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Blog Tour – ‘The Lighterman’ by Simon Michael

‘The Lighterman’ was published in paperback on the 8th June 2017 by Urbane Publications and is out as an eBook as well.  I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour.  Having loved ‘the Brief’ I just know that this is bound to be a winning series.  I have an extract for all of you to read and a competition at the end, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne.

Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne. The Lighterman provides more of Charles’ personal history, dating back to the war years when he worked on the River Thames with his cousin Izzy.

When Izzy is accused of murder Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin…and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.

 

Extract

Prologue
September 1940

Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann releases his bombs at 03:45 hours. His Dornier 215 is in the middle wave of the attack and although several of the escorting Messerschmitt 109s have been shot down, the approach has been easy. The cloud cover as they crossed the Channel had melted away, and the bomber squadron had simply followed the meandering line of the Thames, deviating slightly every now and then to avoid the puffs of smoke from the anti- aircraft fire and then returning to its course. Ahead of Schumann clusters of incendiaries continue to rain onto the city, dropped by the leading bombers in his formation. As each new cluster falls there is a dazzling flash followed by a flame soaring up from a white centre, turning the underside of the barrage balloons silvery yellow and throwing up great boiling eruptions of smoke. And as each burst of black smoke clears in the breeze, the great river reappears, a black snake in a brightly-illuminated landscape of uncontrolled fire.

As he releases his payload, Schumann is able to look down and obtain a perfect view of the U-shaped bend in the river known by the Britishers as The Isle of Dogs. He watches the bombs drop, becoming tiny black dots before they are swallowed up by the great orange and yellow tongues of flame which leap hundreds of feet into the night air, as if making futile attempts to lick the belly of his Dornier. The Port of London is burning to the ground, and to Schumann’s eye it is both terrible and beautiful.

It takes the 1000 kg bombs 42 seconds to hit the ground. This is what happens on the ground during that period of 42 seconds:

Hallsville Junior School, Agate Street, Canning Town is heaving with over 600 East Enders – men, women and children – awaiting evacuation. Almost all of them are homeless, their houses and schools having been destroyed in the first few days of the Blitz. Some have gathered together a few treasured possessions; some have a cardboard suitcase or two; some, recently dug out from collapsed buildings, have nothing but the nightclothes they stand in, their modesty covered by borrowed blankets, soot and building dust. Almost all have lost family members and the majority carries injuries; the walking wounded of working class London.

New dazed families continued to arrive at the already overcrowded building but, despite all, spirits have been reasonable for much of the day. Then, as the hours pass and the promised transports fail to materialise, muttering turns to anger and anger to shouting at the hopelessly overrun authorities. They are sitting ducks, they protest, with no air raid shelter to protect them and another bombing raid inevitable. By early afternoon a blind eye is being turned to the dozens of East End servicemen who desert from nearby postings to slip into the school and spirit their families away.

The unrest turns to barely-contained panic when the air raid starts. Children shriek with terror and cling to their mothers’ legs as the bombs scream down, shaking the ground with each impact, and the drone of the oncoming Luftwaffe planes goes on, and on, and on, wave after wave, dulling the senses, making it impossible to think beyond the thundering engines and the rising hysteria.

40 seconds.

Harry Horowitz, tailor and furrier, lately of British Street, Mile End, and his wife Millie Horowitz, milliner, huddle at the very end of a corridor at the back of the school with their boys, Charles aged 14 and David, 12. Despite the noise of the German planes, the bombs raining down all around them which shake the entire building, and the thick dust-laden air which catches in her throat, Millie’s lifelong debilitating anxiety is focused mostly on David. Her younger son had been running a fever when dragged out of their damaged home two nights earlier, and he now lies in her arms, sweating and shivering uncontrollably. Crouched next to them on the floor of the narrow corridor are four other families, one being that of Millie’s best friend, Sarah, who along with her husband and three girls had arrived earlier that afternoon to claim the last remaining floor space just inside the door leading out to the playground.

