Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Intel: Caroline Mitchell

Caroline MitchellWe love a bit of crime fiction around here —

You’re making that face right now, the incredulous one that says: yeah, I kinda think we get that by now, fella.

But wait, I haven’t finished. We like crime fiction, but we also like a bit of the supernatural. The kind of stuff you can’t explain. Hell, when we were young we collected that magazine, The Unexplained, and we put them in the binders and everything.

Caroline Mitchell’s Don’t Turn Around, the first in her series about  DC Jennifer Knight delivers up more than a splash of the paranormal. Mitchell’s protag receives a personal message from behind the grave, which leads her on a hunt for a fiendish killer.

Caroline is a detective who lives with her husband and children in a pretty village on the coast of Essex and it was her own encounter with an unexplained force that inspired the series. The Twitterverse is abuzz with Don’t Turn Around, which is published by Bookoutre, so I’m delighted to say that Caroline is here to give us the intel on her life as a police officer, a writer — and her own life-changing experience of The Other Side.

Tell us about Jennifer Knight…

I knew when I set out to write the triology that I would need a detective capable of coping with everything I was going to throw at her. Jennifer Knight is devoted to her family, and passionate about her job. But her difficult past is hard to escape and soon catches up with her.

What was the inspiration for Don’t Turn Around?

I work as a full time police officer so it was a bit of a no brainer for me to write crime. I liked being able to lead my readers into a custody block and having them with DC Knight as she conducted a police interview. My own experiences with the paranormal also came into play, so it really was a case of writing what you know on both counts. The character Frank Foster came to me one sleepless night and refused to go away.

There’s a paranormal vibe to the story –  is that an aspect that will continue in the series?

Definitely. It will never overshadow the crime aspect, but it will add a spooky edge to the story. I’ve had several bloggers say it was not a mix they had ever considered before, but now I have them hooked. I think it’s because I’ve been able to keep it pretty real without getting too carried away, so it’s something people can relate to.

Don't Turn AroundTell us about your own encounter with an entity in your home…

Where to start? I was at work one day as normal when my husband called me to say all hell was breaking loose in our home as crockery was smashed, growls were coming from thin air, and knives and cutlery were being thrown. It was the beginning of what would be years of paranormal occurrences in our ordinary village home. Over thirty people witnessed the activity, including police and many other professionals. I wrote a book on our experiences, not expecting many people to buy it. Paranormal Intruder became a best seller, and I receive contact from ordinary people every week who have also experienced paranormal incidents in their home.

What was your journey to publication?

I self published Paranormal Intruder and as it worked out quite well, I was all set to do it again for my DC Knight series. I tried a couple of publishers but there was something about Bookouture I liked. I applied to them online, and after several weeks, exciting emails and a lovely meeting with their editor, I was signed in a three book deal.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Writing my true story was very harrowing and I did not expect that. I thought I could just get the words down on paper, but it doesn’t work like that. Each chapter made me relive the experience all over again and there were times I had to put the manuscript for Paranormal Intruder away. I really enjoyed writing Don’t Turn Around as it was fiction, and although I infused my experiences of the police and paranormal, it was happening to Jennifer Knight, not me, so I could enjoy the thrill without the sleepless nights!

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

I worship Stephen King. He is the master in my eyes. I love the way each of his books takes me on a journey. I’m also becoming aquainted to many of the UK’s current crime writers and of course my fellow Bookouture authors are fab too! I just wish I had more time to read them all.

Give me some advice about writing…

Persevere. Even if you are writing rubbish, just get your bum in the chair and write. Sometimes it’s only by getting pen onto paper that the creative juices start to flow.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just finished writing book two and am submitting it for edits. After that, I’m starting book three. I’ve also got the idea for a great straight crime series in my head, all I need is the time to write it!

Can Anybody Help Me? – Sinéad Crowley

Can Anybody Help Me?I didn’t manage to read Sinéad Crowley’s debut crime novel Can Anybody Help Me? when it came out, but I’m glad I finally did. It’s a good, old-fashioned page-turner, powered by  the molten core of a strong ”what if’ concept.

