Tag Archives: James Patterson

The Intel: Sam Christer

9780316181372 (800x532)A game is afoot in the Sherlock Holmes universe – and it’s every bit as wicked and deadly as you’d hope.

Sam Christer is the latest author to soak his bones in the deliciously rich world of the World’s Greatest Detective in his new thriller The House Of Smoke. But this time his protagonist, cold-blooded killer Simeon Lynch, is playing for Team Moriarty!

As Big Ben chimes in the first seconds of 1900 and the start of a new century, preparations are afoot inside Newgate gaol to hang Lynch, England’s deadliest assassin, who’s has spent two decades in the employ of the House of Moriarty – the world’s most feared criminal enterprise. Facing the noose, Simeon reflects on his life, remembering his upbringing as an orphan in the workhouse and how he first joined the employ of Professor Brogan Moriarty.

Then Holmes, his employer’s greatest nemesis, approaches him with a deal – to turn Queen’s Evidence against Moriarty and his brother James in exchange for his freedom. Simeon refuses, but the offer makes him all the more determined to escape the noose, and to seek revenge on those who wronged him.

But the law isn’t alone in wanting him dead. Over the course of a life filled with murder and brutality, Simeon has made enemies, some of whom may be closer than he realises…

Christer, who also writes as Jon Trace and Michael Morley, is the best-selling author of   The Camelot Code, The Turin Shroud Secret and The Stonehenge Legacy, which have been published in thirty-six countries around the world.

In this fascinating Intel interview, Christer – a director of commercials, as well as an author – talks about his love of research, about his discovery of an even more malevolent and wicked Moriarty brother, and how he couldn’t resist a detour into the sinister world of Victorian London…

Tell us about Simeon Lynch…

Lynch is very much a product of his time. Born with nothing, he grows up with nothing and becomes a young man with nothing to lose – but his life. The Victorian age was a desperate epoch. One in which if you had no money, no family, no mentors you inevitably became down-trodden, ground under the polished boots of the well-heeled and privileged classes. Initially, Lynch is swept along by circumstances and the cruelties of fate.

Then an event happens that changes his life. One that empowers and embitters him in equal measures. Hopefully, people will have some sympathy with him as well as detest the person he becomes. He is a highly conflicted individual, and this is most evident as he rots reflectively in jail, counting down the days to his execution at Newgate. It’s at this point that he, and we, see not only who he is, but also who he might have been.

It turns out that James Moriarty – one of the most-iconic villains in literatures – also has a smarter brother…

Not only smarter. I always struggled with the idea that James Moriarty, and he alone, headed up this amazingly cruel and complex criminal network that Holmes spoke fearfully of. Hence my invention of Brogan. A character very different to his brother. James was always cast as brilliant, very Alpha Male, a physical and mental match for Holmes and the best detectives in the world. I wanted Brogan to be more driven, more motivated, more malicious. I wanted him to demonstrate more reason to be wicked, more resolve to be brilliant in his wickedness.

What is it about the Sherlock Holmes universe that makes it such a rich source of inspiration for authors?

It is not just the Holmes universe; it is the Victorian universe.  This was a period of amazing change and fascinating architects of that change.  The century started with horses and ploughs, leeches and candlelight and it finished with trains, electricity, gas, motor cars and massive leaps in medicine. Setting a novel against such a rich backdrop is an irresistible lure. The language of the characters, the voices that you can put into their mouths, the thoughts you can have stir in their brains is also fascinatingly different than contemporary fiction.

Class played an immense part. Media was limited to newspapers, periodicals and the chatter of tongues. Aspirations were simpler and more personal. Then yes, of course there is Holmes himself, a character so powerful than even in cameo appearances he captures the audience and dominates the scene. I thought Anthony Horowitz did an amazing job putting believable words in his mouth and I think that partly inspired me to have him brush shoulders and shape the fortunes of some of the cast of House of Smoke.

House of Smoke coverAs an author you’re well known for your conspiracy thrillers – what made you detour through Victorian London?

A love of both the time and the city. A chance to dramatically romance a great age and I suppose create a different kind of conspiracy novel, one in which the conspirators are both social evils and human manipulators of those evils. Workhouses, prisons and executions were as much opportunities for exploitation as well as pillars of this harsh society and of course the people in charge of them made for fascinatingly flawed characters.

