Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More about Merle...

... I have another extract for you from my soon to be published novel, Merle.

Lac Charpal

This is the second book in my Jacques Forêt series of mystery stories set in the Cévennes. Although Jacques is now working in Mende, a major city about 30m kilometres south of my fictional village, Messandrierre, he still keeps in touch with the villagers and his close friend, Gaston, in the village restaurant.  Beth Samuels is also back in the chalet in the village and Jacques calls in when he can.

The local farmers are still giving Jacques a few headaches but he finds ways of dealing with them… as you will see in this next extract.



'I want an explanation and none of you are leaving here until I get one.’ Jacques, unshaven from having being woken so early and dressed in a pair of creased jeans and a jumper, paced back and forth in the bar as he waited for someone to respond. ‘This find has to be called in. There is no question of that. But you will have to explain what you were doing up in the north pastures at four in the morning. It’s a very odd time to be mending fences, Rouselle.’ His tone hardened. ‘What were you doing? He stopped and looked each one of the men in the eye in turn.
‘Rouselle?’ he prompted.
Rouselle shifted in his chair and looked away. Gaston and Pamier glanced at each other but said nothing.
‘Right.’ Jacques pulled out his phone. ‘You leave me no option and the charges I will be suggesting to my old colleagues in Mende will be trespass, concealment of a body and obstruction of a police investigation. I’m sure I can think of a couple more, but those will suffice for now.’ He began to dial.
‘Tell him, Rouselle.’ It was Gaston who broke the silence. ‘Damn well tell him, man.’
Jacques pulled up a chair from a nearby table, pulled his notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and sat down. ‘Any chance of some coffee?’
‘Of course,’ said Gaston as he got up and moved across the room.
‘It’s not trespass, Jacques.’ Rouselle blustered, ‘I was taking back what was mine.’ He sat upright, his hands placed on his thighs, defiance in his eyes. ‘I was taking back my land.’
‘And do you have documentary proof of where the boundary between your land and Delacroix’s actually sits?’
‘Yes!’
‘So, if I were to ask for those documents so that I could pass them on to a surveyor, he will be able to tell me that your new fence is in exactly the right place. Is that correct?’ Jacques watched the farmer’s face as a smidgen of colour suffused his cheeks.
‘I’m just a simple farming man, Jacques,’ he said, his tone more moderate and respectful. ‘I understand cattle and the land. How do I know what a surveyor will find?’ He shrugged off his evident lie.
Jacques tapped his notebook with his pen. ‘And why did this…reclaim of your land have to be undertaken now? It’s 4.37am, it’s still dark. Moving fences is not the sort of job that I would normally expect to be done at this time in the morning.’ He accepted the coffee that Gaston handed to him and sat back in his chair, left ankle resting on his knee.
‘I’ve a very busy day today and I wanted to get the job done and out of the way early.’ Rouselle placed the coffee he was handed on the table next to him.
‘I see. You have such a busy day today that you can afford to keep lying to me, can you? No-one is leaving until I get to the truth, Fermier Rouselle. The whole truth.’
‘Delacroix owes me,’ he shouted. ‘And I’m not giving up on my land. I’m doing my bit for the community by taking care of his cattle, as requested by Monsieur le Maire, even though the compensation for those two beasts of mine that he injured and Clergue killed is still outstanding. I want my land back.’ He stared at Jacques.
‘Then do it legally, Rouselle. What you’ve been doing here tonight is highly suspicious. I have no doubt that your new fence will be more or less in the right place, Fermier Rouselle. But, more or less is still not exact and still not legal.’
Before the farmer could remonstrate more, he turned his attention to Gaston. ‘And your involvement is what?’
‘I was just helping out a fellow villager, that’s all, Jacques.’ He finished his coffee and took out his cigarettes and lighter.
‘Fermier Pamier, your reason for being there?’
‘The same as Gaston.’ The both exchanged a look.
Jacques drained his cup and placed it on the table behind him. ‘And what about the body. Do any of you know who it is?’
‘No,’ the three of them chorused.
‘Is that so?’ Jacques stood and began to pace, his instincts sharpened by their response.
‘So, none of you knew the body was there before you found it?’
‘No.’ Another unified response.
‘You don’t seem very surprised that there is a body on what you claim to be your land, Fermier Rouselle?’
Rouselle opened his mouth to speak but paused and closed it again.
‘Nothing to say, Fermier Rouselle?’ Jacques waited. ‘That’s not like you, is it? Always voluble. Always to be relied upon for an appropriate opinion. But today, when a body is found on your land, you say nothing.’
Rouselle stood. ‘And you're not a gendarme an y longer, this isn’t Paris and you have no right to interrogate me.’
Jacques turned to face him and shouted. ‘That may be so, but you sent for me, so sit down. You’ve involved me in this very suspicious escapade that you three are undertaking and I have to be absolutely certain that I am not implicated in any way. My reputation as a gendarme and investigator is at stake and you three seem to think that you can just brush that aside behind a wall of silence.’ Hands on his hips he towered over them. ‘I’m calling this in, I expect it will be Magistrate Pelletier who is assigned to this enquiry and I expect the three of you to be absolutely open and honest with him as you seem to be incapable of being truthful with me.’
Leaving his notebook on the table he marched out of the bar, phone in his hand, and dialled.

