When CTG met … Andy Martin writer of REACHER SAID NOTHING (and Lee Child!!)

Andy Martin is the Cambridge academic who sat behind Lee Child as he wrote the 20th Jack Reacher book – MAKE ME. Andy observed Lee’s process, his routine, and (amongst other things) the amount of cigarettes he smoked and coffees he drank. For a huge Reacher fan like me, it sounded like the perfect way to spend seven months. I wanted to know more; what was it like to be there as the story was created? How did it feel to be writing a book about the making of MAKE ME? I guess I wanted to know more about the making of the making of book – REACHER SAID NOTHING. Sure, Andy said, let’s talk. So I drove to Cambridge, and we did …

April 14th. Andy’s house. Cambridge. Afternoon.

I’m sitting at Andy’s kitchen table. Andy is making coffee – proper coffee, ground especially and everything. I have made a new friend – Waffle the dog. Waffle is super cute. The only thing is, he wants to sit on my lap, and he’s a bit large for that. Andy tells Waffle to behave. He hands me a coffee, black. It’s delicious.

In REACHER SAID NOTHING you tally up how many cups of coffee Lee Child had in a single day (19 on that occasion). What was the ratio of coffee drinking between you and Lee?

[Andy thinks a moment] About 10:1. I’d have two cups a day, Lee would have twenty. His maximum is about thirty cups though, but he doesn’t drink that many very often. In fact, the chapter with the tally [of words, coffees and cigarettes] was written by Lee – it’s Chapter 57. It was one of the rare days that he started writing early in the day, so he did the tally himself.

Very cool that he wrote a chapter in the book. Did you plan for that to happen?

No, I didn’t plan. I copied Lee’s ‘it might work out’ approach to writing REACHER SAID NOTHING – like he does with his novels. Neither of us had an idea whether the books would work out. In a way I was being Lee, but with longer sentences. It was completely aleatory – we developed the rules as we went along. Just went with it. Like Lee, I didn’t go back and ‘fix’ it – I mimicked Lee’s ‘it’s the only draft’ approach.

So how was it, getting to sit behind Lee as he wrote MAKE ME?

Well, you can see from the emails at the start of REACHER SAID NOTHING [where Andy and Lee discuss the idea of Andy watching Lee write the book] that I’m all excited, and Lee’s replies are short and terse. At that point it was all hypothetical then, when he said yes, it was like, ‘Oh blimey! I’d better do it.’

I didn’t have any idea about how it would be. It depended on him, on how much time he’d allow me to be there. As it was, it worked as I tended to drop in and drop out – there’s a line in the book where I quote Lee as saying that I managed to leave before he felt physically oppressed. [Later in the day, Lee himself says that Andy always let himself out before he felt the need to hit him!]. The amount of time that was varied; sometimes it was a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. Then we’d meet later for coffee or something.


credit (this and above photos): Jessica Lehrman

In REACHER SAID NOTHING you talk about being a ‘participant observer’ of the making of MAKE ME, tell me more about the participant part of that.

Me being there did influence Lee in a variety of obscure ways, like certain words, and a name – the name Wittgenstein. It’s spoken by Reacher and is a nod towards me [see REACHER SAID NOTHING Chapter 62 to find out how]. I reference Wittgenstein often. It’s Lee’s code word for me.

He’s also very open to external influences. On the one hand he remembers a lot of stuff – he’s got a Velcro mind – and he also uses the things around him and puts them into his writing; like ‘bucket’ appearing on the page in MAKE ME while the cleaner is in the apartment Lee’s writing in, and ‘nail’ appearing on the page when the sound of construction nearby is audible.

When you think, why are the books so popular? I think it’s because he manages to include the experience of everyone in them. He taps into the universal in some way. You know, Lee wouldn’t like this, but I think there’s something a bit mystical about it.

Oh yes?

Well, I went to interview the real Lydia Lair [Lydia Lair is the name of a key supporting character in MAKE ME. The real Lydia Lair had won a charity auction to get her name in a Reacher novel.] Lee didn’t know her. All he had was her name. But when she read MAKE ME she was amazed – in the book, the character Lydia Lair is married to Evan Lair, a doctor. The real Lydia Lair’s first love was called Evan and was training to be a doctor, but he died in a car accident. Even though Lee had been shut away in his apartment, he’d somehow tapped into the collective unconsciousness and unknowingly included these references [for ‘collective unconscious’ see Jung’s theory]. How did he do it? There’s a mystery at the core!

As a Cambridge academic, how did writing REACHER SAID NOTHING differ from writing academic research papers?

[Andy thinks a moment. He gets up to give Waffle the dog his dinner. As Waffle eats, a cat comes to the window and peers through. It looks first at the dog, then me. It looks angry.] It reminded me of writing about Napoleon. Or surfers. Or Brigitte Bardot. It’s true, there is some literary snobbery about ‘airport books’ but I think there’s something miracle-like about best sellers. Lee’s default setting is ‘rock star’ – his books might not be Beethoven, but they are The Beatles! I was fascinated by the mystery of what he does, and how he does it.

I had a really fun experience writing REACHER SAID NOTHING versus academic papers. It’s been a broadly collaborative experience. There’s a definite benefit of being associated with Lee, which I very much appreciate – I’m kind of borrowing his readers. Or some of them! I’m hoping the book is what Reacher would do if he wrote literary criticism. I think it’s the difference between Lee and me that makes it interesting – the dialogue going on, and us each getting a glimpse into the other’s world. Maybe pulling a bit of each other’s style into each other’s work.

