Did you know this about…hammocks?

9780727886002Did you know that in Florida you can do more than lie in a hammock with a cocktail and a good book?

Here, hammocks are small islands surrounded by wetland. They’re also generally surrounded by alligators. If you lie on the wrong one—with or without a cocktail and a good book—you might get eaten.

In other parts of the United States and through most of the English-speaking world, the word is hummock, and it describes any mound or knoll rising above the surrounding land or water. But a Florida hammock is special. It usually has hardwood trees growing on it, and so, along with the alligators, it has dense, dark cover—and exudes a Southern noir atmosphere.

alligator-2If Stephen King’s The Shining drifted to an isolated point in the coastal South, it might land on a Florida hammock. In such a place, people are vulnerable to threats from outside and within. Anything can happen, and no one will hear the cries for help.

When searching for such a setting for my new Daniel Turner thriller, I turned to Black Hammock Island in Northeast Florida. It’s a storied place—full of moonshiners and other outlaws. Local boaters steer wide of it to avoid shotgun blasts from the shores. It has seen more than its share of killings. My book Black Hammock adds a few.

On the lighter side, when researching the island, I also found out that there’s a mixed drink called a banana hammock, made from rum, banana liqueur, orange juice, and pineapple juice—a tropical concoction if you’re into that kind of thing. So in Florida, you can row a boat to a hammock and then lie in a hammock drinking a banana hammock and reading Black Hammock. But if you do, you should keep your eyes open for alligators. And for murderous men.

Black Hammock is available in hardcover and as an eBook. Visit our website for more details or order it at your local independent book shop.

 

 

Are we alone? by Jack Lance

 9780727885692Jack Lance’s latest novel, Zone, is a paranormal thriller which looks at one of the biggest questions facing humanity today: are we alone in the universe? Below, Jack recounts a story which suggests we are not the only ones out there . . .

Are we alone? When someone asks this question, it can be connected to the vast and mysterious universe: whether or not we, on this planet, are the only living beings in the galaxy.

But the same question can also be asked in relation to another unknown world, the one we inevitably travel to after our time on this one is up.

This is a story a Dutchman named Branton de Geus once told me. Branton (who passed away a few years ago) was Holland’s most acclaimed expert in recording the voices of the dead. ‘I use my radio,’ he said. ‘Mostly I select medium wave, exactly halfway between Moscow and Vienna, and place a microphone very close to the static noise, which I call the wobble. Then I start a recorder and call whoever I wish to hear. Often voices of the deceased do reach me.’

A while ago, a Norwegian diplomat and his wife visited Branton to consult him about their little daughter Ollie. Somehow the girl had always known things before they happened, such as whether a pregnant woman would give birth to a boy or a girl.

One day Ollie called out: Mommy, come have a look. It turned out she had written on a piece of paper, in perfect handwriting: Björn is dead.

But the child was not even three years old and had never learned to write. Her mother was understandably upset and phoned her husband to come home immediately. Before he arrived, the mother got a call. It was her sister from Oslo, telling her that her son Björn had been hit by a car on his way to school, and had died in hospital. Deeply shocked, the mother’s thoughts turned solely to her sister, and she forgot what Ollie had written.

This was a mistake, because there was more about Ollie than her parents could fathom. One Saturday the girl had been playing in her parents’ garden. Around dinnertime her father started looking for her. He called her name, but she didn’t answer. He kept on searching and eventually found her.

Ollie dangled inches above the ground. The four-year-old had wrapped a twig around her slender neck and had hanged herself from a branch. At her feet lay a piece of paper on which she had written, again in that beautiful handwriting: I am going to Björn.

Sitting in front of his radio, Branton de Geus asked the child how she had been able to write that sentence down so expertly. ‘The answer I got was: she did it. I didn’t understand, but kept on asking. How had she known so many things before they happened? Ollie’s little voice again whispered that she had always told her. She had also hanged her in the garden.

When I asked who she was, I heard Ollie say: it was Tula. She, Tula, was always stronger than me. Tula did all those things.

The child must have been possessed by some evil entity. Horrible, both for me, and for the parents, who had never noticed anything.’

My novel Zone is very much about what is out there, in the afterlife. The main character in this supernatural thriller, Sharlene, is suffering from nyctophobia – not a fear of the dark, but of the terrors that may be hiding within the dark. Who knows, there could be more horrors than you care to imagine…

Just ask poor Ollie.

Visit Jack Lance’s website. 

 

 

Behind the Book – Renting Silence

9780727886538Can 1920s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford’s bidding and uncover a real killer? 

Author Mary Miley on her Roaring Twenties series

The Roaring Twenties – a decade that careered from the heights of vaudeville and silent film to the depths of Prohibition. A time when gangsters, flappers, bootleggers and jazz musicians came right into the parlor courtesy of a new invention called radio. The moment when women declared their independence at the ballot box, raised their hems, flattened their chests, bobbed their hair, slurped bathtub gin and shimmied late into the night.

