Tag Archives: published

*City Without Stars Blog Tour* Guest Post and Review

I am really delighted to be involved in the blog tour for ‘City Without Stars’ by Tim Baker. 

Tim’s debut thriller, ‘Fever City‘, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award. City Without Stars‘ is published this month by Faber & Faber. 

My thanks to Faber & Faber for including me on the tour and to Tim for taking the time to answer my questions. 

Vic x

Photo by Colin Englert

Tell us about City Without Stars‘.
For the residents of Ciudad Real, in Mexico, the situation is desperate. A deadly war between rival cartels is erupting, hundreds of female sweat-shop workers are being murdered, and union activist, Pilar, is about to risk all; taking social justice into her own hands by organizing illegal lightning strikes in protest.

As his police superiors start shutting down his investigation into the serial killings, a newly assigned homicide detective, Fuentes, suspects most of his colleagues are on the payroll of narco kingpin, El Santo, and turns to Pilar for help. Although she will do anything to stop the murders of her fellow workers, Pilar’s going to have to ignore all her instincts if she is to trust Fuentes enough to work with him. When the name of the city’s saintly orphan rescuer, Padre Márcio, keeps resurfacing, Pilar and Fuentes begin to realise the immensity of the forces aligned against them . . .

What inspired it?
So many elements go into the creation of a novel and every one of them is a form of inspiration. From the first day I arrived in Mexico, I knew I wanted to write about the country, but it took over four years for the major themes to emerge and coalesce into a narrative, including the plight of exploited female workers along the border region with the United States and the vast numbers of these young women who were being abducted and murdered. Why were no suspects being apprehended? Why weren’t the women being offered better protection? And why were authorities refusing to consider the situation as an emergency? There was only one force in the region that could exert such malign control: the cartels. Add to that the growing concerns about the dehumanizing dangers of rampant globalization, and suddenly I had a book.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Perhaps surprisingly, most of my ideas come from either dreams or daydreams when I’m in nature and there’s interplay between elements or light. These moments are not so much a blinding flash as half-formed glimpses or impressions and usually take on greater clarity when I’m doing some kind of physical activity: swimming or walking and not consciously thinking about ideas. It’s a long and imprecise journey and you need to have faith.

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
I never read any of my books after their final edit because I’m already invested in creating new characters and other stories. There’s only so much space available inside my head so I have to keep the decks clear at all times! So my favourite characters, stories and scenes are always the ones that I’m currently writing, because they will be rewritten, edited, re-imagined and perhaps even deleted. Anything that’s in flux and emerging in surprising ways is always exciting.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
It was a great piece of advice from the Canadian author, Mavis Gallant, whom I once interviewed at her home in Paris over a bottle of white Alsatian wine. She told me never to begin a line of dialogue with “Yes” or “No” as it invariably makes redundant everything else that follows, and at the very least robs the sentence of any dramatic tension. Like all great advice, it was simple but effective.

What can readers expect from your books?
I think my novels have a couple of things in common: strong social themes woven around a propulsive, violent story; a powerful sense of place; dark swathes of humour; and an unstinting belief in the endurance of human dignity.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
My own writing journey and the way I write is atypical, so I may not be the best person to offer advice! All I would say is simply to embrace whatever works for you and don’t worry if it’s a little unorthodox. Aspiring writers need tenacity along with talent but they should also be aware that luck plays a strong part in any writer’s career. Luck comes in waves. If something is not working, then don’t become too despondent – put it down, pick up something else, and try it again later on. It worked for me!

What do you like and dislike about writing?
The great thing about writing a novel is that you have this vast canvas upon which to explore ideas, characters and complex concepts such as destiny.  It’s a luxury and a privilege to have that scope for consideration and I never take it for granted. The only thing I dislike about writing is not writing.

Are you writing anything at the moment?
I usually work on several projects at once. At the moment I am completing a dystopian thriller, a first-contact novel set in northwestern Australia, and a thriller about the Algerian war.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
It’s exactly the same moment that applies to my life as a reader: leaping into the unknown of a new novel.

Review: ‘City Without Stars
by Tim Baker.

My interest was piqued when I was offered the opportunity to review ‘City Without Stars‘ because I haven’t read many thrillers set in Latin America. I was intrigued to read about the type of crimes that could be an issue in this region. 

Tim Baker’s prose evokes the setting, conjuring the claustrophobic climate beautifully. I read this nuanced story with the action unfolding in my head through a sepia haze. The atmosphere that Baker creates is cloying and claustrophobic, allowing the reader to step into this world and understand exactly what the characters are experiencing. 

