Interview with Alice K. Boatwright Author of the Ellie Kent Mysteries

 

 

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Alice K. Boatwright

Alice K. Boatwright is the author of the award-winning Ellie Kent mysteries. In the first book, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, life brings the skeptical American Ellie Kent to an English village as the vicar’s new wife; but death keeps her guessing how long she’ll be there. Winner of the 2016 Mystery & Mayhem Grand Prize for best mystery, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN has attracted an enthusiastic following.

The series continues with WHAT CHILD IS THIS? It’s now Christmas in Little Beecham . . . a season to celebrate with caroling, mistletoe, and mince pies. Ellie Kent is looking forward to her first English village Christmas, but a missing Oxford student and an abandoned baby soon draw her away from the fireside into danger.

 

 

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Interview

 

Who is Ellie Kent and where did she come from?

Ellie Kent is a divorced American professor of English literature in her mid-30s who falls in love with Graham Kent, a widowed English vicar in his mid-40s, marries him, and moves from San Francisco to his home in a Cotswold village. That is her biography, but, as to where the idea for her came from, I would have to say that, like all of my characters, she began as a mixture of me and not-me characteristics and slowly revealed herself as an independent being through the stories about her.

 

 

What is your method of character creation?

I don’t have any one method. Characters come to me in a variety of ways – for example, I wrote a story about a girl I saw on BART (the Bay Area subway) who had her hair dyed like a rainbow. Another was inspired by the idea of writing about someone who thought Marilyn Monroe should star in the movie of her life. Often I give my characters qualities that are the opposite of mine, which I think is a way of telling myself “This is not me.” For example, my women characters are almost always taller than I am and have dark hair. Wish fulfillment! They can also do all sorts of things that I would never attempt to do. . . such as solve a murder mystery. When I first conceived of Ellie, I was visiting England, but I lived in San Francisco, taught part-time, and longed to be able to move to England.

 

 

 

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How do you go from character creation to telling her story?

By the time I began writing UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, my husband (who is neither English nor a vicar) and I had left the US and were living in an English village. I knew from the start that I wanted to write about my love for England, its culture and traditions – as well as all of the changes Ellie would be faced with as an ex-pat and newlywed in a strange country. These issues became the backdrop for the mystery and an integral part of the book. I also knew that I wanted to write about the period from Halloween to Remembrance Day and plot elements, such as that Ellie would be accused of murder and would try to solve the mystery to clear her name. I knew the identity of the dead man from the first . . . but all of the details of his story took several drafts to become clear. I never outline. I prefer to let a story to evolve like a photograph that develops gradually and comes into focus over time.

 

What are the elements of good storytelling?

The bottom line is that the story offers believable characters striving against the odds to achieve what they need or think they want – and succeeding or not.

 

 

 

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How did Ellie and Graham meet?

They met by accident at the home of Ellie’s parents in Berkeley, California. Her father is a retired professor who taught for a year at Oxford during Graham’s time as a student there. Years later, when Graham is on a sabbatical in the Bay Area, he visits his former professor – and meets Ellie. Over several months, they become friends and lovers, and then decide to marry when it is time for him to return to England.  The first book takes place less than two months after their marriage.

 

What is the Cotswold village of Little Beecham like?

Little Beecham is a fictional, but typical, Cotswold village of honey-colored limestone cottages and shops, originally built to support a now-ruined manor house. The high street boasts a village store/post office, butcher shop, pub, antique shop, used bookstore, and library. It is book-ended by the 800-year-old St. Martin and All Angels Church at one end and the village school at the other, with a village hall just on the outskirts. Surrounded by woods and fields, it is picturesque without being a tourist attraction. It is located in Oxfordshire about 25 miles from Oxford.

 

Describe your editing process and the importance of rewriting.

For me, writing is rewriting.  I do my first draft very fast – like a sketch covering the whole canvas. Then I carefully build up the picture over about seven main drafts. Along the way I make notes, write character studies, draw maps, create timelines, consult experts, do research. As I get closer to the end, I print out the whole manuscript and read it aloud. Very close to the end, I share the manuscript with readers whose perspective I value and an editor. I also do my own final copyedit.

 

 

 

Diagram of Writing Process.

 

 

 

What do you like about having an amateur sleuth?

I love the traditional English mysteries with amateur sleuths, especially Miss Marple, Miss Silver, Harriet Vane, Agatha Raisin, Mary Stewart’s heroines, and others. Amateurs have to be brave, imaginative, and willing to improvise. They have no structure to rely on, no job description, no license.  Although I enjoy reading many types of mysteries, I have never been interested in writing any other kind.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing mysteries?

I like the fact that the traditional plot structure provides a scaffold on which to build the story, but you can vary the other elements as you wish. Creating the puzzle at the core of the story is a very interesting challenge because, as author, you know too much to experience it as the reader will. Finally, it is satisfying to write books where justice is served and good triumphs (at least to some extent). I think we all need that message these days.

 

 

 

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What are the most challenging aspects of writing?

The most challenging aspect of writing is sticking with your project through all the phases of uncertainty until it is the best book you can write. . . then following it through the further uncertainties of publication and public response. In writing, persistence is at least as important as talent.

 

What’s next for you?

I am working on the third Ellie Kent mystery, another book that has a mystery element but is not a murder mystery, and several short stories.

 

 

 

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Alice is also the author of the award-winning COLLATERAL DAMAGE, three linked stories about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of those who fought, those who resisted, and the family and friends caught in the crossfire.

She has taught writing at UC Berkeley Extension, the University of New Hampshire, and the American School of Paris. After 10 years of living in England and France, she now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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Interview with M.R. Mackenzie Author of the Anna Scavolini Thrillers

 

 

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M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

 

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Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Interview 

 

Why did you decide to get a PhD in Film studies?

If I’m being completely honest, a major factor was that, at the time, I was in my early twenties and had very little idea as to what I hoped to do with my life. I’d just completed a Masters in Film Studies, which I’d enjoyed, and felt I had certain things to say about an obscure body of films – the Italian “giallo” thrillers of the early 1970s – which no one else was saying. One of my lecturers, who later became my thesis supervisor, encouraged me to do a PhD, which I took as a vote of confidence and duly submitted my application. In doing so, I was able to avoid the big bad world for another five and a half years, while at the same time exploring, in considerable depth, a body of films I really like. The end result was a 90,000-word doorstop that people tell me has enhanced their understanding of and enjoyment of giallo films… though I did come out the other end knowing I didn’t want to spend another minute in academia!

