#BlogTour – Fight Or Die by James Hilton – exclusive extract

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When the Gunn brothers Danny and Clay answer a call to help old friends, they are plunged into a volatile and deadly situation. Larry and Pamela Duke own one of the most popular nightclubs in the Spanish resort town of Ultima, but a local gang known as the Locos are determined to take it. Danny and Clay are hired to protect the club, but new adversaries enter the game. Against such odds there are only two choices: fight or die…

Ortega had spent two years in one of Spain’s toughest prisons, where he’d been in the company of many vicious men. He’d also been in enough street fights to recognise a dangerous prospect when he saw one. He studied the big American with practised eyes, made subtle calculations behind his unwavering façade. The man was about six-five, maybe more. His accent unmistakable. Powerful-looking with enough scars on his face to give him a sinister edge. Well over two hundred pounds. Big arms and shoulders. But he wasn’t slow: two experienced Locos had gone down in a few seconds. This Clay could be real trouble.
Got to take him out!
Ortega set himself.
Do it now!
But then the big man did something unexpected. He started to walk away. “You know what? This is none of my business; go ahead and do what you were gonna do. I’m going for a beer further down the road.”
Ortega looked at the big man’s back as he stalked away. No way was this American pig leaving here in one piece. He snatched at his knife and lurched after Clay. With deadly intent, he aimed for the kidney and slammed his blade forward—but all he hit was air.
The big man wasn’t there. He’d turned in a subtle pivot and now had Ortega’s arm caught at the wrist and wrapped up at the elbow. Ortega had been in a few arm-locks in his time but this was unlike anything he’d experienced before. When a cop had you in a hold they were trying to restrain you. This was very different.
Pain erupted in his arm, a sudden heat like boiling water in the joint of his elbow. The two men locked eyes in a battle of wills. Ortega strained against the hold.
The big man braced his arms and chest in one severe movement and Ortega felt his elbow joint first hyper-extend and then dislocate fully in a mind-numbing separation of bone and sinew. Ortega felt his legs begin to give way beneath him as his knife clattered to the floor.
“Well I guess you won’t be signing any deeds after all,” said Clay.
Ortega found his voice, but all he could emit was a high-pitched series of gasping curses.
The woman’s—Pamela’s—voice rang out from behind the bar. “You know you’re right, Mr Vincenzo Ortega. My husband isn’t a match for you anymore, but you’ll find that good men have good friends and Clay here is one of the best. Tell your boss that we’re not interested and won’t be railroaded. Any more shit like today and he’ll be the one out of business. For good.”
“You piece of shi—” Ortega’s response was cut short by an elbow to his face. A quick spin by Clay coupled with a few running steps and Ortega found himself crashing out into the street.
Seconds later Donal and Aspanu were dumped unceremoniously by his side. Clay glowered down at the fallen gangsters. “You’d better listen to the lady. If you come back again, I’ll be mighty upset. These are decent people. Bring crap like this here again and you’ll pay dearly; unlike the easy ride you got today.”
Ortega began to vow retribution but discovered that his mouth didn’t work. That fucker had broken his jaw! He struggled to his feet, both dislocated arm and shattered jaw sending a barrage of pain through his nervous system.
The big man pointed to the knife embedded in Donal’s blood-soaked thigh. “Hey, you might want to get that looked at.”
Aspanu had regained consciousness and was looking around, blinking rapidly, clearly trying to make sense of the situation. A fierce grunt and head nodding from Ortega sent him scurrying towards a black Mercedes parked kerbside. Aspanu unlocked the car and then helped Ortega into the passenger seat. Donal, still bleeding profusely and glassy-eyed, was hauled up and pushed without ceremony onto the back seats. The Mercedes then sped away, causing an oncoming car to swerve out of its path.

#BlogTour Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler and the Inspiration Behind It

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As part of her blog tour for her debut novel Don’t Wake up, today on LifeOfCri.me Liz Lawler talks about the inspiration behind the book.