The blurb could really do with five minutes shut-eye:

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

Crowley’s first Claire Boyle crime novel asks why we blithely release so much information about ourselves online, placing our trust in virtual strangers. The early part of the book follows Yvonne — a young mother with a high-powered media husband — who moves from London to Dublin.

She’s shattered and lonely and isolated in the new city, and begins to rely on the friendly advice and banter of the other users of the forum, and her experience is mirrored by that of the very pregnant and very feisty Guarda Sergeant Claire Boyle, whose initial cynicism about getting help online dissolves over the course of the book. I like the way that — as mothers, or mothers-to-be — the tangled family histories of both these women impact on their anxieties and relationships.

The intermittent excerpts of conversations between all the women on the forum netmammy — littered with annoying and cliquey acronyms — take on a chilling context when it becomes obvious that hiding behind one of the avatars is a cold-blooded murderer.

Can Anybody Help Me? has a very good sense of time and place, which gives it a bit of daylight between other big city procedurals. Crowley, like other Irish crime writers, makes some wry and rueful observations about the scars left on Dublin in the aftermath of the economic crash — Tana French’s Broken Harbour is a particularly interesting read on that score, if that’s something you’re interested in — and away from the sinister stuff, makes some lovely observations about the competitiveness between mums and about the Dublin media-scene. Her day job is as Arts and Media Correspondent with RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster.

It’s a crime novel which manages the tricky balance of being both chilling, warm and empathetic, and often funny. Crowley’s characters are great, her dialogue is very evocative, and she drops in a great turn of phrase whenever she needs one.

The ending feels a touch rushed, and Yvonne’s role in the narrative, so strong at first, becomes decidedly peripheral as Claire barges her way in to take centre stage, but the revelation of the identity of the murderer is genuinely surprising. Crowley’s book is a fine debut novel, and proof positive that high-concept ideas don’t have to be cold, gleaming things.

And guess what — Sinéad Crowley is going to be giving us the intel on her work later in the week. Look out for that that, so.

Guest Post: Karen Long

It was only last week that we reviewed Karen Long’s revolting serial killer novel, The Vault. How time flies — a lot has happened since then. The Vault is a book that makes the corners of your mouth turn down in distaste at the antics of its creepy antag. But anchoring the story, as she did with thriller predecessor The Safe Word, is the complex and ambiguous character of DI Eleanor Raven.

_DSC7158I’m glad to say that Karen’s here now to talk about the genesis of Raven and, interestingly, how a character evolves from one book to the next. In your own time, Karen…

Let Dante be your guide…

It had always been my intention to create a character that I could develop over a series of five books and in order to achieve that she had to be complex, psychologically robust and insightful, though not necessarily about herself. She, like us all, would be moulded and defined by the events of her childhood, in her case the discovery of the decomposing body of her murdered friend.

But Eleanor Raven, unlike the majority of us, cannot forgive herself for not recognising the signs that could have prevented Caleb’s death at the hands of his sexually abusive stepfather. Eleanor manifested this inner conflict in The Safe Word by seeking out sado-masochistic encounters with strangers. The sex scenes were not particularly easy to write but were a great way of placing Eleanor in jeopardy and having a character motivated by the unconscious desire to seek and find redemption.

The VaultHowever, when I started writing the second book in the series, The Vault, I felt the premise to be intrusive and artificial, as I tried to build the plot around it. I was at a loss, I had a story I was dying to tell and a character whose traits were bouncing me out of the story. I turned, as one does, to Dante, whose ‘Inferno’ is tucked between the ‘Next’ catalogue and a vegetarian cookbook next to the loo.

In Purgatory sinners seek redemption, even though tormented hideously with creative ‘contrapasso’ punishments. That is to say that the means of punishment mirrors their sin. Eleanor’s contrapasso is that she is stimulated by the sexual abuse that destroyed Caleb.

This flaw was no longer a narrative intrusion I’d burdened myself with, it was a way into Eleanor’s thoughts, reactions and motivations. I stopped feeling the creeping unease that accompanied the writing of a difficult sex scene and embraced it as a means of examining and exposing my character’s inner conflicts.

And now to book three…

Thanks, Karen. Of course, who doesn’t keep a copy of Dante’s Inferno in the toilet?

