Extract: The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain #BlogTour @MuswellPress @PeterHain @Brownlee_Donald

Today I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain. Described as “An epic tale of corruption, collusion, and courage set in contemporary South Africa“, Hain’s insider knowledge of politics and activism infuse this timely thriller.

Read on for more details of the book and an extract to whet your appetite…


About the Book

The Rhino Conspiracy

In the last decade more than 6,000 rhinos have been killed in South Africa. Relentless poaching for their horns has led to a catastrophic fall in black rhino numbers. Meanwhile, a corrupt South African government turns a blind eye to the international trade in rhino horn. This is the background to Peter Hain’s brilliantly pacey and timely thriller. Battling to defend the dwindling rhino population, a veteran freedom fighter is forced to break his lifetime loyalty to the ANC as he confronts corruption at the very highest level. The stakes are high. Can the country’s ancient rhino herd be saved from extinction by state-sponsored poaching? Has Mandela’s “rainbow nation” been irretrievably betrayed by political corruption and cronyism?


Extract

PROLOGUE

The butt of the high- powered rifle had the old familiar feel, nestling against his shoulder as he crouched in the safari park.

In recent years his shooting had been mainly rabbits. Also guinea fowl – they were terribly difficult to get a clear shot at. But he was by far the best of all his friends. When they all went out for a weekend’s shooting, if anyone was going to get a guinea fowl it would be him.

His eye was still in.

Amongst his circle these days, he was something of a legend. Over a cold Castle or Windhoek beer after a shoot, his friends would pull his leg about his ‘mysterious’ past. But he would never let on, never say what he used to do.

But, now into his forties, he was fretting about his accuracy – whether he could stay rock steady during those vital seconds when the target came into view, exactly as was required.

It was one thing downing a bird, quite another a person.

He hadn’t done anything like this for nearly a quarter of a century.

That seemed a lifetime ago. And then of course, at the very pinnacle of his military career, he hadn’t needed to squeeze the trigger. Mercifully his had been a quite different duty on the momentous day when Madiba took the first steps of his long walk to freedom.

Then the Sniper had been holed up from dawn in the Cape winelands overlooking the secure Victor Verster compound in which Madiba had been incarcerated for the last few of his twenty- seven years in prison.

The Sniper, tall, muscled, especially around his shoulders and arms, had been a young man in the South African Army, renowned as one of its most proficient, when his commandant had suddenly summoned him one day in early February 1990 on direct instructions from the office of President de Klerk.

The mission was a special one, not the usual offensive attack, but one of defensive protection for the old gentleman who held the future of the nation in his hands. The newly revered one, transformed from the terrorist ogre his parents had always spoken darkly about. ‘If they ever let him out, his people will push all us whites into the sea,’ he remembered his dad repeating in his thick Afrikaans accent.

But that was then. On this special day, nothing must go wrong, could go wrong. The walk to freedom had to occur. His orders were very specific and very humbling: spot any potential assassin or assassins and shoot them, or otherwise the nation, which had been so perilously poised on the brink of civil war and financial meltdown, might be dragged back to the cliff edge – then to tumble over into murder and mayhem.

The Sniper had found a good spot amidst all the fynbos and aloe in a large clump of boulders. From there he had both a clear view of Madiba’s prison compound, the gates through which he would walk and, more importantly, any vantage points from which a shot could be fired at the great man.

From early light when he had scrambled into position – having scouted the spot late the previous evening, returned to base, eaten and grabbed some sleep – he had his binoculars trained on the surrounding landscape.

In the hills by the roadside he looked continuously for anywhere an assassin could be. There were certainly enough of them out there. Extremists, neo- Nazis, white fundamentalists, nutty ideologues: all sorts amongst whom there could be danger on the big day.

The Sniper knew exactly where to look – because he knew exactly the sort of place someone trained like him would choose, camouflaged in the stony scrub, dried out by the searing heat of the summer now just at its peak.

But the problem was the nutter might not have been trained like him. Might not be a professional. Might be a wild card, an opportunist, in some ways much more difficult to anticipate. Perhaps even a martyr, not too bothered about escaping, just doing the horrendous deed, come what may.

That was the real nightmare.

Which was why he had an African spotter, down below, much closer to the prison gate, binoculars searching intently, scrutinising everyone, everywhere, without revealing his true purpose, a permanent smile diverting attention from laser eyes and the concealed microphone under his shirt front through which he could mutter to the Sniper above.

The Sniper scoured the terrain, watching, waiting. First a few arrived, then more, then a swelling crowd, boisterous, starting to toi toi, to sing, expectantly, ecstatically.

It was joyously chaotic. And that was the problem. It was almost anarchic. TV outside- broadcast vans had rolled up by the dozen for live coverage. Reporters were talking to camera or interviewing anybody remotely authoritative, or even mildly interesting, just to fill programme space. More and more people were arriving. Cars and vans were parked up anywhere, everywhere they could find space.

And then the allotted time came and went. Through his earpiece the dreaded news that there was a delay – a long one. Madiba was ready, but his wife Winnie had self- indulgently been delayed at the hairdresser’s. Keeping her man, keeping the nation, keeping the whole world waiting for hours.

Typical, the Sniper thought. The woman was trouble, had been a real menace with her incitement of the young comrades into ‘necklacing’ and thuggery.

The Sniper knew nothing of the decades- long ordeal she had been through: the banning, beating, banishing by the old Special Branch. He had no comprehension of how she had had to bring up their two girls from toddlers to women amidst all the brutal attempts at humiliation. No understanding of the burden she carried as the wife of the globally heroic freedom fighter. He had no sympathy for her. She was just spoiling things for the man he was charged with protecting – protecting at all costs.

He sipped at his water bottle, the liquid now as hot as the sweat running all over him, as he lay prone among the rocks, seeing everything.

Then a cavalcade swept down towards and through the gate. ‘She’s arrived – about bloody time,’ a guttural clipped message came through his earpiece. ‘Copy that,’ he acknowledged.

Stretching a little to ease the aches not even his ultra-fitness could stem, he focused hard, scanning constantly.

The chanting was reaching a crescendo. This was impossible: how could he possibly do his job in the swirl of figures down below?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his spotter croaked excitedly in the earpiece, ‘I can see Madiba now, boss. He’s walking to freedom, boss. But I can’t see through my binocs any more, boss. They’ve misted up. Sorry, boss, can’t stop crying, boss. Never, ever thought I would see this day.’