The star of the Roaring Twenties mystery series is Jessie, a savvy young performer who occasionally finds herself on the wrong side of the law. Skills honed during years on the stage – her intuitive acting abilities, exceptional memory, flair for improvisation, knack for reading subtle cues and a national network of vaudeville friends – are key to her sleuthing success as she moves between the Big Time circuits and the silent film studios of Hollywood.

The Impersonator introduces Jessie, an orphaned vaudeville player loaded with stage talent but lacking home, family and even a name of her own. Down on her luck, she agrees to take part in an inheritance scam, impersonating a long lost heiress for a cut of the fortune. The charade convinces everyone—except the one person who knows what really happened to the heiress and now must kill the impostor. In Silent Murders, Jessie moves to Hollywood for a job in the silent movie industry where she is caught up in the deaths of a prominent film director, an aging actor, and a beautiful ingénue. In book three, Renting Silence, Jessie is asked to investigate a murder that has already been solved. The execution of the convicted killer, a silent film actress, is just weeks away unless Jessie can uncover proof of her innocence. The stories take place against a backdrop of violence, hypocrisy and corruption never before experienced in America.

Mary Miley grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois and France. She worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel and business topics.

Praise for Mary Miley and her Roaring Twenties series:

Compelling characters, an engaging story line, and a heroine with lots of moxie make this a thoroughly enjoyable readBooklist on The Impersonator

The story is engrossing, the characters satisfyingly larger than lifePublishers Weekly on The Impersonator

Readers who enjoy Jacqueline Winspear and Carola Dunn will want to follow this seriesBooklist on Silent Murders

For further information on Mary Miley, please visit our website here.

www.marymileytheobald.com   @marymileytheo

 

Extract – Good Time Coming by CS Harris

9780727886491The following are the opening paragraphs of Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris; a tale of the American Civil War as seen through the eyes of a twelve-year old girl and of the women and children left alone to cope with a world falling apart around them. 

I killed a man the summer I turned thirteen. Sometimes I still see him in my dreams, his eyes as blue as the Gulf on a clear spring morning, his cheeks reddened by the hot Louisiana sun. His face is always the same, ever young and vital. But the bones of his hands are bare and stained dark by the fetid mud of the swamps, and his scent is that of death.

Yet even worse are the nights when I lie awake, when a hot summer wind shifts the festoons of Spanish moss hanging from the arching branches of the live oaks down by the bayou and whispers through the canebrakes in a sibilant rush. That’s when the fear comes to me, cold and soul-shrivelling, and I find myself listening lest the hushed breath of the dead betray the secret of what we did that day.

I tell myself his mouth is filled with earth, his tongue turned to dust. But the dead don’t need to speak to bear witness to the wrongs done them. And though I tell myself the wrongs were his, and that no just God could condemn my actions on that fateful morning, it is a desperate reassurance that brings no real rest. If this war has taught us anything, it is that convictions of righteous certitude can be soul-corrupting illusions that offer no dispensation from hell.

“Harris tells a powerful story of war’s destruction of property, people, hopes, and morals during the Civil War in Louisiana. This is top-notch historical fiction, thoroughly researched and vividly presented, revealing the Civil War in all its brutality.” Publishers Weekly on Good Time Coming

ISBN 978-0-7278-8649-1

Available to order now at any bookshop or at your local library.

Find your nearest independent bookshop in the USA.

Find your nearest independent bookshop in the UK.

Behind the Book…with Jim Eldridge

Jim Eldridge tells us about his new British mystery series.

Assassins
is set in Britain in 1921, the turbulent time soon after the end of World War 1 (“the war to end all wars”). Negotiations are under way in London between the British Government and the fledgling Irish Revolutionary Government to settle the long war between the British and the IRA, in the IRA’s quest for independence for Ireland. Michael Collins, the l9781780290881egendary charismatic Irish leader is leading the Irish delegation at the talks, but Collins has dangerous enemies inside his own Party.

At this time there is social turmoil in Britain: men have returned from the carnage of trench warfare, wounded, disabled, bitter and angry at being thrown on the scrapheap; poverty eats through the lower classes while the aristocracy flourish. So, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1918, there is serious danger of the same happening in Britain.

Against this turbulent background, DCI Paul Stark investigates the assassination of the bullying aristocratic Lord Amersham, and uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the whole fabric of British society.

Stark, a decorated hero, still recovering from his four years at war, has his own problems: a widower with a young son, he is also seen as a suspected revolutionary by Special Branch because of his sympathies for the underprivileged and his Irish roots.

JIM ELDRIDGE has had 95 books published, for children and young adults, which have sold over 3 million copies.  He is also a radio, TV and movie scriptwriter who has had 250 TV scripts broadcast in the UK and internationally.  He lives in Kent, UK.

Praise for Jim Eldridge:

Boys will devour the testosterone-filled, nonstop action and page-turning suspense of this cinematic-like read” Library Journal on Jungle Kill

“Sure to grab readers who hope for action in their fiction” Booklist on Jungle Kill

For further information about ASSASSINS please visit our website here.

 

 

Behind the Book…with Chris Nickson

In Chris Nickson’s Victorian police procedural The Iron Water, two macabre discoveries in a single morning present an intriguing challenge for Detective Inspector Tom Harper.  Here author Chris Nickson tells us a little more about the story behind the book…

9780727886439Like the other books in the Tom Harper series, the spark behind The Iron Water is a real event in the 1890s – testing a torpedo by blowing up a wooden boat on Waterloo Lake in Roundhay Park. The torpedo had been developed by a Leeds engineer.

Other things in the book are real, too. Tom Maguire and Isabella Ford both existed, and were important forces in the progressive politics of the time. The small book on Annabelle’s working appeared under the auspices of the Independent Labour Party in 1894, under the title hypnotic Leeds.

Some of the boxing matches mentioned took place, and the incident with Buffalo Bill Cody losing a fight in a Leeds pub may (or may not) be real. But sometimes a good tale is better than the truth.

The four books in the series have a very personal connection. The Victoria public house, which Annabelle owns, was a real place; it only closed a few years ago. My great-grandfather was the landlord there for over 20 years, although after Annabelle would have had the place. Before that he ran the Royal in Hunslet, which has a role in the previous Harper book, Skin Like Silver.

CHRIS NICKSON is a music journalist as well as the author of three previous Tom Harper mysteries, and six novels in the Richard Nottingham series.  Having lived in the USA for 30 years, he has recently returned to his native Leeds, in the UK.

Praise for Chris Nickson:

“Tautly written and highly engaging, with a keep-‘em-guessing plot and plenty of late nineteeth-century period details” Booklist on Skin Like Silver 

“A riveting historical setting. Readers of Iain Pears and Will Thomas will enjoy this historical series” Library Journal on Skin Like Silver

“Full of engaging characters as the author intertwines social problems with murder” Kirkus Reviews on Skin Like Silver

“Victorian era Leeds comes alive as an unusual setting … Recommend for anyone who loves Anne Perry’s Victorian crime novels” Library Journal Starred Review of Two Bronze Pennies

“Redolent of the smells, sights, and sounds of 19th-century England, suspense-filled, tense, and engrossing … an excellent addition to the series” Booklist on Two Bronze Pennies

For further information on Chris Nickson and The Iron Water, please visit our website here.

 

 

Behind the Book

A SHOCKING ASSASSINATION by Cora Harrison

9780727885968Cora Harrison’s A Shocking Assassination is out this week. It is the second in her Reverend Mother Mystery series set in 1920s’ Southern Ireland.  Here, she shares some of the background to the book.

After the war of independence in Ireland, civil war broke out between those who wanted to accept a treaty with the UK and those who wanted complete independence. Even after the civil war petered out in most of Ireland, Cork, the rebel city, still fought on. Back then, it was a bitterly divided city, split politically but also separated by wealth and abject poverty. The poor were crowded into rotting Georgian houses, often with ten or more people in one room. There was virtually no employment for an unskilled man, so many deserted their wives and families and went to England. It’s in the centre of these people that I place my Reverend Mother Aquinas, who is a practical woman and knows that the city has one of the highest rates of prostitution and child prostitution in the whole of Europe.

My father and mother lived in Cork during these years. My father was a young solicitor from a wealthy family and my mother was from a poorer family. At the time, she was a convent schoolgirl with memories of the nuns telling them to run home from school as there was shooting on the streets.

After she retired from teaching, Cora Harrison turned to writing historical fiction and lives on a farm near the Burren in the west of Ireland.  As well as the Reverend Mother series, she is the author of the ‘Mara’ series of Celtic mysteries, set in 16th-century Ireland.

Praise for Cora Harrison:

 “Mistaken identities, strange twists, an intelligent and likable heroine, and a tragic tale of sex, greed, and betrayal – make sure your historical mystery readers get this one on their radar”  Booklist Starred Review of A Shameful Murder

“Harrison combines a savvy detective and a setting fraught with intrigue and tension for another winner”  Publishers Weekly Starred Review of A Shameful Murder

“Compassionate and wise, the Reverend Mother is a strong and distinctive character …Recommend for readers who enjoy M. C. Beaton and Carol Higgins Clark”  Library Journal on A Shameful Murder

Visit our website here for further information on Cora Harrison and her books.

 

Mystery Read-alike Suggestions

If you are looking for a new author, here are some read-alike suggestions from recent US trade journal reviews:

9780727886392

 

Beaufort, Simon – The Killing Ship
“…breathtaking tale of intrigue and fortitude reminiscent of the vintage adventure tales of Alistair MacLean.” Kirkus Reviews

9780727886309

 

 

Heley, Veronica – Murder in Style
“A mature woman with keen observational skills and psychological insight into dark human deeds, Ellie is a worthy successor to Agatha Christie’s Jane MarplePublishers Weekly

9780727886248

 

Keskinen, Karen – Dragon Fruit
“The Santa Barbara setting and the determined, uncompromising sleuth make Dragon Fruit a perfect fit for Sue Grafton fans, but also for those who enjoy Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky.Booklist

9781780290836

 

Trow, M.J – The Circle
“Trow’s absorbing historical will please Civil War buffs as well as readers who relish the mysteries of Will Thomas and Charles Finch.” Library Journal