A long time ago, when this blog was young and naive and still inexplicably full of the joys of life, Karen took part in The Intel. Go take a look see at that.

Movie Crime Log: Nightcrawler, Countryman & Snatchers

Happy Halloween to you, sirs and mesdames. Let’s hope it’s not like The Purge round your way tonight.

If you don’t want to sit in the dark waiting for the streets to clear of pint-sized zombies and sweet-toothed ghoulies, you could always get the hell out of the house. There’s a thing called a cinema near you.

And the Oscar push starts tonight. Big posters round my way have been shouting ‘A Modern Masterpiece!’ and all sorts to describe Nightcrawler, a neo noir written and directed by Dan Gilroy.

Nightcrawler has been likened to Taxi Driver. It’s the story of Lou Bloom, a misfit drifter, who discovers the world of crime journalism, becoming a nightcrawler who chases ambulances and police sirens in night-time LA. Jake Gyllenhaal’s gone and lost loads of weight and he’s making mad, crazy acting eyes for the ladies and gentlemen of the academy.

Neo noir. I like that phrase, I’m going to use that again.

The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is an oddity. It’s an American-Romanian co-produciton for a start, and features Shia Lebouf –- remember him? At one point he was in, like, every film going. And now, not so much. Curiously, Lebouf briefly dropped out of the production and was replaced by Zac Efron –- but then came back on board.

Anyway, it’s kind of a comedy drama with surreal elements about what happens when you travel abroad to see your girlfriend and discover her psychotic ex-husband is still in the picture.

Now this is more like it. Someone clever has re-released the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in key cities. So that’s London and Aberdeen and Lancaster and, er, Letchworth, and some other places.

It’s been hugely influential, of course, for its paranoid take on identity and conformity, and has remade several times. Jack Finney’s original novel ends with the alien body snatchers throwing in the towel and pissing off somewhere else after intense human resistance, but the movie ends on a more ambiguous note.

Every film bore knows it’s regarded as a metaphor for the McCarthy witch hunts or, alternatively, as an allegory for communism, although the producer was somewhat surprised at the many meanings given to it as he thought he was making a sci-fi thriller.

So, look, enjoy your evening, but if someone comes around and asks to place a gigantic pod in your vegetable patch, politely decline. And then leave town.

TV Crime Log: Chasing Shadows

So, anyway. Here we are again. Refreshed and ready for some proper banter. Or something.

Chasing ShadowsLet’s ease our way back in with news of something new on the box this week. Summer is over — there’s something on the telly! Hooray, etcetera. A lot of the good stuff starts next week, but Chasing Shadows looks like it may be worth a watch.

It’s a new four-part series, starting on ITV on Thursday night at 9pm. 9pm. Please don’t lose focus this early in the post.

The blurb will do a much better job of selling the whole thing than I will because somebody is actually paid to write it:

Chasing Shadows is a thrilling new drama which focuses on the work of a missing persons field unit charged with tracking down serial killers who prey on impressionable and vulnerable people.

After criticizing police procedure in the aftermath of the eventual capture of a serial killer, DI Sean Stone is seconded to the Missing Persons Bureau, assigned to a new ‘unit’ with MPB analyst Ruth Hattersley. In reality, Sean’s new assignment is made with the intention of keeping him out of the way. But when Sean comes across the case of a missing 16 year old girl, Taylor, he’s soon back out in the field.

On the face of it DS Stone is intense, socially awkward and a misfit.  Get to know him and you realise he’s a man on a mission even if it leads him to self destruction and his eccentric manner frequently lands him in hot water. He’s obsessed with deciphering codes and uncovering patterns of behaviour particularly in relation to those most at risk, vulnerable missing persons.

Ruth Hattersley, on the other hand, is a stabilising influence.  Maternal, but not mumsy, she’s an analyst from the Missing Persons Bureau tasked to work alongside Sean.  In effect his bosses have sidelined him and she is his lifeline.  Sean refuses to be tethered to Ruth, but eventually learns that he and Ruth make an awesome team. She has the ability to connect with people and has the expertise to trace missing persons. He is socially awkward and struggles to communicate; yet their strengths strike the perfect balance. On paper. In reality, it is a rocky partnership.

