12 Words with Michael Wood

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imageMichael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first novel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, For Reasons Unknown, was released in the autumn of 2015. The follow-up, Outside Looking In, is out now in ebook format by Killer Reads at HarperCollins.

Today, as part of his blog tour, I’m the one on the Outside Looking In, (did you see what I did there? *grin*) as Michael takes on the LifeOfCri.me. 12 word challenge.

 

 

Rules 
 
Answers should be complete sentences, and completed in no more than 12 words (unless otherwise stated)
 
Contractions count. It’s = 2 words.

LOC: Your new release Outside Looking In is your second Matilda Darke novel, what can you tell us about it?

MW: It’s a thriller about looking in from the outside

LOC: As a long term reviewer for the renowned website CrimeSquad, what’s it like to be receiving your own reviews?

MW: Absolutely petrifying

LOC: How would you describe your writing process?

MW: Well structured and organised. Very lonely. I love it.

LOC: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt in your writing career?

MW: I am only a newbie, so I’m still learning

LOC: What’s the best book you’ve read in the last twelve months and why? 

MW: The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh

MW: She is a genius psychological thriller writer

LOC: Describe your perfect day

MW: Write about 5,000 words, plenty of coffee with no interruptions.

and finally just for laughs…...

LOC: Thanks to author Quentin Bates you have just woken up to find yourself on stage in front of the judges of Britain’s Got Talent, with just a phone book, a pair of wellies and a cork screw.What do you do?

MW: I only need the phone book to call a cab and leave

Generating Geraldine – Leigh Russell Talks About the Inspiration For Murder Ring

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As part of the blog tour for the latest Geraldine Steel novel ‘Murder Ring’ Leigh Russell talks to LifeOfCri.me about where some of her inspiration came from.

 

 

 

 

My inspiration for Murder Ring

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, in various guises. Agatha Christie famously said that the best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Even though nowadays most of us have dishwashers, we all know what she meant. I can be sitting at home, or out and about, when an idea occurs to me and off I go. Ideas can come from anywhere. It might be a person I’ve noticed who sparks off a story, or an atmosphere in a strange place, or just a large suitcase, large enough to hide a body…

The inspiration for Murder Ring came about in a slightly unusual way for me, more calculated than in my other books. Usually I’m inspired to write about something that interests me, but this time, ironically, my starting point was  a topic that didn’t interest me at all. In the fourth book of the series, Geraldine Steel moved to London. By the time I started to think about Murder Ring, the eighth in the series, I decided I couldn’t continue setting a detective in North London in the present day without ever mentioning guns. The problem was that not only did I know nothing about guns, they aren’t a topic that inspires me at all. Nevertheless, in the interests of authenticity, I decided to bite the bullet, if you’ll excuse the pun. So tackling the issue of gun crime was a conscious choice, rather than an idea that inspired me.

One of my advisors is a police ballistics expert, but his information was not what interested me the most once I began to look into the subject.  My research led me in a different direction, looking into the kind of people who were likely to be in possession of guns in London. Most of them are not criminal masterminds, but dysfunctional people. Older teenagers in gangs frequently give their firearms to young siblings to look after in order to avoid detection, knowing the children are too young to be prosecuted if found in possession of a gun. It was in the news recently that children as young as ten were among fifteen hundred children held over alleged firearm offences in the UK in the three years to January 2016. Such statistics are worrying, and are only likely to worsen as guns are so readily available.

The more I looked into the subject, the more I realised that while guns themselves don’t interest to me, what they represent fascinates me as a writer of crime fiction. People often use self-defence as an excuse for owning guns, but guns are essentially a means of exerting power. And for a crime writer, villains seeking to control or eliminate their victims is always interesting. So although guns in themselves are merely mechanical instruments of death, introducing them into Murder Ring opened up new possibilities for creating villains. Because what makes guns frightening is not the weapons themselves, but the people who use them.

 

DragonFish by Vu Tran #WhereIsSuzy

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Out Now

When I heard about this fresh approach to a blog tour I just had to join in and give it a go.  Instead of writing a review, or doing an author Q&A, us bloggers were given a hashtag and a challenge.

The Challenge

To read the synopsis of the novel, and in no more than a few minutes using only the information in the synopsis to write down where you think Suzy is.  Then using #WhereIsSuzy encourage our followers to do the same, to see just where the creative flows will take us. So here goes…

The Synopsis

Robert, an Oakland cop, still can’t let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she’s disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who is blackmailing Robert into finding her for him.

As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny’s sadistic son, ‘Junior’, and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. He finds himself chasing the ghosts of her past, one that reaches back to a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon, and his investigation uncovers the existence of an elusive packet of her secret letters to someone she left behind long ago. 

As Robert starts illuminating the dark corners of Suzy’s life, the legacy of her sins threatens to immolate them all.

 

Here’s what I thought….

