Today the lovely Michael J Malone is stopping by the CTG blog as part of his A SUITABLE LIE Blog Tour to talk about pleasures, guilty pleasures to be precise.

Over to Michael …

Heard the phrase “Guilty pleasures” recently? Used it yourself? The meaning of the phrase is fairly easy to compute, yeah? Something you enjoy buy feel “guilty” for doing so.

But I have a problem with that. Any guilt is apparently to do with being caught participating in an activity which is thought to be deeply un-cool by your peers.

The more I hear this phrase, the more it annoys me. One the one hand I can understand that at our deepest level we are social creatures and anything that puts us at a remove from our social group is largely to be avoided. On the other hand, we are individuals and if whatever I am doing doesn’t harm anyone else why should I care what other people think?

And who gets to decide what is cool or un-cool? Is there some arbitrary notion that hypnotises en masse? Or is it all influenced by a media that browbeats us every minute of every waking day with their choices?

The media is run my people just like us. Why do they get to decide what we should and shouldn’t watch/ read/ think/ buy? Someone gives them a job on a newspaper, magazine or TV programme and we should suddenly listen to them like they are the Great Collective Guru of Taste?

I caught and stopped myself using the GP phrase just recently when I was talking about books. I almost said Wilbur Smith was a (hangs head in shame) guilty pleasure. For the briefest of moments – I was talking to someone I wanted to impress –I worried that enjoying Smith’s books might make me look less of whatever mask I was trying to inhabit.

As I said, I caught myself and noted that I was a fan.

Are you a literary snob? Do you only read the classics? Are your shelves filled only with the likes of Atwood, Conrad, Austen and the latest Man Booker/ Pulitzer prizewinner? Do you rush to hide the latest Stephen King or James Patterson when you hear a knock at the door?

Why is popular fiction derided as somehow being unworthy?

Every year when our political leaders go on holiday it seems like they are rushing to tell the newspapers what their holiday reading will be, and it’s all very earnest. Just a couple of years back David Cameron tried to excuse his “poor judgement” in one such article by writing off his holiday reading as “trashy novels”. Which made me almost want to dig up Guy Fawkes’ grave. How dare he write off someone’s hard work as trash?!

My feeling is that there is only good writing and bad writing. If the book grips or entertains me why should I worry if the taste police look down on me?

I say, down with that all of that sort of thing. Let’s erase the phrase from our lexicon. If you find yourself kow-towing to this needless waste of energy, stand tall and announce your preference with pride and offer a biblical pox on the decision-makers of “good” taste.

Sounds like good advice!

A SUITABLE LIE is out now. Here’s the blurb: “Some secrets should never be kept … Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hid their deepest secrets, even if it kills them …”

You can buy A SUITABLE LIE from Amazon here

And to find out more about Michael, check out his website here and follow him on Twitter @michaelJmalone1

Also, be sure to visit all the other fantastic stops along the A SUITABLE LIE Blog Tour …


CTG EXCLUSIVE: Louise Beech, Russ Litten and Nick Quantrill talk crime fiction, love stories, and the lure of erotica!


Today I’m hosting a stop on Louise Beech’s fantastic THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE blog tour.

Louise has gathered a couple of her fab writerly mates – Russ Litten and Nick Quantrill – from her home town of Hull into the tour bus for a chat about crime fiction, their books and writing. It makes for a fascinating read …

So, lads…. crime fiction. What is that and what does it mean to you? What drew you to writing it? 

NICK: For me, crime fiction is a way to explore the world around me, try to make it sense of it. It can local, national, international, but I think it’s the best genre for doing the job. I’ve always been a crime reader, so writing it was the logical next step.

RUSS: I like crime fiction and I read it, but I don’t write it and have never had any real desire to do so. My second book “Swear Down” was marketed as a crime book but I didn’t consider it in those terms. There’s actually more crime in my first novel. I suppose the reason Swear Down was considered crime fiction was because it has a policeman as one of its central characters. But it’s a book about friendships and families more than anything.

LOUISE: I fell accidentally into it! It was a complete surprise when publisher, Karen Sullivan, told me that The Mountain in my Shoe was a psychological thriller. I was dead chuffed though. If it puts me in the same gang as you guys, well, then it can’t be bad… 

What do you think are the limits of genre-writing, if any, and do you try and conform, or do it your own way?

RUSS: I don’t really think about my own writing in terms of genre. I certainly don’t attempt to conform or subvert limits, I just tell the story that’s bugging me, whether that involves a policeman or a ghost or someone who is in love or whatever. As a reader, I get a bit bored by books that follow standard tropes and cliches and crime fiction can often be guilty of that. The covers put me off, especially British crime fiction. They all seem to have the word “blood” in the title and have dark foreboding imagery. It’s all a bit formulaic. The Americans seem to be better at it. I like people like Daniel Woodrell or Denis Johnson, who write about crime and criminals but without any of the standard trappings or cliches. The actual prose style tends to more interesting too; fresh, inventive, lively.

