#CrimeWritersInCafesProcrastinating – Howard Linskey reveals his procrastination habits! #TheChosenOnes

Today is the first of a new regular feature – Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating! As the title suggests, it’s all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

First up for a grilling about his procrastination habits is the fabulous Howard Linskey whose latest crime novel is published this week.

Welcome, Howard! So tell me all about your latest book – The Chosen Ones…

Thanks Steph. Great to be here. ‘The Chosen Ones’ begins when a young woman called Eva wakes inside a large metal box with no idea how she got there. She understands she is being held captive but has no idea why. Investigative journalists, Tom Carney and Helen Norton, team up with Detective Sergeant Ian Bradshaw to investigate her disappearance and quickly learn that this is not the first time women have been taken but what links Eva to cases from almost two decades earlier and how can they possibly find her?

You can read more about it here: http://www.howardlinskey.co.uk/work#/the-chosen-ones/

How long did The Chosen Ones take to write?

The best part of a year, which is normal for me. I usually start writing a new book in January, just as the editing process draws to a close on the previous one. I’ve then got eight months to turn in a first draft by the end of August that’s usually around 100,000 words or so. My editor and literary agent will read it and send me some notes then I’ll do a second and third draft, or even a fourth before I’m fully happy with it. By the end of the calendar year it’s almost done then the process starts all over again!

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

All three! I mostly work from home and aim to begin once my daughter has gone off to school but in reality, I start with coffee, breakfast, the Times newspaper and internet-based distractions, while I sit in the conservatory at the back of our house and enjoy the sunshine, if there is any. I also have to remember to feed the squirrels. Wild ones visit our garden daily and they expect breakfast, to the consternation of our dog. It can be mid-morning by then and I’ll suddenly panic and get down to some actual writing. After a couple of days in the house, I get stir crazy and venture out. There’s a good café in my town and I’ll have lunch there while ‘plotting’, which sounds sinister but I mean it in a book sense. My favourite place to procrastinate though is the pub. Sitting with a pint of bitter and your lap top, writing away in a quiet corner of a pub during the day time feels like playing truant from life. I don’t do it often but when I do my venue of choice is the White Horse in Old Welwyn Village. They even opened up early for me once, so I could be filmed there for the true crime series ‘Written In Blood’. The viewers probably think I’m an alcoholic.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

I do a little bit of planning up-front but I’d be lying if I said it was very detailed and most of this is in my head rather than on pages of notes. In the early stages I like to get some words down and write scenes that are likely to end up in the finished book, hoping that one scene will lead to another. I don’t write chronologically either but do the bits I am in the mood for then curse myself months later, as I wade through thousands of words that are quite literally in the wrong order. I end up putting them together again somehow. I have no idea why I write like this. It makes no sense at all but somehow it works for me and the books are always well received, thankfully.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Definitely at the beginning. As I race towards a deadline, the procrastination is inevitably replaced by panicked, guilt-ridden bursts of activity, where the word count climbs faster than usual. I used to be a reporter, so I have a journalist’s respect for deadlines and I’ve never missed a single one, which isn’t bad after numerous drafts for eight books.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

I quite like doing the second draft, if I feel like I am going in the right direction. That first hundred thousand words grants you a certain amount of freedom with your writing but there’s always a stage where I start to severely doubt myself and the book. That’s natural and I push on through past it to the finish line. There is always quite a bit to be fixed and I do that with the second draft but by then I will have had some positive feedback from my editor and agent, which spurs me on. By the end of the book, I am sick of the sight of it as I will have been over and over the words countless times and will need several weeks away from it by then. My enthusiasm returns once I see the final copy. It always hits me then that something I dreamed up has been worked on, edited, printed and published until it’s a real book with my name on the cover.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Reading. I get distracted by research in the early days, so I’ll start with articles on line. I can lose hours doing that and it goes way beyond research that I can actually use. I had to learn a bit about underground bunkers for my new book and started researching them. An article about a bunker could then lead to one about the Cold War then what a bad guy Stalin was and how he almost lost the Second World War? Then, before I know it, I’m reading articles about Hitler’s inner circle and what happened to them all, which has nothing to do with my novel. Cue guilt, panic and a writing frenzy to make up for lost time till I get back on track again.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