30 seconds.

Another bomb – one in fact released by the plane preceding that of Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann – screams down towards Agate Street and for a few seconds every adult in the school building holds their breath and falls silent. It lands with an almighty impact and the entire building shakes violently, but it misses the school, destroying instead the row of buildings on the opposite side of the road. Pieces of masonry and shrapnel ping off the cobbles of Agate Street and several heavy pieces of debris crash into the school roof at the front of the building.

‘That’s it,’ announces Harry. ‘We’re leaving.’

Harry Horovitz is a short, dapper man, always perfectly turned out in a three-piece suit, a watch chain across his slim torso. He works long hard hours in his little East End factory which produces high-quality fur coats, stoles and hats for the carriage trade. When he returns to the family home, invariably late and tired, he speaks little, preferring to sit in his armchair by the coal fire in waistcoat and shirt- sleeves and read the newspaper from start to finish in silence. Everyone knows that Millie, sharp-featured and sharp-tongued, wears the trousers in the Horovitz household. However, few realise that on the rare occasion when Harry put his foot down, Millie always complies without a word. She stands and lifts David to his feet, turning to her friend.

‘You coming, Sal?’

Sarah looks up at her husband, who nods his assent.

The nine East End Jews grab their pathetic suitcases and shoulder their way through their terrified neighbours and friends, shouting their apologies over the drone of the aircraft and the explosions all around them, and emerge through the door into the playground.

15 seconds.

‘Run!’ shouts Harry, as he leads them across the playground.

10 seconds.

Charles hesitates, looking back down the corridor as the rest of his family hurry outside into the orange tinted, dust-filled, cacophony of the air raid. Further down the corridor, into the bowels of the school and just outside its combined gymnasium and hall, is another East End family. The Hoffmanns live only 30 yards from the Horowitz household and their house had, like that of the Horowitz family, been almost completely destroyed in the raid two nights before. The two families often queue together with the same ration books; eat the same sparse food; speak essentially the same language in their respective homes, and have much in common besides. But they never speak beyond an occasional nodded greeting. The Hoffmanns, although refugees from Hitler like many in the surrounding streets, are not Jewish, and Millie and Harry Horowitz’s social circle simply does not include non-Jews. Their lives simply revolve around their home, their business and their synagogue. The Hoffmanns are, simply, “goyim” – of “The Nations” – and accordingly outside the circle. But the Hoffmanns have a daughter, a slim, fair and blue-eyed girl of fourteen, named Adalie. Unknown to either set of parents, while walking back from school every evening Charles Horowitz and Adalie Hoffmann have become friends. They have shared their thoughts on their teachers, their homework and on Hitler. And at Adalie’s instigation, they have shared several sweet, chaste, kisses.

So Charles lingers for a second or two, trying to catch a last glimpse of Adalie, and as a result very nearly loses his life. The rest of his family have stumbled across the rubble- strewn playground and are disappearing through the rear gates of the school. Outside on the street the air glows, backlit by orange flames on all sides; the fires of hell.

The shriek of Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann’s bomb fills the air as Charles, having given up his quest, races across the playground after the shadowy figure of his mother, the last of the party to disappear through the school gates ahead of him. Charles reaches the gate and takes two steps up Agate Street.

Impact.

The 1000 kg bomb scores a direct hit on the school. Charles is blown off his feet and finds himself sailing eight feet into the air, the explosive pressure drop making him feel as if his eyeballs are being sucked out of their sockets. He lands in an adjoining garden, destroying the rhododendron bush which breaks his fall, and suffers a bruised back and a cut to his scalp from a piece of flying masonry from the school wall. Everyone else in the family is unscathed. Although winded, Charles manages to roll back onto his feet in a single movement and continue running.
Harry Horowitz, soft-spoken East End tailor, has saved the lives of his family.

