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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

Guest Post by Richard Whittle

Big congratulations to Richard Whittle whose new book, ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ is out today published by Urbane Publications.  Richard took part in my Urbane Blog Event in March and it is a real pleasure to have him back on my blog with a guest post.

~~~~~

Sonya, thank you for inviting me to write a Guest Post, I really appreciate it! In March you were kind enough to interview me and to publish an extract from my novel, The Man Who Played Trains, which will be published on 25th May by Urbane Publications. My publisher calls it an intelligent thriller.  What more could I ask?

The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Fifteen years ago I was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award and received a runner-up prize, presented by Ian Rankin – who, tongue in cheek, asked me not to set any novels in Edinburgh. He also told me to keep writing, encouragement I didn’t need at the time but which I would have appreciated many times before, and since, that day. Like so many writers, I’d had short stories published, but no full-length novels. I had been submitting novels to publishers and agents for years, receiving those negative responses we all know so well. Also, occasionally, a few words of encouragement.

The best writing advice and encouragement I ever had was from Random House. Years before my modest success with the Dagger I submitted the typescript of a full novel to the company (probably as part of a scattergun approach to publishers and agents, I cannot even remember which novel I sent). Somehow it fell into the hands of one of the company’s directors and he personally edited, with a lot of red pen, the first three chapters of my book. The letter accompanying the returned typescript ran to two single-space pages of helpful critique and suggestions. He ended by assuring me that one day I would be published. He did add that it might take some time. He was right.

A few years ago I became so disheartened with the responses to my submissions that I gathered up all my correspondence and ceremoniously shredded the lot. Regretfully, the Random House letter died in this purge – though if I am honest with myself I see little point in keeping such things – I read somewhere that we are known for what we do today, not what we have done in the past. That is not always true (think Mandela, Einstein, Pankhurst, Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky…) but it is sound advice that keeps me on my toes.

So where are all these novels, you might ask? Complete and incomplete typescripts litter my hard drives – stories not dead but merely sleeping, awaiting modification and renovation. Many stem from a stage when I wrote only for myself (I had spent far too much time submitting my work to agents or publishers and not enough time writing). During this time, a period of about four years, if I tired of the novel I was writing I put it aside and started another. It is rather like having a big garage full of old cars, some in bits, some almost ready to run (apologies for the analogy if you know nothing about old cars. I am sure you can think of another).

One of these restarts and rewrites was Playpits Park, a novel I self-published on Amazon. To my surprise it acquired more 5-star reviews that I could ever have wished for. The Kindle version was downloaded more than six thousand times.

So who do I write for now, myself or the reader? That is not an easy question to answer. When you read The Man Who Played Trains you enter a world I inhabited before you, a world built from real and imagined places, real events and fictional events. I believe Robert Harris said it first – there are holes in history that you can fall through. This story, set in Edinburgh (sorry, Ian), the far north of Scotland around ten years ago and in Germany in wartime, is a crime novel, a mystery, a thriller and adventure story. My greatest wish is that you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it. That makes it all worthwhile.

I wrote at the start of this post that The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Nor is it about trains, though they do appear now and again. Thank you for reading this guest post until its end. That, too, makes it worthwhile!

 

Buy The Man Who Played Trains from Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-man-who-played-trains/

Also at Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

Blog Tour – ‘Blue Gold’ by David Barker

Congratulations to David Barker whose debut novel, ‘Blue Gold’ was published yesterday the 11th May by Urbane Publications.  For a taster of David’s book click on the link below:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/extract-from-blue-gold-by-david-barker/

It’s my turn on the blog tour celebrating the publication of ‘Blue Gold’ and I am delighted to be hosting a guest post written by David Barker.

 

Water, water, everywhere…

And not a drop to drink, as the Ancient Mariner once said. Hopefully by now you know that Blue Gold is a thriller set in the near future during a world war for water. Articles about water shortages are becoming more common. I’ve been thinking about this for the past seven years or so as I tried to craft a setting for my novel. So, what’s the problem and why is it getting worse?

Many of you may know that only 2.5% of the world’s water is drinkable, the rest being seawater. And two-thirds of the freshwater is locked up in polar icecaps or glaciers. That in itself is scary but not a problem; our ecosystem has always been like that.