Published on July 5thMerle is available to pre-order now.

Friday, 23 June 2017

I'm reviewing 'Letting Go' ...

... by Maria Thompson Corley

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria earlier in the year and you can read the resulting post here.  As a result of that interview, Maria sent me a free copy of her story in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Letting Go is essentially a romance – which is not my usual choice of book to read.  However, I’m always open to reading outside my usual genres.  The story is primarily told from Cecile’s point of view, the female lead character.  I really liked her.  She’s driven, ambitious, and where her feelings are concerned, like most of us, confused at times.  I liked her sense of humour and humour is something that can be difficult to put across – but not in this case.  She’s a really well drawn character and I found I was able to identify with her from the outset.

Langston, the male lead character, is also fascinating.  Unfortunately, he is from the ‘wrong part of town’.  So, the well-run conflict of different class is here to be explored, and Maria pulls this off.  It’s hard to bring new life and energy to an issue that we are all familiar with, but Maria has done just that and at no time did I find myself thinking that I’d heard it all before.

During the course of the story there are other familiar issues that are explored, racism, family loyalty, personal ambitions.  All of which are handled sensitively and the points being well, and subtly made.  At no time did I feel lectured and there were moments when I did put the book down so that I could consider the issue raised.  And in my view, that’s a bonus if an author can cause you to do that with a book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story immensely.  The chemistry between the central characters is there and fair sizzles on the page!  The narrative voice is easy and carries you along throughout.  However, Maria also uses diary entries, letters and emails to tell the story.  At first, I found that this caused the pace of the novel to drop, but further into the story I had stopped noticing that – my interest in the individual points of view became much more paramount.  There are musical references throughout, which I found interesting but, when I got to the end I did wonder if it might have been a bit too much.  My only other misgiving on reaching the end, was that I thought the book was overly long. 

Despite the minor gripes above, I think this is great book, entertaining, thought-provoking and a thoroughly enjoyable read and it has certainly earned its star rating.

You can find Maria's book on Amazon

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

...Eli Carros.  Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to be on my blog today, Eli. Book launches are intensive, to say the least! So, let's get to the questions and what is your current release?
EC   The Watcher, my debut crime thriller, releases on June 21st by Crooked Cat Books.  It’s a dark, twisted, psychological thriller that takes you right into the mind of a psychopath, and shows how he became the way he became. 
It’s a novel about sexual obsession, emotional abuse, and vengeance, and if you like a book that keeps you guessing right until the end, you might enjoy this one.  When I was writing this book I attempted to answer a question that I had often wondered about, which is, are psychopaths born or are they made?