One thing that was made clear to me when writing Swear Down was how hemmed in the police procedural can be. If the work is going to be realistic, you’d have your star cop spending most of the time sat on their arse in a van or knocking on doors. This is probably why most crime fiction cops are “mavericks” or people who bend the rules. Because if they followed all the rules the book would be dull beyond belief. I’d like to see more British crime novels take the point of view of the criminal. Maybe they do exist and I’ve just not read them because I’ve been put off by the covers.

NICK: I don’t think any genre-writing necessarily has to have limits. We’re constantly seeing novels that challenge what we think a crime novel should be, what it should contain, how it should be constructed etc. You could maybe argue all genre writers conform to a certain degree, as there are fundamental expectations, but essentially we all do it our own way.

LOUISE: I agree totally about doing it our own way. That’s the only way I can do it. I tell the story how I instinctively feel it needs to be told, and if it ends up fitting a certain niche, I suppose that’s great. But I don’t try and aim for it.

What do you think about how the genre is expanding? Psychological Thriller, a very open sub-genre, covers so many novels now, so it’s a huge market. How to stand out?

NICK: We’ve always had psychological thrillers and no doubt always will, but it’s undeniable they’re having a moment of popularity at the moment. Maybe that says something about us as people now, maybe it’s clever marketing? I don’t know, but I think you stand out by developing your voice. If you follow the market, there’s every chance it will have moved on before you finish your novel.

RUSS: I have no idea. I think even the marketing people have trouble with that. In fact, I don’t think they are interested in standing out. They just look for a bandwagon and hurl themselves aboard. How else can you explain the amount of books currently with the word “girl” in the title? One of my favourite books of the last few years is Hawthorne and Child by Keith Ridgway, which features two detectives driving around London trying to piece together seemingly unrelated tales, but it’s very far removed from what could be considered traditional crime fiction. A book like that is never going to fly to the top of any best seller list because it’s so hard to pigeonhole. But I can’t concern myself with any of this as a writer, because I’d end up second guessing myself and worrying about what I should be doing and writing with my head rather than my guts. That would be no fun to me at all.

LOUISE: Standing out for me is all about voice. Our own unique voice is all we have. Most stories have been done. Most twists, most reveals. But no one can write the way we do. That’s our way to rise to the top. 

A sense of place matters, and of course we’re all from the champion city of Hull, and we’ve all set novels there. Why Hull, apart from being home? What does this place lend to crime – haha!

RUSS: I set my first novel in Hull because all my initial stories were based on autobiographical experience. Plus, I am very lazy, and research takes up too much valuable time. Far better to look out the window and draw upon memory. I’m not sentimental about Hull, but I do think it’s a great place to live if you’re creating something. You can be free of distraction and influence. I hope all this 2017 malarkey doesn’t make us self-conscious.

As for crime, well, Hull is a port, which makes it open to all sorts of mischief. It’s also a place with high levels of poverty and unemployment, which generally leads to the law being broken. The one thing Hull hasn’t got is organised crime, which is why most of the drugs that get sold in the north of England get imported into Hull by people from other cities, taken away to be stamped on and then brought back into Hull to be retailed. Most other cities with docks have organised cartels with links to oversea importers. It’s a mystery why Hull doesn’t have this.

NICK: In truth, it’s because it’s home. It’s the only place I’ve lived, so I felt confident I could tackle trying to understand it. Regardless of that, it’s a great location for a crime novel. It has swathes of deprivation, it has pockets of great affluence, it’s isolated, it has a port…the list goes on! That said, I’m working on a novel set outside of the city, so we’ll see how it goes…

Anything non-crimey you’d really love to turn your hands to?

NICK: I don’t really have thoughts about cheating on crime very often. As a genre, it offers such versatility and opportunity. It feels like it offers all I want when I sit down and right. I quite fancy writing a Young Adult novel, though…

RUSS: I’m finding myself being drawn back constantly to short stories. Whether that’s a result of my own naturally limited attention span I don’t know, but I’m currently wrestling with a way to combine prose poetry, flash fiction and the short story. I find music to be the best medium for that at the moment. You can be concise and vivid and still make something that stands up to repeat visits. As for the novel, I am currently wrestling with a love story. It’s the oldest story in the world and I want to see if I can tell my version in a voice that rings bright and true.

LOUISE: Erotica is calling me. Soon I might listen….

And favourite crime writers, and why?

RUSS: Americans mainly. Richard Price, Daniel Woodrell, Jordan Harper … but they aren’t really crime writers, they write about criminals. The best British crime books I have read are by Derek Raymond and Ted Lewis.

NICK: I could be here all day! The ones I always go to are Ian Rankin (sense of place, character, the whole package), Elmore Leonard (dialogue), Lee Child (pace and action), Michael Connelly (complex thrillers wrapped up as bestsellers)… the list is endless…

LOUISE: You probably can’t go far wrong with Russ Litten or Nick Quantrill. Look them up if you haven’t….

Yes, definitely look them up!

A huge thank you to Louise, Nick and Russ.