Baker’s strong attention to detail helps create the layered, compelling story of cartels, inequality and murder. The action in this story packs a real punch and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. However, I found it insanely compelling. I could stomach the violence because it felt so desperately real. I cared about the characters and was totally invested in Pilar and Fuentes’s struggles. 

The female characters in this novel, on the whole, are very strong – despite their less than idea circumstances. 

I’d be very surprised if ‘City Without Stars‘ didn’t emulate its predecessor’s success. 

Vic x

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Review of 2017: June Lorraine Roberts

Our penultimate 2017 reviewer is the lovely June Lorraine Roberts. 

Tomorrow is my annual review so I’d just like to thank all of the participants who’ve given their precious time and shared their experiences with us. 

Vic xDo you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I was a Bouchercon Toronto panelist: So Many Books, So Little Time and was very proud. Akashic Books published my flash fiction – The Hong Kong Deal, and I joined Sisters in Crime. All great things.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
It was an incredible year for making new friends. From our US winter home to Bouchercon, and Noir at the Bar Toronto, it’s been terrific.

Favourite book in 2017? 
It’s a toss-up: The Second Girl by David Swinson plus spending hours with David at Noir at the Bar and Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless – I hope to meet her one day.

Favourite film in 2017?
Another toss-up: Atomic Blonde (tough & zany) or Baby Driver (all-round fabulous).

Favourite song of the year? 
Ed Shereen – Shape of You: great hook and rhythm.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My brother died December 1st, he was funny, profane and loved beer. I feel hollow with him gone.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Nope.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Further flash fiction published, and my first short story. More writing, less thinking about writing. Also new friends from Bouchercon in St. Pete’s and my community at large. Reading and dealing.

Review of 2017: Jane Risdon

I’m pleased to have Jane Risdon on the blog today to review her year. I worked with Jane many years ago on a charity anthology so I am pleased to hear her wonderful news but I’ll let her tell you all about that. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
My favourite moment professionally in 2017 was getting a copy of Only One Woman and holding it for the first time. Chuffed doesn’t cut it. Five years from writing to publication, although it was finished and in with our publisher in 2014. Written with life-long friend, Christina Jones has been a blast. It was published on Amazon on the 23rd November.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My birthday at The Royal Albert Hall – my youngest brother and his partner treated me to a fabulous champagne dinner there and concert. It was amazing.

Favourite book in 2017?
Vengeance
by Roger A. Price – second of his two fabulous books. He has been a guest author over on my blog.

Favourite film in 2017?
Hidden Figures
– with Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson the black female NASA mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. Stunning film in so many ways.

Favourite song of the year?
I no longer listen to contemporary music, having worked in music all my life I cannot bear to listen to it as it is thrust upon us now. Sad but true.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Not seeing our grandchildren either in person or via Skype more than once so far. 6,000 miles away might as well be a million at times.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Never make any.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Health, happiness and huge success for Only One Woman when the paperback comes out in stores 24th May 2018. Also publication of my Crime/MI5 novel Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva, which is in with my publisher now.

Review of 2017: Nikki East

Our final St Nick of today is Nikki East. It was a pleasure getting to know Nikki better during Newcastle Noir then seeing her again at Harrogate and Bloody Scotland. 

Nikki, along with Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow, were responsible for Hull Noir which included a special Noir at the Bar. Anyway, let’s hear all about it from Nikki herself. 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day – check back for another end of year review tomorrow. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Without doubt, Hull Noir. Nick Triplow, Nick Quantrill and I took over Iceland Noir this year and hosted it in Hull as part of the City of Culture celebrations. Our feedback has been amazing and we’ve been asked to do it again already. It took a lot of organising however the results speak for themselves. We had the most tremendous guest authors and moderators who made the whole event worthwhile for everyone attending but was very special for us as it was our very first one.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
As part of Hull Noir, I was able to introduce and host Hull’s very first Noir at the Bar. I was nervous as the whole NATB concept is so special to so many however, again, it went very well and we had some wonderful readings. I feel very honoured and privileged to be part of it and hopefully will be part of more in the future.