 

 

 

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What was it like writing your first book?

Strangely enough, a lot like writing my PhD thesis, both in terms of overall word count and the sheer amount of time I spent on it! In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or if I was even capable of writing a novel, but I persevered and, over the course of several years, kept coming back to the manuscript, chipping away at it, refining it, adding layers to it… If I was doing it again today, it wouldn’t take me anything like as long – indeed, I wrote the first draft of the manuscript I recently finished in little more than two months – but at the time it was an essential learning process for me as I was effectively teaching myself how to write a novel from scratch, so there was a lot of trial and error involved.

 

 

How does your writing process differ between screenplay and manuscript?

It’s funny you should ask, because In the Silence, my first novel, actually started life as a screenplay. I wrote it very quickly: it took me somewhere between two and three weeks to go from the initial idea to a finished (albeit seriously rough) first draft – so I suppose you could say the biggest difference is time! I tend to find that there’s not actually a whole lot that separates the two mediums when it comes to the early planning stages. With both, I write copious notes and spend a long time figuring out the structure, the twists and turns, where the various act breaks occur, and then only start the actual process of drafting once I have a very thorough outline from which to work. A crucial difference, though, and one that I’ve learned to really appreciate as I’ve left scripts behind in favour of novels, is that, when you’re writing prose, you’ve got an opportunity to really get inside your characters’ heads. You’re party to their inner thoughts and emotions in a way that you’re simply not with a film. When you’re writing a script, you have to convey everything through action and dialogue, whereas, with a novel, you’re free to draw on a much broader and in my view richer toolset.

 

 

 

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What did you experience writing about criminology lecturer Anna?

Writing Anna is definitely an interesting experience. In many respects, we have a lot in common, while in others we’re polar opposites – not least the fact that I’m a 6 ft 3 man while she’s a 5 ft 2 woman! She’s someone who tends to have very definite opinions about things – again, some of which I agree with, while with others I disagree with her completely. In real life, I’m not sure how well we’d get on – though I suspect I’d probably just play it safe and agree with everything she said – but I do admire her determination and tenacity… even if it sometimes gets her into trouble. Over the course of In the Silence, I take her to some very dark places indeed, and I can tell you for a fact that I don’t half as much resilience as her.

 

What do you enjoy writing about crime fiction?

It’s a really good question and one I’m not sure I can adequately explain. I find myself drawn to crime and horror, both on the page and on the screen, both as a reader/viewer and as a writer. I suspect there’s something about the vicarious thrill of exploring our darkest fears from a position of safety – a bit like going skydiving or on a rollercoaster. But I also think that, more than pretty much any other type of “genre novel”, crime fiction tells us something about society. All the best crime novels, in my opinion, comment on or reveal some sort of truth about the world today, whether it’s something their authors put there deliberately or something that’s seeped into the bones of the story without its creator being conscious of it. Also, I really love a good mystery and putting all the clues together, whether I’m the one coming up with them or just the one trying to figure them all out.

 

 

 

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Tell about Zoe Callahan in your next book, Cruel Summer.

Zoe was a secondary character in In the Silence, and for Cruel Summer, I elevated her to the position of central protagonist. I designed her to be the polar opposite of her best friend Anna. Where Anna is studious and a bookworm, Zoe is a party girl. Where Anna has very definite opinions about the way the world is and how it should be, Zoe doesn’t really have what you would call an ideology. Her emotions are very intense, but her response to any given situation is always governed by how it affects her or the people she cares about in the immediate sense as opposed to having a highly developed moral or philosophical set of beliefs. That makes her a lot of fun to write, because her responses are always very raw and visceral. She has a keen sense of right and wrong, and when she perceives an injustice as having taken place, she’s incapable of sitting on her hands and doing nothing. But because she’s naïve and impulsive, she tends not to think through the consequences of her actions, so her attempts to make things better quickly end up having precisely the opposite effect…

 

 

Who is Dominic Ryland and what motivates him?

Ryland is a mysterious figure, and intentionally so. He’s a charismatic but previously largely unknown politician who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when certain shadowy figures, who are pulling the strings behind the scenes, pressure him into running for leadership of his party. We fairly quickly discover that he’s not a nice man at all, though I’ve deliberately kept his motivations, and the nature of the hold his “handlers” have over him, vague. If you want to find out where he really comes from and what motivates him to do what he does, you’ll have to read the book!

 

 

Does Cruel Summer have any thematic elements?

The main theme of Cruel Summer is justice – more specifically, exploring the limitations of the judicial process and both the rights and wrongs and the implications of taking matters into one’s own hands when the official system lets you down. Smashing the system, standing up to power, dispensing your own idea of justice – all these things are incredibly appealing, but as Zoe learns to her cost, all actions have consequences, and other people may end up paying the price for your follies…

 

 

 

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Zoe Callahan is having the summer from hell… and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

She’s stuck in a dead-end job, her relationship is going nowhere, and the memory of the Kelvingrove Park Murders three years ago continues to cast a long shadow over every aspect of her life.

When a prostitute is brutally assaulted by Dominic Ryland, a rising political star with a suspiciously spotless personal reputation, Zoe leaps at the chance to distract herself with a noble cause, and sets out on a one-woman crusade to bring Ryland to justice.

But in doing so, she quickly finds herself on the wrong side of some very dangerous people – people who have reputations to protect and who would think nothing of silencing Zoe by any means necessary.

An explosive thriller set against the backdrop of a sweltering heatwave, Cruel Summer is the sequel to M.R. Mackenzie’s critically acclaimed In the Silence and the second instalment in the Kelvingrove Park Trilogy.

 

 

Available May 28 pre-order now: Cruel Summer

 

 

M.R. Mackenzie image

 

 

M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

M.R. Mackenzie

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Mystery with Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce

Interview with Alan Bradley

 

Describe the historical background during which your story takes place.

The Flavia de Luce novels are set about five years after the end of the Second World War. England is still impoverished from the conflict, and social recovery has scarcely begun. Rationing is still in effect and times are tough. Old England is gone, and everything now seems shambles and decay. Only by clinging to ancient traditions do the people find a sense of comfort and security.

 

 

A lot of your stories take place in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey. What were such places like during the 1950’s?

