Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dark Tides Competition

In celebration of Manx Halloween publishers Faber and Faber have given us five copies of Chris Ewan's brand new thriller Dark Tides to give away in a competition.   To win a copy read the blog post and answer the question below -

When Claire Cooper was eight years old her mother mysteriously vanished during Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween. At fourteen, Claire is still struggling to come to terms with her disappearance when she’s befriended by a group of five teenagers who mark every Hop-tu-naa by performing dares. But Claire’s arrival begins to alter the group’s dynamic until one year a prank goes terribly wrong, changing all their futures and tearing the friends apart.

Six years later, one of the friends is killed on Hop-tu-naa in an apparent accident. But Claire, now a police officer, has her doubts. Is a single footprint found near the body a deliberate taunt?

As another Hop-tu-naa dawns, bringing with it another death and another footprint, Claire becomes convinced that somebody is seeking vengeance. But who? And which of the friends might be next? If she’s to stop a killer and unlock the dark secrets of her past, Claire must confront her deepest fears, before it’s too late.

For a chance to win one of five copies of Chris Ewan's new novel Dark Tides answer this easy question.  What is the name of Manx Halloween?  

The answer can be found in this post. Send  the answer along with your name, email address and your postal address to shotscomp@yahoo.co.uk.  Don't forget to put Dark Tides in the subject line.  The closing date is 7 November 2014. Best of luck!

Dark Tides by Chris Ewan is out now £14.99 (Faber & Faber)


Chris Ewan is the Award-winning author of The Good Thief’s Guide to ….. series of mystery novels, described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘Crime writing at its best’. His debut, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and is published in 10 countries.  Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas and Venice, have all been shortlisted for Crimefest’s Last Laugh Award. More information about Chris Ewan and his writing can be found on his website and you can also follow him on Twitter @Chrisewan

Monday, 27 October 2014

Dark Tides with Chris Ewan

Q: - Dark Tides is the second of your standalone thrillers to be set on the Isle of Man, following on from the bestselling Safe House.  Why did you choose to go back to the island again? 

Chris: - When I finished writing Safe House, I thought I was done with telling stories set on the Isle of Man.  For one thing, it’s a relatively small place with a low crime rate and I wasn’t sure it could sustain me for more than one thriller.  More than that, I’d seen Safe House as my ‘Isle of Man book’.  The plot of Safe House grew out of an idea that had been bugging me for some time, the island seemed like the only place to set it, and the novel became a kind of love letter (albeit a bit warped) to the place I’d come to call home.  So I moved on to Dead Line, set in Marseilles, and then a funny thing happened.  I found I had another story I really wanted to tell that could only be set on the island.  That story became Dark Tides and it’s a novel about Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween, but it’s also a story about family, about friendship, and about the particular intensity of growing up in an island environment.  Since finishing the book, I’ve gone on to write a short story set on the island, and my new thriller begins in Laxey, on the island’s east coast.  So it turns out I was wrong.  I have plenty of stories to tell about the Isle of Man.  More, probably, then I’ll ever find the time to write.

Q: - Many readers might not be familiar with the Isle of Man.  Although it's part of the Crown, it’s self-governing and, geographically, very separate.  Although you're not Manx yourself, you've lived there for eleven years, so what do you normally tell people about it when they ask? 

Chris: - I usually start by telling them where it is – in the middle of the Irish Sea, between Liverpool and Dublin – because nine times out of ten, people automatically assume I’m talking about the Isle of Wight.  It’s strange really, but it’s often seemed to me that the Isle of Man is a forgotten place (which is one reason why I tend to believe some of the rumours I’ve heard over the years about the island being used to relocate people enrolled in UK witness protection schemes).

I’m not sure why it’s so often overlooked, and I usually go on to tell people that it’s a fascinating place to visit.  For starters, it’s absolutely stunning, with an enormously varied landscape packed into such a small place – there are beaches and coves, glens and plantations, even a mountain (though only by ten metres according to the UK definition…).  It has a rich and very distinct cultural history, one part of which is Hop-tu-naa.  It’s also absolutely full of strange customs and quirks.  Manx people believe it’s bad luck, for instance, to refer to rodents as r*ts (hence why I’ve snuck in that asterisk).  But if none of that works, I usually go on to tell them that the Bee Gees grew up on the island, as did Mark Cavendish, that the island has a space industry and has been voted the fifth most likely nation to send a man to the moon, that it was the first country in the world to give women the vote, that it’s where they first put letters through seaside rock, and that there are wild wallabies in the north (no, really).

Q: - How much research did you have to do into the Manx Festival of Hop-Tu-Naa, and how does it differ from the better-known Halloween? 

Chris: - As with all my books, I did enough research to enable me to tell the story I wanted to tell and then I made everything else up.  I did most of my research online although I spoke with lots of friends who grew up with the traditions and I also spoke with experts from Manx National Heritage.

Like Halloween, Hop-tu-naa is celebrated on 31st October, and in its modern form, the two festivals share many similarities – for example, people dress up in scary costumes, and kids call from door-to-door.  That said, there are significant differences, too.  For example, Manx people carve turnip lanterns instead of pumpkins and kids don’t go trick or treating because they sing nonsense songs instead (which are kind of like sinister Christmas carols).  The nonsense songs vary across different areas of the island but perhaps the best known song is Jinny the Witch, which begins, ‘Hop-tu-naa/My mother’s gone away/and she won’t be back until the morning’.  As a thriller writer, I could immediately see some dark potential in those lyrics!

Q: - What was the inspiration behind the story?  It's definitely creepier than your previous thrillers.  Was that a deliberate move, or did it just fit your narrative better? 

Chris: - Part of the inspiration behind Dark Tides was the idea of telling a mystery story over a number of years, while only ever narrating the story from one recurring date (in this case, the 31st October).  But the main inspiration stemmed from my research, when I discovered a particularly fascinating divination custom linked to Hop-tu-naa.  Traditionally, on the night of Hop-tu-naa a Manx family might put out the fire in their hearth and spread the ashes out to cool.  The following morning, they’d hope that when they woke they’d find a footprint in the ashes.  If the footprint pointed out towards a doorway, custom suggested that there would be a birth in the family.  If, however, a footprint appeared that pointed in towards the hearth, it meant that somebody in the family would die.  I think it would have been almost impossible for me not to see the potential for a thriller story in that.

And yes, it’s a darker, creepier story than I’ve ever told before, but I figured that if I was going to tell a Hop-tu-naa tale, it had to be a real chiller.

Chris: - Dark Tides is the first thriller you've written almost entirely from the perspective of a woman.  Where did the idea for Claire come from and did you find it challenging to write from her perspective? 

Chris: - One thing I learned from Safe House that surprised me was how many readers were
desperate to read more stories about Rebecca Lewis, the female PI character I’d created for the novel.  Rebecca started out as a secondary character, but readers seemed to connect with her in a very strong way.  My idea in Dark Tides was to explore how a single date could haunt a character from their childhood through to their late twenties, and since Rebecca didn’t grow up on the Isle of Man, I had to find someone else.  Enter Claire Cooper, whose mother mysteriously disappeared on Hop-tu-naa when Claire was eight years old and who has been plagued by a sense of guilt and culpability ever since.  Claire shares some DNA with Rebecca – they’re both very tough, very capable women – but I’d say that Claire is also more vulnerable, and perhaps the most complex character I’ve ever created.

And yes, I found writing the majority of the novel from the perspective of a female character challenging, but that’s exactly why I did it.  I try to set myself new challenges in every book I write in that hope that it will make me a better writer.  I probably underestimated how tough I’d find it, though I hope that readers will connect with Claire just as much as they did with Rebecca, and that ultimately, they’ll feel the risk was worth it.

Q: - Dark Tides is essentially a thriller with family secrets at its heart.  Is that a subject that particularly fascinates you and, if so, why? 

Chris: - It seems to be, because in all my thrillers I keep circling back to the theme of dysfunctional families and, as you say, family secrets.  I don’t think that’s because of the theme itself, necessarily.  It has more to do with the fact that I like to write stories that are relatable – either by writing about ordinary people caught up in situations that are much bigger than them, or by telling stories about professionals in such a way that the focus is placed on their personal lives and fears.  For most of us, family is very important, and it's where most of our hopes and fears stem from.  I like to play with that.

Q: - Who are some of your favourite writers?

Chris: - Any list would be incomplete, and this one certainly is, but some of my favourite writers over the years have included Jack Kerouac, Raymond Chandler, James Lee Burke, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and Megan Abbott.

Q: - What are you working on next? 

Chris: - I’m about halfway through writing my new thriller, which opens on the Isle of Man before taking in multiple destinations throughout the UK and Europe.  It’s about a character called Nick Miller, who provides a highly discreet, highly bespoke service, relocating at-risk individuals across Europe with new identities and new lives.  And that’s about all I can really tell you for now, except to add that I’m very excited about where the story might take me next.

DARK TIDES by Chris Ewan is out now, £14.99 (Faber & Faber)

Look out tomorrow (28 October 2014) over on the Shotsblog where there will be an opportunity to win one of five copies of Dark Tides by answering a simple question.

Chris Ewan is the Award-winning author of The Good Thief’s Guide to ….. series of mystery novels, described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘Crime writing at its best’. His debut, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and is published in 10 countries.  Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas and Venice, have all been shortlisted for Crimefest’s Last Laugh Award. More information about Chris Ewan and his writing can be found on his website and you can also follow him on Twitter @Chrisewan

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Books to Look forward to from Atlantic Books and Corvus Publishers

The past never stays buried at Bliss House...Rainey Bliss Adams' perfect life came to an end one spring afternoon, when her husband was killed in an explosion that horrifically burned their fourteen year-old daughter, Ariel.  Desperate for a new start, she takes Ariel to live in the beautiful house in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where the Bliss family has lived for over a century.  Once there, Ariel starts to mysteriously heal.  But as a series of tragedies begins to unfold, it becomes clear that a darkness lurks behind the dignified facade of Bliss House - one which will drive both mother and daughter apart, as each is forced to confront its evil on her own...Richly Gothic, creeping and dark, Bliss House is a haunting tale of loss, love - and the secrets our houses can keep. Bliss House is by Laura Benedict and is due to be published in January 2015.

The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession.  The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.  Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh, and Stephen King.  In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.  The Locked Room Mysteries is edited by Otto Penzler and is due to be published in January 2015.

In Saint Paul, Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens and his sometime colleague FBI
special agent Carla Windermere witness the assassination of a local billionaire.  The shooter flees the scene, but not before the pair see his face - and the blank expression in his eyes.  Stevens and Windermere investigate and are led across the country, down dead ends and into long-forgotten cold cases, until they finally discover a chilling clue: a high tech murder-for-hire website.  It's a break in the case but only the beginning.  Who is the dead-eyed shooter?  Who recruits the assassins?  And who profits from the fee?  It is a race against the clock, and the killer has his next target in sight...  Kill Fee is by Owen Laukkanen and is due to be published in February 2015.

Rome’s Lost Son is by Robert Fabbri and is due to be published in March 2015.  Rome, AD 51: Vespasian brings Rome's greatest enemy before the Emperor.  After eight years of resistance, the British warrior Caratacus has been caught.  But even Vespasian's victory cannot remove the newly made consul from Roman politics: Agrippina, Emperor Claudius's wife, pardons Caratacus.  Claudius is a drunken fool and Narcissus and Pallas, his freedmen, are battling for control of his throne.  Separately, they decide to send
Vespasian East to Armenia to defend Rome's interests.  But there is more at stake than protecting a client kingdom.  Rumours abound that Agrippina is involved in a plot to destabilise the East.  Vespasian must find a way to serve two masters - Narcissus is determined to ruin Agrippina, Pallas to save her.  Meanwhile, the East is in turmoil.  A new Jewish cult is flourishing and its adherents refuse to swear loyalty to the Emperor.  In Armenia, Vespasian is captured.  Immured in the oldest city on earth, how can he escape?  And is a Rome ruled by a woman who despises Vespasian any safer than a prison cell?"

Nothing Sacred is by David Thorne and is due to be published in February 2015.  A mother's nightmare: her children taken from her, unexplained injuries all over their bodies.  Her only explanation: an evil visitation, the work of malevolent spirits.  Desperate for answers, she turns to Daniel Connell, lawyer and old flame.  But the truth he uncovers is more disturbing than they ever imagined.  From the mountains of Afghanistan to the dark heart of Essex, Daniel finds himself in a terrifying world where monsters are real - and nothing is sacred.

2013: A bomb goes off in As Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.  Veteran photojournalist John Hart and his beautiful Kurdish translator are caught in the blast – and the ensuing chaos.  1198: Johannes von Hartelius, ancestor of John Hart, discovers that the Copper Scroll, the most prized possession of the Knights Templar, has been stolen.  The code-written scroll is said to hold the secret of Solomon’s Treasures.  2013: Hart finds a secret message from his forbear inside the Holy Spear.  Is it possible that the mountain in Iran known as Solomon’s Prison holds the Copper Scroll?  Hart seeks to find out, echoing Von Hartelius’s epic battle, nearly one thousand years earlier.  The Templar Inheritance is by Mario Reading and is due to be published in April 2015. 