The problem is a combination of three factors: demographics, economics and climate change. The demographics part is quite easy to follow. Over the next twenty years the global population is expected to rise by 20%, that’s 1½ billion people who need food and water. Unfortunately, most of those extra people are likely to be born in regions of the world already stressed by water shortages: Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Many of the countries with the biggest populations are showing economic success, raising families out of poverty towards better incomes. That, of course, is fantastic news – and an oft forgotten aspect of the global inequality debate – but richer families tend to consume more water. Their diets shift away from vegetarian to meat-based. Cattle require ten times as much water as crops do to grow. And when a family can afford its own apartment, with their own bathroom, they use more water.

So, it’s obvious that demographics and economics will boost the demand for water significantly over the next 20-30 years. The effects of climate change are more subtle. A hotter atmosphere doesn’t change the amount of water in the ecosystem. But extreme weather events – droughts and floods – are becoming more common. California just went through its worst drought in over a thousand years. Floods, oddly, are unhelpful for water supplies too because rivers and drains can’t cope with the deluge; the excess water is often contaminated and can’t be stored. The effective supply of rainwater is declining with weather extremes.

What can we do about this problem? In the first instance, we simply tap into the underground stores of water known as aquifers. But these take millennium to refill, and the rate of depletion in most suggests a looming problem.

People often assume that desalination – removing salt from seawater – can solve the problem, but even with technological improvements it’s still expensive. It leaves behind a concentration of salt that can be devastating for the local environment. Water is very heavy. If the city you are trying to supply is miles from the sea, or as in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, 7000 feet up an escarpment, you can forget about desalination as a practical source of freshwater. And desalination uses a lot of energy. It will be hard enough for us to meet the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions without the extra burden of powering desalination plants and transporting water inland.

The real solution lies in using our freshwater more carefully. Educating households and businesses on the importance of looking after this precious commodity. Reducing pollution in our rivers. Building homes that catch rainwater and use that to flush our toilets. Modernising our sewage systems. Inevitably, all of this will require a helping hand from Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’. The price of water will have to rise significantly to persuade people to take the issue seriously and to reward the innovators.

What will happen in the poorest parts of the world then? It was probably no coincidence that the Arab Spring of 2010-12 occurred during a period of rapid increases in the price of flour and bread. People like to grumble when luxury items become more expensive. People riot when basic, essential items becomes unaffordable. I hope it doesn’t come to that. It’s one prediction I’ll gladly get wrong.

 

Find out more about Blue Gold and me on my website:

www.davidbarkerauthor.co.uk

 

About David Barker

David was born in Cheshire but now lives in Berkshire. He is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time.

David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing.

 

‘Blue Gold’ can be purchased from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/blue-gold/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Gold-David-Barker-x/dp/1911331655/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488657122&sr=1-1&keywords=blue+gold+by+david+barker

 

Final Post – My Urbane Blog Event

Well, my Urbane Blog Event is over.  I have really enjoyed doing it and I really don’t know where these past two weeks have gone.  I’ll let you all into a little secret now.  Whilst organising this event I had a few doubts.  I thought I had lost the ability to organise another blog event.  As it goes, it all went very well.

I’d like to thank all my fellow book bloggers, authors and of course the Urbane authors for taking the time and trouble to share my posts.  I really was and still am totally overwhelmed at all the support I got.  You Urbane authors really are like one big happy family.  I’d also like to thank Matthew Smith for providing me with the book extracts.  Long may your publishing business continue.

I have decided that I would really like to feature Urbane authors on my blog on a monthly basis, about two or three posts a month.  If your book is due to be published do feel free to get in touch with me anytime.  I am always open to hosting guest posts and doing interviews.  I will also be reviewing lots more books.

Thanks again everyone!

 

Love from Sonya xx

 

Book Review – ‘Reunited’ by Daniel Gothard

‘Reunited’ is Daniel Gothard’s second book to be published by Urbane Publications. It came out in October of last year and seems to have been getting some very good reviews. I bought a copy for my kindle.