Suzy is back in Malaysia looking for the son she left in the refugee camp to keep him safe from his gangster father, the man who trafficked her to America, and keeping herself and her secret son safe were the reasons behind marrying men who could protect her by whatever means necessary.

Then I thought I’d ask a couple of authors what they thought.

Vu Tran’s fellow No Exit stable mate Leigh Russell went for the pessimistic view.

I guess she went back to Malaysia to find the guy she left behind. Her boat capsized and she’s now at the bottom of the ocean….  

Graham Smith author of Snatched From Home had this to say.

She’s in a Western country trying to track down the daughter she gave birth to after being raped in Vietnam. The daughter is now grown up and like her mother has married a westerner.

And finally, I asked some of my friends…

Ann B said firmly

She’s In Las Vegas

Vic W agreed

I think she’s in Fremont Street, Las Vegas.

Marc F isn’t quite so sure

She could be anywhere, but I’m guessing looking for someone in Asia…..

and the fantastic Kate H really let her imagination go

Suzy is in the UK, in Telford. She got nervous in Vegas and running through one of the hotels a few streets off the strip, quite by accident stumbled into a World Archery Vegas archery competition. Initially, she hid in the audience, but shrewd as she is, she quickly started befriending one of the coaches who she had noticed eyeing her up. Throwing all her best moves at him and hiding her fear, she manages to convince him to allow her to accompany him home to the UK for a holiday. She spends the last of her cash on a fake passport and heads back to the UK with the archery team from Telford. Once in the UK, she gets her bearings and then disappears from her ‘holiday romance’ and slips away to start a new chapter in her life…

Now, using the comments tell us what you think, and if you want to find out for real?  Go pick up a copy of DragonFish now….

 

A Masterpiece of Corruption – L. C. Tyler

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imageIt is December 1657. John Grey, at his cramped desk in Lincoln’s Inn, is attempting to resume his legal career. A mysterious message from a ‘Mr SK’ tempts him out into the snowy streets of London and to what he believes will be a harmless diversion from his studies.

Mr SK’s letter proves to have been intended for somebody else entirely and Grey finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a plot to assassinate the Lord Protector – a plot about which he now knows more than it is safe to know. Can he both prevent the murder and (of greater immediate relevance) save his own skin? Both the Sealed Knot and Cromwell’s Secretary of State, John Thurloe believe he is on their side, but he is unsure that either is on his. As somebody is kind enough to point out to him: ‘You are a brave man, Grey. The life of a double agent can be exciting but very short.’

Grey just has to hope that prediction is wrong.

A masterpiece of double dealing and clever plotting…

I have to admit to never really being a reader of historical crime fiction, but I have long been a big fan of LC Tyler, so when the opportunity arose to get an early copy of A Masterpiece Of Corruption , it was one I could not pass up.

The book is set in an intriguing, and certainly in my own circles, largely unknown period of English history, a time when the monarchy had been overthrown and Oliver Cromwell was in power over the country. It is a time about which I know little beyond what I learnt in school far too many moons ago, and one that is ensuring that I am more than a little fascinated with in this adventure.

A Masterpiece Of Corruption is the second book in Tyler’s series about young lawyer, and somewhat accidental double agent John Grey, a young republican, who with a royalist mother and step-father constantly finds himself precariously navigating his way between the two opposing sides.

In A Cruel Necessity, John uncovers the truth behind a murder in his home village in Essex, and begins to unravel the web of royalists, republicans, Roundheads and Cavaliers, spies and informants that surround him in his everyday life. A Masterpiece of Corruption sees him moving on from his discoveries, back in London and returning to his legal studies at the Lincoln Inn.  He is only drawn back into those circles when a mysterious letter, leads to an even more mysterious meeting that sees Grey suddenly working for the advantage of the royalists.  Grey immediately reports his new endeavour to his republican confidante and advisor John Thurloe, looking for help and guidance only to discover they would prefer to assist him in his task in order to further their own aims.

For me it is this meeting in the opening chapters which sums up much of what I love of LC Tyler’s writing, these characteristic bluff and double bluff conversations where no one knows really knows what the other is talking about, and yet each party seems utterly convinced that they do and indeed are also correct in their beliefs.  They inject such realism into a character trying to muddle his way through a potentially dangerous situation, and into a story where everyone has a dedicated side, and yet insists on ‘covering their backsides’, as fear ensures they lack the conviction to stand up and be counted.

John Grey is a fabulous character, still very unsure in his dealings with not just The Sealed Knot, and John Thurloe, but also with his ‘cousin’ Aminta, daughter of his mother’s new husband and his own childhood friend.  He seems completely unable trust in his own feelings about the ulterior motives of any and all of them, despite being quite insightful into the real ‘goings on’.

