Thursday, 23 November 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH

Yesterday saw a few thoughts posted on Christopher Farnsworth's Hunt You Down posted on the blog, link - here.





















Today Chris is back answering a few questions.....


Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I’m lucky enough to write full time now. I was born and raised in Idaho, and worked as an investigative and business reporter before I sold a screenplay to MGM. After flinging myself at Hollywood for a while, I switched to writing novels when I published BLOOD OATH, about a vampire who works for the President of the United States. I’ve written five more novels since, as well as three novellas. I still write scripts and the occasional article, too.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I try to treat it like a regular job. I put myself in front of the computer after I get my daughters out the door for school, and I try to stay there all day. Some days are better than others, but I am a firm believer that you can’t wait for inspiration. As Jack London said, some days you have to hunt it down with a club.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I use the names of people I know for some of the characters in my work, and place names from when I was a kid. A friend recently emailed me because he recognized the name of a dive bar from our hometown. I love it when that happens. It makes me feel like people are paying attention.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I always know where a book starts and ends when I begin writing, but I don’t usually keep to a strict outline. And I don’t usually write linearly. I know the scenes I want to write, and then as I get close to the end, I see how they all fit together. It’s like a combination of a map and a jigsaw puzzle.

Are there any subjects off limits?

Now that I have children, it’s much harder for me to write — or even read about — violence against kids. I find it terrifying and disturbing in a way I could never comprehend before. I’ve still written a few scenes that involve threats against children, and each time, I’ve had to ask myself if I’m doing it because the story requires it, or because it’s such an easy way to raise the dramatic stakes. I used to look at some of my work like a video game or cartoon — I thought it was all just harmless explosions and noise. But given what’s going on in the real world, I’m trying to be more thoughtful about the actual cost of violence. I don’t know if I’m succeeding, but I’m trying.

I’m intending to read Hunt You Down shortly, which I believe is the second John Smith book after Killfile, without any spoilers will we be seeing more of Smith in the future? Is he a character which has legs or are you onto pastures new?

I am at work on another book about John Smith. There are also a lot of stories left to tell in John’s world, which is sometimes uncomfortably close to our own. He’s one of the best — and only — people who can operate at his level, so he has insanely rich clients lined up for his services. But his clients also have incredibly wealthy enemies. He’s one man dealing with people who have the wealth of nations.

I’m also at work on another novel, a standalone, which I’m keeping secret for now.

How long from conception to completion did Hunt You Down take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

Fortunately, it went very quickly. I signed the contract for the book in January or February and delivered it at the end of August. John makes it easy.  He’s a lot of fun to write. Because of his unique gift, I get to write in what someone else called “first person omniscient.” He knows what almost every other character is thinking, so I can skip over to their perspectives as well.

In addition to the John Smith books, I believe you also have a 5 book series featuring Nathaniel Cade as well as a standalone novel – The Eternal World. Can you tell us a bit about your other work?

The Cade books are about a vampire secret agent who works for the President of the United States. In Cade’s world, every dark horror story, every legendary monster out there is real — and Cade is the first response and last line of defense against them. He’s paired with a human handler, Zach Barrows, and together, they try to stop the nightmares from infecting the daylight world of the American dream. There are three Cade novels and two Cade novellas, starting with BLOOD OATH.

THE ETERNAL WORLD is a standalone novel I wrote based on an idea from movie producers Tom Jacobsen and Monnie Wills. It’s about a group of Spanish Conquistadors who discover the Fountain of Youth — and then slaughter the native tribe guarding it. They use the water to amass wealth and power over the centuries. But when they begin to run out of the water in the present day, they hire a young scientist to replicate it. However, they’ve been tracked over the centuries by the tribe’s sole survivor, a woman named Shako — who finally sees her chance for revenge.


There’s also a collaborative effort with James Patterson – Dead Man Running, how did that come about?

As with so many things in my career, I got lucky. James Patterson’s editor, Trish Daly, is the former assistant of my editor at William Morrow, Rachel Kahan. She thought I’d be a good fit to work with him. It was actually very cool. I got to tell my mom I was writing a book with her favorite author. DEAD MAN RUNNING is about Dr. Randall Beck, an unorthodox psychiatrist with a brain tumor. He’s working against a ticking clock, which makes him fearless in many ways. And when one of his patients is gunned down in front of him, he’s drawn into a conspiracy that could lead all the way to the White House.

Is there one of your books, you are more proud of than the others? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader?

