Friday, 19 January 2018

An Evening with Mick Herron at Dulwich Books

Wednesday 7th March 2018: An Evening with Mick Herron at Dulwich Books

Bestselling spy novelist Mick Herron returns with London Rules, the fifth of his acclaimed Jackson Lamb novels. Mick will be at Dulwich Books on Wednesday 7th March to discuss his writing, read from his new book and sign your copies.

Mick’s Jackson Lamb novels started with the bestselling Slow Horses. It was described by the Mail on Sunday as ‘the most enjoyable British spy novel in years' and was picked by The Daily Telegraph as one of the best spy novels of all time. The following three novels went from strength to strength and have won bundles of prizes. He himself is as hilarious and captivating as his books. Do not miss this event!  

Event: An Evening with Mick Herron
Location: Dulwich Books, 6 Croxted Rd, London SE21 8SW
Date: 7th March 2018
Time: 19.00 – 20.30
Price: £10 (admission & a glass of wine)
           £20 (admission, book & glass of wine)

London Rules by Mick Herron (Published by Hodder & Stoughton)

London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.  Cover your arse.  Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered prime minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.  Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.  Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.  It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Chalk Man Cometh

I had been struggling with large reading commitments, when a proof copy of THE CHALK MAN arrived in the mail. I put it to one side [leaving it for later] due to lack of time.

The hype surrounding it – the fierce bidding war from various publishing houses, international rights, allusions to Stephen King and James Herbert, and a Crime / Horror Debut novel plucked from ‘the slush pile’, breathless ‘blurbs’ from other writers – well – the hype had the opposite effect.

Despite being an enthusiast of Horror Fiction and The Weird the hype put me off the book.

How wrong could I have been?

Massively so.

I soon discovered when I finally cracked the spine of this remarkable novel that it is extraordinary. I also received word from several of my US reviewing colleagues who were equally impressed including Larry Gandle the Assistant Editor of Deadly Pleasures Magazine [a literary critic renowned for his no-nonsense approach, and a reader who is hard to impress].

Apart from being an elegant narrative split between the 1980s and current day, it also is written with an assured voice, which contains insight, and makes one reflect upon reality, as this paragraph below illustrates.

Rather than tell you too much, why not watch the short promotional film from Penguin Randomhouse

So it was a delight to find myself invited to the launch party organised by Gaby Young of Penguin RandomHouse in Islington, North London. I bumped into celebrated writer and critic Barry Forshaw, Shots Ayo Onatade, former Chair of The Crime Writers Association writer / critic Natasha Cooper, Jon Coates from The Express among an eclectic array of guests.

So as the canapés and wine flowed, the advance word about this debut was very exciting, so we chatted to the author, the editorial and marketing team from Michael Joseph imprint at Penguin RandomHouse, and soon it was time to hear more, so we present a short clip [recorded in gonzo-style] from the party.

And we present a few photographs from the launch party.

What makes this debut so intriguing is best explained by the author in this clip

We would urge you to seek out The Chalk Man, before he knocks on your door. 

Borderland by Tim Baker

As a deadly war between rival cartels erupts in Mexico, and a shocking sequence of serial killings continues unabated, a female activist and a renegade cop form an uneasy alliance to try to bring down the narcos. Tim Baker discusses the borderland where his new epic crime thriller, CITY WITHOUT STARS, is set . . .
For a landscape so often associated with violence and crime, the border region between Mexico and the United States is surprisingly beautiful. True to the complexities of its history, the area is rich in natural diversity. There are huge dunes of “singing sands” that hum eerily in the wind, dense “sky island” type mountain ranges with a spectacular array of flora and fauna, and remote, blue-hued canyons.
This stark beauty is in contrast to the region’s narrative over the last two decades: desperate immigrants exploited by vicious people smugglers; ruthless criminals trafficking narcotics one way and guns the other; and the devastating scourge of hundreds of women kidnapped and murdered by unknown killers.
When starting out on my novel, I struggled to reconcile these contradictions until the day I came across a legend that captured my imagination. In 1911, a group of Mexican volunteers answered the revolutionary call of Pancho Villa and crossed the dunes to join his irregulars.
Only they never made it. They were found dead weeks later, their lungs full of sand despite there being no record of any windstorms. They had literally drowned in sand.
The more I thought about it, the more incredible it seemed. And yet that impossibility helped me to embrace all the other paradoxes that I would encounter researching my novel. I began to understand that the greatest wall of all is not the one that runs along a border but the one that our minds put up against stories that challenge our own sense of reality.
It was an insight that prepared me for what was to come – the realisation that in el mondo narco – the insane narco universe – anything and everything was possible, and that the writer’s duty was not to question but to embrace those extremes . . .
Tim Baker’s debut thriller, FEVER CITY, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award.

