Thursday 28 March 2013

Books to Look Forward to From Atlantic Books and Corvus

The Praetorian Guard have proclaimed Claudius Emperor – but his position is precarious.  To secure power, Claudius’ freedmen must manufacture a quick victory for their new Emperor.  They call on Vespasian to retrieve the Eagle of the Seventeenth, lost in Germania nearly forty years before.  With a band of cavalry, Vespasian and his brother try to pick up the trail.  But someone is determined to sabotage Vespasian’s mission.  In search of the Eagle, pursued by barbarians, Vespasian will battle his way to the shores of Britannia.  Yet can he escape his own Emperor’s wrath?  Rome’s Fallen Eagle is by Robert Fabbri and is due to be published in September 2013.

The Magus of Hay is by Phil Rickman and is due to be published in November 2013.  A man’s body is found below a waterfall.  It looks like suicide or an accidental drowning – until his home is investigated.  The police send for Merrily Watkins, the Diocese of Hereford’s official advisor on the paranormal.  It is nearly forty years since Hay was declared an independent state, seen at the time as a publicity scam by a self-styled king.  But a dark design was forming, creating a hidden history of murder and ritual-magic.  It’s a situation that will take Merrily Watkins – alone for the first time in years – to the edge of madness.

The Amber Amulet is by Craig Silvey and is due to be published in August 2013.  Meet twelve-year-old Liam McKenzie, who patrols his suburban neighbourhood as the Masked Avenger – a superhero with powers so potent not even, he can fully comprehend their extent.  Along with his sidekick, Richie the Power Beagle, he protects the people of Franklin Street from chaos, mayhem, evil and low tyre pressure – but can he save them from sadness?

A new stand-alone historical thriller from the author of the Inspector Troy series, moving from London during the Blitz to divided post-war Berlin.  John Holderness, known to the women in his life as ‘Wilderness’, comes of age during World War II in Stepney, East London, breaking into houses with his grandfather.  After the war, Wilderness is recruited as MI5’s resident ‘cat burglar’ and finds himself in Berlin, involved with schemes in the booming black market that put both him and his relationships in danger.  In 1963 it is a most unusual and lucrative request that persuades Wilderness to return – to smuggle someone under the Berlin Wall and out of East Germany.  But this final scheme may prove to be one challenge too far…  Then We Take Berlin is a gripping, meticulously researched and richly detailed historical thriller – a moving story of espionage and war, and people caught up in the most tumultuous events of the twenty-first century.  Then We Take Berlin is by John Lawton and is due to be published in November 2013.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The March of The Penguins

The Shots team of Mike Stotter, Ali Karim, Ayo Onatade and Kirstie Long together with fellow critics, Barry Forshaw, Chris Simmons and assorted literary critics and bloggers were delighted to attend Penguin / Michael Joseph’s Crime Fiction Party in London last night.

Over drinks and canap├ęs, Rowland White of Penguin welcomed the gathering and announced their upcoming releases, so we’d urge you to mark your diaries accordingly

Highlight Titles:

Natural Causes by James Oswald/ 9th May/ £7.99/ PB
The Book of Souls by James Oswald/ 4th July/ £7.99/ PB
“A star of Scotland’s burgeoning crime fiction scene.” Daily Record
James Oswald is Michael Joseph’s most exciting crime fiction acquisition this year. As a self published author, he is a phenomenal success selling in excess of 350,000 copies of his two books last year, remaining firmly in the top 100 chart for over 3 months. Both titles were shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger award (2008 and 2009), and feature series character Detective Inspector Tony McLean.

Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French/ 20th June/ £12.99/ HB
“It’s a close run thing with Sophie Hannah, but Nicci French is undeniably at the top of British psychological suspense writing, expert in the unguessable twist, supremely skilled at ratcheting up the tension…streets ahead of most thrillers.” The Observer
This is the thrilling third novel in the top 10 bestselling Frieda Klein series.  Nicci French has sold over 8 million copies worldwide and 1.25 million TCM in the UK alone. The first two novels of this major brand relaunch have been critically acclaimed, in addition to the first two titles hitting the top 5 position in the charts.

Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen/ 18th July/ £7.99/ PB
“Gripping story telling. All the hallmarks Scandi-book fans have come to adore” The Guardian
The internationally bestselling author of Mercy and Disgrace returns with his third heart-stopping Department Q novel: Redemption. Mercy stormed straight to number 8 in the paperback charts, and has since sold 70, 000 copies TCM. Mercy and Disgrace have topped the bestseller charts in Germany and Denmark and the Department Q series has now sold an astonishing 14 million copies in Europe, with rights sold in 31 countries. The film adaptation of Mercy will be released at Christmas 2013, by the people who brought you the Stieg Larsson films and The Killing series.

Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz/ 1st August/ £12.99/ HB
“A thriller that moves so fast that it leaves you gasping for breath” Daily Mail
Former Richard and Judy pick joins the Penguin crime list with this stunningly constructed thriller, packed full of suspense. Gregg Hurwitz’s 12 books have sold over 280,000 copies in the UK alone. Gregg Hurwitz is an incredibly skilled writer – he writes the Batman comics as well as many well known screenplays for TV and film for Disney, Paramount, MGM and other major studios. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists and been translated into 20 languages. His ability to grab readers from the opening sentence and create compelling characters thrust into extraordinary circumstances has earned him a place among the top thriller writers of his time. 

Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver/ 15th August/ £7.99/ PB
“Weaver’s books get better each time – tense, complex, sometimes horrific, written with flair as well as care.” The Guardian
This fourth thrilling title in the hugely popular David Raker series from one of crime fiction’s hottest talents is simply breathtaking. This is Tim Weaver’s break out title.

Featured Titles:

Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon/ 31st January/ £7.99/ PB
“Wow! Totally absorbing, brilliantly well written. The best book I’ve read this year” The Sun
The latest puzzle masterpiece from the internationally bestselling author of Think of a Number and Shut Your Eyes Tight. Ten years ago a serial killer went quiet – now he’s back.

The Hiding Place by David Bell/ 14th February/ £7.99/ PB
Bell weaves a terrifying spell around a simple story that pieces the heart and leaves you wondering if the truth is ever what it seems.” The Daily Mail
David Bell is a major new addition to the Penguin crime fiction list for this year, and has already been published in the US to huge success. The Hiding Place is an intriguing and well written psychological thriller, reminiscent of Kate Atkinson and Dennis Lehane.

The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach/ 23rd May/ £7.99/ PB
“A magnificent storyteller” Der Spiegel
This is a spellbinding German court room drama, written by one of Europe’s most successful thriller writers. Ferdinand von Schirach has sold over 1 million copies in Germany alone, and his work is translated in over 30 territories. The Collini Case has been at the top of the German fiction chart since publication in September 2011. Ferdinand von Schirach is one of Germany’s most prominent defence lawyers in Berlin.

Two Evils by PJ Tracy/ 1st August/ £7.99/ PB
“A fast paced gripping read with thrills and devilish twist”’ The Guardian
PJ Tracy sales in the UK alone are close to 1 million copies, and Play to Kill, the last PJ Tracy title, was a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller. Two Evils was also a Sunday Times top ten bestseller in hardback in January 2013. PJ Tracy is the pseudonym for the mother and daughter writing team of PJ and Traci Lambrecht.  

The Black Country by Alex Grecian/ 12th September/ £7.99/ PB
“Throw in deranged prostitutes, poisonings and throat slittings galore, amidst lashings of London fog. Gory, lurid and tons of guilty fun.” The Guardian
This is perfect for fans of Kate Summerscale, Jed Rubenfeld and Jesse Kellerman. Like Alex Grecian’s debut title The Yard, The Black Country shines a light on the early days of forensics and crime scene investigation techniques – a Victorian CSI, torn by social inequality. 

Darkness First by James Hayman/ 12th September/ £6.99/ PB
“Supremely accomplished storytelling” The Daily Mail
Darkness First is a classic US cop thriller in the vein of Harlen Coben. James Hayman’s first two novels, The Cutting and The Chill of the Night were incredibly well received, with fans relishing the dark and sinister edge to Hayman’s storytelling. This is the third title in the McCabe and Savage detective series.

Photos (c) 2013 A Karim
From top -
Mike Stotter and Ali Karim ['The Defiant Ones']
Meg Gardiner, Barry Forshaw, Felix Francis and Mike Stotter
Felix Francis and Sean French [of Nicci French]

Saturday 23 March 2013

Swimming in The Killing Pool with Kevin Sampson

Kevin Sampson is the author of eight critically acclaimed novels, and although much of his work is concerned with the themes and issues, you would find in a crime novel, “The Killing Pool” marks his first full-on excursion into the genre.  Kevin talks to Hull crime writer, Nick Quantrill about it:

Nick – “The Killing Pool” is your new novel and introduces readers to DCI McCartney.  What is it all about?