REACHER SAID NOTHING is all about the writing side of it. I’m now tracing the reader responses to MAKE ME.

So, you’re writing another book?

Yes, it’s about Lee Child and the readers of Jack Reacher, and is a write up of different readers’ experiences of the book and character. He means different things to different readers. Each one comes to the book from very different places, but it satisfies their very different demands. [Cue some musing from me and Andy about what needs the Reacher books satisfy for us].

credit: Dan O'Hara

credit: Dan O’Hara

I know that you’re a big Reacher fan. Have you gone back and read any of the books since writing REACHER SAID NOTHING and, if so, has the experience of watching Lee writing MAKE ME changed the way you read Reacher books?

Yes, I do go back and re-read them. I was particularly interested in re-reading WORTH DYING FOR because that’s the book set in an isolated farming community in Nebraska; it seemed the closest to MAKE ME in location – the same kind of cut-off micro-environment. [At this point we went off topic a bit, talking about the swimming scene in PERSUADER, and I learnt that Lee had been a champion distance swimmer in his youth.]

I can read the books in different ways – either looking for some specific technique, or reading them like I’m diving into the pool and letting it wash over me. I’m a bit nerdy, like a rock band fan. I know the obscure facts but I can still enjoy it. I still have the pleasure of the text. And, like every other reader, I’m thinking when’s the next one out!

Me too!

And with both of us looking forward to reading the next Jack Reacher book – NIGHT SCHOOL – out later this year, the interview was over. But the day was not. Andy and Lee were doing an event together that evening as part of Cambridge Literary Festival (Twitter @camlitfest) and before the event Andy introduced me to Lee. The three of us, along with the lovely Dan O’Hara, strolled through Cambridge (including taking a short cut through the gorgeous King’s College) to the venue, and then I got to chat with them for a bit in the green room. As you can imagine, for an uber Reacher fan like me, it was an amazing treat – in fact, I think I’m still on a high from the whole experience!

REACHER SAID NOTHING by Andy Martin is out now. It’s a fascinating book, and a real must-read for Reacher fans and aspiring thriller writers alike. Here’s the blurb: “On 1 September 1994, Lee Child went out to buy the paper to start writing his first novel, in pencil. The result was KILLING FLOOR, which introduced his hero Jack Reacher. Twenty years later, on 1 September 2014, he began writing MAKE ME, the twentieth novel in his number-one-bestselling Reacher series. Same day, same writer, same hero. The difference, this time, was that he had someone looking over his shoulder. Andy Martin, uber Reacher fan, Cambridge academic, expert on existentialism and dedicated surfer, sat behind Lee Child in his office and watched him as he wrote. While Lee was writing his Reacher book, Andy was writing about the making of MAKE ME. REACHER SAID NOTHING is a book about a guy writing a book. An instant meta-book. It crosses genres, by bringing a high-level critical approach to a popular text, and gives a fascinating insight into the art of writing a thriller, showing the process in real time. It may well be the first of its kind.”

You can buy REACHER SAID NOTHING from Waterstones here and from Amazon here

To find out more about Andy Martin, pop over to his website at http://www.andymartinink.com and follow him on Twitter @andymartinink

You can read more about Andy Martin’s experience of writing REACHER SAID NOTHING over on The Conversation here http://theconversation.com/the-man-with-no-plot-how-i-watched-lee-child-write-a-jack-reacher-novel-51220

And watch Andy and Lee Child in action last month at the Centre For Fiction Master Class here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bF5wDt_D9g

On June 20th Andy will be talking in London at the Prospect Magazine Book Club. Find out more and get tickets here http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/events/bookclub-andymartin



#CrimeFiction Event Alert: Second ‘First Monday’ coming up on 9th May at City University, London

After the stonking success of the sell-out first ‘First Monday’ crime fiction event in April the second event in the series is approaching. But, don’t be fooled, the May event is actually being held on the second Monday – 9th May – to avoid the bank holiday!

If you’ve not heard of it before, First Monday is a monthly crime fiction/thriller night held in Central London. It’s a mix between a social evening and a literary festival panel – with the panel event happening first, from 6.30pm in the College Building at City University (off St John Street, near Angel tube) and the social element taking place from 8pmish in a nearby pub.

Great for readers, writers and industry types, first Monday is an informal get together for like-minded folks to meet up, talk crime fiction, and have a few drinks! There’s a small charge for the panel part of the event – £5 which includes a glass of wine compliments of Goldsboro Books. Goldsboro Books also sell books by the authors at the event, and after the panel there’s plenty of time for signing.

Brought to you by the creative minds of the fab foursome David Headley, Harry Illingworth, Katherine Armstrong and William Ryan, along with new recruit Ella Bowman, this series of events is already set to become one of the must-attend monthly events in crime writing.