It’s 2012. Ben Tallis is thirty-six years old, has achieved his ambition of becoming a journalist and he’s engaged to a very ambitious lawyer. But there seem to be a couple of problems within the relationship. When Ben receives an invitation to a 20 year old school reunion he really doesn’t want to go. By mistake he mentions the reunion to his editor who smells a great feature article and insists that Ben returns home, faces his past, and writes a feature on how much we change and yet in so many ways we stay the same. It doesn’t look like Ben has much choice. So he reluctantly returns home, re-engages with his past and realises that you can never run from the truth or who you really are. The reunion gets Ben thinking back to 1992 when he was still at school and his best friends, including one he was secretly in love with. How will Ben get on at the reunion? Well, that’s for you to find out.

I started reading this book straight after ‘Simon says’. Again, the cover is very retro and bright which is a good thing as it stands out. Having read and enjoyed Daniel Gothard’s first book I was looking forward to ‘Reunited’, although to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure how I would get on with it. My school days aren’t exactly something I like to think about and I would never even consider going to a reunion. As it goes I really enjoyed this book.

I think going back between the past and present worked extremely well. I did on a couple of occasions get a bit confused though, as in I thought I was still reading about Ben’s school days when in actual fact the story was back in the present. Maybe this is because I got hooked and wanted to know what happened next in Ben’s past. Ben and one of his best friends had a really hard time because of bullies. I think going back home and meeting people from his past really helped Ben to put things into perspective.

I am looking forward to reading future books by Daniel Gothard and will definitely be buying a copy of ‘Reunited’ in paperback to add to my collection.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

Links

‘Reunited’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/reunited/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reunited-Daniel-Gothard/dp/1911129546/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489950517&sr=8-1

 

Book Review – ‘Simon says’ by Daniel Gothard

‘Simon says’ was published by Urbane Publications at the beginning of last year. I read several different genres and as I liked the sound of this book I bought myself a copy.

Simon Templar was named after a suave and heroic man of action, but of course he’s nothing like him. Out with his future father-in-law who gets rather drunk, poor Simon really doesn’t expect the night to end the way it does. It seems his one chance of happiness has just been taken away from him. Everything has changed in an instant. Simon is determined however to rebuild his life, hopes and dreams.

With the help and support of his best friend Sean and some rather interesting dates, Simon goes on a personal journey of self-discovery. Can he learn to trust again and finally understand what the true meaning of love is?

I so like the cover for ‘Simon says’. It’s bright, it’s retro and it shouts out to you, saying “Buy Me!” This book is very different from any I have read in a while. I really liked Daniel Gothard’s style of writing and how text messages played a big part in the story. It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once in I found it enjoyable and couldn’t wait to get back to it. There were some really funny moments too. Surely only Simon could get into certain situations.

I really liked Simon and not just because he worked in a bookshop. When Simon learnt what he did from his soon to be father-in-law he was naturally angry and upset. There were two ways to look at things, but personally I didn’t blame Simon for feeling the way he did. He needed to go and lick his wounds, take some time out and decide what to do for the best. I was so glad that Simon had Sean to turn to.

‘Simon says’ takes an honest look at relationships, love, life, longing and friendship. It is proof that male authors can write really good rom-coms.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

‘Simon says’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/simon-says/

Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-says-Daniel-Gothard/dp/1910692484/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451671468&sr=1-1&keywords=simon+says+daniel+gothard

 

Interview with Daniel Gothard

I can’t believe this is the very last day of my Urbane Blog Event.  Where has the time gone?  Today I have for you an interview with Daniel Gothard and then later on there will be reviews of both of his books.

 

You have so far had two novels published by Urbane Publications. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about them please?

“Simon says” is a book about youth, love and the value of great friends – classic tenets of a lot of romantic comedy. I think what sets the novel apart, or so I’ve been told by various readers, is this type of story being from a male point-of-view – heartbreak, starting over, strong friendship … A few people have referred to the novel as “male chick-lit”.

“Reunited” is set in 1992 and 2012 – the story is told in a first-person narrative by Ben Tallis (aged 16 in ’92, at school, dealing with the death of his dad, and being in secret love with one of his best friends. And then in ’12, at 36, a journalist, going to a 20 year school reunion). The chapters go between the 2 time frames and seem to have worked well – reviews have been very positive (to date!)

 

What led you to write them?