Before the building of the motorways, and the rise of the motor-car, English towns and villages were much more isolated than today. Transportation was by railway. There was a profusion of local institutions and government, each providing services to a relatively small area. Many people had never traveled far from where they were born, although that was beginning to change. The war had brought an influx of servicemen from the U.S. and what remained of the British Empire. Strangers were viewed with suspicion. Some things never change.

 

 

 

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What did you learn about Flavia De Luce while writing this story?

Flavia never ceases to amaze me, especially her frightening grasp of the underside of chemistry. I am always as surprised as any reader at the things she says and does. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead”, I began to discover Flavia’s underlying compassion. I began to suspect that she might, in the end, come to love a few people as much as she loves corpses. Well…almost.

 

 

I love all of the titles of your books. Describe how you came to name “The Golden Tresses of the Dead.”

The title is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 68, and concerns a certain ghastly and despicable practice which was once fairly common among those who will stop at nothing in their lust for money. Does it still exist? I hope not, although you can never be sure about anything where money is concerned.

 

 

 

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What do you enjoy most about writing historical mysteries?

The research is always great fun. England in the 1950’s has always been of special interest to me, and ferreting out forgotten customs and folklore is like a paid holiday. It isn’t so much a case of finding ideas as weeding out the vast number that present themselves. Each book centres upon a particular long-lost English custom or peculiarity, ranging from sociopathic stamp-collecting to peculiar religious sects, and from Gypsy caravans to the exhumation of saints.

 

 

What can you tell us about Ophelia and her wedding?

Feely has come to the altar at last, after a protracted on-again-off-again courtship with former Luftwaffe pilot, Dieter, who has elected to remain in England after being shot down and kept captive as a prisoner of war – and all because of his love of the Bronte sisters! Their courtship has been a war in itself, with Feely as fierce as any Field Marshal. Now, just when peace seems about to break out, something nasty is found in the wedding cake.

 

 

 

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What’s the relationship like between her and Flavia?

It has been mostly a life of revenge and re-revenge. Feely is as vain a creature as ever fogged mirror with her self-admiring breath. Flavia fancies poisons. The outcome is inevitable.

 

 

What role does Dogger play in this one?

Arthur Wellesley Dogger, who served with Flavia’s father, Colonel de Luce in the Far East, suffers from what would nowadays be diagnosed as PTSD. Because of his fragility, Dogger has worked at different times as gardener, manservant, and general all-round handyman. But much about the man himself remains shadowy. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead” Flavia and Dogger found their own detective agency: Arthur Dogger and Associates – Discreet Investigations. Their first official case involves rogue missionaries, quack remedies and, of course, that abominable crime to which I have referred above. All typical, of course, of a sleepy country village.

 

 

I recently had the pleasure of listening to an interview you had with Jayne Entwistle on Audiophile. What was it like speaking with Jayne for the first time?

It was astounding to find how similar our experiences had been in my writing the books and her recording them for the audiobook versions. Jayne has won awards for her portrayal of Flavia, and with good reason: her ability to bring to life a whole cast of characters is a special gift. The interview was conducted by an interviewer in New York, with Jayne in Los Angeles, me in a tiny studio on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It was like getting Mercury and Pluto together for a good old chinwag and an abundance of laughs. What we had in common, of course, was Flavia de Luce, who seems to have approved. At least, she hasn’t poisoned either of us….yet.

 

 

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Behind the Mic with Audiophile Magazine: Interview with Alan Bradley & Jayne Entwistle

 

Originally appears on AudioFile Magazine Feb. 15, 2019. Duration 30 min. 

 

 

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About Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, “As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

 

www.alanbradleyauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

MTW Thriller Giveaway Contest

 

 

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He’s Watching, He’s Waiting, She’s next.

When Sophie is told to organize care for elderly Ivy, she is unaware that by meeting Max, Ivy’s grandson, her life will be turned upside down.

As Sophie’s involvement with Max and Ivy increases she becomes more distracted by her own problems.

Because Sophie is certain she is being watched.

For a while, Ivy relishes Sophie’s attention but soon grows concerned about the budding relationship between Sophie and Max.

Torn between Sophie and his grandmother, Max cuts ties with the care agency, leaving Sophie hurt and confused.

Meanwhile, there is a murderer killing women in the area.

Is there a link between Sophie’s stalker and the killings?

Soon Sophie will learn that appearances can be deceiving.

 

 

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To enter the thriller giveaway competition simply answer a question:

What inspired Kerena Swan to write?

The answer can be found on her website: Kerena Swan

*The winner will win a free copy of Dying to See You.*

May the odds ever be in your favor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa F. Miller Talks Writing and the Sasha McCandless Series

Melissa F Miller

 

Interview with Melissa F Miller

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t really have a typical writing day—although I wish I did! In addition to being a writer, I homeschool my three kids, so my writing days often vary depending on what learning we’re doing on a given day. That said, I try to write early in the morning most days. My word count varies and I often “binge write” toward the end of a first draft, sometimes writing 12,000 or more words in a (long) day. Every time I start a new book, I tell myself this is the one where I’ll write a consistent, reasonable amount each day. So far, it hasn’t happened. Maybe the next book will be the magic one!

 

Your story premises are very intriguing. What’s your creative approach for a story?

Thanks! My approach varies from series to series, but in my Sasha McCandless series, I develop the premise of each book around a legal principle that will be central to the case Sasha takes on and a corresponding personal issue or event that happens in Sasha’s personal life. So, in Intentional Acts, Sasha has a client who may be liable for  releasing customers’ private data because of the deliberate actions of a rogue employee. The case intersects with her personal life and she grapples with her husband’s decision to conceal something troubling from her (his intentional act).  I find it really satisfying to merge the strands of the two plots and explore the various facets of a theme from different angles.

 

 

Do you write character arcs?

Hmm, sort of. My thrillers are plot driven, but my plots are character driven, if that makes sense. So I always know how my characters are going to be challenged and grow over the course of the events in the book, but I don’t write detailed arcs. Likewise, I have planned character arcs for my main characters over the span of a series. Mainly, I do this intuitively. But I’m currently reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, which is inspiring me to be explicit in my thinking about my character arcs.

 

Name the best virtues of Sasha McCandless in her job as a civil attorney.

Sasha’s greatest strength as a lawyer is her perseverance. She’s stubborn and determined, which serves her well as a litigator. She also has a natural ability to tease out connections between seemingly disparate pieces of evidence and to see the patterns in facts. And, of course, she can get by on very little sleep (and large amounts of coffee), which comes in handy when she has a court deadline looming!