Line ups announced so far are:

Monday 9th May – Christopher Fowler, William Shaw, Jack Grimwood, and Sarah Hilary with chair: Jake Kerridge

Monday 6th June – Peter James, Sharon Bolton, Mark Hardie, and Chris Morgan Jones with chair: James Kidd

With a capacity of 110, tickets sell out fast, so to find out more and book your ticket go to www.goldsborobooks.com/events

Follow First Monday on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FirstMondayCrime/

And on Twitter @1stMondayCrime #1stMondayCrime

CTG Reviews: #REACHER SAID NOTHING by Andy Martin


What the blurb says: “On 1 September 1994, Lee Child went out to buy the paper to start writing his first novel, in pencil. The result was KILLING FLOOR, which introduced his hero Jack Reacher. Twenty years later, on 1 September 2014, he began writing MAKE ME, the twentieth novel in his number-one-bestselling Reacher series. Same day, same writer, same hero. The difference, this time, was that he had someone looking over his shoulder. Andy Martin, uber Reacher fan, Cambridge academic, expert on existentialism and dedicated surfer, sat behind Lee Child in his office and watched him as he wrote. While Lee was writing his Reacher book, Andy was writing about the making of MAKE ME. REACHER SAID NOTHING is a book about a guy writing a book. An instant meta-book. It crosses genres, by bringing a high-level critical approach to a popular text, and gives a fascinating insight into the art of writing a thriller, showing the process in real time. It may well be the first of its kind.”

I don’t usually read non-fiction, so this book was rather a departure for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect – would it be an academic analysis of the creation of a Reacher novel? Would it be a ‘fly on the wall’ style documentary of Lee Child’s life as he wrote the 20th book? Would it be the literary equivalent of a series of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’? The answer was: yes, yes, and hell no! (come on, the Kardashians – really??). As a massive Jack Reacher fan I knew it was a book I wanted to read. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how illuminating and thought provoking it would be for me as a writer too.

Lee Child often says in interviews that he’s not a plotter – that the story unfolds organically as he writes. In REACHER SAID NOTHING the reader gets a front row seat seeing how this method looks and feels when things are going well, and when they’re going less well. It charts the flow of ideas, the blocks and decisions, and the light bulb moments when the plot strands start to come together, in real time.

It also shows the nuances of the writing; the importance of the rhythm of the narrative, how specific words are selected, and why commas are put in (or omitted). It’s a brave choice on Lee Child’s part – to invite someone in to analyse his process and his writing – and to have them shadowing him for the best part of a year all the while knowing that they will be writing about what he’s doing. But, if you were going to trust anyone to do that, Andy Martin is the perfect person to pick. I found that, for me, some of the most thought-provoking sections of the book came when Lee and Andy discuss the choices Lee is making about MAKE ME and the thinking behind them.

The result is a captivating snapshot of the life and process of Lee Child during the writing of MAKE ME – illuminating how his life and his writing feed into each other. As a writer, it made me consider my own process – the similarities, and the differences – and was inspiring, reassuring and educational.

It’s a lesson in thriller writing – the Lee Child equivalent of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ – distilled through the expert observations and analysis of Andy Martin. It’s an honest, access-all-areas study of a writer at the top of their game, and it’s also a damn entertaining read.

REACHER SAID NOTHING is the documentary about the making of MAKE ME. It’s the special features of the DVD box set of the novel – the behind the scenes sneaky peep.

An absolute must read for Reacher fans, and essential reading for aspiring writers too. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers this is a book you’re not going to want to miss.


You can buy REACHER SAID NOTHING from Waterstones here and from Amazon here

To find out more about Andy Martin, pop over to his website at http://www.andymartinink.com and follow him on Twitter @andymartinink

On June 20th Andy will be talking in London at the Prospect Magazine Book Club. Find out more and get tickets here http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/events/bookclub-andymartin


#GIVEAWAY: RT for your chance to #WIN a copy of #TENACITY by J.S. Law


It’s friday, and it’s time for another competition! Today’s giveaway is for a fab crime thriller published this week in paperback – TENACITY by J.S. Law. 

Here’s the blurb: “A brutal murder. A lone female investigator. Two hundred metres below the ocean’s surface, the pressure is rising … Suicide must be investigated, especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine only days after his wife’s brutal murder.

Now Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out …” 

You can check out my review of this great debut thriller here



For a chance to win one of the three copies of TENACITY that are up for grabs: all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. You’ll also need to follow us @crimethrillgirl on Twitter so we can send you a direct message should you win.

Rules: (1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winner at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 11pm GMT on Friday 22nd April 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

The #BreakingDead Blog Tour: Corrie Jackson talks about her London – the places that inspired the book

Breaking Dead

Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the fabulous Breaking Dead Blog Tour and have Corrie Jackson take over the reins here at CTG HQ and talk about her London: the places that inspired Breaking Dead. Over to Corrie …

When it came to choosing a setting for my debut thriller, there was only one contender. Noel Coward famously remarked: ‘I don’t know what London’s coming to – the higher the buildings, the lower the morals’. From leafy squares and supercars to concrete jungles and crack-dens, London is a city bursting at the seams. Here are five of the capital’s gems that guest-star in the book.

The Covent Garden Hotel
In my novel, a grisly murder occurs on the third floor of fictional hotel, The Rose. My inspiration was this discreet establishment in the heart of the West-End. It’s a stone’s throw from where I used to work at Grazia magazine and I spent many a lunch meeting celeb-spotting at Brasserie Max (whilst hard at work, ahem). However, the sleek hotel lobby that appears in the book is based on another London institution: Claridge’s. Why the mish-mash? I have no idea; it just felt right.

Bywater Street
I wanted my protagonist, Sophie Kent, to live somewhere classy but charming. This Chelsea cul-de-sac, complete with pastel houses and shiny black railings, hits the spot. Sophie lives at number seven (my old house number in Fulham). London trivia: John Le Carre’s fictional MI6 intelligence officer, George Smiley, lived at number nine. Sophie is in good company!