I will always have a soft spot for BLOOD OATH, because it was my first, but usually I give people a copy of KILLFILE and tell them to start there.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Not sure this counts as my writing career, but David Mamet pulled a coin from my ear after I gave him a copy of one of my novels. I was grinning about that for days.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpublished, yes. Gems, debatable. I wrote four novels before I was published for the first time. I have one about a team that rescues people from Hell that I always liked, but it remains in purgatory.

What’s the current project in progress?

I’m working on the top-secret new novel and John Smith #3. I’m also working on a social interactive fiction game, a group of connected short stories based on a nightmare I had, and a new screenplay.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The feeling when it’s all flowing, and the words are coming one after another, and the typing seems effortless, and you look up, and you’ve written twenty pages without taking a break.

The worst?

When it takes you twenty minutes just to get off Twitter and open the (goddamn) word processing program and there’s still nothing there.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Dawn Patrol and California Fire and Life by Don Winslow; The Power by Naomi Alderman; Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg; Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Too many to name, but I’ll give it a shot. In no particular order: Don Winslow, Warren Ellis, Claire North, Elizabeth Hand, John Connolly, Mick Herron, David Mamet, Scott Turow, Joan Didion, Colin Harrison, Thomas Pynchon, Ian Tregillis, Lavie Tidhar, Carolyn See, William Gibson, Elmore Leonard, Daryl Gregory, Charles Stross, Kim Newman, Nick Harkaway, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Tod Goldberg, Ed Brubaker, Stephen King, Richard K. Morgan… The list goes on and on.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I can’t answer this. I come to the end of a lot of books and think, “God, I wish I’d written that.” But then when I get to work again, all I want to do is write the best book that I can. I tend to believe that we can only write our own stories.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Reading. I’ve been told I need to get more hobbies.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Farnsworth household?

I used to watch hours and hours of TV, but then I had kids. I’m still an addict though. Right now my favorite shows are Ray Donovan, The Good Place, Archer, Silicon Valley, and Westworld.


In a couple of years’ time…


I hope I’m still doing this: making up stories and having people read them. This has been my dream job since I was five. I always say I’m the luckiest person I know.

---------------------
Many thanks to Chris for his time and to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for connecting us.

Chris has his website here
Facebook page here
Twitter @chrisfarnsworth

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH - HUNT YOU DOWN (2017)


Synopsis/blurb…….

"Fast, fun and frenetic. A whip-smart edge-of-your-seat thriller," - Ernest Cline on Killfile

An unstoppable, high-concept action thriller for fans of Mason Cross and Lee Child.

John Smith is no ordinary gun for hire.

Smith is a man or rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . .

Hired to track down a shooter targeting the rich and famous, Smith must complete his mission before another attack takes place. But when a website on the dark net is found to have connections to the murders, Smith realises that taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponised the internet will prove more difficult than he first thought.

And no matter how hard he tries, this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.

PRAISE FOR CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH:

'Slick, fast-moving fun' - Guardian


'Brilliant . . . Produces intelligent and knuckle-biting suspense. Many will want to read this novel in one sitting' - Publishers Weekly

I must admit I’m not usually one for reading books with elements of supernatural or paranormal or the unexplainable, so I was really surprised to find that I enjoyed this one as much as I did.  John Smith is a private contractor, formerly a CIA operative and the product of a years-old government experiment/project to develop ESP powers in a cadre of agents. Smith’s ability is the power to read minds. Hunt You Down is the second book in the Smith series after Killfile, so the back drop to his time as an agent and his training isn’t really explored here which isn’t that important. Smith’s use of his ability - which also includes being able to implant thoughts into someone’s head - has a consequence in that he absorbs and suffers some of the pain from the people whose minds he reads. In Farnsworth’s hands the ability and the limits of Smith’s powers and the subsequent downside sound plausible and I was readily convinced.

As an opener, Smith is body guarding a rich Russian kid when the pair get caught off guard and are briefly held captive. Smith does his thing and all his right with the world again. Moving on, we have an invite to a celebrity wedding. A reality TV star, who Smith rescued (probably first book) is getting married. The wedding doesn’t go to plan as a gang of armed men attack the party. Our man manages to limit the consequences of the sneak attack and is soon re-employed by the bride’s father to bring the attackers to justice. A fragmented mind-snatch thought offers up the word – Downvote - something which means nothing to our man.

Before long, we discover what Downvote is, where it originated from, how it has been corrupted and Smith has a new mission (tied up with his old one), and a new partner and a new target. Our target, also happens to have his own special weapon, a Chinese agent with abilities comparable to Smith’s. And an agenda.

