Monday 30 June 2014

Books to Look Forward to From Headline Publishers

A burned out L.A. detective….  A woman of mystery who is far more than she seems… a grotesque, ancient monster bent on a mission of retribution.  When these three collide, a new standard of suspense is born.  The legend of the Golem of Prague has endured through the ages, a creature fashioned by a sixteenth-century rabbi to protect his congregation, now lying dormant in the garret of a synagogue.  But the golem is dormant no longer.  Detective Jacob Lev wakes one morning dazed and confused.  He seems to have picked up a beautiful woman in a bar the night before, but he can’t remember anything about the encounter, and before he knows it, she has gone.  But the mystery pales in comparison to the one he is about to be called into solve.  Newly reassigned to a Special Project squad he didn’t even know existed, he’s sent to a murder scene far up in the hills of Hollywood Division.  There is no body, only an unidentified head lying on the floor of a house.  Seared into a kitchen counter nearby is a single word: the Hebrew for justice.  Detective Lev is about to embark on an odyssey – through Los Angeles, through many parts of the United States, through London and Prague, but most of all, through himself.  All that he has believed to be true will be upended – and not only his world, but also the world, itself, will be changed.  The Golem of Hollywood is by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman and is due to be published in September 2014.

Underwater archaeologist Jack Howard is back with a dangerous mission to uncover a shocking secret which could rewrite history...  In 1890, a British soldier emerges from the depths of a Cairo sewer.  He claims to have been trapped for years in an ancient underground complex, and swears that he stumbled upon an incredible collection of gold, treasure, and thousands upon thousands of jars filled with papyri.  Dismissed as a madman who has lost his mind in the desert, his story was lost to the world.  Until now...  When a colleague of Jack Howard's stumbles across the soldier's story, the mention of a 'blinding shaft of light' captures Jack's attention and resurrects the forgotten ramblings.  With the political situation in Egypt at boiling point, Jack and his team risk everything in a treacherous archaeological expedition to find the truth.  Their mission will take them across the globe, down to the darkest depths of the Red Sea, and back through Egyptian history to the bloody reign of Akhenaten, the Sun-Pharaoh - and keeper of a devastating secret...  Pyramid is by David Gibbins and is due to be published in November 2014.

The Roman Empire’s conquest of Britannia is under threat from within.  Prefect Cato and Centurion Marco must uncover a traitor to prevent unthinkable defeat.  A messenger on the streets of Rome has been intercepted and tortured, revealing a plot to sabotage the Roman army’s campaign against Caratacus, commander of Britannia’s native tribes.  A treacherous agent’s mission is to open a second front of attack against them and eliminate the two Roman soldiers who could stand in the way.  Unwarned, Cato and Marco are with the Roman army pursuing Caratacus and men through the mountains of Britannia.  Defeating Caratacus finally seems to be within their grasp.  But the plot against the two heroes threaten not only their military goals but also their lives. Brothers in Blood is by Simon Scarrow and is due to be published October 2014.

First you'll say you're sorry...then you'll say goodbye.  A family is wiped out after a burglary gone wrong.  An executive accused of embezzling kills himself and his loved ones.  A house fire claims the lives of all its inhabitants.  Three separate incidences with two common threads - a first wife who took her own life and a secret the victims took to their graves.  Stephanie Coburn has barely recovered from her sister's mysterious suicide before her brother-in-law and his new wife are murdered.  Stephanie never met the bride, has never even seen a clear photograph of her face.  But she knew her sister, and she knows something is desperately wrong...The police won't listen.  Her only ally is another victim's son.  Step by step, they must uncover a trail of a brutal vengeance and a killer who will never relent - and whose forgiveness can only be earned in death...  Tell Me You’re Sorry is by Kevin O’Brien and is due to be published in November 2014.

The Royalist is by S J Deas and is due to be published in September 2014.  A Royalist dragoon who fought against Parliament, he is currently awaiting execution at Newgate Prison.  Yet when he is lead away from Newgate with a sack over his head, it is not the gallows to which they take him, but to Oliver Cromwell himself.  Cromwell has heard of Falkland’s reputation as an investigator and now more than ever needs a man of conscience, His New Model Amy are wintering in Devon but mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp and, in return for his freedom, Falkland is despatched to undercover the truth.  With few friends and a slew of enemies, Falkland soon learns there is a dark demon at work, one who won’t go down without a fight.  But how can he protect the troops from such a monster and, more importantly, will be able to protect himself.