Corrie Jackson
Wild Honey
The tense dinner between Sophie and her dad takes place at this Mayfair hotspot (although I renamed it L’Ondine in the book). The restaurant is within spitting distance of Conde Nast (the publisher of VOGUE, GLAMOUR and GQ) and it became our unofficial HQ when it first opened in 2007. I’m happy to say every meal I’ve eaten at Wild Honey has ended better than the one in the book.

Berkeley Square
Historians know it as the residence of two former Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and George Canning. I know it as the setting for the annual GLAMOUR Women of the Year Awards (a celeb-packed, debauched affair). I set my fictional fashion show here but combined it with another memory. In 2011, designer Erdem held his spring/summer show in a giant white tent in the middle of Bedford Square. I reported on the backstage antics for GLAMOUR and the essence of the show appears in Breaking Dead.

Albert Bridge
Built in 1873, the bridge is nicknamed ‘The Trembling Lady’ because it vibrates when large numbers of people walk across it. I used to live in Pimlico and my running route took me along Embankment towards Albert Bridge (the same route Sophie walks in the book). My heart lifted the moment I spotted this candy-floss pink bridge dotted with twinkling fairy lights. Sophie, on the other hand, associates it with her brother’s death. Mainly because I liked the idea of her tragedy being entangled with such a beautiful landmark.

A big thank you to Corrie for making the CTG Blog a stop on her tour and talking to us about the places that inspired BREAKING DEAD. 

Intrigued to find out more about BREAKING DEAD? Here’s the blurb: “Newspaper journalist Sophie Kent is hanging by a thread following her brother’s suicide, her personal life in chaos. When the mutilated body of a Russian model turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie recognises her from a recent interview and knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together. As she chips away at the industry’s glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution and blackmail. Battling her demons and her wealthy, dysfunctional family along the way, Sophie pushes her personal problems to one side as she goes head to head with a crazed killer; a killer who is only just getting started…”

BREAKING DEAD is out today in eBook (and will be released in paperback in September). To buy the eBook from Amazon click here

To find out more about Corrie Jackson pop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @CorrieJackson

And be sure to check out all the other fantastic stops along the BREAKING DEAD Blog Tour …

Breaking Dead Tour Banner


The #TENACITY NAVAL TOASTS BLOG TOUR: Ourselves! by J.S. Law plus CTG’s review


Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on J.S. Law’s TENACITY Blog Tour. On each day of the tour, James has been introducing readers to a different Naval toast. Here’s his toast for Wednesday …

Wednesday’s Naval toast – ‘Ourselves’ (as no one else is likely to be concerned for us!)If you’ve followed my blog tour at all, you’ll know that at mess dinners in the Royal Navy, immediately after the Loyal Toast of ‘The Queen’, the youngest officer present will normally offer the traditional drinking toast of that day.
The toast for Wednesday is ‘Ourselves’ with ‘as no one else is likely to be concerned for us’ murmured after, or kept silently within. I love this toast because it reminds me that the submarine environment is one like no other, yet we often forget that. When I was on my road to publication, I once spoke to an agent who told me that he loved my writing (this was for a book before Tenacity) but that he wasn’t sure what I’d written, genre-wise. We had a few minutes left on the slot and so he asked me what I did for a living.
‘Submarines,’ I replied, feeling dejected as I realised he wasn’t going to offer representation. ‘I work on submarines.’
‘why aren’t you writing about that?’ he said, suddenly animated. ‘Write me a book about submarines and send it to me…’
As it is, I signed with a different agent, but that meeting stays with me as a reminder to never forget the obvious, never look beyond ‘Ourselves’.
I went away and wrote that novel, but it’s not about submarines, it’s just set on-board one, and I decided that if a submarine was the ultimate locked room environment then I was going to put the ultimate outsider on there, someone who wouldn’t be included in the toast ‘Ourselves’…


James’ debut novel – TENACITY – absolutely is set in the ultimate locked room environment. Here’s the blurb and my review of the book:

“A brutal murder. A lone female investigator. Two hundred metres below the ocean’s surface, the pressure is rising … Suicide must be investigated, especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine only days after his wife’s brutal murder.

Now Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out …”

This debut novel from J.S. Law is a tense read from start to finish. Danielle “Dan” Lewis – a top investigator with more than a fair share of secrets hidden in her past – is brought in to investigate the alleged suicide of a member of HMS Tenacity’s Ship’s Company. Right from the get-go it’s clear that the odds are stacked against her – Tenacity’s men are a close-knit team and they don’t want anyone – especially a woman – poking around in their business.

Despite the hostility towards her, Dan presses on with the investigation. Master-At-Arms John Granger lends his support (although there are unresolved tensions between the pair that make for a tricky working relationship) and it seems that the investigation will manage to move forward. Then Tenacity gets the order to dive, and Dan has to continue the investigation on-board beneath the ocean’s surface. As she studies the nuances of the case and interviews the men, Dan begins to uncover the lies and secrets hidden within Tenacity’s history, and the danger that might still lurk within.

Like the novel’s title suggests, Dan is a tenacious lead character and someone that, as a reader, I found it easy to root for. She’s a survivor of injustice, using her own experiences as fire to fuel her unrelenting determination to achieve her goal – utterly focused on searching out the truth, even when it puts her own life in danger.