LOUISE BEECH’s latest book is THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE. You can buy it here from Amazon. And be sure to follow her on Twitter @LouiseWriter

NICK QUANTRILL’s latest book is THE DEAD CAN’T TALK. You can buy it here from Amazon. And follow Nick on Twitter @NickQuantrill

RUSS LITTEN’s book SWEAR DOWN can be bought from Amazon here. And follow Russ on Twitter @RussLitten

This is a stop on the THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE Blog Tour. To find out more about Louise Beech and her books make sure to check out all the great stops …




Now, as you know I’m a big country music fan. And today I’m super excited to be reviewing a book that’s more country than crime … LOST IN NASHVILLE by Neil White.

What the blurb says: “James Gray is a lawyer and his life is a success. Or, at least he thinks it is, but it has something missing: a bond with his father, Bruce. Bruce Gray is old, tired and estranged from his family. He spends his time drinking and drifting in the small seaside town in England that James once called home. James decides to take Bruce on a road trip, to try to connect with his father through the one thing that has always united them: a love for Johnny Cash and his music. Together, they travel through Johnny Cash’s life; where he grew up, the places he sang about – a journey of discovery about Johnny, the South, and each other.”

Readers who are fond of fast-paced, gritty crime ficton will be no stranger to crime writer Neil White’s best-selling crime novels. He’s known for great characters and twisty-turny action packed stories with a gritty authenticity, but there’s something else dear to his heart – and that’s country music.

And his love and knowledge of country, especially the work and life of Johnny Cash, come through loud and clear in his latest, and first non-crime, book LOST IN NASHVILLE.

The story is one hell of a read – part road trip, part exploration of Johnny Cash’s life – the man and the music – and part a journey of self-discovery for the two main characters, James Gray and his father, Bruce.

It’s a road trip where the journey is measured in far more than the miles covered. Where life choices – the good and the bad – are examined. And relationships are re-discovered and re-formed.

As a country fan I found the study of Johnny Cash’s life, the descriptions of the places visited by the characters and the history hidden within them really fascinating. That, partnered with an emotive story of fractured relationships, regret and redemption as James and Bruce try to connect as father and son, as adults and as flawed human beings, makes this an unputdownable read.

As heart-breaking and heart-warming as the very best country music – LOST IN NASHVILLE will have you laugh, cry and sing along!


LOST IN NASHVILLE is out today! Buy it from Amazon here

To find out more about NEIL WHITE hop on over to his website here

And to read more about the ‘making of’ LOST IN NASHVILLE be sure to check out this blog post by Neil http://www.neilwhite.net/single-post/2016/07/18/Ive-got-more-than-a-life-of-crime

RT for chance to #WIN a #DeepDownDead Special Edition Limited Proof #crimefiction #books


It’s Monday morning, so time for a competition I think!

To celebrate the publication of my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD as an eBook I’m giving away a special limited edition bound proof of the book (which comes out in paperback on 5th January 2017) and a few book-related goodies – handcuffs, a map of the USA, and some rather tasty chocolates – pictured above.

About the book:

DEEP DOWN DEAD is an action thriller and the first of a series featuring bounty hunter and single mom, Lori Anderson.

Here’s the blurb: “Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal …”

DEEP DOWN DEAD is available as an eBook now from Amazon here

And, if you’d like a sneak peep at the book, you can read the prologue here


For a chance to win a paperback limited edition proof all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below and including the #DeepDownDead hashtag) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow CTG on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Tuesday 18th October 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

Whoop! #DeepDownDead released as eBook today!


Today is a little different.

Today my debut novel – DEEP DOWN DEAD – is published in eBook! So I hope you’ll indulge me a little, and allow me to tell you about my book …

Deep Down Dead is an action thriller, and the first in a series featuring bounty hunter Lori Anderson.

Here’s the blurb: “Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.”

To give you a little taste of the story I’m giving you an exclusive sneak peep at the prologue. I hope you enjoy it …





I open my eyes and the first thing I see are the cuffs. Flexing my wrists, I test their weight and try to ignore the dull ache in my right hand where the gash across my skin has dried crusty brown. The bruising on my forearms has turned a deep purple. From the way my ribs feel, I figure they must look the same. I keep my breathing shallow; seems it hurts a little less that way. I look up.

He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.

‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’

Same Kentucky accent, but he’s not at all how I’d imagined. Guess that’s the way it goes when your only contact has been by cell. I force myself to meet his gaze, swallow down the nausea, try not to let fear distort my voice. ‘Can’t believe all you hear.’

‘Tell me why.’

Now the moment’s come, I don’t know if I can. Was he in on it? Should I trust him? Sure, he looks the part. He’s wearing the uniform black suit, smart and efficient, shades hooked inside the breast pocket. He’s a little older than I’d imagined, nearer fifty than forty, and wears his hair on the long side, slicked back to keep it tamed. He runs his hand through it, smoothing the strands into place. I wonder if he’s nervous. I sure as hell am.

His cold stare says he figures that I’ll talk eventually. All he need do is wait, because time’s almost up for me. Every second I baulk, the people I love get dragged further from me. So we both know I have to give it up on his promise, tell him enough to end this, to stop all the talk of death row. But there’s an order to these things, and we both know that too.