Anyway, those two people from Doctor Who are in it – you can see them in that photo, standing in a field of litter. And him from The Widower, which was very good. It’s written by Rob Williams – who wrote some of the DCI Bankses.

I saw them filming this a few months back. A lady in a yellow fluorescent jacket spoke into a walkie-talkie and police cars came flying around the corner and all these uniformed coppers piled out and raced into a cafe — to arrest somebody presumably, although I know for a fact that the buns are very nice in that establishment.

Then they came out and backed the squad cars up the road and did it all again, no doubt much to the enjoyment of the rush-hour traffic forced to sit and watch.

Not the greatest anecdote, I admit.

The Intel: Paul Gadsby

Chasing The GameCrime Thriller Fella this week reviewed Paul Gadsby’s novel Chasing The Game, about the true-life disappearance of the World Cup trophy – and it knocked our socks off. As a result, Paul has earned himself another free kick from a dangerous position. We immediately dug out the Intel Interview he did about the intriguing unsolved mystery surrounding the theft of the Jules Rimet Cup, and about his writing regime, and present it here for your enjoyment one more time.

Paul is a journalist and writer. Having worked in sports, news and trade journalism for 14 years, he’s the co-author of the seminal snooker book Masters of the Baize. Chasing The Game is his first crime novel, and you can buy it right here.

Chasing The Game is based on the true story of the disappearance of the World Cup trophy in 1966 – what happened?

It’s a fascinating story – one that has a dose of crime, shame, desperation and intrigue in roughly equal measures. The World Cup, or Jules Rimet Trophy as it was known, was on display in Westminster Central Hall in March 1966, three months before the World Cup tournament was due to begin. The stakes were high because the Football Association (FA) wanted the event to go very smoothly, it being the first – and so far only – time England have hosted the World Cup.

But one Sunday lunchtime the trophy was stolen from its display case. A few days later a ransom demand was made to the FA, and a note later delivered setting up a rendezvous where the trophy would be exchanged for the cash. But the plan fell apart, the switch never took place (despite coming tantalizingly close) and the thieves were never identified. The trophy, for reasons unknown, ended up under a bush in a London street where it was discovered by a dog named Pickles a week after the theft. Pickles briefly became a national hero, praised for sparing England’s blushes and saving the reputation of the World Cup tournament as a brand.

How closely is your novel based on true events?

Pretty closely in many ways, which is why I didn’t go into too much detail above! I always wanted this project to be a work of fiction, though, so certain elements – the nature of the theft in particular – were dramatised in order to drive the narrative. I kept certain characters such as the chairman of the FA (although I changed his name and created my own persona for him) while the gang of thieves was entirely down to my imagination. I’ve always felt the theft had an organised criminal element behind it, but not a large scale one, so it was fun creating a ‘firm’ who could carry out the raid but were under real pressure to collect the ransom because they desperately needed the cash.

Pickles is the only character that maintains his real-life name. In 1966 there was also a replica of the trophy made, commissioned by the FA but against FIFA’s wishes, and I exploit this conflict in the story. I’m a big fan of blending fact with fiction (David Peace and James Ellroy being the masters at this) and have always felt authors should be encouraged to use fiction as a vehicle to enhance intriguing factual narratives and sharpen the motivations of characters or historical figures.

What drew you to the story?

The curious nature of the theft, the bizarre discovery of the trophy, and the fact that the crime remains unsolved. Who were the gang of thieves? What went wrong between them to result in the trophy, worth a significant amount of money, ending up under a suburban hedge? I was surprised that no one had taken the Pickles story and done something exciting with it, so I thought I’d jump in there and weave my own narrative.

I also tied this in with a theme I’d been toying with basing a crime novel on for a while – leadership, and the pressures that come with fronting a criminal enterprise or firm. I’ve always been fascinated with the internal struggles and conflicts that crop up within a systemised criminal set-up, and seeing people try to take on the skillsets required to fill certain roles. So the tense and complex professional relationships that exist between members of the gang make up a central theme of the book.

Paul GadsbyTake us through a typical writing day for you?