The rest of our fast-paced tale is a bit of a globe-trotting manhunt. Trying to bring down Downvote and the brains behind it, all the while out-foxing a foe who is our equal in every way. Hunt You Down is a thriller, as opposed to my usual crime fiction reading.

Verdict – I really liked this one and a fair bit more than I was expecting to. The action and events are fast-moving. The plot was believable. Smith’s abilities were convincingly explained and with my doubts and scepticism parked at the front page, I was happy to go with the flow. There’s a fair bit of fun to be had when a protagonist can read an assailant’s mind and can anticipate his next move all the while accessing his not so secret thoughts. Farnsworth serves up a decent conclusion and overall lots here to like. If my TBR pile wasn’t so daunting, I’d happily back track and read the first John Smith book.

4.5 from 5


Christopher Farnsworth has his website here.

Read in November, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 368
Source – review copy from publisher, Bonnier Zaffre
Format - Paperback


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

2 BY CHRIS RHATIGAN





















A couple from Chris Rhatigan this week – one a collection of short stories and the other a 120-odd page long novel/novella (what’s the difference?)

Both of these are published by All Due Respect books, as well as two further goodies from Rhatigan – Race to the Bottom and The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

From his website……

I’ve been involved in the crime fiction world as an editor, publisher, and writer for almost a decade.

Chris Rhatigan's website is here

His website is more concerned with his editing services than him blowing his own trumpet about his own work.

I've probably read a couple of his short stories around the internet, but none of his own longer pieces or collections. Time to break my duck I reckon.

Wake Up, Time to Die (2014)

Delusions of grandeur. Furby with an assault rifle. More convenience store robberies than ten seasons of Cops. This is Wake Up, Time to Die. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and always filled with bad coffee and cheap cigarettes, these stories highlight the weird crime side of Chris Rhatigan's repertoire.

 “Rhatigan is an expert at sketching out incidents that feel real, but are steeped in irony and dark humor.”
~Heath Lowrance  - author of The Bastard Hand and City of Heretics

 “Wake Up, Time To Die is noir cut with Novocain; sharp as a junkie’s needle, yet hazy as the morning after. Reality is a fatal disease and this stepped-on high is your cure. Medicate now.”
~Chris Leek - author of Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em



Squeeze (2016)


Scumbag newspaper reporter Lionel Kaspar aimlessly wanders from one scam to the next. Trying to claw his way to anywhere, Kaspar fabricates news stories and blackmails a local bureaucrat. What little success Kaspar stumbles upon he wastes betting on sports and drinking. But when Greg Hulas, his competitor, starts investigating him, Kaspar becomes desperate to maintain his position.



Monday, 20 November 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHRIS WHITAKER

Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls (on the blog yesterday), answers a few questions...




Is the writing full time now? If not, what’s the day job? 

I wish. I trade in the stock market but do so from home (with my own money) now, so no boss to answer to, though it hurts a lot more when I lose. I do write every day, usually into the early hours, which is why I look a bit ill all the time. 

Both your novels Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls have a small town America setting, yet I read you were born in England and spent 10 years as a financial trader in the city. I’m scratching my head here, can you explain why you aren’t setting your books in Watford or Stevenage, for instance?

It’s partly an escapism thing. I sit down at my desk and feel the need to move far from my street and town and life, I like that total separation. And America is just a great setting, with such a sprawling, varied landscape. I think there’s a little more freedom when it comes to police structure and guns etc, it lends itself very well to crime writing.   

What’s easier – a career in the City, or life as an author?

I’ve yet to find anything more difficult than writing a book. I did work very hard in the city, but there was a clear structure to my day, and a clear way of ascertaining whether it was a successful day (I made money or I didn’t). Writing is like beginning a journey and having no idea where you’re going or if you’ll ever get there. Did I make that up? God, I sound like a knob.     

What’s your typical writing schedule?

Write a little, delete a lot. And then ponce around on Twitter. I’ll do this until a deadline looms and then panic and write all night for weeks.  

Do you insert traits of family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I don’t think so. Though perhaps I do it subconsciously. I never set out to copy traits. I do like to tell people I’ve modelled a horrible character on them, it’s endlessly entertaining.    

How long was the debut book, Tall Oaks in conception, before it finally saw publication and hit the shelves?

Around two and a half years from slush pile (talent pool!) to shelves.   

Did the end result resemble the book you envisaged when you set out? Were there many bumps in the road along the way?

The end result was a long, long way from what I started with, though the heart was always there, a story about a small town trying to move on following the abduction of a child. Once my editor got involved the story went through some major changes. It’s a steep learning curve and if you’re precious about your work then you’re in for a rough ride, but I had such total faith in the team at Bonnier.

