Guest post: The Innocent Ones – Neil White

Delighted to welcome Neil White, author of The Innocent Ones, to the blog today for a guest post. It’s not Neil’s first time here, as he’s already had a chat with us about plotting his novels and setting up a new series. So I was intrigued to see what he’d come up with this time around for his new book. More about that new book later (it sounds fantastic), but this time Neil is here to talk about influences. They’re hard to define…

Without, as they say, further ado, over to Mr White.


Influences are hard to define, because our whole life influences us, those small things along the way, like the people we meet and the places we visit. For a writer, it’s more about looking at what impressed me along the way and made me want to emulate it.

Books are the first thing to consider, because to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.

As a child, I followed the well-worn path of Enid Blyton, and I longed to visit islands where weird uncles forbade me from going in secret tunnels. As a young kid on a Wakefield council estate, this was never going to happen, but perhaps that was why I was a dreamer. In Enid Blyton, I read about lives and places I could only imagine, so my imagination was fed and took me away on different adventures.

The Three Investigator Series from Alfred Hitchcock was another big favourite, and I remember reading it in bed and feeling that delicious thrill of terror, where I was scared to turn the page but knew that I had to. From then, that was what I sought in books, that churn of the stomach, the tightness of the chest, and it took me to horror for a while. Stephen King was in his pomp when I was a young teenager and I lapped those up. And James Herbert. And Peter Straub.

My father was a big science fiction fan but I could never quite get it. I did read all the Doctor Who novels, and in fact loved them more than the television versions. You don’t get wobbly sets and naff costumes in the novels. Instead, you got the vision of the storyteller but unhindered by costume and set budgets. Once I decided I wanted to be a writer though, it was always going to be crime.

I was thirty when I decided, having just qualified as a solicitor (I went to university late – that’s a whole other story) and I needed a new challenge. I’d ditched horror by this stage, after finding myself rarely scared anymore, but crime never failed to intrigue me. I’d even chosen crime as my preferred field in my legal career. Perhaps it was those Petrocelli episodes back when I was a child (if you don’t know it, Google it).

My throwaway line has always been that I became a writer because I never learned to play the guitar. Perhaps there is some truth in that. One big draw for me in my musical preferences was the quality of the lyrics. From the age of around fifteen, books took a backseat to music, but I was always drawn to some well-spun words, particularly when they tell a story.

I grew up surrounded by Johnny Cash, my father’s obsession, and his songs were always small stories set to music, and often about criminal justice, in a loose sense. Prison songs, gunfighter ballads, tales of murder and revenge. When I think back through my favourite artists, lyrics have always been at the forefront.

Paul Weller, back in his Jam days, was my first big love. I was only seventeen when The Jam disbanded, but I managed to see them twice, and in the years that followed I would spend many happy hours talking about his lyrics or reading the album sleeves. Going Underground is just about perfect lyrically, summing up that feeling you get when the world around you seems insane. Town Called Malice is a perfect little tableau of small-town life in Thatcherite Britain.

The Style Council occupied my devotion for the next few years, and I was always straight to the record shop to buy the new single on twelve-inch and pour over the musings of the Cappuccino Kid.

The quality waned though and my next loves were The Smiths and The Pogues, both lyrically-fantastic. Shane McGowan is one of the best lyricists the UK music scene has produced, even through his boozy haze, and Morrissey one of the most unique and poetic.

One of my favourites though is Paul Heaton. I’ve followed him through all his versions, from The Housemartins to the Beautiful South and then into his solo career, and I don’t think anyone can touch him for lyrics. Sharp, often witty, he just nails it for me.

The reason I’m talking about music rather than writers is because I think prose isn’t about words or descriptions, but about rhythm. The words have got to bounce and roll, with no missed beats or bad notes. The reading should be effortless, and it’s the rhythm that drives it.

That isn’t to say that writers haven’t influenced me. I was trying to write when Lee Child’s first book, Killing Floor, came out (and if we’re going back to music, it’s also the title of a Howling Wolf song). When I read it, I realised that I wanted to write like that, where the pages just turn themselves.

In terms of style, however, my main influence was W.P. Kinsella. Many of you might not know of him, but he wrote many whimsical tales set around Iowa and similar areas, often with a baseball background. His most famous book is Shoeless Joe, which was made into the film Field of Dreams, with Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta.

What I loved about his writing style was that it took the reader straight to the porch of an Iowa farm, corn blowing in the breeze, and there was a real poetry to his writing. It was his style that was the first that I tried to mimic, and again it was about the rhythm. To give an example of how I tried to emulate it, here first is a paragraph from Shoeless Joe:

“Two years ago at dusk on a spring evening, when the sky was a robin’s-egg blue and the wind as soft as a day-old chick, as I was sitting on the verandah of my farm home in Eastern Iowa, a voice very clearly said to me, “If you build it, they will come.””

This is a paragraph from my second novel, Lost Souls:

“She was standing by an open-plan lawn in a neat suburban cul-de-sac, with the hills of the West Pennine Moors as a backdrop, painted silver as the rising sun caught the dew-coated grass, just the snap of the crime-scene tape to break her concentration.”

The rhythms are similar.

In terms of influences, there have been many, but the biggest one in terms of finding my style was W.P. Kinsella.


Thanks Neil, fascinating stuff!

The Innocent Ones, by Neil White is published by Hera Books on 24th April 2019. You can find Neil on twitter @NeilWhite1965. The blog tour continues tomorrow!

By day, the park rings with the sound of children’s excited laughter. But in the early hours of the morning, the isolated playground is cloaked in shadows – the perfect hiding place to conceal a brutal murder. 

When London journalist, Mark Roberts, is found battered to death, the police quickly arrest petty thief, Nick Connor. Criminal defence lawyer, Dan Grant, along with investigator Jayne Brett, are called to represent him – but with bloody footprints and a stolen wallet linking him to the scene, this is one case they’re unlikely to win. 

Until help comes from an unlikely source…when the murder victim’s mother says that Connor is innocent, begging Dan and Jayne to find the real perpetrator. 

Unravelling the complex case means finding the connection between Mark’s death and a series of child murders in Yorkshire over twenty years ago. Father of two, Rodney Walker, has spent years in prison after being convicted of killing of 6-year-old William and 7-year-old Ruby back in 1997. 

Sleepwalking, Synesthesia and other Stories – guest post by Ruth Dugdall

Delighted to welcome Ruth Dugdall to the blog today to celebrate the launch of her new book, The Things You Didn’t See. It’s a tense psychological thriller, a novel about families and love. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence. It is about the secrets we keep, especially from ourselves.

But more about the book later. First Ruth will be telling us a little about sleepwalking, synesthesia and other stories.

Over to Ruth…

When my mum was a girl she would inwardly groan if any relative ever bought her a book. As an adult the only ones she ever opened were cookbooks, and yet she is a natural storyteller. She likes dark tales, and she likes to tell them again and again. And she’s good at it – I haven’t watched Coronation Street in years but I know exactly what’s happening! I grew up with Mum’s stories, and would ask for specific ones the way you might ask for a favourite food or film, enjoying the familiarity of it.

One of my favourite stories was about my great Uncle George, who died before I was born. He was a poultry farmer, living in rural Lincolnshire. He was also a sleepwalker. His sleepwalking was well known locally, especially after the time he jumped through an upper floor window thinking he was still jumping fences on his horse.

One day, so the story goes, George had been culling chickens for market. Wringing their necks and tossing them into a steaming pile of feathers. That night his wife awoke in a panic to find hands tight around her neck. Someone was trying to kill her. She fought and screamed and, luckily, George woke up. He had been dreaming about those chickens.

Years later, I learned about people who had committed grave acts in their sleep, including murder. Some were terribly sad – one boy had killed his father, whilst dreaming he was defending the home from a burglar. Other cases seemed less believable, like the murderer who drove many miles to his victim’s home whilst apparently asleep.

Non-insane Automatism is the legal defence used when someone kills whilst asleep, meaning that they aren’t culpable because they were unconscious. When this defence is used, which isn’t often, the stats show that a jury will believe the suspect only half the time, the other half they convict. It is this defence that Hector Hawke gives in The Things You Didn’t See, after his wife Maya Hawke is discovered at the bottom of the stairs, shot in the head.

The second trait featured in the book is synesthesia, a neurological condition in which wiring in the brain works differently so the senses are blended in an unexpected way. Some synesthetic taste words, others see sounds as colour. There is an argument that we all have a little synaesthesia; many of us listen to music and experience emotions, or associate a smell with a place, or dislike certain words because of how they make us feel. It is a diverse trait, and studies have recently discovered a genetic link, but there is still much more to understand about it.

Holly Redwood is the paramedic who arrives at the farm after Maya’s shooting has been called in. She has a form of synesthesia, known as Mirror Touch, which means that she can feel what others feel. If she sees someone get slapped, her cheek stings. If she sees a couple kissing, she experiences that too.

When Holly sees Maya, who is unconscious and in a critical condition, she can feel her pain. But she can also feel emotions, and within the house are Maya’s husband and daughter. As suspicion builds about what really happened to Maya, Holly must work out what her overloaded senses are telling her, and establish if they can be trusted. For someone wishing to solve a crime, synesthsia can be a talent, so long as they know how to interpret their feelings.

The title, The Things You Didn’t See, refers to both traits: sleepwalkers don’t see clearly, even though they move with their eyes open. Synesthesics sense things beyond their vision. The crime at the heart of the book can only be solved if these two things are addressed, and Holly and Cassandra must work together to do this.

I don’t know if my mum will read my book, but I’m grateful to her for sharing her stories. And thank you for letting me share mine with you.

Thanks Ruth. The Things You Didn’t See is published on 24th April 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.

Her instincts are telling her something isn’t right…
On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye.
With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on?
With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?

Ruth Dugdall studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. She worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Her novels are informed by her experience, tackling human relationships at their most dysfunctional. She lives in California with her family.

Hall of Mirrors – guest post by Christopher Fowler

Today I’m delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler to the blog as part of the tour for his new Bryant & May book, Hall of Mirrors.

Without further ado, I shall turn the floor over to Mr Fowler…

ARTHUR BRYANT: ‘These hippies are selfish and irresponsible. I’ll tell you what made our nation the bastion of patrician morality it is today; the ability to be profoundly miserable. It’s one of our greatest strengths, to be ranked beside shutting the boozers at ten thirty and regarding the waterproof mackintosh as an acceptable item of clothing.’
– From ‘Hall Of Mirrors’

In case you haven’t encountered them before, the Bryant & May mysteries are a bit different. Readers often ask me what they’re most similar to, and I’m really hard pushed to think of anything they’re like.

You could say that Arthur Bryant and John May are Golden Age detectives who’ve been left behind in a modern urban world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s oldest specialist police team, a division founded during WWII to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. (My father worked in something very similar.) They’ve been there forever but won’t leave – and why should they when they still solve the cases that defeat everyone else?

The technophobic, annoying Bryant and smooth-talking modernist May, together with their glamorous sergeant Janice Longbright, head a team of misfits who I suppose are just as likely to commit crimes as solve them. The books are written chronologically, but I’ve cunningly arranged it so that they can be read out of order (in fact, some volumes benefit from doing so).

The cases take on the different styles of the classic detective stories.
The latest one, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ is, incredibly, the 16th volume featuring my senior detectives. This one, according to Bryant’s deeply unreliable memoirs, is set back in swinging London, in a grand country house called Tavistock Hall. Back then the detectives were young and energetic (they’re always playing silly word games) and are ready to solve a proper country house murder.

The interesting thing about writing flashback cases is getting immersed in the period and writing about the recent past with a fresh eye. I had a lot of fun with the fashions! Although ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ is very mischievous, comedy still requires a moral viewpoint. Humour and tragedy go together very well in crime novels. However, I have to follow a set of rules, one of which is that the serious parts of my plot are taken seriously, while the comedy comes from character.

It helps that my detectives are facing mortality, as it lets me use graveyard humour. I’m very careful to respect victims and honour them over villains. I don’t like books in which women are always the victims, and even when I’m being funny there is a serious intent underpinning the laughter. The mysteries reflect the way we learn to deal with life, and you’ll always find a strong underpinning of reality in the books. There are often arcane details about hidden or secret London that I’ve discovered in old libraries. Many of the weirdest facts I use are absolutely true.

Having said that, I love writing Arthur Bryant most of all, because he’s so mischievous, and is usually described as looking like a disreputable teddy bear. He gets away with being rude to people because he’s everyone’s cheeky old grandfather, and knows that people will miss him when he’s gone.

