Wednesday 31 December 2014

These are a few of my favourite books of 2014...

This year I sadly did not read as many books as I wanted to.  However there were a number of books that I read that certainly made my favourites list this year and a number that are also honourable mentions.  They are as follows in no particular order (that is to say as a how I remembered them).

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly.  John Connolly is one of those writers whose writing continues to fascinate in a myriad of ways.  With his latest Charlie Parker novel he has once again written a stylish novel that reminds longstanding readers as to why he is one of our foremost thrillers writers.  In The Wolf in Winter the community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered.  Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children's future secure.  It shuns outsiders.  It guards its own.  And at the heart of the Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town . . . But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous.  Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance.  In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.  Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive.  I have always loved John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series and this one in my opinion is one of the best in the series.

The Fever is by Megan Abbott in which the Nashes are a close-knit family.  Tom, a popular teacher, is father to the handsome, roguish Eli and his younger sister Deenie, serious and sweet.  But their seeming stability is thrown into chaos when two of Deenie's friends become violently ill, and rumours of a dangerous outbreak sweep through the whole community.  As hysteria swells and as more girls succumb, tightly held secrets emerge that threaten to unravel the world Tom has built for his kids, and destroy friendships, families, and the town's fragile idea of security.  For me Megan Abbott is a writer whose novels always fascinate and always have a sense of place whether it is writing noir stories that evoke sexy, dark and tormented characters or teenage angst and family dilemmas. 

The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin.  New Orleans, 1919.  As a dark serial killer - The
Axeman - stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him.  Though every citizen of the 'Big Easy' thinks they know who could be behind the terrifying murders, Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, is struggling to find leads.  But Michael has a grave secret and — if he doesn't find himself on the right track fast — it could be exposed.  Former detective Luca d'Andrea has spent the last six years in Angola State penitentiary, after Michael, his protégée, blew the whistle on his corrupt behaviour.  Now a newly freed man, Luca finds himself working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as the authorities'.  Meanwhile, Ida is a secretary at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  Obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and dreaming of a better life, Ida stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case and into terrible danger . . . As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer's identity, the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim.  And as the case builds to its crescendo, the sky will darken, and a great storm will loom over the city . . . The Axeman’s Jazz is a debut novel that will satisfy anyone who enjoys historical crime fiction.  Based on a real life killer it is also set in 1919 in New Orleans, the pre-prohibition era, and the birth of the jazz era and the mafia holding their grip.  Along with a young Louis Armstrong helping with the investigation it makes for a wonderful story.

Kill Your Boss by Shane Kuhn - If you're reading this, you're a new employee at Human Resources, Inc.  Congratulations.  And condolences.  At the very least, you're embarking on a career that you will never be able to describe as dull.  You'll go to interesting places.  You'll meet unique and stimulating people from all walks of life.  And kill them.  You will make a lot of money, but that will mean nothing to you after the first job.  Assassination, no matter how easy it looks in the movies, is the most difficult, stressful, and lonely profession on the planet.  Even when you're disguised as an intern.  John Lago is a hit-man.  He has some rules for you.  And he's about to break every single one.  Kill Your Boss is subversive, funny, twisty, ultra violent, and darkly comedic.  It is a novel that is destined to become a classic. 

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman.  When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette 'Bambi' Gottschalk at a Valentine's Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps.  Thanks to his lucrative if not always legal businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury.  But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi's world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.  Though Bambi has no idea where her husband — or his money — might be, she suspects one woman does: his devoted young mistress, Julie.  When Julie herself disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she's left to join her old lover — until her remains are found in a secluded wooded park.  Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto 'Sandy' Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder.  What he discovers is a tangled web of bitterness, jealously, resentment and greed stretching over the three decades and three generations that connect these five very different women.  And at the centre of every woman's story is the man who, though long gone, has never been forgotten: the enigmatic Felix Brewer.  Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy could find the explosive truth...  After Your Gone is a classic story of murder and mystery, in which one man's disappearance echoes through the lives of his wife, daughters — and mistress.  Laura Lippman is as skilful at plotting as she is at characters and setting and she is a writer of some of the best contemporary crime writing being written today.  Any of her novels are worth reading but with After I’m Gone she has written a novel that focuses on crimes of the heart and the repercussions that have an effect on so many. 

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.  If you haven’t read this series then I would urge you to do so.  This time around Peter Grant is out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and out of London - to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children.  But while you can take the London copper out of London you can't take the London out of the copper.  Travelling west with Beverley Brook, Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods.  And what's more all the shops are closed by 4pm.  Think police procedural and magic and murder.  However, for all the murder and mayhem, this is a darkly comic read with characters you can't help but like.  Easily read by adults and young adults alike.

A Cruel Necessity by LC Tyler - The theatres are padlocked.  Christmas has been cancelled.  It is 1657 and the unloved English Republic is eight years old.  Though Cromwell's joyless grip on power appears immovable, many still look to Charles Stuart's dissolute and threadbare court-in-exile, and some are prepared to risk their lives plotting a restoration.  For the officers of the Republic, constant vigilance is needed.  So, when the bloody corpse of a Royalist spy is discovered on the dung heap of a small Essex village, why is the local magistrate so reluctant to investigate?  John Grey is a young lawyer with few clients at the time of Oliver Cromwell and Charles Stuart.  Grey is drawn into a vortex of plot and counter-plot and into the all-encompassing web of intrigue spun by Cromwell's own spymaster, John Thurloe.  So when nothing is what is seems, can Grey trust anyone?  LC Tyler is best known for his comedic crime novels featuring Ethelred Tressider a mid-list crime writer and Elsie his trusty agent.  However in A Cruel Necessity, LC Tyler has started a new historical series which is richly drawn and where it is clear that painstaking research has given this new series a strong sense of credibility and historical accuracy.  As a character John Grey is engaging as much as he is sympathetic.  This is a series that will no doubt get better and garner a loyal following.  Hopefully I am at the head of the queue.

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville.  Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew.  It doesn’t take her long to clear out the dead man’s remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked.  When Rea finally forces it open she discovers inside a chair, a table — and a leather-bound book.  Inside its pages are locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims.  Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but when her family intervene, Rea turns to the only person she can think of: DI Jack Lennon.  But Lennon is facing his own problems.  Suspended from the force and hounded by DCI Serena Flanagan, the toughest cop he’s ever faced, Lennon must unlock the secrets of a dead man’s terrifying journal.  Whilst the characters in The Final Silence are not all likeable they do bring a sense of depth.  He’s not afraid of violence, less than perfect characters or controversial plot developments; all of which make his stories more realistic and thrilling.  The Final Silence has a very dark noirish quality to it as can be expected in the novels of Stuart Neville.  It is gloomy and violent, but it is also wickedly funny at times.  Most of its bitter characters are mired in the past; like one has come to expect from Stuart Neville this is not a book for the fainthearted.  It is intriguingly complex, and Neville's dialogue is profane and caustic.  Perfect.
The Missing by Sam Hawken.  Jack Searle, an American widower, is bringing up his two stepdaughters, Lidia and Marina, alone in the border town of Laredo.  One night, Marina crosses the border into Mexico to go to a concert with her cousin Patricia in Nuevo Laredo — a dangerous city, controlled by drug cartels and devastated by violence and corruption.  They never come back.  A frantic hunt begins, with Jack and Inspector Gonzalo Soler leading the way.  But soon the whole police force is suspended due to endemic corruption, the army takes over the city and missing girls are forgotten.  Jack and Gonzalo must take the law into their own hands, but in their efforts to find the girls they uncover truths about Nuevo Laredo that neither of them ever wanted to face.  It is clear that he is preoccupied by current events in Mexico and the events are very sharply portrayed in his novels.  From his first novel Tequila Sunset (which is my personal favourite) to The Missing, Hawken manages to enthral readers .  His prose is razor sharp and it is an exceptionally crafted novel that resonates with urgency, emotion, and danger.  It’s a gritty, visceral novel you won’t want to put down.  My only problem with The Missing is the fact that I felt that it was too short. 

