HUNT YOU DOWN in Real Life — Online Mobs, Real Violence – guest post by Christopher Farnsworth

Taking part in the blog tour for Christopher Farnsworth’s new book, Hunt You Down, and I’ve got a guest post from Christopher for you.

More on the book later – first, over to Christopher.

~~~
The unthinkable happened again on a Monday night. Someone detonated a bomb at the Manchester Arena in England on May 22, just as an Ariana Grande concert ended. Twenty-three people were killed, including children there to see the pop star, and 250 were injured. Social media lit up with shock and grief.

And in the middle of all this, a freelance writer in Boston named David Leavitt tweeted, “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena. The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.”’

It was a cruel, stupid joke when people were still searching for their kids. And in the midst of the uncertainty and horror, it was nice to have a reliably crappy villain to target. Leavitt’s name became a trending topic within the hour, with almost 50,000 tweets about him, pretty much all of them angry. People called for him to be fired, to be blacklisted by editors, to be punched in the face, and worse.

He was back to tweeting stupid memes the next morning. His profile pic seemed to smirk above it all, free from any consequences, as he tweeted, “I saw your face #AndThenIStartedToLaugh.”

Nothing really changed. The kids were still dead. And in the end, Leavitt got about a thousand more followers on Twitter.

But what if someone could tap into that outrage? What if someone could take all of that anger floating around the Internet and direct it against people like Leavitt? What if someone could turn social media into a weapon?

That’s what I wondered when I started writing my latest novel, HUNT YOU DOWN, which is out now from Bonnier Zaffre. At the time, I was looking at the GamerGate movement, and how it harassed, threatened, and abused women online. I thought it would be interesting to pit my character, John Smith, against an enemy he couldn’t really touch — an anonymous puppet master pulling the strings on millions of people, using social media to send them into violent rages.

At the time, I thought I was writing fiction. But now, the weaponization of the Internet has become very real.

Everyday social media users are also spreading information that can be just as dangerous as ISIS beheading videos, even if they don’t realize it.

Years ago, conspiracy theories were slow to spread because they had very few vectors to reach large numbers of people. They were limited to books and homemade magazines. The Internet changed all of that. Starting with the first message boards on Usenet and chain e-mails, conspiracy theorists found a quick and effective way to spread their version of the truth to millions of new potential converts.

Social media sped up the process even further. People disseminate half-truths, bad ideas, and memes designed to trigger our worst impulses. Outrage is the quickest way to get attention on the Internet, and when we read this stuff, we tend to drop down into a fight-or-flight response that feels just like a real threat.

Most people just move on to the next outrage, or, at worst, send some more angry tweets out into the void. But some people take it very seriously, and act on it.

A gunman walked into a pizza parlor with an assault rifle at the end of 2016 because he believed an online conspiracy theory about child sex slaves called “Pizzagate.” Despite the fact that the rumors are simply untrue, they are still circulating on the Net, gathering more believers every day.

In India, fake news shared over social media has reportedly led to multiple deaths as rumors about gangs and child kidnappers spread out of control.

The survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern history have had to deal with death threats from people who accuse them of faking the whole thing. A Michigan judge is facing death threats from anti-vaccine forces due to a child custody case. A right-wing writer and his sister have been threatened and harassed by the alt-right for his stand against his former employer, Breitbart News.

And some Russian-linked online accounts called for violence against minorities, immigrants, and police officers in an effort to spark riots and spread chaos. These accounts racked up hundreds of thousands of followers before they were shut down.

It only takes one or two individuals with a head full of bad wiring to take these posts seriously. If someone believes they are really in a war, then it’s a small step to fighting it.

Which means we need to pay attention to these warning signals. The online world is the real world now, like it or not.

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of six novels, including HUNT YOU DOWN, available now from Bonnier Zaffre.


When a reality TV star is gunned down at her own wedding, her mob boss father calls on the services of John Smith, a hitman who cleans up the messes of those rich enough to afford him, with a special talent for finding his man. But he’s no ordinary gun for hire.

Smith is a man of rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . . Motivated by money and revenge, Smith comes across ‘Downvote,’ an encrypted site on the dark net with a list of celebrity names and a bounty for anyone willing to kill them. But taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponized the internet proves more difficult than he thought. And this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.

