#BehindDeadEyes Blog Tour: Exclusive Sneak Peep at Chapter 1 of Howard Linskey’s new book

Behind Dead Eyes

Today I’m delighted to be able to bring you an exclusive sneak peep at the first chapter of Howard Linskey’s latest crime novel – BEHIND DEAD EYES.

Here’s what the blurb says: “A corpse is found: its identity extinguished in the most shocking manner imaginable. Detective Ian Bradshaw can’t catch the killer if no one can ID the victim. Out there, somewhere, a missing young woman may hold the answer. Journalist Helen Norton is about to uncover a massive criminal conspiracy. She just needs the final piece of the puzzle. Soon, she will learn the price of the truth.

True-crime writer Tom Carney receives letters from a convicted murderer who insists he is innocent. His argument is persuasive – but psychopaths are often said to be charming …”

So, to the extract …


Letter Number Three

Perhaps you think I’m a monster. Is that it?
Maybe that’s why you‘ve not been in touch. Have you read terrible things about me Tom? Heard stories that disturbed you? None of them are true.

I’ve done bad things of course, who hasn’t? None of us are saints. Let’s not bother to pretend we are. I know the one thing you truly understand is human frailty Tom. I’ve had to account for my actions and I’ve paid a very heavy penalty for my misdeeds but I can assure you I never killed anyone.

Did you believe the poison that drips from the pens of those so- called reporters? They’re not interested in the truth, none of them. They spend their lives wading through other people’s trash looking for dirt, turning over rocks to see what crawls out. And they have the nerve to call me names.

The Ladykiller.

What chance did they give me?

Please see me. I’d visit you but clearly they won’t allow that. If we were to meet face to face, I’m certain I could convince you I am not the man they say I am. If you can look me in the eye and actually believe I am capable of such savagery, then I promise I won’t blame you for leaving me here to rot, so what exactly have you got to lose?

I think you are a truth-seeker Tom but you don’t seem to be at all interested in my truth. That’s disappointing.

You are my last and only chance Tom Carney. Please DO NOT continue to ignore me.

Yours, in hope and expectation.

Richard Bell


Chapter One

Tom Carney was having a very bad day. Maybe it was the new kitchen cupboard doors and the way they refused to hang straight or the boiler going on the blink again or perhaps it was the letter from a convicted murderer.

No, it was definitely the boiler. Bloody thing.

He hadn’t owned the house long but it seemed virtually every part of the offending boiler had failed and been replaced at great cost, only for another of its components to buckle under the strain soon afterwards and cease to function. He should have got a new boiler when he bought the creaking, old pile but funds were short then and virtually non-existent today, so he’d opted for the false economy of replacing it bit by bit instead of wholesale. How he regretted that now, as he stood tapping the pipes with a wrench in an attempt to knock the ancient thing back into life; a tactic that had, amazingly, actually worked once before but, unsurprisingly, failed to bear fruit this time. Tom exhaled, swore and surveyed the stone-cold water tank ruefully. It came to something when a personal letter from a man who had beaten someone to death with a hammer was the least of his concerns.

He went back downstairs and tried to phone the plumber again but the guy didn’t pick up. If events ran their usual course, Tom would have to leave several messages before the plumber eventually got back to him. He might then grudgingly offer to ‘fit him in’ towards the end of his working week. The plumber would do this while making it sound as if he was granting Tom an immense favour. If Tom was really lucky the bloke might even turn up on the actual day but he knew this was far from guaranteed.

Tom recorded a message then picked up the envelope from the hall table. The words ‘FAO TOM CARNEY’ were scrawled on it in large block capitals with a marker pen, above an address hand written in biro. It was disconcerting to realise one of the relatively few people who knew where Tom lived these days was a murderer.

For the attention of Tom Carney? Why not some other reporter? One who was actually still reporting perhaps and not so disillusioned he’d turned his back on the whole bloody profession, to plough what was left of his money into renovating a crumbling money pit? This was the third letter he’d received from Richard Bell. Tom had read then studiously ignored the previous two, hoping one of the north-east’s most notorious killers would eventually tire of contacting him but, just like his victim, Tom had clearly underestimated the killer’s resolve.