Later that day the government places a “D Notice” on the event, preventing accurate reports of the number of casualties to avert a collapse of morale in London. Officially 73 people died. Locals know that of the 600 or so men, women and children in the building, over 450 were killed instantly, many more in the hours thereafter, and almost all of the survivors suffered injuries. The Hoffmann family were blown to unrecognisably small pieces.

Four days later the Horowitz family unfolds stiff limbs and climbs down the steep steps of a bus in the centre of Carmarthen, and are introduced to the farmers who are to take them in. Four weeks of regular enforced chapel attendance later, Charles runs away and jumps on a Great Western milk train to London where he spends the next, and best, years of his life, running wild on the rubble-strewn streets of London and the one artery the Luftwaffe never managed to close: the River

 

Competition

Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications is very kindly giving away a paperback copy of ‘The Lighterman’ for each stop on the blog tour.  To enter just leave a comment telling me what you thought of the extract.  Has it left you wanting to read more?  Are you totally intrigued?

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. tonight, 13th June 2017.

The winner will be randomly selected and notified by the end of this week and their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prize.

 

‘The Lighterman’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-lighterman/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighterman-Book-Charles-Holborne-x/dp/191158300X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497331771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+lighterman

Interview with Simon Michael

It’s time now for another interview, this time with Simon Michael.  ‘The Lighterman’, the third book in the Charles Holborne series is being published in June of this year.

 

As you know I loved ‘The Brief’. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about ‘The Brief’ and the series as a whole?

I confess that as I have got further into the series (the third book is about to be published and the fourth is underway) I have understood both Charles Holborne, the conflicted antihero barrister, and what the books are about much better. The seeds were there, but apparently buried in my subconscious. I have realised that the series of thrillers is about a man who tries to stay true to his integrity and honour despite being surrounded by corruption. So, the Kray twins, the Richardson brothers and the Messina brothers are engaged in a war in which they fire-bomb, razor and intimidate for control of their criminal territories; the Metropolitan Police are institutionally corrupt, taking bribes, assisting the criminals, and beating confessions from innocent people; and the judiciary are institutionally biased. Charles Holborne is torn between, on the one hand, his East End, ex-boxer and ex-criminal roots, where he still has friends and family and, on the other, his love for the law, the institutions of justice and his own personal code of honour. In The Brief Charles is framed for the murder of his wife and has to decide: “Will I rely on the dysfunctional machinery of justice to prove my innocence, or will I break the law to avoid the hangman?” I often have in my mind’s eye when writing Michael Corleone from The Godfather: a war hero and an honest man, a man whose Mafia family desperately want to keep “clean”, being dragged back into crime for the love of his father.

 

Where did you get your ideas from for this series?

Several threads combined to produce the series. Firstly I am a Londoner, and only the first generation in 500 years not to live in the East End. Secondly, boxing features in my family history. From the 1920s onwards several of my forebears used the same East End gym as the Kray twins and one became a successful professional boxer. Thirdly, when I became a barrister in 1978, although things had begun to improve, there was still an enormous amount of corruption in the English criminal justice system. There was also huge anti-Semitism and class prejudice. I was the first barrister to join my Chambers who had not been to a public school, and I can guarantee I was the only one who worked as a council labourer every vacation to raise money to continue my education! It was quite a shock to find that the venerable institution of the Bar was so riven by prejudice. So I joined these threads together, and emphasised them by simply moving the events back in time to the 1960s. But the legal cases on which the plots are based, and the court documents included within the text of the books, are based on cases I actually worked on as a barrister.

 

How long did it take you to write ‘The Brief’ and ‘An Honest Man’?

This may surprise you, but the first draft of The Brief took less than three weeks. I had been thinking about the story for so long that it just burst out of me and I just had to get out of the way. An Honest Man took a little longer, but only a few months. Once I have the idea, I write very quickly. On a “bad day” I might write only 1500 words but on an averagely good day I will write 5000 words.

 

Being a barrister would have helped you a lot with these books obviously. Did you have to do any specific research and if so what did it entail?

I had to buy some old legal textbooks to check the legal procedure in the 1960s, but after 37 years at the Bar I had a pretty strong grounding and just had to make sure I wasn’t accidentally including 1970s material in a 1960s book. I have been pulled up by a couple of ex-coppers who pointed out that there were no Crown Courts until 1972 – and they are absolutely right! I am always very grateful to people who point out mistakes. One of the policemen has agreed to act as a beta reader in future, which is extremely kind of him. I’m still learning, and that’s the only way to improve. So far as the 1960s are concerned, I do a lot of research on the Internet but even then mistakes do creep in. Somebody pointed out that the Mary Quant hairstyle I refer to did not exist for another two years, and one fan said that the engine of the Rover P5, used in The Brief as the getaway car, was in fact a 3 L not a 3.5 L at that time!

 

Can you relate to any of your characters?

As you can see from my earlier answers, although these books are not autobiographical, Charles Holborne is based on me or, more accurately, on who I would have been had I been born a generation earlier. I think it is very difficult to be true to your ideals when you are surrounded, by friends and family – by your entire culture – at the bottom of the socio-economic pile and prepared to do anything to climb out.

 

Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

Believe it or not I wasn’t going to write this series at all and I didn’t consider myself a crime writer. I had an idea for a much “bigger” book but I thought The Brief and perhaps a sequel would just get me started as an author. Dip my toe in the water, so to speak. I didn’t realise there was an entire series here, and I really hadn’t expected the degree of success I’ve enjoyed. So now I seem to be pigeonholed as a crime writer and my agent says that if I do get round to writing the “big” book I will need to use a pseudonym.

 

Will you be doing any book signings when ‘The Lighterman’ is published?

Yes, as many as I can. It’s very difficult to achieve prominence in such a crowded market, and I am not good at social media. I like face-to-face interactions with people so book signings and talks are perfect.

 

I know there’s going to be a blog tour. What do you hope is achieved from it?

I hope people will start to notice the series. It’s an enormously crowded market, and there are hundreds of authors writing police procedurals and psychological thrillers. What I am writing is different, but so far as the publishers are concerned they fall within the same genre. To some extent that’s true – they are crime thrillers with a legal twist – but they are more than that. I am trying to write about real people with real homes, real lives, and I’m following one man’s personal journey. I don’t know anyone else who is writing 1960s thrillers involving an East End Jewish ex-boxer ex-criminal barrister on a moral journey.

 

How has social media helped you?

I’m not the right person to ask about this. I seem to have a relatively small band of devoted fans, many of whom have been reached initially by social media, but like I said I’m not good at it. I hate the self-promotion involved. It wasn’t the way I was brought up, and to shout about one’s achievements was frowned upon. Your achievements should speak for you. It’s a very English attitude, but in a market dominated by so-called “Amazon Bestsellers!!” if you don’t shout about yourself you won’t get noticed at all.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your career as a barrister please?

I was “called to the Bar” by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978 and started doing what they call mixed common law cases. That is crime, matrimonial, landlord and tenant, contract, personal injury – everything. That’s not what happens nowadays where young entrants tend to specialise very early, which I think is a mistake. I was best at the crime because I identified with the underdog and loved working with juries. I suspect I should have been an actor like my children. Gradually my practice focused on crime and personal injury. I had to make a decision whether to continue doing the crime in the face of severe legal aid cuts when I had a young family and decided to move gradually into clinical negligence work. I developed a practice where I represented people who had suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of medical negligence and who needed very significant support and care. So, I prosecuted and defended in the Crown Courts, including the Old Bailey, for about 15 years before gradually giving it up for financial reasons. I still miss the buzz of the jury work, the camaraderie of the Bar Messes, prison visits and walking into the Old Bailey.

 

What made you decide to write?

I love telling stories. I always have, since I was a child. My ex-wife says that I “live inside my own head”, and there is some truth in that. When the writing is going well the world I’ve created in my head seems more real than the “real world”.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

In the field that I’m now working, Raymond Chandler, followed by Dashiell Hammett and John Mortimer. All three deal with crime and a hero who does his best to remain true to his principles, i.e. Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Horace Rumpole.

Otherwise, Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. Both see into the hearts and souls of their characters and recognise that all of us are a mixture of good and bad.

 

Links

‘The Brief’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-brief/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Brief-gripping-crime-drama-swinging-Charles-Holborne/191069200X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489444677&sr=1-1&keywords=the+brief+by+simon+michael

‘An Honest Man’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/an-honest-man/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Honest-Man-Book-Charles-Holborne/dp/1911129392/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

‘The Lighterman’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-lighterman/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighterman-Book-Charles-Holborne/dp/191158300X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Website – www.simonmichael.uk

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/simonmichael.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/simonmichaeluk

 

Guest Post by Simon Michael

Simon Michael

Simon Michael’s new book, ‘An Honest Man’ is out on the 7th July 2016.  I recently read and reviewed ‘The Brief’ which I absolutely loved.  To coincide with his new book being published, Simon has written a guest post for my blog.

 

TRIAL BY JURY

Photo A (wig)

The life of a criminal barrister is one of high stress, sweat-inducing responsibility, poor pay, unbeatable camaraderie and extremely funny stories.  I have often thought that the “life-and-death” issues in which barristers deal – like police officers, surgeons and firemen – make humour an essential coping tool.

I was a pupil barrister in the Chambers of Robert Flach QC, in the Middle Temple, of whom hilarious stories are legion – but this guest blog is not about him.  It is about two very green barristers, your writer and a man who was to become a close friend, whom I shall call Derek.  We were both about 23 years of age and pupils to an up-and-coming criminal barrister, hereinafter referred to as “Mr Smith”, who was at that time being led by an eminent QC in a high-profile criminal trial at the Old Bailey.

Mr Smith had left us to do some paperwork while he was in court that day and we were, as always, floundering around a mountainous pile of papers involving arcane and unfamiliar concepts, nattering away and finding every available excuse not to deepen our knowledge of the Law.

Then the telephone rang.  It was our senior clerk.  Mr Smith had left behind some important documents, and one of us needed to run the papers down to Court 2 at the Old Bailey immediately.  Enormous excitement – this would be the first time that we had actually been in the legendary Central Criminal Court.  Did we need to be robed?  Mr Smith didn’t say, replied the clerk, but better safe than sorry.

So we changed our Windsor collars for brand-new wing collars, pushing the brass and mother-of-pearl collar studs through the buttonholes closed with dried starch, tied our bands (those white things worn also by vicars) pulled on our gowns, and grabbed our wigs.  Then we looked for the papers on Mr Smith’s desk and found what amounted only to two short Statements, no more than ten pages.  So, only one of us was needed to make the delivery.

‘Toss for it,’ I offered.

‘Fair enough,’ agreed Derek.  I won.

‘Best-of-three?’ suggested Derek.  Like an idiot, I agreed.  He won the next two.

‘Best-of-five?’ I suggested.

‘No time,’ he said, looking at his watch, and off he scuttled, wig in one hand, statements in the other and black gown billowing behind him.  I followed; having changed into my fancy dress, there was no way I was going to miss the adventure.

It took us little more than five minutes to jog down Fleet Street, over Ludgate Circus and left into Old Bailey.  We paused outside the heavy swing doors of Court No 2 and Derek placed his wig on his red Irish hair.  Inside we could see the tall wooden dock in which sat our pupil master’s clients, the raked banks of jurors, the massed ranks of reporters and the packed gallery.  The back of the prosecution QC could be seen as he addressed the Recorder of London, who sat robed in black and purple, higher than everyone else in the court, under an enormous pediment bearing the crest and the words “Dieu et mon droit”.

‘How do I look?’ whispered Derek.

‘Fine,’ I replied.

‘Okay.  Here we go.’  He took a deep breath and reached for the door.

‘Don’t forget to bow,’ I reminded him.

He turned back to me, his face slightly pale.  ‘Right, thanks,’ and he pushed open the door.

The door made a loud squeak just as, unfortunately, there was complete silence in court.  The jurors turned at the noise, followed by the members of the press.  Derek’s progress down the centre aisle towards the barristers’ benches at the front of the court was followed by forty pairs of eyes.  The prosecution barrister began speaking again but realised that the attention of everyone in the court was on something going on behind him.  He turned, and every other barrister on the benches followed suit.  Within a few seconds Derek was the centre of attention of everyone in the court.

Blushing as red as the hair emerging from under his wig, Derek located Mr Smith in the second row amongst all the other identically-dressed barristers.  He walked along the front of the row and handed our pupil master the Additional Statements.  He then turned and, apparently remembering my last comment, bowed to the judge.  He bowed to the ranks of barristers.  He bowed towards the dock, causing the jurors to giggle.  Hearing the noise he then made a quarter turn, and bowed to the jury, causing the giggle to become a ripple of laughter.

He then backed back up the aisle – bowing once more to a surprised court usher holding a water jug – felt behind him for a door, opened it, and stepped backwards – into the exhibit cupboard, closing the door behind him.

Everyone in the court knew that poor Derek was now standing in complete darkness surrounded by boxes of exhibits, and they waited to see if he would emerge again.  Like the rumbling of distant thunder, the laughter grew until it became a crescendo of hilarity ringing around the court.  After about thirty seconds of what must have been complete torture to Derek, but during which he was utterly immobilised by embarrassment, the Recorder of London took pity on him.

‘For heaven’s sake, usher, let the poor fellow out,’ he directed.

The usher put the jug on a bench and walked up the aisle.  She opened the door to be greeted by a mortified pupil barrister standing in the dark.  Derek stepped into the court to an eruption of wild applause.  He cast about himself, saw me furiously beckoning from outside, and ran to the safety of the corridor.

I’m delighted to tell you that despite this setback, Derek enjoyed an extremely successful career at the Bar, but perhaps unsurprisingly he forsook practice at the Old Bailey, opting instead for the quieter life of a civil practitioner, toiling through mountains of papers, but safe from the ridicule of any jury.

_________________________________________________________________________________

[Simon Michael’s The Brief was reviewed by me here https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/the-brief-by-simon-michael/ and the sequel, An Honest Man, is to be published by Urbane Publications on 7 July 2016 but available for pre-order now.]

 

Honest Man cover

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/29ko0Iz

Criminal barrister Charles Holborne may have just escaped the hangman by proving he was framed for murder, but his life is now in ruins.  His wife is dead, his high-flying career has morphed into criminal notoriety, and bankruptcy threatens.  When the biggest brief of Charles’s career land unexpectedly on his desk, it looks as if he’s been thrown a lifeline.  But far from keeping him afloat, it drags him ever deeper into the shadowy underworld of 1960s London.  Now, not only is his practice at stake, but his very life.  Caught in the crossfire between corrupt police officers and warring gangs, can Charles protect himself without once again turning to crime?

Based on real Old Bailey cases and genuine court documents, An Honest Man is the second in the Charles Holborne series, set on the sleazy London streets of the 1960s.

 

About Simon Michael

Simon practised as a barrister for over 35 years, many of them spent prosecuting and defending murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. He had several books published in the UK and the USA in the 1990s and his short story Split was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award.

In 2016 he retired from legal practice to devote himself to full- time writing. The Brief (September 2015) and An Honest Man (July 2016) are the first two books in the Charles Holborne series, set on the gangland streets of 1960s London, based upon his experiences. Simon is a founder member and co-chair of the Ampthill Literary Festival. He lives with his wife, youngest daughter and many unfulfilled ambitions in Bedfordshire.