 

 

Leo Connelly seems like a jack of all trades. Did you learn anything new about him while writing this book?

Leo’s such a fun character to write. As you note, he is something of a jack of all trades. Because he works for a fictional federal government ‘shadow’ agency, his jurisdiction and mission is wide-ranging, allowing him to coordinate with agents from so many different parts of the national security apparatus. In Intentional Acts, he’s put to an ethical/moral test. Without spoiling the plot, I can say his choice didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that he took some smaller actions he knew might cause an issue in his marriage, but he did them anyway because he believed he was in the right.  (Apologies for being so cryptic—I don’t want to give anything away!)

 

What kind of case is Sasha undertaking?

In this book, her client is a nonprofit organization that has two problems. One, the federal government wants it to turn over confidential user information; and, two, a former employee has leaked private user data online. Sasha needs to help them resist the information request and avoid liability for the leak.  Sasha’s case intersects with her husband’s work when a man whose identity was leaked is murdered and the evidence suggests Leo killed him as part of a national security operation.

 

 

This book has great dilemmas. What was most challenging in writing it?

The trickiest bit was writing the Project Storm Chaser scenes from Leo’s viewpoint. Because I do write multiple point of views, I needed to be fair to the reader in sharing the information Leo would have. But I had to do it in such a way that I wouldn’t tip my hand and undermine the suspense as Sasha learned the truth about what was happening. There was delicate balance between revealing and concealing that I hope I succeeded in navigating!

 

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up Crossfire Creek, the fifth book in my Aroostine Higgins thriller series.  In Crossfire Creek, Aroostine (a former lawyer turned tracker) searches for a mother and daughter who disappeared from their home without a trace and who have a very compelling reason to stay missing.

I have four ongoing series (three thriller series and one light mystery), and I try to write at least one book per year in each series. My Aroostine Higgins thrillers and my Bodhi King forensic thrillers are both spin-offs of the Sasha McCandless series. Aroostine and Bodhi were characters in Sasha’s books before they got their own series; so even though the three series are distinct and separate, they exist in the same world.  I really enjoy writing within the little universe I’ve created!

 

 

 

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After seven years together, she knows him better than anyone. Doesn’t she?

In the newest entry in this fast-paced USA Today bestselling series, wife-and-husband team Sasha and Leo find themselves on opposite sides of an explosive situation.

Sasha’s up to her elbows in a data privacy matter. Her client could be on the hook for breaching the privacy of hundreds of customers. All because a rogue employee intentionally leaked personal information for reasons known only to him.

Meanwhile, Leo’s busy with a high-stakes case of his own. He’s been ordered to neutralize a national security threat to the country, but he has his doubts about the strength of the evidence against the target.

As Leo vets the information he’s been given, Sasha learns that federal law enforcement has an interest in her civil matter. Because they both take their duties of confidentiality seriously, neither realizes that their cases are intertwined. Until one of the affected customers in Sasha’s case is murdered … and the evidence points to Leo as the killer.

Sasha’s not about to turn in her own husband, so she tails him instead. She only hopes what she finds will clear his name, not destroy their marriage.

 

Amazon |Goodreads

 

 

About Melissa F. Miller

USA Today bestselling author Melissa F. Miller is a former attorney who traded the practice of law for the art of telling stories.

She is the author of more than two dozen bestselling legal thrillers, suspense thrillers, romantic comedic mysteries, and forensic thrillers. All her work shares two common threads: pulse-pounding, tightly plotted action and smart, unlikely heroines and heroes.

Her books feature such diverse protagonists as a pint-sized attorney and mother of twins who’s trained in Krav Maga; a Native American government investigator who relies on her heritage to guide her when the chips are down; a Buddhist forensic pathologist who refuses to harm any living creature; and a trio of twenty-something sisters just starting out in their careers who find murder and mayhem wherever they go.

She’s edited medical, scientific, and technical journals, as well as educational books; clerked for a federal judge; worked for major international law firms; and run a two-person law firm with her lawyer husband.

Now, powered by coffee, she writes crime fiction and homeschools her children. When she’s not writing, and sometimes when she is, Melissa travels around the country in an RV with her husband, three kids, and their cat.

To find out when Melissa releases a new book, visit www.melissafmiller.com and sign up for her email newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Book Drawing: The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb

 

 

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Hi there. Are you ready for some book prizes? A random person will selected to win a free copy of The Secrets We Bury by bestselling author Debra Webb. The first book in the new Undertaker’s Daughter series. Just leave a comment below and that’s it! Debra Webb is a great storyteller, prolific author, and one of my personal favorites. So I’m thrilled to offer one of her new books in this giveaway courtesy of Debra.

 

Here’s the book blurb. 

Doctor Rowan Dupont knows death. She grew up surrounded by it in her family’s Victorian funeral home, and it’s haunted her since the day her twin sister drowned years ago. Between her mother’s subsequent suicide and the recent murder of her father, coming home to run the funeral home feels fitting—even if it leaves her vulnerable to an obsessive serial killer.

Rowan refuses to let fear keep her from honoring her family. But the more time she spends back in Winchester, Tennessee, the more she finds herself questioning what really happened that fateful summer. Had her sister’s death truly been an accident? And what pushed their mother to take her own life? The dark lake surrounding Rowan’s hometown holds as many secrets as the bodies that float in its chilling depths. But Rowan is running out of time if she’s going to uncover the truth before somebody sinks her for good.

 

 

 

Word Giveaway on wood planks

 

 

A random person will be selected to win a copy of The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb, a paperback or ebook of your choice. Just leave comment below to enter the drawing. Say hello, or what kind of books you like to read.

 

 

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DEBRA WEBB is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 140 novels, including reader favorites the Shades of Death, the Faces of Evil and the Colby Agency series. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers Choice Awards. In 2012 Debra was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for her courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Recently Debra was awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having achieved publication of her 100th novel.

With more than four million books in print in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood when her mother bought her an old typewriter in a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Debra grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. She wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the Commanding General of the US Army in Berlin behind the Iron Curtain and a five-year stint in NASA’s Shuttle Program that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has expanded her work into some of the darkest places the human psyche dares to go. Visit Debra at www.debrawebb.com

 

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Interview with Clara Benson Author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries

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Please welcome historical mystery author Clara Benson!

Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English mysteries in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.

 

Interview 

 

  1.    What was your path to becoming a writer?

–          I started out as a translator (Italian to English, since you asked), but I always thought I would write a book at some point, and eventually I decided that if I was going to do it I’d better get on with it! It took four years to write my first, in between moving, having kids, house renovations, etc, and I’m surprised I ever got it finished, to be honest. But once it was done and published and people were buying it, that spurred me on to write more. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

 

  1.    What do you enjoy most about historical mysteries?

I love the innocence of them! We’ve all read all the mysteries these days, so it’s difficult to truly surprise the reader, and nowadays the solution is far more likely to hang on a microscopic piece of forensic evidence than on anything else. But I love the fact that in historical mysteries the detective can sweep in, point at someone and say, “The clock said 6.05 instead of 6.08, and your train ticket was dated Wednesday not Tuesday, which proves you are the murderer! Inspector, arrest this man!” And the murderer always snarls and says, “Damn you, you’re as cunning as the devil!” And they arrest him and take him away and it’s all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

 

 

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  1.    Why do you write English mysteries set in the 1920’s and 30’s?

–          Because that’s what I like to read. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age mystery writers – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and so on, and I wanted to try and write something similar to the stories they wrote that I love so much.

 

 

  1.    Who is Angela Marchmont and why choose her as a protagonist?

–          Angela Marchmont is something of an enigma to start with, and we don’t know much about her except that she’s a wealthy, fashionable and independent woman in her late thirties who’s a bit secretive about her past. As the series continues, we find out more about her, and by the final two books there are a few revelations as all her secrets come out! I didn’t exactly choose her – she kind of developed herself along the way. She was meant to be older and more eccentric, but she had her own ideas, and emerged as a younger and much more charming character than I expected!

 

 

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  1.    What makes her a good detective?

–          She’s curious by nature, and has a questioning mind. She’s smart, obviously, but also very cool, logical and level-headed. She’s quite good at cutting through the red herrings and getting to the solution.

 

  1.    Tell us about the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series.

–          Freddy was an occasional sidekick of Angela’s, and he was such a strong character I thought he deserved his own series. He’s younger than Angela – only in his early twenties – and he works (I use the word loosely) as a reporter for an early tabloid newspaper, the Clarion. He’s hedonistic, chaotic, very full of himself, and prone to getting into awkward situations. In his attempts to solve a mystery he can often be found dangling off a rooftop, getting into a fight, or kissing someone else’s girlfriend – not always through any fault of his own.

 

 

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  1.    What was your experience transitioning from Angela Marchmont mysteries to writing Freddy Pilkington-Soames?

–          It’s quite different writing Freddy, as he’s a lot more active than Angela – partly because of his job – so I have to think of a lot of places for him to go, rather than just weekend country house parties. In addition, he’s a bit of an unruly sort, so I have to think up difficult situations for him to get out of. He’s a bit of a smart alec too, so I spend a lot of time rewriting his dialogue to make it wittier!

 

  1.    How do you conduct research for your books?

–          This is one of the best parts of writing! Although I’m not one for packing a lot of historical detail into my books, I do like to get things right, so I’ve read quite a few history books about the period, and I also make fairly heavy use of the Times Digital Archive (through my library) and the British Newspaper Archive (paid subscription). I’m a big stickler for using the correct language of the period, and for that I use the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (also via the library), which shows when words were first used. Then of course there’s Google and Wikipedia…

 

 

get the facts

 

 

  1.    What’s the historical background of A Case of Duplicity in Dorset?

–          None, I’m afraid! It all came out of my own head, although I did get some inspiration for Belsingham from some grand stately homes near where I live, most notably Nostell Priory and Harewood House.

 

 

  1.  Who are your favorite mystery authors?

–          As I said, I’m a big fan of Golden Age authors, but I’ve read all kinds of mystery writers, from Ruth Rendell and PD James to Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read many new mysteries these days, as I find it interferes with the writing, so I find myself going back to the old favourites time and time again.

 

 

Opened book with flying letters

 

 

  1.  If you had to write in another genre which would it be?

–          I do occasionally branch out into romantic suspense, and I have a few ideas for future books in that genre which I will write when they pass a law to add more hours to the day…

 

  1.  What’s next for you?

–          I had a bit of a go-slow year last year, as I felt I needed to recharge after several years of frantic writing activity, but I’m well and truly back in the saddle now – possibly too much, as I’m busy trying to write two books at once! One is a historical novel set during World War 2, which is much more serious and sombre in tone than my usual style, and the other is Book 5 in the Freddy series, entitled A Case of Suicide in St. James’s, in which Freddy investigates the apparent suicide of a young man at a society ball. This one is turning out to be fun, and I hope to get it finished very soon!

 

Thanks Clara! 

www.clarabenson.com | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook Blog Tour: The Stiff in the Study by Shea Macleod

 

 

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Stiff in the study image Viola Roberts book 2

 

 

 

About Audiobook #2

 

Author: Shéa MacLeod

Narrator: Yvette Keller

Length: 4 hours 20 minutes

Publisher: Shéa MacLeod⎮2017

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: The Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, Book 2

Release date: May 17, 2017

 

Synopsis: Viola Roberts is at it again! The sleepy seaside town of Astoria, Oregon is the last place you’d expect to find a dead body. That is until the director of the local museum turns up dead in the study and Viola’s friend, Portia, is accused of the crime. Viola ignores her looming deadline and bout of writer’s block and sets out with her best friend, Cheryl, to solve the murder. From starting riots at local dive bars to breaking into crime scenes, Viola will stop at nothing to prove Portia innocent even if it means putting herself in the cross-hairs of the killer.

 

Buy Links for Audiobook #2

Buy on Audible

 

 

Mystery Letterpress

 

 

I’ve come to love the hilarious adventures of Viola Roberts and her sidekick Cheryl. Listening to this audiobook reminded me of the Golden Girls, or Laverne and Shirley from the old days of television. They feed off one another, complement each other. Narrator Yvette Keller plays the part perfectly. Her voice characterizations are on the money and color each personality just enough draw you into the story.

 

 

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About the Author: Shéa MacLeod

 

Shéa MacLeod writes urban fantasy post-apocalyptic sci-fi paranormal romances with a twist of steampunk.  Mostly because she can’t make up her mind which genre she likes best so she decided to write them all.