At a dive bar in San Francisco’s edgy Tenderloin district, Emily Rosario is drinking whiskey and looking for an escape.  When a mysterious and wealthy Russian approaches her, she thinks she has found an exit from her drifter lifestyle and drug-addict boyfriend.  A week later she finds herself drugged, disoriented and wanted for robbery.  On the other side of town, cop Leo Elias is broke, alcoholic, and desperate.  When he hears about an unsolved bank robbery, the stolen money proves too strong a temptation.  Elias takes the case into his own hands, hoping to find the criminal and the money before anyone else.  The White Van is the debut novel by Patrick Hoffman and is due to be published in January 2015.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Partying in “The Good Life”

One of the biggest literary events in the British Calendar this month was the launch of THE GOOD LIFE by Martina Cole, one of the UK’s biggest selling crime writers, from Headline publishing. Not surprisingly there was much to cheer from the assembled literary critics, booksellers, Martina’s agent Darley Anderson, her publishers, TV and film colleagues as well as her myriad friends and family - as THE GOOD LIFE hit the No 1 position in the UK Book Charts.

Clutching our invitations, we assembled out of the rain just off Regent’s Street, in London’s West End. There was high security as the launch of a Martina Cole novel is an event, and of course as she writes authentically about the lives of the London underworld and of the gangsters that populate that world, one has to take precautions. The guest list was eclectic with many of London’s top writers, literary critics and reviewers of crime and thriller fiction in attendance, such as Barry Forshaw, Chris Simmons, Mike Ripley, Denise Danks, Maxim Jakubowski [and his wife Delores] and many others including the Shots team of Mike Stotter, Ayo Onatade and I.

One aspect of Martina Cole is her loyalty to those who have supported her since she started writing as a young mother. So her longstanding agent Darley Anderson as well as Jane Morpeth and colleagues from Headline Publishing were present as were her TV and Film colleagues. Martina’s family and friends were in attendance and we got chatting to some of her school friends

As is typical, Martina’s modesty is always admirable, so here she is welcoming all her guests to her party –

One aspect that is rarely mentioned about Martina Cole and her work, is how much compassion there is in her stories, like her refusal to be judgmental about the myriad aspects that make up human nature. Though she rarely talks about it, I would like to point out that Cole supports many charities as well being a patron of the arts. Martina works hard promoting literacy, as well as working to help those in prison to learn to read and write. Whenever I ask her about this, she always changes the subject and blushes.

She “tells it like it is”, a phrase that seems made for this gritty novelist who reveals the inner workings of the dark-side of the blue-collar world, a world that she understands and relays with an unflinching eye.

And to tell you a little about THE GOOD LIFE from the horse’s mouth, here’s Martina Cole introducing her new novel –

And here’s Martina at her publisher, Headline’s offices -


Cain Moran wanted Jenny Riley more than he had ever wanted anyone or anything before in his life. But loving Jenny Riley was the easy part; it was telling his wife he wanted a divorce that was going to be the killer...

Jenny is not just any girl. She cares nothing for Cain's hard-man reputation - she just wants to be with him.

But Cain is not a free man. And he's about to find out that when his wife Caroline said 'til death us do part, she meant it.

When Cain is sentenced to life in prison it seems that Caroline might have got her wish. All Cain and Jenny know is that if their love can survive such separation, then one day they will have a chance at the Good Life together again.

But there are greater trials ahead than either can foresee. They're about to learn the hardest lesson of all:


Shots Ezine would like to thank Louise Page, Martina Cole and Jane Morpeth of Headline Publishing for generously inviting the Shots Team for the launch of THE GOOD LIFE, and we are delighted to be able to offer Shots Readers a remarkable discount of this new work from our bookstore – click here to order 

[Below] with Jane Morpeth, her editor and Managing Director of Headline Publishing

Martina Cole Bibliography

Dangerous Lady [1992]
The Ladykiller [1993]
Goodnight Lady [1994]
The Jump [1995]
The Runaway [1997]
Two Women [1999]
Broken [2000]
Faceless [2001]
Maura's Game [2002]
The Know [2003]
The Graft [2004]
The Take [2005]
Close [2006]
Faces [2007]
The Business [2008]
Hard Girls [2009]
The Family [2010]
The Faithless [2011]
The Life [2012]
Revenge [2013]
The Good Life [2014]

So for a peep at the big literary party, we’re happy to post a selection of photographs

Mike Ripley and Denise Danks

Mike Ripley and Ali Karim

Mike Stotter and Darley Anderson

Mike Stotter with Denise Danks and Barry Forshaw

Mike Stotter with Darley Anderson and Martina Cole