Faith Corcoran returns to Cincinnati, ostensibly to accept an inheritance of her family home from her recently deceased grandmother, and is immediately embroiled in a terrible accident as her car hits a young girl who claims to have been kidnapped.  Compelled to find out what happened to the girl, she starts investigating and before long comes into contact with FBI agent Deacon Novak (from Watch Your Back).  Watch the sparks fly as murder, passion and love all collide.  Closer Than You Think is by Karen Rose and is due to be published in November 2014

Mathew’s Tale is by Quintin Jardine and is due to be published in October 2014.  1818, Carluke, Lanarkshire.  Mathew Fleming returns home to Scotland following heroic service at the Battle of Waterloo.  After seven years away, he is a ghostly presence to those he left behind.  But Mathew is ambitious and soon becomes a man of influence in his county and beyond.  Yet through all his success, he still hides the loss of his one true love.  When a terrible act of murder occurs, Mathew must choose between the rule of blood and the rule of law.  And as a man of honour with a warrior's instincts, he embarks on a journey of vengeance that will test every sinew of his faith in mankind...

Hired to find the missing son of retired political activist Moira Doherty, Dan Starkey knows his new case is going to be challenging.  Billy 'the Bear' Doherty isn't an easy man to find - a criminal with a nasty drug habit; his mum is convinced he's been murdered.  But when Moira herself is killed, her body found floating in the waters under Londonderry's Peace Bridge, Dan finds himself in the middle of a deadly game of cat and mouse.  Already in unfamiliar territory, Starkey is quickly embroiled in the city's porn and drug fuelled underworld, where a new generation of gangster terrorist is intent on creating mayhem their predecessors could only dream of.  The Dead Pass is by Colin Bateman and is due to be published in September 2014.

Hannah and her family have been stalked across centuries.  Their hunter?  Jakab, a man who can change his appearance at will and hide behind the face of a beloved, poised to strike.  But now it seems Hannah and Jakab are linked by more than fear…they share a rare bloodline that is under threat of extinction unless Hannah is willing to make sacrifices that would once have led to her own death.  Should the prey ever trust the predator?  And is hope for future generations ever enough to wash away the deadly sins of the past. The Blood Legacy is by Stephen Lloyd Jones and is due to be published in November 2014.

A New York Christmas is by Anne Perry and is due to be published in October 2014.  Thomas Pitt's daughter Jemima, now a young woman, leads the cast of Anne Perry's enthralling festive mystery.  In New York, at the turn of the century, where new American money and old English aristocracy collide, a young bride's secret past could destroy her future.  Jemima, in America as a chaperone until her friend's wedding, is instead drawn into the crisis, and must decide whom to trust, and how to thread her way through the dangerous streets of this cold, brash new city.

Peter Boutrup is visiting his girlfriend's grave when her mother approaches him.  Her son, Magnus, has gone missing and she begs Peter to look for him.  The next day a young nun is pulled out of the moat at the convent in Djursland where Peter works as a carpenter.  She has been garrotted and Peter was the last person to see her alive.  At the same time during a dive in a mine, Kir Rojel finds a box of old bones.  They are human bones and the man has been garrotted.  But that was sixty years ago...While Peter is looking for Magnus, Detective Mark Bille Hansen is assigned to the case: he must link the bones in the box with the girl in the moat - and the hunt for the truth sends him to the place he least thought to go.  Dead Souls is by Elsebeth Egholm and is due to be published in November 2014.

Jake Buckman’s relationship with his sixteen-year-old son Ryan is not an easy one, so at the urging of his loving wife, Pam, Jake goes alone to pick up Ryan at their suburban movie theatre.  On the way home, Ryan asks to drive on a deserted road, and Jake sees it as a chance to make a connection.  However, what starts as a father-son bonding opportunity instantly turns into a nightmare.  Tragedy strikes, and with Ryan’s entire future hanging in the balance, Jake is forced to make a split-second decision that plunges them both into a world of guilt and lies.  Without ever meaning to, Jake and Ryan find themselves living under the crushing weight of their secret, which threatens to tear their family to shreds and ruin them all.  Powerful and dramatic, Keep Quiet will have you debating what it means to be a parent and how far you can, and should, go to protect those you love.  Keep Quiet is by Lisa Scottoline and is due to be published in November 2014.

Also due to be published is The Good Life by Martina Cole in October 2014 and The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg in November 2014.