After six years living in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery, Shéa headed back to her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She plans to live out her days eating mushroom pizza, drinking too many caramel lattes, exploring exotic locales, and avoiding spiders.

Shéa is the author of the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries and the bestselling Lady Rample Mysteries.

 

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www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer
www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer

 

 

About the Narrator: Yvette Keller

 

Yvette Keller’s first job as a narrator was reading aloud to keep her little brother out of trouble. Her favorite party trick is reading words upside down. Little kids need to see the pictures. Yvette lives in her beloved home town of Santa Barbara, using a lifetime of vocal stamina in her home studio. She produces technical VO industrials for Mesa Steps Consulting clients in addition to audiobooks. A lifetime of reading and speaking has proven one thing: Yvette loves stories. She is thrilled to be making books accessible and engaging through her narration work.

 

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Inside The Murder Mile with Lesley McEvoy

 

 

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Evil never dies…

 

Interview

 

 

What was it like writing your first book?

Writing is something I’ve done all my life. Over the years, I’ve written quite a few manuscripts – my first serious attempt was submitted in 1980! I still have it in a box in my office. So in a way, I don’t view this as my first book – it’s just the first one that I’ve managed to get published! What I can say is what it was like making the conscious decision to write seriously and with purpose, rather than simply as a hobby that I loved. Previously I’d had to fit my writing around life. Bringing up a family, building a career and then a business – the kind of things we all do, but which makes writing consistently and productively very difficult. In 2017 I attended the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and met and chatted to several successful authors, agents and publishers. It left me with the feeling, that if I was going to give getting published my best shot, then I had to make the commitment to write full-time – or as near to that as possible. My manuscript for ‘The Murder Mile’ had been something I’d picked up and put down sporadically for a few years. Halting the process when ‘life’ got in the way. I came away from Harrogate determined to treat writing as my ‘Day Job’, and set myself the target of having it ready for the next Harrogate Festival in July of 2018. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means. I still needed to make a living and needed an income. But I worked out the minimum I could manage on, and then committed to working from home as much as possible to maximise my writing time. I run a private therapy practice locally, as well as my corporate work, and the practice became the mainstay of my income during the following year. Fate ‘tested’ my decision when I was offered major contracts, which would have taken me away for months at a time. Something I knew would derail my writing plans. So I gritted my teeth and turned them all down.

It was fabulous being able to think of each day as a ‘writing day’. I tried to be disciplined and get into my office around 10am and work until I really couldn’t write anymore, but I rarely finished before 6pm or 7pm. I finally knew what it must feel like to be a ‘proper’ writer and I absolutely loved it.

 

 

 

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What were the most challenging aspects?

Getting into the discipline of making sure that I wrote productively every day. By Productively, I mean, writing words that actually moved the plot along. Developed characters, scenes and plotlines. I realised that giving myself the luxury of a full day of writing was great – but it was too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of research and not actually do the writing. I know some would-be authors who get so hooked on research that they never actually complete their book.

‘The Murder Mile’, required quite a bit of research in places, but if I was ‘in the zone’ and the words were really flowing – instead of stopping when I hit something I needed to look up, I would just put a note to myself in red which said “Insert [Whatever it was] here later”. Then carry on with the storyline that was flowing.

Another challenge is when I’d hit what others refer to as ‘Writer’s block’. I don’t know how that feels to other authors, but for me those were days when I would stare at the page and literally not know how to start or move things forward at all. My imaginary friends just weren’t talking to me some days. On those occasions I would go back a couple of chapters and re-read what I’d written and do a running edit. Changing words, looking for mistakes and oiling the ‘clunky’ bits. Invariably once I got to where I’d finished the day before, I’d found my voices again and it began to flow. If that didn’t happen, then at least I was comforted by the fact that I’d spent the day productively editing the manuscript and cleaning things up, which saved time at the end.

 

 

 

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What’s your creative approach to writing?

For me a plot always begins with a ‘What if?’ I hear a story on the news or read something in the paper and think ‘that’s interesting….I wonder what if…?’ It can bubble away for weeks, months or in the case of ‘The Murder Mile’ several years. Percolating and fermenting until it drips out to form the words on the page. I also always start with the end in mind. Once I know how it will end and I have the ‘How done it’, I start to develop the rest. I’ve heard other authors use the terms ‘Plotter or Panster’. Which means do you plot it all out before you begin and have the complete story arc? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just hold on for the ride? I suppose if my experience with this book is anything to go by, I do a bit of both. Sometimes I have a plan, but then the characters say or do something I hadn’t foreseen and that leads us down a completely new path – and it’s often much better than the one I had planned out. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and start to run things. I just watch it unfold, as if it’s a movie, and write down what I’m seeing. That’s a great feeling and I know at that point that it’s really working and the characters I’ve created have taken on a life of their own. Magical!

 

 

What helped you the most in learning how to write a novel?

A lot of authors I’d met were members of writing groups or had done creative writing courses or had a background in journalism. And at first I thought maybe that was the secret? Maybe you had to have that kind of formal training in order to write a book that publishers would want. Happily I’ve since discovered that isn’t the case – which is just as well as none of those things apply to me.

My answer is rather simple. For me at least, reading is and has always been the key to learning how to write. How can you write books if you never read them? How do you even know what you would want to write in the first place, if you don’t know the type of books you enjoy reading?

I read on 2 levels. The first is for the enjoyment of it. Then I think about what worked in the book? How did the writer create suspense / drama? How did they make sure you wanted to turn the page? Take it apart and examine the mechanics of it or of a particular aspect of it that grabbed you, and see how it was done. I do that all the time. Not just with books, but with films / TV programs or even lyrics in a song. I analyse them and look at the nuts and bolts of how they were put together and what made it work – or not work.

Writing is a craft and like any other craftsman practice makes perfect. So as well as reading, I learned how to write a novel, by doing it. Over and over. Not for profit, but just because I loved the process. In reading the kind of novels I aspired to write and studying the work of the best authors in my chosen genre. Like studying the work of the great masters.

 

 

 

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What does Jo McCready do as a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists generally are involved with the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. They work with prisoners and offenders, as well as Police and other professionals involved in the judicial and penal systems.