I wish I had more of them! I write around a day job (I write copy for a marketing company) and am married with a three-year-old son, so my blocks of time for creative writing can be varied and unpredictable. On the occasions when I have a few hours to write, I begin by (and most writing guides advise against this) doing a light edit of what I’d written previously. I trained and worked in journalism for a few years and the editor in me just can’t resist, but I do enjoy ploughing on with a first draft knowing that the product behind me is a strong one.

Obviously the second draft stage is always an extensive one, but I don’t want a major re-structuring job at that point; I’d rather fix problems and enhance areas as I go along. I’m also a big fan of Stephen King’s theory of ‘write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open’ so I’m very much in my own head when unleashing a first draft, then liaising with friends and fellow writers for feedback on the second draft.

Chasing the Game is my first published novel but I wrote three crime thrillers before that; I’ve been writing seriously since about 2005 when I had a non-fiction book published and got the bug for writing full-length works.

Who are the authors you love, and why?

I adore Elmore Leonard’s dialogue, Adrian McKinty’s action sequences, Ken Bruen’s humour, the powerful prose of James Sallis, Jake Arnott’s deep characterisation, Patricia Highsmith’s ability to build drama, James Crumley’s sense of time and place and Graham Greene’s story structure. James Ellroy, David Peace and Don DeLillo do a glorious job of mixing fact with fiction while I also love Ian Fleming’s Bond books. As remarkable standout thrillers I really enjoyed Eddie Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce (which apparently inspired Tarantino to write Reservoir Dogs) and The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing? 

Probably the fact that it’s incredibly difficult – and increasingly rare – to make a full-time career out of it. At a recent writing event I had a chat with an established, award-winning author who’s terrifically talented but told me how many copies her last book had sold and how many other things she had to do in order to supplement her time to write, and I thought that was a shame. The less time an author has to write, the fewer chances we have to enjoy them.

On a technical point, I like writing a synopsis but find it bizarre, frustrating and amusing that every agent and publisher appears to have a different idea about what they want to see in one. It’s an area that takes subjectivity to a new level!

How do you deal with feedback?

I embrace it during the editing stages of my writing. An interesting point is what to do with all the feedback you collectively receive. I know some writers who literally change everything that is recommended from all sources, but the danger of this is that the focus of the manuscript can then fragment and before you know it you have several half-realised themes and sub-plots going on.

I don’t think an author should ever lose sight of the initial purpose they had at the onset of the project. I think it’s best to take all feedback on board, apply a great deal of it if necessary, but to always consider that this is your book and the reader has to be convinced that it has come from one soul.

As for feedback from the industry, rejections are a familiar tale and for me have always been tempered by the fact that you know thousands upon thousands of writers are going through the same thing. Many writers collect their rejection letters but I’ve never really gone in for that. Positive responses from the trade, meanwhile, are obviously fantastic; it’s great to spend time speaking with agents, publishers and authors, and when you’ve had your work praised by such people it comes as a relief as well as a joy.

Give me some advice about writing…

Tough one. Any advice given by writers is obviously going to be very personal to them, but I’d say the most valuable way to spend your time is to focus on both finding your own distinctive voice (there’s no better way to make an impression on your first page) while at the same time reading as much of other writers as you can. If you’re writing a full-length novel you need prose worming through your brain pretty much all the time. The passion to write can only be driven by the passion to read.

What’s next for you?

I’ve written a first draft of another crime novel, which I’d like to polish and edit in the near future. It has another sports link, and is about the physical and mental struggles of a recently retired boxer who gets dragged by his former manager into a murky world of crime and an underground bare-knuckle fighting circuit, while also struggling to deal with his Alzheimer’s-stricken father. It’s called When the Roar Fades.

Who’s going to win the World Cup this summer?

All World Cups previously held in South America have been won by a nation from that continent, and I can’t see that pattern changing. It’s hard to see past the hosts, Brazil, but Argentina could be handy. I think England might sneak through their tough group but I’d be surprised to see them go beyond the quarter-finals.

TV Crime Log: Ripper, Escape, Dracula

I’ll keep this quick because I’m busy picking my garden furniture out of the trees. Another week brings another stampede of new crime thriller televisual product. Here are three dramas that may tickle your fancy.

