Tag Archives: Simon Kernick

The Intel: Tom Callaghan

Tom Callaghan

Earlier in the week we walked the charming streets of Bishkek in Tom Callaghan’s excellent debut, A Killing Winter, which features the debut of Inspector Akyl Borubaev. Callaghan’s brutal post-Soviet noir is brutal and muscular and funny. In a corrupt state full of bad eggs, Borubaev is as hardboiled as they come.

We promised you Tom Callaghan would give you the intel on Borubaev, Kyrgyzstan and his writing, and here at Crime Thriller Fella, we deliver. Born in the North of England, Callaghan is quite the gadabout. An inveterate traveller, he divides his time between London, Prague, Dubai and Bishkek. Me, I get a nose-bleed crossing postcodes.

Tell us about Akyl Borubaev.

Inspector Akyl Borubaev of the Bishkek Murder Squad in Kyrgyzstan is tough, honest and dedicated. Having recently lost his wife to breast cancer, he is in mourning, unsure that he does any good, caught in a deep depression. But the murders continue, and he has to solve them.

Where did you get the inspiration for A Winter Killing?

I’ve always loved crime fiction, hard-boiled noir for preference, and so that was always going to be the kind of book I’d write. But who needs another crime book set in NYC, or LA, or Miami? Kyrgyzstan is an unknown place, with a lot of problems – what more could a crime writer ask for? As for the plot; (whispers) I made it up.

In the novel, Kyrgyzstan is a state engulfed by gangsters, corruption and sleaze – what do you think the good citizens of Bishkek would make of it?

After two revolutions in ten years, it’s clear that the Kyrgyz will put up with a lot as long as there is food on the table, but when corruption becomes too overt, they act.

A Killing WinterWhat’s your own relationship with the country?

I was married to a Kyrgyz woman, I have a Kyrgyz son, and a home in Bishkek. It’s a country I love, for its beauty, for its culture, for its people. It’s a unique place, in an increasingly homogenised world.

It’s a very timely novel, what with many of the post-Soviet satellite countries afraid that Russia is flexing its muscles again. What do you think the future holds for Kyrgyzstan?

Now that the US air base at Manas has closed, following troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, and with Kyrgyzstan signing trade agreements with Russia over import and export tariffs, people are worried about a decline in living standards. Only time will tell. But I don’t see Putin moving eastwards.

How did the spellchecker on your computer cope with some of the more challenging, consonant-heavy names?

I ignore it: I know how to spell, to parse a sentence and the rules of grammar. Orwell’s rules are ones I live by.

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

Laundry and doing dishes always seems more important when you stare at a blank screen.

How do you deal with feedback?

As a professional writer, I have no problems with other people reading what I’ve written. I like to think I’m reasonable and open-minded to fair comment. At the same time, I’ll defend my work if I think I’m right. If I can improve my work through someone else’s suggestions, I will.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

The Classics: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson. Murder taken out of the drawing room and put down a dark alleyway, where it belongs.

The Hard-Boiled Americans: Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Robert Campbell, Michael Connolly, Robert Crais, James Ellroy, Carl Hiassen, Joe R. Lansdale, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, George Pelecanos, Peter Spiegelman, Andrew Vachss. Crisp dialogue, more twists and turns than an electric eel, great locations.

The Bold Brits: Mark Billingham, John Connolly (alright, Irish, but I had to list him somewhere), John Harvey, Mo Hayder, Simon Kernick, Val Mcdermid, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson. Murder doesn’t just happen in the USA, you know.

Foreign Settings: John Burdett (Thailand), Sebastian Fitzek (Germany), Stieg Larrson and Henning Mankell (Sweden), Jo Nesbo (Norway), Mike Nichol (S Africa). Because murder happens to non-English speakers as well.

What’s next for you?

The sequel, A Spring Betrayal, is with my agent and publisher, both of whom are very encouraging, and I’m plotting the third book now. Both of them feature Akyl Borubaev. A Killing Winter is already out in German, UK paperback and US publication is in the autumn, and Spanish and Portuguese editions follow next year.

Give me some advice about writing…

Don’t talk about it  –  nothing diminishes the desire to write as quickly as having told everybody the story. Read a lot. I mean a LOT. Read every day. Write every day. Ask for criticism, not praise; that’s what mirrors are for.

Follow Kingsley Amis’ advice: apply the seat of your trousers to the seat of your chair. Learn to spell and use grammar correctly; if you can’t make yourself clearly understood, how is your reader going to cope? Love one genre, but explore others; everything is an ingredient, to use or not, as you see fit.

Try not to be afraid of the blank page/screen, but don’t be over-confident either.