Sweet Little Lies – a guest post by Caz Frear

Delighted to welcome Caz Frear to the blog today. Caz is the author of Sweet Little Lies (of which more later). First though, she wants to talk about creating Cat Kinsella.

Without further ado, over to you Caz!

DC Cat Kinsella began life as plain old Cat Kinsella. Her earlier incarnation worked in a clothes shop and had both a fiancé and a plucky step-daughter-to-be. On the darker side, she also had a spending habit that masked a deep inner turmoil – a turmoil rooted in the fact that she firmly believed her dad was responsible for the disappearance for a teenage girl from the west coast of Ireland in 1998.

So at least that bit sounds familiar, right?

Cat Kinsella joined the ranks of the Met Police the day I got over my HUGE hang-up about whether it was wise – or even possible – to write a convincing police procedural without one iota of police/judicial experience to my name. It seems ridiculous now but I was genuinely convinced for a long time that you had to be somehow ‘in the know’ to write within the genre and I completely disregarded the fact that I had done nothing but read, write, live and breathe crime fiction since the age of twelve when I first drooled over Prime Suspect. I mean, it’s not as if anyone could have accused me of not being well-schooled!

Thankfully, I got over my hang-up – eventually! After a few dark-ish nights of the soul, I accepted it was plain old fear of failure that was holding me back and lo, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella was born. Cat announced herself quickly as I knew exactly how I wanted her to come across from the off – like so many crime fiction fans, I LOVE a flawed detective, but it was important to me that Cat was flawed but entirely relatable. Someone you might like to go for a pint with. Someone you recognise. Someone who’s messed up on the inside but managing to function normally on the outside, at least most of the time anyway. I think that probably goes for most of us!

It was Ernest Hemingway who said you should create ‘people not characters’ and it’s hands-down the best piece of writing advice I’ve come across (cheers, Ernest!) While it’s so, so important to know both your protagonist’s main purpose and their main stumbling block before putting finger to keyboard, I think these are the things that create ‘character’ and it’s the little things that create people – so knowing what Cat would eat for breakfast, who she’d vote for, her go-to sleeping position, whether she can whistle, where she stands on onesies – you get the drift. With this in mind, before I even started plotting Sweet Little Lies, I wrote out ‘Top 50 Trivial Facts About Cat Kinsella’ and gave myself a mere fifteen minutes to complete. The quicker and more instinctive you are, the better – too much thinking and you end up with a manufactured ‘character’, I think, not a recognisable human being. Now, of course, very few of these facts actually end up featuring in your novel but you’d be surprised how much they inform the bigger decisions your protagonist makes. And at the very least, it’s a really fun way to get to know your new best friend (and make no mistake, your main protagonist does become your best friend – your only friend, in fact, when the deadlines start to loom!)

The first random scene I ever wrote featured Cat squaring up to her Dad in a I-know-what-you-did style denouement (very soap opera!) however, as the plot really started to take shape, I realised it would be far more unsettling if Cat never knew for sure – at least not until much later – exactly what her dad had done, just that he had done something. I loved the idea of them being trapped in this toxic dynamic – Cat never sure just how dangerous he is, and him never sure why she hates him so much. This ambiguity was obviously central to the plot but also central to Cat’s personality as it explains why she finds it so hard to trust, why she doubts every decision she makes, why she looks for validation from older father-and-mother-type figures (in Steele and Parnell) rather than from her immediate peers.

I’m currently working on Cat’s next adventure and it’s such a joy to be staying with her for the long haul. That’s the joy of the series character (or the series ‘person’ if we’re going with Hemingway) – you get to see the long-term effects of what’s gone before, and poor Cat, she really has been put through the ringer in Sweet Little Lies and it’ll no doubt come back to haunt her before long……*she said mysteriously

Thanks Caz. Sweet Little Lies is published by Zaffre and will be out by the end of June. You can find Caz on twitter @CazziF.

What happens when the trust has gone?

Cat Kinsella was always a daddy’s girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.

When Maryanne later disappears and Cat’s father denies ever knowing her, Cat’s relationship with him is changed forever.

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman’s body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat’s father runs.

When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, all Cat’s fears about her father resurface. Could he really be a killer? Determined to confront the past and find out what really happened to Maryanne all those years ago, Cat begins to dig into the case. But the problem with looking into the past is that sometimes you might not like what you find.