Bell was a determined man but was he a psychopath? He read the letter again, surveying the handwriting for evidence of derangement but there was none. This wasn’t some rambling, half-crazed diatribe, scrawled in crayon and inspired by demonic voices. It was angry and there was an undeniable level of frustration at Tom’s failure to engage with him but that was all. Having singled Tom out, Bell presumably felt the hurt of rejection. The handwriting was neat enough and it flowed evenly across the page. Tom couldn’t help wondering if this really was the same hand that brought a hammer crashing down repeatedly onto a defenceless woman’s skull until she lay dead in the front seat of her own car? A jury thought so and the judge had told Bell he was a monster. Tom remembered that much about a case that dominated the front pages for days a couple of years back. Was Richard Bell insane or was he really an innocent man; the latest in a long line of miscarriages of justice in a British legal system discredited by one scandal after another.

Tom took the letter into his living room, if he could still accurately call it that with the carpet ripped up and tools scattered everywhere. He sat in the room’s solitary arm chair and read it once more. Richard Bell’s message was consistent and clear. He wasn’t mad and he wasn’t bad. He hadn’t killed his lover. Someone else had done that and he was still out there.

BEHIND DEAD EYES is out now. You can buy it here from  Amazon here

Find out more about Howard Linskey at www.howardlinskey.com and follow him on Twitter @HowardLinksey

And be sure to check out all the other great stops along the tour …

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#WhoKilledSherlockHolmes Blog Tour: Paul Cornell talks WHO KILLED SHERLOCK HOLMES? and delights of genre-swapping

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This afternoon I’m handing over the reins at CTG HQ to screen-writer and novelist Paul Cornell who’s popped by to tell us all about his latest book WHO KILLED SHERLOCK HOLMES? 

Over to Paul …

Crime writing is quite like writing SF and fantasy, in that both audiences are used to looking for specific things, moment by moment, during their reading experience. Crime audiences seek clues and red herrings, often hoping to play along in a ‘pure whodunit’, but at least hoping the text will convince them of its plausibility. SFF audiences look for the cues of world building, the slow release of information that will tell them what the rules are. They seek a suspension of disbelief. I generalise, of course.

The lovely thing about combining those genres, as I do in my Shadow Police books, is that I can swap one set of expectations for the other. A point of how my London is set-up may also turn out to be a clue. My characters, five modern Metropolitan Police officers who have been cursed with ‘the Sight’, the ability to see the magic and the monsters, use their Ops Board to dissect the nature of the world they’ve found themselves in, as much as they use it to break down a crime. I’m proud that they use only their training and techniques, and have no occult mentor, and not much knowledge of how magic works (though, three books in, Detective Constable Kev Sefton is just about to attempt a small spell).

I’ve really enjoyed, as I got into writing these books, meeting crime fans, at gatherings like Crimefest and the big convention in Harrogate. Lovely people, surprisingly few serial killers. And now, because of what the new books is about (and also because I just wrote an episode of Elementary) I’m encountering a whole new and equally terrific fandom…

The new novel, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? is a pure whodunit about the death of a ghost. That is, in my London, ghosts are the memories of all Londoners, living and dead, and include not only the deceased, but also fictional and mythological characters. My heroes find the ghost of Sherlock Holmes, face down in the Museum at 221b Baker Street, flickering between every version of himself ever imagined, intangible, but with a dagger in his back. What does it mean to kill a ghost? Is this anything to do with the crimes from the Conan Doyle stories being re-enacted in order in their original locations? Is it a result of the three different productions of Holmes all being filmed in the city at once?

It’s also designed as a jumping-on point for the series, with the back story of what’s going on filled in for new readers very easily. Whether or not you’ve come for the Holmes, the ghost or the mystery, we hope you’ll join in and play along.

Big thanks to Paul for coming by and telling us all about his latest book and the similarities between crime fiction, SF and fantasy.

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? is published by TOR UK and is out this week. You can buy in here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

Paul Cornell has been Hugo-nominated for his work in TV, comics and prose, and is a BSFA award-winner for short fiction. He has also written some of Doctor Who’s best-loved episodes for the BBC, and has more recently written for the Sherlock-inspired TV show Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. He lives in Gloucestershire.

Find out more about Paul at http://www.paulcornell.com and @paul_cornell.


#DontYouCry Blog Tour: Read an exclusive extract of Mary Kubica’s DON’T YOU CRY

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This morning I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on Mary Kubica’s DON’T YOU CRY Blog Tour and to be sharing an exclusive extract from the book with you.