Coffee is a necessity, particularly first thing in the morning. I’ve got one of those capsule machines that delivers a small cup of very good coffee with a strong enough kick to wake my brain up. I try and avoid snacks because I have too much of an addictive personality for them. If I put a packet of Hobnobs next to my lap top they would all be gone by the time I’d written a thousand words and there would be chocolatey finger prints on my keyboard. I make sure I have a decent breakfast though and a good lunch, because hunger is too distracting and I have enough distractions already.

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

At some point, on publication day or when the box of finished books arrives at my home, I will open a bottle of champagne. I think something that takes a year of very hard work to complete deserves it, don’t you?

Huge thanks to Howard for being a great sport and letting me quiz him about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out his great new book – THE CHOSEN ONES.

Click on the book cover below to view it on Amazon UK. It’s a bargain at 99p on kindle at the moment…

Guest Post: Talking about Locations – author Neely Tucker on the places featured in MURDER, D.C. and THE WAYS OF THE DEAD


WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Author Nelly Tucker on March, 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Author Neely Tucker (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Today crime writer Neely Tucker is taking the reins of the CTG blog to talk about the real life places, and events, that have inspired his two recent books THE WAYS OF THE DEAD and MURDER, D.C. 

So, over to Neely …

“The Ways of the Dead” and “Murder, D.C.” are based on very real Washington neighborhoods with very real histories, and both novels are based on very real events.

“Ways” takes as its inspiration a real-life serial killer named Darryl Turner, who police say killed as many as nine women, most of whom were in the low-end drug trade. He killed all of them on or near a two-block long street called Princeton Place. It’s about two miles north of the U.S. Capitol. In the late 1990s, when the novel is set, this was a predominantly black neighborhood, in which older residents were middle class and took very good care of their homes, but were surrounded by drug dealers and crack houses (abandoned buildings where addicts get high).

The recent film, “The Butler,” about the long-time butler to several U.S. presidents, is about a man who lived in this neighborhood.

In 2000, as the court reporter for The Washington Post, I covered the initial proceedings against Turner. The contrasts of the neighborhood struck me, and that was the beginning of “Ways.”

“Murder” moves about four miles south, to a little-visited part of D.C. known as “Southwest.” Here’s your handy travel tip: D.C. is divided into four quadrants, with the U.S. Capitol acting as the dividing point. “Northwest D.C.” is the land north and west of the Capitol, and so on.

Southwest DC is a tiny quadrant, just south of the Capitol and quickly cut off by the Washington Channel or the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, there were at least two “slave pens,” or jails where enslaved African Americans were kept and sold, in the area.

If you go along the National Mall today, by the Air and Space Museum, you are less than two hundred meters from an antebellum slave pen. There was also a very large slave auction house just across the river, in Virginia. Again, if you saw the film “12 Years a Slave,” that’s where the man was actually first held.

So I created a fictional knob of land,  Frenchman’s Bend, imbued it with the combined histories of these nearby slave pens, and set it along the waterfront. It’s a cursed, gothic sort of place that no one wanted to touch after the Civil War, due to horrors that had gone on there. Think of it as an open-air haunted house.  By the late 20th Century, it’s a very unpleasant drug park, the most violent place in the most violent city in America — which D.C. really was at the time.

Murder, D.C. cover image

Murder, D.C. cover image

Welcome to the real estate upon which turns “Murder, D.C.,” and the fate of Sully Carter.

Huge thanks to Neely Tucker for stopping by to talk Locations.

MURDER, D.C. will be published in hardback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “When Billy Ellison, the son of Washington, D.C.’s most influential African-American family, is found dead in the Potomac near a violent drug haven, veteran metro reporter Sully Carter knows it’s time to start asking some serious questions – no matter what the consequences.

With the police unable to find a lead and pressure mounting for Sully to abandon the investigation, he has a hunch that there is more to the case than a drug deal gone bad or a tale of family misfortune. Digging deeper, Sully finds that the real story stretches far beyond Billy and into D.C.’s most prominent social circles.

An alcoholic still haunted from his years as a war correspondent in Bosnia, Sully now must strike a dangerous balance between D.C.’s two extremes – the city’s violent, desperate back streets and its highest corridors of power – while threatened by those who will stop at nothing to keep him from discovering the shocking truth.”

The Ways of the Dead cover image

The Ways of the Dead cover image

THE WAYS OF THE DEAD will be published in paperback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “The body of the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington, D.C. It is murder, and the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys from a notorious gang.

Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects that there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know. With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge due for a court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry, in spite of some very dangerous people telling him to shut it down.”

To find out more about Neely Tucker and his books hop on over to his website at www.neelytucker.com and follow him on Twitter @NeelyTucker

CTG Reviews: Dead Man’s Gift (Parts 1 and 2) by Simon Kernick

Dead Man's Gift cover image

Dead Man’s Gift cover image

Part 1: Yesterday

What the blurb says: “MP Tim Horton arrives home to find his seven year old son has been abducted by a ruthless gang of kidnappers. All they have left behind is the brutally murdered body of the Horton’s nanny. The gang’s demands are simple: Tim must sacrifice his own life in order to save his son’s. It’s the ultimate dead man’s gift.”

Part 2: Last Night

And for the second part, the blurb continues: “MP Tim Horton is waiting to hear from his son’s kidnappers. Knowing he’s being watched, and too scared to go to the police, he contacts the only man who may be able to help him, his brother-in-law: an ex-soldier called Scope who has a reputation for sorting things out and getting things done.”


Released as a three-part series, Dead Man’s Gift hooked me from the first page of part one and pulled me at break-neck speed through the first installment, and on to the second. It left me breathless, and repeatedly pressing the right side of my Kindle to go to the next page even though it told me I’d reached the end of part two! I was horrified to learn that I’d have to wait until 5th June to download the final part.

As the story is still ‘live’ and in progress it doesn’t feel right to write a full review – you know I don’t do spoilers – and, after all, it’d be much more fun for you to download the first two parts and get caught up with the story for yourself.

But, what I will say, is that Simon Kernick has created a chillingly compelling scenario and a great cast of characters. MP Tim Horton has just hours to save his son, enlisting the help of the only person he knows who just might have the skills to do it. If they fail, Tim will be forced to do what his child’s abductors are demanding or his son will die. But the gang are smarter, and better connected, than Tim could ever have imagined. As the clock counts down, and the criminal’s demands are revealed in their horrifying entirety, it seems that Tim will have no choice but to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This is a pulse-pounding, high-action, gripping read, with the suspense made all the more heightened because of the wait until part three is released on 5th June.

If you like thrillers, this will be a real treat. Go download it. Now!


[I bought my Kindle copies of Dead Man’s Gift parts 1 and 2. I’m now waiting with anticipation for part 3 to be ready for download]


CTG Reviews: The Beauty of Murder by A K Benedict

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

What the blurb says: “Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge as a senior lecturer. Something about the seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university has given him a chill he can’t shake. When he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen, he thinks he’s found the reason. But when the police go to retrieve the body they find no trace of it. Killigan has found a problem – and a killer – that is the very opposite of reason.

Killingan’s unwitting entry into the sinister world of Jackamore Grass will lead him on a trail of tattooists, philosophers, cadavers and scholars of a deadly beauty. As Killigan traces a path between our age and seventeenth-century Cambridge, he must work out how it is that a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, and whether he’s being pushed towards the edge of madness or an astonishing discovery.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. They are the first three words (or one word repeated) that comes into my mind on finishing The Beauty of Murder.

This is a literary crime thriller which ticks all the boxes with a flourish: intriguing characters, fascinating storylines, gorgeous settings, beautiful prose and a sprinting pace. And it’s A K Benedict’s debut novel.