608Moved from its original, more genteel home of Sunday night, the second series of Ripper Street starts tonight on BBC1 at 9pm.

Gawd bless ya, guvnor, here’s the blurb:

Jack The Ripper may be fading into memory now, but East London has found no peace; H Division’s beat is more chaotic and lawless than ever.

So when a sergeant from Limehouse’s neighbouring K Division is found, hurled from a Whitechapel tenement window on to the iron railings below, Reid is quick to act. If the police are to be so publicly assaulted on his streets, what hope for law-abiding civilian life?

Investigations into the man’s activities lead them to the newly emergent Chinatown of the Limehouse dockside; and from there into the orbit of K-Division’s Inspector Jedediah Shine.

Shine’s conviction is that his sergeant has fallen victim to a Triad turf-war in this new market, but Jackson discovers evidence of a newly synthesised and devastatingly powerful opiate that leads Reid to different conclusions. And a dread fear that a new kind of hell is to be released on to his streets.

The first series of Ripper Street did well, but – with its early parade of slaughtered prostitutes – polarised opinion. Writer Richard Warlow has said he was never interested in Jack The Ripper, and to be fair, the series quickly dropped the subject and moved on to more interesting themes. In this second series, we’re promised investigations featuring eugenics, freakshows – featuring an appearance by The Elephant Man – cults and the rise of opium.

So that’s Monday night at 9pm. Or tonight, for those of you whose short-term memories have been blown away in the high winds.

608-1The hardest working man in showbusiness, David Tennant, appears in The Escape Artist as one of those highly-talented lawyers whose brilliance in in winning cases comes back to bite him on the bottom.

The court will be upstanding for the blurb:

Will Burton, a talented junior barrister of peerless intellect and winning charm, specialises in spiriting people out of tight legal corners, hence his nickname – The Escape Artist.

Much to the aggravation of his courtroom rival, Maggie Gardner, Will is in high demand, as he has never lost a case.

But when Will’s talents acquit Liam Foyle, who is standing trial for an horrific and high-profile murder, that courtroom brilliance comes back to bite him. Foyle walks free, but he is a serial killer. It’s only a matter of time until he finds his next victim.

And, sure enough, he kills again.

The Escape Artist in on Tuesday  – or as I prefer to call it, tomorrow. BBC1 at 9pm.

If you want some Tepes, peeps, we should just a have a quick word about the return of our old friend Dracula, back again for a new show on Sky Living. The Count still has an eye for the ladies, is still following a diet heavy in iron and still has a chip on his shoulder about stuff that happened centuries before – let it go, Vlad, just let it go.

In the first of this 10-episode series, he arrives in London posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society, only to fall hopelessly in love with a woman who seem to be a reincarnation of his dead wife. I hate it when that happens.

UnknownJonathan Rhys Meyers, who does a nice line in glowering, is Vlad – there he is to the left, hard at work – and all the gang is featured, such as Mina Murray, jonathan Harker, Renstein and that old spoilsport Van Helsing.

Sky Living – shouldn’t it be called Sky Undead? – shows the first episode on Friday night at 9pm. Yes, you’re correct, that’s Halloween. What a crazy coincidence.

The Intel: Sheila Bugler

As you know, we love writers here, and we’re keen to learn from them. Last week we reviewed Sheila Bugler’s procedural Hunting Shadows. Now Sheila tells us how she gets those pesky words out of her head and onto the page. 

Sheila Bugler_0002 copyHow has your own experience influence your writing?

I’m pretty sure all experience is an influence, although thinking about my own writing, two things seem most obvious. The first is being a parent. I started writing properly after the birth of my second child. Unwittingly, themes of parenthood, parental love and the importance of giving children a safe, secure childhood recur throughout my writing. I suspect I have a need to explore the strong emotions and vulnerability you experience as a parent.

The second strong influence is my status as an immigrant. I live in a country that’s not my own. This sounds very dramatic, I know, but in a sense it’s how I feel. I adore the beautiful part of England I now call home but I am – first and foremost – an Irish emigrant. I love my country and miss it. Writing novels with Irish characters has always been important and I suspect it will remain so for some time to come. It’s a way of connecting me with where I’m from.