He puts a plastic beaker on the desk, pushes it from his side to mine. Inside there’s a red liquid, two shades paler than blood. ‘Drink. Medical said you’re dehydrated.’

They’re right. My mouth’s drier than gator hide in August. Can’t remember the last time I drank or ate properly. Shit like that hasn’t figured much these past few days. The drink looks real tempting, but I need something from him first. This situation, it’s all about power. If I do something for him, the balance swings over to his side, but if he does something for me, I get it a little more on mine.

I glance down at the cuffs. Look back at him. Wait.

He takes the hint. Leans across the table with the keys in his left hand, ready. As he moves, I catch the scent of his cologne – lemon, clean and sharp. Hope he’s that way too. I have to trust him; we’re all out of time to do anything else.

I push my hands over the wooden veneer towards him, palms up. The torn muscle in my shoulder feels like it’s on fire. I don’t let it show; bite back the pain. He uncuffs me, slips the bracelets and key into his jacket pocket. Eases back in his chair. Watching, again.

That’s first base, right there.

So I drink. Show willing. Know I need the fluids, can’t risk the dehydration muddling my mind, confusing the story. Have to tell it right. The liquid’s raspberry-flavoured water. It’s sweet, too sweet, and stings the corner of my mouth where I’ve taken one too many punches. I grimace at the taste. ‘So how does this work?’

He stares right back at me. ‘Tell me everything.’

I jerk back, spooked. Try not to wince at the spur-sharp pain in my side. He’s moving way too fast. You can’t jump from first base to fourth, it ain’t polite and I can’t allow it.

The pain doesn’t fade. Nausea rises real fast and bile hits the back of my throat. I cough. Makes my bruised ribs hurt like a bitch. I bite my lip and press my arm against my side. Show no weakness. ‘I have to get out of here, take my daughter home.’

He shakes his head. Leans forward, elbows on the table, face level with mine. ‘Not going to happen. This situation? It’s real serious. You’re in no kind of position to be making demands.’

He’s testing me. Wants to know how desperate I am. The answer? Real desperate, but I know way better than to let that show. This game here is all about timing. What I say, and whether he believes me, that’ll be the difference between life and death. ‘So what then?’

He stares at me, unblinking. Leans closer. ‘Tell me the real story. Multiple homicide an’ the rest that’s gone down? There’s no one else can help you. I’m the guy you’ve got to convince. Right now, and right here.’

The room seems to shrink. The space feels airless, more claustrophobic. What he’s just said, I hate it. I want to howl at the unfairness of it all, punch him until he feels the pain too. But I don’t, because I know that he’s right. I’ve got no other choice but to trust him. So I put down the beaker. Watch the liquid ripple once, twice, before lying still. Count in my head, all the way up to ten, then look up and meet his gaze. I can’t delay any longer, need to move us on to second, defuse the situation. ‘Honey, I can give you answers, just as soon as I know we’ve got a deal.’

He sits back in his chair, and crosses his legs, real relaxed. Keeps eye contact. ‘Depends.’

There’s a certainty about him, a determination that’s somehow quite attractive. He plays hard to get real well; oftentimes I like that. Not today, though. Not now. Hard to get is hard to read, and one wrong move, one wrong word, will only end one way: everyone I love gone. ‘I’m listening.’

‘You tell me what happened. No bullshit, just the absolute truth from start to finish. Do that, then I’ll tell you if we’ve got a deal.’

No guarantee, but I figure it’s my best shot. So I nod, and let him take third. Act like it’s my idea, though. Force a smile as I swallow down the fear. ‘You best get comfortable, sweetie. This’ll take a little while.’

He nods, and I know that it’s time. Now I have to get us to fourth, tell the story right, secure a deal.

There’s a click as he switches on the audio recorder. He leans forward and places it on the table, dead centre. Looks me right in the eyes. ‘You’re up.’

And so I tell him.


DEEP DOWN DEAD is published by Orenda Books and is out today as an eBook and on 5th January 2017 as a paperback.

To buy the book from Amazon.co.uk click HERE

And be sure to drop by the CTG blog tomorrow for a chance to win a limited edition paperback proof.

CTG NEWS: #DeepDownDead Special Edition Bound Proofs Arrive!


When I got home last night a box was waiting for me under the plastic crate where the postman leaves any post that won’t fit through my letterbox. I recognised the sender’s address – my wonderful publisher Orenda Books.

My heart started beating a little faster.

I tore open the box, and there inside nestled a few copies of my debut novel – DEEP DOWN DEAD! I actually whooped! The book that has lived for so long in my head, on my laptop screen and on my editor’s computers, is now an actual physical book!

This is the special edition bound proof. It’s got a special black and red version of the book cover that the paperback will have when it comes out on January 5th – and I think it looks gorgeous!

I can’t stop stroking it!!

Next Saturday – October 15th – DEEP DOWN DEAD will be published as an eBook. To celebrate, I’ll be running a competition to win a copy of the special edition proof and a bunch of other goodies, so if you’d like to get your hands on an early copy of the physical version be sure to pop back to the blog next weekend.

In the meantime, you can find out more about the eBook version of DEEP DOWN DEAD at amazon here




Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on THE BIRD TRIBUNAL blog tour, and I’m joined by Rosie Hedger who translated this fabulous book by Agnes Ravatn from the Norwegian original.

Over to Rosie …

I was thrilled when Karen announced she would be publishing The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn – the book was very popular in Norway, and Ravatn is a well-respected writer in her homeland. However, I must admit to feeling anxious at the prospect of translating her work, fearful that I might not do the book justice. Every translation has its own unique challenges, but as much as I might tear my hair out in my attempts to find the right word or phrase, these challenges are really what make the job so interesting.

One particular challenge when translating Ravatn’s work was the style of the writing, which has an almost breathless quality at points: sentences would often be very short and staccato-like, and these would often start without pronouns. Whilst this works in Norwegian, it doesn’t have the same effect in English, so the challenge was often to replicate these aspects of the style in sometimes different ways, retaining the tension for readers that is evident in the prose, as well as in the plot. Short sentences did not present the only difficult, however, and equally challenging were those much longer sentences, as Allis’ mind churns over and over things, analysing everything she does in minute detail – one sentence on p. 63 leaps to mind, with one sentence coming in at around half a page! I always read the entire manuscript aloud at least once, and this sentence troubled me for many weeks before I felt that Allis’ obsessive inner monologue sounded right.

I’m hesitant to say too much about the ending for those who have yet to read the book, but I will say that it was one of my favourite sections to work on, as well as being one of the most challenging from a translation perspective. When I first read the final chapter, I returned to it three or four times to get my head around exactly what was going on. Agnes plays with language and form throughout the novel, but particularly in the final few pages, where she also weaves in the elements of Norse mythology peppered throughout the text. The final few sentences are some of my favourites; while translating, I did quite a bit of research and reading on ‘Völuspá’, the first poem of the Poetic Edda. According to this poem, a new world emerges after Ragnarok, but even here the dragon Nithhogg is seen ‘sweep[ing] through the air from Nithafjoll and into the new world with human corpses nestled among its feathers.’ This dark image has stuck with me ever since – it seemed the perfect symbol for Allis’ own shame, which taints her attempts at building a new life, and is a sublime conclusion to the novel.

The Bird Tribunal offers astute commentary on many topical social issues – it touches upon the expectations woman place on themselves (and other women) to exude perfect femininity, and the impossibility in achieving these arbitrary targets. It looks at notions of shame and vulnerability, and unhealthy relationships between damaged individuals. Allis worries about every word to cross her lips, idolising Sigurd in ways that he almost certainly doesn’t deserve, and finding her only validation in his approval. It takes a long time for reality to bite for Allis, and when it does, the consequences are severe. One of the most interesting aspects of the work for me, though, is the unreliability of Allis’ narration – her perspective is the only one that we have, leaving the reader with a number of questions, and making for many an interesting and enjoyable translation challenge.

A big thank you to Rosie Hedger for coming on the CTG blog today to talk about translating THE BIRD TRIBUNAL.

THE BIRD TRIBUNAL is out now from Orenda Books. You can buy it here from Amazon

In the meantime, here’s the blurb: “Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape … TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough … Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.”

And be sure to check out all the fabulous THE BIRD TRIBUNAL blog tour stops …




Today I’m really excited to have a real treat for you. The fabulous crime writer G.J. Brown (Gordon to his friends) has penned a fantastic new short story and he’s letting me post it here on the CTG Blog as an exclusive. 

I think you’re going to enjoy this …

The Why.


G.J. Brown 

This is a Sarah Tracy short story. Sarah is a detective in the LAPD and had her first outing in a short story called ‘ebgdea’ which was included in an anthology, entitled Blood on the Bayou, commissioned for the U.S. crime festival, Bouchercon 2016. Tracy is distantly connected to my main protagonist, Craig McIntyre (The Catalyst and Meltdown) – as she will team up with him in book 4 (book 3, Dynamite, is out in March 2017, published by Strident). I never intended Sarah to become a main character but when scoping out book 4 I think I fell a little in love. I’m working on ten short stories with her as the central detective. This is my first foray into police procedural so be gentle with me.


The dead don’t speak and, written in the silence that follows their departure, lie unanswered questions. The secrets they take to the grave.

For some people, these unknowable riddles hold meaning so deep that they hurt. Most everyone wants to the know the why. The why trumps the who, what, where, when and how. It’s the why that people seek. Even the most transparent of lives, those laid bare by interrogation or oration, still hide answers, squirrelled away – waiting to be uncovered. Or, and this makes it all the more unbearable, matters, never to be revealed. Banished to corners too remote to access or places too obscure to be found.

Detective Sarah Tracy was looking down on a body that, more than any case she had ever worked on, demanded the answer to why.

The how was obvious. When a forty-ton rig hits a human body, and does so at seventy miles an hour, the survival rate is low. When it hits a body that has already been struck by an SUV, driven by a man three times over the drink drive limit, the survival rate is as good as zero.