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly.  I always have a soft for Harry Bosch and in this latest novel Michael Connelly has reaffirmed why he is the best in the business.  In the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die a decade after the crime.  So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet ten years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but any other clues are virtually non-existent.  Even a veteran cop would find this one tough going, but Bosch's new partner, Detective Lucia Soto, has no homicide experience.  A young star in the department, Soto has been assigned to Bosch so that he can pass on to her his hard-won expertise.  Now Bosch and Soto are tasked with solving a murder that turns out to be highly charged and politically sensitive.  Beginning with the bullet that has been lodged for years in the victim's spine, they must pull new leads from years-old evidence, and these soon reveal that the shooting was anything but random.  As their investigation picks up speed, it leads to another unsolved case with even greater stakes: the deaths of several children in a fire that occurred twenty years ago.  But when their work starts to threaten careers and lives, Bosch and Soto must decide whether it is worth risking everything to find the truth, or if it's safer to let some secrets stay buried.  As can be expected this is  a well-drawn police procedural.  The beautifully constructed plot involves political corruption, greed, lust, and vengeance.  It excels as a look at how power, prestige, and the media can override the best intentions.                                   
Skeleton Road by Val McDermid.  In the centre of historic Edinburgh, builders are preparing to demolish a disused Victorian Gothic building.  They are understandably surprised to find skeletal remains hidden in a high pinnacle that hasn’t been touched by maintenance for years.  Who do the bones belong to, and how did they get there?  Could the eccentric British pastime of free climbing the outside of buildings play a role?  Enter cold case detective Karen Pirie, who gets to work trying to establish the corpse’s identity.  And when it turns out the bones may be from as far away as former Yugoslavia, Karen will need to dig deeper than she ever imagined into the tragic history of the Balkans: to war crimes and their consequences, and ultimately to the notion of what justice is and who serves it.  One of the things McDermid excels in is writing standalone novels.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with her series books but it seems that she writes with an extra fervour with these.  In Skeleton Road we have a murder mystery moves seamlessly to an exploration of geopolitics and genocide.  This is one of her best being complex and thought provoking.  With a multi stranded story and some very haunting and evocative details about the atrocities in the Balkans, this was really part murder mystery and part history lesson.  At the heart of the story is a real opportunity to explore themes of loss and revenge.  It is not surprising with novels like Skeleton Road that Val McDermid is considered to be one of our finest crime writers.

Grandville Noël by Bryan Talbot.  This is not strictly a novel but a graphic novel.  A steampunk graphic novel to be precise.  I mean how else can one explain the head of Scotland Yard Inspector LeBrock, a muscular, talking badger who has penchant for bareknuckle fights.  Not only badgers, but also rats, dogs, and every other kind of talking animal populate Talbot’s alternate nineteenth-century Britain and France.  In Granville Noël Detective Inspector LeBrock is alone in Grandville, stalking a growing religious cult led by a charismatic unicorn messiah who, along with his con-men partners, are responsible for horrific mass murder.  With Paris in the grip of the mysterious crime lord Tiberius Koenig and increasingly violent attacks by human terrorists, can LeBrock stop the inevitable slide into fascism?  And could these conditions all be the manipulations of a centuries-old conspiracy to throw the world into war?  This is the latest book in the series in this beautifully illustrated murder mystery that is one part Sherlock Holmes, another part Wind in the Willows, wrapped in a steampunk veneer.  It is not to be missed.

Honourable mentions go to Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin, A possibility of Violence by D A Mishani, The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal, This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash, The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor and Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Books to Look forward to from Head of Zeus

Some secrets destroy you.  Rob and Anna have only just met Owen and Kim.  Now they've boarded their handsome old boat to travel to a far off island in the Caribbean.  With only the four of them on board, it should be paradise: lazy afternoons spent snorkelling; long nights enjoying the silence and solitude of the sea. But why does Owen never sleep?  Why is he so secretive about his past?  And why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt?  Anna can usually get people to talk...but this time, does she want to?  After the Storm is by Jane Lythell and is due to be published in January 2015.