Crime Thriller Book Log: McBride, Kernick, May & Whitney

Just because Christmas is over, don’t think you’re finished spending. You have that book voucher from your auntie in your pocket, and that other one from last year in the kitchen drawer that you haven’t even touched.

Luckily, those kind people who publish books are here to help you by releasing what is known in the trade as product. How this works is, your favourite authors spend countless hours writing stories and then someone puts a cover on them and sells them in shops.

So you may know this already, no need to get so touchy about it – what have I told before about dealing with those negative emotions? Let’s get on with it, before we fall out.

Look, books — out tomorrow!

The Missing And The DeadThe Missing And The Dead is Stuart McBride’s ninth Logan McRae novel. Ninth! Where do the years go, eh? His McRae novels are set in the Granite City – that’s Aberdeen to you – although in this latest one McRae finds himself out in the cold of the countryside. I’ve a feeling carnage is just around the corner, however.

The blurb is wearing its Hunters:

One mistake can cost you everything…

When you catch a twisted killer there should be a reward, right? What Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae gets instead is a ‘development opportunity’ out in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire. Welcome to divisional policing – catching drug dealers, shop lifters, vandals and the odd escaped farm animal.

Then a little girl’s body washes up just outside the sleepy town of Banff, kicking off a massive manhunt. The Major Investigation Team is up from Aberdeen, wanting answers, and they don’t care who they trample over to get them.

Logan’s got enough on his plate keeping B Division together, but DCI Steel wants him back on her team. As his old colleagues stomp around the countryside, burning bridges, Logan gets dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation.

One thing’s clear: there are dangerous predators lurking in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, and not everyone’s going to get out of this alive…

The Final MinuteThat Simon Kernick like his thrills. He’s got these three protagonists — Dennis Milne, Mike Bolt and Tina Malone, who all take it in turns to feature in his explosive novels, and occasionally team-up. For his latest novel, The Final Minute, it’s Tina’s turn to take centre-stage:

The blurb is positively breathless with anxiety:

‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on, and and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run .….

RunawayPeter May’s new novel is called Runaway, and it’s based on the time he and some pals ran away to London to be rock stars and ended up sleeping at Euston station. He’s already turned the experience into a song, and now it’s a crime novel, with a bit of murdery stuff added.

The blurb is struggling with the bridge:

In 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year’s end three returned, and returned damaged.

In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.

Runaway is a crime novel covering fifty years of friendships solidified and severed, dreams shared and shattered and passions lit and extinguished; set against the backdrop of two unique and contrasting cities at two unique and contrasting periods of recent history.

May is doing a tour in Scotland to plug the book, by the way, and you can get details on those places and dates here.

The Liar's ChairAnd just to show that we don’t just plug grizzled veterans here, Rebecca Whitney’s book The Liar’s Chair is her debut novel.

Interestingly, she’s put the playlist of the music she listened to while writing the novel on Spotify — David Shire’s excellent soundtrack to The Conversation is in there — and the mood board for the novel, which features more toxic domestic drama, is on Pinterest.

Oh, wait, lets not forget the blurb:

Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .



Crime Thriller Book Log: Kernick, Chambers, Hilton & Beckett

Unknown-1Simon Kernick is one of those writers who kept knocking on the door of the writing business, and didn’t let a few rejection slips get him down. Sure enough, he made it as a writer – and a hugely successful one at that – and you can get the ins and outs of his journey on his website here.

Kernick’s tough coppers and pwopa nawty villains have proved a big success and his latest, Stay Alive, like all the other releases, is published in hardback and kindle on Thursday.

The blurb keeps it enigmatic:

One witness: You’re on a trip with your family, miles from anywhere. A shot rings out – and your whole life changes in an instant.

One secret: 
A woman is racing towards you, chased by three gunmen. Although you don’t know it, she harbours a deadly secret. She’s in terrible danger. And now you are too.

No escape: You’re running, terrified, desperate to find safety.

You know that the men hunting you have killed before.

And if they catch you, you’ll be next .

Unknown-2Kimberley Chambers was wondering what to do with her life when she was offered the opportunity to train as a hairdresser. Quite sensibly, she didn’t do that, she wrote a book instead.

She writes terrifically about how she found her vocation in life on her website. Do go and check it out if you require a kick up the writing jacksy.

Kimberley’s now on her ninth novel about the diamond geezers and equally steely ladies in who inhabit the East End underworld. Payback is a sequel to The Feud, about sibling gangsters Vinny and Roy.

The blurb knows where you live:

Family. They’re supposed to watch your back. Not stab you in it

When the enemy is one of your own, the payback is twice as hard.

The Butler brothers are the Kings of the East End, and their motto is ‘what goes around, comes around’.

