hard to concentrate. All in due time.

A big thank you to John Altman for dropping by the blog today to talk to us about his latest book and his writing process.

To find out more about John and his books be sure to pop over to his website at www.johnaltman.net

DISPOSABLE ASSET, published by Severn House, is out now.

To see it on Amazon click the book cover below: