Author Trivia – Jo Bannister

Bannister, Jo 2017Long before I was a professional novelist, my mother insisted that one day she’d be riding on a train and a fellow-traveller would be reading one of my books. It would be nice to be able to report that it happened.  In fact it never did – possibly because for the last thirty years of her life she never went anywhere by train.

But last year something comparable occurred.  A friend was travelling in the Far East when she came across a copy of “Deadly Virtues” in a second-hand bookshop in Manila. Obscurely pleased and touched, I offered to sign it for her.  “Oh, I didn’t buy it,” she said airily.  “I thought I’d get a copy off you.”

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All the characters in “Other Countries” are figments of my imagination, except for one.  Patience is in (almost) all particulars my last dog Grace, whose photograph has figured in some of the reviews.  Of course she couldn’t actually talk – but then, she could make her feelings perfectly clear with just the tilt of an eyebrow.

 

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Yorkshire BowtopI sometimes go to my Yorkshire bowtop wagon “Tara” to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jo Bannister’s latest title, Other Countries, is available now in hardcover and eBook. Visit our website for more information.

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Editor’s Pick – Lone Wolf by Michael Gregorio

9780727887221LONE WOLF is the third deftly-plotted thriller to feature resourceful park ranger and lupine enthusiast Sebastiano Cangio, set amidst the stunning landscape of the Sibylline National Park in Italy’s glorious Umbria region, where husband-and-wife writing team Michael Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio (aka Michael Gregorio) make their home.  The atmospheric rural setting is one of the standout features of the series, and the authors’  intricate knowledge of and deep love for the area shines through the prose.

The action kicks off when a badly burned body is discovered near Stansted Airport and a single clue leads the police to Perugia, Italy. Since he knows the region better than anyone, Seb Cangio is assigned to assist British detective Desmond Harris in his efforts to uncover the dead man’s identity.  But as the investigation gets underway, Seb begins to uncover evidence of the return of the dreaded ‘Ndrangheta, the most feared criminal organization in Italy.  They’ve tried to kill him before – and Seb knows they will try to kill him again.

From the visually arresting opening chapters with their unnerving portrayal of sudden, unexpected violence, I was drawn in right away and kept gripped throughout as Seb Cangio and the ultra-ambitious Captain Lucia Grossi gradually piece the clues together to reveal the horrifying reason behind the ‘Ndrangheta’s return.  Mafia boss Don Michele, with his towering, unpredictable temper and capacity for sudden, ruthless violence makes for a truly chilling villain. Meanwhile the inevitable culture clashes between the British and Italian detectives provide plenty of light relief from the novel’s darker aspects.

A topical, suspenseful and wholly compelling read, I would recommend LONE WOLF to anyone who enjoys an intricately plotted, intelligently written mystery with an unusual, richly evocative setting.

Previous titles in this series:

Visit our website for more information on this series.

Did You Know . . . this about forensic science?

9780727887023Our latest interesting fact was submitted by Jo Bannister, author of Other Countries featuring PC Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash. 

A record of where you’ve lived at different points in your life is immortalised in your teeth and hair. Analysis of the relative proportions of particular elements, especially strontium and oxygen, can be compared with a geological map of the world and pin-point quite accurately where you drank the water and absorbed the minerals?

It’s a technique useful not only to forensic scientists but also to archaeologists, which is how Hazel Best came to hear about it from her friend David Sperrin (“Perfect Sins”),  and how she was able to prove (“Desperate Measures”) that Gabriel Ash’s sons were not held hostage in Somalia.

Other Countries is available now in print and will be released in eBook on 1 June.

#BookExtract – As Dark As My Fur by Clea Simon

“Readers who enjoy the prickly pleasure of stepping into a strange alternate universe will welcome Simon’s hypnotic second Blackie and Care mystery, set in a blighted unnamed city” Publishers Weekly

As Dark As My Fur - Clea SimonA seemingly routine case becomes something far darker and deeper for novice private investigator, Care, and her feline companion, Blackie.
Blackie does not trust Care’s new client, factory owner Mr Gravitz, who has hired the young PI to shadow one of his workers, a man he suspects is stealing from him. With his feline sixth sense, Blackie knows the client is not telling the truth – but how can he protect and warn his companion, Care, when he is only a cat?  Here’s an extract, continuing the adventures of this original and unusual detective duo…

 

 

I watch the girl.

She is sitting at the desk, as she has since daylight, reading over the letter she has perused a dozen times or more, the page laid flat before her on the stained old blotter. I have eaten and slept, but lightly, in the hours that have passed, aware at all times of her slim form dwarfed by that old oak desk and the tension that keeps her hunched over that one piece of paper. That has her murmuring, anxious, as if by repetition she will soothe what worries her.