 

 

 

 

Inspiration behind Don’t Wake Up

I wish I could tell you that I heard a particular story or read an article in a newspaper that inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up. But it wouldn’t be true. Something obviously triggered it, but I suspect it was many things that I heard or read or thought or even experienced and my mind accepted and stored a place for all this imagery to settle before becoming fully focused. I use the word imagery, because when I think of a story it is always in full technicolour with people having conversations or crying or running away. I do remember exactly what I was doing when this story came to me, and it came with a bit of a whoosh. The body of the story was inside my head by the time I had vacuumed my house one day. I then needed to give it legs and arms and a head to fully function. I have found that I never think up stories when I’m at rest, it is always when I’m physically busy with my mind at a bit of a wander.

So what triggered it, I now ask it myself? Was it the fact that I have worked in a hospital for so many years and am as familiar with that type of surroundings as I am in my own home? Possibly. It would certainly be a logical conclusion. Or was it witnessing the vulnerability of so many patients as they walk onto a ward and place their trust in you.

Yet as I write that last sentence, my stomach clenches at the thought of how vulnerable we are when we place our trust in people that we are encouraged to trust.

And this thought, I suspect, is the trigger that made me want to write a story like Don’t Wake Up. The horrific story that came to light about Winterbourne care home in recent years, that uncovered acts of abuse being meted out to people with learning difficulties, sadly didn’t shock me. It enraged me that it happened, but I wasn’t shocked. The debase behaviour of humans has always existed and it always will. It pushes me to ask questions and each probe will inevitably begin with – How could someone. How could someone do that, say that, think that. I think everyone is susceptible to carrying out an unkind act, even if it is only in thought, and for most of us it will be only ever amount to that. But for many of us we have met that unkind person, the one that we think or say about, ‘I wouldn’t let her look after my dog, let alone my child, my father, my mother.’

Every form of mental and physical cruelty is abhorrent to me and they take their ugly shapes in so many forms. It is relentless. We are saturated every single day by what we hear in the news of acts of horrendous cruelty being carried out and before we have even processed one shocking story another story has taken precedence. Sometimes a singular story will stay in our minds for ever – the images of the Chinese migrants labourers drowned on Morecambe Bay beach . . . the image of those two innocent babies in the arms of their father having been gassed with sarin. These stories stop us in our tracts, bring tears to our eyes and have us shaking our heads in despair. I am listening to the news as I write this, and in the background Teresa May is speaking of PC Palmer and his colleagues are speaking from the heart about how they felt about this man and my throat is clogged at thought of so many people hurting from this loss.

So in the writing of this blog, I have kind of worked out what inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up – a fictional story of psychological torture – I am not anaesthetized by the atrocities that the human race carry out. I am not numb to that tone of voice I hear when a child is harshly rebuked for crying, or to that heavy sigh of impatience given when that elderly woman or man asks for the toilet again.

Death should never be a cruel act. It should be natural and where possible, surrounded by love. I was very privileged to nurse my father at his home, because I had the ability to carry out this care and if death can be a beautiful thing to witness when someone is ready to face it, I was fortunate to witness it with my own father. He died in the early hours as dawn was breaking at the age of 96 with his wife beside him and me merely there as their interpreter. There is humour even in this memory as in their last conversation to each other neither were wearing their hearing aids and so I had to shout clearly the messages they gave to each other.

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

#Blog Tour Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell

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As part of her blog tour for the latest in the DI Geraldine Steel novels, Leigh talks to LifeOfCri.me about the ins and outs of writing a serial character.

Writing a series

​I have written elsewhere about my inadvertent and very sudden transformation from an avid reader to a compulsive writer. My career as a writer really arose out of a ‘light bulb’ moment, a flash of inspiration. Having no ambitions to write, when an idea occurred to me one day and I started to write it down, I surprised myself by finding I was unable to drag myself away from it until the story had written itself out. Having completed my story, I sent the manuscript to a publisher, just on the off chance that someone might take a look at it. I didn’t really expect that anyone would, but the first person to read it turned out to be the acquiring editor at my publisher’s.