Returning to the world of fictional characters – guest post by Marianne Delacourt

Delighted to welcome Marianne Delacourt to the blog today. Marianne is the author of the Tara Sharp novels which have been freshly revamped under the Twelfth Planet Press crime imprint Deadlines.

Today Marianne is here to talk about returning to the world of fictional characters. And thus, without further ado, I shall turn you over to Marianne.

Returning to the World of Fictional Characters
Marianne Delacourt

I just love the topic EsspresoCoco chose for this blog post because it’s one of the main reasons that I write at all. When I was about twenty, I was living in a remote community in Western Australia. I took a long time to fit in and for a few years felt quite isolated. Watching the EastEnders kinda got me through. It was then that I realised the power of attraction that familiar characters have over their audience. They give us a place to go – a home.

It’s the reason, I believe, that television is having such a resurgence in popularity, and why movie franchises like The Fast and the Furious can thrive. I would much rather make an emotional investment in characters who I can visit with time and time again than a one-and-done visit.

In the last few years, I’ve sought out long running series in both books and television so that I can hang out with characters/people I know and love. There is so much satisfaction in watching them persevere until they succeed, and huge comfort to be gained from being in their lives.

As the author of fictional series, the same principles apply. Writing several Tara Sharp novels has allowed my cast to grow. I see it pretty much like raising a family. Take Tara Sharp herself… when we meet here she’s a bit of mess, but slowly she pulls herself out of that hole and takes some control of her life, and we get to go along for the ride. Then there’s Cass… she’s a runaway who can barely read or write at the beginning, but Tara’s influence in her life helps her chose another path. Then there’s Tara’s security chief Wal, who at in his middle age falls in love for the first time. And Tara’s crush, Nick Tozzi, who must negotiate the rocky path of a failing marriage.

So, don’t feel sorry for the starving writer in the garret living on apples, they’re having the time of their life, hanging out with people they’ve constructed and worlds they’ve built. To my mind, that’s about as lucky as you can be!

p.s. One Tree Hill FTW!

The third novel in Marianne Delacourt’s series of paranormal crime novels about unorthodox PI Tara Sharp, ‘Too Sharp’, launched this week. The novel is available from all online retailers, including Twelfth Planet Press and Amazon. Readers new to Delacourt’s Tara Sharp series can spark their addiction with ‘Sharp Shooter’, the ebook of which is available for free for a limited time to celebrate the launch.

Too Sharp - Marianne Delacourt

Marianne Delacourt is the alter ego of award-winning, internationally-published Science Fiction writer Marianne de Pierres. Renowned for dark satire in her Science Fiction, Marianne offers lighter, funnier writing under her Delacourt penname. As Delacourt, Marianne is also the author of Young Adult fiction series Night Creatures (Burn Bright, Angel Arias and Shine Light). She is a co-founder of the Vision Writers Group and ROR – wRiters on the Rise, a critiquing group for professional writers. Marianne lives in Brisbane with her husband and two galahs.
You can find more about Marianne’s Tara Sharp novels at tarasharp.com.au, more about Marianne herself at mariannedepierres.com or on twitter @mdepierres

 

Inspirational writers – guest post by Paul Harrison

Today I’d like to welcome Paul Harrison to the blog. Paul is the author of Revenge of the Malakim, book 1 of The Grooming Party trilogy.

The question for Paul today is this:

“Which authors inspired you to write and who do you follow avidly in your own reading?”

The first book I ever read, that had a profound effect, on me, was Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The character, Captain Ahab, and his obsession with catching the white whale, which he turned into a monster, had me gripped. A fundamental fight between good and evil. Yet, by the end of the book, I was left contemplating, which was which.

It was that volume, that aroused my interest in writing stories. At school, I excelled in all areas of English. My reading habits changed, as new interests came to the fore, girls and football. Not necessarily in that order. Later in life, I began to avidly read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I still enjoy reading his Sherlock Holmes stories. Both authors undoubtedly paved the way for my own writing career.

However, it was my great, great grandfather, Will Scott, who was my true inspiration. He was employed as a letter reader/writer and story teller in Victorian times, there were tales within the family of his writing exploits and stories. I believe, the writing gene, if there is such a thing, has been passed down to me from him. In reverence to him, I have named the main protagonist, in my book Revenge of the Malalkim (DCI Will Scott) after him.

The twists and turns and plot lines within Revenge of the Malakim, are very much inspired by both Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. I want the characters to engage with the reader, and become friends, or in some instances, someone to seriously dislike.

The first author I physically met, was the late Jonathan Goodman. He became a trusted friend, and a mentor for my true crime writing. Together, we would often take off on case research expeditions across the UK. I learned so much about the writing craft, from Jon, he too was an excellent story teller. I still miss him to this day.

My interest in reading crime fiction re-emerged with Mark Billingham books. That man can write a gripping, down to earth book, he’s someone whose books I will always find time to read. Another author who I thoroughly enjoy reading, is Malcolm Hollingdrake. He’s got a story telling style that really appeals to me.

Revenge of the Malakim is my first crime fiction novel. It’s the first book in the Grooming Parlour trilogy, published by Williams and Whiting. I can promise the reader many twists and turns right through to the last page. One of the crime scenes is, let’s just say, unique. I’ll leave that surprise for the reader to find.

Thanks Paul. Revenge of the Malakim is published by Williams & Whiting and is out now.

It’s high summer and the streets of Bridlington East Yorkshire are awash with tourists. A serial killer is on the loose. DCI Will Scott and his team embark upon a fast paced investigation to catch a killer with a unique agenda. As the body count rises the killer randomly moves location and the police are unwittingly drawn into a dark and sinister world where cover-ups and corruption reigns. A place where no one can truly be trusted and nothing is ever what it seems.

From the Shadows – a guest post by Neil White

Delighted to welcome Neil White to the blog today. Neil is the author of From the Shadows, a new series. I’ve read Neil’s The Domino Killer, and Neil has been a guest here before talking about plotting his novels, and here he is again!

Over to you, Neil.

Thinking of a new series is always hard. It’s more than just thinking of a plot. There are characters and back-story and setting, all to get right from the start if the characters are to be repeated.
From The Shadows is a new series for me, my third series. The fundamental thing for me in writing a series is that there should a pair of principal characters. No lone heroes for me, and all of my books have been like this, other than my standalone Beyond Evil.
This reliance on pairings began with my second novel, Lost Souls. My first novel, Fallen Idols, had involved two main characters, a crime reporter called Jack Garrett and a detective called Laura McGanity. They were in a relationship but came into conflict in their working lives, as Jack wanted to know about her cases, and Laura wanted to keep him away from her cases.
My initial intention was to create a community of characters, and in my follow-up novel, Lost Souls, I was going to make a defence lawyer the focus, with Jack and Laura as peripheral figures. As I wrote it, however, I found myself wanting to put Jack and Laura into it more, and it evolved into a novel where the lawyer became the background figure and Jack and Laura became the focus. It was when I realised why that the Jack and Laura series developed, and the series after that, as well as the series that begins with From The Shadows.
It was about conflict, the push and the pull between the characters. The two strands kept bouncing the reader back and forth, pushing the story onwards, and created conflict between the main characters. From that second novel, I knew that I would always prefer pairings to solo heroes.
Not that the classic solo characters don’t have sidekicks. Jack Reacher roams alone, but he always picks up a helper along the way. Holmes had Watson. Morse had Lewis. Those were sidekicks though. I’ve always seen mine as equal partners.
When the Jack and Laura series ended after five books, my choice, and a standalone, I embarked on another pairing: the Parker brothers series. Set in Manchester, it involved two brothers, one a defence lawyer, the other a detective. As with Jack and Laura, there was an in-built conflict, the push and the pull, both on opposite sides of the criminal justice fence.
I ended the series after three books and turned it into a trilogy because I wanted to write a new series. It’s not that I have a low boredom threshold, but more that I don’t want to keep on with something past its natural expiry date.
What changed everything was the launch of BonnierZaffre, a new publishing imprint that I wanted to be involved with. I liked the people behind it, I liked the authors they were recruiting, and I wanted to be part of it.
It set off to a hungry start though.
I met the big guns of BonnierZaffre for the first time at a Chinese restaurant in London, a favourite of my wonderful agent, Sonia Land. They were adept with chopsticks. I was a beginner. They gleefully tucked into the stream of food landing in straw baskets, all of it confidently making its way to their plates, whereas I wobbled the food my way like I was balancing jelly on a knife-edge. I told them of my idea and watched them eat, and occasionally retrieved more food. They liked what I had to say and a fabulous new relationship began. They left, stuffed and contented. I left excited and happy, but immediately detoured to a kebab shop, still hungry.
The idea?
The series will focus on a defence lawyer, Dan Grant, and a private investigator, Jayne Brett. The hook between them is that Jayne was once Dan’s client, accused and acquitted of murdering her abusive boyfriend. Jayne has strong feelings for Dan, but can’t express it, because the last person she loved ended up dead, the knife in her hand. Dan has strong feelings for Jayne, but she’s a former client and he won’t cross that line.
The setting was important for me. I wanted to make them legal in nature, much more so than my previous books. After all, I’ve been a criminal lawyer for more than twenty years, so why not use. I wanted to set the books in the north of England, but in a smaller town than the Parker brothers books.
My feeling about that was that there’d been plenty of legal thrillers set in the big cities, but not so many in the small towns. There have always been plenty of police procedurals set in small northern towns, but rarely legal ones.
Here we are, two years on from that Chinese restaurant and the first book is out, From The Shadows. I hope you like it. I enjoyed writing it, and it felt like an exciting new chapter. The second is nearly finished and will be due out next year, and I can’t wait to start the third.

Thanks Neil – the new series sounds fantastic – can’t wait to read it!

From the Shadows by Neil White is published by Bonnier Zaffre and is out now in ebook. You can find Neil on twitter @NeilWhite1965.

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost…

Twelve science fiction technologies: How close are we? a guest post by D. Nolan Clark

Delighted to welcome D. Nolan Clark to the blog today. Forsaken Skies is the first book in a new series – more of that later. Firstly we’re talking science fiction technologies – how close are we? Over to you…

2015 came and went, and the promises of Back to the Future II failed to be realized—real world hoverboards are less a fun sport accessory and more a disappointment that tends to explode. This wasn’t the first time science fiction had promised us cool new technologies that just kind of fizzled—we never got undersea cities or gorilla butlers, either. Some of the most familiar technologies from science fiction are more plausible, however. Let’s look at a dozen science fiction technologies and where they’re at now:

Faster-than-Light Travel: A long staple of sci-fi movies and books, the ability to travel between the stars without spending an entire lifetime doing it has always been one of our best dreams. Einstein said it was impossible, though, and it’s a bad idea to bet against history’s most iconic genius. News stories about subatomic particles that move faster than light (and thus, backward in time) are common but never quite pan out. A putative “Warp Drive” is being examined by NASA, which is exciting, but so far the jury’s still out—and expectations are low.

Laser Guns: Long thought to be a bust, lasers are back in a big way. The US and Israel are jointly testing a THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) weapon system, which uses a chemical laser to detonate incoming missiles in mid-air. The energy needs of the weapon are staggering, but a projectile that travels at the speed of light is, it turns out, very useful as a defensive weapon.

Force Fields: The idea of a personal shield that will protect you from all harm is still a ways off. Magnetic bottles, though, which are designed to hold back dangerous substances like plasmas, are very real and are part of many new technologies. Powerful electrical fields have been proposed for use to protect interplanetary spacecraft against debris, but they only work against charged objects, so they need to be supplemented with good old armor plating. Give this one some more time to bake.

Teleportation: Theoretically, it’s possible. Quantum mechanical effects like entanglement and tunneling suggest that bodies could be moved almost instantaneously across massive distances, even through barriers. Theoretically. A more accessible tech is the rise of 3D printing, which would allow you to make copies of just about anything, even half a world away. It may not be as exciting, but the potential to create replacement parts in the field could revolutionize how many present-day technologies work.

Suspended Animation: Need to travel to Alpha Centauri but it’s going to take 120 years? Just put yourself on ice and sleep your way there—right? Yeah, it turns out if you freeze somebody in liquid nitrogen… they just die. Nowadays scientists are looking into a state called torpor, instead. This is the same physiochemical process that lets bears hibernate, and it could massively reduce the amount of food, water, and oxygen an astronaut would need on a long journey. It’s a bit more… messy, though. Robots and catheters would be needed to keep the torporous astronauts clean and healthy.

Space Habitats: Is your local city feeling too crowded? Don’t like the local laws? Why not build your own nation in space? Sadly, of all the technologies on this list, this is easily the most feasible but also the one we’re moving away from the fastest. The International Space Station is slated for destructive de-orbiting (that means exactly what you think it means) in 2024, and there’s currently no planned replacement. The Chinese have suggested they might build a space station soon, but they’re a little hesitant on sharing details. Cities in space are still a distant dream.

Fusion Power: The world has needed this one since the 1970s, and it’s still not here. Which isn’t to say nobody’s trying. Germany is pouring money into something called a Stellerator, which has shown promising results, while France is building a twenty billion dollar Tokamak (the original fusion reactor design, and arguably still the best). Real progress has been made, but so far it takes more energy to start the reaction than the reaction produces. Don’t give up hope, though—this one would change the world overnight, and solve many, many problems, so it’s definitely worth pursuing.

Virtual Reality: 2016 was often described as the year VR was truly born… yet at this point that means sub-Mario Bros. graphics and a headset that gives most people headaches and nausea after half an hour’s use. Well, baby steps. The promise of a simulated reality so perfect you can’t tell it from the real thing—like the Matrix—remains on the horizon, but it gets closer every day. This is definitely a technology to watch.

Mind-Computer Interfaces: Do you want a chip implanted in your head that will let you control things in your environment just by thinking really hard at them? I mean, do you? Well, if you’re still saying yes, you’re definitely in luck. There have been huge strides in this technology every year. The most exciting application for the tech is to create artificial limbs that respond to the user’s mental commands just like their biological limbs do, and allowing the blind to see and the deaf to hear by bypassing nonfunctional organs and sending info from cameras and microphones directly to the appropriate lobes of the brain. Using your brain to turn up the thermostat or send subconscious texts to your friends isn’t far behind.

Robots: The robots are here, and have been for decades, working in our factories. But recent developments have led to robots that look almost like what you see in the movies—robots that can walk like humans, manipulate objects, navigate the environment. This is one of the fastest growing fields in science fiction technology—and it could have a massive impact on how we live our lives in the current generation.

Artificial Intelligence: Do not be fooled when IBM, Google and Microsoft talk about AI. They’re using over-zealous terminology for what are really just neural networks and expert systems. Fantastically advanced computers, to be sure, but nowhere near the self-aware, thinking machines of fiction. We’re still hampered from that development by the fact that we don’t truly know what consciousness is, or how it works. Which isn’t to say we couldn’t accidentally develop it in the lab… a lot of Big Thinkers have recently warned about the dangers of runaway AI, but so far they’re just thinking forward. “Strong AI” is still very much a future technology.

Cloning: Banned pretty much everywhere, and considered unethical by just about everybody, human cloning is one of the few technologies we’ve turned away from—probably because there’s no killer app for it, yet. Don’t get too comfortable, though. Genetic science and stem cell research is already developing the ability to grow human organs on the lab, constructing kidneys and livers and such around collagen scaffolding. There’s a lot of potential there, if we can get past the ick factor.

Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark is published by Orbit, and is out now.

forsaken-skies

Commander Lanoe is one of the navy’s greatest heroes, but the civil war left him with nothing but painful memories. When a planetary governor is murdered, it falls to Lanoe to hunt down the killer and bring them to justice.

Yet his pursuit will lead him towards the greatest threat mankind has ever faced.

An unknown armada has emerged from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away. But Lanoe has never run from a fight – and he will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.

Research – a guest post by David Mark

david-mark

I’d like to welcome David Mark to the ever-growing list of fabulous guest writers on the blog. David is the author of the DS Aector McAvoy series of crime novels. His latest book, Cruel Mercy, is the sixth in the series. But more on that later.

David is here to give us an insight into the research which goes into a novel. Without further ado, over to you David…

It’s a little after midnight. I’m freezing. The flight seemed to take forever and the security guy at the airport was a right prick. Apparently ‘a bit of both’ isn’t an answer that they can work with in reply to the question ‘business or pleasure?’ The cab driver who brought me from JFK to the Lower East Side had been thrilled to discover he had an author in his taxi. He took it as an opportunity to outline his idea for a novel. And when I say ‘outline’, I mean ‘tell me every word that is going to be in it’ and insist upon an in-depth critique.

So I’m grumpy. I’m hungry. My back aches and I can smell marijuana. Two men are arguing about a parking space and a small woman with her arms and feet poking out of the holes in a sleeping bag is sitting on a low wall swinging her legs and eating Chinese food from a tray. I’m outside the precinct where a few months from now, Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy will have his first meeting with New York Detective Ronald Alto. I’ve seen it on GoogleMaps a dozen times. But I’ve never felt the cold. Never tasted the air. Never breathed in this miasma of scents or learned that the drifts of compacted snow turns to jagged little mountain ranges of dirty ice. That’s why I’m here. I need to understand the city. I need to get my head tuned in right.

