Behind the Book: THE LUCIFER CHORD by F. G. Cottam

lucifer chord

Researcher Ruthie Gillespie has undertaken a commission to write an essay on Martin Mear, lead singer and guitarist with Ghost Legion, the biggest, most decadent rock band on the planet, before he disappeared without trace in 1975. Her mission is to separate man from myth – but it’s proving difficult, as a series of increasingly disturbing and macabre incidents threatens to derail Ruthie’s efforts to uncover the truth about the mysterious rock star


What happened to Martin Mear? Is he really set to return from the dead? Ruthie’s attempts to answer the questions that quickly became lodged in our minds while reading THE LUCIFER CHORD, along with a number of terrifying twists and turns, had us on the edge of our seats. What inspired this dark tale with a paranormal edge? 

The central character of the novel is Ruthie Gillespie, who first appeared in my novella The Going and the Rise (available to download free at She also features prominently in my Colony trilogy of novels. I thought she had earned a stand-alone. And I’d wanted to write something themed around the rock industry’s most excessive period for a while. With their extravagance and retinues, the rock gods of the seventies were like medieval monarchs. No one would get away with it in the era of smart phones and YouTube and it’s fascinating. Although there was profound decadence in that scene, there was also a kind of innocence. I wanted to get that paradox across.

My usual method is to write a novel over a pretty intense 10 to 12 weeks, but this one wasn’t so straightforward. I wrote 30, 000 words in 2012 and lost interest because my researcher wasn’t a sufficiently compelling central character. Last spring, I gave her mission to Ruthie and from the first (re-written) page, the story seemed to possess much more impetus and intrigue. She’s a woman readers root for.

Her subject, Martin Mear, was an enigma even to himself. Someone describes him as a Russian doll of a man. He compartmentalized his life in a way that made him different to everyone who knew him. He was a challenge to write I greatly enjoyed. And though the paranormal occurs in this novel, it does so in subtle and ambiguous ways. My characters endure experiences they try afterwards to rationalize, often uncomfortably and without much conviction, but they do it anyway, because that’s human nature.

THE LUCIFER CHORD is available from 31 May in the UK and 1 September in the US. Read more here.



Did you know? Catherine O’Connell, author of THE LAST NIGHT OUT: Danger, Beefeater Gin and Gone With the Wind…

Last night out

Six friends. A bride to be. One murder. Too many secrets.

After drinking too much at her bachelorette party, Maggie Trueheart wakes up in bed with a stranger – then a phone call brings the devastating news that her friend Angie was murdered some time after they parted ways the night before.

Maggie’s friends are questioned by Chicago homicide detective Ron O’Reilly, who is sure some of them are lying. As the clock ticks down to the wedding day and more shocking secrets are revealed, can the killer be stopped before there is another victim?

Fast-paced, suspenseful, full of unexpected twists and turns and appealing, complex characters, this compelling psychological thriller got us talking in the office, and we’re pretty sure that fans of Marian Keyes and Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood will be as gripped as we were. Time to find out more about the extremely talented Catherine O’Connell!

Things you might not know about Catherine:

  • I was held up at gunpoint once and grabbed the gun by the barrel. Luckily, the incident had a positive outcome.
  • I was a ski bum after college.
  • I used to work for the importer of Beefeater Gin and I’ve been in the Tower of London drinking gin with the Beefeaters after hours.
  • I’ve also slept in the room at L’Hotel where Oscar Wilde died.
  • I worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

One word: WOW. But what about her favourite books?

  • Gone With the Wind. It’s all about Scarlett O’Hara and her uncrushable spirit.
  • Angle of Repose by William Styron. The American West in the 1880s.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Hawaii by James Michener.
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence.


THE LAST NIGHT OUT is available from 31 May in the UK and 1 September in the US. Read more here.


Editor’s Pick June 2018 UK/October 2018 US: CRUISING TO MURDER by Mark McCrum

This month’s Editor’s Pick is CRUISING TO MURDER by Mark McCrum.


CRUISING TO MURDER is the second title to feature Francis Meadowes, a crime-writer sleuth who suddenly finds himself embroiled in murder – again – when he takes up the enviable opportunity to lecture on the history of crime writing aboard the Golden Adventurer as it cruises down the West African coast.

As someone whose only experience of a cruise was a slightly underwhelming, seasick-inducing trip on the Hull to Amsterdam route some years ago, I was a little unsure as to whether I’d be grabbed by the story and the ship setting, but I needn’t have feared – my worries were shattered as I found myself eagerly turning the pages.

It’s Agatha Christie at sea – if you’ve read and enjoyed DEATH ON THE NILE, I highly recommend you add this to your reading list. McCrum has created a number of charismatic, entertaining and well-realised passengers, all equally appealing in their own way: from opinionated, retired surgeon Klaus to mischievous elderly widow Eve and beautiful American aid worker Sadie. And the action is not confined to the cruise liner. The day trips on land bring the exotic, stunning African backdrop and local traditions vividly to life, as well as providing a few plot twists. I also enjoyed seeing Francis venture below decks, leaving no stone unturned in his quest to find out which one of his inimitable fellow passengers is guilty of murder, while the book also provides a fascinating – if slightly concerning – insight into what happens when a death occurs at sea.

Francis must navigate choppy waters if he is to uncover the truth, but you’ll be left feeling anything but seasick reading this glorious rollercoaster sea ride. The finale was markedly tense and provided a brilliant twist that I hadn’t seen coming . . . It’s safe to say that I won’t think of cruises in the same way again!

CRUISING TO MURDER is available from 29 June in the UK and 1 October in the US. Find out more here.









Did You Know? GRANDGHOST by Nancy Springer

downloadBeverly Vernon’s life is transformed thanks to a discovery in her backyard . . .

Beverly Vernon, children’s book illustrator and mother of two childless adult daughters, is finding it difficult to settle in rural Florida, where she fills her days painting the portrait of a longed-for imaginary grandchild. But everything changes when she uncovers the bones of a young child in her backyard, and unexplained phenomena starts taking place within her home. Who was the child? And is she being haunted – or is she going mad?


Heartwarming, intriguing and utterly compelling, we quickly fell in love with the wonderfully quirky Beverly Vernon and her quest to get to the bottom of the ghostly goings-on in her Florida home – and we’re pretty sure you will too! But what’s the story behind Two-Toed Tom, the alligator mentioned in the book? 

I was thrilled to discover that the setting for GRANDGHOST, an area in the north central Florida panhandle, is haunted by a legendary alligator as long as a telephone pole, a diabolical reptilian killer with fiery red eyes that shine in the dark. They call him Two-Toed Tom. For decades he has roamed the swamplands, slaughtering sheep, cows, mules, and occasionally young humans, leaving at the scenes of his carnage his distinctive footprint. For generations the child-killing monster was hunted, with tantalizing sightings but no joy. Bullets seemed not to faze him. Even destroying an entire swamp with dynamite failed to get rid of him. Although Two-Toed Tom has outlasted several crocodilian lifespans, his giant two-toed tracks continue to be found, so apparently the lives on . . . as a malevolent and hungry phantom?

GRANDGHOST is available now in the UK and from 1 August in the US! Find out more here.