Category Archives: Crime fiction Q&A

Veronica’s Bird – Guest post BLOG TOUR

 Today I am delighted to welcome Richard Newman to acrimereadersblog. He is a ‘ghost’ writer and among others he has written Veronica’s Bird, the true life story of Veronica Bird who became the Governor of Armley Prison. 

Veronica’s Bird is a fascinating tale of a woman’s rise from a tiny house in Barnsley. Abused by her brother in law, she ran away and joined the prison service. Showing her determination she turned around her first posting within a year, she then went on to be honoured by the Queen and even got asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. This is a remarkable story that is told with a warmth and humour that belies the struggles that Veronica had to go through.

So Richard when did you know you were going to be a writer?

The first smidgen of an idea that I thought writing might be for me, other than filling in a tax form, was when I was living in the Middle East, some forty years ago. No television worthy of being labelled a programme, the radio in fast Arabic, no bars or theatre…. you get the picture, so I began to explore the idea of writing a faction based upon the love letters found in Ludwig van Beethoven’s desk after he died, a story which fascinated me. It took me twelve and a half years of research (there were 28,000 books and two million articles to consider) so, quite popular then, and, at the end of it all, ‘Crown of Martyrdom’ was born. Born also was a love of writing which caused ‘The Potato Eaters’ and ‘The Horse that screamed’ to follow. I jumped from novels to writing about fascinating, living, people which brought forth ‘A Nun’s Story’ which became a Sunday Times best-seller, and now Veronica’s Bird is to be launched 23rd January 2018. In January I will revert to novels again to finish off ‘Stepping down’ a story of retirement and the traumas which can flow from the decision to retire. After that, well on the stocks, is the story of my life in the Middle East. Life was very funny out there in the Seventies, yet fascinating. This is to be titled ‘Cockroach on my shoulder’.

Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? 

My typical day always lies within a well-formed groove, though not groovy if you get what I mean. We (Julia my wife, and I) are usually up by seven a.m.: well, the dog, Crumble, is already letting us know the day has been approved by her. I make breakfast, a serious affair for a serious meal. By 9 a.m. my eyes are straying towards my computer (though I hand-write my novels first) and by two minutes past the hour I’m on the keyboard in my library, surrounded by books and the smell of frying bacon still attached to my hair. At 10.10 I stop to go to a local gym and am back in harness again, if glowing slightly, in an hour. I work until 12.30 when lunch beckons (a light affair) preceded by an Amontillado followed by my turn at the dog walk along the banks of the River Wharfe.

By 2 p.m. I usually take, paragraph by paragraph, that which I have typed up previously and begin to re-write, again by hand, numbering each so they slot in easily later. I may do this 3-4 times, each time refining the words, still marvelling at the English language. By 6p.m. the sun has sneaked behind a rogue sycamore tree; time for a Campari with lots of ice and soda before supper. Television alternates with reading and so to bed at 10 p.m. There’s not the scrap of a night owl about me – I leave such things to my three sons, who are, I believe, experts.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon? 
A perfect afternoon is a summer Sunday afternoon, with, perhaps, eight friends sitting around a lunch table, the beef ribs bare, like oak trees in winter, the crumbs of an apple strudel being removed from the floor by a pink tongue (no, not mine, it belongs to Crumble) and just listening to my farmer friends discussing the amount of barley they have harvested or hear the pride as they talk about a new bull ‘….down in ‘ter field.’ Beef is very rare; Cliquot very cold, conversation crackling like a log fire in January.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

For all my reading, I alternate each time between fiction and biography. Morris West has been read to death with such masters as The Devil’s Disciple. Running my eyes down the shelving in front of me I see a good old-timer – I have 17 books by him – Nevil Shute (being of that age I am still disturbed by ‘On the beach’), Kazuo Ishiguro, of course and then a whole series of stories of Carol Drinkwater’s Olive Farm. Alan Bennet: anything he writes is a natural if you live in Yorkshire and Boris Johnson to raise a smile. Michael Connelly’s plots are extraordinary and to contrast this, I will top up from time to time with any of the Russian classics. I had such a good translation of War and Peace in a two-volume paperback, I had it bound in leather!

Veronica Bird does not write at all; she issues the stories to me, I take them down and she approves. A typical day for her is to give a talk somewhere in the north of England. So much in demand is she, for her stories of life in Russian prisons, that she is already fully booked for June next year. She talks for an hour, exactly, without notes and has the ability to change the subject of her talks if required on a re-booking. No, one day though can be called typical for she is so busy with so many differing diary commitments, retaining her life-long interest in the prison service. She has a love of gardening and a large garden to maintain, friends to entertain and a commitment to see that as many people as possible read her story.

Thanks so much for joining me Richard. Veronica’s Bird is available now:

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Veronicas-Bird-Thirty-five-inside-officer-ebook/dp/B077NXT42X

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A, Uncategorized

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Judith Culter Q and A BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for the latest collection of short stories by Orenda Books, The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. For those who don’t know the CWA stands for Crime Writers Association and membership includes some of my favourite authors whose short stories appear in this fantastic collection. The book is a complete mystery tour that takes you from Glasgow to South Africa to the Ukraine. Each of the stories as you suspect has a rather murderous intention behind them, or do they? One intriguing story with a rather clever twist was from Judith Cutler and I’m delighted to welcome her to acrimereadersblog to talk about short stories.

Welcome Judith. I loved your story in A Mystery Tour. What was the inspiration behind it?

I just hope life doesn’t decide to imitate art, in this case. My husband, Edward Marston, and I are privileged to be invited to take on a lot of speaking engagements. We almost always do these together – we call ourselves Murder Ancient and Modern. Some call us the Morecambe and Wise of writing… However many events we do, and however well we’re prepared, there’s always a frisson of anxiety: is this the right day? Will we have an audience? Once I was ready to speak – to find an audience of zero. Last time I was in the USA I shared a signing session with C J Box and Jeffrey Deaver – an exercise in humiliation since none of my books had reached the conference and their fans formed queues pretty well round the block… So far, however, I’ve not turned up to find the event cancelled at the last minute.

It must be very nerve wracking doing events like that, fingers crossed your story stays as a fiction one rather than influencing real life! Do you prefer short story writing or full length novels?

Predictably, since I had success with the short form at the start of my career but didn’t feel I’d “arrived” as a writer till I saw my first novel on bookshop shelves, I’m going to say I like writing both. A novel is a Test Match of an endeavour: you’re going to live with characters who grow and develop over many chapters – and sometimes several novels. There is time to slow down, time to accelerate. I might be tempted to continue the image: a short story is more like T20 cricket –swashbuckling and speedy, with a rapid outcome. But I’d say a short story requires, in proportion, more concentration and effort than a novel. Each and every word must carry its weight – not a punctuation mark must be wrong. A story demands to be put away for a while to mature, so you come back with fresh eyes and can prune even more.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

It used to be very much the standard 9.00 to 5.00 working day that thirty years of college work had got me used to. Sadly about three years ago I injured my right hand so badly (at a church fete – don’t ask!!!) that I’ve had to reduce my time at the computer. Now I limit myself to about a thousand words a day, and spend the non-writing time doing things to keep the rest of my body fit: Pilates, ballroom dance, gardening and tennis (I’ve taught myself to play left handed though thank goodness the right hand is beginning to work again).

An injury at a church fete sounds like an ideal short story plot, although glad to hear you are on the mend. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Having played tennis in the morning, I’d go on to a cricket match. I love the game so much I dedicated my latest book, Head Count, to the cricket charity for young people called Chance to Shine (www.chancetoshine.org). I’d round it all off with a concert given by the wonderful City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (with luck conducted by their brilliant young musical director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla) in Symphony Hall.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Like many writers, I want to read a lot more than I do. One problem is that many writers are better than I am, so I end up feeling downhearted about my own work. One or two aren’t as good as me, so why read them? This applies at least as much to so-called literary novels as to so-called genre-writers. But for consistent pleasure, can you beat the dear late Reg Hill for his amazing use of language in entirely the appropriate setting? I also love Kate Ellis, Amy Myers, Martin Edwards, Priscilla Masters – and many others whom I’m honoured to call friends. Oh, and there’s Edward Marston, of course – and I get to read his before anyone else does! As for old favourites, Jane Austen and George Eliot take a lot of beating, and when I’m feeling down who better to cheer me up than Georgette Heyer?

I think that applies to us readers too, there are always too many books and not enough time. That’s why short stories are so great as they can be dipped in and out of. Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m working on the third in the Jane Cowan series I’m writing for Allison and Busby. Jane’s a survivor of extreme domestic abuse. Finally she’s building a life away from her ex-husband who’s currently serving a prison sentence for what he did to her. She’s now a headmistress in Kent, running not one but two village primary schools. Times are tough in education, with staffing and finances under enormous pressure. In this novel it’s not pupil behaviour that’s an issue, however – it’s that of some of her new neighbours…

That sounds really intriguing Judith, I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks very much for joining me.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour is out now and is well worth a read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A

Hell to Pay by Rachel Amphlett – BLOG TOUR

I am a big fan of Rachel Amphlett and have read all of her series featuring detective Kay Hunter. Therefore it is a great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for her latest book Hell to Pay. I’m very pleased to be able to welcome Rachel to acrimereadersblog.

Thanks for joining me Rachel. It must be incredibly exciting to have a novel published, so how do you spend the night before publication day and what do you do on the actual day?

Publication day for me is a bit weird, as I’m in a completely different time zone to a lot of my readers. I’m originally from the UK, but Australia is currently home. So, after I get up in the morning in Brisbane, feed the dog, and make the first cup of coffee of the day, it’s still late afternoon the previous day in the UK!
The night before, I’ll have checked all the links to my books are working on the different retailers, and I’ll prepare the newsletter to go out to my Reader Group, so I don’t have to worry about that – everyone who joins my Readers Group gets the chance to buy the book at a discounted rate, so it’s really important to me to have that ready to go.
For the past four releases, I’ve had a number of book bloggers kindly take part in a book tour for me, and by the time publication day comes around, that tour has typically been running for a week.
I get a flurry of activity on social media as the rest of the world starts to wake up (I’m a very early riser, so that means 5:30am for me!), but before I do anything else, I hit my word count on my current work in progress – that way, I can concentrate on the launch of the previous book without feeling guilty!
The rest of the morning is spent responding to emails and social media shout outs from readers and the incredible book bloggers that support my new releases.
The action really kicks off once the UK is wide awake and continues through the night as most of my book blogging buddies are in the UK and North America – I can get a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the notifications, but it’s a lot of fun, and I really appreciate the support everyone gives to authors in this way.
I don’t get much sleep that night, either – again due to time differences, my Facebook launch party usually starts pretty early the following morning for me, even though it’s still only 8pm in the UK. I don’t mind though – I know for at least 48 hours I’m going to be running on pure adrenalin!
Once the Facebook party is over, it’s a case of monitoring emails and social media for any notifications – I try to respond to every shout out I receive from readers and bloggers, and I always respond to every email I receive from readers. I wouldn’t be here without any of them.
The blog tour runs for another week after publication day to help me spread the word about the new book, but in the meantime, it’s back to business as usual for me, and that of course means finishing the next book!

Sounds like a very busy day, but completely worth it of course. Hell to Pay is out now and is a great read either as a stand alone or as part of this excellent series. I would throughly recommend them, and a huge thanks to Rachel for taking the time to join me today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A

Scorn – Q and A with Paul Hoffman – BLOG TOUR

Today I am pleased to welcome Paul Hoffman to acrimereadersblog. His novel Scorn is being released today. Scorn is about a physicist who turns to eating priests.

Thanks for joining me Paul. What was the inspiration behind Scorn?

A few years ago I was watching a news item on the BBC where its Vatican correspondent concluded by saying that the Catholic Church must deal with the issue of child sexual abuse in order to regain its moral authority. The response to this, it seems to me, is to ask: what moral authority? Answering this question is where the book begins with two rather unusual policemen (when they were soldiers together in Iraq they were known as The Butchers of Basra) investigating the hideous murder of several priests. I wanted to write about my Catholic upbringing in boarding school but do so in an entirely different way – not as a litany of horrors visited on children (though some of that is inevitable) but to celebrate our resistance to the faith that tried any means possible to control our every thought, word and deed. We mocked them (not in their hearing, of course), made up sermons in which appalling eternal tortures were visited on small boys for ridiculous dietary infractions (eating bats was one I particularly loved) and so on. I’ve always loved a good police procedural and I wanted to use the pleasures they give to go into territory not usually associated with crime novels.

Have you always been a writer?

My writing draws heavily on my past and the more than twenty five jobs I’ve had as an adult ranging from boardman in a betting shop, lift attendant, frozen food packer at 10 below zero, teacher in one of the worst and best state schools in England, businessman, and screenwriter. The most interesting of these was the ten years I spent as a film censor at the BBFC. It was there that I started writing fiction but not until I was already in my mid-thirties. I was also writing a screenplay simultaneously based on part of the novel I was writing. This was made into another cop thriller starring Jude law as the very peculiar but charming murderer and Timothy Spall as the sly cop caught between his liking for the man he’s investigating and his determination to get to the bottom of the deaths for which he could be responsible. Sadly a great cast was squandered by terrible direction. It was the second worst experience of my life.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

Amazingly dull. I write for a couple of hours a day usually. I always stop as soon as I feel I’m having to make an effort to go on. Writing is rooted fundamentally in playing. No child, or golfer, or reader for that matter goes on playing or reading when they’ve had enough of playing or reading. They just stop. And that’s what I do. I write with the intention of all times of giving pleasure by taking pleasure in what I do. Despite this I find writing very tiring as if I’ve been using up huge amounts of energy. I’m ashamed to say that I spend the rest of the time sleeping or generally lazing about and thinking.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Generally lazing about and thinking. I find enormous pleasure in just wandering about in my head. This was a habit I picked up in boarding school because as well as being violent it was also very boring. I constructed enormously long novels in my head in which I was, of course, the central character and therefore brave, noble and heroic, and kept them going for months at a time.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I used to be a voracious reader but not so much now because I find – it’s not true for a great many authors – that writing fiction drains the energy for reading it. It’s a pity, but there it is. The priests used to describe me as wicked and lazy and they may have had a point. Now I tend to dip into my reading habits of the past when I want to look at how someone I admire pulled off some tricky piece of storytelling. In the past month I’ve gone to Ecclesiastes, Catch 22, The Secret Agent, a scene in Julius Caesar where Brutus and Cassius row and then make up, and a scene in one of George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman books where he has a conversation with Abe Lincoln. But I’ll steal from anywhere: one of my books has a line I took from a shampoo advert

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m just about to finish the fourth part of The Left Hand of God trilogy called The White Devil. The first three books deal with the violent life of precociously cunning but psychologically damaged fifteen year-old Thomas Cale as he slips back and forth over the line between good and evil and the thousand shades of grey in between. The fourth book sees him twenty years later having been blackmailed into assassinating John of Boston, a character who is part JFK and part Abe Lincoln.

Thanks very much Paul. 

Scorn by Paul Hoffman is published 7th September by Red Opera, £7.99 in paperback

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A