Kevin – It is the first in a series of crime thrillers featuring drug liaison officer DCI Billy McCartney.  McCartney is in his 50s now and has spent his career chasing major drug traffickers.  In The Killing Pool, he is 24 hours away from nailing the Rozaki brothers, a Liverpool-based heroin gang, when a decapitated corpse turns up on his patch.  McCartney’s search for the killers peels back the layers of a drug-dealing dynasty and takes Mac closer and closer to a nemesis he has been tracking for decades.

Nick - McCartney (interesting choice of name…) is a complex man and the heart of the story.  What do you think makes him different to other the cops on the block?

Kevin – It is an interesting choice of name, isn’t it?  McCartney is not unlike many cops in that he’s a loner who is, seemingly, married to the job.  Yet what becomes apparent, as the tale unfolds, is Mac’s perception of himself as a modern-day Lone Ranger – a caped crusader, of sorts.  There’s a degree of performance about his way of operating, almost as though he dons a mask and goes out into the night to rattle the Bad Guys.  He’s a highly conflicted individual who seems incapable of forming relationships; we’re never entirely sure, right up until the final few pages, who Mac really is and what is driving his obsession with smack – his obsessive desire to nail the kingpins of the heroin world.  Yet there’s innocence there, too.  This is Book 1 and I’d say we’ll only know McCartney properly after the next instalment.  We’ll know, by then, a little more about his name, too.

Nick – The city of Liverpool makes for a very effective backdrop to the complex web of crime and corruption, but there’s also hope and heart in there, too.  It becomes a character in its own right.  Is a sense of place important to the novel, to you as a writer?

Kevin – Definitely.  Liverpool is up there with Baltimore or Naples or Marseille as a ports city that lends itself to fable and that strong sense of place is, I think, a major asset to a great crime thriller.  Whether you’re talking Chandler or Phillip Kerr or Jo Nesbo, the setting is absolutely pungent.  It goes beyond the basic function of providing a backdrop and becomes a vital, vivid element of the story in its own right.  In The Killing Pool, it’s important that Liverpool comes alive for the reader as a historic, international seaport whose docks have borne witness to terrible things, over the years.  This makes the figure and the persona of McCartney all the more poignant, somehow.

Nick - The format of the novel, as it alternates between the protagonists all in the first person, gives it a very claustrophobic feel.  Was it a deliberate stylistic decision?  Did it make it a more difficult novel to write, than say if you were utilising the third person voice?

Kevin – I thought long and hard before settling upon that narrative device.  With a thriller, plot, story, and pace are all paramount; but this is Book 1 in a series, and I felt it just as important to establish the characters, too.  I wanted readers to have a strong sense of who McCartney is by the end of the book.  It’s not just McCartney, either – all the characters have to make an impact, quickly.  Misha, the Somali girl who witnessed the slaying; Shakespeare, the hapless career criminal; Alfie Manners, the seemingly bent cop; Terence Connolly, fixer to the international drug cartels; WPC Lucinda Smithson, the idealistic uniform-cop – these characters all have varying ‘stage time’ in the book.  Some of them only appear for a page or two, yet their role is pivotal.  It’s important that the reader gets a real sense of who they are, in the time they have available.  For me, the first person narrative is a hugely effective way of doing that – it is, literally, character building.

Nick – Do you see “The Killing Pool” as being a logical progression from your previous work?  Has the police procedural proved a better vehicle for exploring the issues that are important to you as a writer?

Kevin – It’s complimentary to, but quite distinctive from my previous novels.  Readers could draw comparisons with two earlier crime novels of mine, Outlaws and Clubland (in fact I’m hoping that some eagle-eyed readers will spot one or two of the characters from those books hiding away in The Killing Pool!)  Some of the things that have always interested me include politics, subcultures, gangs, the inner city, corruption, drugs, sex, identity, organised crime…and I’m fascinated by the concept of regeneration as a physical entity and as a more abstract notion.  I think the crime genre gives you the freedom to explore all those themes in interesting ways, while still keeping you in check with its emphasis on plot and pace.  I’ve always been quite gritty, and there’s a certain cinematic quality to some of my writing.  Having said that, I’m by no means assuming that the crime community are going to embrace me with wide-open arms!  It’s going to be interesting to see what people think.

Nick – What’s next for DCI McCartney?

Kevin – Next up is another historic case that comes rearing back to life when a teenage runaway turns up in London, having fled a compound in the Rif Mountains of Morocco.  The story she tells the police brings McCartney back to one of the very few cases he didn’t fully close – a drug-ring on the island of Ibiza, led by a gang of wealthy playboys from Morocco.

The book trailer is available for viewing below:

You can follow Kevin on Twitter - @ksampsonwriter or on Facebook 

Friday 22 March 2013

Aspiring Authors in Life of Crime - Creative Thursday

Aspiring authors will have the rare chance to pitch their works to some of crime fiction’s most influential names in publishing.