You can find Christopher Fowler on Twitter- @Peculiar.

Hall of Mirrors was published in hardback by Doubleday on 22nd March 2018.

The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house at Tavistock Hall. But one
amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder…
The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise
and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a
massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one
armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire, but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (fifteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and short story collections.
The recipient of many awards, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two critically accalimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent book is The Book of Forgotten Authors, drawn from his ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday. Chris divides his time between London’s King Cross and Barcelona.

My route to getting published – guest post by Daniel Culver

Today I’d like to welcome Daniel Culver to my little corner of the internet. Daniel is the author of White Midnight, which is out in mid-March from Manatee Books.

Daniel is here to talk about how he got published. Over to you, Daniel!

My route to getting published

I was never a bookish kid – the only thing I read religiously when I was younger was Tintin. I was pretty much illiterate up until the age of fifteen. But for some reason, I was compelled to be a writer (my life if fraught with things I wanted to do on a whim, many of which I’m still paying for). I wrote my first storey at 15 on a rickety old typewriter – a thriller called The Dowder Pieces. I had no idea what I was doing and God knows what the title meant, but at the time I thought it was a masterpiece. It ended up as a stack of disorganized papers, which probably made no less sense than the story itself.

If you’ve ever seen The Simpsons, where Homer is doing or talking about something important and then he gets distracted because he sees a bird outside, or starts picturing a monkey playing cymbals, that is my writing journey.

I did a lot of travelling when I was younger (more whim-ing) and in 1999 I spent six months in Asia writing and researching my first full novel – something called The Lumbini Tree. (Again, no idea?)

I was convinced this was going to be the next The Beach. It wasn’t. After a year or so of sending it (by post) to every agent in the Writer’s and Artists’ Yearbook, every one of them passed. I shelved the book – the floppy disk the thing is saved on is now a coaster in my living room. I’m too scared to look at the words I wrote again.

I then decided if I couldn’t get published as a writer, I at least wanted to work in publishing somehow, so I did (blagged my way on to) a degree in Publishing and Writing – which was the first time I ever read any of my writing to an audience aloud. It didn’t suck and actually made the whole class laugh. Although I wouldn’t end up attempting another full novel for a number of years, it did leave me thinking I might at least have potential, albeit as a side-show clown. What I lacked was an idea and any motivation to write a full novel again.
By this time I had begun working in publishing as an editor, which strangely killed any desire I had to write again and I wouldn’t attempt another novel for at least half a decade.

Several years later I had moved on. I left publishing for a bit and was working in the art industry, where I finally got the urge to write again. Entitled Vespertine Prowling, my second full novel attempt was a satire of the artworld, about an artist who fakes his own death to get famous. I thought it was amazing. But again, after being rejected by every single agent I could find, I gave up. I figured this was it, the last time. My ideas were always a little too abstract; I have always been drawn to the indie, the cult of things, over the mainstream, so I was beginning to suspect I was just not publishable.

After more setbacks and another long break from writing anything, I began to get the itch again a few years later. It just kept coming back, like herpes. I saw an ad for The Curtis Brown writing a novel course, and had an idea kicking around, which wasn’t really a novel – more a scene – but I thought what the hell. I decided to give it one last (last) shot. I told myself that if I wasn’t published before I hit 40, then that was it. Kaput. So, I did the course, started writing the novel which would eventually become White Midnight (originally called Corrosive Lemonade) and I finished the course, rushed the rest of the book, and again started submitting. To my surprise, I actually started getting full requests. A least ten of them. This was it, I kept telling myself. Until it wasn’t. One by one, most of the agents came back with rejections; some never got back to me at all (which is a different rant altogether).

But despite the rejections, I did feel closer than I ever had, so I wasn’t done yet. In a strange turn of events, at the finish of the Curtis Brown course we were invited to a ‘meet the agents evening’, which was a massive let down. It was clear the agents had little interest in any of our novels. But one agent did mention how they had recently acquired novels from two Faber Academy students. So, instead of feeling discouraged, I went home and immediately applied to do the Faber Academy course, which was due to begin a few months later. In all honesty, I did it on a whim (again) and almost forgot about it. I didn’t have a new book idea, so just submitted a small extract from White Midnight. Then I forgot all about it.

A few weeks later I got an email. I had been accepted onto the course. A course I realised I couldn’t actually afford to do, but I had started writing an outline for a new story, finally, and even had a couple of scenes. I started the course anyway (sorry), not knowing how I would be able to afford the payments, but I really wanted to do it. Then my mum passed away about a month or two into the course; she left me about enough money to cover the remainder of the course fees (thanks mum). The course was really helpful and as well as writing a new novel, I used everything I had learned to revise my previous book and on another whim, I heard about Manatee Books, so decided to submit it to them.

They replied the next day saying they would like to see the full and that was that. After several rounds of edits the thing is ready to go out into the world (and just before I turn 40, hurrah), while I am currently writing a follow up book entitled The Vacation Killer, and a third novel, as well.

The moral of this story is, don’t give up, kids. And don’t spend all your university grant money going to Asia to research a book unless you’ve outlined it first!

Excellent advice! Thanks Daniel.

White Midnight by Daniel Culver is published by Manatee Books in March 2018. You can find him on twitter @DanielCulver11.

Elizabeth Nowicki, a British woman and self-confessed stoic, settles down in the seemingly idyllic American town of Midnight, with her new husband and his two children. Six months on, life as a step mom is harder than she thought, and the shine of the American Dream has already worn off.

Bored and lonely, Elizabeth is drawn into a nightmare when someone in a duck mask murders two local cops…and the investigation reaches her new neighbourhood. When this is followed by strange happenings across the street, leading to another death, Elizabeth starts to conduct her own investigation….but can she find the killer before the killer finds her?

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

 

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…

The Role of Manipulation in Daily Life – guest post by Angela Marsons

Today I’d like to welcome Angela Marsons to the blog. Angela is the author of Evil Games (more on that later!).

Angela has been on the blog before talking about tips for aspiring writers, and is back again, this time to talk about the role of manipulation in daily life.

Without futher ado, over to Angela.

While researching the art of manipulation I was astounded at some of the techniques used in our everyday life. Although I was primarily interested in one on one influence it became incredibly useful to learn about subtle manipulations that occur in our everyday life.

We already know the subtle manipulations used by supermarkets in the placement of products to encourage the shopper to walk the entire store even for just a couple of purchases. Essential items are positioned far away from each other. Soft music is played to relax the shopper and slow them down, encouraging them to peruse. Sale and roll back signs are placed at eye level appealing to the bargain hunter in us all. Impulse buys are placed strategically en route so that only the most disciplined shopper will leave with only the items on their list.

But one thing I found incredibly intriguing was the use of colour, especially in the retail sector. Millions of pounds have been spent in analysing the psychological associations and properties of colour. Many food outlets use the colour red as it stimulates the appetite and is seen as an action colour. Mid to dark Blue is perceived as stable and intellectual. We trust the colour blue. Yellow represents emotion and violet spirituality. We gain comfort from the colour Orange and balance from anything Green. I found it very interesting to match the colours to many top name brands.

Subtle manipulation is used by most sales people. Many use techniques such as mirroring which is when the person affects a similar demeanour or behaviour trait like scratching the nose or rubbing the chin. We trust familiarity and this assures us on a subconscious level that we are dealing with someone who is similar to ourselves.

More obvious are the techniques of gleaning a great deal of information from someone by asking just a couple of questions and then tailoring their pitch to those facts.

While researching Evil Games I was walking around a local dealership looking to change my car. A very personable young salesman quickly extracted from me that I was a writer, a dog lover and that I was in the market due to a change in circumstances. The salesman proceeded to Google me and then talk at length about my books demonstrating an enthusiastic level of interest. He then attempted to sell me a top of the range brand new vehicle which I didn’t want. I left the showroom without making a purchase as he incorrectly assumed I wanted some kind of status symbol.

Had he listened more closely he would have understood that I wanted to change my car due to my dogs decreasing mobility and would have stood a better chance of a sale if he had told me he had a dog himself.

It is a subject I researched to write a book which ultimately also helped me spend just a little less money at the supermarket.

Thanks Angela. Evil Games is published by Zaffre on 26th January 2017. You can order a copy here. You can find Angela on twitter @WriteAngie. Go say hello!

evil-games

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

marsons-angela

evil-games-blog-tour