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.

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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.

GollanczFest – new books

I spent a fabulous day in London yesterday listening to some brilliant authors talk about a variety of things at GollanczFest. More on that in another post…

I also picked up six books:

The Beauty of Murder, by AK Benedict (@ak_benedict)

A serial killer with all the time in the world…From a stunning new voice in crime fiction.
Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he arrived in Cambridge. Seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university have given him a chill he can’t shake. Then he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen – a body which disappears before the police arrive…
Unwittingly, Killigan has entered the sinister world of Jackamore Grass on a trail that reaches back to seventeenth-century Cambridge. It’s a world of cadavers, philosophers and scholars of deadly beauty, a world where a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, of a city and a person that hold far too many secrets written in blood.

The Ship, by Antonia Honeywell (@antonia_writes)

Welcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.
Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?

The Real-Town Murders, by Adam Roberts (@arroberts)

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.
Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.

Heart of Granite, by James Barclay (@barculator)

The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.
Max Halloran has no idea. He’s living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He’s an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family’s every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything…
…right up until he hears something he shouldn’t have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he’s risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.
One man, one brief conversation… a whole world of trouble…

Blackwing, by Ed McDonald (@EdMcDonaldTFK)

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

The Last Namsara, by Kristen Ciccarelli (@SheLuresDragons)

Destroyer. Death bringer. Dragon-slayer. I am more weapon than girl.
Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.
But protecting her father’s kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she’s wicked.
Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.
Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.
And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy…

Now, the only problem I have is which to read first (oh, and finding the time in amongst all the other books glaring at my from my TBR pile!).

Have you read any of them? Which would you pick?

147 Things – Jim Chapman

Published by Pan Macmillan, December 2017
Source: NetGalley
In 147 Things, Jim takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the best bits of everything, from the mind-blowing to the ridiculous. As with his videos, no subject is off-limits and he’ll lift the lid on his life and his relationships, sharing embarrassing stories and things he’s learnt along the way. If you’ve ever felt weirded out by the fact we’re seven billion (mostly) hairless apes spinning around a giant ball of flaming gas, or that we all begin as tiny humans INSIDE our mothers, or that many of us keep slightly-less-dangerous wolves in our homes, then you need this book in your life. Jim wants to inspire you with the sheer unlikelihood of us all being here and equip you to feel just a little less overwhelmed by the small stuff.

Ah, Jim. Regularly appearing on the telly in our house due to my daughter’s love of watching Zoella and Alfie on YouTube, I found myself watching more when Jim was on. I do like Jim. He seems like a thoroughly nice chap, the kind of guy you would quite happily spend an hour chatting to in the pub over a beer. You’d probably end up talking about some of the things in his book.

I really enjoyed 147 Things. They’re a slightly odd, eclectic mix ranging from quantum physics, to life (and death), the universe, lobsters, and why not to try and wax your gentleman’s parts. This was painfully funny. Funny for me, painful for Jim. Poor Jim. He also talks about animals, bodies, fears, myths, urban legends and a whole host of other stuff.

Dotted amongst the science-y bits, Jim also tells us about some more personal things – how he met his wife (another of my daughter’s favourites, and whose cookery book sits on our shelves. Tanya Burr’s cookbook is also really quite good and we’ve had some excellent cakes as a result. I digress), stories about his first love, his family and so on. It’s a bit hard to work out the target audience – his younger YouTube fans (such as my daughter) would love to read about some of the personal stuff, but might balk at some of the more serious science, even with Jim’s down-to-earth, chatty style.

It’s that writing style that I really liked – it does feel a bit like your mate telling you stuff that he’s just found out which you might find interesting. And some, indeed most, of Jim’s 147 Things are genuinely interesting.

Great fun. Not my usual genre (I’ve never read a book by a YouTuber before), but an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours. Jim, if you ever fancy a pint and someone to tell some more things to, give me a shout.

The Binding Song – Elodie Harper

Published by Mulholland Books, June 2017
Source: Review copy
Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.
A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared – along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.
Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.
Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts…

Delighted to be asked to feature The Binding Song as part of First Monday Crime. It’s a deeply spooky book with a fantastic setting. HMP Halvergate sits in a remote part of Norfolk and is as much a character in the story as anyone else. It looms, gothic and large over everything and is never far from the character’s thoughts. The characters themselves are an interesting bunch, and in more than one case, deeply unpleasant. I liked how Elodie Harper teases out Dr Janet Palmer’s backstory across the course of the book, giving us more and more insight into the character as the story unfolds. It’s a creepy tale in places, and I found myself at times almost afraid to turn the page, but all too keen to find out what happens next!

The Binding Song is a delightfully (if that’s the right word) eerie, gothic tale, perfect for a dark winter’s night. It’s a psychological thriller with a difference, and that’s all too rare these days. Read it, if you dare…

Elodie Harper is appearing at the First Monday Crime event in London on Monday 6th November. You can find Elodie on twitter @elodieITV. Find out more about First Monday Crime @1stMondayCrime

How to Stay Alive – Bear Grylls

The ultimate survival guide from the world’s leading survival expert.

Bear Grylls. Explorer. Adventurer. Survival expert and Chief Scout. And now author of a book on how to survive… pretty much everything.

It’s a real mixed bag – some really practical and useful advice, like how to make a fire, survival shelter, and navigate. Things I could use with my Scout group. Then there are other, more esoteric chapters – how to escape quicksand, how to survive a shark attack or flying a plane in an emergency. Stuff that you hope will never happen – and if it does, I’m not sure I’d be able to remember what Bear had to say!

The book is split into five main sections:

  • basic survival skills
  • great escapes
  • terrain survival
  • life-or-death situations
  • medical emergencies

With each section covering 12-15 sections – Bear certainly covers most of the bases when it comes to surviving stuff. As I say, some of it was more directly and regularly useful (especially as a Scout Leader) than others, but each chapter is short and pithy, with some useful advice. Some of it I’d heard before from Bear’s regular appearance on telly – I think that contestants on The Island should be given a copy! Sometimes I think the chapters were a little *too* short, but the style is engaging.

Overall, I rather enjoyed How to Stay Alive. I know that Bear is one of those people you either love or can’t stand – I quite like his enthusiastic style and it comes across here.

Perfect Christmas present for someone who’s got everything. Now they can survive anything too.

Huge thanks to Bantam Press for the advance copy.

Need to Know – Karen Cleveland


Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

Sometimes a book turns up which piques your interest right off the bat. I do love a good spy thriller and Need to Know doesn’t disappoint. It’s clever, rattles along at a fair old clip and poses some interesting questions – what would you do when faced with a choice between your country and your family? It’s one of those can’t put it down books which I polished off in a single sitting, more or less.

Superbly plotted, with some fantastic twists and great characters. Highly recommended. Sadly you’ll have to wait until January to read it!

Many thanks to Becky Short and Bantam Press for the advance copy. I loved what you did with the book edges!

This book is rather splendid.

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The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

The Man Who Died new front (1)
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.

Everyone should die at least once, if only to see how beautiful the morning can be.

The Man Who Died is one of those books that you emerge from with a small, satisfied sigh, and a smile on your face. I do love Antti Tuomainen’s books (and splendid taste in shirts), and this book, whilst a departure from his usual Helsinki Noir, is a delight. Perhaps creating a new genre, Mushroom Noir?

Maybe not.

It’s delightfully different – here we have a man who knows that he’s been (or being) poisoned, and sets out to solve his own murder. The cast of suspects is fairly short, and Jaakko does like making lists. Could it be his wife? The strange characters at the shiny new mushroom processing plant in town? Or the Japanese clients?

Jaakko follows the trail around town as he investigates, coming across a whole bunch of fabulous characters who wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Fargo. The humour in The Man Who Died is layered and oh so very dark and exactly the way I like it.

Highly highly recommended. The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and is out in October in paperback and ebook. You can find Antti on twitter @antti_tuomainen.

Huge thanks to Anne for inviting me onto the blog tour, to Karen for publishing it, and to Antti Tuomainen for giving us such a wonderful book. And not forgetting David Hackston, for his masterful job in translating. The blog tour continues…

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