I first met David Mark in 2012 when he appeared in the New Blood panel. As I’ve often said if it’s good enough for Val McDermid then it’s good enough for me, and this was no exception. Since his first appearance back in Harrogate David Mark has become one of my favourite authors.
Sorrow Bound is the third book to feature Aector McAvoy. The detective is settling into a new house with his wife Roisin and their two children as he struggles to oversee his team of detectives who are all coming apart at the seams. There are two separate storylines running through this novel. There is a series of murders that link back to an old case. Then there is also a new drug gang in town that McAvoy’s wife accidently gets caught up with.
I thought Sorrow Bound, like the previous two novels was excellent. It’s very dark and violent which is exactly how I like crime novels to be sometimes. It is set in Hull which is a city I don’t know well (apart from a trip with a friend a few years ago, the most memorable bit of which was a fish nearly landing on my friends head) but it is always nice to read stories set outside London. It’s difficult to review more of the story without giving any spoilers away but it was a fast paced read with plenty of twists and turns. The ending itself however is a real cliff hanger that disappointed me slightly as I can’t wait to find out what’s next.
One of the things that makes David Mark stand out for me is the actual writing. The descriptions add an extra depth to the story that makes this different to a lot of the usual novels. When I read I skim read a lot as I’m always anxious to find out what’s next (sorry that must be annoying for authors to hear as they agonise over every word they write) With this series I really feel like every word is important and should be savoured.
The main character of McAvoy’s is of course flawed and the story starts with him having to see the forces psychologist. However he is also a loving husband and father who is trying his best to keep his family safe and not let his job colour their lives. It makes a change to have a detective who isn’t a single man with his only friend a bottle of whisky. All the characters in this series are seemingly well rounded but with faults just like us all which makes this more than just a story about a crime but also a good reflection on the human race.
I mentioned before I am a big fan of David Mark and would definitely recommend his novels especially if you like gruesome well written stories. As always another great find from the new blood panel.
What do the following statements have in common:
- Patricia Highsmith used to breed snails and was so attached to them that when she moved to France she smuggled them in her bra.
- The north is better than the south at playing football
- I am really rubbish at quizzes.
- The name Jack Reacher came about because Lee Child could reach things from high shelves in supermarkets.
- Knitting can be taken anywhere.
- I have the same first name as Simon Theakston’s wife – sadly for Mr F that doesn’t allow me a discount on his favourite Old Peculier.
- If turning around a hotel room from theatre to cabaret style was an Olympic sport the Old Swan would definitely take the gold medal.
- In Iceland they suck on boiled sheep heads as a tasty snack.
- Crime writers make me look a complete amateur when it comes to drinking in the bar.
The common thread? Yes you guessed it, these are just some of the many fascinating facts that I learnt at this year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Once again the festival is over and I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel the disappointment. Having spent three days immersed in crime books, crime authors and crime discussion, having to return to the boring minutiae of work really is rather dull. It’s difficult to remember that when my boss tells me about her recent vandalism problem she just wants a bit of sympathy and head nodding – not a ten minute monologue on why fingerprints are only fingerprints once they’ve been identified.
It was as always another fantastic festival. This year the sister and me had agreed not to make our usual mistake of spending three full days rushing from session to signing queue to coffee queue to session and to take time to enjoy the atmosphere a bit more. We were very selective with what sessions we actually attended and managed to have at least one each day that we kept spare. This gave us a great chance to chat to people outside, sit in the sun and get even more free books than previously.
The atmosphere at this festival is always the best; it’s no exaggeration to say that for people who spend their time conjuring up the most gruesome ways possible to kill and scare people, crime writers really are the most friendly bunch. To me the writers at this festival are the equivalent of A List celebrities to the readers of Hello, but you can actually talk and walk amongst them. I bet not many festivals include an award winning actor browsing in the bookshop (on being asked to say a few impromptu words at an awards ceremony their reply was I can’t I’m pissed) or the winner of the 2015 Theakstons Old Peculier Novel of the Year standing next to us in a signing queue. (The winner was the lovely Sarah Hilary)
The programme for this year again gave a great range of authors and topics. Apart from my favourite New Blood panel led by Val McDermid, some of the highlights for me this year included the Perfect Match with David Mark and Anya Lipska discussing reviewing and choosing that next new book, the Forensics panel which was fascinating and gave an interesting insight into the real world of detection, as well as the surprise of the weekend which was Eddie Izzard talking to Mark Billingham. Not strictly crime but very entertaining.
Of course no matter how excellent the weekend there is always a downside. This one being the amount of books I returned with. Despite my best acting I’m not sure Mr F believed that they were all ones I already had and had taken with me! I’ve definitely got my work cut out to read my way through them all before the next festival. Which reminds me of one final fact:
- Its only 52 weeks until the next TOPCWF.
Ok, well technically this book was not actually finished before the TOPCWF but I did finish it the day I got back so am going to include it.
I saw David Mark at the event I went to at York Library and it was there I picked up a copy of his debut novel The Dark Winter. In Harrogate David Mark was appearing on the New Blood panel. Apparently Val McDermid picks these panellists herself from the many debut novels she gets sent throughout the year. If its good enough for Val its good enough for me!
Based in Hull this is the story of DS Aector (That’s not a typo) McAvoy. McAvoy spends most of his time at a desk creating databases and studying computer data rather than chasing killers. He lives with his pregnant wife and son, who he is almost obsessively in love with. In the story sole survivors are being targeted and then killed in the manner of the accident they survived. For example a man who survived a sinking trawler ship is then drowned. DS McAvoy is the first to link the cases after witnessing the death of a young choir girl from Somalia. With the help of DS Pharaoh, McAvoy tracks down the killer, whilst dealing with the premature birth of his baby, and like all good crime protagonists dealing with the guilt of having narrowely survived a near death experience the previous year.
I really enjoyed the first three quarters of this book but have to admit to getting lost towards the end. That could be more to do with reading it during the excitement of the festival though rather than the writing. It took a little while to get into the flow of this book. Afterwards I realised this was probably due to the unusual writing style. I imagine it would be described as third person present tense although there is probably a more technical term! The text was also very descriptive bordering on flowery which excellent in conjuring up a picture of a rather bleak and depressing town. (As an aside my only memorable visit to Hull was when a friend got hit on the head by a fishhead dropped from a passing seagull)
I got the feeling throughout the book that it had been written with a series in mind, rather than just a one off which is understandable and something I imagine most debut novelists do. I did find the main character quite hard to get to like though, I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just didn’t quite believe in him as a Disney version of ‘Cracker’. I suspect however, thats partly to do with spending 6 months reading nothing but crime so I am more used to a divorced, alcoholic for my central character than this gentle giant.
Overall I thought the story was good and had enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I look forward to the next McAvoy and think it could be a surprise how much this character may grow on me!
Last Wednesday (after an exciting day full of steam engines and train rides at York Railfest) I went to York Library to see the Crime on Tour event.
Peter Robinson, creator of the DCI Banks series which starred Stephen Tompkinson on tv was presenting a ‘New Blood’ Panel discussion. Alongside him were new authors Steven Dunne and David Mark. Sadly there were only about 10 people attending which is always a shame when these kind of events are put on but then the obsession with reading and crime doesn’t extend as far as I’d like I suppose.
Despite low attendees the event was great. It was a very informal evening, introduced by Peter where the authors talked about how they had both got published, and how their respective settings had reacted to the book. It was interesting to hear how their publishing journeys differed, David was previously a journalist and ‘The dark winter’ was his first novel. Steven however had written previous books and was now on his third novel, but his first with a more mainstream publisher.
All three authors were very entertaining and there were some great snippets of information. For example Sky TV wanted to commission the DCI Banks tv series, but only if they could have Ross Kemp as the lead role (there’s something to be grateful to ITV for!)
There was a big discussion over the difference between paper novels and e-books. David was quite vocal about the fact that he only felt like a real author once he saw his novel in print. I completely agree, whilst I love my kindle I still prefer real books when I can. Where we did differ though was him saying how upset he gets when he sees people mistreating books by folding the corner over, or putting them face down to keep the pages open. I love books and I love the whole process about them including seeing them on my shelves, but I can’t say my books are kept pristine. They have soggy pages from reading in the bath, battered edges from carrying them in bags, broken spines from leaving them open next to the bed. Books are about the content, appearance is secondary is all contexts.
There was an opportunity for questions (which is always the point my mind goes blank, and I desperately try and think of something witty and intelligent to ask. What are you having for tea? is probably not the question they want to hear) There was some interesting discussion around how they chose their main protagonists, and why they chose the settings they did.
Seeing these authors talking was a great taster for the full festival at the end of July, and I’ve got two new books in my ‘to read’ pile!