One of the joys of researching this book was walking the locations, reading the historic blue plates on the outside of houses and buildings and then sitting in the magnificent British Library and digging into the history and people of the time.

How did you start writing?


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

Good marketing is infinitely more effective than great writing. 

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

Martin Amis for the intoxication of his language. Stephen King for his ability to make me check under the bed and never walk near a storm drain. James Patterson for his simplicity of plotting and ruthlessness of marketing. Dr. Seuss for helping me spread the love of reading to my children.

Give me some advice about writing…

Don’t do it unless you love it. If you love it, keep doing it.

What’s next for you?

My first book is currently being adapted for television in the US and I am very happily involved in the development process. I am also busy working with a UK production company on a TV adaption of another novel. I am just in the middle of directing some commercials for Euro 16 and after that, I hope to be lucky enough to write another thriller.


The House of Smoke by Sam Christer is published by Sphere, price £7.99 in paperback original.

Research – Philip Kerr

researchPhilip Kerr’s new standalone thriller Research is as cynical and disillusioned as a boozy publishing lunch. The novel takes two authors on the road when one of them – the super-rich, super-successful John Houston – is accused of murder.

The blurb has regrettably decided to fire its agent:

The rolling strip across the bottom of the screen shouts the news:


Houston is the richest writer in the world, a book factory publishing many bestsellers a year – so many that he can’t possibly write them himself. He has a team that feeds off his talent; ghost writers, agents, publishers. So when he decides to take a year out to write something of quality, a novel that will win prizes and critical acclaim, a lot of people stand to lose their livelihoods.

Now Houston, the prime suspect in his wife’s murder, has disappeared. He owns a boat and has a pilot’s licence – he could be anywhere and there are many who’d like to find him.

First there’s the police. If he’s innocent, why did he flee? Then again, maybe he was set up by one of his enemies. The scenario reads like the plot of one of Houston’s million-copy-selling thrillers…

There’s not a huge amount you can say about Research without giving its twisty game away, but we’ll give it a go.

They say write what you know and Kerr, a crime writer with many years experience, has chosen to poke a sharp stick at his own industry. Research is a sly, psychological thriller about writers and writing, and the seething resentments that fester when creative isn’t given its due. It’s virtually a two-hander, in the spirit of Schaffer’s Sleuth or Ira Levin’s Deathtrap.

John Houston is a wildly-successful international hit machine – an amalgam perhaps of James Patterson, Robert Harris and Wilbur Smith. He’s got the beautiful actress wife, a fleet of classic cars, homes all over the shop – including a pad in Monaco – and a mistress in every town.

Houston has recently dismantled what he calls his atelier, a group of long-suffering authors who anonymously pen his never-ending torrent of novels. Houston writes the extraordinary plot outlines – he long ago realized that his readership keep coming back for his stories – and employed a team of bitter underlings to churn out the prose, long before it became a standard industry procedure. Subsequently, a lot of people have become rich on the back of Houston’s success – his publisher and agent among them – and not long after Houston disbands the atelier he goes on the run with one of his authors, Don Irvine, after being accused of shooting his wife.

A playful morality tale, Research has a lot of fun with its central, toxic relationship between Houston and his resentful friend/minion, Irvine. The pair open bottle after bottle of fine burgundy and smoke cigarettes at exclusive restaurants as they roar across the south of France in a borrowed Bentley in a bid to clear Houston’s name. Houston in particular is a terrific character, arrogant and complacent and oddly sympathetic. Imagine Kingsley Amis and Jeremy Clarkson in a remake of Thelma And Louise and you’re in the ballpark.

It’s hugely readable, at times it’s blackly funny, and the dialogue is a particular treat. Kerr fills his story with gossipy literary references and name-dropping tidbits – and there are a few choice asides about the state of the industry. Research is a bitter fairytale – what writer hasn’t dreamed of the kind of super-rich lifestyle enjoyed by Houston? – and its narrative unravels with the kind of delicate precision that would have made Ira Levin proud.

The bland title Research does the book no favours, I think, and I was expecting one more twist along the way, but Kerr delivers an enjoyably spiteful little tale – decidedly more Roald Dahl than Bernie Gunther.