In their world, family counts; so when the truth about Vinny’s cousin’s death comes to light, it rocks the Butlers to the core. One by one, Vinny’s friends and family are turning against him…

Then, the unimaginable happens – Vinny’s little daughter Molly goes missing. She’s the one chink of light in all their lives, and the one they’d commit murders to bring back.

But is it already too late for that?

Is this Payback?

lawlessVigilante Joe Hunter has been knocking criminal heads together across the States in eight previous books. In the ninth, The Lawless Kind, he takes on a Mexican drugs cartel.  Presumably, that’s Hunter and a lady friend on the cover. He’s so tough he’s walking to Mexico.

The blurb is going to settle this the hard way:

Ex-counterterrorist soldier Joe Hunter has been called to Mexico to bring an end to a cartel that preys on the people they smuggle across the US border. Once the mission’s ended, however, Joe’s mission leader and mentor, CIA Black Ops director Walter Hayes Conrad, confesses that the bloody mission is not the real reason Joe has been summoned south of the border.

For years, Walter has kept the details of his private life – especially his family – secret from everyone, even his closest friends. But disaster has struck: his great-grandson Benjamin has been abducted, kidnapped by Walter’s sworn enemy, the leader of one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. Walter will do whatever it takes to get the boy back. And he know Hunter is the man for the job.

But there’s one complication — the drug boss just happens to be Benjamin’s father.

Hunter is as American as you get, but what you may not know is that author of the series, Matt Hilton, is a former Cumbrian policeman and private security expert, who is practiced in the combat art of Kemp Jujitsu. He submitted his novels to publishers for 20 years, and like Kernick, he didn’t give up.

Unknown-3Author Simon Beckett takes time out from his usual novels about forensic anthropologist David Hunter – no relation to Joe – to write a stand-alone novel called Stones Bruises.

The blurb has got a stitch:

Sean is on the run. We don’t know why and we don’t know from whom, but we do know he’s abandoned his battered, blood-stained car in the middle of an isolated, lonely part of rural France at the height of a sweltering summer.

Desperate to avoid the police, he takes to the parched fields and country lanes only to be caught in the vicious jaws of a trap. Near unconscious from pain and loss of blood, he is freed and taken in by two women – daughters of the owner of a rundown local farm with its ramshackle barn, blighted vineyard and the brooding lake. And it’s then that Sean’s problems really start…

Simon is another writer who kept plugging away at publishers for years until everything came right – I fancy we’re picking up a pattern here. If you don’t mind the author himself staring at you from the wallpaper of his website, you can read his about his journey to full-time author.

Crime News: Exquisite, Dagger

Here’s your chance to get involved in a new crowd-sourced murder-mystery novel.

Every Monday at 11am, from June to August, a new chapter of Exquisite Corpse — or How Not To Kill Your Neighbours — will be uploaded to Twitter. All you have to do is fill in the details at @exquisitecopy or use #exquisitecopy.

All the different details and descriptions and whatnot will then be edited together by authors such as Simon Kernick, Matt Haig and Vanessa Gebbie.

Here’s Stella Duffy‘s first chapter…

Loughborough Junction: a local newsagent’s hasn’t opened its doors for days. The shopkeeper is missing. [Twitter: give us some descriptions – of the newsagent’s, the local area, and the shopkeeper (who is MALE)]. Rumour is rife.

Introducing Elizabeth (Beth) Lamb, local artist and our heroine [what does she look like? Quirks, interests, etc – the more detail the better].

Beth decides to look into the disappearance – she’s enterprising like that, and anyway where will everyone get their fags, booze and lottery tickets?

A local homeless man gives his theory on what happened [the wackier the better – why would you do away with a shopkeeper?].

Beth scans the window for clues about the shopkeeper’s life – everyone knows him but no one knows what he does when he’s not running the shop. [What’s in the shop? Feel free to send pictures as well as words.] And then:

A notice about dancing lessons at the local Anglican church in Brixton, with a hand-written note from someone suggesting they know each other – maybe intimately?? [Insert message here]Beth decides to go into Brixton to find out more.

The novel is part of the Southbank Centre‘s Festival of Neighbourhood, and will be published as an e-book later in the year. For more information, go here.

By the way, congratulations to the authors who have been named on the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, which was announced on Friday. Every single author has been shortlisted before, and the list includes three winners.

So this year’s shortlist is:

The Heretics by Rory Clements (John Murray)
Pilgrim Soul by Gordon Ferris (Corvus)
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson (Headline)
Dead Men and Broken Hearts by Craig Russell (Quercus)
The Twelfth Department by William Ryan (Mantle)
The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)

If you were wondering, the definition of a historical novel for the purposes of this award is one set over 35 years ago. Tickets for the reception and CWA Gala Awards Dinner are already on sale – you can get them here.