The Absolution is by John Holt and is due to be published in May 2015.  The Rendition - An Italian Muslim has been snatched by the CIA.  His crime: a plot to engulf Venice in flames.  The Gossip - Carnivia is awash with rumour and speculation.  Have the CIA extradited an innocent man?  The Evidence - Holly and Kat must find the powerful men who truly run Italy.  But time is running out to save their city.  The Atrocity - will destroy it all.

Jim says he's an undercover policeman.  His daughter Sam thinks he's a liar.  On holiday in
Orkney, beneath an endless midsummer sky, Sam spies on Jim as he runs secretive errands across the island.  What did he take from the old watchtower on the edge of a cliff?  Why is he so interested in Norse mythology?  And why does Sam have the eerie feeling that she too is being watched?  When Sam finally discovers the truth, it will draw her into a dangerous world of darkness and deception...  Orkney Twilight is by Clare Carson and is an original and haunting thriller about fathers, daughters, and the ghosts of the past.  It is due to be published in April 2015.

Paris Spring is by James Naughtie and is due to be published in March 2015.  Paris in 1968 - seething with revolutionaries and spies - sees Will Flemyng's world turned upside down, after a mysterious encounter on the metro and a chance revelation from a rival operative.  In a city alive with talk of revolution, Will finds himself in the thick of the action, a young spy whose first adventures behind the Iron Curtain have already given him a secret glamour.  But now he gets news that threatens the closest and most complicated relationship in his life, with his younger brother.  In the unforgettable weeks of a crisis that claims blood and tests his deepest loyalties, Flemyng lives and loves the tumult of a city in which his private fears teach him the secrets that lie beneath the raucous politics of the streets.  This is the making of the man whose journey leads to The Madness of July - Will Flemyng, trapped with his friends and enemies in The Paris Spring.

City players know they aren't well liked in Greece, but they never expected to face death on the football pitch.  Scott Manson and London City are in Athens battling for the UEFA Champion's League title.  The situation in Athens is tense, and some of City's players are so unpopular in Greece they've been assigned bodyguards.  Karaiskakis Stadium is packed to the rafters when tragedy strikes.  Christoph Bundchen collapses and dies mid-match.  Is it a heart attack?  Or something more sinister?  The team have a crucial match in England - but they can't go home until the investigation is complete.  The Greek authorities are dragging their heels...Can Scott Manson find the truth and get the team home in time? Hand of God is by Philip Kerr and is due to be published in June 2015.

Border Angels is by Anthony Quinn and is due to be published in January 2015.  A charred
corpse and a set of footprints in the snow lead Celcius Daly into the twilight world of people trafficking.  Inspector Celcius Daly is hunting for a missing woman, Lena Novak, who mysteriously disappeared one winter's night along the Irish border, leaving in her wake the corpses of two men.  Daly finds himself hooked together with a prostitute and a hit man in a life-or-death chase.  His investigation leads them deep into border country, a wild terrain of disappearing lanes and blown-up bridges, abandoned ghost-estates and thick forests - the ultimate refuge for anyone who does not want to be found.

Detective Inspector Hanlon is back.  She's been promoted and now she goes undercover in Oxford to find the sadomasochistic killer of two students.  Philosophy lecturer Dr Gideon Fuller, with his penchant for high-end sadistic sex, is in the frame, but Hanlon is not convinced.  From the specialist brothels in Oxford and Soho, to the inner sanctum of a Russian people trafficker with a taste for hurting women, the trail leads Hanlon deeper and deeper into danger - until she herself becomes the killer's next target.  Cold Revenge is by Alex Howard and is due to be published in March 2015.

The Exile by Mark Oldfield is the second instalment in a trilogy that unlocks the dark heart of Spain, weaving past and present together to portray a country still scarred by civil war, still riven by fear and hatred, still plagued by secrets that refuse to die.  1954: Comandante Guzman has been posted deep into the Basque country to confront a man known only as 'El Lobo'.  High in the mountains, Guzman will have to fight for his life, not only against El Lobo, but also against someone who has been searching for him for a very long time...2010, Madrid: Forensic Investigator Ana Maria Galindez has spent seven months in hospital recovering from the blast that nearly killed her.  Her obsession with Guzman's fate has disturbed long dormant forces.  Now she shall reap the consequences: she will be purposely humiliated, abandoned by colleagues and friends, accused of murder...and worse.  The Exile is due to be published in April 2015.

Taken for Dead is the fourth book in the Katie Maguire series by Graham Masterton and is
due to be published in February 2015.  It is a sunny Saturday in county Cork, and an Irish wedding is in full swing.  Drunk uncles are toasting the bride.  The Ceilidh band have played for hours.  But the cutting of the cake will bring the wedding to a horrifying end.  For there, grinning gruesomely up from the bottom tier is the severed head of the local baker.  Katie Maguire, of the Irish Garda, does not have any leads - until another local businessman goes missing in horrific circumstances.  The murders appear to link to The Kings of Erin, a terrifying gang of torturers and extortionists.  But these are dangerous men.  And they will stop at nothing to throw Katie off the trail...

Gower Street: 1883.  March Middleton is the niece of London's greatest (and most curmudgeonly) personal detective, Sidney Grice.  March has just discovered a wealthy long-lost relative she never knew she had.  When this newest family member meets with a horrible death, March is in the frame for murder - and only Sidney Grice can prove her innocence.  Grice agrees to investigate (for his usual fee) but warns that he is not entirely convinced of her innocence.  If he were in her position, he might have been tempted.  But the more he uncovers, the more all the clues point to Grice himself...  Death Descends on Saturn Villa is by M R C Kasasian and is due to be published in June 2015.

Joe Pickett has good reason to dislike Dallas Cates, rodeo champion.  Now he has even more reason - Joe's eighteen-year-old foster daughter April has run off with him.  And then comes even worse news: the body of a girl has been found in a ditch along the highway - alive, but just barely, the victim of blunt force trauma.  It is April, and the doctors don't know if she'll recover.  Cates denies having anything to do with it - says she ran off from him, too - but Joe knows in his gut who's responsible.  The problem is that there's no proof, and when Joe sets out to find some he faces terrifying opposition: the entire Cates clan, including two notoriously violent brothers and a mother like no one Joe has ever met.  But Joe's going to find out the truth, if it kills him.  And this time, it just might.  Endangered is by C J Box and is due to be published in March 2015.

She's only alive because he thinks she's already dead...Everyone in the quiet Jersey Shore town of Silver Bay knows the story: on a Sunday evening in September 1991, Ramsey Miller threw a block party, then murdered his beautiful wife and three-year-old daughter and disappeared...But everyone is wrong.  Ramsey's daughter got away.  Meg, now known as Melanie, has lived in isolation, protected by her adoptive aunt and uncle.  Now she is nearly eighteen and sick of hiding.  Melanie's determined to confront her father, but can she find him before he finds her?  Before He Finds Her is by Michael Kardos and is due to be published in February 2015.
The Detective’s Secret is by Lesley Thomson is due to be published in April 2015.  October 1987: as a hurricane sweeps through Britain, a man's body slowly rots, locked inside an old water tower in west London.  He carries no identification and fits no missing persons' description.  His corpse is never claimed.  October 2013: the month of the great storm of St Jude.  A man dies beneath a late night Piccadilly line train.  His brother insists he was murdered, but Jack, a train driver, is sure it was suicide.  Jack and Stella uncover the secrets of the case - but Jack is carrying a secret of his own...

Peter May’s RUNAWAY

The Telegraph's Crime-Fiction Critic Jake Kerridge and Shots Editor Mike Stotter with Peter May in London
So as we recently surveyed what Quercus Publishing have in store for 2015, the first one off the block is Peter May’s latest thriller, Runaway. Unlike last year’s Award Winning ENTRY ISLAND – this is a deeply personal tale, and fictionalized by May - exploring this writer’s fascination with the 1960’s London Music scene, and an echo to the future, which again proves the past is never ever forgotten.
Glasgow, 1965 Jack Mackay dares not imagine a life of predictability and routine.  The headstrong seventeen year old has one thing on his mind – London – and successfully convinces his four friends, and fellow band mates, to join him in abandoning their lives to pursue their goal of musical stardom. 
Glasgow, 2015.  Jack MacKay dares not look back on a life of failure and mediocrity.  The heavy-hearted sixty-seven year old is haunted by the cruel fate that befell him and his friends some fifty years before, and how he did and did not act when it mattered most – a memory he has run from all his adult life.  London, 2015 A man lies dead in a bedsit.  His killer looks on, remorseless.  
What started with five teenagers five decades before will now be finished.  Runaway is by Peter May and is a tense nostalgic crime thriller spanning a half-century of friendships solidified and severed, passions ignited and extinguished; and set against the background of two unique and contrasting cities at two unique and contrasting periods of recent history.  Runaway is due to be published in January 2015.
So as Runaway is based upon an early incident in the author’s career, Peter kindly provided Shots readers, a few photographs to provide the narrative some context.