Kerr’s louche protagonists, two seedy examples of the haves and have-nots in publishing, will not be to everybody’s tastes, and if you’re the kind of person who goes puce with rage at fruity language – or if you’re sensitive about your Cornish heritage – it may be a book you want to avoid. But if you like bitter morality-tales in which high-handed super-rich people are brought down a peg or two, you can do worse than take this to the beach with you.

Research is an easy read, which leaves an enjoyable vinegary aftertaste like the sediment at the bottom of that last glass of fine burgundy.

Many thanks to Quercus for the review copy of Research.

The Intel: Matt Johnson

We like writers here. And we’re keen to learn from them. Matt Johnson is the author of Wicked Game, which has been an extraordinary success on Amazon. He’s currently working on the follow-up, Deadly Game.

cover3How does your own experience influence your writing?

Wholly. Write about what you know is advice given to many a writer starting out. It’s good advice, particularly when you choose to write in a genre where authenticity is so key. I weave fiction into personal real-life incidents, personalities, experience and emotion. I also model characters on people I have met, using their personality traits and speech pattern so as to ensure that fictional characters have the kind of variety that we see in real life.

Research can make up for in-depth knowledge, but there really is no substitute for experience. When you live through something you not only see it, you smell, feel, hear and taste the experience. Then, when the time comes for you to recreate it in words, you have a far greater wealth of memory to call upon.

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

First comes research. I read books, magazines and newspapers. I watch current affairs programmes.  Most importantly, I read outside my writing genre. I do this to learn how others write, how they describe, expressions used and styles of composition.

If something sparks an idea I make a note of it and, at all times, I carry a little digital recorder. So many times I found that an idea for a story or a character or plot development would occur to me and would be forgotten by the time I reached somewhere to right it down.

For me, plot and characters tends to develop together but, for consistency I write a character profile once a character appears. The profile will be in more detail if the character has a larger part in the tale

Take us through a typical writing day for you?

That’s a challenge. A typical day? I tend to write creatively in the afternoon. I walk the dogs first thing and once in the study tend to start the day with emails, twitter messages and the blog.

As lunch draws closer I review the chapter plan of the project, and look at how the story is developing. This gets me back in the groove. I always have a plan that is several chapters ahead to try and eliminate writers block. The plan acts as a prompt, no blank page to stare at! If I have a block, I take the dogs out, with the recorder of course. Often, in a different environment, an idea will occur to me.

On a writing day I tend to set myself a target of 1000 words. Normally, I achieve it and sometimes I get on a roll and exceed it. If I don’t write at all I will be thinking about the story and the plot but I try not to fret if I cannot get to the keyboard.

Who are the authors or you love, and why?

I have very eclectic taste, from Baldacci, Patterson and James Herbert, through to Kipling, Mark Twain and Ken Follett. The last book I read before my current project was Treasure Island. I would say that the greatest influence on me, in terms of style, is James Patterson. I liked his short-chapter use which I found to be excellent at keeping my attention. I find that, at the conclusion of a chapter, I tend to flick forward to see the length of the next. If its huge I may put the book down, but if it’s short I read on… and on… and before you realise it, the book is nearly finished.

I like a good story that can transport you to another time and place when, for the time being, you have to stay where you are. And I like a book that makes you think.

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

Overcoming fear. The fear that I am wasting my time, that nobody, not even me, will enjoy reading my composition. I have been approached by a surprising number of people in the last year who are intending to write. I always say that if you enjoy writing then get on with it, think of it as an enjoyable hobby, not a means to achieving success, fame or fortune. Having people praise and be prepared to pay to read your work is the icing on the cake, the most important thing is to enjoy the writing.

How do you deal with feedback?

I tend to respond to constructive criticism with a willingness to learn. I don’t have a monopoly on experience, knowledge, ideas or ability. If someone criticises I tend to listen to it without taking offence. I tend to evaluate it, assess it’s worth, and if useful it will influence me. That said, some feedback is motivated by jealousy, some is just rude and some critics are really not qualified to do so, but that doesn’t stop them.

Positive feedback is also immensely useful as it tells you what you are doing right. If people like the depth to which you have described a character or if they praise the twists in a story then you are reassured that the decisions made in the writing/proof/edit stage where the right ones. That gives the confidence to carry on.