Two hours later I’m in a speakeasy where Lucky Luciana used to drink. I’m sipping cocktails from a teacup. The barman is wearing a bowler hat and braces (and other stuff too) and my brain is going into overdrive as he tells me about the date-rapist that got caught at a nearby bar slipping Rohypnol into a girl’s beer. She was a niece of a cop from New Jersey. Word is that somebody made him eat a hundred dollars in quarters before dumping him in the river near Staten Island. I’m not believing it, but the story is going down a treat with my Gin Sling.

And now I’m standing with the bouncers. ‘Nightclub security’ is the label they prefer. Big fella with a cauliflower ear is telling me how the movies get it wrong. ‘Aint no gangsters, not no more. Just criminals, man. Just bad people. You think we’d bow our heads to let some guy skip the line because he’s hooked up to some crime family?”

I push. There must be some Godfather characters left. Must be some patriarchs giving orders about life and death from an ice cream parlour downtown. The big guy scratches his cheek. Leans low enough to whisper. Tells me a story he heard at the gym. Old wiseguy. 70-plus. Used to keep a knuckle-duster under the handle of his walking frame. Served 20 years for strangling a council official with his own dog-lead. The dog had still been attached at the time. Pomeranian. Wiseguy got caught because he took the dog to the vet when the murder was over. Poor animal had dangled off his master’s back while the noose was tightened.

I’m soaking it up. Drinking it in. Imagining. People are coming to life in my brain.
Now I’m at an unlicensed boxing match. Slavic visages. Tattoos and buzz-cuts. Fur coats, leather jackets and the smell of garlic and cigars. I’m keeping my head down, as my guide has urged. Used to be a warehouse, apparently. Owner lost it in a card game. Belongs to the organisation that runs Little Odessa at Brighton Beach. Tonight’s bout doesn’t promise much blood. Just a friendly little bout between two young men looking to make some cash. The people betting on the outcome might not be criminals. Might be lovely people spending their salary on a different kind of night out. But I’m seeing so much more. Seeing an Irish Traveller who has flown over for a grudge match against a brute. Seeing it all go wrong. Seeing the carnage and the bloodshed and an ugly murder committed upstate – bullets and blades in the snow-filled, crow’s-back blackness.

Three days later I’m home. I’m fizzing with ideas. I’m reining myself in. The camera roll on my phone is full of more incriminating pictures than I’m comfortable with. The microphone has several hours worth of crackly conversations recorded in my pocket. I’m feeling alive. Feeling like a character in my own story. I can’t remember which bits are real and which are made up. It’s a good feeling. I start to write.

The detectives’ room is on the second floor of the utilitarian Seventh Precinct. It overlooks a dreary, blustery corridor of the Lower East Side. The constant wind seems to have picked up a vast chunk of Manhattan’s most uninspiring constructions and deposited them at the edge of the East River. The Seventh, housed at the pleasingly exact address of 19 and-a-half Pitt Street, looks out on a scene almost Soviet in its bleakness. This is a place of housing projects, bridge ramps, and squat brick buildings, rattled almost insensible by the constant rumble of vehicles crossing the bridge overhead. Nobody would put this view on a Christmas card, despite the hard, frozen snow which is piled up on the sidewalks like garbage bags. Fresh snow hasn’t fallen for three nights but the temperature has yet to get above zero and the flurries that did fall have now turned to jagged white stone. The emergency rooms are overrun with people who slipped and hurt themselves…

I nibbled at the rancid core of the Big Apple. I hope you take a big bite out of the story it inspired.

thanks David. Fascinating stuff! Cruel Mercy is published by Mulholland Books and is available now. You can find David on twitter @davidmarkwriter.

cruel-mercy

Three Irishmen went to America.

One’s dead. One’s as good as. One is missing…

The missing man is Valentine Teague. Petty criminal, bare-knuckle fighter – and DS Aector McAvoy’s brother in law.

Back home, Val’s being held responsible for the blood spilt in the snowy woods of upstate New York. If McAvoy doesn’t find out the truth, all hell will break loose, putting his own family in the crossfire.

Investigating proves harder than he could have imagined. New York City is a different world, with different rules. Soon, he finds himself up against squabbling cops, mafias old and new, and the culmination of a crime forty years in the making.

All McAvoy can do is the right thing. Even if it kills him…