What’s your writing process? What comes first – plot or character?

Character, although I had to think about this so the answer’s not that straight-forward. Sometimes, a novel starts with a single scene. Other times, I’ve dreamt the entire plot of a novel and that’s the starting point. No matter how it begins, though, once the writing starts the narrative is driven by the way the characters develop. Plot definitely comes second to that (although as a crime writer I do have to think very carefully about plot, of course).

Take us through a typical writing day for you?

I’m not sure there is a typical day, unfortunately. I have a job and two kids and life is very busy. On a good day, I get up early (usually before 5) and write until the day begins for everyone else. The days I commute to London, I write on the train.

Basically, I squeeze the writing into whatever little bit of free time I can find. I long for the day I can write full-time.

Who are the authors or you love, and why?

So many. First and foremost, I have a definite leaning towards US writers. Why? It’s something about the lyrical way US authors weave the amazing landscape of their country into their writing. But I adore many other writers too.

Favourite crime writers include Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Craig McDonald, Philip Kerr, James Lee Burke, Denis Lehane, Raymond Chandler (of course), Ken Bruen, Cathi Unsworth, Louise Welsh, Harlan Coben and the incredible Robert Edric who writes the best UK noir fiction I have ever read. I’ve also recently read books by Stephan Talty, MD Villiers and Derek B Miller which were all brilliant. In fact, Talty’s book was so good I wrote to him and told him I wished I’d written it. And I really do.

I also read a lot of non-crime. All-time favourite authors include Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It would possibly be my desert island book), Kazuo Ishiguro, Alan Hollinghurst Patrick McCabe, Raymond Carver, Richard Bausch and the incomparable genius that is PG Wodehouse. I’ve just started re-reading Jeeves and it really is the most sublime writing.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?HuntingShadows

That I’m not going to make a fortune in this line of work! Also that it takes time to get anywhere. I’m not a very patient person and you really need a lot of patience to persevere with this odd occupation we have chosen.

How do you deal with feedback?

I’m pretty okay with feedback. I don’t take criticism too personally. In fact, it is impossible to survive as a writer if you take everything to heart. I went through an intense editing process with Hunting Shadows. Even though my editor is wonderful, I found the process quite gruelling. I do admit, though, that it’s now a better novel than it would have been if we hadn’t made all those changes.

I’ve also learned that all views are subjective. When I started writing, I took every piece of feedback on board and tried to change my writing on that basis. Now I realise that no one’s opinion is ‘right’ (although naturally some opinions are more right than others!). The important thing is not to take anything personally and to be sensible. Generally, if someone doesn’t like something you’ve written, your gut will tell you if they’re right or not. If something feels wrong, then it is wrong and you’ll need to change it.

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?

In lots of ways, I suspect. As I mentioned above, being a mother and an emigrant are key influences. But so many other things in my life feed into my writing, consciously or sub-consciously.

Give me some advice about writing…

Read lots and be realistic. You may think you’re the best, most original talent that has ever lived but the chances are no one else will think that. And even if you find someone who does share that view, it will still be hard work.

Being able to write is very special and I feel so lucky that I’ve found this thing I want to do with my life. But it’s also incredibly hard work. Mostly, it’s a grind and you have to put so much else on hold to do it…

Finally, every aspiring writer should read Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s brilliant.

What’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace…

Be patient. Be realistic. Be doggedly persistent.

What’s next for you?

Working on the sequel to Hunting Shadows. It’s called Watch Over You and should be out in the first half of 2014. It’s quite a different book, full of dark, demented females. I like it but I’m not sure, yet, if anyone else will!

Sheila grew up in a small town in the west of Ireland. After studying Psychology at university, she left Ireland and worked in Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland and Argentina before finally settling in Eastbourne, where she lives with her husband, Sean, and their two children.

You can find out more about Sheila and her writing on her website ( She’s also on Facebook (!/sheila.bugler.1) and Twitter (@sheilab10).

TV Crime Log: Whitechapel, Guilty

WHITECHAPEL_S4The deliciously barmy Whitechapel returns to ITV tonight for a fourth series of moody lighting and gothic thrills. For a crime drama originally about a Jack The Ripper copycat, it’s a show that has proved to have legs.

