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.

Pen names – a Question of Flexibility – guest post by Hanna Winter

I’d like to welcome Hanna Winter, the author of Sacrifice, to the blog today to talk about the fascinating subject of pen names.

Over to Hanna…

One of the more common questions about me and my writing career, is why I publish my work using different pseudonyms, Hanna Winter and Eva Sternberg. The answer is quite simple: I don’t want to limit myself to a single genre.

The dark depravities of the human mind have always held a deep fascination for me, and writing my sinister murder mysteries will always be my passion. That’s what Hanna Winter stands for, dark and morbid thrill rides. But I don’t want to miss out on the chance to stretch my literary wings into other genres, and I enjoy every minute I spend as my alter ego Eva Sternberg, writing upbeat, fast-paced “chicklits”, putting a smile on “her” readers’ faces. It’s a conscious decision, too. Alternating between my literary personas not only puts me in the right “frame of mind” for the type of story I am creating, it also provides a most welcome emotional counterpoint. Devoting myself to a more “sunny” genre as Eva Sternberg after finishing one of my thriller manuscripts, helps to cleanse the months of gloom and darkness that Hanna Winter had to wade through in order to put the expected fright into “her” readers’.

But to be honest, my different pen names are probably more of a service to the readers, both first timers and longtime fans alike. As flexible as the author may be, his or her readers want to know what to expect when they pick up one of their books. In the minds of the audience, an author’s name often becomes synonymous with a certain genre. Just imagine you’re a fan of cleverly insidious crime fiction, looking for your next fix of John Grisham or Ian Rankin from the shelves of your favorite bookstore, only to discover that your author of choice this time chose to try himself at a deeply romantic love story. Similarly, a Nicholas Sparks devotee might even feel “robbed”, if he was unexpectedly forced to go through chapter after chapter of blood, guts, murder and violence – no matter the quality, there’s bound to be some disappointment.

In the early stages of my rather bifurcated writing career, I was determined to keep my author’s “double life” a secret. I will admit, I was a bit worried how my readers might react, the genres and their respective fan bases as different as they are. So I always appeared for interviews or readings using the “appropriate” pseudonym, and made a note of only ever being addressed accordingly, keeping both of my personas strictly separate. I even went as far as having them included on my passports, one for each. These days, I don’t mind that much, anymore. I’ve grown to embrace it, rather than shy away from it. But I will continue to use my different pen names for my work, of course. No sense in creating unnecessary confusion.

 

 

Hanna Winter

Hanna Winter is (as we’ve just found out!) the pseudonym for Eva Rehberger who is a hugely successful catwalk and fashion model in her native Germany. Hanna Winter’s first thriller, THE CHILDREN’S TRAIL (2010), became an instant bestseller and Sacrifice has sold over 30,000 copies in Germany since first publication in 2012 – this is the first time it’s been available in English. We have just published the eBook of Sacrifice and the paperback is due to be published on the 17th November 2016. The former German model has since published six novels under several pen names. Sacrifice has been received with critical acclaim.

sacrifice | Hanna Winter

He must kill her. Hunt her down. Destroy her . . .

In her very first case, criminal psychologist Lena Peters is confronted with a killer on a murderous vendetta. And though she is unaware, Lena will play a prominent role in his deadly mission. Lena knows what makes killers tick and all about obsession, for she has been close to the edge herself. But soon she will become the hunted…

Thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre Books (find them on twitter at @BonnierZaffre) for organising the blog tour.

Sacrifice Blog Tour

Kings or Pawns – JJ Sherwood

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for JJ Sherwood’s Kings or Pawns: The Kings, book 1, the first of her epic fantasy series. I first heard about the book from the successful Kickstarter campaign – I was intrigued by the premise and backed the project. And now here we are, promoting the book!

Kings or Pawns | JJ Sherwood

8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.
As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.

Here’s an excerpt from the prologue:

Prologue

A fierce howl of wind tore in from the north, bringing with it a fleeting chill. The rain pelted against the armor of the soldiers scattered across the earth below as thunder cracked and bellowed in Aersadore’s evening sky. The two armies stumbled and sank into the muddy ground of the canyon floor, voices and weapons lost in the tumult of the raging storm.
Jikun swung his blade around swiftly and plunged it into the soldier behind him, throwing his weight away to spin back into the teeming mass of enemy troops.
“General, Saebellus is retreating!!”
Jikun rounded toward his captain’s shout, seeing the soldier stumble from the fray. His captain lurched to the side, black hair plastered to the sides of his pale face as one hand groped for balance on the face of the canyon wall. The captain tore the clasp from the drenched cloak about his neck, letting it fall to the mud beneath his feet. Relieved of its weight, he pushed free of the canyon’s face and shoved Jikun aside, his blade whistling through the air as he swung high to decapitate the soldier behind him.
“I know, damn it!” Jikun shouted in return, eyes narrowing against the onslaught of rain. It bit into his flesh like shards of ice, but in the midst of battle, he was hardly aware of the pain. He stepped forward, willing the meager distance to grant him vision through the torrent of rain. Vision of the enemy that lay ahead. A tremble coursed through the earth as thunder cracked once more. A bolt of lightning lit the towering walls of the surrounding canyon, capturing the deep shadows in the jagged stones and the sunken faces of his weathered troops. “Don’t let him escape!” he bellowed to his soldiers, fighting to be heard above the wind, his throat raw. He shoved forward, leaping over the body of a dying soldier, kicking the grasping arm away from him.
He could see him now.
Saebellus.
The throng of fleeing enemy troops had parted, just long enough for Jikun to glimpse him twisting through the grey. The warlord shoved his blade through one of Jikun’s soldiers, grabbing the elf by the hair and wrenching his blade free as the body slumped to the mud. He glanced up abruptly, as though aware of someone’s gaze, and his eyes caught Jikun’s in a moment of calm, cold solidarity: an acknowledgement of each of their roles in the war. Then he turned, raising his hand high. The throng of soldiers closed behind him, fighting to defend the backlines as he and his army fled toward the north.
For a moment, the image of those emotionless, black voids had stilled Jikun. Then he found his voice, bursting forth louder and stronger in his anger. “Move! MOVE! Don’t let them escape!!” he shouted, a rumble of thunder following his screams with equal fury.
There came another rumble, resounding almost immediately after the last. It had come too soon.
Jikun paused, jerking his head upwards along the walls of the canyon, searching the length of sky for the source of the unnatural sound. There was another flash of light from ahead, but this one came red and hot, erupting from the midst of Saebellus’ army. It struck the canyon wall with a ferocious crack that sent a tremor through the earth about them.
Jikun’s eyes widened in horror. “AVALANCHE!!!” he roared. He stumbled backward, raising an arm above his head. A thick dome of water swept upward from the mud at his feet, freezing as it grew, forming at once into a thick shield of ice that protected him and his surrounding soldiers.
He could hear the crashing of stones as they plummeted down the mountain face, smashing through the troops and horses before him, plowing through the line of soldiers behind him. They slammed into the side of his icy barricade, hurling him backwards into the far wall.
And then there was silence.
Jikun looked up, raising a hand against the ice to let it fall once more to mere water about his body.
Saebellus and his army were gone.

~~~~
Meet the author:
JJ SherwoodJ.J. Sherwood lives in Ohio with her husband and four near-identical cats. Her childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore. When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes.

Connect with the author:  Website Twitter Facebook   Goodreads

Behind the Book – a guest post by Wendy Walker

Today I’m delighted to host a guest post by Wendy Walker, author of All is Not Forgotten. Today Wendy talks about what went into the writing of her book.

Without further ado, over to Wendy.
~~~~~

As a writer, I’m always looking for real life events that would make a good story. Back in 2010, I came across an article in the New York Times about the use of morphine to treat PTSD, and how its use might spread from soldiers wounded in the field to victims of other traumas, like rape. When I finally decided to use this in a novel, I knew it would make an intriguing psychological thriller.

I wrote All is Not Forgotten in the spring of 2015, and by that time the research into memory reconsolidation had exploded. At the core of this research was the finding that memories are like files on a computer – they can be recalled and then altered, or perhaps even erased entirely.

Now, a range of PTSD therapies are being developed which utilize this new understanding about how memory works. Within the first few hours after an event, drugs can be administered to try and block the memory entirely. By interrupting the stabilization process which turns a short term memory into a long term memory, the short term memory can (possibly) be erased. Alternatively, pain medication like morphine or propofol can be administered so the emotional attachment to the memory is lessened. Theoretically, a victim could remember the event but not have any emotional reaction. For victims whose traumas have already been stabilized into long term memory, the same treatments are given in an attempt to reconsolidate that memory either factually, or by lessening the emotional attachment. As the person recalls the painful memory, the drug or other method is used so that the memory becomes altered before it is re-filed – just like changing a computer file before hitting the save button.

When I thought about using this in a novel, I was drawn not only to the science, but to the moral and legal implications if these treatments were to be used on victims of crime. The choice between justice and emotional pain, for example, fascinated me. I also wondered about the ability to truly erase the emotional implications of a traumatic event. As a mother, I had come across information about brain development in children and how early traumas can cause lasting emotional issues even if the child had no factual memory of a painful event (because the brain was not mature enough to store the memory). In those cases, the child can have unusual fears or phobias that do not have any causal relationship to the triggers. That made me wonder – even if we can pull out a painful memory, uncouple it from the emotional element and then return it to storage, does that emotional element really go away? Or does it live inside us, looking for a home, and provoking us at times or for reasons that make no logical sense?

Combining all of these theories and questions, I came up with the story of Jenny Kramer.

There can be no doubt that the next decade will bring groundbreaking changes to the way we see our memories, and the treatments available for PTSD, addiction and other disorders like anxiety and OCD. And like most scientific advancements, we will be faced with the legal and moral implications that arise.

When I tell people about this story, I always go back to the question that was in my mind back in 2010 – what would I choose, for myself or a loved one? Would I choose to remember? Or would I choose to forget?

All-is-not-Forgotten

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

All is Not Forgotten is published by @HQStories on 12th July. You can also read a review by Gordon over at Grab This Book.

Writers from All Countries – Unite! a guest post by Gunnar Staalesen

Today I’m delighted to be playing host to Gunnar Staalesen, author of We Shall Inherit The Wind and his new book, Where Roses Never Die. More of that later, but without further ado, over to Gunnar.

Gunnar Staalesen

In May this year I had the honour of being selected Festival Poet for Bergen’s literary festival, a fringe programme of the Bergen International Festival, which takes place every year in May and June. As part of my role I had the opportunity to invite five crime writers to an event. I and the festival organisers therefore decided to plan a series of staged interviews, with me as the chairperson. What a pleasure it was that all five writers accepted our invitation; and on 29 May we met at the Literature House in the centre of the old city of Bergen.
Who were these five esteemed colleagues? And why did I invite them? I will present them in the order they appeared on stage at the Literature House.

Antti Tuomainen from Finland was the youngest of the bunch. He writes dark and compelling novels – The Healer perhaps the most frightening of them all, taking a look, as it does, into the near future, post a climate crisis, and with fugitives streaming into Europe. Does this perhaps sound at least partly familiar? Not only that, it is a good crime mystery, too! Dark as My Heart is another of Antti’s impressively well-told novels, this time in the more classic clime mould, with revenge as its central theme. These two novels are both translated into Norwegian. But I am also looking forward to reading the next one, The Mine, which it seems I have to read in English before it is translated into my own language. Finnish is impossible to read, even for someone from a neighbouring country.

Swedish we Norwegians can read, however, and number two on the writer list was Håkan Nesser, my personal favourite among the generation of Swedish writers who have followed Sjöwall & Wahlöö. Nesser is both a very good literary and crime author who never writes the same story twice. That may be the reason why he has already completed two series: the first one totalling ten books, all concerning police inspector Van Veeteren and located in the fictional city of Maardam, somewhere in Europe. The second series consists of five books, all about Gunnar Barbarotti, a police inspector in another imaginary city – Kymlinge in Sweden. Both series are extremely well written, expertly plotted and are a pure pleasure to read. Nesser has also written several standalone novels, one of which bears the intriguing title, Kim Novak Never Swam in Geneserat’s Sea.

Of all the Norwegian crime writers from more or less my own generation, Karin Fossum is the one I respect the most. She writes intriguing thrillers, in which she dives into the dark psychological secrets of her characters’ lives, thus painting some fascinating portraits. These character studies are always seen from the perspective of a crime, which allows her to introduce again and again her principal character, police inspector Konrad Sejer, one of the most sympathetic police detectives in modern crime fiction. One of the titles in this series, Calling Out For You (in Norwegian: Elskede Poona; in the US: The Indian Bride), is one of the best crime novels published in Norway in the last fifty years, and in 2009 it was selected as the all-time best Norwegian crime novel by the readers of the newspaper Dagbladet. Karin Fossum has also written poetry and short stories, and she is deeply respected by her Norwegian colleagues.

British readers need no introduction to Ian Rankin. However, it was a pleasure for me to invite him for the first time to Bergen, the old capital of Norway in the middle ages – before our four hundred years under Danish rule, which were followed by almost one hundred years in union with Sweden. There is, therefore, an historical alliance between Scotland and Norway, and this can be sensed in the literature of the two countries. There is even a connection between Bergen and Edinburgh, which goes back to the story of ‘The Maid of Norway’ from the thirteenth century. When I read Ian’s John Rebus books, I also feel a relationship with my own books about the private detective Varg Veum. The way we describe our two cities is very similar; and the way Rebus acts and thinks can be compared to Varg Veum’s idiosyncrasies. Ian Rankin is one of the best crime writers of his generation, and when I met him for the first time in Edinburgh some years ago, he told me he looked upon himself more as a North Sea writer than a UK writer. He was influenced by the same writers as I was when I started writing crime novels – Raymond Chandler, of course, and the guest who followed him onto the Bergen stage.

Maj Sjöwall is the queen of modern crime fiction. With her husband, Per Wahlöö, who sadly died in 1975, she created a watershed in crime fiction. The ten novels they wrote about Martin Beck and his colleagues on the Stockholm police marked the beginning of Nordic Noir, and their writing has had a huge influence on crime writers all over the world for generations since. Without Sjöwall & Wahlöö there would perhaps not be a Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, Ian Rankin or Gunnar Staalesen.
At eighty she is still a very lively woman, and the interview with her was, for me personally, the highlight of the evening; a conversation I will never forget. We spoke about what she and her husband were thinking when they wrote the very first book in the series, Roseanna, in 1965, their political backgrounds, their view on crime fiction as both entertainment and literature, and the creation of Martin Beck and the other characters in the series.

It was the perfect finale to an evening illuminated by fabulous crime fiction, and by my meetings with five masters of a genre to which I have myself contributed since 1975.

Thanks Gunnar – lots of writers to add to my list to investigate!

Where Roses Never Die is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and ebook now.

Where Roses Never Die cover Vis copy 4

September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close, middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.
Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge … Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime writers