As an ex-submariner, author J.S. Law’s detailed knowledge of the Navy and submarines shines through to make for a highly authentic and atmospheric setting. The uniqueness of the tightly sealed environment of HMS Tenacity is made increasingly claustrophobic through the ever-increasing build-up of jeopardy.

Gritty, super-charged with tension and claustrophobically atmospheric, TENACITY is a real page-turner of a read.

You can find out more about J.S. Law by popping over to his website here and following him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

TENACITY is out in paperback tomorrow (21st April). You can buy it here from Waterstones. Or here from Amazon.

And don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous stops along the route of the TENACITY NAVAL TOASTS Blog Tour …


#InHerWake Blog Tour: CTG reviews In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings



Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on Amanda Jennings’ blog tour for the stunning psychological thriller In Her Wake.

What the blurb says: “A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own: A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.”

This is a remarkable book. Part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age story, it entices you in with a gloriously rich web of secrets and mystery, and holds you spell bound right through to the final heart-wrenching revelation.

Bella is an intriguing character. Shy and subdued, she seems to have let others dictate how things will be her whole life. But when her mother dies, a chain of events are set in motion that will rock the foundations her life has been built on, and cause her to question who she is and what she wants. Determined to find out the truth, she leaves her husband and her job and travels to Cornwall in search of the only people who can help. As she adjusts to life outside of her sheltered existence she starts to uncover not only the devastating lies and secrets that have kept her prisoner since she was a child, but also something inside her that she has never felt before – independence.

Beautifully written, In Her Wake is a story of toxic relationships, family betrayals and self-discovery. It’s both gritty and tragic, and achingly emotive and heart-warming. In short, it’s a stunning must-read of a novel.

To find out more about Amanda Jennings hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @MandaJJennings

In Her Wake is out now. You can buy it from Waterstones here; Goldsboro Books (Hardback Limited Edition) here; or Amazon here

And be sure to check out all the other fabulous stops on the In Her Wake Blog Tour:


Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival launches BIG READ 2016: PD James’ AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN

Big Read Banner

This year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival BIG READ has launched and is celebrating the life and work of the ‘Queen of Crime Fiction’ PD James. In partnership with Faber & Faber and libraries and reading groups in the North of England, the book chosen to be 2016’s Big Read is James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. This iconic book introduces Cordelia Gray, the first modern female detective in crime fiction.  When she created Cordelia Gray, P.D. James was working as a civil servant in the crime department of the Home Office. About the novel, she wrote: ‘I wanted to have a young heroine of courage and intelligence who faces the problems of life with a determination to be successful in a job which everyone else thinks she won’t be able to do.’

P.D. James began writing aged 40 and went on to write over 18 novels and collected numerous awards and honours. Aged 91, she received the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award in 2011. She died in 2014, aged 94.

The Big Read initiative aims to encourage as many people as possible to celebrate great crime writing by reading the same novel at the same time and then getting together to talk about it. Literature Festivals Manager Gemma Rowland said: “We are enormously proud of the Festival’s outreach and literacy initiatives … Thanks to the generous support of publisher Faber, the Festival has been able to distribute 1500 copies of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman to local reading groups through our partner library services across Yorkshire, Middlesbrough and Tyneside for free.”

Crime writer Mari Hannah

Crime writer Mari Hannah

The Big Read begins on Monday May 9 and runs until Friday May 13, with free events in libraries across the North. This year, Festival Reader in Residence and bestselling crime author, Mari Hannah, will be talking about the book and leading the conversation. Mari Hannah is the award-winning author of the fabulous Kate Daniels crime fiction series. Her latest crime novel, a standalone book, The Silent Room, is available now.

Mari said. “It’s a particular honour to be taking PD James on the Big Read, not just because of her brilliance and legendary status but because of the novel itself. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a classic crime novel introducing a lead character ahead of her time. PD James was a true pioneer who gave the rest of us something to chase.”

The BIG READ events will be fantastic, great for crime fiction fans and those new to the genre – so get along to one if you can and chat about An Unsuitable Job for a Woman with Mari Hannah. This is when/where you’ll find her:

Acklam Library – Monday 11am 9th May

Killingworth Library – Monday 2pm 9th May

South Shields Library – Monday 6.30pm 9th May

Rowntree Park Reading Café Tuesday 11am 10th May

Ripon Library – Tuesday 2pm 10th May

Skipton Library – Tuesday 7.30pm 10th May

South Elmsall Library –   Wednesday 11am 11th May

Keighley Library – Wednesday 2pm 11th May

Holmfirth Library – Wednesday 7pm 11th May

Newcastle Library – Thursday 11am 12th May

Hartlepool Library – Thursday 2pm 12th May

Billingham Library – Thursday 7pm 12th May

Sheffield Library – Friday 10am 13th May

Rotherham Library – Friday 1pm 13th May

Barnsley Library – Friday 4pm 13th May


To find out more about Mari Hannah pop over to her website at http://www.marihannah.com/ and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

To find out more about the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (and the BIG READ) – Europe’s largest event dedicated to the celebration of crime fiction – that’s taking place from 21st – 24th July 2016 check out their website here www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com and follow them on Twitter @TheakstonsCrime

#TheMissing Blog Tour: Get a peep at Chapter 1 of C.L. Taylor’s The Missing


Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on the lovely C.L. Taylor’s THE MISSING Blog Tour and letting you get a read of the first chapter of her latest thriller.