We lost a character, added a narrative, changed some plot points and massively tightened up the crime element.

Did you have to conduct a lot of research in respect of the settings for your books, or have you got a strong connection with similar places in the States?

No connection, all research, all painstaking. Maps, books, audio transcripts, interviews. There is no shortcut, I have to put in the hours and grind it out. I set my stories wherever I see them best.  

Was your latest book, All the Wicked Girls an easier book to write than your debut?

No, definitely not. It was a horror. It wasn’t just the weight of expectation, it was writing something fairly heavy and dark, in almost a different language, and writing from the perspective of a teenage girl.

Do you have a favourite from the two? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

Ah there’s no way I could choose. Tall Oaks was my first born and led to so many brilliant things happening. ATWG was the difficult second child, waking me in the night and shitting on me, forcing me to neglect everything else in my life so I could focus on it. I love them both in different ways. So, read both. Or read one and I’ll come round and read you the other.  

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpublished, yes. Gems, no.

Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

I am currently writing book 3. It’s about a little girl looking for revenge. Her name is Emily. I’m just starting out so that’s all you’re getting I’m afraid.  

What’s the best thing about writing?

Getting to live in another world for part of the day. When it’s going well, when you’ve a strong sense of place, you know your characters and what’s in store, you sit down and before you know it you’ve written an effortless thousand perfect words, it’s the best job in the world. Working with some of the most creative, talented, lovely people I’ve ever met. Seeing the cover, holding the proof, the first reviews, having a laugh with the bloggers, the launch party.  

The worst?

I am unable to switch off. I’m distant when I’m working through a plot, I’ll be so utterly focused on the story I’m writing that the other facets of my life will take a back seat. I’ve never thought of myself as a selfish person but I become increasingly single-minded as I write.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Perfect Victim – Corrie Jackson

The Confession – Jo Spain
My Little Eye – Steph Broadribb
Dark Pines – Will Dean
The Tall Man – Phoebe Locke

All of them are absolute stunners, I urge you to grab them when they’re out.






Who do you read and enjoy?

G.J. Minett is a friend and also a master of the plot twist. He has a new one coming out soon, Anything For Her, and I just know it’s going to be special. Jo Spain. Dennis Lehane. John Hart. Cormac McCarthy. Sunjeev Sahota, I still think about The Year of the Runaways. I have to break from crime now and again.        

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Harry Potter. I would be a hero to my children.




Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Lovemaking. Often alone.  

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Sing. It was awesome.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Whitaker household? 

Total TV addict. I’m finally watching The Wire and it’s perfect.



In a couple of years’ time…

Having still not delivered book 3, I will be avoiding my editor.  
----------------------------------------
Many thanks to Chris for his time and to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for setting this up.

Chris is on Twitter@WhittyAuthor

Sunday, 19 November 2017

CHRIS WHITAKER - ALL THE WICKED GIRLS (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

For fans of Lisa Jewell, Holly Seddon and Local Girl Missing, All the Wicked Girls is a gripping thriller with a huge heart from an exceptional talent.

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she's a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace - especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
-----

'A very real, very rare talent' Sarah Hilary

'Chris is so amazing. He just has this real knack of creating characters that you're completely engaged with . . . I was hooked by his beautiful prose and by the end I was absolutely ruined' Lisa Hall, author of Between You And Me


Difficult to do this one any sort of justice in a review. After a slightly slow start, once I got into the rhythm of the book I really liked it and was loathe to put it down.

A 15 year-old girl, Summer Ryan goes missing and it isn’t the first disappearance that the small communities in the area have experienced. Several girls have previously vanished and the mythical Bird is responsible. Only he’s not just a made-up bogeyman to frighten the kids, he’s real.

Raine, Summer’s twin and the more wilful of the pair has little faith in Chief Black’s ability to find her sister, so takes to riding the lanes and countryside around Grace with a couple of misfits Noah and Purv to look for her sister.

We experience parts of the book through Summer’s eyes and gradually uncover her secrets and in time discover her fate.

I think I would have enjoyed reading this book, even without the mystery of the disappearance of Summer and the other girls. Whitaker paints an incredibly detailed picture of a small God-fearing bible belt community Grace. The town is in economic decline, work is scarce. There are limited prospects for the youth, criminality could be a legitimate career option.