The where is even easier. The freeway, all six south bound lanes closed to tend to the accident, is the scene of death. The SUV is nose into the wall that borders the freeway, a last ditch attempt to avoid the victim had sent the car into a spin where metal met concrete. The rig is sitting above the body, having dragged it over a hundred yards, before the air brakes brought the beast to a halt. Both drivers are in shock.

No surprise there.

There’s no deep mystery to the when. Sarah got the call less than fifteen minutes ago. The accident had been reported by the driver of the only other civilian car now left in the vicinity. A young lady, driving a high mileage Honda, and cutting early from a late night job at CVS, had been clipped by the SUV. She had been going slow enough to keep things under control but, she too was in shock.

The what is far harder to work out. Three options sit at the top of Sarah’s list – suicide, murder or accident. In most cases the what is intrinsically linked to the why. Sometimes the why informs the what. Sometimes the other way round. In all cases the why will nail the whole thing.

Sarah isn’t sure on the what. A few details are making it a little trickier than usual.

She jumps to who. While waiting on the forensic scientist she would normally look for a wallet or a purse – something to ID the victim. IDing someone usually speeds up the why and the what. But ID in this case is not easy. Despite what seems to have been an industrial amount of damage inflicted on the victim, first by the SUV strike and then the rig hitting, before towing, the body, it’s not possible for Sarah to search the corpse.

She reaches down to touch, with a pen just extracted from her pocket, the material the body is wrapped in.

Her partner wanders up and stands beside her. ‘Bubble wrap.’

Sarah stands up. ‘There so much of it I’m still not sure who or what’s inside.’

Tim Craig, a ten year served cop, stands with his feet apart. He’s carrying thirty pounds more round his waist than he did at his peak, and standing is not getting any easier. ‘Looks like a body to me. I can see fingers where the bubble wrap has been ripped by the rig.’

Sarah sighs. ‘There could be a couple of hundred feet of bubble wrap in that bundle. It could hide two bodies or a single hand. You can’t see through the stuff.’

Tim swivels his hips for relief. ‘SUV driver isn’t making much sense. He’s drunk and claiming that the…’ Tim pauses. ‘Well whatever this is, hit him. Not the other way round.’


‘Sarah go ask him. He says one moment he’s listening to Johnny Cash winding up the inmates at San Quentin. The next he’s bombed from the air. Says it hit his hood.’

Sarah looks back along the road. A few hundred yards to the rear, an overpass is casting a shadow on the freeway.

She imagines the bundle falling on the SUV, the driver swerving and losing control, as the bubble wrap monster bounces off the hood and onto the highway. The rig picking it up – a football to its fender. The bubble wrap catching on the truck, the bubble wrap ball flicking out to one side to be dragged along the road.

It’s possible.

It doesn’t make the why any clearer but makes the what a little easier. It would be a hell of a way to commit suicide. Not impossible, but to wrap yourself in so much bubble wrap and throw yourself off a bridge, onto a busy freeway, doesn’t have the scent of inevitability that the genuine suicide victim craves. Although it could have been a cry for help. But that’s a massive stretch.

‘Where’s Millwood?’ Tim is now bending at the middle. Millwood was a member of the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division.

Sarah checks the time on her phone. ‘On his way. They had another crime scene to attend to. Fifteen minutes is my best guess.’

The sound of people laying on horns, the squeal of brakes and the resultant crunch of vehicle on vehicle snaps Susan’s head up. Just in time to see a giant, off white ball shoot into the sky above the north bound freeway.

Tim shouts. ‘Fuck, is that another one?’

Unlike the southbound freeway which had been uncongested, allowing cars to brake in time, the rubber-neckers on the other side had slowed the north bound to a conga line – but one still moving at thirty plus. Sarah could only watch, mouth hanging open, as another giant ball of bubble wrap returned to earth, hit a compact on the roof and bounced across the freeway onto the southbound carriage way, rolling to a halt under the overpass.

The southbound freeway quickly jammed solid and people started to emerge from their cars. Sarah sprinted to the median, shouting. ‘Get back in your vehicles, get back in your vehicles.’

She knows that the chaos of the crash isn’t over. With the sound of vehicles still hitting each other further down the freeway, she is more than aware of what will happen to someone out in the open.

A motorcycle, traveling fast, zips by, the rider unable to stop. A man, one foot on the freeway, about to push up, door open, creates a dam for the fleeing vehicle. The motorcycle hits the door and catapults into the air, throwing the rider free. The leather clad body does a somersault and lands, like a rag doll, on top of a Mini. The body slides across the roof, before flowing off and out of sight.


‘How many?’


‘All the same?’

‘All the same.’

Sarah was in the incident room. She had asked the first question. Tim had answered. Twelve bubble wrap monsters had been dropped across the freeway system of LA, bringing gridlock to the main arteries. The chaos had been immense. People had been re-routed onto other streets but LA is a car city and no amount of alternate routes could cope with the sheer weight of the traffic. Even now, fourteen hours after the first incident, parts of LA were still gridlocked.’

‘And how many bodies were in the bubble wrap?’ Sarah asks.

‘Milwood just called and this is a doozy.’




‘One body. Sarah, you were closer than you though when you said it could be a single hand. Four of the bubble wraps each contained an arm or a leg. One held the head. One the genitals.’



‘And the other six?’

‘One the torso, one the heart, one the liver, one the kidney, one the lungs and the last one the brain.’

‘Someone took the brain out?’

Tim looks at the print-out. ‘Someone dissected the body and, according to Milwood, did so with no subtlety. It looks like they cracked open the skull with a hammer to get to the brain.’

Sarah sips at a coffee she really doesn’t need. ‘ID?’

‘Nothing yet. No matches on the system but, then again, it’s too early.’

‘Can we put a rush on it?’

‘I have.’

‘So let’s get this straight. Someone chopped up a body into twelve parts, wrapped each part in bubble wrap and then launched them off overpasses, onto various freeways.’ Sarah leans back. ‘And so far, no one saw a thing.’

Tim blinks. ‘You would need a squad of people to do this. All the incidents happened within thirty minutes of each other. Two of them are twelve miles apart.’

Sarah puts the coffee down. ‘So we have six sites. In each case the perp dropped a bundle on both sides of the same freeway. Each time they dropped the first, waited for the log jam on the other side, and finished the job.’


‘My name is Sarah Tracy. I’m a detective with the LAPD. I suppose you’ve heard the news on the ‘bubble wrap bombs’.’ Sarah hated the way the media needed a name for everything.

‘Sure,’ said the man

Sarah was sitting in a small office, facing a well-built man who was wearing a cheap suit and sporting a day’s worth of growth on his face. He fiddled with a battered iPhone as Sarah talked.

‘Thanks for helping out Mr Sanrez.’

‘No problem. But can this be quick? I’ve been up all night trying to fix this mess.’

Sarah nods. ‘Sure.’ She had been up all night as well but she had learned the hard way that no one cared about that if you were police.

‘To get this right you’re the highways supervisor for this area.’


‘I’ll keep this simple. Did whoever dropped the bubble wrap on the freeways, show any special knowledge of the highway system.’

‘And some. Please call me Dan.’

‘Ok Dan, why do you say that?’

Dan reaches out of site and fumbles around, pulling a map from a battered old briefcase. He spreads it out on the table. The map has twelve red stars dotted on it. He points to the stars. ‘These are the incidents. I’m telling you something here. If you wanted to bring this section of LA to a complete halt you couldn’t do better than block those spots.’

He wipes his hand across the map. ‘Detective, we plan for accidents in key locations. We plan for the worst possible scenarios but whoever did this knew we would be screwed. Well and truly screwed.’


Sarah was looking at the autopsy report. ‘So the body has been identified?’

Tim was munching on an apple, his concession to the healthy diet his wife wanted him to follow. ‘Col Wernicke. A manager out near the airport in a company called WellpackPlus. Marlon is out there now trying to find out more.’


‘Tina this isn’t going well.’ Sarah was sitting in the interview room, a gloomy hole that stank of fear and tiredness. A young lady was sitting across from her. She was wearing a blue coverall, with the name ‘WellpackPlus’ picked out on the breast pocket.

‘Tina, we found blood on the warehouse floor. A lot of blood. And I’m betting those stains on your coverall aren’t jelly.’

Tina sits, no words. She might just know the why. Sarah is convinced of it.


‘Do you know what it’s like to be bullied at work.’ Tina had waived the right to a lawyer. Sarah thought this dumb but it was Tina’s right to be dumb. Tina kept talking. ‘Do you?’

Sarah nods. She’d had her fill of sexist remarks from a captain in a previous precinct. It had eaten her like cancer. She had eventually stood up to it, then spoke up and, to her surprise, things got fixed at speed, even down to an apology from the bastard. ‘I know something of it.’

‘Not like that bastard. Not even close I bet.’ Tina was spitting the words.

‘Tell me?’

‘WellpackPlus is a packing specialist. We source packing material for clients. Anything from cardboard boxes to unique shit that can end up carrying the weirdest stuff. Col is the night manager and I work nights. I’m also at school some days, trying to get out of that hell hole. We work seven to six. That’s the hours. Five days a week. I go to college two days a week from ten to four. When the two cross I need to plan well to get any sleep. If I finish at 6 am I can beat the LA traffic and be home by 6.30. Three hours sleep and I’m good to go. But if I’m late out of the warehouse I plough the LA rush-hour and it can take two hours to get home. Then I’m fucked.’

Sarah leans in. ‘Does that happen often?’

‘We don’t get paid overtime so we are all supposed to cut at 6. But that bastard Col is a lazy shit. He can’t be bothered doing the work sheets and lets us muddle through. If he did his fucking job, then the nightshift would be planned, and we would all get home on time. More often than not he drinks, doesn’t do the sheets and then comes down on us like a ton of bricks when it’s time to leave, and the day shift isn’t set up for.’

‘Set up?’

‘We unload and rack up the material for the day shift. If we don’t’ do it right, it’s Col that gets it. That’s why he keeps us back.’


‘So Tina killed Col on her own. Then cut up the body on her own. Then dumped twelve bubble wrap bombs on the freeway, at strategic points, all within thirty minutes of each other – on her own?’ Tim was sitting with Sarah, relaxing in the local police coffee haunt.

Sarah rubs her temple. ‘So she says?’

‘It’s not possible?’

Sarah had to agree the what was now clear – murder. The how less so than before. And there was still the..

‘Why?’ Tim said.

Sarah pulls out her phone. ‘I’ll let Tina tell you.’ She starts the playback on the recording function, plugs in her headphones and hands them to Tim.’


Sarah’s voice. ‘So you killed him?’

Tina’s voice. ‘Dam right?’


‘I told you I go to college Tuesdays and Thursdays. The same days that we receive deliveries of bubble wrap. They turn up around four thirty. It’s the last thing to be packed away on these days. Have you seen rolls of the stuff?’


‘They’re big. Taller than me and three times as wide. When they arrive everyone is usually at the other end of the warehouse trying to stack up for the day shift. And, most days, we’re nowhere near ready. When we’re miles behind that bastard Col would get them to stack the bubble wrap, two pallets high, across the entrance. No way to get past. Then he would announce to us all that the forklift battery was dead. That it would take a couple of hours to charge and that we may as well keep stacking.’

‘And you can’t leave any other way?’

‘The bastard chains up the fire doors. Tells us its company policy. The only way in or out is through the main door and there ain’t no way you can get past when the bubble wrap is there. He knows I go to college on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We used to get the bubble wrap on Mondays and Wednesdays – he had it changed after I grassed him up for drinking. He should have been fired but they kept him on. For eight weeks I’ve had no sleep before college – eight weeks.’


Tim pulls off the headphones. ‘So we know the why but still not how – unusual.’

Sarah taps the back of Tim’s hand. ‘I know the how. Some, if not all, of her co-workers were in on it but no one is talking. I think Tina killed him, cut him up and wrapped him. She must have had help to dump the ‘bombs’, but no one is saying.’

‘And no one saw anything?’

‘The CCTV at WellpackPlus is on the fritz. We’re checking cameras for signs of the dumping but the cameras cover the freeways not the overpasses.’

‘And how did she cut up the body – did the others help?’

‘No, they all came up clean. There’s a machine they use for slicing cardboard and bubble wrap. Tina used that. There was a minimal attempt at a clean-up but, there was so much blood, it failed.’

‘And with no one else on site bar the workers, it’s our word against theirs.’

‘They all hate Col and seem happy to let Tina take the hit.’

‘And how did she know to drop them where they would cause maximum disruption?’

‘The victim, Col, used to do Dan Sanrez’s job but got fired for drinking. There’s a little more on the phone.’


Sarah’s voice. ‘So why drop the ‘bombs’ where you did.’

Tina’s voice. ‘Because Col told us, more than once, where the maximum damage could be done. He never stopped droning on about his old job, about how he had been treated badly. How he had been the best in the business. How, he was the man who sorted out the traffic in LA. He would hold us back some mornings just to explain, for the millionth time, what he used to do, how important he was and why things never went wrong in his day – unlike now. I think it paid twice, maybe even more, than WellpackPlus. That’s why he was so pissed all the time. He even showed us how to screw up the whole freeway system on a map. Pointed out the key spots. Told us that 12 well placed accidents would cause the biggest fucking traffic jam in LA history. Time after time, whisky fumes killing us, he poured out the same story. He never shut up about the fucking thing.’

‘And why not just kill him and be done with it? Why do what you did?’

‘I suffered every time he pulled the bubble wrap shit. So what better use to put the bastard to. I wanted him to be the fuck up of all time. Not in his current job – in the one he never stopped talking about. I wanted people to know that it was that bastard that was responsible. I just wanted everyone in LA to know that the worst traffic jam ever, was down to him. That, even in death, he was a monumental fuck up.’


Sarah looks at Tim as he switches off the phone. She knows that, at some point, one of the other workers will confess, or slip up, maybe before the trial, and that Tina will have some cell mates.

What she also knows is, that sometimes, when it comes to murder, it isn’t the dead that know the why.


A massive thank you to Gordon for letting readers of the CTG blog be the first to read this short story. I’d certainly like to see more of Sarah Tracy.

For more info on Gordon and his writing see www.gordonjbrown.com and follow him on Twitter @GoJaBrown

Hop across to Amazon.co.uk here to buy his latest book – Meltdown

Or pop over to Amazon.com here to buy his latest book in the US – Falling


About G.J. Brown

Gordon lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK, the U.S.A. and Spain. He’s married with two children. Gordon once quit his job in London to fly across the Atlantic to be with his future wife. He has also delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business called Brain Juice and floated a high tech company on the London Stock Exchange.

He almost had a toy launched by a major toy company, has an MBA, loves music, is a DJ on local radio, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final.

Gordon has been writing since his teens and has four books published – his latest in the UK is Meltdown and in the U.S., Falling..