 

Links

Website and blogs: www.simonmichael.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simonmichael.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/simonmichaeluk

Email: author@simonmichael.uk

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/28ZFrwQ

 

‘The Brief’ by Simon Michael

The Brief

‘The Brief’ was published last year by Urbane Publications.  I was very kindly sent a copy of this book to review.

The story is set in 1960s London.  In a city of gangsters, prejudice and terrifying gang wars, Barrister Charles Holborne seems to spend the majority of his time dealing with the worst examples of violent criminality.  Having successfully won a number of high profile cases, Charles is building a reputation amongst Soho’s criminal classes as a man who gets the job done.  This unfortunately doesn’t endear him to his establishment colleagues.

However, Charles isn’t all he seems and is in fact battling personal demons and his past.  When his philandering wife Henrietta is found dead with her throat slashed, Charles suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in serious trouble.  Arrested for her murder, can he discover the truth and escape the hangman’s noose?

I started reading ‘The Brief’ late last Saturday night and from the very first page I was totally engrossed.  It was literally a case of having to read one more chapter, followed by another one and another one.  After two late nights and many more hours besides I have now finished this wonderful book and want to shout out how great it is.

I thought ‘The Brief’ to be an extremely addictive read.  Split into five parts it is fast-paced, gripping and very exciting.  I love crime fiction and was most interested in learning more about the legal side of things.  Simon Michael has himself had a career at the Bar and has drawn on his experiences to write this book which makes it all the more real.  I really liked that court documents were included in the story.  I read the Transcript of Evidence with great interest and at one point even felt as if I was in the court too.

There were certainly some very dodgy characters in the story and it was hard to know at times who to trust.  I really liked Charles and hoped that he would get off his murder charge.  He was stitched up good and proper and he soon knew what it was like to be on the other side.

‘The Brief’ will keep you up for hours.  It will play on your mind and you’ll be dying to know what happens next.

I am really looking forward to Simon Michael’s new book, ‘An Honest Man’, which is due out next month and I will be eagerly following his future work.  Simon is already a firm favourite of mine.  I hope he writes many more books.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

Guest Post by Simon Michael + Competition

Book Cover

Simon Michael’s novel, ‘The Brief’ is out in paperback on the 28th September, published by Urbane Publications Limited.  I am very pleased to be hosting a guest post by Simon Michael on my blog.

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I guess mothers are always proud of their sons. I’m tempted to say Jewish mothers especially so, but I suspect Asian, Italian and African mothers – indeed all mothers – are no different. So the publication of a mother’s son’s first novel was never likely to pass unnoticed. And while it’s easy to deflect the “So, when can I read it?” during the gestation period, it’s more difficult after it’s been accepted for publication; more difficult still once the proofs have arrived; pretty much impossible once proofed, mere weeks before publication. She wants a copy of the book – several copies in fact – one to read, one to show her friends at the bridge club, and one for “best” to lie artfully on her coffee table, my photograph ready to greet her guests. And there’s the difficulty. There are sex scenes. Sex scenes which, if I’ve written them properly, will make the reader’s blood pump slightly faster, their pupils dilate and their breathing catch slightly in their chests. It’s not just sex; it’s sexy.

Of course, I can tell her that the book isn’t autobiographical, and there is much truth in that. But all authors draw on personal experience even if they then twist, expand and embellish. The uncle who might have been the genesis of a character in the book becomes almost unrecognisable by the end. That’s when the writing process is at its best – when characters start breathing, speaking and acting for themselves. When that spark of life you have tried to breathe into them suddenly glows of its own accord and – what do you know? – the character starts acting in ways which you would never have expected. But still…they start life rooted in real experience. Just like those sex scenes. And while I may not have done precisely what the characters are doing, it’s close enough.

My mother’s no prude, and she isn’t shockable. In fact on the extremely rare occasions when she has one sherry too many, she is liable to tell quite a risque joke. [1] And when I was little, and I asked how babies were made, she gave me a precise and extremely detailed explanation, using proper biological terminology and diagrams, until my seven-year-old eyes glazed over and I became so bored that I didn’t ask again for another five years.

But still… I cannot escape from embarrassment as I picture my mother reading in detail what I may, or may not, have been doing with parts of my body she last saw in (or, more accurately, out of) swimming trunks several decades ago. I’m married with children, so we both know I figured out what to do with those parts long ago. But still… demonstrating the detail of my knowledge is something else. And it’s not just the technical aspects of the act… it’s the… peripheral stuff… less procreative, but more fun.

The situation takes me straight back to when I was 14 or 15 and my mother insisted on taking my younger brother and me to the cinema on the last day of half term. I knew all my mates would be there, in the back row, and I resisted going, but to no avail. She was on a mission, and she thought it would be fun. After the lights went up at the end and we filed out, and my mother’s eyes lighted on the canoodling couples in the back row, several boys’ hands indiscreetly inside the clothing of several of the girls. “Oh,” she commented, rather too loudly, as we were forced by the exiting crowds to pause at the end of the row. “Isn’t that disgusting? You wouldn’t do anything like that, would you?” My mates all grinned at me, and I knew I was in for it on the Monday. Of course I would have done something just like that, given the chance. I used to dream of getting that lucky, and if mum hadn’t insisted on taking me to the cinema, I’d have hoped to be in the back row with them.

But I’m no longer 14 or 15. I’m a man of the world, and there really is no need for me to be embarrassed… is there?

I know I can’t avoid it any further. She knows my contract allows me a certain number of copies and she’s placed her order. In any event, there’s always Amazon. So, no amount of equivocation or explication is going to help. She will read it, sex scenes and all… and I will do my best not to blush.

__________________________

[1]  And seeing as you asked, here it is: A young man takes a young lady on a first date to the cinema. After draping his arm nonchalantly around her shoulders for the first half of the film, and receiving no rebuff, he puts his hand on her knee. Then he gradually moved his hand up her thigh. The young lady lets him continue for a few inches, but then slaps away his hand. “Manners!” she hisses. “Tits first!”

‘The Brief’ can be pre-ordered now, but if you don’t want to wait the eBook can be downloaded from Urbane Publications website:-

http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-brief/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-Simon-Michael/dp/191069200X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442151944&sr=8-1&keywords=the+brief+simon+Michael

 

About Simon Michael

Author

Simon Michael was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978. In his many years of prosecuting and defending criminal cases he has dealt with a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy.

A storyteller all his life, Simon started writing short stories at school. His first novel (co-written) was published by Grafton in 1988 and was followed in 1989 by his first solo novel, The Cut Throat, the first of the Charles Holborne series, based on Simon’s own experiences at the criminal Bar. The Cut Throat was successful in the UK (WH Allen) and in the USA (St Martin’s Press) and the next in the series, The Long Lie, was published in 1992. Between the two, in 1991, Simon’s short story “Split” was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award. He was also commissioned to write two feature screenplays.

Simon then put writing aside to concentrate on his career at the Bar. After a further 25 years’ experience he now has sufficient plots based on real cases for another dozen legal thrillers.

The Brief, a reworking of The Cut Throat, now set in sleazy Soho of the 1960s, will be published in September 2015 and Simon has almost completed the next two books in the series.

Simon still practises law countrywide but now works only part-time. He lives with his wife and youngest child in Bedfordshire. He is a founder member of the Ampthill Literary Festival.

 

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Competition

Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications has kindly offered 5 paperback copies of ‘The Brief’ for a giveaway.  To enter all you have to do is leave a comment telling me why you want to win.

 

Terms and Conditions 

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 28th September 2015.

The winners will be randomly picked and notified of their win within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications who will send out the prizes.

Please note that whilst I don’t mind that this competition has been added to a forum, I do expect entrants to be genuinely interested in the guest post above and the book and not just be after a freebie.

 

Good luck! 🙂 Read more…

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