​There I was, unexpectedly faced with signing a three-book deal, and only one story written. It amazes me now that I wasn’t terrified, but the whole experience was exhilarating and quite surreal. Of course, there was a lot of work to be done on that first rather amateurish manuscript before it was actually published as Cut Short, by which time I was well on my way with the second book in the series, Road Closed. The ninth in the series, Deadly Alibi, is about to come out in paperback, the eleventh is written and currently being edited, and I am about a quarter of the way through the twelfth – just at the stage where I realise what I should have written and am about to rewrite what I’ve done so far… Somehow my plans always seem to go out of the window once the writing begins…

​So what began as a random idea for a story has turned into a fairly substantial series. With three series now to my name, and well on the way to delivering the final title in my sixth, three-book publishing deal, I’ve written quite a few books since the idea for Cut Short occurred to me. My next publishing deal will take us up to fifteen Geraldine Steel books, and I’m hoping the series will run to twenty books.

​A question I’m often asked is, does it become easier as you write more books? Like a politician’s equivocation, my answer isn’t straightforward. It’s a yes and a no. The actual writing process becomes easier as you grow accustomed to the editing process and all the associated stages in finalising the manuscript. At the same time, in some ways the pressure increases. With over a million books sold, there are a lot of people waiting to read the next Geraldine Steel story and with each book I worry that this will be the one that bombs, the book where all my fans say I’ve completely lost the plot. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, and I like to think I’m getting better at this writing lark. But who knows how the next book will be received? With so many readers’ expectations to satisfy, it’s a more daunting prospect than when my first book came out and I wondered whether anyone would actually read it, apart from my acquiring editor. ​

​Fortunately I have a fairly foolproof way of dealing with the pressure. It’s how I cope with any problems that arise in my life in the real world. I can simply retreat into my fictional world and write about the challenges faced by my detective, Geraldine Steel. And she has some tricky situations to deal with in Deadly Alibi. Hopefully her loyal fans are going to enjoy reading this latest story, and readers new to the series will find this an exciting introduction.

A hand gripped her upper arm so suddenly it made her yelp. Biting her lower lip, she spun round, lashing out in terror. As she yanked her arm out of his grasp, her elbow hit the side of his chest. Struggling to cling on to her, he lost his footing. She staggered back and reached out, leaning one hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. Before she had recovered her balance he fell, arms flailing, eyes glaring wildly as he disappeared over the edge of the platform onto the rails below. . .

Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt… Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life. And then her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, with problems which are about to make Geraldine’s life turn toxic in more ways than one.

I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith

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When Father Peter Paterson is discovered crucified to the stone floor of his church, DI John Campbell leads the investigation in his first case in charge of the Cumbria Major crimes Team, while DI Harry Evans spends the last week of his police career attending the trial of his wife’s rapist.

With the Priest seemingly killed for no reason, the pressure on the team increases when a rape case and a con trick are added to their workload. Unknown to the police, members of the public are receiving blackmail demands.

Fearing more attacks on the clergy, Campbell does everything he can to solve the case, while Evans spends his evenings dispensing his own brand of supposedly helpful interference.

An absolute belter of a book…

Those of you who follow this blog will have seen me on the Matching The Evidence blog tour last month, celebrating the release of the novella that is literally crammed (timeline wise) between DI Harry Evans book one Snatched From Home and I Know Your Secret, the second novel in this increasingly addictive series.

As I said,  I Know Your Secret is the second book in this series and coming hot on the heels of earlier tales, it’s worth noting that whilst you can happily pick up and read this book as a standalone novel, your experience is greatly enhanced by reading the previous installments as it improves your understanding of the characters and the motivations of the members of the Major Crimes Team.

The opening pages of I Know Your Secret are gritty, as they describe the brutal murder of Father Peter Paterson.  while the method used to set up the scene, will not only leave its imprint on your mind, but ensure you are hooked into the story and keen to discover exactly whodunnit and why.

Easily read in one sitting thanks to its pacy, addictive and dare I say it “unputdownable” style, it’s an absolute belter of a book. With several interwoven plot lines to keep you on your toes, I know your secret is a fabulous story about a functional disfunctional team, interspersed with the just enough dark humour and not enough political correctness to ensure you engage fully with the story, and all of those involved.

I’m already excited to read more about Harry.