Drumroll please …

The day we met, she asked me about my job and whether or not I’d be able to afford my half of the rent. That was Esther’s only qualification, that I pay my own way. “I can,” I promised her, showing my latest paycheck as proof. Five-fifty a month I could do. Five-fifty a month for a bedroom of my own in a walk-up apartment on Chicago’s north side. She took me there, down the street from the bookshop, just as soon as she finished reading to the tiny tots who pilfered from us the blood-orange poufs. I listened to her as she read aloud, taking on the voice of a bear and a cow and a duck, her voice pacifying and sweet. She was meticulous in the details, from the way she made sure the little ones were attentive and quiet, to the way she turned the pages of the oversize book so all could see. Even I found myself perched on the floor, listening to the tale. She was enchanting.

In the walk-up apartment, Esther showed to me the space that could be my room if I so chose.

She never said what happened to the person who used to live there in the room before me, the room I would soon inhabit, though in the weeks that followed I found vestiges of his or her existence in the compact closet in the large bedroom: an inde­cipherable name etched into the wall with pencil, a fragment of a photograph abandoned on the vacant floor of a hollow room so that all that remained on the glossy image was a wisp of Es­ther’s shadowy hair.

The scrap of photo I did away with after I moved in, but there was nothing I could do to fix the closet wall. I knew it was Esther’s hair in the photograph because, like the hetero­chromatic eyes, she had hair like I’d never before seen, the way she bleached it from bottom to top to get a gradual fade, dark brown on top, blond at the bottom. The tear line on the pic­ture was telling, too, the barbed white of the photo paper, the image gone—all but Esther.

I didn’t toss the photo, but rather handed it to Esther with the words, “I think this is yours,” as I unpacked my belong­ings and moved in. That was nearly a year ago. She’d snatched it from my hand and threw it away, an act that meant nothing to me at the time.

But now I can’t help but wonder if it should have meant some­thing. Though what, I’m not so sure.


Brilliant! I can’t wait to read more!

DON’T YOU CRY is out now. Here’s what the blurb says: “In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew. Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbour town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where 18 year old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister. As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell …”

To buy the book click here to go to Waterstones, or go to Amazon by clicking here

CTG Reviews: THE PLEA by Steve Cavanagh


Here’s what the blurb says: “When David Child, a major client of a corrupt New York law firm, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm. Eddie’s not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie’s wife, and if Eddie won’t play ball, she’ll pay the price. When Eddie meets Child he’s convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child’s innocence while keeping his wife out of danger – not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.”

Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel – THE DEFENCE – was one of my top reads of 2015 so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second book in the Eddie Flynn series – THE PLEA – and was delighted to get my hands on an early copy.

Picking up a little while after the end of THE DEFENCE, THE PLEA sees con-man-turned-criminal-defence-lawyer Eddie Flynn facing another terrifying situation: persuade social media genius David Child to become his client and get him to plead guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, or the FBI will make sure Eddie’s wife goes to prison for involvement in an illegal scheme operated by her law firm that she had no direct knowledge of. But Eddie suspects that David Child is innocent, and he won’t send an innocent man to jail. He doesn’t want his wife in jail either, especially given the ordeal their young daughter, Amy, had during the THE DEFENCE, and the fact that he’s only just beginning to get his family back together. Eddie sets out to prove David Child’s innocence, and to protect his own family. Problem is, there is more than one bunch of bad guys after David Child, and some are closer to home than even Eddie might think.

To me, Eddie Flynn is a bit like the Jack Bauer (of 24 fame) of the the legal world. He’s smart, fast and always under pressure. In fact that’s another thing I admire about Steve Cavanagh’s writing – he gets an urgent, time pressured feel to his novels right from the get-go, and still manages to turn up the tension chapter-by-chapter. The ticking clock is heard on every page.

THE PLEA is a great second outing for Eddie Flynn. We learn a bit more about him, and we get to meet some of his shadier friends (both from the criminal and legal worlds) again – including one of my favourites, The Lizard (who only talks about himself in the third person). There’s a strong investigative side to this novel too – with Eddie needing to reassess the prosecution’s evidence in order to try and get the case thrown out – which gives a great balance with the action sequences. Set against the dramatic backdrop of New York City, with a high-concept storyline and twisty-turny plot, this is a fantastic follow-up to THE DEFENCE.

Electric courtroom scenes, stunning set-piece action sequences and the brilliantly witty and unique character of Eddie Flynn, makes THE PLEA a tremendous read and an absolute must for all thriller fans.

THE PLEA is out today in Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio. Buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

To find out more about crime writer Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanagh.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @SSCav

LITTLE BONES Blog Tour: Guest post by author Sam Blake – The Trouble with Titles

little bones

Today I’m handing over the reins at CTG HQ to author Sam Blake who is going to talk about the trouble with titles. Over to Sam …

Book titles and with that covers, are strange things – you spend months, often years, writing a book –  ideas forming, sentences taking shape, then reshaping, then reshaping again through the editorial process, but it’s not until you see your title on a cover, that it feels like a real thing. To get to this stage there are far more people involved than just the writer, and it can take months for everyone to be happy that what is on the outside of a book reflects what is on the inside.

For many years this book was called The Dressmaker, and this is why:

Stephen King talks about story being the collision of two unrelated ideas – the ideas behind Little Bones weren’t entirely unrelated but they collided one sunny Sunday afternoon as I was driving back from a Readers Day that author Sarah Webb and I had programmed at a hotel in Dublin Airport. It was about five o’clock in the afternoon and pre M50 so a LONG drive home (I once counted 35 sets of traffic lights) but as I put on the radio and pulled out of the carpark a documentary was starting on RTÉ about Kerry born playwright George Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice is best remembered for his play The Country Dressmaker that he submitted to the Abbey Theatre in 1907. It was such a success that it rescued the theatre after all the problems of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World that same year. Fitzmaurice enlisted in the British army in 1916 and returned from the front with neurasthenia, rendering him fearful of crowds. He became more introverted and isolated as he grew older and eventually died in 1963, in a rented upstairs room in No.3 Harcourt Street, Dublin. He was aged 86 years and left no will and few personal belongings – apart from a copy of every play he had ever published and a few in draft form, which were in a suitcase under his bed.

For me, it was Fitzmaurice’s suitcase that caused the collision of ideas.

Several years previously I’d watched an RTÉ TV documentary about a twenty-three year old girl from Boyle, Belinda Agnes Regan who in 1947 was living in lodgings in Manchester. She had left Ireland knowing she was pregnant, but terrified of the disgrace of the pregnancy, had concealed it. She went into labour in the middle of the night and delivered the baby herself, incredibly, in a room she shared with a younger girl who apparently slept through her ordeal. Covering the baby with a blanket “so Shirley would not see it,” she crept to the bathroom. When she returned, the baby wasn’t breathing.  Wrapping the body in brown paper and a ‘blue frock’ she hid it in her suitcase, which she concealed under her bed, leaving it there when she returned home for Christmas. While she was in Ireland the body was discovered, and on her return she was arrested for infanticide.

These two stories, heard many years apart, came together in my head, and on the drive home I started wondering about suitcases and dresses and dress makers and what would happen if the bones of the baby had ended up in a dress – a wedding dress – the crucial thing that Belinda Regan had perhaps yearned for, for nine long months. At that point I had no idea who owned the dress, or how the bones got there or WHY…but I knew the story was called The Dressmaker.

When my agent, Simon Trewin mentioned my book to Bonnier’s Mark Smith over lunch, it was The Dressmaker, when Twenty7 Books snapped it up the next day, it was still The Dressmaker. All through the edits it was The Dressmaker.

Then ‘The Dressmaker’ movie came out.

Much discussion was had – the book and the movie would get confused, if you Googled ‘The Dressmaker’ how many hundreds of pages would it take to get to my book? My agent was almost mown down by a bus on Tottenham Court Road that had an ad for ‘The Dressmaker’ plastered down the side. Someone was telling us that this WASN’T the title of the book.

But coming up with a title for a book isn’t easy. Here are just some of the ideas I came up with (suitably in the bar at Waterford Writers Weekend when you’d think the atmosphere would be conducive to creativity), with Alex Barclay who was one of the few people who had read the book at that stage. It took us almost three hours and we still didn’t have it.

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I brainstormed it with Simon, my agent, and the team at Bonnier sweated at it too. Then a very lovely lady called Kate Parkin, Executive Director of Adult Publishing at Bonnier had a flash of inspiration. Joel Richardson, my editor at Twenty7 Books emailed me to say, “What do you think of Little Bones? We like it.

And so did I.  A lot.


© Sam Blake

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.

Little Bones is the first in the Cat Connolly Dublin based detective thriller trilogy. When a baby’s bones are discovered in the hem of a wedding dress, Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is face with a challenge that is personal as well as professional – a challenge that has explosive consequences.

Follow Sam Blake on Twitter @writersamblake or Vanessa @inkwellhq – be warned, they get tetchy with each other!