This was our first group, "The Aristokrats".  I think we were about thirteen here, and taking part in a Lewis's/Glasgow Evening Times talent contest in which we came in third.  I'm on the left, Stephen on the right.  All of us in this pic, except for the drummer, were the idiots who ran off to London.  The bass player was Ian Looker, who now lives in Bristol.

We were eleven or twelve here.  Backstage before playing at a school concert.

The two of us pioneering short haircuts, taken in the art department, probably in 5th year.  We'd both had long hair, and I can remember the collective intake of breath at school assembly the morning we turned up with our heads cropped!

This was taken when the original band got together for a reunion concert in France in 2002.  We were pioneering even shorter haircuts then!

To read more about Peter’s adventures in London click here
So after lunch with some of London’s literary critics, we retreated to a quiet bar so I could discover a little about what we have in store with RUNAWAY -
Ali          So after being awarded a Dagger earlier this year for ENTRY ISLAND, what’s the year been like for Peter May?

Peter      2014 has been an extraordinary year for me.  Entry Island was a Top 3 bestseller in the UK, Top 2 in France, and the first three Enzo books, published in paperback for the first time in the UK, have sold phenomenally well, the latest getting into the Top 20.  The first two books of the trilogy have now been published in the US and are also selling well.  I came back from a US tour in September to learn that Entry Island had won the Deanson’s Scottish Crime Novel of the Year, before going on to win the Best Read Dagger at the Specsavers Crime and Thriller Awards.  I also toured in France, the UK and Central Europe, and managed to chalk up 35 flights!  And as if that wasn’t enough I also wrote another book - “Runaway”.  So now, not unnaturally, I’m exhausted!
Ali           And how do you feel about the reception for ENTRY ISLAND, being such an interesting slice of history as well as a gripping read [as it was reviewed widely]?
Peter      Writing “Entry Island” felt like quite a risk at the time, because I was definitely pushing the boundaries of the crime genre, and there was always a danger that it would be seen as historical fiction, or even romance.  Fortunately, readers and reviewers saw it in the context that I hoped they would - as a contemporary crime story with its roots buried deep in history.
Ali          And we see your backlist coming back into print, so did you do any tinkering before re-publication of your older work?
Peter      Actually, all of the Enzo books were written between books one and two of the trilogy, so they didn’t feel like old books to me.  And since the stories were set in very specific years, there was no question of updating them.  But I very carefully proof read them to excise the Americanisms they contained for first publication in the US.
Ali           And tell us a little about your new work “Runaway” as it is something of a departure, something personal, something troubling.
Peter      “Runaway” was certainly a departure from my recent work and, again, part of that desire to push at the boundaries of my genre.  It is far more autobiographical than anything I have written before, since it was very much based on a series of events that took place in my teenage years.  It became a very personal odyssey through my past - being expelled from school, running away from Glasgow to London with my fellow band members when I had barely turned seventeen, living rough on the streets of the Captial and busking in the subways.
Ali           And what was it like fictionalising the past? And did you tell your friends about what you were up to in “Runaway”, and if so, how did they react?
Peter      It was actually great fun taking the bones of a true story and fleshing them out with fiction, particularly as I was able to draw so much on my own memories and feelings and family background.  And researching 1965, which is when the boys run away in the book, was immensely enjoyable - not only a trip down memory lane, but a voyage of discovery.  The only one of my friends that I told about the book was my best friend, Stephen Penn, who ran away with me back in the sixties, and with whom I returned to Glasgow, having split up with the others.  He was excited to read it - the first person to do so (apart from my wife), and loved all the memories it brought back.  He was desperate to know which character was him - but in fact all the characters were really composites of the many friends that I played in bands with in my youth.
Ali           So did you know what the journey the friends were embarking upon, and plot heavily, or did your hitch-hike on the journey with the muse?
Peter      I always plot meticulously before writing, so in terms of storyline I knew exactly where I was going.  But, then, my process takes place in two parts - the storylining and the writing (something I brought with me from my time as a screenwriter).  While some writers start on page one and go with the muse throughout the book, I reserve that for the first of my processes, leaving the second to give the story and characters density.
Ali          There quite a few twists, and surprises for the reader in “Runaway”, so without spoiling the twists, can you let us know if they were plotted ahead of time, or did they surprise you?
Peter      I plot everything in advance.  But, of course, things change and evolve in the process of the writing, and lots of things emerged from the dark recesses of my memory to put sometimes unexpected flesh on the bones of my story.  Writing is always like a journey - even although you have plotted your route in advance, you can never predict what will be waiting for you round the next corner.
Ali          So what was it like going back in time in your memory, and what advice would the grown-up Peter May say to his teenage self if he had a time machine? 
Peter      Writing this book was an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I was amazed at how much I remembered from back then, details and emotions.  They were exciting days for me as a teenager, playing in bands, touring all over Scotland and the North of England in a group called The Harlem Shuffle, which was billed as Scotland’s top soul band.  I made mistakes, of course.  Did things I regretted, made choices that Peter May today would certainly advise against.  But looking back, I don’t think I would change a thing - unlike some of the characters in the book whose lives are blighted by disillusion and regret.
Ali           And what’s this about an album called “Runaway”? by Penn and May
Peter      Stephen Penn and I met when we started primary school together, aged four.  We did everything together as kids, including start our first band, and of course run away to London together.  But as adults we went our separate ways - he to London, where along with his wife he established the top UK child modelling and acting agency, Scallywags.  He is now retired and lives full time in the south of Spain, and last year when I spent the winter down there writing “Runaway”, we wrote and recorded an album of songs that told the story of our lives.  And, of course, one of the seminal events in our lives was running away from home.  Hence the song, “Runaway”, which became the title song of the album.  It’s now available as a download from iTunes, and all the songs, and the videos that go with them, can been heard (and seen) on our website,
Ali           So tell us about the musical side of your life?
Peter      If I hadn’t been a writer, what I would most have wanted to be in this world is a musician.  Music was my life as a teenager and young man.  I played in many bands, intially guitar, then keyboards and latterly bass guitar and flute.  But I understood my limitations, and appreciated that there were so many better musicians around than me, so that when I made my career choices, writing was the thing I was best at, and probably most wanted to do.  But I have never lost my passion for music, and am currently finding renewed interest in it through the writing of songs, which I have never really done before.
Ali           I’ve interviewed many writers, and been surprised how many are musicians as well, one writer mentioned the linkage between music and writing, and that rhythm is important, be it in a lyric, or narrative, would you agree?
Peter      I certainly would.  I think that writing is to a large extent about rhythm and lyricism in the narrative.  I think you “feel” the writing in the same way as you sense and respond to the dynamics of a melody.  Poetry and music is the key, for me, to good writing.  So the links between all three seems clear, and I am not surprised that so many writers are also musicians.
Ali          So in Runaway, you tell the tale of the three old friends re-visiting the past and seeing the significance of what they discover and how it relates to their present and future. The theme of how the past impacts the future is evident in much of your work, like The Black House [and others], so why does the linkage in the deeds of the past interest you so much?
Peter      It’s true that the past-present coaxial is a theme I have returned to often in my recent work, I think largely because it is such a universal experience - the way those things we have done in the past, and the choices we have made, so shape our present and future.  It is possibly also the process of growing older that has made me more aware of that relationship between past and present.  But we are all affected by it, and regret is such a common human experience, that there is hardly anybody who can’t identify with that particular emotion - often in a very bittersweet way.
Ali          So with Runaway launching in January, can you let us now if you are planning a tour, like the extensive one for Entry Island, and where will details be posted?
Peter      Yes, I am planning a major two-week tour of the UK in the second half of January, taking in events in London and Scotland, along with radio and press interviews up and down the country.  Details will be posted on my Facebook author page - - as well as on Twitter and various print magazines and blog sites, and of course the website of my publisher, Quercus.
Ali           As an expat-Scotsman living in France, can you tell how you felt about the recent Scottish Independence referendum, and where did your allegiance lie?
Peter      I followed the referendum debate very closely, mainly through social media and the internet.  I gave several interviews on the subject to the French press, as well as participating in a coast-to-coast political radio show in the US, dedicated to the subject.  I was very much in favour of independence, not in any kind of anti-English sense, but from the perspective of creating a political structure that truly reflected the views of the voters - which the present set-up patently fails to do for most Scots.  Although I also believe the same can be said for many regions of England, and I am very much in favour of a federal solution to a political problem that is denying democracy and creating apathy in the population for the whole political process.
Ali          You have always been big into social media / internet – so how important is online visibility in these tough days for publishing?
Peter      I think a strong internet presence is crucial for writers and the future of publishing.  Mediums like Twitter have become the new “word of mouth”, which has always been the best way of selling books.  It’s something that happens more or less spontaneously, and is very hard to manipulate or predict.  But you have to be part of it to benefit from it. 
Ali           But how do you manage your time, as you need to write as well?
Peter      Managing your time as a writer these days is very difficult.  The demands of promotion are huge, and I find that anything up to two-thirds of my year is now taken up with that pursuit.  So it’s very important to set writing time aside and simply shut the door on the world while you’re doing it.
Ali          So I assume you have little time for freelance Journalism then? Do you miss your days as a journalist?
Peter      I don’t miss those days at all.  I had an absolute ball as a journalist during the seventies, which was an exciting time of huge change and transition in Britain.  It was exhilarating and educational, but in the final event it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.  And since then I have been very lucky in being able to pursue my career as a fiction writer, both in television and in books.
Ali           And what have you read recently that has fired your imagination?
Peter      The best book I read in 2014 was William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace”.  I’ve always admired his writing, but this book was a great novel, as well as a crime book that took the genre to a new level.
Ali           And what’s next for Peter May?
Peter      2015 looks like being another very busy year.  It will kick off with my launch tour of “Runaway”, followed by a research trip to the Hebrides, after which I will be locking the doors on the world to write my new novel - and, yes, it’s a return to the Hebrides, though not to the characters of the Lewis Trilogy.  I will have another US tour in the autumn, after which I will be writing the final book in the Enzo Files.

