Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Alison Gaylin on Pearl Maze and Amy Nathanson aka Aimee En

Thank you very much to Ayo for hosting today’s stop on my blog tour with If I Die Tonight, I am really pleased to be here. If I Die Tonight is a story told through four separate points of view in a small town called Havenkill.  I’d like to tell you a bit about two characters: Pearl Maze, a local cop and Aimee En, a former 80s popstar, who are both wrapped up in the sinister goings on in Havenkill:

Amy Nathanson aka Aimee En

There’s been an accident.” Those are the first words we hear from rain-drenched, rainbow-haired, hysterical Amy, as she pounds on the door of the Havenkill police station in the wee hours of the morning in the midst of a raging storm. Later, we find out the details: Amy claims she was carjacked by a teenage boy in a hoodie. And, when another teenage boy rushed to her rescue, the mysterious carjacker ran him down. In peaceful Havenkill, the story seems implausible, to say the least. Is Amy telling the truth, or did she commit the hit-and-run herself?

While it seems hard at first to believe that Amy would concoct such an elaborate lie, she is, as it turns out, a rather elaborate person who lies frequently, to others and to herself. A minor pop music goddess back in the 80s, Amy has been living a quiet life in Woodstock with Vic Iota, her long-time romantic partner and former manager who is now suffering from dementia. But as devoted as she has been to Vic and his care, Amy also craves the fame she once had. It’s that craving that brings her to Havenkill that fateful night – a chance to play a gig at a Hudson dive bar, step one in her plan to resuscitate her faded career. When it doesn’t turn out the way she’d planned, her thirst for fame brings her into an even more unsavoury situation which leads, however indirectly, to the hit-and-run.

Pearl Maze

I’m a uniformed cop from Havenkill,” Pearl says at one point. “I get cats out of trees

That may be the way Pearl sees herself – or, more likely, the way she thinks others see her – but there is a lot more to this tough young police officer than meets the eye. Inquisitive and highly perceptive on the job, she tends to overindulge off duty, whether it’s in whisky or in anonymous sex with guys she meets on hook-up apps. Though she is compatible with her fellow officers on the small Havenkill police force, she has no genuinely close friendships, and shuts herself off from others. Even the apartment she’s chosen to live in, in a building that largely populated by seniors, precludes her from making close connections with people her own age.

Why does Pearl isolate herself? We discover early on that she has a dark secret that has haunted her for most of her life – one that makes her feel as though she can’t get close to anyone for fear they might see her for what she believes she is: a murderer.  While we know within the first few chapters that Pearl feels responsible for her mother’s death, the details aren’t fully revealed until later, and for the young officer they are inescapable, a source of constant turmoil. She must confront her past head-on after receiving a phone call from her long-estranged brother, revealing that her father, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a young child, is deathly ill and wants to speak to her. As she becomes further involved in the details of the Liam Miller hit-and-run, the intrusion of her past makes her identify with the suspect in ways she never expected, while an unexpectedly tender relationship with one of her hook-ups threatens to break down emotional walls she’s worked hard to build.

I absolutely loved writing these characters – I hope you enjoy reading them.


If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (Century)

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There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying... But it's as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren't boys anymore, they're becoming men - men she's not sure she recognises, men she's not sure she can trust. So when one of her son's classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions. Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister? Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies. How did that boy end up on the road? And where was her son that night? 

Read the Shots review here.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Killer Women, Killer Weekend 2017


10am-6pm, 28 & 29 October 2017

Browns Courtrooms, Covent Garden, London WC2

Will you write the next crime bestseller?
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Learn the art & craft of crime fiction from bestselling authors incl: Rachel Abbott, Mark Billingham, Erin Kelly, Mick Herron, Stuart MacBride, Sarah Pinborough, Cally Taylor

Pitch your idea to senior commissioning editors and agents incl: HarperCollins, Orion, Penguin Random House, Headline

·      Masterclasses on thrillers, procedurals, author as brand, self publishing and more

·      Insider tips from top writers, editors and agents

·      Craft workshops on suspense, character, plotting and more

·      One-to-one research sessions with experts

Full programme [pdf] Saturday | Sunday


Get in early! Book your weekend ticket at the special earlybird price of £260* by joining the Killer Women Club (for free) here.  (We will email you an exclusive secret link to the earlybird ticketing page.)