Firstly, here’s the blurb: “When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire Wilkinson, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface. Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with is disappearance. A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it? Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide …”


Chapter 1

Wednesday 5th August 2015

What do you wear when you peer into the barrel of a camera and plead for someone, anyone, to please, please tell you where your child is? A blouse? A jumper? Armour?

Today is the day of the second television appeal. It’s been six months since my son disappeared. Six months? How can it be that long? The counsellor I started seeing four weeks after he was taken from us told me the pain would lessen, that I would never feel his loss as keenly as I did that first day.

She lied.

It takes me the best part of an hour before I can look at myself in the bedroom mirror without crying. My hair, cut in a short elfin style last week, doesn’t suit my wide, angular face and my eyes look dark and deep-set beneath the new fringe. The blouse I’d deemed sensible and presentable last night suddenly looks thin and cheap, the knee-length pencil skirt too tight on my hips. I select a pair of navy trousers and a soft grey jumper instead. Smart, but not too smart, serious but not sombre.

Mark is not in the bedroom with me. He got up at 5.37 a.m. and slipped silently out of the room without acknowledging my soft grunt as I peered at the time on the alarm clock. When we went to bed last night we lay in silence side by side, not touching, too tense to talk. It took a long time for sleep to come.

I didn’t say anything when Mark got up. He’s always been an early riser and enjoys a solitary hour or so, pottering around the house, before everyone else wakes up.

Our house was always so noisy in the morning, with Billy and Jake fighting over who got to use the bathroom first and then turning up their stereos full volume when they returned to their rooms to get changed. I’d pound on their bedroom doors and shout at them to turn the music down. Mark’s never been very good with noise. He spends hours each week driving from city to city as part of his job as a pharmaceutical sales rep but always in silence – no music, audiobooks or radio for him.

‘Mark?’ It’s 7.30 a.m. when I pad into the kitchen, taking care to step over the cracked tile by the fridge so I don’t snag my pop socks. Three years ago Billy opened the fridge and a bottle of wine fell out, cracking the tiles that Mark had only finished laying the day before. I told him it was my fault.


The kettle is still warm but there’s no sign of my husband. I poke my head around the living-room door but he’s not there either. I return to the kitchen, and open the back door that leads to the driveway at the side of the house. The garage door is open. The rrr-rrr-rrr splutter of the lawnmower being started drifts towards me.

‘Mark?’ I slip my feet into a pair of Jake’s size ten trainers that have been abandoned next to the mat and slip-slide across the driveway towards the garage. It’s August and the sun is already high in the sky, the park on the other side of the street is a riot of colour and our lawn is damp with dew. ‘You’re not planning on cutting the grass now, surel—’

I stop short at the garage door. My tall, fair-haired husband is bent over the lawnmower in his best navy suit, a greasy black oil stain just above the knee of his left trouser leg.

‘Mark! What the hell are you doing?’

He doesn’t look up.

‘Servicing the lawnmower.’ He gives the starting cord another yank and the machine growls in protest.


‘I haven’t used it for a month. It’ll rust up if it’s not serviced.’

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

‘But Mark, it’s Billy’s appeal.’

‘I know what day it is.’ This time he does look up. His cheeks are flushed and there’s a sheen of sweat that stretches from his thick, unkempt eyebrows all the way up to his receding hairline. He passes a hand over his brow, then wipes it on his trouser leg, rubbing sweat into the greasy oil stain. I want to scream at him that he’s ruined his best suit and he can’t go to Billy’s appeal like that, but today isn’t the day for an argument, so I take a deep breath instead.

‘It’s seven-thirty,’ I say. ‘We need to get going in half an hour. DS Forbes said he’d meet us at eight-thirty to go through a few things.’

Mark rubs a clenched fist against his lower back as he straightens up. ‘Is Jake ready?’

‘I don’t think so. His door was shut as I came downstairs and I couldn’t hear voices.’

Jake shares his bedroom with his girlfriend Kira. They started dating at school when they were sixteen and they’ve been together three years now, sharing a room in our house for the last eighteen months. Jake begged me to let her stay. Her mum’s drinking had got worse and she’d started lashing out at Kira, phys­ically and verbally. He told me that if I didn’t let her live with us she’d have to move up to Edinburgh to live with her grandfather and they’d never get to see each other.

‘Well, if Jake can’t be bothered to get up, then let’s go without him,’ Mark says. ‘I haven’t got the energy to deal with him. Not today.’

It was Billy who used to disappoint Mark. Billy with his ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude about school and his belief that life owed him fame and fortune. Jake was always Mark’s golden boy in comparison. He worked hard at school, gained six A- to C-grade GCSEs and passed his electrician course at college with flying colours. These days it’s phone calls about Jake’s poor attendance at work that we’re dealing with, not Billy’s.

I haven’t got the energy to deal with Jake either but I can’t just shrug my shoulders like Mark. We need to present a united front to the media. We all need to be there, sitting side by side behind the desk. A strong family, in appearance if nothing else.

‘I’m going back to the house. I’ll get your other suit out of the wardrobe,’ I say but Mark has already turned his attention to the lawnmower.

I shuffle back to the path, Jake’s oversized shoes leaving a trail in the gravel, and reach for the handle of the back door.

I hear the scream the second I push it open.

THE MISSING is out now. You can buy it from Waterstones here, or Amazon here

To find out more about C.L. Taylor hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @callytaylor

And don’t forget to check out all the other great stops along THE MISSING Blog Tour:

The Blog Tour

The ‘ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT’ Blog Tour: Read an extract of All Through The Night by M.P. Wright

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Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on M.P. Wright’s All Through The Night Blog Tour and letting you in on a sneaky peep at the book by sharing the Prologue with you.

But, firstly, here’s what the blurb says: “Bristol, Summer 1966 … Struggling to make ends meet, private detective JT Ellington sees a way to make some easy cash when approached by Ida Stephens, the administrator of a local orphanage. She offers him £500 to locate a disgraced Jamaican GP, Dr Ronald Fowler. Fowler has in his possession a number of potentially damaging files regarding deceased young children who have been living at the orphanage. Ida tells Ellington to track him down by any means necessary, retrieve the files and ask an important question: Where is the truth to be found? But Ellington has underestimated his assignment. He quickly finds himself up to his neck and running for his life, in a world where nothing is as it appears and the truth is beyond his imagination …”



Thursday, 12 May 1966

The Douglas C-124 aircraft rose and fell in the air as it butted and fought its way through heavy rain, strong winds and gut-churning turbulence. Its four Pratt & Whitney engines roared in unison as it flew out some two hundred miles off the coast of mainland Scotland towards Keflavík airfield, on the western tip of Iceland. The plane had been in the air for just over two hours since taking off from the United States Strategic Air Command base at RAF Fairford, in the heart of Gloucestershire. In the cockpit, Captain Gene Westlake glanced quickly at his wristwatch, which read 5.45 a.m. He smiled to himself, pleased that they were still making good time despite the appalling weather conditions. He looked out of the small window on his left-hand side and saw below him the angry, swelling white tips of the North Atlantic beating against the craggy outcrop of the final edges of the Faroe Islands’ rugged coastline. There were five other crew members on board the “Old Shaky”, as the C-124 was fondly known by all those who flew in or worked on her. This was strictly an all-American crew of the Military Air Transport Service and had made the same long journey back to Dover airfield in Delaware State, USA, more times than they cared to remember.

Sat next to Westlake in the cockpit was his co-pilot, First Lieutenant Dan Knudson and, to their rear, Navigator Ed Barry. Below them in the vastness of the transport hold were loadmasters Carl Brett, Bobby Romaire and Mac Kepner. Once a week they flew the huge aircraft with its cargo of military freight. On a flight out to Britain it could be anything from confidential documentation, armaments and uniforms to newly spruced-up Willys jeeps and troop-carrying lorries. On a run to the US, the cargo could be servicemen and women, tours of duty complete, all cheerfully homeward bound after months away and packed in like sardines alongside countless sacks of mail bound for armed forces and to news-anxious parents and sweethearts back in the States. Same crew, normal trip, thought Gene Westlake, only today, what was in the cargo hold of his craft made him nervous.

It wasn’t unusual to have military police officers on board an aircraft bound for the US. You would normally find them in pairs escorting a soldier, sailor or airman who had committed a serious crime abroad and who would more often than not be tried in the UK before being returned back to a martial penitentiary to serve out their custodial sentence. But military police officers sergeants Paxton and Jardine were not taking the four-thousand-mile flight simply to guard over a criminal miscreant. This was a more personal, delicate enterprise. They sat expressionless beyond the closed door of the cockpit on the upper level of the Douglas aircraft, neither of them perturbed by the way the plane shook as it was buffeted by the squally storm. The seasoned, battle- hardened soldiers, white and in their mid forties, were both originally from different armpit, backwater, shithole towns in the Deep South, Mississippians and staunchly proud of it. Both men were confident that their latest mission would run smoothly, like the previous nine other operations had; a little bad weather wouldn’t change the task at hand. There was no going back. Such was the serious nature of their undertaking.

Under their supervision was a consignment that was both precious and unique and of considerable monetary value, not only to the two policemen but also to the five other crew members on board. With nine ‘special’ deliveries complete, they knew the stakes, the risks involved. They had all been keen to go, enjoyed the pay-offs, but one man had got cold feet and asked for this to be his last illicit exercise.

Twenty-four hours previously Bobby Romaire had sat in the mess room after evening chow down and told his fellow crew he wanted no further part in their business, that he’d had his fill and was looking to get transferred to a different unit. He assured the other guys that he wasn’t a squealer, that their secret was safe with him. But Romaire’s colleagues got spooked and couldn’t allow him to walk away that easily. Gene Westlake knew what had to be done and told the rest of his crew to be cool, to leave it to him.

On Wednesday evening Westlake made a couple of telephone calls and informed the military police officers Paxton and Jardine of Romaire’s decision to walk.

“Just fly the damn package back stateside, like we done all those times before, you understand? Now, you leave Airman Romaire to me,” Paxton had said icily before the line went dead. Gene Westlake put down the phone at his desk, then told himself that the conversation had never happened.

Loadmaster Bobby Romaire stood on the bottom deck at the rear of the cargo hold, staring blankly down at a five- foot-square wooden crate. The crate was held securely by thick black webbing straps that looped through into large metal D-rings that were riveted into the walls and floor of the aircraft. Drilled into the panels of the crate were eight silver-dollar-sized holes, and printed on each side of the large box in big black capital letters were the words “MILITARY POLICE DOG IN TRANSIT TO BE LOADED AND UNLOADED BY MPC STAFF ONLY”.