Ali         Thank you for your time
Thanks to Quercus Publishing we have one limited edition proof copy of RUNAWAY 
[limited to 300 copies] signed by Peter May to give away in an exclusive competition.
All you have to do to win this very rare book is to answer the following question –

Which one of these titles is not one of Peter May’s Black House Trilogy

[a] The Black House
[b] The Draughtsmen
[d] The Lewis Man
[e] The Chessmen

Send your answer in an email to marking the subject line “PETER MAY RUNAWAY” and please include a postal address.
Closing date for entries is Sunday 11th January 2015

Terms and conditions for the Peter May Runaway Competition

Closing date for entries is Sunday 11th January 201512:00:00 AM
All correct entries will be entered into a prize draw and the first correct answer picked at random on 11 / 1 / 2015 will be declared the winner of the book.
The winner will be notified by email within 14 days of the promotion closing date and is required to accept their prize by email or phone call within 14 days of notification.
In the event of non-acceptance within the specified period, the promoter reserves the right to reallocate the prize to the next randomly drawn correct and valid entry.
The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. No responsibility can be accepted for lost or misplaced entries
The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative
Only one entry per person
Incorrect or illegible answers or entries received after the entry date will not be entered into the prize draw
The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
Unfortunately geographical restrictions apply, with entries only accepted from the UK and Southern Ireland

Peter May’s Runaway can be purchased with a generous discount the Shots Bookstore here

More information available from

Photographs © Peter May © Quercus Publishing and © Ali Karim