Dragons’ Pen’ is the culmination of a day-long creative writing workshop as part of Europe’s biggest celebration of crime fiction, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2013.

The workshop offers the opportunity to pitch concepts to two powerhouse literary agents, Jane Gregory of Gregory and Company and Gordon Wise of Curtis Brown, commissioning editor from Little Brown Jade Chandler, and esteemed publisher Maria Rejt of Pan Macmillan.

Crime is the most lucrative genre. Blockbuster writer Lee Child sells a book a second and the genre dominates our TV and movie screens.

Gemma Rowland, Crime Festival Manager, said: “It’s not surprising then that so many wannabe authors opt for the genre because many probably see it as the equivalent of a lottery ticket, if they get it right, whether it’s commercial or critical acclaim. Everyone thinks they can write crime, it can be formulaic and it can be popular, but in fact to write crime well is a rare skill, which is why our Creative Thursday workshop is in such demand. It’s taught by authors, publishers, agents and editors - so gives a valuable and rare insight into how to really write crime fiction.”

Many of the most successful writers at work today in the genre will feature at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this July as up to 90 authors gather from around the world including Kate Atkinson, Susan Hill, Ruth Rendell, Ann Cleeves, Lee Child and Ian Rankin.

Creative Thursday precedes the prestigious Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award hosted by broadcaster Mark Lawson and the official opening party for Europe’s biggest celebration of crime fiction.

Attendees will be welcomed by the 2013 programming chair, Val McDermid, before undergoing an intensive exercise-based workshop with Henry Sutton, crime novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

A session will also be co-led by Bafta nominated screenwriter MR Hall and former lawyer William Ryan, with an interactive session also on real life crime scenarios from the Forensic Science Society.

2013 Creative Thursday, Thursday 18 July, Time - 9am – 6pm, Price - £99 per person. For more information or to book your place contact the Festival Office on 01423 562 303 or email

Thursday 21 March 2013

No Sleep until 24th September

The Most anticipated novel of 2013 comes from the fevered imagination of Mr Stephen King brought to print by the delightful people at Hodder and Stoughton Publishing of London, England

The UK cover reveal of the hugely anticipated new Stephen King novel, DOCTOR SLEEP, which publishes on 24 September 2013, is happening today, Thursday 21st March.   Fans will rejoice in King's return to the characters and territory of his iconic bestseller THE SHINING and new readers will discover a totally thrilling stand-alone novel.

Hodder & Stoughton publishers have worked with Think Jam - the award-winning digital marketing agency - to devise a cover reveal that places Stephen King’s loyal fanbase at the heart of social media activity.
An animated version of the cover, featuring interactive hotspots which link to exclusive content, social channels and pre-order is hosted on and on the DOCTOR SLEEP website: 

The animated, interactive cover uses ThingLink technology and can also be embedded across sites, blogs and social channels. It means that anyone with a website, blog, Twitter profile or Facebook page can embed the interactive image wherever they want. Managed centrally by Think Jam, the platform will automatically update across all sites as new content from Hodder becomes available.

Upon launch, fans will be able to experience the cover animation, watch a video of the author reading an extract from DOCTOR SLEEP and enter a competition to be the first UK fan to read the novel!
The platform launched this morning with media partner The Telegraph. After the launch it will then be seeded across Stephen King’s own online estate, before distributing wider.

This cover reveal launches a six month social media and online campaign in the lead up to publication, focusing on key spikes of activity including a summer reading drive around THE SHINING and partnerships with third parties.

Links Online          

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Roberto Costantini in London

We’re delighted to hear of a rare visit to London by Roberto Costantini. He is appearing in conversation with Barry Forshaw at the Italian Cultural Institute on 9th April 2013.

Roberto Costantini’s debut novel, Tu Sei Il Male, has been a huge success in many European countries, especially Germany.  It went into its third reprinting within a week of being published in Italy and was the only debut novel among the 5 finalists of the 2011 Scerbanenco Prize, realising special mention as “debut work revealing itself as a great promise for noir fiction”.

Here’s the book video

It is now being published in the UK under the title The Deliverance of Evil by Quercus, the publishers of Stieg Larsson.  The Deliverance of Evil is an outstanding thriller which starts against the backdrop of Italy winning  the World Cup in 1982 and concludes in 2006 just as they are about to be victorious again.  A vicious murderer who first struck twenty-four years earlier is waiting to kill again.  The author combines the plotting and pace of international crime with the poise and prowess of literary fiction.