Best book of 2017?
Abir Mukherjee’s second novel A Necessary Evil published by Harvill Secker. It continues with the adventures of Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee in 1920 Calcutta. This and the award winning debut, A Rising Man, are wonderfully written with brilliant characters that thoroughly transport you back to another time and a whole other world. Simply magnificent and a must read.
Favourite film this year?
Guardians of the Galaxy 2! I just love these movies!! I get very little time to spend with my son now he’s an adult and we’re both very busy with conflicting schedules but we managed to find time to go and see this together. What a laugh, great music plus I had good company.
Favourite song of the year?
Bruno Mars 24k Magic album. Although the album came out last year, I only downloaded it this year. I love it. My favourite track is Perm. It makes me dance about like no one is watching whether I’m in my home, on the tube or walking down Whitechapel High Street!!  I do get looks but that song is just soooo good!!! 😉
Any downsides this year?< /em>My downsides are very limited to be honest. Consequently all I’d say is I don’t have enough time to get to all of the amazingly book related events now I live here in London.
Are you making resolutions for 2018? Resolutions!??! Hmmmm, maybe start planning for another festival, host more NATBs and who knows, maybe land a full time position somewhere in this awesome industry. Fingers crossed people! 🤞
What are you hoping for from 2018?Mostly just to build on the foundations I’ve laid in 2017. Onwards and upwards is always my mantra. I’ve had THE BEST 2017 and all I can hope is that 2018 brings even more amazing opportunities for me and mine.

Review of 2017: Neil Broadfoot

Hold onto your (Santa) hats, we have a double bill to celebrate Christmas Eve. Today we have Ne-il [Broadfoot], Ne-il [White] – sorry, I’m a little giddy thanks to the magic of the season (or maybe the Baileys).

Anyway, our first Ne-il (sorry) is Mr Broadfoot – one of my many crime writing buddies. 

I’m raising a glass of Baileys to you, Mr B!

Vic x


Favourite memory professionally:
It’s been a great year professionally, from signing a new three-book deal with Constable to going to Harrogate for the first time (and reading at Noir at the Bar!) seeing the first translation of my first book, Falling Fast. I’m not sure how professional it is, but my standout moment of the year was the Four Blokes In Search of a Plot panel at Bloody Scotland. It was the first time Douglas (Skelton), Mark (Leggatt), Gordon (Brown) and I had tried out the new format for the panel, where the crowd give us a name and a murder weapon and we try to write a story in 100 word chunks while the other three discuss all things crime with the audience. I was cataclysmically hung over after the infamous Bloody Scotland night at the Curly Coo the night before, but somehow the panel, like the rest of Bloody Scotland, worked. We were the last panel of the weekend yet we still got an audience of more than 60 people, they were totally up for it and it was a great laugh. And sitting there, with a tea cosy on my head, I remember thinking how lucky I am to be part of this brilliant community of writers and readers.

Favourite book:
It’s been another incredibly strong year for crime fiction, with some brilliant work being produced. It’s almost impossible to choose a stand-out from the crowd, but there are a couple that stick in the memory. Craig Russell’s The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid, which was shortlisted for the McIllvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland, was a masterclass in immersive, compelling writing that transports you back to 50s Glasgow and all the dangers and moral ambiguity that lurk there.  Slow on the uptake, but I finally got round to reading Stuart Neville’s The Twelve and was blown away by Fegan and the demons that haunt him. Writing as Haylen Beck, Neville’s Here and Gone was a white-knuckle, read-it-in-one shot of pure adrenaline you can’t miss.

Looking ahead, I’ve been lucky enough to get sneak peeks of two of next year’s biggest books. Luca Veste’s The Bone Keeper is just brilliant – but maybe not one to read late at night. With a real sense of menace bleeding from the pages, this is a serial killer thriller that will linger long after the last page. Meanwhile, his partner in podcast crime, Steve Cavanagh, has produced a masterclass in tight, tense storytelling with Thirteen. With a (serial) killer hook and perfect delivery, his latest adventure with New York defence lawyer Eddie Flynn is the book that will send his career into the stratosphere.

Favourite song:
If I don’t say You’re Welcome from the film Moana, my three-year-old will kill me. She’s obsessed with that song and duets with me when she can. And yes, it is an ear worm and no; I don’t want to talk about it. *Hums what can I say except…*

Downsides:
Life is a series of ups and downs, but you have to keep looking up. One big downside of this year was losing my beagle, Sam. He’d been with me since he was a pup; saw me through marriage, two kids and seeing my lifelong dream of being published come true. Then one day he went off his food, went to the vet and was gone. It’s a cliché, but dogs really are man’s best friend, and I still miss the Old Man – and his snoring from the cushion next to me as I write.

Resolutions:
I need to get rid of my book belly! When I’m writing, I can’t train, my brain can’t cope with running the different mental soundtracks of being physically fit and thinking about plots, characters etc at the same time, so the physical activity and healthy eating gives way to sitting in my chair and endless biscuits when I’m on a book. But now that No-Man’s Land is done (save edits) it’s back to the gym for me!