Stephen Killigan is a likable guy – he’s smart, likes a beer (or two, or more), and is looking for love. He also wants to do the right thing when he discovers the body of a missing woman. But being a good citizen soon turns out to be the start of a journey that threatens to destroy all he holds dear. When the police find no trace of the body, Stephen is determined to find out what happened to her. But as he finds clues to the mystery, each one makes less sense than that before it. Is he losing his mind as so many suggest? As the body count rises, and the links of the modern-day murders with those in 1635 become clearer to him, Stephen becomes the prime suspect. Yet he finds an unlikely friend in Inspector Jane Horne, who is trying to solve the series of seemingly unsolvable cases whilst keeping her own private health battles secret from those at work.

The Beauty of Murder is filled with unusual, memorable supporting characters like Stephen’s friend, Satnam, who likes a few beers and loves the girl in the library, and Robert Sachs, the “poncey philosopher who loves himself” who muses over the beauty of the dead. I think my favorite of these is Iris Burton, the eccentric academic who takes it upon herself to teach Stephen Killigan about time travel including what to carry in your kit bag and how to avoid paradoxes (in my mind she was played by Helena Bonham Carter!).

The relationship between Stephen Killigan and Jackamore Grass has real Sherlock/Moriarty feel to it: two highly intelligent men pitting their wits (and their lives) against each other to solve the mystery (in Stephen’s case) and win the game (in Jackamore’s case). Jackamore, who finds getting away with murder tiresomely easy, is pleased to at last have a worthy opponent, but as Stephen hones his skills and closes in on the truth, Jackamore starts to pick his victims from those close to Stephen.

Quirky, mind (and time) bending, and compulsively addictive, this is an outstanding literary crime thriller. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

The Beauty of Murder is out on 10th April in paperback and available for pre-order over on the Amazon website right now.

Highly recommended.

[I bought my copy of The Beauty of Murder]

CTG Reviews: DEAD GONE by Luca Veste

DEAD GONE cover image

DEAD GONE cover image

What the blurb says: “The young girl you have found isn’t the first experiment I’ve carried out. She won’t be the last.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Liverpool, gruesomely murdering victims as part of a series of infamous, unethical and deadly psychological experiments.

When it becomes apparent that each victim has ties to the City of Liverpool University, DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi realise they’re chasing a killer unlike any they’ve hunted before – one who doesn’t just want his victims’ bodies, but wants their minds too.”

If you like your crime fiction dark, chilling and psychologically thrilling Luca Veste is a debut author you’re really going to want to read.

DI David Murphy, highly experienced but still reeling from personal loss, and his protégé, DS Laura Rossi, lead the hunt for a highly intelligent killer. But this is Murphy’s first murder case since a horrific attack caused the death of his parents. Still suffering flashbacks to the gruesome events of that day, the pressure and brutality of the killer under investigation threatens to tip him over the edge.

Masterfully told, through the eyes of the detectives, the victims, and the killer, the story keeps you guessing with plenty of twists and turns, and multiple possible suspects, without ever seeming contrived.

Dead Gone straddles the line between police procedural and psychological thriller, taking the best from both to create a tense and thought-provoking serial killer novel.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Avon Books for my copy of Dead Gone]

Want to find out more about Luca Veste? Click this link to read our recent interview with him.

CTG Reviews: SACRIFICE by Max Kinnings

Sacrifice cover image

Sacrifice cover image

What the blurb says: “Disgraced hedge fund manager Graham Poynter hides shamefully in his Belgravia mansion. He lied, he cheated and he stole but the police and legal authorities are the least of his worries. Poynter and his family have come to the attention of a new style of hacktivist. The Adversary – or Advo – believes that non-violence only works up to a point and as Thomas Jefferson said, “Sometimes the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Jefferson might have added, “and bankers” …

Advo intends to make an example of Poynter as a warning to others in the banking industry who might think they can behave as he has done. The only person who stands between Poynter and his grisly destiny is blind hostage negotiator, Ed Malloy, who must negotiate with a faceless adversary who is hell-bent on exacting retribution on a minority which has gone unpunished for too long.”