CTG Interviews: crime writer William Shaw about #TheBirdwatcher


Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer William Shaw to the CTG blog. William’s latest book, THE BIRDWATCHER, is out on the 19th May and he’s agreed to let me quiz him all about it …

Your latest crime novel – THE BIRDWATCHER – is out this week. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Having done three in my Breen & Tozer series I thought I’d take a breather. I had this beginning of a book that I wrote ten years ago and a successful author friend kept saying I should go back to it, because he liked it. It was about a child growing up in Northern Ireland, where some of my family are from. I resisted for a while, but then one day I thought, what if that boy grows up into a policeman? And I was off. I’ve never had something where the story just appeared to me in such a satisfying way. When I got to the denouement it was like being a reader, not actually wanting to finish. I was really on the point of tears at the end. Pathetically.

In THE BIRDWATCHER your protagonist, Police Sergeant William South, is a murderer as well as a policeman. What drew you to writing a character who is both killer and justice seeker?

That was the big attraction for this book. How do you write a sympathetic character who has done something very bad? We like complex heroes, don’t we? And everything in recent history tells us that good people are capable of doing bad things in the right circumstances. In fact what William South did turns out not to be that bad at all… but I don’t want to give away why!

How has the way you set out to write THE BIRDWATCHER – a standalone novel – differed from how you approach writing one of your Breen & Tozer series books?

Interesting question. Writing a series taught me that you can – in fact you HAVE TO – create characters without giving that much away about them, because you want them to develop over the arc of the later books. And actually, I really like working out how little I can tell the reader because I think the readers are a part of the creative process. You give them enough stuff for them to be inspired to make up the rest in their imagination. But maybe in a standalone you can’t go QUITE that far. You have to give people a sense of completeness. But it’s only a matter of degree. And in a standalone I think the shape of the book is more important. Everything has to be in it for a reason. A series has to have incompleteness to throw you into the next book.

THE BIRDWATCHER is set on the Kent coast. What was it about this area that attracted you as a writer?

I’m a sucker for Nordic Noir; there’s something about feeling cosy in a hostile natural environment, isn’t there? Much of South Kent has that. It’s not just the landscape that’s hostile. The Kent coast has taken a lot of knocks in the last twenty or thirty years and it’s not an easy place in many ways. I think that makes it interesting. I had a good friend who had their ashes scattered off that beach. With that, the nuclear power station, the derelict boats and the light houses and the cottages, it seems like a really meaningful landscape; it’s a place with a real sense of darkness but also a sense of a escape. And my main character is definitely an escapee.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot the story out first, or dive right in and see where it takes you (or a bit of both)?

I have learned that a one to two page precis is useful so I know where I’m heading, but the best bits of everything I’ve written were always the scenes I didn’t know I was going to write at the beginning. I love the feeling when you write some scene and you’re not sure why it’s there at all, and then 100 pages later you realise that there’s a great reason for it.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals that you perform when starting a new book?

No rituals, just emotions. I’m really against writing being a superstitious process. I think the job is just to write every day, come hell or high water. After the excitement of opening a fresh document on the computer, it’s terror, mostly. A book seems such a large thing. And the fear continues until about three-quarters of the way through. At the start, I do end up buying a lot of books around the subject and – in the case of the Birdwatcher – finding excuses to visit the place. Books about birdwatching, I’ve discovered, are really delightful. It’s a great excuse to consume a lot of non fiction that you wouldn’t normally read.

What advice would you give to writers who are aspiring to publication in crime fiction?

Approach with humility. There are a lot of really great people in the crime writing community who will offer you amazing help and advice as long as you don’t blunder in there thinking you’re God’s gift. You may be God’s gift, of course. Just keep it to yourself. And accept it’s a crowded genre and the only way you’re going to succeed in it is by writing the kind of book you want to read, not the one you think the market wants, because there are plenty of people doing that already. Oh, and develop an iron liver for events like Crimefest and Harrogate Crime Festival.

And, lastly, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

I’m just finishing the fourth Breen and Tozer book, which opens with the death of the Rolling Stone Brian Jones. I’ll be starting a new book over the summer but I don’t know yet what it’s going to be… Which is fairly scary. But my head is deeply into the current book I’m in so it’s hard to know what it’s going to be about.

Big thanks to William for dropping by the CTG blog and letting me quiz him.

THE BIRDWATCHER is out on the 19th May. Here’s the blurb: “Police Sergeant William South has a reason for not wanting to be on the murder investigation. He is a murderer himself. But the victim was his only friend; like him, a passionate birdwatcher. South is warily partnered with the strong-willed Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi, newly recruited to the Kent coast from London. Together they find the body, violently beaten, forced inside a wooden chest. Only rage could kill a man like this. South knows it. But soon – too soon – they find a suspect: Donnie Fraser, a drifter from Northern Ireland. His presence in Kent disturbs William – because he knew him as a boy. If the past is catching up with him, South wants to meet it head on. For even as he desperately investigates the connections, he knows there is no crime, however duplicitous or cruel, that can compare to the great lie of his childhood. Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt, and facing the darkness within.”

You can buy THE BIRDWATCHER from Waterstones here or Amazon here

Find out more about William Shaw on his website http://williamshaw.com and follow him on Twitter @william1shaw

#ThePlea Blog Tour: Guest Post by Steve Cavanagh – Influences. I’ve had a few.


Huge thanks to CTG for letting me have a guest spot on this great blog. I’ve chosen to talk a little about my influences, and how they may have affected the books that I write, or even the way that I write. Style. That’s the word. At my first ever event as an author I remember being asked by Colin Bateman what I would say my “style” of writing was like. At the time, I’d written my first book, I’d been lucky enough to get a book deal, and I was working on my second novel, The Plea. My answer must’ve been disappointing, but it was honest. I said, “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure that I have a style.”

To me, other authors that I’d read and loved for years, had style. The likes of John Connolly – who writes in beautiful, poetic prose. His Charlie Parker novels are essentially gothic detective novels, but they are shot through with humour, warmth, and a good dollop of the supernatural. Raymond Chandler had style. His language was at times strange and wonderful especially in those extended metaphors. Michael Connelly has an almost journalistic style – a beautiful, unadorned simplicity that somehow transports you straight into the heart of Los Angeles and into the passenger seat beside Bosch. I also love the stripped back genius of Lee Child – with those tripping, declarative sentences that are almost musical. Speaking of music, Elmore Leonard played a tune in dialogue that few others could even get close to – perhaps only Ian Rankin is Leonard’s equal.

So having read all of those authors, and more, what kind of style did I have? At the time, I couldn’t see it. I think that it takes a few books to emerge. At the time I began writing, I never once thought about my style of writing or even trying to create one.

It’s difficult to determine how those authors I’ve mentioned above have influenced me or the books that I write. In asking myself that question, I can only think of one answer. All of them tell brilliant stories. And those stories are told in uniquely brilliant ways.

A style, I suppose, is the sum total of its different parts. So it’s every author that I’ve read, filtered through me. And no-one else can sound like that. If you asked me today what my style is, I’d still have to give a bit of a vague answer. I only know what I like to write. I like stories that start quickly, that move with enough speed to keep the reader hooked, and while all the fireworks are going off, I like to try and make the reader think. My language is fairly simple because I like it that way. I do aim for a twist or two, because as a reader I enjoy twists and turns. Most of my style probably comes down to character. If I can get my characters to tell the story, rather than me – the writer, then I think I’m going in the right direction.

Influences are like parents, you can’t really choose them. I’ve been lucky in that the writers that have influenced and inspired me the most are some of the greats of the genre. There’s not a bad book in any of them. Apart from the pleasure I get from their work, they also drive me to try and be a better writer.

That’s really all the influence you need.


A big thank you to Steve Cavanagh for making the CTG blog today’s stop on his blog tour.

THE PLEA is out on May 19th in Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio. It’s a tremendous read and an absolute must for all thriller fans. Here’s what the blurb says: “When David Child, a major client of a corrupt New York law firm, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm. Eddie’s not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie’s wife, and if Eddie won’t play ball, she’ll pay the price. When Eddie meets Child he’s convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child’s innocence while keeping his wife out of danger – not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.”

Pre-order THE PLEA here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

To find out more about crime writer Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanagh.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @SSCav



Are you an aspiring Crime Writer? Check out the Richard & Judy/Bonnier Zaffre ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition



If you’re a new crime writer looking for a book deal this might be the competition for you!

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan have launched a “Search for a Bestseller” competition to find a new bestselling writer. The prize is a £50,000 publishing deal (for world rights) with Bonnier Zaffre and specialist advice from literary agency Furniss Lawton.

Supported by WHSmith the competition is open to unpublished writers. To enter, you need to submit 10,000 words, plus a synopsis of your novel. It must be a piece of original fiction and be aimed at adults. For the full terms and conditions click here: www.richardandjudy.co.uk/rjbestseller.

You’ve got until the 31 May 2016 to submit your entry via Richard and Judy’s website. The couple will lead the selection process, helped by editors from Bonnier Zaffre and agents at Furniss Lawton.

At the launch of the competition, Mark Smith, Chief Executive of Bonnier Zaffre said: ‘We are very excited to be teaming up with Richard and Judy to search for their next bestseller. At Bonnier Zaffre, we work closely with debuts and are proud to be involved with authors at every stage of their careers.’  And Richard Madeley said: ‘Judy and I are so excited to host the “search for a bestseller” competition, it gives us a chance to keep doing what we both love- reading and discovering a fantastic title for our devoted Book Club audience. We can’t wait to read the submissions!

Sounds like a great competition – good luck to all who enter.


The #DistressSignals Blog Tour by Catherine Ryan Howard: Extract Seven

Catherine H poster visual

Today I’m hosting an extract from Catherine Ryan Howard’s thriller – DISTRESS SIGNALS.

Here’s what the blurb says: “‘There’s no evidence of a murder, but a person is missing. And what’s a missing person minus a body? Not a murder. Oh, no. Never a murder. It’s a disappearance.’ The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her. Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.  To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…”

By following each stop on the DISTRESS SIGNALS Blog Tour you get to read a bit more of the novel. If you’ve not read extracts 1-6 yet there’s still time – check out the fabulous blogs hosting the previous extracts on the poster above. If you’re all up to date, read on …


I was expecting one of Sarah’s trademark eye-rolls and a sarcastic remark. Maybe a reminder that I was now, technically speaking, a big-shot Hollywood screenwriter and could surely hold my own in conversations about Things Adults Do instead of standing on the periphery, smiling at the right moments but otherwise only moving the ice-cubes in my drink around with a straw. Or perhaps Sarah would point out that I didn’t need to go to this thing, that it was a work night out, that she’d been going by herself until I’d moaned about spending the night before she left for nearly a week home alone, prompting her to – eventually – say, fine, tag along.

But instead she turned to face me, wrapped her arms around my neck and said: ‘I would never abandon you.’

‘Well, good. Oscar night will be stressful enough without having to find a date for it.’

I kissed her, expecting to feel her lips stretched into a smile against mine. They weren’t. I moved my mouth to her jawline, down her neck. There was a faint taste of something powdery, some make-up thing she must have just dusted on her skin. I brought my hands to her waist and went to un-tuck the towel.

Ad,’ Sarah said, wriggling out of my arms. ‘I booked a cab for eight. We don’t have time.’

I looked at my watch. ‘I suppose I should take it as a compliment that you think that.’ I turned to leave.

‘Oh, Ad?’

I stopped in the doorway.

Sarah was in front of the mirror, twisting to check her hair. Without looking at me, she said, ‘I meant to tell you: the others aren’t exactly delighted about me being the one to get to go to Barcelona. They’ve all been milking it with their honeymoons and their maternity leave but God forbid I get to have a week out of the office. I mean, it’s not like I’m off. I’m there to work. Anyway, I’ve been trying not to go on about it, so . . .’

‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I won’t bring it up.’

I smiled to myself as I crossed the hall into the living room. Honeymoons and maternity leave. Now that I’d sold the script, we could finally start making our own plans instead of being forced to watch as the realisation of everyone else’s clogged up our Facebook feeds.

But first . . .

I collected Mike’s card from the coffee table, then dropped into my preferred spot on the couch. It offered a clear line of sight to my desk, which was tucked into the far corner of the living room and so, crucially, was only a few feet from the kitchen and thus the coffee-maker.

A stack of well-thumbed A4 pages were piled on it, curled sticky notes giving it a neon-coloured fringe down its right side. I got a dull ache in the pit of my stomach just looking at it. The rewrite. I had to start it tomorrow. And I would. I’d drive straight home after dropping Sarah at the airport and get stuck in, make the most of the few days and nights that I’d have the apartment to myself.

Sarah emerged from our bedroom, wearing a dress I hadn’t seen before.

The money from the script deal hadn’t arrived yet but, since I’d learned it was on its way, I’d been melting my credit card. Sarah had supported me for long enough, paying utility bills and covering my rent shortfalls with money she could’ve been – should’ve been – spending on herself. That morning I’d sent her into town with a giftcard for a high-end department store, the kind that comes wrapped in delicate tissue and in a smooth, matt-finish gift bag.

‘This is just a token,’ I’d said. ‘Just a little something for now, for tonight. You know when the money comes through . . .’

‘Ad, what are you doing? You don’t know how long that money is going to take to arrive. You should be hanging onto what you’ve got.’

‘I put it on the credit card.’

‘But you might need that credit yet. I really wish you’d think before you spend.’

‘Look, it’s fine. We’ll be fine. I just wanted to . . .’ Sarah’s mouth was set tight in disapproval. ‘Okay, I’m sorry. I am. It’s just that I don’t want to wait to start paying you back for . . . For everything.’

She’d seemed annoyed. Disappointed too, which was worse. But then, later, she’d come home with a larger version of the same bag, and now she was twirling around to show me the dress that had been inside it: red and crossed in the front, the skirt part long and flowing out from her hips.

‘Well?’ she asked me. ‘What do you think?’

She looked beautiful in it. More beautiful than usual. But with the new hair, not quite the Sarah I was used to.

‘Nice,’ I said. I pointed to my jeans and my dark, plain T-shirt.

‘But now I feel underdressed.’

‘Change, if you want to.’

Our buzzer went. The cab was here.

‘No, it’s fine,’ I said. ‘Let’s just go.’

Aside from the clothes Sarah was wearing when I drove her to the airport the next morning, that red dress was the only item I could tell the Gardaí was missing for sure.


Want to know more? Visit www.distresssignalsbook.com for more info and follow Catherine Ryan Howard on Twitter @cathryanhoward

DISTRESS SIGNALS is out now. Follow this link to buy it from Amazon – Amazon link


The Long Count Blog Tour: JM Gulvin talks about creating

The Long Count

Today I’m delighted to welcome JM Gulvin to the CTG Blog to talk about how he created Texas Ranger John Quarrie. His latest book – THE LONG COUNT – is out this month and is the first in a new series featuring John Quarrie.

Here’s the blurb: “In The Long Count, the first book of JM Gulvin’s masterful new crime series, we meet Ranger John Quarrie as he is called to the scene of an apparent suicide by a fellow war veteran. Although the local police want the case shut down, John Q is convinced that events aren’t quite so straightforward. When his hunch is backed up by the man’s son, Isaac – just back from Vietnam and convinced his father was murdered – they start to look into a series of other violent incidents in the area, including a recent fire at the local Trinity Asylum and the disappearance of Isaac’s twin brother, Ishmael. In a desperate race against time, John Q has to try to unravel the dark secrets at the heart of this family and get to the truth before the count is up…”

And now, over to JM Gulvin to talk about creating Texas Ranger John Quarrie … 

It was 2003 and I was researching a novel in Idaho. Taking a break, I switched on the TV and came across a documentary about a police officer from Rock Springs, Wyoming called Ed Cantrell. He was a man born out of his time, old school, tough, honest and uncompromising. Master of the quick draw, he shot and killed a fellow police officer called Michael Rosa who was going to shoot Cantrell. Rosa’s gun remained holstered and Cantrell was tried for murder. He was acquitted however, because it was proven that Rosa was going for his weapon. Cantrell just got to his faster and killed him in self-defence.

That story blew me away. It was the beginning of John Quarrie. I actually wrote a novel called THE DEFENDANT largely a fictionalization of that event, but I could not sell it. Undeterred, I knew I had found the kind of character I wanted to write, I just had to develop him.

I decided to make him a Texas Ranger and move my setting back ten years or so to a time when the world was changing and an old school police force like the Rangers were attempting to change with it. That gave me the opportunity to have this old fashioned cop, who was tough, honest and uncompromising. He was working alone in the vast landscape that is Texas in a time when prevention was still much better than cure.

I didn’t want any modern technology. No cell phones or satellite tracking. I wanted one man, one car; but none of the “lone wolf” clichés. I gave him a son, a best friend he’d served with in Korea and an extended “family” of friends all living on the same ranch in the Texas panhandle.

JM Gulvin

I already had a basis in reality through Cantrell, but in a more overt fashion I used Frank Hamer. Captain Hamer was one of the most famous Texas Rangers of the 20th century, brought out of retirement to go after Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker when their robberies started to involve murder. Hamer epitomized the “One riot, one Ranger” epithet that’s been applied to a group of men who, by the admission of most historians, really were “a breed apart” from the rest of us.

When WWII broke out Frank Hamer wrote to King George in London and offered a personal bodyguard of retired Rangers in case Germany managed to invade. He meant it, every word. I knew all about him before I created Quarrie so for that extra dusting of reality I made Hamer Quarrie’s godfather.


Big thanks to JM Gulvin for making the CTG blog a stop on his THE LONG COUNT Blog Tour today, and for talking to us about how he created his lead character Texas Ranger John Quarrie.

THE LONG COUNT is out this month. You can buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

Find out more by following JM Gulvin on Twitter @jmgulvin

And be sure to check out all the great stops along THE LONG COUNT Blog Tour here …