Hopes for 2018:
The first book in my new Stirling-set series, No-Man’s Land, is due out in September, and I hope everyone enjoys reading about Connor Fraser as much as I enjoyed writing about him. I’m also looking forward to getting back onto the road with the other three blokes for more fun and mayhem, so I hope the crowds enjoy the shows as much as we do.

Away from books, I hope the world comes to its senses a little. There’s a growing feeling that everything is building to a crescendo, from the tweeter-in-chief to the cliff edge of Brexit, and I hope cooler heads can prevail over the megaphone diplomacy and bigotry-as-patriotism crap we’re seeing now.

Review of 2017: Lucy Cameron

I am so happy to have my “sister” Lucy Cameron on the blog today. Lucy and I first met at Crime and Publishment almost two years ago and since then, we have discovered we have an unhealthy amount of things in common! I have so many happy memories of times with Lucy and I feel so lucky to know her. 

I hope you enjoy Lucy’s 2017 review as much as I did!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I most certainly do. My debut novel Night Is Watching was published on the 6th April this year. I had an amazing launch at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries with loads of family and friends. The wonderful Matt Hilton was The Host with the Most and as one of the first writers I met when I moved to Dumfries that was pretty special. After several years of waiting for Night Is Watching to be published the launch exceeded all of my dreams and was one of the best experiences of my year, quite possibly my life, so far.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
There are so many it is really hard to pick. I will go with buying my house. The day I got the keys and had a glass of fizz with family and friends was brilliant. Seven months later there is still plenty of work to do but it is finally starting to feel like home.

Favourite book in 2017?
Still Bleeding 
by Steve Mosby. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am a huge fan of Steve Mosby but Still Bleeding really blew me away. This book is a clever page turner that has stayed with me long after I finished it. As soon as I finish drafting my current work in progress I will read it again – and there are very few books I have read twice.

Favourite film in 2017?
I haven’t watched many films this year so What We Do In The Shadows remains my current favourite. It’s an Australian mockumentary about a group of vampire flatmates. It is laugh out loud funny so great for lifting my spirits – it has dark elements to it (it is about vampires, after all) but well worth a giggle.

Favourite song of the year?
I don’t really have one as I rarely listen to music. Anything by Take That – judge that as you may.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
A year is made of ups and down but nothing major on the down front for me this year. The year has been a good one but feels like it has gone very quickly so I guess the standard ‘not enough hours in the day’ would be a downside if anything.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I love the start of a new year and am always full of great plans and ideas. I would like to get fit in 2018 and as the chaos of my house move settles plan some proper writing time Monday to Friday.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I hope to continue to be happy, spend quality time with family and friends, be healthy.
Book-wise I plan to finish the follow-up book to Night Is Watching and in addition try a bit of comedy writing as it is something completely different.

Review of 2017: KA Richardson

Today is a Bloodhound Books bonanza on the blog! Not only have we had Owen Mullen reviewing his 2017, we now have KA Richardson to tell us all about her year. 

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been friends with Kerry for several years and she is one of the nicest people I’ve met. My thanks to Kerry for taking the time to review her year. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Publication of Watch You Burn in May 2017 was amazing but also, I was asked to speak at a luncheon for the Darlington Soroptimists in November. The luncheon was to raise money for Shine which is a charity for people with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Speaking was nerve wracking but I thoroughly enjoyed it and sold 30 odd books. I donated my fee to the charity – they raised £773 in those few hours! Absolutely fab.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Being able to move part time at work in January 2017 due to my royalties from writing.

Favourite book in 2017?
Monster in the Closet
by Karen Rose – but also Nameless by David McCaffrey. Both were brilliant reads.

Favourite film in 2017?
Ooooo tough one – so far probably Kingsman 2 though haven’t seen Thor or Justice League yet so it may change!

Favourite song of the year?
Despacito
– begrudgingly as I’m not a massive fan of Justin Bieber. And also Black Tears by Jason Aldean  – one of my absolute favourites of his.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring and worsening – luckily my rheumatology team are fantastic and taking steps to change meds etc. Everything else is grand though so not worrying too much.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I don’t really make resolutions as I don’t stick to them – but I intend to have book 5 in the North East police series published in April – and intend to finish and hopefully get a contract for my new romantic suspense series.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Book sales (haha poor author here!!) and happiness. The simple but meaningful things.

You can find Kerry on Facebook and Twitter.