Most people are familiar with the role in programmes like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Cracker’, which concentrate on the  part they play in criminal profiling. In The Murder Mile, Jo McCready is one of the small number of ‘Celebrity’ Profilers. She has come to public attention by appearing on TV documentaries about serial offenders and subsequently writing books about her cases. She has also been involved in the past in helping to bring killers and serial rapists to justice through her profiling skills. She works as an independent consultant to the police who call her in to advise on offender behaviour and draw up profiles of offenders to assist them in their investigations.

Jo has a wealth of experience in the Criminal Justice System and working with killers, many of whom she helped to track down or gave evidence as an expert witness at their trials, which help secure their convictions. Her database of facts and criminal cases, built up over many years and her knowledge of criminal psychology, helps her to look at a scene and draw conclusions about the possible offender, which the police can use to narrow down the type of people they are concentrating on in their investigation.

 

 

 

Forensic

 

 

 

Who was Martha Scott and why was she seeing Jo Mcready?

Martha Scott is a young woman who has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She’s haunted by nightmares of a time when, as a heroin addict she believes she murdered prostitutes by stabbing them. When Jo McCready is called in to help her unlock the memories of what actually happened, she unlocks an ‘alter ego’ who claims to be Jack the Ripper and thanks Jo for setting him free to kill again. Shortly after, Martha is found murdered in the same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim in 1888 and a sequence of serial killings begin, replicating the murders of the Victorian Era ‘Jack’.

 

 

How do you unlock a repressed memory?

It’s believed that the unconscious mind (which is the repository for all our experiences and memories) can block, or prevent a person accessing a memory, because it’s associated with a traumatic event. A kind of protection mechanism to prevent further damage to a person’s mental health. Such memories can be accessed during hypnotherapy, and if they are a result of trauma, the therapist needs to be one specially trained in the treatment of trauma and probably Post Traumatic Stress. In short, the process has to be done with a therapist. It’s not something you can do on your own. In the book, Jo McCready has become an authority on memory resolution after trauma, and has written books about it. So she is called in to see if she can help Martha, who seems to be suffering from the condition.

 

 

 

 

Memories in the Brain -3D

 

 

 

How did the plot for The Murder Mile develop?

When I tell people about my book, one of the first things I’m asked is where the idea came from? I suppose the short answer is that it sprang from the job I do. I’m a behavioural analyst – a profiler by trade. But it was during my work in the psychotherapy practice that the idea for the book first presented itself. I was a newly qualified hypnotherapist and I was treating a lady for anxiety. She wanted hypnotherapy to help her to relax. My client was in a deep state of hypnosis, when suddenly, her eyes flew open and she turned her head slowly to look at me. The bright blue eyes I had noticed during our therapy session, had turned into black dots that stared coldly into mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But then she spoke to me. Gone was the soft gentle voice of the lady I had met earlier. Out of the petite body of this frail woman, came the deep guttural voice of an old man!

If anyone else had described this encounter, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the transformation in front of my eyes was as real as it was shocking.

The ‘man’ I was engaging with now, told me that his spirit was inhabiting her body. He said he liked it there and warned me to “back off” and leave them alone. I found myself entering into a bizarre conversation with this alter ‘personality’, during which he threatened to kill me if I interfered or ‘exorcised’ him. Needless to say, I left him exactly where he was!

On bringing my client back from her hypnosis session, it became apparent that she was blissfully unaware of the presence of her dark companion, and I certainly didn’t enlighten her!

As I said earlier my ideas spring from a central question, which is – “What if?” I found myself replaying that hypnosis session and asking…”what if an alter ego appeared during therapy like that and threatened to commit murder now that he was ’free’”?

What if a series of murders began – replicating exactly what the alter personality had promised to do? There had only been two people in the room that night. Only two people who could know what was said…what if one of those people became his first victim? The therapist would be the only one left…she would have to work out how that could happen.

It would be the ultimate “locked room” mystery, but it would be a locked mind instead and the therapist would have to find the key to explain it.

It was an intriguing premise, but I wanted to write crime fiction – not ghost stories, so I knew I had to come up with a way of making it a ‘flesh-and-blood’ killer committing the crimes. How could that be possible in this scenario? It bubbled away for a few years and as I became more experienced and gained more knowledge in the field of psychology and hypnotherapy, I started to formulate a ‘How done it’. Once I had that, it was obvious that the protagonist would have to be the Psychologist and so Jo McCready was born. Then the rest fell into place.

 

 

 

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What’s DCI Callum Ferguson’s role in the story?

Callum Ferguson is a Detective Chief Inspector in the West Yorkshire Police. He is the senior investigating officer into Martha’s murder. He and Jo McCready met the previous year when Jo was called in as a Forensic Psychologist to assist in a case he was involved with. Callum and Jo had a romantic history in the past, which simmers below the surface during their time together on the Jack the Ripper copycat case featured in The Murder Mile.

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Police Intelligent Unit profiler Liz Taylor and Jo McCready?

Liz Taylor-Caine is West Yorkshire Police’s own Forensic Psychologist. She is younger and less experienced than Jo McCready and seriously resents Jo’s involvement in the current case. Jo tries not to tread on Liz’s toes, but Liz is bitter and it soon becomes clear that she will do anything to undermine Jo. Although Jo tries to maintain a professional relationship with the other woman, it is safe to say that the two are definitely not friends and allies.

 

 

 

About Lesley McEvoy

 

Lesley McEvoy was born and bred in Yorkshire in the North of England and has had a passion for writing all her life. The writing took a backseat as Lesley developed her career as a Behavioral Analyst / Profiler and Psychotherapist – setting up her own Consultancy business and therapy practice. She has written and presented extensively around the world for over 25 years specializing in behavioral profiling and training, with a wide variety of organisations. The corporate world provided unexpected sources of writing material when, as Lesley said – she found more psychopaths in business than in prison! Lesley’s work in some of the UK’s toughest prisons was where she met people whose lives had been characterized by drugs and violence – a rich source of material for the themes she now writes about.

 

 

Lesley McEvoy

 

 

 

Inside The Devil’s Half Mile with Historical Fiction Author Paddy Hirsch

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1799 New York – A Hell of a Town

 

Interview

 

What led you to become a historical fiction writer?