I’ve written in various genres – even a 16,000 word 2nd person Dystopian short story! – and I’ve always loved rom-coms: “When Harry Met Sally”, “Four Weddings And A Funeral”, et al. I had the ideas in quick succession and had a really good time writing the books. Writing can be genuinely hard work, but these were a pleasure and I found myself smiling and laughing at my own references and comedic scenes. It was a bit pathetic!?

 

Where did you get your ideas from?

Ah, the BIG question. Probably watching too much TV, too many films and listening to too much music in the 1970s and 1980s! My head is full of useless cultural markers – but they come in handy sometimes. The actual moment of inception, when the idea happens – for me – is just something I can create. That reads as a bit arrogant, but it’s just a thing I’ve done since childhood.

 

Would you like to see either of your books made into a film or TV programme?

Oh yeah! Money, money, money!! And for a wider audience. Artistically, of course, most books don’t translate that well on to the screen. But I love film and TV, and there are some brilliant actors and directors around these days. It would be fantastic

 

What would you do if a character from one of your books knocked on your door?

Pretend I wasn’t home! I mean that wholeheartedly … They are nice enough people, I’m the misanthrope.

 

Can we look forward to more books from you?

Yep. I’ve got 2 books out with literary agents and publishers, but the difficulty with success in the creative arts is always about ‘shifting product’. Quality naturally counts, but a publisher and/or a literary agent has to be VERY sure of you to take the financial risks. I’ve been hugely fortunate. YouGov found, in 2015, over 60% of the UK had writing as their dream-job. 98% of submissions are rejected – and there are, literally, thousands of submissions each week.

 

How easy was it to get published?

Not easy at all. 2013-present has been very busy and my publication rate looks very good. But I started learning the craft in 2000, got married, had a day job and have 3 kids. It’s been a very long process. You have to REALLY want to write, act, make music, etc. to succeed. And there are absolutely no guarantees.

 

Have you got any pearls of wisdom for anyone wanting to write a book?

Look at my answer from the last question. Keep writing, read great, ‘difficult’ books, learn from the best, take chances. Don’t give up. As one of my bosses used to say, “You’re a long time dead. So get on with getting on.” Morbid but true!

 

Has social media been of much benefit to you?

Undoubtedly. I wouldn’t have met Matthew Smith – MD of Urbane Publications – without it. I wrote, as an arts correspondent, for After Nyne Magazine and met the editor, Claire Meadows (another Urbane Publications author) through Twitter. It has changed everything for me.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Watch great TV/films. Read those ‘difficult’ novels.

 

Describe your writing journey in three words.

Long. Tough. Fulfilling.

 

If you could do all this again, would you?

Absolutely!

 

Links

Twitter – @bookslifelove and @GOTHARDDANIEL

 

Interview with Guy Fraser-Sampson

It’s a pleasure to have Guy Fraser-Sampson on my blog.  Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Hampstead Murders series, I was really happy when Guy agreed to be interviewed for this event.

 

I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the Hampstead Murders series. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about your books please?

I’m glad you enjoyed the first two Hampstead Murders. They are intended more as a serial than a series, so it really is a great advantage to read them in the right order. The first, ‘Death in Profile’ describes the hunt for a serial killer. The second, ‘Miss Christie Regrets’ is partly about a cold case enquiry in which, it turns out, Agatha Christie may have been a key witness. The third, ‘A Whiff of Cyanide’, which features suspicious death at a convention of crime writers, is due out in June.

I am a great reader (up to about 200 books a year) but for a long time now I have found it difficult to read modern crime fiction as so much of it feels the same: either noir or cosy. So I deliberately set out to produce something “different”, and above all to write the sort of book I would like to read. Instead of a single central character there are various characters, who ebb and flow in prominence during the course of the series. Instead of a damaged character with drink, drugs or gambling problems these are likeable people about whom the reader will care “what happens next”. Instead of a bleak coastal location there is the sumptuously beautiful townscape of Hampstead.

The books have been described as quirky and intelligent. There are references, both overt and implied, to various Golden Age writers and detectives, most notably Lord Peter Wimsey. Without being in any way surreal, they do ask questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, as well as the role of synchronicity (extreme coincidence) in human affairs.

I have also given my characters real personal lives, with all the problems of love triangles, private tragedy, and police politics. The love triangle in particular is part of the “what happens next” syndrome!

 

Where did you get the idea for this series from?

Once I had decided (after an approach from a publisher I knew) to write a detective series it took me about two years to work out what sort of books they should be and to work out the plot of the first one. Initially I was strongly tempted to write period crime but ended up settling upon this exciting idea of combining a contemporary narrative with a Golden Age writing style, which I don’t think anyone else is doing. Adverbs, for example, seem to have gone entirely out of fashion!

Hampstead was always going to be part of the equation. I’m a strong believer in the importance of a sense of place within a novel. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, for example, that two of my favourite novels are ‘Midnight’s Children’ and ‘The Alexandria Quartet’. So I knew I wanted something that could play the role of Oxford for Morse or Hastings Old Town for Foyle, and Hampstead was the obvious candidate, partly because it’s so beautiful and partly because I knew it so well.

 

Did you have to do any research at all?

I’ve always done a huge amount of research for my books. The Hampstead Murders, along with my Mapp and Lucia novels, feature real life people and events and it’s very important to get these absolutely right: Dorothy L Sayers made the point that if a reader spots a factual mistake then it weakens their suspension of disbelief so far as the plot is concerned. For ‘Miss Christie Regrets’, for example, I did a lot of research into the history of the Lawn Road Flats (the Isokon Building). A lot of real life people feature – Jack Pritchard and Wells Coates for instance – though I did change the name of the Oxbridge don who was recruiting foreign agents there …

 

Would you like to see your books made into a TV series and if so who would you choose to play the main parts?

Yes, I’ve always seen the Hampstead Murders as a TV series, which is partly why I chose the temporal format which I did. People love to watch period drama but it’s very costly to make. This way the production company gets the best of both worlds. It’s contemporary drama, so they don’t have to worry about covering up TV aerials or filming at four in the morning, but with themes like vintage clothing embedded within it, so we can still get to admire people in elegant outfits.

As for casting, I’m afraid the poor old author gets no say whatsoever in this. Look at the recent ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series for a perfect example. When you sign over the screen rights you’re essentially selling your children into slavery. You just have to walk away and not look back.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?

Year round I write in my study, which overlooks Spike Milligan’s grave in the graveyard of St Thomas’s church in Winchelsea. During the summer I do like to get out into the garden whenever I can. Ambience is very important to me. I have always found it difficult to do work of any description in unsympathetic surroundings.

 

How did you come to be published by Urbane Publications?

It’s no great secret that the Hampstead Murders were originally going to be published by somebody else, but they pulled out of issuing any new fiction titles just before we were due to go to print. Naturally at the time I was not very amused by this, but in fact things worked out pretty well.

I spent about a year trying to find a new publisher, and had some interesting responses. One described it as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’ but then perversely went on to give this as a reason for turning it down. Ironically, the very unique positioning which I had decided upon worked against it rather than in its favour. Nobody was prepared to take a risk on publishing something “different” despite the fact that my last three novels had all been optioned by BBC television.

Then I met (or rather re-met) Matthew at Urbane and everything fell into place. He had run Kogan Page when they published a book for me, and as soon as he read ‘Death in Profile’ he instantly “got it” about what I was trying to do, and has just been the ideal publisher. He’s very supportive, and encourages his writers to do what feels right for them.

 

You’ve also written a number of non-fiction books. Can you tell me a bit about them please?

I fear many of them would not appeal to the general reader as the early ones tended to be about finance and investment. The ones I would recommend are:

‘Cricket at the Crossroads’: telling the human story of what happened to the English Test side between 1967 and 1977.

‘The Mess We’re In’: a darkly humorous analysis of recent British economic history.

‘No Fear Finance’: de-mystifying finance for the general reader and explaining it in conceptual terms rather than getting bogged down in mathematics.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write a book?

Go into it with your eyes open. Be prepared for a great deal of rejection, criticism and disappointment. If you can’t handle this then please don’t try, because you will end up just making yourself very unhappy and possibly even ill. Honestly, I know personally some writers who have ended up with severe depression and other mental illnesses as a result of what being a writer has put them through.

The perception is that you get your book published (a hugely difficult thing to accomplish in the first place) and then wake up famous. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. The hard work hasn’t ended, it has only just begun. Now you have the task of promoting your book, because generally speaking if you don’t, then nobody else will.

Something else that people don’t appreciate is that you risk losing a lot of friends as well. Writers are obsessed with their book: they have to be. Our friends are not: it’s just a peripheral thing at best. We, understandably, expect them to buy copies of our book for themselves and their friends and family, to praise it fulsomely to complete strangers, to attend our events, and post reviews of it online. They, equally understandably, don’t see things that way; it just doesn’t occur to them how important it is to us. Although, a quick tip for any writers’ friends out there: please don’t ever, under any circumstances, say to a writer “I’d love to read your book – can you give me a copy?”

 

Will you be doing more book signings?

I love doing book signings, particularly as part of book festivals, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet real life readers and get feedback about what they liked and (just as important) what they didn’t. In fact, I happen to believe that there is a lot of untapped potential out there for writers, readers, and booksellers to interact much more efficiently than they do at present.

Events I am particularly looking forward to are Deal Noir on 26 March, Southwold on 17/18 June, and a crime fiction evening at Heffer’s bookshop in Cambridge on 6 July. For lovers of my Mapp and Lucia books, I will be part of the Rye Festival in September. I mention these because they are open to the general public. I’m also doing various private functions including speaking to various London clubs as well as the Womens’ Institute.

Readers are welcome to contact me at any time to investigate a mutually convenient event. Ditto anyone who would like to organise something.

 

How have book bloggers helped you

Oh my word, massively. The big publishers have a very cosy arrangement with the traditional national media which means indie authors can’t get reviewed there no matter how good they may be. So social media such as book blogs are our life blood, our only real route to a wider readership.

The really great thing about book bloggers is that they are serious readers so their opinions really matter. Getting a recommendation from a book blogger always gives me a real buzz, particularly when they say something that makes me realise that they have absolutely understood exactly what I was trying to achieve.

 

Facebook or Twitter?

I disagree with various writers about Facebook. I think you have to be really careful not to push your books on it too frequently. For me, one mention every couple of days is plenty, although I don’t think anyone minds you posting about events, whether before, during or after. I think people will find anything more than that intrusive, and you risk them unfollowing you.

Twitter is different and I use it a lot, sending tweets to targeted users who have shown an interest in, say, Golden Age detective fiction (or Hampstead!).

So, Twitter for me, although a lady called Laura Stone (@minxlaura123) has recently got me thinking about video blogs. She recently reviewed ‘Miss Christie Regrets’ on a live video feed and had several thousand hits.

 

Wine or Champagne?

Wine, please, and lots of it – preferably new world reds. I have no intention of dying sober.

 

Links

‘Death in Profile’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/death-in-profile/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Profile-Hampstead-Murders-no1/dp/191069293X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458486555&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+profile

‘Miss Christie Regrets’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/miss-christie-regrets/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Miss-Christie-Regrets-Guy-Fraser-Sampson/1911331809/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484164698&sr=1-1&keywords=miss+christie+regrets

‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whiff-Cyanide-Book-Hampstead-Murders/dp/1911129767/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489860093&sr=1-1&keywords=a+whiff+of+cyanide

 

Extract from ‘Glass Houses’ by Jackie Buxton

Following on from Jackie Buxton’s guest post, I now have an extract from ‘Glass Houses’.

 

Book Blurb

‘When she sent that text, all our lives changed for ever…’

51 year old Tori Williams’ life implodes when she sends a text while driving on the M62 motorway and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure or be a pariah in society. Instead, she sets about saving the nation. But can she save Etta, the woman who saved her life? Or will Etta’s secret be her downfall?

This incredibly topical and contemporary morality tale appeals across generations and will find favour with fans of authors such as Liane Moriarty, Marian Keyes and Kathryn Croft.

 

Extract

Extract from ‘Glass Houses’

Guest Post by Jackie Buxton

Well, my Urbane Blog Event is almost over but I still have a few more posts.  Jackie Buxton took part in my event last year and I am thrilled to have her back on my blog again.  Jackie has written a guest post this time.

 

Glass Houses: the Unexpected Campaign

In the first chapter of Glass Houses, Tori Williams is slumped over the steering wheel after her Jeep has collided with the car in front. We quickly learn that moments before Tori crashed, she had sent a text to her husband reminding him to put the chicken in the oven.

Recently, I’ve taken to putting my phone in my bag on the back seat so that it’s totally out of reach when I’m driving. This is not because I consider myself some sort of model driver, nor is it because I’m some evangelical, holier-than-thou do-gooder, it’s because of the research I did for this novel.

Through the course of writing Glass Houses (where Tori Williams quickly becomes Public Enemy Number One, blamed for all the deaths in the collision, and has to fight to change public perception of her) I became consumed with the world of road traffic accidents. I spoke to police, other members of the emergency services, people who’d emerged from a coma and the loved ones of those who hadn’t. I read about victims of road traffic accidents and the stories of those behind the crash, and the more I read, the more I became convinced that there could never be a good reason to use a phone in the car. Your life, or someone else’s life, it just isn’t worth it, is it?

Many people have either said or posted in reviews, that because of reading Glass Houses, they would never now pick up their phone when driving, whether to speak or to text. I hadn’t expected this when I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, nor when I’d finished the first draft, not even when I had the very first copies in my hands. But I am so happy to hear this now.

My eldest child passed her driving test last summer and my youngest is about to start learning. It occurred to me that if we could start this young generation of drivers off on the right foot, instil from the start that there is no place for the phone at the wheel, then they could carry this practice forward, set the right example, put other generations to shame, and change a nation’s attitudes to phones in cars for ever.

I’m not saying this will be easy. I hear it all on radio phone-ins: Impossible! Nobody will manage it! We need our phones for work, for emergencies, to call our loved ones!

But I think it is possible, because this kind of change in a nation’s thinking happens all the time.

Back in the glorious 1970s when children played outside until they were hungry and walked to school on their own as soon as they could tie their shoe laces, back when they ate frozen mousse in a pot full of chemicals and when Wagon Wheels were bigger, I remember my three sisters and I playing Moving Houses. This was our game of choice on any car journey longer than ten minutes or so. Indeed, my abiding memory of the vast stretch of the eight hour journey from Wylam in Northumberland to Bridgend in South Wales for our annual summer holiday with our welsh relatives, was of our feet hovering six inches above the footwell, hands in laps, in Moving Houses position.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I realised this wasn’t a game entirely confined to my family – in fact, most of my peers seemed to have played it – this game involving great whoops of laughter as our orange Skoda saloon, weighted down with children and luggage, took a corner a little tightly and one, if not all of us, would lose that particular round as a foot inevitably touched the floor.

It’s incredible to me that this falling about in the back of the car happened in my life time. When I’d looked back on it previously, before I’d done any research for Glass Houses, I’d surmised that four girls between the ages of 7 and 12, wedged so tightly on the back seat, wouldn’t be going anywhere in a crash; even getting out of the car once stopped, it was difficult to move until others had detached themselves from the line. However, I’ve since seen the videos of simulated accidents and know that come crash, we’d have been lucky if all of us hadn’t careered out of the front windscreen, killing our parents en route. I heard that an unrestrained child in the back of the car would have the force of a baby elephant as it propelled forward and through the screen.

We know this now. And thus, after many unsuccessful attempts, seatbelt wearing in the front and back of the car has been compulsory since 1983 and 1986. I’m surprised it was as late as that but still, it’s a long time since I’ve seen anybody who doesn’t Clunk Click Every Trip.

I was too young to notice, but there were clearly many people and organisations protesting against a legal obligation to wear seat belts in the seventies and eighties, and I’m sure there were many others who recognised the need but didn’t believe that a nation could change its thinking.

And yet it did.

I think that we can get rid of mobile phones from the front of cars. And if Glass Houses can help persuade people to do this, although that was never my original intention, nobody would be happier about that than me.

Are you with me?

 

Links

‘Glass Houses’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/glass-houses/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-Houses-Jackie-

‘Tea & Chemo’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/tea-and-chemo-fighting-cancer-living-life/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tea-Chemo-Fighting-Cancer-Living-Life/dp/1910692395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448719909&sr=1-1&keywords=tea+and+chemo+by+jackie+buxton

Jackie Buxton’s Blog – http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Jackie Buxton’s Website – http://www.jackiebuxton.com

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