Inside, sleeping after being sedated, was a large three- year-old male German Shepherd. Romaire knelt on one knee at the side of the crate and put his ear to the wooden panel, then covered his other in an attempt to muffle out the thunderous hum of the engines. He thought he could pick out the steady, heavy breathing of the big, drugged-up dog as it slept.

The airman put his face flat against the panel of the crate and called out. The side of his mouth grazed the wood as he spoke.

“Hey . . . you hear me in there? Now you just hold tight, don’t you be scared none. It’s gonna be all right, I’m gonna have you outta there as soon as this here Old Shaky hits the ground. You’ll be safe, I promise you that.” Bobby Romaire again pushed his ear as hard as he could against the crate and as he did felt his scalp being grabbed tightly. His head was snatched back and violently slammed into the side of the wooden container. Struggling to remain conscious and unable to cry out, he felt only the briefest touch of cold metal on the nape of his neck as the flat hilt of a stiletto knife made contact with his clammy skin. The needle-like blade rapidly shot up and injected itself underneath the occipital bone and into the soft tissue of his brain. Bobby Romaire felt nothing else as he fell back onto the deck of the cargo hold. He thought he heard the faint voice of a child in his head softly speak the word “Truth” as his life spiralled uncontrollably away from him. Gold shards of light flickered briefly in front of his eyes as a cold darkness took hold of him and pulled a last sharp breath away from his now limp body.

Sergeant Paxton stood over Bobby Romaire’s corpse, the dead man’s lifeless eyes staring back up at him. The thin stiletto blade in Paxton’s right hand made a sweeping sound as it swiftly returned itself into the black lacquered handle. Paxton opened his olive-green tunic and carefully clipped the knife back into a small leather cradle on his belt, then turned around and watched as his colleague walked slowly along the length of the vast hold to join him. As Nathan Jardine grew closer he threw his thumb back over his shoulder towards the front of the plane, then bellowed out to Paxton over the deafening sound of the engines.

“Westlake’s starting to take this heap down a couple of thousand feet, says he’ll flash the droplight that’s over the floor chute, then we can lug this fucker’s carcass into the drink.”

Paxton smiled back at Jardine. The two men bent down, took hold of Bobby Romaine’s body and heaved it over towards the emergency exit situated in the hull of the plane, then waited until the red overhead light began to glow on and off. Jardine bent down and turned the first of three metal handles, then used all his strength to pull back the chute door to reveal the dark emptiness below them. The inside of the plane was filled with the piercing scream of the wind from outside mixed with the growling rumble of the four giant propellers.

Paxton lifted Romaire’s body up by the scruff of his lapels, pulling it towards the edge of the door chute, then stood with his legs over either side of it, dropped the cadaver’s head and shoulders out of the hatch, and let the dead man’s weight drag the rest of his bulk out. Both men watched as it tumbled out into the blackness over the North Atlantic. Paxton stood away from the gaping hole in the floor and brushed the palms of his hands across the other as if to congratulate himself on a job well done before helping Sergeant Jardine to close the door and secure it once again. Neither man spoke as they stood staring at each other. They took a moment to smooth down their tunics with the backs of their hands and straighten the knots on their ties before returning back to their seats behind the cockpit.

As both men strode away from the hold, Jack Paxton stopped in his tracks and quickly turned on his polished boot heels, staring suspiciously at the crate. He tapped at the bronze braid strip on the trouser leg of his dress uniform, his glare burning into the inside of the container. He took a step towards it, then halted again, realising that there really was no need to return to it. After all the contents were still safe and he knew that what was inside had no way of escaping. He’d come back to the caged creature and feed it later. Paxton flashed a fleeting grin at the wooden chest, shaking his head at it knowingly before rejoining his colleague.

From inside the crate, secretly partitioned off from the doped police dog, the watery eyes of a small child stared out. A little girl, no more than seven, peered through one of the drilled air holes at the two men as they walked away. The girl timidly expelled a slow rasp of air from her lungs. She had been holding her breath for what seemed like forever and had stifled her sobs by biting into the back of her hand as, petrified, she had watched the slaughter of the “good” man who had promised her that things would be all right. He’d told her that he would make sure she was safe, that no harm would come to her. But that promise was now broken, snatched away by the monster with the pointed knife. The little girl remembered the piercing, cruel gaze of the killer: he was the same person who had come to her room in the middle of the night and taken her away from the only family she’d ever known. She’d been placed on the back seat of a car, given sweets and told to eat them. She had done as she was told, then fallen asleep. She’d woken inside the crate. The man with the pointed knife had told her not to make a sound, that if she cried out he would release the big dog from behind the partition and the animal would tear her to pieces. She’d done as he said and not uttered a sound. Terrified and still dressed in her flannelette pyjamas, a series of coarse wool blankets had been wrapped around her for warmth. She’d remained silent and sat in a pool of her own cold urine for what seemed like forever. The girl began to cry again as she watched the two men disappear from her view. Then, rubbing away the wetness of the tears from her cheeks with her tiny hands, she slowly sank back into the shadowy, bleak recess of her captivity, curling up into a ball and closing her eyes tightly in the hope that it would shut out the horrific images now etched so deeply into her memory.


ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT is published by Black & White Publishing on April 14th. Pre-order a copy from Amazon here

You can find out more about M.P. Wright by following him on Twitter @EllingtonWright

And don’t forget to check out all these other great stops along the All Through The Night Blog Tour:

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