Friday 27 June 2014

Who knew? Everyone except me?

The interview at the French Institute could have been so different.  I’d diligently researched my interviewee, French bestseller, Marc Dugain, in English and French sources.  (French dictionary by my side.)   I discovered he had been a very successful financier.  So successful that he had then set up his own airline, employing 2,500 people, which he eventually sold to Air France.  He retired (in his mid-thirties) to concentrate on writing.
            Dugain had already written his first novel, The Officer’s Ward, based on his grandfather’s experiences in a hospital devoted to the disfigured in the First World War.  He wrote it in 21 days, which, frankly, is sickening.  Especially when it then went on to win 80 – yes, eight zero - literary prizes and become a very successful film.  Envious?  Moi?
He has gone on to write a wonderfully disparate range of novels and moved into directing film versions of several of them.  He began with the film of his Une Execution Ordinaire, set in Russia now and in the early fifties.  Most recently he did the same with his, as yet un-translated, The Curse of Edgar, about J Edgar Hoover.  His docudrama stars our own Brian Cox as Hoover and Anthony Higgins (who I remember best from The Draughtsman’s Contract) as Clyde Tolson.  (Dugain is meeting both actors for a drink as I write this.)
In consequence of this research – did I mention the word ‘exhaustive’? – I felt pretty relaxed getting up on stage with him in the French Institute’s lovely first floor library.  We were there primarily to talk about his newly translated novel, The Avenue of The Giants (Europa), about Edmund Kemper (the ‘Co-Ed Killer’), a real-life California serial killer in the Sixties.  
It’s a terrific and terrifically unsettling novel, written in a matter of fact, first person voice that makes the horrors even more horrific.  And Dugain, born in Senegal but a Frenchman down to his stylish suit and specs, nails hippy California effortlessly. 
So there was a lot to talk about.  He dropped a little not-in-the-research bombshell early on when he said that he had been married to a psychopath (his first wife) so knew a little bit about how to get in the head of his Kemper character. 
But he saved his interview-changing remark until my last question about the source of his writing.  Was writing in the family?  He laughed and said something about his sister.  He named her but he pronounced her name so quickly I didn’t catch it.  However, I gathered she was a bestselling writer.
He went on to say that they both learned to write by writing long, long letters to each other.  It was only when a woman in the audience asked him a question about that exchange of letters that I heard his sister’s name more clearly. Fred Vargas.  The inimitable Fred Vargas.
So much for my exhaustive research.  Well, except that, after I first posted this Daniela Petracco at Europa Books and Geraldine D'Amico at King's Place both suggested to me that I'd actually misunderstood him.  His parents were Fred's Godparents and he regards her as his sister.  Phew, think I've got that right now!

Thursday 26 June 2014

Heartman and the Origins of J T Ellington by M P Wright

Today's guest blog is by Mark Wright who was born in Leicestershire and worked in the music industry before changing career to become a Private Investigator. He retrained in 1989 and spent the next twenty years in the mental health and probation services in the UK.

The origins of my Bajan detective, Joseph Tremaine Ellington and the genesis of Heartman were born on a different continent. In the autumn of 2003 I had travelled to New York and then took a flight on to the state of Louisiana and New Orleans. The two American cities could not be more different. Manhattan feels huge and modern, it is an iconic place and even after visiting on numerous occasions, amongst all the wonder of its skyscrapers and iconic municipal buildings, I still find its vastness intimidating and impersonal. New York has always given me the ‘Joe Buck’ – Midnight Cowboy kinda of feeling.

Like I was a fish out of water in a city way too fast for me. New Orleans is the polar opposite. Its French Quarter to this day still has back streets that, when you walk down them, give off the aura of bygone, hedonistic southern times. Live oaks, palms and Cyprus moss hang from the ornate balconies of the veranda gardens of elderly buildings. There is heady tropical scent that permeates every part of the quarter and whether it be dusk or dawn you get a strong and eerie feeling that the ghosts of the American civil war are never more than a hairs breath away from you as you are drawn along its time worn sidewalks. Both New York and New Orleans have seen there fair share of crime over the years and crime writers have took inspiration from the mutually seedy criminal underbellies that can be found in both cities. This old port town on the edges of the Gulf of Mexico with its creepy aura and timeless feel helped me to create the foundations of my book, Heartman.