AW   What first got you into writing and why?
EC   I’ve always told stories, even before I actually started writing anything down.  My English teacher at High School was absolutely fantastic, he really made books come alive whenever we used to discuss and dissect them.
The way he read ‘Lord of The Flies’ was magnificent, and even to this day, it’s one of my favourite books.  I wish I could have the insight and the perception of writer’s like William Golding.
AW   Me too! I really love his work and my collection of first editions of his books sits right where I can reach them from my desk so I can have a quick fix of Golding prose wherever I need one.
EC   If I had to pick a tipping point, where I absolutely knew I had to write, it was probably when I was studying Journalism, and got my first taste as a professional writer, as an intern at the Daily Mirror.  Though I wasn’t writing fiction, the experience really convinced me that I wanted to make a job out of this profession of words, so I became a professional copywriter, then, a couple of years later, after dabbling a bit, decided to write a novel.
I procrastinated for ages first though, and wish I hadn’t waited so long. 

AW  You write crime thrillers.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
EC   I do undertake some research yes, for certain little details pertaining to correct police procedure etc…  However, my book is not a standard police procedural by any means, more a psychological exploration of a deviant and malignant mind, so I gave myself a hefty dose of artistic license with it too.
I did do another kind of research too, because I actually lived in London while writing ‘The Watcher’, and the book is set there.  So I went to a lot of the places that inspired scenes in the book, to get a real feel for the atmosphere.  One of the café scenes in the novel was actually written in Patisserie Valerie in Old Compton Street, Soho.
AW  I know it well!
EC   I find London very inspiring in general, some people don’t like it I know, but I love all the bustle and life. 

Cover Art for Eli's book
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
EC   I wrote short stories and novellas before I ever wrote a full-length novel actually, I have quite a few of them now, sitting on my computer, unpublished.  I never tried to publish any of them, I don’t really know why, I suppose I didn’t really know what to do with them.  They are in all kinds of genres, as short form is a great way to experiment, isn’t it?
AW   Absolutely!
EC   I have post-apocalyptic, horror, crime, all sorts.  Readers can try three of my darker shorts if they like as I’m giving them away if you’d like to join my mailing list.

AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
EC   Honestly, no, I usually do it wherever I can find the time in the nearest comfortable place.  I do like a glass of wine to get me into the zone while I write, though I have to be careful how much, as contrary to the popular myth that writers are all gin soaked, becoming too inebriated actually really impairs your work.

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
EC   It would have to be Kurt Cobain, the late front man of the rock group Nirvana, to ask him what inspired his music and to find out what truly happened, was it murder, or suicide?

A mysterious Eli Carros!
...about the author... Eli Carros is a crime fiction and thriller author from London, England.  His debut novel, 'The Watcher', was inspired by London, and by what can happen when sexual obsession, violence, emotional neglect, and madness collide.  It takes you behind the eyes of a murderous stalker with a secret past, and into the mind of the harried detective who must stop him. 
Eli loves reading crime, fantasy, and mystery suspense, and is an ardent admirer of authors Steven King, Mark Billingham, Harlan Coben, and Patricia Cornwell.
A strong supporter of causes that promote equality for all, in his spare time Eli loves sailing, camping, hiking, and sketching, and detests getting up in the morning without a strong percolated coffee.
Stay updated on Eli Carros’s latest author news, release info, and promotions on his website or on Facebook and link up with him on Twitter

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

...Katharine Johnson to my blog this week...



AW   I know how busy you are, so tell me all about your current release...
KJ   The Silence has just been published (June 8th).  It's a psychological/coming of age story, set partly in Tuscany.  The villa and the village are entirely fictional but inspired by many of the mountain villages of north Tuscany.


AW   What first got you into writing and why?
KJ   I've always enjoyed writing as a hobby.  My granny encouraged me to write and I saved up my pocket money to buy a red plastic Corgi typewriter when I was nine to write my first book.

AW   You write crime fiction.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
KJ   The Silence is about a long-held secret and is about a crime but it isn't a procedural/detective novel so it didn't need a lot of research.  I had it read by a speech therapist and GP and I also spoke about certain sections to a hypnotherapist and a firearms expert to make sure it was plausible.

AW   And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
KJ   Yes, I've dabbled with various genres - romance is the one I find hardest.  I've written a few short stories which have been published in magazines and started writing a children's book with my son.  I assumed he'd lost interest but he was asking about it the other day so we may go back to it.


The view from... well I won't specify...
AW   Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
KJ   I wish!  I have an office in the house but my desk gets used by everyone.  I rather like George Bernard's Shaw's revolving summer house.  This is the view from my ideal writing room in a Ligurian fishing village (although it's actually the view from a toilet!)

AW   Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
KJ   Oh that's hard! I'd hate to be disappointed and find myself wishing they'd leave after ten minutes - but I think Oscar Wilde would be fascinating and fun.  Thank you so much Angela for inviting me onto your blog.
AW   It's been a pleasure and good luck with the book!





about the author…Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for crime novels, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu).  She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy.  She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and a madcap spaniel.  She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide.






about the book...Can you ever truly escape the past?  Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle - and a secret that could destroy everything.  When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992.  A summer that ended in tragedy.  The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity.  In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did.  But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open.

Buy The Silence here Amazon - The Silence




Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Jacques Forêt returns to talk about his new case…

A typical cévenol village
... and perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what has been happening in the village of Messandrierre since we last saw him…
  
AW  Welcome back Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.
JF  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve left the rural gendarme service and I now work in investigation Mende.

AW  So, just to recap on your career thus far.  You joined the police force in Paris as a detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre as a rural gendarme. 
JF   That’s correct.  It was after I recovered that I came here.
AW  So why the further change?
JF  I found I missed the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of solving such complex crimes.  My last case in Paris involved breaking a drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking.  All very testing with many and varied leads to follow.  My current case means that I can use those skills again.

AW  And can you tell us anything about your new case?
JF  It’s very different from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence is pointing to other types of crime.  The more I delve the more complex this case is becoming.
AW  How interesting.  Any suspects yet or dead bodies?
JF   It’s early days yet.  I only picked up the investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be narrowed down.  There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated which might mean a fraud is also to be uncovered.  There are no dead bodies at the moment but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.  Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Old City of Mende
AW  Of course.  Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village?
JF  Not really.  I’m still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be the first person they come to when there’s trouble.  Gendarme Thibault Clergue has taken my post here in the gendarmerie.  I don’t want to tread on his toes so we work on things together when necessary.

AW  Back working in investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier again?
JF  Not at the moment. I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think it might, then I may need to involve him.  And I will do that as appropriate.

AW  When we first met I seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life with.’  Those were your precise words, I think.
JF  Ahh, I was wondering when you would get around to that!
AW  And you can tell us… what?  The Readers do need to know, Jacques.
JF   I also remember telling you that it was complicated.  It still is… But I know what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her.  Moving to another country requires a lot of consideration.
The Cévennes, the setting for Merle
AW  Are you saying that you’ve asked-
JF  Non!  And before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either.  What I am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to consider very carefully how we achieve that.

AW  Well, you may no longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!
JF   Perhaps
AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.


You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle 
Book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series (available for pre-order using the link above) is published on July 5th

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

... Jennifer Wilson to my blog today.  Hello Jennifer, nice to see you again and I think you've got another book out haven't you? 

JW   Hi Angela, and thanks for inviting me back onto your blog today.  I thought, for a change, I’d do one of my own Sunday Sojourn-style posts, and write about one of the locations in my new novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, which is released tomorrow.

JW  Speaking of releases, just to be cheeky, you and your readers are all more than welcome to my online launch party, this Thursday, on Facebook. We’ll be having (virtual) food, drink and celebrations, as well as competitions and guests – click here and say ‘going’, to get involved.
AW   Thanks, Jennifer and yes I will make a point of dropping in when I can.