Jeffery Deaver said of this novel: “Deliverance of Evil is one of those rare novels that bring together the best elements of literature: it is rich with fascinating political history, filled with brilliant psychological insight into all of the characters, and a nonstop thriller that drives readers relentlessly from first page to last. Bravo, Roberto Constantini!”

Roberto Costantini was born in Tripoli.   He is the manager of the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, where he also teaches on the MBA programme.

Barry Forshaw’s books include Nordic Noir, British Crime Film and Italian Cinema. Other books include Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and large sections of Directory of World Cinema: Italy. He writes for various newspapers and magazines and edits Crime Time (

The event takes place at the Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square, SW1 AT 6.30pm on Tuesday, 9th April,  Entrance is free and drinks will be served after the talk

Saturday 16 March 2013

Julia Crouch On Getting Stuck

Today’s guest blog is by Julia Crouch a former theatre director, playwright and graphic designer. Her debut novel Cuckoo was published in 2011 to wide acclaim. Her third novel Tarnished was recently published.

Terry Pratchett said: 'There's no such thing as writer's block.  That was invented by people in California who couldn't write.'

I tend to agree with him.  However, in my experience, it is quite possible for a writer to get stuck.

If, like me, you are a pantser you might have reached a point in your unfolding story where you have no idea whatsoever what is going to happen next.  Or, if you're a plotter, you may be realising that you've lost all faith in your once-lovely outline and you're just slavishly going through the motions to get from point A to point B.

Or perhaps it's a crisis of confidence that's stopping you – every word that comes out of you is rubbish and the order you're putting them down in is embarrassingly inept and whatever gave you the temerity to think you could write anyway?

It's insanely easy to work yourself up into this kind of lather when you sit on your own all day with only Google and twitter and Facebook and email for company.  Everyone else seems to be having a ball but you can't string even one word together (and yes, it is impossible to string one word together, but it gets to the point when you can't even see that).

Or perhaps you're about twenty thousand words into your novel and all you can see is this mountain of unwritten words towering over you, paralysing your typing fingers.

Every writer has been there and those of us who say we haven't are just indulging in fiction.

But what to do when these paralysing moments hit you?  Particularly if you are under contract to produce a manuscript by July and it's April and you know that if you don't hit your two thousand daily word count you're not going to make it?  (Did that sound as desperate as it feels?).

I have two methods for you.  The first is to write your way out of the hole.  Disable the internet for ninety minutes, tell yourself that you are allowed to fail, and then write really quickly without worrying about the outcome.  I aim for 1500 words in the time it takes for the internet to come back on again.

The second is to stop.  Get up from the desk, move away from the laptop, and do something else.

I might go to the cinema or an art gallery  (I call this feeding my beast.).  Or perhaps I'll take a bath.  It worked for Archimedes...  But my favourite way of stopping is plugging my headphones into my iPhone, putting on my trainers, and going for a long walk (or a run if I haven't already done that).

I have to have music while I move, and I choose it carefully: whether instrumental or with lyrics, it has to fit the mood of the section I'm working on.  

While I'm walking I don't consciously think about the problem I'm having.  I don't expect a solution.  Instead I focus on my breathing and count my steps.  This is all stuff I learned studying meditation: it clears the mind, puts the brain into a neutral and receptive state.

I'm lucky because from my Brighton home I can walk for fifteen minutes and be up on the South Downs, down by the sea or in the centre of town.  But it doesn't matter all that much where I go.  Sometimes I notice what's around me, others I allow it to wash over me.

Then (hopefully) the magic begins: the problem begins to loosen, the ideas begin to flow.  I have a little microphone on my headphones and I use the voice recorder on my iPhone to take notes without breaking stride.  I used to carry a notebook, but, such is the effectiveness of this technique, all the stopping and starting got really tiresome.  If I'm lucky, by the time I get back home I am itching to get at the keyboard, play back my voice notes and get started. 

Very occasionally none of the above work. What to do then?  Visit  It's probably time for a holiday somewhere warm.  But don't forget the notebook, because as with writer's block, there's no such thing as a writer's holiday.  As Stephen King said: 'I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the 4th July and my birthday.  That was a lie..  The truth is, when I’m writing, I write every day.  That includes Christmas, the fourth and my birthday.'

More information about Julia can be found at or follow her on Twitter @thatjuliacrouch 


Tarnished - Peg has never thought to query her family background despite her strange childhood until she meets the straight-talking Loz who reckons she understands the world of psychotherapy.  As the skeletons start falling out of the family closet, Peg wonders if truth and honesty are such good things after all.