I found my inspiration in the Abbey Bar in Decatur Street in the French quarter. J T Ellington was born on a real hot day and in a heavy storm that was hitting New Orleans one Tuesday afternoon in September 2003. Outside the streets ran with rain and I was happy to be sitting out of the downpour with a long necked bottle of ice cold Dixie beer which had been served to me by a diminutive but hard looking Louisianan bar man who was sat across the bar from me dressed in a grubby white vest and who was happily reading a Harry Potter hardback. Brownie McGhee’s Good Morning Blues was playing on the juke box and I had a copy of James Lee Burke’s Neon Rain for company. On my travels I’d always took a couple of Burke’s Dave Robicheaux crime novels along for the ride and now in New Orleans, home state of my favourite crime writer it seemed only fitting to be reading one of his books. But in that New Orleans bar, rather than read, I found myself writing.

I seem to remember that the bare backbones of Heartman’s story came to me quickly, a flash of inspiration that was born more from the copious amounts of Dixie beer I was drinking than through artistic endeavour. I wrote my ideas in pencil, in the back of a small black day to day diary that I’d been carrying in the back of my rucksack. I wrote for a good hour, and forged from my booze-addled imagination what was to become my wily Bajan inquiry agent.  I called him Ellington after the great jazz musician, Duke Ellington and I set the story in my home town of Leicester. Outside the rain had stopped, I knocked back the rest of my Dixie, put the diary back in to my bag then walked out of the bar into the sunshine and then quickly forget about J T Ellington...

Just less than ten years later in the spring of 2011 the idea of Heartman came flooding back to me. I’d enrolled in a creative writing course at Leicester University, tutored by the brilliant Guardian columnist, Damien G Walter. I took the bare bones of my book to him in screenplay form and Damien advised to restructure it, telling me it had the makings of a good novel. I began work in earnest, thrashing out the first draft in around four weeks, Heartman’s original title was; Rock a Bye Blues. After lengthy research I’d decided that Bristol rather than Leicester was a more historically expansive city for Ellington and my story to exist in. In May 2011 I pitched the book to literary agents, David Headley, Broo Doherty and Camilla Wray at the Pitch to an Agent Slot’ at Crimefest in Bristol. All three liked it, all three asked to see more. During my first Crimefest experience I was lucky to be introduced to my wonderful literary agent, Philip Patterson of MARJACQ Scripts. Phil took Heartman away with him and in September of that year kindly offered me representation, the rest, as they say... is history.

I write in the first person, through Ellington and the voice of Heartman is very much of its time. The book is set in 1965 and I hope the mores of the era are captured authentically. In a literary sense I have been influenced by the writing of Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and of course I tip my hat to the brilliant LA Noir crime writer, Walter Mosley. But despite those great influences I hope readers of Heartman will see J T Ellington as being a character that stands out very much on his own. He is not super human, he is a man who struggles with self doubt but at the same time on the street, has an out ward cocky confidence that hides insecurities. He is plagued by the demons of his past and misses the Caribbean life that he has been forced to leave. Ellington is Barbadian, an ex colonial police officer, and a man with secrets who is barely existing in a country he really does not want to live in.

The sense of prejudice and hostility to both Ellington’s colour and his past as a disgraced police officer permeate through the book. This was deliberately structured from my early drafts and I hope has added to my detective’s personal sense of social and cultural isolation. As a character, Ellington has lived with bigotry and intolerance for as long as he can remember and this is reflected within the book. The ugly face of racism in the 1960’s in Britain towards the immigrant population is never far away in Heartman and its unwelcome presence will be a reoccurring theme in my future Ellington books. To recognise and address such truths within my stories is both important to me as a writer and I hope it keeps the books grounded in both social and historical fact.

Telling it how it is (or was back then) is something I know would dearly matter to my man J T... and I’d be a damn fool to upset him.


The trailer for Heartman can be seen below - 

Heartman by M.P. Wright is published by Black & White on the 1st July 2014, price £7.99 in paperback original

You can follow M P Wright on Twitter @EllingtonWright or on Facebook.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Macavity Award Nomminations

The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members and friends of Mystery Readers International and subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal.

Nominations are for works published in the U.S. in 2013. Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach (CA) on 13 November 2014. Congratulations to all!

Best Mystery Novel
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
Dead Lions by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur Books)

Best First Mystery 
Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (Faber & Faber)
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)

Best Mystery Short Story 
The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)  
The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Best Nonfiction
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (William Morrow)
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award 
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books)
Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press)
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Little, Brown)
Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare