Showing posts with label crime fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime fiction. Show all posts

Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday Book Review - Crusher by Niall Leonard

Like most novelists, Niall Leonard pays tribute to a whole host of people in his acknowledgements.

But there’s one name that stands out from the crowd. “And above all to my beloved wife Erika,” writes Leonard, “for her boundless love, loyalty, humour, encouragement and inspiration.”

Yes, the Erika in question is EL James, whose Fifty Shades of Grey has sold well over 6 million copies in the UK and has become the country’s bestselling book ever.

Leonard is unlikely to match his wife’s sales any time soon but Crusher, his debut novel, is a gritty, fast-paced thriller for teenagers that gripped me from start to finish.

Funnily enough, it was James herself who encouraged her TV screenwriter husband (his credits include Wire in the Blood and Silent Witness) to write the book in the first place. He decided to take part in the 2011 NaNoWriMo (the annual novel writing challenge) and Crusher was the result.

The novel tells the story of teenager Finn Maguire, who returns home from his dead-end café job one day to find that his stepdad has been bludgeoned to death.

Finn has no idea who might have had a grudge against the impoverished, out-of-work actor. He is even more stunned when it turns out that the police see him as the prime suspect for the murder. As one cop tells him: "Ninety per cent of the time the person who reports finding a dead body is the murderer... You might as well have written a confession in your stepfather's blood."

Determined to prove his innocence and find out who hated his stepdad enough to murder him, Finn resolves to track the killer down. But his quest takes him into the scary heart of the London underworld and exposes dark family secrets from the past.

I’m clearly not the target audience for Crusher but Leonard, unlike many YA writers, is a brilliant at getting inside the head of a troubled teenager. Boys of 14 and up will enjoy it, but I reckon girls and adult readers will too.

Crusher by Niall Leonard (Doubleday, £12.99)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Friday Book Review - Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham began his career as a stand-up comedian. But these days he writes crime novels and reckons the two occupations have a lot in common. “As a comedian you walk out on stage and you have a minute to hook them or they’ll start booing,” he said in a recent interview. “As a writer it’s very similar. A reader doesn’t have time to say ‘I’ll give him 50 pages as it’s not very good yet, but I hope it’ll get better.”

Billingham has built up a huge following for his addictive crime novels starring Detective Inspective Tom Thorne. And deservedly so. But he writes standalone stories too, like Rush of Blood, his latest.

Rush of Blood is the chilling account of three couples who meet on holiday in Florida and, even though they don’t have much in common, become friends. Then, on the last night of the trip, the teenage daughter of a fellow holidaymaker goes missing.

The couples return home in shock but make an effort to meet over the coming months, each pair hosting a dinner party in turn. As they get to know each other better, dark secrets and ugly obsessions emerge – especially after the young girl’s body is found and all six become murder suspects.

This is a compelling story that kept me on the edge of my seat till the very last page. If you like pacy, well written crime fiction, you’ll love this.

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown, £16.99)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

How self published author Nick Spalding became an Amazon bestseller

“Kindles and eBooks are changing the landscape of publishing. You can reach an audience and create a buzz online. I think publishers are still important in terms of editing, marketing and getting into bookshops, but self publishing can be another route to that.”

Those were the astute words of crime writer Stephanie Merritt (aka SJ Parris, author of detective novels like Heresy and Prophecy) at a recent Red magazine event on how to write a crime novel.

And she’s clearly right. Her views are borne out by the news from this week that a self published novel by UK author Nick Spalding has become one of its ten bestselling items over the last three months.

Southampton-based Spalding has published a string of “comedies with adult humour” through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). So far he’s sold 245,000 copies of his books and earned up to 70 per cent in royalties from his sales.

Spalding’s Love… From Both Sides is currently riding high in the top 25 Kindle bestsellers list while two of his other books, Love… And Sleepless Nights and Life… With No Breaks, are in the top 100.

As Spalding says: “KDP is a fantastic opportunity for writers to get their work into the hands of the people that actually count – the readers. It's never been easier to publish an ebook thanks to Amazon's progressive and forward thinking attitude. They've given many more writers a voice - writers who would otherwise have remained silent. I can't thank them enough for providing me with the means to become as popular as I am.”

Not surprisingly, Gordon Willoughby, director of Kindle EU, is delighted.

“Nick Spalding joins international bestsellers such as EL James and Suzanne Collins in our top ten bestsellers of the last quarter at,” he says. “That’s a fantastic achievement for a KDP author. KDP enables independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the literary world and we’re excited to see it succeeding for both readers and authors.”

Nick Spalding follows in the footsteps of Kerry Wilkinson, a debut novelist from Lancashire who was the number one selling author in’s Kindle store during the last quarter of 2011. Wilkinson didn't have an agent or publicist - just the determination to write the very best book he could. And it worked a treat.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Just the ticket - the first writer-in-residence on a train

From universities and libraries to hotels and even prisons, novelists love being asked to be writers-in-residence at venerable institutions.

Well-known names like Fay Weldon, Kathy Lette and Michael Morpurgo have all leapt at the chance to do stints as writers-in-residence at London’s historic Savoy Hotel.

But crime writer Julia Crouch has gone one better. She’s become the UK’s first writer-in-residence on a train.

Rail company East Coast offered Julia the chance to write a short story, Strangeness on a Train, on the train from London’s King’s Cross to Harrogate and back again. It worked a treat. Her dark tale of a passenger who pushes a female traveller beyond her limits is published tomorrow (July 19) to coincide with the start of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

“There’s something wonderful about writing on trains,” says Julia. “Working on board the train seemed like being in a bubble of concentration as I moved through time and space, only being distracted when eavesdropping on the dramas of my fellow passengers as swathes of the countryside flashed past the windows.

“Some of it was inspired by things I saw and heard on the journey, other parts by the effects a train carriage has on the twisted mind of a crime writer. Over the journey from London to Harrogate I wrote the entire first draft, whilst also managing quite a bit of window-gazing, tea-drinking and even the odd glass of wine or two.”

Friday, 9 December 2011

Friday book review - The Faithless by Martina Cole

I’ve written about my new-found liking for crime novels before. For some reason, even though I’m ultra-squeamish, hate blood and gore in novels and avert my gaze from crime dramas on TV, I love books by writers like PD James, Ian Rankin and Jeffery Deaver.

But crime writer Martina Cole is my guilty pleasure. Why? Because she's such a brilliant story-teller. I start her novels thinking I’ll just read a few pages and before I know it, it’s 2am and I’ve finished the whole book.

Cole is fast becoming a legend in her own lifetime, with her books selling more than ten million copies to date. Gritty, fast-moving and packed with punchy dialogue, they grab your attention right from the first page. There are usually some shockingly violent scenes along the way but I grit my teeth and whizz through those bits at top speed.

Her latest, The Faithless, soared straight to the top of the bestseller lists when it was published in October and it’s easy to see why. Her 18th novel, it’s the story of Cynthia Tailor, a woman who looks like a supermodel and really should have the world at her feet. She’s got a devoted husband, lovely house and two gorgeous children (she usually gets her world-weary parents to look after them though.)

But Cynthia, who to my mind makes Cruella de Vil look like a pushover, is deeply dissatisfied with her lot - and green with envy when her younger sister walks down the aisle with the man she lusts after. She’ll stop at nothing to get him for herself, and sure enough, it’s her long-suffering husband and children who suffer the fall-out.

I’m sure Cole herself wouldn’t claim her novels, several of which have been made into TV dramas, are high-brow, but she certainly knows how to write addictive, hard-hitting fiction.

The Faithless by Martina Cole (Headline, £19.99)
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