Holyrood Abbey
JW  But now, back to the location. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh Castle, tales of the Black Dinner, sieges and scaling cliff-faces, but for today, we’re heading to the other end of the Mile, to Holyrood Palace, a place that for some reason, I’d never thought of visiting until a couple of years ago.  Since that first visit though, I’ve become really fond of the place, and the final room, filled with historical treasures, is one of my favourite rooms in the world.
But to the palace itself.  Sadly, I’ve no photos of the interior, but then, neither do any other visitors.  As it is still a functioning royal palace (the Queen visits at least once a year, for about a week), photos are only allowed outside, but that’s stunning enough, so we’ll be ok with that!
The original Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128, as ordered by David I of Scotland, who, according to legend, saw a vision of the cross in the area.  The Abbey became an important location for Scottish royals and ruling, with parliaments being held, and monarchs being buried there.  Then, probably to give his new Tudor wife somewhere more pleasant than the Castle to stay at, James IV built a grander Palace, attached to the Abbey; this was destroyed when the English sacked Edinburgh during the Rough Wooing.  Over the following centuries, the Palace was modernised, and abandoned for a while by the royal family when they became monarchs of Britain, not just Scotland, but was used by Queen Victoria, who was responsible for much of the current décor.
Holyrood Palace
One of the Palace’s most famous residents, Mary Queen of Scots, arrived in 1561, and her rooms are now probably the most famous, at the end of the public rooms.  It’s in this suite that one of the most famous incidents of the whole Royal Mile took place; the murder of David Rizzio, Queen Mary’s Italian secretary.  The man had been having supper with Mary and a couple of other companions in a (surprising small) side-room, when Lord Darnley, Mary’s husband, burst in with several other nobles, dragged the poor Rizzio out, and left his body in the queen’s ante-chamber, a total of 56 stab-wounds inflicted.
It’s the ante-chamber I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite rooms.  It’s full of pieces connected to Mary and the monarchs which followed her, with beautiful hand-written notes on each, in stunning glass cases.  It makes you feel like the first tourists who came through the Palace, having paid the housekeepers and other staff to let them in when the place wasn’t being used.
With so much history in the place, there’s no way I could write about Mary, and her Edinburgh, without including her Palace, and as it gave me an excuse to go and visit again, I’m extra glad that I did!
AW   What a fascinating place it is and when I'm next in the city I will visit.  Unfortunately when I was there last month, my time was short and I had a long list of other things to do and the palace just didn't quite make i t to the top of the page.  Thank you Jennifer and I wish you well with the book.



about the author... Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.


Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Interview with an Artist...

Just recently, I had the very great pleasure of spending the day with a long-time friend of mine.  As we were travelling by train to our destination, and a leisurely lunch followed by a play, we discussed a number of issues ranging from art to honesty.  But it was the debate about art that has kept creeping back into my mind.

My friend, who knows I’m writing this post but wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her C for ease of reference, is an artist.  She produces lovely scenic views in watercolour but also likes to work with acrillic paints.  I happen to be the very proud owner of one of her watercolours of a village in France and it hangs in my lounge.

But – the conversation! It has stayed with me because I have realised that her talent for drawing and painting is not so very different from my own capability to spin words.  You see, we’d got to the nitty gritty of how she put what she could see in front of her onto a piece of paper.  ‘There’s a spontaneity about watercolour,’ she said. ‘You have to work quite fast.’  And later she said, ‘Washes are good for sky and the changes in the density of the colour can suggest the clouds, for instance.’

As the discussion progressed I was reminded of a time some years ago when we sat in balcony area of The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I made a comment about how to reproduce on paper the people opposite. ‘I would look at the light and the dark,’ she said.  ‘And the shades in between.’  On the train, she talked about recreating the colours on the paper which helped her to suggest shadow and light, depth and detail.

She then looked out of the train window at the houses we were passing and talked about finding a small detail of particular interest, an arrangement of brickwork, a lintel across a window or door, perhaps a fracture in the stone, anything of interest.  ‘I focus on that and draw it,’ she said.  ‘Once I’ve got that small detail I can add in the surrounding features and expand the picture.’

It was at this point I realised that, although C is a gifted artist and I’m only a spinner of words, we are not so very different after all.  As a reader, I never look at blurbs on the backs of books to help me decide if I want to read them.  I always turn to the first page and start reading and if I can’t see the colours in the writing after the first couple of paragraphs, the book goes back on the shelf.  And it’s the same when I’m sat in front of my computer screen.  If I can’t see the scene in my mind’s eye in full and glorious technicolour, then the words won’t be there.

I guess C and I just use our ability to see colour in different ways.  I did suggest to C that she become one of my interviewees for this blog – but she said no.  Asked would she consider making some of her pictures available for my blog.  And you guessed it, she said no.  So, to illustrate this particular post, I’m afraid you will have to put up with a couple of pieces of art that hang on my walls.  I hope yoiu like them.