‘Tenant deceased,’ she reads out loud, and I believe she would argue if she could. ‘Vacate,’ she adds, reading further. The words stir something in me. A memory and a regret. But the girl only sighs and shakes her head. ‘If I had the money,’ she says, and falls silent once more.

This one room has been our shelter for weeks now. Our home. A shabby office in a rundown area of town, rented by the month by the old man who was her mentor and her friend. As much an efficiency as a workspace, with its kitchenette and the battered sofa, where I slept, yesterday, as the spring rains fell. As need drove her out, despite the cold and wet, to forage in our ruined city.

I woke as the paper slid beneath the door, which has been broken and must now be crudely barred. Guarded it until she returned, her worn cloth sack fragrant with broken fruits. Already, I had examined the notice, cataloguing the scent of the hand that brought it, the ink that forms the words as well as the strange imprint at its top. Markers I may once have known, but which now mean nothing.

The girl took her time with it as well, upon her return, staring at the imprint before putting it aside. With deliberate focus she then parceled out the contents of her sack onto the larder counter. Apples already darkened by decay, but which she separated into piles: wrinkled and sweet, bitter. Gone. She’d looked over as she did this, turning toward me, the question clear in her large green eyes, and I did my best to respond, settling myself comfortably on the windowsill and turning away to signal my disinterest in such vegetable matter, fresh or rotten. Only then did she eat, devouring one small fruit, fragrant with rot, and sucking each finger clean. She is hungry, this girl, to the point of weakness, and yet she would share her food with me, a cat.

She owes me nothing, this child, burgeoning on womanhood. Despite the time I spend here, my predilection for this sill and for a certain worn spot on that sofa, I am sufficient unto myself, a creature of the streets, and I have no need of her meager provisions. I appreciate her generosity, however. Few of her kind would choose to share – shelter or food – with such a beast as I, ragged and undomesticated. But I have little taste for what she consumes, the fruit of plants halfway to fermentation. Not in this form. In this life, and what came before is fading.

Even if I did feel such yearning, hunger burning beneath my coal-black hide, I would not take from her. My green eyes may seem distant, focused on other matters, but I see the blue tinge of her skin, the fraying lips. She is hungrier than I, as well as cold, and I – I would remedy both, if I could. For although I am a beast, I am not without heart. Indeed, I have tried to feed her, bringing her the choicest of my prey on several occasions only to see her turn aside. And as I cannot will her out of such dainty habits, I have taken to dining in private, sharing her company only once I have fed, before I return to sit and brood on lives past and that possibilities that remain.

I sit now on the windowsill, aware of how I must appear: a large, black cat at rest, my paws tucked neatly beneath me. As ruminative as any pet to the undiscerning eye, but what I brew upon is not fit for most to hear. My thoughts are dark. Although my eyes may seem to close, I remain alert. On a vigil. Waiting for what may come. For now, I watch the girl.

AS DARK AS MY FUR by Clea Simon is available now in hardback and eBook.

For further information about Clea Simon and her work, please visit our website here.

 

Behind the Book – Murder in Disguise by Mary Miley

9780727887146Why did I set my mystery series in the Roaring Twenties? Simple—no other decade offers more chaos and crime than the 1920s. This was the era when prohibition laws turned ordinary citizens into criminals and brought about organized crime, skyrocketing violence, and the corruption of police departments, courts, and government throughout America. A perfect setting for a crime writer!

The star of my mystery series is Jessie, a savvy young vaudeville performer who occasionally finds herself on the wrong side of the law. MURDER IN DISGUISE, the fourth in my Roaring Twenties series, begins in the fall of 1925 when a projectionist is gunned down in the theatre booth. The killer flees to the balcony and vanishes. His widow, who works at the movie studio with Jessie, asks her to investigate. Her vaudeville skills and connections help her succeed where the police fail.

I can’t help packing my stories with details that bring the Twenties to life and highlight the progress society has made in the hundred years since. And no one is more surprised than I to find my own views about certain current controversies changing because of my immersion in this era. For example, a deeper understanding of the disastrous failure of liquor prohibition has flipped me from anti- to pro-legalisation of marijuana, and my greater awareness of criminal behaviour has sent me to jail—literally—where I teach a writing class to inmates.

Praise for Renting Silence 

“A little sparkle, a hint of sex, some wily Prohibition-era shenanigans, and one smart cookie in the lead make this a great read that’s similar to Renee Patrick’s Design for Dying” Booklist 

 “All the details of her journey not only advance the story but are fascinating in themselves” Publishers Weekly 

 “With a well-developed and surprising plot twist, an appealing, resourceful amateur detective, and fascinating period details, this entertaining historical will delight fans of Old Hollywood and those who like the 1920s-set mysteries of Suzanne Arruda and George Baxt” Library Journal 

Visit our website for more information on The Roaring Twenties series

#BookExtract – I Wish You Missed Me by Bonnie Hearn Hill

9780727886798The traffic was as aggressive as usual for a Friday. As she pulled off the freeway, dusk gave way to night and Sacramento became a blaze of headlights. A vehicle behind her came up too fast. Kit touched her brake and adjusted her rear-view mirror, but she couldn’t see anything except a dark van, its windshield reflecting back the light.

So pass me.

She slowed down more so that the van could go by.

Instead, it slowed.

OK, don’t pass me.

Lots of vans in Sacramento. No reason to worry. But she did have to wonder why this one seemed to be following her, though now keeping its distance. Kit turned off at the intersection, glad to be free of the glare. She let the cool breeze blow back the hair from her face. Fifteen more minutes and she would be home.

At the stoplight on Broadway, she glanced in her mirror again and saw a van merge into the lane behind her. Same one? Maybe it was heading to the fast-food place in the brick-front shopping center to her right. She squinted to see better but the streetlights reflected off the van’s windshield and distorted her view of the driver.

Only one way to figure this out. Kit steered into the next lane and took a sharp left. Probably a paranoid move on her part but she already felt her heartrate slow down.

A yellow glow cut across her vision from behind. Any vehicle. It could be any vehicle, she thought. She slowed; so did the van. She sped up. So did it.

As she shot through the red light, Kit remembered everything that had happened to bring her to this moment and knew she had to just drive, just run, get away as far and as fast as she could.

John Paul didn’t live far from here. She could call him. But first, another stoplight. Kit grabbed her phone, dropped it and realized she was shaking. Carefully she picked up the phone again and sent a text to John Paul.

Need help. Just passed Stockton and Broadway. I think there’s a van following me.

His reply popped up immediately. Come here. My place.

OK.

Come now.

She no longer knew exactly where she was. Sweat soaked her shirt and her slick hands could barely hold onto the wheel.

Not sure how. Find me. I’ll go around the block back to Jack In The Box on Broadway.

Headlights sneaked up behind her again. They looked the same and she took an illegal left turn.

Her phone buzzed and Kit looked down. John Paul. She took the call, pressed speaker and slammed the phone down in the seat beside her.

‘I can’t talk, John Paul. It’s a van, and it’s . . .’

Headlights washed over her again.

‘. . . right behind me.’

The van nudged closer but she still couldn’t make out the person inside it. She pulled over to the curb and waited. The van paused, then backed up and went right. Kit began to tremble. Tears filled her eyes.

‘It’s OK,’ she said to herself. ‘It’s just a driver who made a wrong turn. Weird coincidence. That’s all. It’s OK.’

Visit our website fore more information on the Kit Doyle Mysteries.

Did You Know . . . this about stalkers?

Today’s ‘Did You Know’ is courtesy of Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of I Wish You Missed Me, third in the series featuring Sacramento, California crime blogger Kit Doyle.

Did you know that one in six women and one in nineteen men in the United States have experienced stalking during their lifetimes? Have you ever noticed a vehicle following you too closely and then made a sharp turn only to find the vehicle still behind you?

This is what happens to Kit Doyle, and because of a previous traumatic experience, all of her own debilitating fears and anxieties return. Yet Kit doesn’t have time to take care of herself. She must force herself to drive to Northern California in search of her best friend and onetime radio co-host, Farley Black, who has disappeared without a trace.

The Kit Doyle Mysteries

Behind the Book – I Wish You Missed Me by Bonnie Hearn Hill

9780727886798As true crime blogger Kit Doyle tries to find her missing friend in I Wish You Missed Me, she encounters an off-the-grid community in Northern California. Why would anyone choose to live that way today?

Here are some facts that influenced the writing of this fiction.

  • When an Oregon woman’s car caught fire at a gas station, onlookers filmed it, and the nineteen-year-old who rescued her was hailed as a hero while insisting he just did what people are supposed to do.
  • After an Ohio teen was killed in an auto accident, a man videotaped his death and put it on social media. (He was ultimately arrested when officers traced him via his post).
  • A California woman was driving her two children home from a doctor’s appointment when she attempted to avoid a big-rig truck that veered into her lane, and her van flipped over into the path of oncoming traffic. When she regained her bearings and tried to get her children out of the van, a Good Samaritan who had spotted her jumped over the median, and with the help of two other men rescued the family. As the men pulled the mother from her mangled vehicle, someone else who had been watching the scene shoved a cellphone in her face to record what had nearly robbed her and her children of their lives.

Who is the enemy here? What is the enemy? Social media? The callousness that develops from witnessing countless acts of violence from an electronic distance?

These are the questions that led novelist Bonnie Hearn Hill to research off-the-grid communities whose members have given up what many consider modern conveniences. Yes, there’s a price to pay for living anonymously and free of technology. I Wish You Missed Me explores those who are drawn to such a life, some in search of healing and others desperate to hide from the past.

I WISH YOU MISSED ME is the third title in the Kit Doyle mystery series. Visit our website for information on all three titles.

Behind the Book – The Devil’s Cup by Alys Clare

97807278871081216. England has been invaded. The country is divided. Some support Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. King John summons Sir Josse d’Acquin to support him, but can Josse save the king from himself? Meanwhile, Meggie attends a sick patient, who tasks her with retrieving a cursed treasure…

Here, author Alys Clare gives the background to her latest work.

One of the real-life characters I’ve most enjoyed depicting, over the course of the seventeen Hawkenlye books, is King John, who has flipped in and out of several of them. I’ve long felt that the handle Bad King John was a little unfair: bad compared with whom? I once had an interesting discussion with my son’s history teacher, who suggested changing the epithet to Could Do Better King John, which certainly seems fairer.

But even a loyal fan of King John would have to raise an eyebrow concerning his behaviour over his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme. Contemporary commentators cattily pointed out that she was very young – some daringly and scandalously said as young as nine or ten – when John first set eyes on her and decided he had to have her. It should be remembered, however, that virtually every contemporary commentator loathed King John and never passed up an opportunity to stick the knife in. Isabella was almost certainly precocious; this was an age where girls of the nobility were married off young and she was already betrothed to someone else. And, had anyone wanted to speak in John’s defence, they might have pointed out that there were sound political reasons for an alliance with the lords of Angouleme. Also, medieval monarchs were well aware of the facts of life and didn’t bed their young wives until they were fertile (Isabella’s first child wasn’t born until some seven years after the marriage).

A king who dies unremarkably of old age, in non-suspicious circumstances, doesn’t offer a novelist very much. The days around John’s death, by contrast, provide rich areas for speculation. First, there’s the old mystery of the treasure lost in the Wash: I came across an unattributed painting of a dejected John, soaking wet, riding a bright chestnut horse. Both the man’s and horse’s heads were bowed in misery as the rain pelted down and it served to make me wonder how the king felt about this catastrophe. Did he feel that the very land had turned against him? Did his dislike of the treacherous Fens turn to loathing and fear?  Did he sense death was at his heels? Then there’s the question of what exactly killed him: dysentery was a catch-all term for all manner of gastro-intestinal illnesses, from straightforward diarrhoea caused by over-ripe fruits to the ingestion of poison. The facts concerning John’s demise are scant, so really you can take your pick. He had made many enemies and he’d recently been the guest of monks, the experts of the age when it came to secret, herbal preparations…

THE DEVIL’S CUP by Alys Clare is published by Severn House in hardback on 28 April (UK) and 1 August (US).  For further information, please visit our website here.

  Praise for Alys Clare’s previous book, A RUSTLE OF SILK

“As always, Clare has carefully researched the period she is writing about and offers authentic, engaging historical detail, but her real gift is as a superb storyteller whose clever, twisty plots; believable characters; and skillful writing will engross the reader from first page to last”  Booklist Starred Review

“Clare vividly evokes 17th-century Devon. Characters who are complex individuals complement the well-paced and pleasantly twisty plot” Publishers Weekly

 

 

Did You Know. . . this about Dover Castle?

Our latest ‘Did You Know’ article was submitted by Alys Clare, author of the Aelf Fen and Hawkenlye medieval mystery series.

Dover Castle, which King John’s loyal followers defended for so long against Prince Louis’s siege, was built on a spectacular site on top of the White Cliffs, overlooking the Channel. There was probably an Iron Age hill fort here, and the Romans weren’t slow to see its merits, constructing a lighthouse soon after the invasion of AD43.

TheDover Castle.jpg castle has been called ‘The Lock and Key of England’, and its strategic position has ensured its importance in two world wars: it was the first place to be bombed in World War I (on Christmas Eve 1914) and, a quarter of a century later, the evacuation of Dunkirk – Operation Dynamo – was organised from the secret tunnels beneath the fortifications.

Also controlled from Dover Castle was the lesser-known Operation Fortitude, the decoy ‘invasion’ sent across the Channel on 5th June 1944 consisting of motor launches, balloons and reflectors and designed to divert attention and German military muscle from the real invasion – Operation Overlord – about to happen further west on the Normandy beaches.

The latest Hawkenlye mystery, The Devil’s Cup is available to order now and will be released in eBook on 1 August. Visit our website for more information.

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