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?Mart low res

In my case, my decision to start writing came quite late in life and had nothing to do with writing a novel. In the 1990s I was diagnosed with PTSD following a number of violent incidents I had been involved with in the police. I wrote about this in some depth on my blog. I suffered a typical reaction to counselling where emotion overcame my ability to talk about experiences and feelings. I was asked to write things down when I felt able and to bring my notes to the counselling sessions. Many months later, my counsellor told me how much she enjoyed my writing and suggested I consider writing a book.

It was years later before I felt able to do so, but when I did start to weave my personal experiences into a novel, I found it an enjoyable and cathartic experience.

Give me some advice about writing…

Read… a lot. And don’t just read the story, take the time to analyse style, technique, character creation etc. Even look at choice of font and page layout. It all makes a difference. So many indie books you see on kindle get these basics wrong. To the reader, if a book looks amateurish in terms of layout and is littered with errors, then it is likely to be labelled as poor, even if it is a fantastic tale.

Characters. People love a good story but also like to relate to the participants. If your reader likes your protaganists then they may be encouraged to keep reading. Try humour, nothing encourages affection like an ability to make your reader laugh.

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

Be patient and don’t rely on agents to do it for you. You have to be pro-active, build a profile and develop a readership. Most importantly, have a realistic expectation as to what you hope to achieve. For every Lee Child, there are thousands of published authors who make pocket money from their books, no more.

What those thousands of authors have in common is the pleasure of seeing their work in print. That is a reasonable aspiration for any writer. Very few ‘best selling’ books actually make their authors wealthy so my advice is to be realistic about what you aim to achieve.

Have dreams, we all do, but don’t set the bar so high that you are sure to suffer disappointment.

What’s next for you?

Second novel syndrome! That awful situation where an author is expected to produce a book that is as good as the first one. Wicked Game has made a name for me, got me on BBC radio, a world-wide readership and even brought me an agent. With 100 5* reviews now on Amazon it’s an act to follow.

I had been writing a police based novel set in North London but with an overwhelming demand for a sequel to ‘Wicked Game’ I put that project on hold. ‘Deadly Game’ the second novel in a trilogy is nearing first-draft completion and I have an outline plan for a third novel in the series.

A bit about Matt:

Matt Johnson is not a typical author. A divorced dad to one daughter, he lives in a converted barn and on a daily basis exercises his four gundogs. A keen biker, he rides a ’99 Harley Fatboy and in his spare time scuba dives.

A retired soldier and Police Inspector, Matt witnessed horrific scenes in the aftermath of the London terrorist attacks during a career spanning over 20 years. He recalls the moment in 1982 that bombs exploded and the chaos that followed.

“It was July. I was 25 and working in the CID Crime Squad in North London. My colleague and I were manning a CID car. We were among the first on the scene of the Regents Park bomb explosion, two hours after a similar attack at Hyde Park. A bomb hidden underneath the bandstand exploded during a performance by the Royal Green Jackets band to about 120 people. The audience and band were peppered with six- inch nails, causing serious injuries and instantly killing seven band members. It was carnage. Then, on April 17th 1984 I was driving a marked traffic car when word came over the radio of a shooting in St James’ Square outside the Libyan Embassy. Our car was sent to escort an ambulance with an injured officer to get it to a hospital. The traffic was a nightmare. The roads were chaotic and blocked up. We were forced to drive on pavements, between bus stops and shop fronts and to direct vehicles out of the way so that we could get to the Hospital as soon as we could. It was a tortuous drive. What I had no idea of at the time was that the casualty was my friend PC Yvonne Fletcher. She had been at a party at my home only a few weeks previously. I only found out when I arrived home that night and saw it on the news.”

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=412456475544240&set=vb.100003396743348&type=3&theater  is a link to Matt’s facebook page and his first interview on BBC Radio Wales in 2012 about the day Yvonne was shot, the way PTSD affected him, his recovery and how the book came into being.

In 1992 Matt was present at the Baltic Exchange bombing in central London. A few years later he started to suffer recurrent nightmares, night sweats and other symptoms that saw him diagnosed with PTSD.  As part of his treatment for the condition he was asked by his counsellor to write notes about memories, dreams and incidents he had been involved in. Those writings inspired the counsellor to comment that they were the basis of a good book.  One evening, Matt sat at the PC and started to weave his experiences into a novel. ‘Wicked Game’ is the result.