Ed Malloy is having a bad day when he’s called to lead the negotiation at Graham Poynter’s Belgravia mansion. But things are about to get a whole lot worse, the situation is unlike any other Ed has faced. The hostage taker doesn’t fit the usual profile or follow the pattern of behaviour Ed would have expected. They make no demands, remain calm, and seem to be waiting for something. Ed is convinced there is another person manipulating events. But as tensions rise both at Graham Poynter’s mansion and inside the negotiating team, Ed struggles to find an approach that will bring the situation to a successful conclusion.

This book has a high concept, contemporary feel, with the story played out against a backdrop of underhanded banking practices, and the rise of a new style of ‘hacktivist’. If anything I’d have liked for the ‘hacktivist’ aspect of the plot to be explored in more detail, although I suspect that a future book in the Ed Malloy series may do just that.

And the story doesn’t hang around. It’s a fast paced, cinematic thriller. The tension starts high and doesn’t wane as the story unfolds. Through rotating point-of-view characters, including Graham Poynter’s daughter, Lily, his business partner, Bob Rushwood, and the hostage taker, more information is revealed to the reader than Ed is aware of. This adds an extra layer of tension and increases the suspense.

A non-stop rollercoaster ride from start to finish.

Highly recommended.


[With many thanks to Quercus for my copy of SACRIFICE]

CTG Reviews: Entry Island by Peter May

Entry Island cover image

Entry Island cover image

What the blurb says: “Detective Sime MacKenzie’s life in Montreal is one of loneliness and regret. And so when he is assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut murder case on a remote island 850 miles from the Canadian mainland, he departs readily. But Sime’s time away will be anything but a holiday. And Entry Island will prove anything but a haven. Sime may have left his domestic demons behind, but waiting for him in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a far darker destiny.”

Entry Island is a standalone novel from Peter May, the award-winning author behind the highly acclaimed Lewis trilogy.

It starts with the murder of a wealthy businessman at his home. The number one suspect: his wife. She’s also the only witness. But when Detective Sime MacKenzie and the eight-strong team of detectives and crime scene investigators reach Entry Island they find that the case may not be as easy to solve as their leader, Lieutenant Crozes, had hoped.

Sime is the odd one out. He’s the only native English speaker within the French speaking team, and has only joined them for this case due to the principle language of Entry Island being English rather than French. With unresolved tensions between him and his ex-wife, Marie-Ange – the team’s forensic expert – the atmosphere is far from comfortable. What’s more, Sime finds himself inexplicably drawn to the widow of the murdered man, and is unable to fight the feeling that somehow he knows her.

As the investigation gets underway, Sime finds that the insomnia he’s been suffering since his marriage break-up is getting worse. Now, in the few minutes sleep he is able to snatch, he recalls the vivid stories his Grandmother told him of his ancestors: crofters who had lived on the Isle of Lewis, who were removed from their homes during the brutal ‘clearings’ initiated by greedy landlords who wanted to replace them with sheep, and forced onto boats to ‘the new world’.

The descriptions of the two main locations: the modern-day Entry Island, and the historical look-back at the Isle of Lewis, really bring the settings to life. They conjure up strong images of the geography, the close-knit communities and their cultures. For Sime, the past and the present are strangely linked, and as the story progresses, connections and similarities between his own family history and that of the prime suspect emerge.

For me, this novel was a real treat. I loved the sleep-deprived, conflicted, and often confused character of Sime for his determination to get to the truth no matter who, or what, was pressuring him to finish the investigation fast. Often battling his inner monologue as much as his colleagues, he follows every lead no matter now unlikely, even when it puts him in personal danger.

The author artfully weaves the modern day investigation and the historical story of Sime’s ancestors together, hinting at connections between the two but never quite revealing the implications of the past on the present until the final resolution.

A hauntingly compelling, highly atmospheric read.

Highly Recommended.

[With many thanks to Quercus for my copy of ENTRY ISLAND]