The Sniper recalled that amazing moment. His mission then was to target the assassin. Now it was to be the assassin. How ironic.

Yet, just as his duty then was to protect Madiba, now he passionately believed he was protecting the legacy of Madiba.


The first text stated shortly, the second imminent. Minutes later his phone flashed and buzzed again.

Although he knew it was coming, the meeting had been too important to drag himself away, the information to which he had been confidentially exposed too alarming, the task that followed too serious.

Now he had just eight minutes as he jumped up, said his goodbyes and hastily headed for the exit across the bare wooden floorboards, passing the real- ale handles on the bar top to the Clarence pub, to begin hurtling down Whitehall, not sure he would make it.

He had to get there on time. It was crucial. If he failed there would be all manner of repercussions. And he didn’t want that. Although noted for his independence of spirit, he prided himself for being conscientious, and didn’t take liberties with his obligations to vote when required.

Bob Richards kept himself reasonably fit in his late fifties. A regular gym goer, he didn’t do fitness heroics but ate carefully and was in much better shape than most of his colleagues, male or female. He had observed them – almost all of them – fill flabbily out, not just from age but from fast food and caffeine grabbed between incessant meetings or media interviews or events. And from stress: stress and pressure, all the time on a treadmill of commitments.

But he wasn’t used to running a distance and was soon out of puff. He kept glancing at his watch, worrying. The minutes ticked by, beads of sweat surfacing on his brow in the cool evening as he darted between startled pedestrians on their way home from surrounding government offices.

Past Gwydyr House – the Wales Office, and around two hundred years before, the venue for dispensing compensation to slave owners after the abolition of slavery. That always tickled him. Compensation for the owners? What about the slaves?

And all the time his mind was pulsating at the haunting briefing he’d
been given – and the responsibility he must discharge to honour the values, the traditions for which he had once campaigned.

Even if he could keep up this pace, he wasn’t sure he would make the deadline. He was slowing visibly as he lurched past the grey, gaunt Ministry of Defence building, with its tunnel under Whitehall. Four minutes to go.

He ducked left into 1 Parliament Street to avoid traffic- light delays across the road to the Palace of Westminster, and dodged left past the security officers, who immediately recognised a familiar face, pressing a button and waving him through the normal visitor barrier.

Now he could hear the rasping bell ringing, summoning him insistently. Down the stairs. Around the corner. Doors opening automatically. Across the courtyard. Panting up more stairs. Pushing through another set of doors.

Past the Despatch Box coffee shop and across the Portcullis House atrium. Nobody paying a blind bit of interest – sprinting adults, mostly well out of shape, normal for these voting moments. Sweating like mad, down the escalator. Spotting a few others desperately running as well.

Quickly. Don’t even think you are knackered. Just keep going.

Through a corridor joining the modern building and the old palace. Left under an arch into the open courtyard where the smokers congregated. Then right, pressing open the door, his pass not needed because a vote was on, clambering up winding stairs, pushing past gossiping colleagues coming the other way, having completed their duty.

Muttering to himself: ‘Out of my bloody way!’

On his left, the Leader of the Opposition’s office. On his right, first the Foreign Secretary’s, then the Prime Minister’s office.

Seconds to go, back of the Speaker’s Chair just ahead, figures pouring out of the Noes Lobby to his left. On the right a doorkeeper poised, ready for the summons.

‘Lock the doors!’ The doorkeeper, catching sight of him but determined nevertheless to carry out her duty on time, began to wrench the doors closed.

He burst through the narrowing opening, catching his shoe and tumbling to the carpet of the Ayes Lobby.

He had made it. Only just. Utter relief. His vote might be vital, for his party whips weren’t sure how many defectors might be in the other lobby.

But what a way to run a bloody country.


Want to read more…

Amazon

Waterstones


About the Author

Peter Hain is a politician who as a teenager, newly moved to the UK from South Africa, was a leading activist in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. A documentary about the central role he played in the Stop the Tour campaign 1970 was released by BT Sport in December last year. He then went into politics becoming a cabinet minister for Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Since standing down as an MP in 2015, he has sat in the House of Lords and still lives in his former constituency of Neath in Wales. He has written numerous works of non-fiction but this is his first thriller


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Bloody Scotland: 2020 McIlvanney Prize Finalist Blog Tour Q&A with Ambrose Parry #blogtour @BloodyScotland @Brownlee_Donald @ambroseparry

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland blog tour with a Q&A with Ambrose Parry, author of one of the four books shortlisted for this year’s McIlvanney Prize.

Those who follow this blog will know that Bloody Scotland is one of my favourite bookish events of the year and even though it can’t go ahead in its usual format this year I’m very excited that they’ve organised a whole raft of online events that are available for free (details of all events and tickets can be found here). I’ve volunteered at the event for the last two years so I’m really going to miss the Friday night torchlight procession through the streets of Stirling, getting to see some of my favourite authors and the wonderful atmosphere but I guess going virtual means I’ll finally make it to Crime at the Coo (tickets usually sell out in minutes).

One of the first events as always is the award of the McIlvanney Prize to the Scottish Crime Book of the year. This year’s finalists are Whirligig by Andrew James Greig, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone, Pine by Francine Toon and The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman.

I’m a pretty big fan of Ambrose Parry and the Raven, Fisher and Simpson series so I was thrilled to be asked to do a Q&A with them as part of the McIlvanney Finalist blog tour. Before I get to the questions however I should probably tell you a little about the book.


About the Book

The Art of Dying (Raven, Fisher, and Simpson, #2)

Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson’s protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.


Q&A

The Art of Dying has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize at this year’s Bloody Scotland. Can you tell us a little about it and the inspiration behind it?

The inspiration for the series was the scientific discoveries of the mid nineteenth century, focusing on the life of James Young Simpson and the discovery of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform in Edinburgh. The Art of Dying takes place in 1849, two years after the discovery of chloroform and is based on a real historical character, Jane Toppan, a serial poisoner who killed huge numbers of people without arousing suspicion. This was mainly because she was a woman and women were considered to be too meek and intellectually defective to be killers; less often suspected and therefore escaped detection.

This is the second book in the series and the second you’ve written together. Did you find that your writing process changed this time around? Was it easier or did it present different challenges? 

It would be fair to say that we are getting better at it but there are still moments when we disagree. We generally defer to each other with respect to our areas of particular expertise. Marisa rarely argues with Chris regarding matters of plot and Chris rarely argues about medical history.

There are some wonderful characters in the series with a number of them based on real (and somewhat well-known) people. How do you balance the fictional with the real and do you feel a pressure to get those based on real people “right”? 

The interplay between the real and the fictional is challenging. Historical fact is important, but this is also a work of fiction where the story has to be exciting, gripping, something that you want to read. History without the boring bits. Our fictional characters are often people mentioned in the biographies written about Simpson but little else is known about them. For example, one of our main protagonists, Will Raven, initially works as an apprentice to Dr Simpson, which was a role that existed at the time. Where details are in short supply, we fill the gap.

We do however feel a huge responsibility to accurately reflect the real historical characters and events that are depicted in the books. What is really fascinating is that some of the most outlandish scenes in the books are the ones that are true.

I absolutely love the detail of Edinburgh at that time and find the medicine both fascinating and terrifying. You must have done a lot of research. How do you decide what events and details to include? Is there anything you wish you’d included but didn’t? Any particularly strange or surprising discoveries? 

When we first start discussing a book, we look at what was actually happening at a certain time and decide to build a story around that. In the Art of Dying, our starting point was an accusation of negligence levelled at Dr Simpson by his colleagues (true, although the accusation was unfounded). Our protagonists attempt to clear his name and, in the process, uncover a number of suspicious deaths that lack a satisfactory explanation.

We usually manage to fold in a number of true stories and events along the way but unfortunately, they don’t always fit in. Hans Christian Andersen once attended a dinner party at Simpson’s house where inhaling ether was part of the after-dinner entertainment. Andersen was appalled, he thought it “distasteful, especially to see ladies in this dreamy intoxication, they laughed with lifeless eyes…it was a wonderful and blessed invention to use in painful operations but not to play with.” This occurred before the events in the first book so we couldn’t use it. Because Simpson was so renowned, he crossed paths with many interesting people which makes him such a great subject to write about.  

What was surprising was that the two most important scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century (anaesthesia and anti-sepsis) had close links to Edinburgh. Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform in his dining room at Queen Street, and Joseph Lister began his anti-septic experiments while working for Simpson’s nemesis James Syme (Lister went on to become Syme’s son-in-law).

When you started writing The Way of All Flesh, did you know it would be the first in a series? If so did you have a definite idea of how long it would run and the direction it would go or do you take it a book at a time? 

Chris always thought that The Way of All Flesh would be part of a series. There are just so many stories to tell, so much material to work with. Simpson lived until 1870 and we are currently writing about the early 1850’s so we have a way to go.

I believe the next book in the series, A Corruption of Blood, is due to be published next year, can you give us any hints about the story and what’s next for Will and Sarah?

Will and Sarah are both trying to sort their lives out (professional and personal). Sarah is beginning to doubt that she’s got what it takes to pursue a career in medicine and Will is trying to forward his career by making profitable allegiances. The decisions they take are forcing them apart, but they have to work together while investigating the disappearance of a child and the death of one of Edinburgh’s most prominent citizens.  

COVID-19 is having an impact on all of our lives right now. Are you finding it’s affecting your writing? 

In many ways writing is what got us through lockdown, and we are grateful for that. Having something to get on with has been enormously valuable. But trying to be creative in the midst of a global pandemic has been challenging and we also miss the other aspects of the job – book shop events and festivals. The fun stuff.

Bloody Scotland like many book festivals has moved online this year. Are there any events that you’re particularly looking forward to? 

All of them. It’s going to be so much easier to see them all this year, particularly Crime at the Coo which is usually sold out in about 5 minutes. Chris is usually participating, Marisa never gets in. Also looking forward to the never-ending panel on Sunday 20th September at 11am – rolling discussion with huge number of participants. What could go wrong?

It’s a tough market for debut authors at the moment. Do you have any advice for those starting out? 

Just do it. And when you’re happy with your manuscript take advantage of events like Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland where you get access to agents and commissioning editors in the flesh.

Finally, can you tell me what you’re reading right now or is there something you’ve read recently you’d recommend? 

Reading has been curtailed of late as we have been finishing the new Ambrose Parry novel but there have been some fabulous books read in the earlier part of the year: Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone and Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller. All fantastic and highly recommended.


About the Author

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which their first collaboration, The Way of All Flesh, was based.


The tour continues…

Audio Extract: The Lizard by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart Blog Tour #TheLizardBook @MuswellPress @DBrucelockhart

Today I’m thrilled to be the host for the the penultimate stop on the blog tour for Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s debut novel The Lizard. I’m even more excited because in a first for my little blog I have an extract of the audiobook for you all to listen to.

But before we get to the audio I should probably tell you a little about the book and author.


ABOUT THE BOOK

The LizardSt Andrews University undergraduate, Alistair Haston, heartbroken by his breakup with his girlfriend Ellie, heads off to where she summers in the hope of ‘accidentally’ running into her.

On a ferry from Athens he meets Ricky, a magnetic Australian, who promises him a cushy job on the Greek island on Paros. Ricky introduces him to Heinrich, a charismatic German artist living in an exquisite mansion, who uses his talent and considerable wealth to lure susceptible tourists to his home.

Soon swept away in a cocktail of hedonistic pursuits, Haston sheds his conservative skin and is immersed in a sun-drenched world of sex, fine food and drugs.

When the body of a missing tourist is found, however, the finger of blame points at Haston and he is forced on a desperate life or death run.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dugald Bruce-Lockhart was born in Fiji and went to school at Sedbergh in Cumbria while his parents worked abroad. After St Andrews University he trained as an actor at RADA. He has worked extensively on stage and on TV and received many accolades including a Best Actor nomination from The Stage.

He recently directed a new production of The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson by Jonathan Maitland. He appeared as Michael Gove in the original production at the Park Theatre, London. He lives in South East London.


AUDIOBOOK EXTRACT


WANT TO HEAR THE REST?

The Lizard is released tomorrow (7th May) with the audiobook available for preorder from Audible and Google Play

Bloody Scotland Blog Tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre @BloodyScotland

Today I’m very excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Bloody Scotland. Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Festival held in Stirling each September and is one my favourite bookish events of the year. For my stop on the tour I’m featuring one of the books longlisted for the 2019 McIlvanney Prize, Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre. It’s a wonderfully dark and gripping read all about family secrets, press intrusion and conspiracy theories, but don’t take my word for it. Read on for more details of the book and an extract that’s guaranteed to make you want to read more.


FALLEN ANGELFallen Angel

To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.

Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…

And suspicion is a dangerous thing.

 


EXTRACT

With the aircraft at cruising altitude and a large gin on the tray in front of her, Ivy plugs in her headphones and launches the video. The drink is an indulgence so early in the day, but she’s going to need it. She downloaded the file last night and toyed with watching it then, before changing her mind and deciding it was safer to wait for the flight. The fear was that she might get so emotional that she’d change her mind about coming. This way, she’s already committed.

She is flying out of Edinburgh, as she had something she had to take care of locally before she could head off to Portugal. She will be flying back directly to London, though. The only question is how soon.

She feels a tingle in her gut, an anxiety over what she’s about to go through. She is making herself watch it, despite the pain she knows she will feel, because this is the way the world will remember him.

The clip dates from 2002. It is a segment of a now discontinued teatime chat show on Channel Four, featuring guests from all fields – politics, sport, showbiz, science – engaged in breezy discussions with a cheery presenter. The kind of thing you could tune in and out of while you chopped veg for the dinner. It was the perfect fit for the pop-psychology book Dad was plugging.

The presenter is Abby Cook. She is bubbly and attractive in a non-threatening way, someone who cut her teeth presenting zoo-TV shows for older kids. By 2002 she had moved a few hours later in the schedule, after boosting her profile with a half-naked cover shoot for FHM. She has subsequently shifted hours again, these days earning a shitload on ITV’s flagship mid-morning show, but whether late vintage or early noughties Abby, the secret of her success is the same. She has a folksy girl-next-door charm, the type of presenter whose manner comforts the target audience by giving the impression she doesn’t understand the big words either.

That was very much why it happened. Abby was out of her depth.

‘And next on the couch, someone I’m super excited to be talking to. I’m sure you all recognise none other than Jason Cale, best known these days for presenting Paradigm Shift on the BBC. But, of course, the reason I’m excited is that many of us remember Jason as Danthos, from the classic British science fiction series The Liberators.’

Ivy’s laptop screen is briefly filled by a grainy clip showing a younger Jason, stripped to the waist as he fires a laser blaster against what is supposed to be an alien landscape but was probably a quarry in Wales. It cuts back to show him on the couch for a reaction shot, a perfectly pitched combination of bashful pride and ‘surprised’ cringing.

‘Now I’m sorry to spring that on you, Jason, but the reason we showed it is of course that you are accompanied this evening by Max Temple, and Max’s wife – a little bit of trivia for you all – is Celia Wilde, who played the very sexy Kurlia alongside Jason in that show.’
There is mercifully not a clip, but merely a still showing Mum in her iconic costume, before the director displays even greater humanity in not cutting back to Dad’s face right then. Instead the camera is back on Abby.

‘Max is an esteemed psychology professor from the University of St Andrews, and he and Jason are here tonight because they have teamed up to write a book. It’s called Behind the Mask: How To Tell What People Are Really Thinking, and I’m fascinated to hear how this collaboration came about. Jason, can you tell us . . .’

Jason does most of the talking, which is for the best. He knows how to keep it light and accessible, sometimes talking over Dad when he threatens to get too technical. Dad looks like he’s merely tolerating the ordeal, waiting for it to end. He’s not actually awkward in front of the cameras, but even if you didn’t know him you’d deduce he is unused to this atmosphere of enforced joviality. Even now Ivy feels a tension every time Abby asks a question: despite knowing it never happened, she is still on edge in case Dad gets all brusque with her for being so anodyne.

However, that was very much Jason’s intention in making him part of this double act. Coming across as kind of aloof actually worked for Dad in this context, emphasising his academic gravitas in contrast to his co-author’s chatty, populist style.

Abby wraps up the discussion of Behind the Mask and they shuffle along the settee to make room for the next guest. She introduces him as Toby Cutler-Wood and informs the viewers that he is a former police detective. He is a slim, white-haired man in a three-piece suit whom Ivy suspects is affecting to look like an academic. As an ex-cop, he should have read the evidence in front of him and deduced that the presence of a genuine academic meant it was a bad night for pretending to be something that you’re not.

‘Since retiring from the police six years ago, Toby has turned his detective skills to uncovering a different kind of fraud, on a quite startling scale. Honestly, this will really blow your minds. Toby is here to tell us about The Apollo Conspiracy, his bestselling book claiming that the moon landings never happened but were actually faked by NASA.’

Toby doesn’t have Jason’s facility for banter and small talk, ploughing headlong into his pitch. The screen is briefly filled with a photograph of the surface of the moon, a lunar lander in the right of the foreground, an American flag erected to the left. Another image takes its place, of two astronauts in front of the same lander. In both images, beyond the horizon all is black, and that is what he is focused on.

‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ he asks Abby, though he doesn’t wait for an answer.
‘There are no stars! There should be thousands of stars visible. The very reason the Hubble telescope was put into orbit is that the view of the cosmos is so much clearer beyond the atmosphere, and yet in this image, supposedly taken from the surface of the moon, there is not a single, solitary star.’

He talks excitedly about how the solar wind trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field has created a series of high-radiation zones, known as the Van Allen Belts, beginning four hundred miles above the planet and extending for as much as forty thousand miles. Not only would this radiation damage the scientific instruments that would have been crucial to a moon mission, he informs Abby, but it would prove lethal to the personnel. Then he moves on to the temperature of the lunar surface, how it reaches one hundred and twenty degrees and thus would have killed the astronauts if they were exposed to it.

Ivy can’t help but smile as the camera picks up the first indicators that Dad is getting exasperated. He is squirming in his seat and rolling his eyes. As this escalates into audible tuts and sighing, Jason begins to look uncomfortable, clearly concerned that his sidekick is about to blow their media profile by demonstrating that he can’t play the game.

Abby seems genuinely gobsmacked as Toby piles on the evidence and the shocking implications begin to sink in.

Ivy recognises the response, stuff her dad would later write about: how intoxicated Abby is by hearing seemingly compelling evidence that alters something she had previously regarded as unquestionable.

‘And speaking of the surface, do you notice the dust, and the footprints in the dust? The Apollo landing module had a rocket to slow its descent, delivering ten thousand pounds of thrust, which should not only have left a scorched crater, but blown all of the dust away too. NASA faked up what they thought we imagined the surface of the moon to look like, but forgot about the impact their own vehicle would have had. They were sloppy, but the insulting thing is that they clearly think we’re all stupid.’

The focus is still on Toby, but Dad’s voice cuts across from off-camera, in a tone so familiar that sitting on a plane sixteen years later, Ivy can’t help but let out a chuckle.
‘I’m sorry, but this is just the most preposterous garbage.’

Ivy pauses the video to hand her empty gin miniature to the flight attendant. As she does so, the man in the seat next to her indicates the screen.

‘I remember that interview,’ he says warmly. ‘Guy was a legend. Shame he’s gone.’
Ivy flashes him a micro smile, a gesture of basic courtesy the brevity of which ought to convey that she doesn’t wish to discuss it further. It gives her a glimpse of how much more unbearable things would be right now if anyone knew who she was. But then, that is precisely why she went to such great lengths to alter her identity.

If anyone were to discover she is Max Temple’s daughter, they might find it incredible that she’s never seen this legendary clip all the way through. It would be like a rock star’s offspring never having heard his greatest hit.

It’s different when it’s family though. You’re not defined in each other’s eyes by the things that shape your public perception.

The evening it aired, she didn’t hear a word of it because Niamh was screaming for a solid hour, by the end of which she was crying too. There was never a good time to watch it back then: never any time. And in the years since, there have been too many conflicting emotions, too many reminders of how things were.

It’s different now that he’s gone. There are still the same conflicting emotions, but what changes it for Ivy is that nothing can change now. Max Temple can’t become anything more, anyone new. He can only be what people remember, so she can choose whichever version of him serves her best.

Back on the screen, Abby’s instincts prompt her to assert control and calmly defuse the situation. Unfortunately, these instincts were honed by years on kids’ telly and work better on pop singers and Hollyoaks actors than on academics accustomed to a certain degree of deference.

‘Now, Max,’ she says, like she’s humorously telling him off. ‘You’ve had your time, so let’s all be polite.’

‘A lot of people get defensive when you show them this stuff,’ Toby says, eyeing Dad. ‘Because it shakes their world view.’
Abby nods.

‘It may seem shocking,’ she agrees, ‘but you can’t argue with the evidence.’

An extract taken from: Fallen (Little Brown) by Chris Brookmyre

Longlisted forThe McIlvanney Prize 2019. Winner to be announced at the Bloody Scotland opening night reception on Friday 20 September. For festival tickets and information www.bloodyscotland.com

‘Addictive in the best possible way – I couldn’t stop reading but didn’t want it to end. This is a holiday read like no other, a dark novel set in the sunniest of settings, the shadow of this beautifully crafted story will stay with me for a long time’ – Lisa Ballantyne

‘Gloriously dark, deliciously twisty’ – Clare Mackintosh

‘Stunning. A dark, brilliantly written suspense chiller. Superb. One of the best writers in the business on top form’ – Steve Cavanagh


THE TOUR CONTINUES

The Bloody Scotland Blog Tour runs until the 20th September so there’s still lots of time to check out the other Q&A’s, extracts and reviews.

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The Partisan Heart: Q&A with author Gordon Kerr #blogtour @MuswellPress

Today I’m thrilled to joined by Gordon Kerr for a Q&A as part of the blog tour for his debut crime fiction novel The Partisan Heart. You can find details of this wonderful read further down but I think we’ll dive straight in and let Gordon describe it in his own words.


Q&A

For those who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?Gordon Kerr pic 2

I was born in the Scottish new town of East Kilbride but my family was originally from the Airdrie area, the men mostly generations of coal miners or steelworkers. I was the first in the family to go to university and I did teacher training after uni, but instead of occupying a comfortable seat in a staffroom, I took off to go round the world, making it only as far as the south of France where I spent the next four years, picking grapes, working on farms and selling leather bracelets in markets.

When reality beckoned, I returned to Britain, got a job in Harrods wine cellar and began fifteen years in the wine trade. I mostly did the marketing for Oddbins, travelling the world’s vineyards and distilleries for seven years with Gonzo artist, Ralph Steadman, producing images to be used in catalogues and advertising. I next moved into the world of books, marketing for bookseller Waterstone’s and Bloomsbury, the Harry Potter publisher.

I’ve been a full-time writer for fifteen years, publishing a good many history, biography and art books, but The Partisan Heart is my first venture into fiction. I live in Dorset and Southwest France.

Your new book is called The Partisan Heart, can you tell us a little about the story and the inspiration behind it?

My sister-in-law married an Italian from the Valtellina area of North Italy and we have been visiting there for decades. When we first went, there were still many of my brother-in-law’s family members alive who had fought in the war and stories would emerge of incidents that took place in that dark time. They seeped into my consciousness and a story began to form, taking place in two time frames but coalescing at the end. It features a young partisan in the last years of the war who falls in love with the wife of his commander and becomes enmeshed in intrigue and betrayal. The second part takes place in 1999 when a widower, Michael Keats, tries to find the identity of a man with whom his wife was having an affair before her shocking death in a hit and run accident.

You’re a highly regarded non-fiction author, but I believe this is your first work of fiction, why did you decide now to make the move from fact to fiction?

It began, really, as a bit of light relief in the evening after writing about China or the First World War all day but I was soon absolutely gripped by it and the story arrived almost fully-formed in my head. It would have been foolish not to write it, exhausting though it often was. But, writing is what I do, what I’ve always done and I was having a great time.

How did you find the experience of writing crime fiction? Were there any particular challenges? Did your writing process change?

The responsibility of making a complicated story with twists and turns work cohesively and ensuring that two separate and equally complex timelines make sense was both challenging and rewarding. I would lie awake in bed going through it all in my mind and inventing new situations that I had to scribble down so that I remembered them in the morning. Writing crime fiction, for me at any rate, is thrilling and compelling. It’s almost as if you’re playing a game with yourself, trying to outsmart your own mind. I’m not sure if that makes complete sense to anyone but me!

I have to confess I don’t know much about the Italian civil war, what is it about this time period that makes it the perfect setting for a crime novel?

It was a brutal time in Italian history, with family fighting against family and brother against brother. I tried to keep it very simple because although I am very conscious of writing historical crime fiction, as I was writing the book I kept reminding myself that I was writing fiction, not history – that’s my day-job, after all. The story was the main thing and the complex relationships between people.

In researching this book did you make any surprising discoveries or is there something you think not many people will know?

I learned a lot researching the book. I never knew, for instance, that Mussolini wanted to make his last stand in the Valtellina, but the Germans denied him the opportunity. As it was, he was eventually captured just fifteen miles from my sister-in-law’s house. We would drive past the spot on the way to Lake Como. It brought the history of that time very close. I also learned that, although I don’t feature any in The Partisan Heart, there were many women fighting as partisans.

If someone wanted to read more about the period are there any books, fiction or non-fiction you’d recommend?

A good general history of the Italian Resistance would be worth reading, such as Claudio Pavone’s A Civil War: A History of the Italian Resistance. Tom Behan’s The Italian Resistance: Fascists, Guerrillas and the Allies provides a good grounding in what went on back then. Ada Gobetti recorded the daily events of a woman partisan’s life in A Partisan Diary.

What are you working on next? Can we expect more crime fiction or something completely different?

Right now I’m writing a Short History of the Korean War that will see the light of day next year. When I finish that in the autumn, I will be writing a follow-up to The Partisan Heart, or, at least a thriller featuring the main character of the book. I’m concocting stories in my head in bed again!

Finally, what are you reading now?

I just finished Will Dean’s Red Snow, the follow-up to his wonderful Dark Pines. I didn’t think it was quite as good, but it was still hugely enjoyable and I’m happy to recommend his books to anyone who hasn’t read them. I’ve now moved on to All the Old Knives, by the American writer, Olen Steinhauer. It’s a tense spy thriller, written by a master of the art.


ABOUT THE BOOKThe Partisan Heart

The Italian Alps,1944. The Resistance is fighting a bitter battle against German forces on the treacherous mountains of the Valtellina. Eighteen-year-old Sandro Bellini falls in love with the wife of his Commander. No good can come of it.

London,1999. Michael Keats is mourning the death of his wife, killed in a hit and run accident in Northern Italy. His discovery that she had been having an affair devastates him and he sets out to find the identity of her lover.

That journey leads him to the villages of the Valtellina, where he becomes embroiled in a crime of treachery and revenge. The brutal repercussions of the war are still reverberating, and as Michael uncovers the truth of his wife’s affair, he reveals five decades of duplicity and deception.

The book is available now at Amazon UKAmazon US, Waterstones and I’m sure many more bookstores.


THE TOUR CONTINUES

The blog tour is nearing it’s end but there’s still plenty of time to visit the other stops to learn more about the book, the author and the fascinating history of Valtellina.

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Review: Close to the Edge by Toby Faber #blogtour @MuswellPress @Toby_Faber #ClosetotheEdge

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Close to the Edge, an exciting new thriller by Toby Faber set in and around the London Underground. Before I say anything else I want to say a big thank you to Muswell Press and Brownlee Donald Associates for inviting me on to the tour and sending me a copy of the book.


THE BOOKClose to the Edge

Morning rush hour on the London tube. Laurie Bateman is on her way to work when she witnesses a terrible accident. Only later does she realise that what she has seen is potentially much more sinister.

Compelled to investigate, Laurie breaks into the Underground at night to look for clues. The ambush comes out of nowhere, forcing Laurie to flee for her life through pitch black tunnels and deserted stations.

The hunter has become the hunted.

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MY REVIEW

The London Underground is truly the star of this new thriller by Toby Faber as it makes the perfect setting for an original and engaging story. I was hooked from the first page until the very last.

The story follows Laurie, who on the way to work one morning witnesses a man falling in front of a train. When the police decide to write it off as a suicide despite Laurie’s statement she starts to reexamine what she saw and begins an investigation of her own into who he was and just what happened on that platform. When she makes some unexpected discoveries odd things start to occur in her own life and it seems that someone may not want her to uncover the truth.

I have to admit this story did not go in the direction I was expecting. There are elements to it that are predictable and which I guessed but there were a lot more that I really didn’t see coming and as someone who reads a lot of thrillers I loved that. I’m not often a fan of the amateur detective story, I can never understand why they don’t just go to the police, but in this case it works incredibly well and I enjoyed following Laurie’s methodical research and investigation.

Laurie makes for a great main character and I really liked how she developed and grew over the course of the story. In the beginning she seems very flat, going through the motions at work, no real friends other than her flatmate/cousin and no romantic prospects. Seeing someone killed by a train is obviously horrifying and extremely traumatic but it seems to shock her out of the daze she’s been living in. As she begins to investigate her interest and passion spreads to more than just getting to the truth and it is wonderful to see her start to live her life and take pleasure in things.

I also have to say how much I loved Laurie’s dad as a character and the relationship between them was portrayed incredibly well. It’s rare to see father/daughter relationships in books so it made for a welcome addition to the story.

The real highlight of this story for me however was the setting. Faber has a real gift for description and the story is full of those little details that bring places and situations to life. I’m not sure whether he’s drawing from his own experiences (he has had a rather varied career) or extensive research but it all felt very authentic and believable. It does feel like you’re very much in each moment experiencing everything Laurie does, whether that’s running through underground tunnels in the dead of night, exploring abandoned stations or even just doing every day things like enjoying a family lunch, fighting with spreadsheets at work or galloping across a field on a horse (ok those last two are probably just me).

As there is a lot of detail and character development I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a fast paced read but there is still plenty of action and quite a few scenes that had me absolutely gripped. There were also a couple of scenes that I found very uncomfortable to read, some of that is down to my own issues but there is one scene in particular I think most will find disturbing.

Overall this is a really enjoyable read and it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into getting all of the details just right. It’s unexpected and has just enough twists to keep you guessing till the very last page.


ABOUT THE AUTHORRelated image

Toby Faber was a banker and management consultant before joining the family firm in 1996. He was MD of Faber for four years and remains on the board; he is also chairman of Faber Music. He has written two highly praised works of non-fiction, Stradivarius and Fabergé’s Eggs, this is his first novel. He lives in London with his family.