It’s an atmospheric little beast, Whitechapel, cheerfully sinister. It features one of those police station sets that manages to look more like an abandoned menswear department than anything remotely like a modern copshop. Everything is so dark and gloomy and mouldy, and there are lots of scratchy, time-lapse effects spattered into the drama. It’s no wonder everybody is so paranoid. The scripts by Ben Court and Caroline Ip are a little bit bonkers, but in a good way.

The second series, featuring Rupert Penry-Jones, Steve Pemberton and the awesome Phil Davis,  was about a couple of Kray copycats, but the third series, and this latest one, have expanded on the idea of historical precedents for modern-day murders in that unfortunate borough — now blighted by hideous art galleries and painfully-expensive boutiques — which echo former killings in the area, such as silent horror movies, ghoulish surgeons and cryptozoology.

You’re probably desparate for some blurb by now:

Chandler and Miles are called to investigate a bizarre murder after a vagrant is slowly crushed to death by stones. The killer’s macabre methods are investigated by the team, and as things unravel to reveal a more ominous possibility, they consider a sinister 16th century precedent.

Shortly after the first murder a second body is found, again the victim of a grotesque death. Why such horrific executions? Could it be that someone is killing witches in Whitechapel?

So — make a note — the first of three two-part stories is on at 9pm tonight.

THE_GUILTYParallel timelines are all the rage in telly, and tomorrow night’s new crime drama The Guilty – two crime dramas on consecutive nights, you are spoiling us ITV! – toggles between 2008 and the present day.

Here’s the blurb:

2008 – a glorious May bank holiday weekend. A four year old boy goes missing after a neighbourhood barbecue. Believed to have been abducted, a nationwide search and media frenzy ensue, but the boy is never found.

Present day – the wettest spring on record. Workmen digging up a burst water main uncover a body under the communal garden. Little Callum Reid – buried just yards from his own front door. The missing boy never left Arcadian Gardens.

Tamsin Greig – show of hands, please, if you liked her in that other thing – stars as DC Maggie Brand, who leads the new investigation into the boy’s murder.  Katherine Kelly and Darren Boyd are his distraught parents. I bet Brand is carrying some emotional baggage of her own, these modern cops always do.

ITV’s short crime dramas can be a bit of a mixed bag sometimes, but they’re always worth slapping onto the hard disc.

The first episode of The Guilty, the first of three, is on ITV tomorrow night at 9pm.

This Week’s Crime Thriller Movies & DVDs:

The movie adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot, called Jack Reacher, did mediocre business in the US, and better in Europe, and made just about enough money for the film studio to be jacking up a sequel – but which Reacher book should be adapted next, Lee Child fans? –

Reacher may be worth another look now that it’s been released on DVD and blueray. At the time, eyebrows were raised at the prospect of the famously compact Tom Cruise — reports put him in the region of five foot seven, give or take — playing Reacher, a character who is six foot five to the top of his buzz-cut.

Cruise worked with director Christoper McQuarrie on the Second World War drama Valkryie — MCQuarrie wrote the script — and for that reason alone, folks should give Jack Reacher the benefit of the doubt.

If you do rent or buy it, this is the kind of thing you’ll be watching:

Bernie is a Jack Black movie, but don’t let that put you off. It’s based on  a true story about an assistant mortician in a Texas town called Bernie Tiede who formed a relationship with a cold and unpleasant widow, killed her and then used her money to support the local community. It’s directed by Richard Linklater, who worked with Black on School of Rock.

But of course, not many people will be going to see that, because everyone will be flocking to see this…

If you like your crime to be gritty and realistic you may want to give Iron Man 3  a wide berth. However, if you like your crime solved by a flying billionaire in a red and gold suit, then Iron this superhero threequel is probably your kind of movie.

The script,  based partly on the well-regarded Extremis storyline from the Iron Man comics, finds Tony Stark recovering following the events of The Avengers, and facing a new villain, The Mandarin. Early reviews have been very good, but whatever the quality, it will earn zillions at the cinema. My IMAX tickets are booked.