A Masterpiece Of Corruption is a masterpiece of double dealing, clever plotting, and with a sprinkling of humour as Grey’s puritanism and naiveté is challenged.  It will draw you into its pages, lose you in its history, and deliver you an absolutely cracking read.

 

A Masterpiece in Corruption is published by Constable and available to buy from the 14th January 2016.

 

#BRYANTandMAY #LONDONSGLORY the tour, with Christopher Fowler

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IMG_2282The latest instalment in Christopher Fowlers brilliant Bryant & May series is out now.  London’s Glory is a collection of eleven Bryant and May short stories, filling in gaps and covering cases mentioned in passing over the years.

In the spirit and brevity of a short story, when I got the chance to ask a few questions of Chris, I asked simply, about the genesis of Bryant & May, where in London fans could visit for a feel of the books, and what Bryant and May would think of book tours and blogging.  Here’s what he had to say.
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Many years ago I fell in love with the Golden Age classic mysteries I found in the library, with their academic eccentricities and timeless view of an England that never really existed. There was just one problem; they badly needed an update because of outmoded attitudes to sex and race. I thought; wouldn’t it be interesting if you took the structure of the Golden Age mysteries and put them into our recognisable modern world?

If you’re going to describe the investigation of a crime, you might as well have fun with it. How does a writer create a detective? I started with a matchbox label that read “Bryant & May – England’s Glory”. That gave me their names, their nationality, and something vague and appealing, the sense of an institution with roots in London’s sooty past. London would be the third character; not the tourist city of guidebooks but the city of invisible societies, hidden parks and drunken theatricals, the increasingly endangered species I eagerly show to friends when they visit.

Every night, my detectives walk across Waterloo Bridge and share ideas, because a city’s skyline is best sensed along the edges of its river, and London’s has changed dramatically in less than a decade, with the broken spire of the Shard and the great ferris wheel of the London Eye lending it a raffish fairground feel.

By making Bryant & May old I could have them simultaneously behave like experienced adults and immature children. Bryant, I knew, came from Whitechapel and was academic, esoteric, eccentric, bad-tempered and myopic. He would wear a hearing aid and false teeth, and use a walking stick. A proud Luddite, he was antisocial, rude, miserable, erudite, bookish, while his John May was born in Vauxhall, taller, fitter, more charming, friendlier, a little more modern, techno-literate, and a bit of a ladies’ man. Their inevitable clash of working methods often causes cases to take wrong turns.

Then I threw every modern subject I could think of at them, from refugees to banking scandals, and let them sort out the dramas using old-fashioned (and vaguely illegal) methods. The result is, well, unusual!

The easiest locations to visit in the books are Waterloo Bridge, where the detectives walk most nights, and King’s Cross, where their unit is based, but in ‘The Victoria Vanishes’ there’s a list of all the pubs they visit in the books at the back. And all of the locations I use are real, so everything can be looked up and explored on Google maps!

I think John May would like blogging but Arthur Bryant would probably crash entire systems because he has a warped understanding of the internet!

David Young On Trabants, Ketwurst and Blue Stranglers

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Debut novelist David Young’s first Oberleutnant Karin Muller novel, Stasi Child is out now for Kindle, and here as part of his blog tour, David talks to LifeOfCri.me about a few of those things particularly loved by the East Germans.

 

imageEast Germany – or more properly, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik in German) – is now a lost world, and many would say that’s for the best, trapped as its citizens were behind the fortified Berlin Wall and the inner German border.

But twenty-five years after the two Germanies reunited (the anniversary was earlier this month), there are still some things from the communist state that its former inhabitants hanker after. It’s spawned a form of nostalgia with its own name – Ostalgie. In my novel Stasi Child there are plenty of references to products and brands which were peculiarly East German. Some were so popular they still survive today.

Cars

My detective, Oberleutnant Karin Müller, and her deputy, Unterleutnant Werner Tilsner, drive around in an unmarked police Wartburg. But the most iconic East German car was the much-maligned Trabant. The Trabi can still occasionally be seen on the streets in eastern Germany today, even though it was made out of a strange product called Duroplast – a mixture of recycled cotton and resin. It had a horribly inefficient two-stroke engine, a top speed of 62 mph, and emitted between five to nine times the pollution levels of even an average 2007-vintage western European car. Nevertheless, they were much sought after, with citizens often on a years-long waiting list, so lucky owners maintained them meticulously. Wartburgs – a step up from the Trabi – were made of steel, and were even exported to the UK. Müller and Tilsner in Stasi Child would probably have driven a Wartburg 353 – nicknamed ‘Farty Hans’ because, like the Trabant, it was a two-stroke with copious exhaust emissions.

Food

In the original draft of Stasi Child, I had Müller eating a Ketwurst – a ketchup wurst (the German name for sausage) bought from an outdoor stand. The Ketwurst was an East German ‘invention’ – developed by the fantastically-titled State Gastronomic Research Centre – to rival the American hot dog. Then I discovered it didn’t come into being until 1977 or ’78, while the novel is set in 74/75. So instead she wards off her hunger with a quarter Broiler. The broiler was simply grilled or fried chicken and an East German fast food staple.

Other famous East German food products include the ones listed by my teenage characters in the second, parallel narrative of Stasi Child. For example, Nudossi (sometimes nicknamed Ost-Nutella) – a hazelnut and chocolate spread which actually has a higher proportion of hazelnuts than its western equivalent and is still produced today (it’s delicious!). Another is Spreewald pickles – pickled gherkins in glass jars produced in a wooded area 100 kms south-east of Berlin, which famously feature in the film Good Bye Lenin! Then there was the GDR’s answer to Coca Cola: Vita Cola, advertised as a ‘carbonated soft drink with fruit and herb flavoring’ and like its more famous western cousin, produced according to a ‘secret recipe’.

There are still restaurants in the eastern part of Germany where you can sample traditional East German dishes. One of them – the restaurant attached to the DDR-museum in Mitte – serves the favourite dish of Müller’s husband, Gottfried, Gebackene Apfelringe (baked apple rings). This features in a particularly harrowing scene in the novel.

Alcoholic Drink

Drinking alcohol was almost a national pastime in East Germany. The GDR’s official youth movement, the FDJ, even had a song about drinking beer. In the mid 1970s – when Stasi Child is set – an East German medical specialist estimated that 5% of adults in the GDR were alcoholics: four times as many as in West Germany. In my opening scene, Müller and Tilsner wake (in Tilsner’s marital bed!) with hangovers after downing too much Blue Strangler the night before. Blue Strangler in the early days of the GDR referred to 40% proof crystal vodka, and got its nickname from the blue label of the bottles (a later version actually branded as Blue Strangler was actually a grain schnapps of lower alcohol content). Although former East German detectives I spoke to insisted there was no drinking on duty or during a case, alcohol was part of daily life. East German women’s magazines even advised a special diet for those wanting to lose weight: the wurst and vodka diet!

Interestingly, when the 1989 protests which led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and East Germany began, alcohol consumption slumped to historic lows within a matter of weeks.

 

Stasi Child by David Young is out now in ebook. The Paperback will follow in February 2016.

Rob Sinclair talks Thrillers: Books vs Big Screen

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As part of his mini blog tour for Rise Of The Enemy, author Rob Sinclair talks to LifeOfCri.me about books and the big screen.

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Thrillers: Film versus books

I’m a huge thriller fan, whether it be books or film, and it’s probably no surprise therefore that so many of my readers have commented how they think the Enemy Series would translate so naturally onto the big screen (any Hollywood producers reading this, just give me a call). So which is best and why?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that. I love both books and films for different reasons. Books are special to so many people. With a book you transport yourself into your own world. Ok, so it’s the writer’s words you’re reading, it’s his or her characters, but those characters come to life for each and every reader and they do so in a different way. The way every reader feels about the book and the characters, how they see the setting in their heads, how they view the characters and the emotions the characters feel, is an entirely personal experience. That’s what makes a book so powerful. And as a writer, the part that I get real satisfaction from is really exploring the psyche of my characters. I like getting into their heads and drilling down to the very core of who they are. On screen, and in writing a screenplay, you just can’t get to that same depth because such a large part of the unspoken elements of the plot are purely visual.

That said, on the flip side, it’s the visual potency of films which I love. In many ways they can be a lazy alternative to books, and films definitely engage the brain in a different way than books do. But I still love them. I love the sweeping visuals that you can get, and the painstaking and gritty detail that we get to see in action scenes which has so many more levels to it than you could ever write down on a page. And films can be incredibly emotional too. We don’t get to be inside the characters’ heads in the same way as in a book – as there simply isn’t the inner narrative – but when you get a top-notch script and top-notch actors in place, there’s no doubting that you can feel a wide range of emotions watching a good film. And we feel great connections to actors and actresses because of this. It’s why they are such big A-list celebrities.

As for my own books, in many ways I think they are perhaps something of a hybrid between traditional book and film. I love both formats and have been influenced greatly by both and even though the books I’ve written are very definitely novels and not screenplays, in my head they play out more like a movie, with a big emphasis on visuals. My writing evolved in many respects as a collection of scenes, much like you’d get in a screenplay. I think that’s just the way the plots are formed in my head and the way that I translate them onto the page. I think of a scene, I flesh out the scene as much as I can in my mind, and then I write it out.

So which is best: book or film? Well, the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned. But it’s on my to-do list to re-write each of the books of the Enemy series into screenplays. I think they’d all work in that format and I’m excited to see how they look and feel. And maybe one day, when the big screen version of the Enemy series hits your local cinema, you can come and tell me which version you liked best.

image003Rise of the Enemy is available to buy now.