I became an historical novelist rather by accident. I wrote a non-fiction book called Man vs Markets in 2001 with HarperCollins. It’s a book that uses analogy and humor to explain the financial markets. I wanted to do a follow-up on how an actual financial market gets formed and why, and I wanted to focus on the US markets and the creation of the New York Stock Exchange, both of which were created in a comparatively short time after the Revolutionary War. It was very interesting in principle: the market was created with very few rules, and the result was a dysfunctional mess that was not particularly good at raising capital  – which is what the matte is supposed to do. After the markets, and the economy nearly collapsed in America’s first financial crisis, The Great Panic of 1792, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had a debate about whether they should make some rules for traders, or just let laissez faire persist. Are you still with me? Yeah, so it wasn’t really that interesting at all. in fact it was pretty bloody boring, and I realized I was doing a lot of research but no writing. So I started to write a little sidebar to the history narrative, a fictional soupçon that involved a murder and lawyer and a bunch of Irish gangsters. That was much more interesting, and I ended up ditching the history and sticking to the novel. And here we are!

 

 

 

Wall Street road sign, Lower Manhattan, New York City

 

 

 

What interested you to write about 1799 New York?

1799 was a very interesting year for New York. The city had been the capital of the United States, but was no longer. The State passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery that year, and it was the year before the turn of the century, which is always an interesting time.

 

 

 

5th Avenue (Ave) Sign, New York NYC

 

 

 

Describe the historical context of this time period.

Both the city and the country were on the cusp of a lot of things, politically, socially and economically. The industrial revolution had begun, but hadn’t really reached America by this point: the canals hadn’t been dug, and technology transfer from Europe was still in its infancy, which was why slave labor was so important to the economy at the time. Momentum was gathering for abolition, and almost all of the Northern States had fallen in line at this point, so the scene was set for dispute with the south. Abolition in New York drew black people  – free African Americans and runaway slaves – to the city in large numbers. That set up a good deal of tension with the Irish, as both groups were generally not educated and were shut out of society and economic advancement, which meant they competed for the same jobs. The Irish had not yet started to come in the numbers they would when the Famine hit Ireland, 50 years later, but interest was picking up, and they were probably the largest immigrant group in the city at the time. The City fathers were beginning to realize that a lot of people were going to come to New York over the next few decades, and they’d better get ready. So they began drawing up a plan of Manhattan, anticipating that they’d need to pave over the entire island. This when the city boundaries had not even reached what is now Canal Street. It was a good thing they had that foresight: in 1800 there were about 60,000 people in the city, but just sixty years later, the count was up to a million.  

Meanwhile, America was in a kind of on-again off-again war with the English, which made trade difficult, and crimped the economy somewhat. But the country’s financial markets were developing in New York and Philadelphia, and America was realizing its promise as a country extraordinarily wealthy in commodities of all kinds. Essentially, in 1799, America was about to enter a serious boom, which makes it a very exciting time to write about.

 

 

 

1799 New York image

 

 

 

What’s the story behind the name Devil’s Half Mile aka Wall Street?

I found the nickname the Devil’s Half mile in a letter that I found in the Library of Congress. I’d like to say everyone thought of Wall Street as a place that the Devil reigns supreme, but It is the only reference that I have ever found. Which is probably not surprising, as Wall Street is only about a third of a mile long, and that’s with the landfill!

 

 

What contribution did Alexander Hamilton make at that time?

Alexander Hamilton had all but retired from public life by 1799, and within five years he’d be dead, shot to death in a duel with his old enemy Aaron Burr. his influence on New York and on Wall Street can’t be overestimated. He was a forceful proponent of abolition, and he was the savior of Wall Street during the Great Panic. He engineered a bank bailout that restored faith in the financial system and prevented a run on the banks that could have brought the nascent US economy to its knees. In 1799, he was an ordinary lawyer and investor, but he was still hugely influential in New York political and  financial circles. And socially, too, even if he did live a long way up Manhattan island on his estate.

 

 

 

Macro shot of ten dollars banknote

 

 

 

Who is Justy Flanagan and what’s his role in the story?

Justy is a new American, born in New York to Irish parents. His father and uncle emigrated from Ireland after the Revolutionary War, and while his father decided to take the high road and try to carve out a career as a trader, his uncle opted for the waterfront, where he lords it over the Irish gangs, who call him The Bull. Justy’s mother  died when he was young, and his father was found hanged in his hallway in the wake of the Great Panic. Everyone assumed suicide, and the Bull took Justy in and sent him to the new Catholic University at Maynooth in Ireland. While there, Justy studies law, and dabbles in criminology. He realizes his father could not have killed himself and must have been murdered. So he returns to New York to find out whodunit and why.

 

 

Tell us some interesting facts you learned about in your research.

I was struck by the lawlessness of the United States and New York at the time. It’s not really surprising when you think about it: America broke away from Britain because it objected to all those rules, after all. It makes sense, then, that the founders wanted to design a society that was quite libertarian. And that meant very few rules. Pretty much anything went back in those days. Drugs, booze, prostitution, littering, driving on the wrong side of the road, selling dodgy investments; it was all quite legal. The only real crimes were those against person and property. I was also struck by the opposition to having a police force. I knew that the NYPD wasn’t really formed until 1845, even though the city experienced a tremendous rise in criminality starting in the 1820s, but I didn’t know why. The expense, which was considerable, was only half the reason. It turns out that there was also considerable opposition to having anything remotely resembling a standing army in the city. During the Revolutionary War, the British Army was garrisoned inside the city. At the hint of any unrest, the army was broken out of barracks and told to crack heads. New Yorkers were very resentful of this, and wanted to be sure the like of it never happened again. The concept of a police force looked a lot like an army to many, which was why it took so long to form one.

 

 

 

What’s next for you?

I’m publishing a  sequel to The Devil’s Half Mile, called Hudson’s Kill. It comes out on 17 September. And meanwhile I’m working on a couple of things: I’m building a series that my UK publisher is calling Lawless New York, which I rather like. I have ideas for as many as eight ideas in total. And I’m also working on a contemporary novel, set simultaneously in Los Angeles and Belfast, Northern Ireland. And I still have my day job, editing an NPR economics podcast, called The Indicator from Planet Money.

 

 

 

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Paddy Hirsch is an author and Murrow award-winning journalist. His first novel is The Devil’s Half Mile, an historical thriller with a financial twist, set in New York in 1799.

He is the author of Man vs Markets; Economics Explained, Plain and Simple. Publisher’s Weekly called the book ” “A straightforward, accessible, and often hilarious overview of our financial and economic systems, products, and concepts.”

He works as a supervising editor at NPR’s planet Money. He is also the creator and host of Marketplace Whiteboard, an award-winning video explainer of financial and economic terms.

 

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