CITY WITHOUT STARS is published by Faber & Faber in January (£12.99)
In Ciudad Real, Mexico, women are being thrown into the trash - raped, murdered and mutilated. The police have reported 300 deaths of young maquiladora girls from the factories, yet not found a single clue or suspect. But union agitator Pilar knows the number of deaths is more like 800, and that the lazy and corrupt police are the least likely to resolve the situation.  Fuentes is a different kind of police officer. When his colleagues start shutting down his investigations into the deaths, he knows the roots of this mass-murder cover-up must stretch wide – into his own force. Some of his colleagues are definitely on the payroll with narco thugs like El Santo. But why is Padre Marcio, Mexico’s hallowed orphan rescuer, appearing in the investigation too?  The more Fuentes and Pilar learn, the more they find themselves in danger. Can the two of them expose the truth when so many around them want to bury it?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Sorted! Who killed the Rave Scene?

One of the joys of writing books set in the 1990s is that I get to indulge in nostalgia dressed up as research – for a living!

For ‘Games with the Dead’ I needed to explore the whole ‘rave scene’, as one of the book’s major storylines is the Ecstasy-related death of a teen girl.

First, a confession! I pretty much missed the whole ‘rave’ thing. Despite being optimum age - born in 1969 – I spent the late eighties in rave-free Ireland gazing at my Doc Martens while listening to indie. In fact, I resented the growing popularity of ‘dance music’ which, to my MDMA-deprived head at least, sounded like someone pushing a keyboard through an industrial threshing machine.

I finally attended my first rave in Brixton in 1991, baulked at the fact they didn’t sell booze and spent the rest of the night sulking / grimacing at half-wits blowing whistles and shouting ‘acieeed’. Of course, to ‘get into it’, I needed to lay off the sauce and take an E. But I’m Irish for God’s sake, and thus unwilling to go dry even to take drugs!

So, to get to the bottom of this mystery known as Rave (I realise I’m beginning to sound like Rees-Mogg here), I bought a stash of non-fiction books on the subject, including the brilliantly-researched Altered States by Matthew Collin. What I learned is that the birth and death of the ‘rave’ scene between the mid-80s and mid-90s uncannily mirrors the rise and fall of counterculture in the 1960s. Somewhat depressingly, both movements saw idealism usurped by criminality and greed.

The ‘Summers of Love’ of 1987 and ’89 sound as pure as the MDMA people were taking. With the country sinking into deep recession, young people had found a way to suspend normal transmission, if only for a single night, by becoming part of a life-affirming movement.

Of course, it wasn’t all love, hugs and baggie clothes. People died from taking E, but the casualties numbered tens not hundreds. Bearing in mind that, each year in the UK alone, 30,000 people die from alcohol-related conditions, E could be considered virtually harmless. Some supporters claim E is safer to consume than bay leaves!

But that’s not how the Tory government and the tabloid press saw it in 1989. ‘Evil Ecstasy – deadly drug sweeping the nation’ blared the headlines and hysteria took hold immediately. Sir Ralph Halpern banned Smiley t shirts from his Top Shop retail chain; Top of the Pops declared a moratorium on all records containing the word ‘Acid’.

Perhaps inevitably, the demonising of E and the rave scene acted as an almost gilt-edge invitation for criminality to weigh in. According to Customs, E coming into the UK increased 4000 per cent between 1990 and ‘95. Criminal gangs became involved in importing the drug, running clubs as outlets for drug dealing and charging dealers to get in. To boost their profits further, they soon started producing their own pills, cutting or adulterating the MDMA with cheaper speed, LSD and who knows what.

By the early ‘90s, speedy E had changed the whole vibe of rave culture from celebration to a
sort of aggressive euphoria known as Hardcore. Now, dancers’ faces seemed contorted with weird expressions, midway between snarl and smile. Ravers were dubbed Cheesy Quavers and seen as downmarket, scuzzy, underclass youth who attended clubs like Raquel’s in Basildon.

Cut to November 1995 and the death of 18-year-old schoolgirl Leah Betts four hours’ after taking an Ecstasy tablet bought at Raquel’s. Five days’ later, her grieving family turned off her life support machine and launched a 1500-site poster campaign warning about the perils of E. Under a photo of a smiling Leah, the caption read ‘Sorted. Just one ecstasy tablet took Leah Betts’.

Weeks later, in December 1995, three criminals who ran Raquel’s nightclub were shot dead in a Range Rover, execution-style, having been lured to a rural laneway in Rettendon, Essex. The sordid headlines that followed gave politicians and police the impetus they needed to introduce Draconian licencing laws that killed off what was left of rave culture. But like all good crime stories, this one has a few unexpected twists…

What many people perhaps don’t know is that Leah Betts did not die of Ecstasy. The inquest into Leah’s death found that she died from water intoxication. Perhaps heeding government warnings about MDMA causing dehydration, Leah drank 12 pints of water after taking the pill, causing her brain to swell and slip into a coma.

I also had no idea that the ‘Sorted’ poster campaign had been part-funded by three advertising agencies. Why would these advertising companies help out a grieving family? Could it be connected to the fact that these agencies’ biggest clients back then were alcohol and energy drink companies?

After all, the rise of rave culture had severely damaged the alcohol industry. And certain energy drinks were aggressively advertising themselves as ‘safe’ alternatives to MDMA. Some suggest that both booze and energy drink companies were keen to exploit any opportunity possible to demonise Ecstasy – and the death of Leah Betts offered just that.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Left Coast Crime 2018 Award Nominations Announced

Left Coast Crime 2018, “Crime on the Comstock,” will be giving out four Lefty awards at the 28th annual LCC convention, to be held in Reno in March: humorous, historical, debut, and best. The awards will be voted on at the convention and presented at a banquet on Saturday 24th March 2018 at the Nugget Casino Resort in Reno/Sparks, Nevada. The award nominees have been selected by this and last years’ convention registrants. The nomination period has just concluded, and LCC is delighted to announce the Lefty nominees for books published in 2017:

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel
The nominees are:
Gone Gull by Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper (Minotaur Books) 
The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Dying for a Diamond by Cindy Sample (Cindy Sample Books)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial) for books covering events before 1960
The nominees are:
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union Publishing)
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe (Seventh Street Books)
Dangerous To Know by Renee Patrick (Forge)
The Proud Sinner by Priscilla Royal (Poisoned Pen Press)
Season of Blood by Jeri Westerson (Severn House Publishers)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel.
The nominees are:
A Short Time To Die by Susan Alice Bickford (Kensington)
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink) 
Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas (Poisoned Pen Press)
A Head in Cambodia by Nancy Tingley (Swallow Press)
Protocol by Kathleen Valenti (Henery Press)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories).
The nominees are:
Blood Truth by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Sulfur Springs by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books) 
Glass Houses by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)
Cast the First Stone by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

The Left Coast Crime Convention is an annual event sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors. Usually held in the western half of North America, LCC’s intent is to host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests. Lefty Awards have been given since 1996.