THE TOUR

The blog tour is on until the 19th so make sure you check out all of the stopsthumbnail_Blog Tour_FB_v04.jpg

Meet The Author: Ruth Ware #BloodyScotland #BlogTour #MeetTheAuthor @BloodyScotland @RuthWareWriter

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland Meet the Author Blog Tour. Bloody Scotland takes place on the 21st-23rd September (next weekend) in Stirling and promises to be a lot of fun. For my stop on the tour I’m delighted to feature the wonderful Ruth Ware who is appearing at the festival on Saturday the 22nd September with Mel McGrath and Caroline Mitchell (tickets available here).

You can find more details on Ruth’s latest book The Death of Mrs Westaway, together with information on Bloody Scotland and the other stops on the tour further down but I’ll stop my rambling and let Ruth do the talking.


Meet The Author: Ruth Ware

Ruth WareI’m pretty sure most people will have heard of you but for those who haven’t can you tell them a bit about yourself?

Ha, it would be nice to think so but I refer you to Ian Rankin’s anecdote about getting barred from his own event! Well, I am the author of four psychological crime thrillers, In a Dark, Dark Wood (death on a hen night), The Woman in Cabin 10 (death on a cruise), The Lying Game (death at boarding school) and The Death of Mrs Westaway (which despite being the only one with death actually in the title, is about a woman conning a family of strangers out of their inheritance). Their style can probably be conveyed most economically by telling you that the two authors I’m most frequently compared to in reviews are Gillian Flynn, and Agatha Christie. If you can imagine a point somewhere between those two styles, that’s me!

Your latest book, The Death of Mrs Westaway is getting great reviews (and deservedly so). Can you tell us a little about it and where you got the inspiration for it?

Thank you so much! That’s nice to hear. As usual, the points of inspiration are too many and various to sum up, it would take a novel to list them all, but the core is probably my main character Hal, who is a cynical tarot reader (she does not believe in the power of the cards, but uses her cold reading skills to tell her clients what she thinks they want to hear). Hal is in dire financial straits when, out of the blue, she receives a letter telling her that she’s inherited a substantial bequest. Although Hal knows the letter has been sent to the wrong person, she sets out to claim the money.

I think Hal came about from the fact that I had written three novels essentially about ordinary women in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are caught up in extraordinary events, but they are basically just ordinary, well meaning people. With my fourth book I knew I wanted to do something very different, so I set about creating a character who has her own agenda, someone who sets out to commit a crime, and in doing so sets the whole mechanism of the plot in motion. That was Hal.

You’re appearing at Bloody Scotland with Caroline Mitchell and Mel McGrath can you tell us a little about your event? What should we expect?

Gosh, well, that’s a question, I honestly don’t know! We all know each other, so knowing Caroline and Mel, I am sure we’ll have a good laugh, but we haven’t prepared anything. The event title is about family (a theme all our novels share) so I’m sure there will be some discussion of how toxic those ties can be and why it’s such fertile ground for crime novelists, but knowing crime events, I imagine that will just be the starting point.

What do you look forward to most when attending a book festival?

Meeting readers and other authors. The crime community is astounding in its enthusiasm and generosity, and every festival reminds me of how lucky I am to be part of this brilliant landscape.

For those attending your event, are there any questions you always hope you’ll be asked or any you dread?

None that I dread really – I often get asked about progress on the film adaptations of my books (the first three have all been optioned for either film or TV) and the truth is that anything I know is either already out on the internet and well known, or else confidential so I can’t share it, which means I spend a lot of time shrugging and apologising for not being able to tell the audience anything! My favourites are always the questions I didn’t see coming.

You’ve had a lot of success with your writing but what has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably getting on the New York Times bestseller list. I still pinch myself when I think of that moment – it was the first time I think I really realised that this book was going to be read by a lot more people than my friends and family.

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

Have faith – and have a bit of confidence in your work. I spent a lot of time writing and not doing anything with the manuscripts, because I didn’t think they were good enough. I don’t regret that exactly, all those unpublished books were a good apprenticeship, and it meant that when I did finally pluck up the courage to sub to agents, I had confidence that I had written 100,000 word manuscripts many times, and could do so again, even if this one didn’t sell. But it would have been nice to have a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

What are you working on at the moment? What can we expect next from Ruth Ware?

Another book – obviously! Deep in writing book 5 at the moment, but it’s at the ugly duckling stage so I can’t talk too much about it.

Finally, what books are you currently reading or would you recommend?

Currently reading Red Snow by Will Dean. If you like Nordic Noir novels with dogged, complicated women at their heart, this will be just your cup of tea.


The Death of Mrs WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway

THE BLURB : From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

BUY IT HERE: Amazon UKWaterstonesAmazon USBook Depository


About Bloody Scotland

Bloody Scotland established itself as the leading Scottish International Crime Writing Festival in 2012 with acclaimed writers Lin Anderson and Alex Gray at the helm, then joined by Craig Robertson and Gordon Brown. Based in Stirling, Bloody Scotland has brought hundreds of crime writers new and established to the stage with always enthusiastic attendees who make the festival every bit as much as the writers do.

Priding ourselves as the literary festival where you can let down your hair and enjoy a drink at the bar with your favourite crime writer, we strive to put on entertaining as well as informative events during a weekend in September, covering a range of criminal subjects from fictional forensics, psychological thrillers, tartan noir, cosy crime and many more. With an international focus at the heart of Bloody Scotland, we are always looking to bring in crime writing talent from outside of Scotland whom you may not have heard about. You might, however, knows us for our annual Scotland vs England football cup which always draws a crowd and inevitably ends in tears for someone…

The Bloody Scotland Team 2018: Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, Jenny Brown, Muriel Binnie, Catriona Reynolds, Bob McDevitt, Laura Jones, Abir Mukherjee, Fiona Brownlee & Tim Donald


This will be my second year at Bloody Scotland and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re in the area (or can make it up to sunny* Stirling) and interested in attending any of the events, you can find details in The Brochure.

(*Sunshine not guaranteed but it’s mostly indoors anyway)


The Tour

The Bloody Scotland Meet the Authors blog tour continues until the 21st September. Details of all stops and authors below.

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#BloodyScotland Blog Tour – Q&A with Author Denise Mina (@BloodyScotland)

Today I’m thrilled to be doing a Q&A with Denise Mina, author of McIlvanney Prize winning book The Long Drop, as part of the Bloody Scotland blog tour.

For those of you who don’t know Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival and possibly my favorite event of the year. I only managed to make it to a couple of sessions at the festival this year but had an absolutely brilliant time. The discussions were fantastic and it was so surreal to see my favorite authors wandering around, chatting to people or having a drink in the bar.Bloody_Scotland_mock_03.indd

This year for the first time we also have a Bloody Scotland book. Published by Historic Environment Scotland, Bloody Scotland – the book, matches twelve of Scotland’s best crime writers with an iconic Scottish building. The result is a brilliant collection of short stories.

Denise Mina is one of the authors who contributed to the book with a very disturbing story set in Edinburgh Castle (honestly I may never go there again). She was also the winner of the big award of the festival, the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, for her latest book The Long Drop. I’ve included a full bio below but this is the latest of many awards and nominations in a hugely successful and varied career.

Needless to say I’m thrilled that she was willing to answer some questions on my little blog.  So without any more of my rambling, on with the Q&A.

(I should add that these questions were asked and answered prior to her winning the McIlvanney)


Q&A with Denise Mina

Denise Mina c.Simona Ciocarlan

Setting always seems to be an important part of your novels, how did you feel about being asked to write a short story inspired by one of Scotland’s iconic buildings for Bloody Scotland: The Book? Did you instantly know what you wanted to do?

I was delighted to be asked.

But I was believe it or not (!), not really on the ball in the admin department and had agreed to do it but forgot to choose a building. The castle was chosen for me because I got last dibs. I was given a fantastic private tour of it for the book, saw into all the creepy corners and historic cells. It was pretty amazing.

Your story, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, is set in Edinburgh Castle and is one of the most disturbing short stories I’ve read. Was there anything you found particularly challenging about setting a story in such a popular tourist attraction?

It’s interesting writing about somewhere as iconic as the castle because everyone there is in their own little narrative. It’s the highlight of a tour, not a stop off point. I was struck by the contrast between the bloody history of the place and the cheery atmosphere.

Bloody Scotland includes stories set in twelve different iconic buildings in Scotland. Is there another iconic building, featured in the book or not, that you’d love to use as the location for a story? Is there one you’ve considered in the past and decided not to use?

Glasgow Uni, Kelvingrove, Hill House, any one of the giant castles that are melting back into the land in the highlands. I could reel off a list of favourite buildings but I don’t know if I’d like to set a story in them, especially the ones I love.

Your novels are mostly set in and around Glasgow. What do you think it is about the city that makes it such a great location for a crime novel and what is it about Scotland in general that’s created so many brilliant crime/thriller writers?

It’s a story telling city. Everyone tells stories here and I think crime fiction is closer to oral story telling than literary narratives so it’s a perfect fit. It is also quite a chaotic city, violent and used to be very dark. A wonderful setting for noir!

Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize 2017 Winner 2Your most recent novel, The Long Drop, is a finalist for Bloody Scotland’s McIlvanney Prize [edit: it won!!!] can you tell us a bit about it and the inspiration behind it?

I read in a true crime novel that Manuel and the father of some of the victims went out for a drink together. It seemed so odd that I had to explore it.

This is the first novel you’ve published that’s based on real events and people. A lot of local people of a certain generation, my parents included, remember that time well. Did you feel a pressure to get the story “right”? Did this influence your writing process?

Honestly, only after it was published did I feel the pressure, so it didn’t affect me while I was writing it. I just got really lost in it. It is a contested story but not as much as I would have imagined. Most people are concerned about the ethics of telling a story so recent rather than the correctness of the facts.

You originally wrote the story as a play. What made you decide to turn it into a novel?

I was told in no uncertain terms that I had told the story wrong.

Pensioners stopped me after the show and told me that the story in Glasgow at the time was not the official story. The twist they told me was so much better that I had to write the novel.

As well as writing short stories, full length novels and plays you’ve also written graphic novels. What is it about these different forms that appeals to you? Is there one you prefer or find more challenging?

I love prose more than anything. It’s the most fulfilling for me and always feels like a home coming but all these other forms feed into that and help me think about narrative and storytelling in different ways.

Your stories tend to be quite gritty and dark and you really get into the heads of some very disturbing and troubled characters. How easy do you find it to switch off from your writing? Do you have a routine you follow when you’re writing?

I usually get up, drink coffee, strangle a cat and go for a run. Then I sit at the desk and squash ants and think about the work of the day.

Seriously, I just think in quite dark terms. I’m not one of those lovely people who doesn’t spot the violent undertone of conversations, or the crime story at the edge of the page of news about Kate Middleton.

In addition to being a finalist for the McIlvanney, you’ve won three awards and been nominated for many more. It must be great to get recognition for your work but what do you personally consider to be your biggest achievement? What are you most proud of?

A sentence I wrote for a give away book called ‘Scotland’s 100 best books’ about Orwell’s 1984. It had perfect rhythm and concision.

Is there anything you regret or wish you’d done differently in either your career or writing?

Enjoyed it all a bit more. I’m very shy and being in the spotlight was incredibly uncomfortable. Some people do it so well and I should have accepted that ambivalence was my natural state and gone with it instead of pretending.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Read good stuff and keep writing. Write every day.

Can you tell us anything about the projects you’re working on just now? What’s next?

It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with a true crime podcast and goes off to try and solve it. It’s about why these stories captivate us.

Finally, what are you reading right now?

A biography of Derrida by Beniot Peeters.


Thank you so much Denise for taking the time to answer some questions. Bloody Scotland the book was launched at the festival over the weekend and is available from Amazon UK here.

I’ll post a review later this week as I haven’t quite finished reading it yet but I can honestly say I’ve been really enjoying it and would definitely recommend.

The blog tour for Bloody Scotland is running from the 7th September till the 18th and includes guest posts, Q&As and other fantastic content from those involved in the book so it’s worth following along. I’ve included details of this, the book and an author bio below.

 


Denise Mina – Bio

Denise Mina headshot.jpgAfter a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school at 16 before doing her law degree at Glasgow University.She subsequently studied for a PhD at Strathclyde.

Her first novel, Garnethill, was published in 1988 and won the CWA John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.

She has published 12 novels including the Garnethill series, Paddy Meehan and Alex Morrow series’. She has been nominated for many prizes including the CWA Gold Dagger and has won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award twice.

In addition to novels, Denise has also written plays and graphic novels including the graphic novel adaptation of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. In 2014, she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize. She has also presented TV and radio programmes as well as appearing regularly in the media. She lives and works in Glasgow.


Bloody Scotland – The Blurb

In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.

Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.

Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.


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