*Tickets go on general release 1 September. Weekend tickets will be £275

Hunting the hunter: avoiding the snares in historical crime fiction

The first two books in the Reinhardt series—The Man From Berlin and The Pale House—were set in Sarajevo, a city I knew well from living six years in Bosnia. Writing The Ashes of Berlin was an entirely different challenge. I only knew that the first trilogy ended there, and it involved Reinhardt pursuing a man who believed justice needed to be served, no matter where and when. And I felt that, insofar as Reinhardt was coming there from far off the beaten track—from the Balkans, which most people take as a by-word for treachery and intrigue—he had better have something interesting to tell us about this place…!

I settled on 1947 as a year that seems to pass between the end of the war in 1945, and the Berlin Airlift in 1948. I look at 1946 and 1947 as ‘quiet’ years. But what was going on…?

I read and researched.

I found avenues of interest, like the fact the Allies outlawed the German armed forces and, at a stroke, made destitute millions of men and their families. No pensions, nothing. What would that have been like, I wondered? How would people have survived that? Many didn’t, I discovered. Suicide rates soared, especially among men. What happened to the families they left behind, I wondered, knowing from my humanitarian work that men and women often faced such existential trials in very different ways…?

I read and researched.

I read about rations, and ration cards. I read about how families were crammed into damaged and insalubrious accommodation. Children went to school hungry, and came home famished. I rediscovered the stories of the millions of refugees—Poles, Balts, Ukrainians and Jews—who lived in shabby camps, cherishing memories of the homes they had lost and dreaming of the homes they might one day find somewhere else. I wondered how to weave those stories into a future Reinhardt novel, one that might bring those stories closer to the work I do now with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. I wondered how close those stories might be to those I had heard from refugees in Chad, in Chechnya, in Mali, in Pakistan.

I went into the National Archives in Kew, and felt like a proper writer. I walked Berlin’s streets, and felt a bit awkward with my maps and camera, and with my pencil stuck between my lips!

Coming up against this veritable tidal wave of facts, this avalanche of materials, clambering over the shoulders of the writers and historians that had come before me, that was when I realised that in writing the Reinhardt novels, I had never really wanted to be taken for a historian of those times, particularly not a historian of Germany and the Germans.

Of course, I wanted to be right about what I wrote about. Of course I wanted to transport you as a reader. Of course I wanted to give you suspense and adventure in far-off, long-ago places like the Balkans.

But it was in deciding how to get my head around the challenge of writing a novel set in Berlin that could be read as a novel that was as true as it could be to the realities of an occupied and devastated city, that I realised I was channeling something else. That with Reinhardt I was trying to get to the human aspects of one man caught between choices. And that with war, and its aftermath, it is too easy to be stunned by the glare of violence, the shatter of ruins, and to forget that most people do no harm but they do receive it, and somehow they carry on.


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Fleetingly, haltingly, painfully, in silence, in dignity, in anguish, in as many ways as there are people, they carry on.

Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin
1947 and Gregor Reinhardt has been hired back onto Berlin's civilian police force. The city is divided among the victorious allied powers, tensions are growing, and the police are riven by internal rivalries as factions within it jockey for power and influence with Berlin's new masters.  When a man is found slain in a broken-down tenement, Reinhardt embarks on a gruesome investigation. It seems a serial killer is on the loose, and matters only escalate when it's discovered that one of the victims was the brother of a Nazi scientist.  Reinhardt's search for the truth takes him across the divided city and soon embroils him in a plot involving the Western Allies and the Soviets. And as he comes under the scrutiny of a group of Germans who want to continue the war – and faces an unwanted reminder from his own past – Reinhardt realizes that this investigation could cost him everything as he pursues a killer who believes that all wrongs must be avenged...
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