Within our community we have the usual conflicts and shared histories. The twin’s father, Joe Ryan was sent away, jailed for a number of years and missed a large part of their childhood. Raine blames Chief Black and hates him with a vengeance. Uncle Tommy stepped in and looked out for the pair during Joe’s absence. Chief Black has issues. His authority is under threat. His own faith in his competence is shaky, perhaps the bottle and the magic medicine he injects between his toes isn’t the best way of dealing with things. The manic preacher, Pastor Lumen semi-retired after a stroke still holds great sway in the community. His replacement, the milder meeker younger Pastor Bobby has his own skeletons and burdens to carry. Him and his wife, Savannah are dealing with the loss of their baby son separately, their grief and guilt driving them apart. Savannah is Summer’s cello teacher and Bobby is an important influence in her life.

The two characters who gripped me were Noah and Purv. Almost brothers, one long-suffering at the hands of his abusive father, with bruises and welts Purv’s normality and Noah. Noah has his own burden to carry. His long dead dad was a lawman and died in an incident involving Chief Black, a death which many blame on Black. Orphaned, Noah lives with his ailing grandmother and his dream of following in his father’s footsteps may not be fulfilled. His growing fondness and love for Raine may not be reciprocated and could add to the load he carries. A load borne without self-pity.

It’s been a while since I shed a tear reading a book, but Whitaker pushed me close. The characters were that real and that haunting. Guilt, secrets, love, loss, grief, awakening, maturity, friendship, community, family – all resonate strongly throughout.

5 from 5

Chris Whitaker’s debut novel, Tall Oaks sits on the pile – not for too much longer. 


Read in November, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 448
Source – review copy from publisher Bonnier Zaffre
Format - paperback

Saturday, 18 November 2017

CHRIS SARANTOPOULOS - THE MAN BEHIND THE BAR (2017)


Synopsis/blurb...

The past never really stays hidden or forgotten. Ben Stingler left his past for a quiet life, until a young man steps in his bar, and brings with him all the things Ben tried to put behind him five years ago. An overdue debt is back on the table.

A short story

A 22 page short story and the opportunity to try out another writer's work for zilch via Instafreebie.

An ok story,  no stop you in your tracks turn of prose, no annoying clunky sentences, decent writing. Reasonable premise, though I kind of wondered about the hiding in plain sight option our man behind the bar took. Not wise in hindsight. Inevitable twist in the tale. I quite enjoyed it and I've read a lot worse in my time.

Enough there to not rule out reading more from the author in the future.

3 from 5

Chris Sarantopoulos has his website here

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 22
Source - free copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Friday, 17 November 2017

VICENTE MORALES - REST IN PEACE, BABY (2017)




Synopsis/blurb.....

A teenager forced into the brutal world of sex trafficking. Dozens of murderous narcos with torture on their minds. The key to survival? A lone badass with a particular set of skills and an urge to kick some major ass…

Introducing the Badass Mexican Girl. 

Tasked with assassinating a pair of narcos who seduced and killed the wrong woman, the Badass Mexican Girl finds herself deep within enemy cartel territory. Armed with only an AS50 sniper rifle, a Glock, and a bad attitude, will this girl with no name be able to take on a swarm of homicidal enemy narcos and rescue an innocent victim of sex trafficking?

You’ll have to read this exciting thriller to find out…

Rest In Peace, Baby is the exciting prequel to the upcoming Badass Mexican Girl thriller series by Vicente Morales. If you like violent page-turners, tons of action from the first line, and an unhealthy dose of dark humor, then you’ll love Rest In Peace, Baby.

Get your copy of Rest In Peace, Baby and dive into the action today!

Another one from Instafreebie and probably the first one to come back and bite me on the bum.

The blurb sounds like it would be right up my street and it was pacey with plenty of action, but no real character development or depth if I'm honest. Consequently I had zero connection to the plot or emotional investment in the outcome.

We have an insanely high body count and fair to say the author delivers on the death and carnage part of the deal. Some of the action scenes seemed a little bit over-described. Every move, punch and kick or bullet described to the nth degree - a little bit more faith in the reader to join the dots up might have worked better.

There's a bit of a curve ball thrown when our Badass Mexican Girl gets a little sidetracked when on her mission to wipe out the Colombian drug supplier. A rescue mission is easily taken in the stride of our protagonist. And there's decent bit of scheming at the end to draw out our adversaries.

Bits of humour Morales injected into the book lightened the tone at points, especially when one of our vicious narco bosses got a rebound from his hot branding iron.

Sadly, overall a bit of a disappointment, but not a totally wasted effort. If you don't try you'll never know.

2.5 from 5

Vicente Morales has his website here.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 91
Source - copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle