The ubiquitous end of year wrap up.

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Well that’s 2014 over, and what an amazing year that was!

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Picture by Fenris Oswin – Fenris.co.uk

Of course the highlight for me will always be my now fiancé proposing to me at the end of a panel during this years Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate. He couldn’t have chosen a more fitting venue and I will be eternally grateful to the 2014 festival chair Steve Mosby, and the rest of the festival planning committee for helping to make this happen.

Not only that but, I’ve also got the good fortune of being able to re-live the moment whenever I want, as the download of the panel itself (In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream) is available to buy from the festival website and the recording has his proposal (although not my squeaked out answer) on the end of it. That £3 purchase was definitely one of my best of the year!

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Picture by Fenris Oswin – Fenris.co.uk

That was closely followed by appearing with friend and crimesquad.com editor Chris Simmons on this year’s ITV3 Specsavers Crime Thriller Club TV show. Not only did we have two fabulous days out in ‘that London’, meeting new and interesting people, catching up with author friends and laughing with Bradley Walsh, we also WON.

Closer to home it’s been great for me to see this blog really start to increase its traffic (I’m still hoping to break that magic 1,000 followers before the end of the year – sitting at 976 as I write) and getting the opportunity to participate in the blog tours of some brilliant crime reads…

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Then of course there were also these fabulous books

 

20140527-165933-61173231.jpgLand Of Shadows – Rachel Howzell Hall

I have read several highly accomplished debut novels this year, but this is one that sticks in my mind.  Homicide Detective Elouise Norton is someone I’m keen to hear more about. Tough and driven, yet at times insecure.  With a fascinating setting on the ever changing border of a gentrifying Los Angeles, it’s a great debut.

wpid-screenshot_2014-09-11-00-59-25-1.pngThe Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins  

“To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists.

Just goes to show”

 Not published until Jan 15th 2015, I am jealous that so many of you have such a fabulous book yet to read and experience.  I urge you all to grab it as soon as it comes out, as I guarantee it’s going to cause quite a stir.

V CoverVendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell 

In a distinct change of direction to the race against time thriller, Mitchell has produced a gripping read, with cracking characters, storylines and a great deal of style this series could really see her giving Simon Kernick a run for his money.

wpid-2014_07_25_08.24.01.png Dead Men’s Bones – James Oswald

The fourth and latest of Oswald’s books featuring Detective Inspector Tony McLean. With its supernatural twists on the standard police procedural, this is one series that just gets better and better with Dead Men’s Bones proving to be the best yet.

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The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood

Dark, chilling and impeccably plotted, it’s an interesting insight into the secrets that lurk behind closed doors, how little notice we all take of the world around us and asks the question just how well do we ever really know our friends and neighbours? 

These few aside there a are plenty more delightful, intriguing and thrilling books out there, and many of those that are currently featuring on an awful lot of top 10 lists this year are staring at me mournfully from my on the verge of collapse to be read pile.  I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and catch up with just a few of them over the coming months.

My end of year tally for books read came to a grand total of 123 missing out by more that I would have liked, on beating last years total of 130, so I’ll be going all out to exceed both of these numbers next year.

Here’s looking forward to and wishing you all a fabulous, book filled 2015.

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The Blood Dimmed Tide – Anthony Quinn

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Blood Dimmed jacket

London at the dawn of 1918 and Ireland’s most famous literary figure, WB Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his Bloomsbury rooms.

Haunted by the restless spirit of an Irish girl whose body is mysteriously washed ashore in a coffin, Yeats undertakes a perilous journey back to Ireland with his apprentice ghost-catcher Charles Adams to piece together the killer’s identity.

Surrounded by spies, occultists and Irish rebels, the two are led on a gripping journey along Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, through the ruins of its abandoned estates, and into its darkest, most haunted corners.

Falling under the spell of dark forces, Yeats and his ghost-catcher come dangerously close to crossing the invisible line that divides the living from the dead.

Poets, politics, the paranormal, this book has it all.

After the success of his first novel Disappeared, Anthony Quinn returns to Ireland with new title The Blood Dimmed Tide, only this time it is to an Ireland heading towards the end of the First World War, when the country is striving for separation from Britain, the Anglo-Irish aristocrats are abandoning their great homes to flee to England, and Irish prisoners destined for execution are instead being returned to their home.

As someone who doesn’t usually read historical crime, and given the alternative first/third person narrative of the story I felt it took me a little longer to become gripped by the story than I am used too, but once I was hooked I was hooked. With its myriad themes and characters there is something in here for everyone.

I also enjoyed the setting and felt that the Ireland envisioned in the tale is almost a character in itself. Quinn is adept at creating haunting and atmospheric visions of Ireland at this time, which I felt really enhanced the supernatural feel and mysteriousness of the tale.

The Blood Dimmed Tide has been billed as the first in a series of three historical novels set around WW1 and The War of Independence, and it has certainly sparked an interest in me around this period in history, so I’ll be looking out for more from Mr Quinn.

 

 

Anthony Quinn:- The nuances of using fact to create fiction

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Anthony Quinn, author of critically acclaimed debut novel Disappeared, returns with his new novel, The Blood-Dimmed Tide, the first in a series of three historical novels set in Ireland during WWI and the War of Independence. Here he talks to LifeOfCri.me about the nuances of using fact to create fiction.

AQ photo from Mysterious PressI’m very much a believer in writing first and researching later. The danger of writing historical fiction is that as a writer you run the risk of disappearing down a wormhole into another era, never making it back with a clear-cut, compelling tale to relate. I’ve been obsessed with WB Yeats and the Sligo setting for years, and in writing The Blood Dimmed Tide the temptation was to succumb to excess and include a rich tapestry of historical minutia.

However, writing historical fiction, especially a mystery story, should be like steering a boat with a leak in high seas. Many loved items have to be chucked overboard with every page you write. Amusing anecdotes and fascinating details that don’t animate your principal characters and move the plot along have to be discarded with impunity.

For this reason, I resorted to thumbing through Yeats’ biographies only when there was a gap in the plot that desperately needed filling, or a scene that required fleshing out with something concrete. That sense of urgency which comes with keeping the literary boat from capsizing at all costs is a protection against procrastination and getting lost in the past.

Another great challenge in writing The Blood Dimmed Tide was remaining faithful to the historical record of Yeats and his life-long muse Maud Gonne. I was uneasy with the idea that I was possibly doing them a great disservice by entangling them in a plot involving occult societies, spies, smugglers and corrupt policemen.

However, Yeats has been much derided for his ‘creepy’ obsession with the supernatural, and his interest in the magical powers that might be acquired through esoteric knowledge has alarmed many literary critics over the years. It eased my conscience to think that I was at least portraying this side of his character sympathetically. This was what I promised WB Yeats at the start of writing The Blood Dimmed Tide. Whether or not I delivered is another matter.

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I hope I am saved by the fact that many of Yeats’ friends found him unknowable. Irish writer Sean O’Faolain famously said of him: “There was no Yeats. I watched him invent himself.” In that sense, he is impossible to capture within the covers of a biography, which is a great problem for his biographers, but a golden opportunity for a novelist.

Yeats will always remain an enigma. He was one of a group of extraordinary and mesmerising figures that made London at the turn of the century an emporium of exotic cults and psychic societies. He was the closest thing we have to a supernatural sleuth, always seeking answers, always probing the evidence before him, always odd and unpredictable in his behaviour – which I hope makes him the perfect hero for a mystery story, especially one that involves ghosts, spies, smugglers and corrupt policemen.

The Blood Dimmed Tide is published by No Exit Press and is available now in paperback and as an e-book.