Samantha Norman talks about co-writing Winter Siege with her late mother Ariana Franklin

“I would never have got round to writing a novel if my mother hadn’t died. I wanted to, but only in the way a lot of people want to write – in a rather dreamy, rare as hen’s teeth way: a sudden flash of inspiration one day leading to a perfect plot and 90,000 immaculately ordered words divinely processed through the fingertips by the next. It was never going to happen. Like most people, I had neither the rigour nor the discipline to do it and, when it came down to it, probably didn’t want to enough.

My mother, however – Ariana Franklin, the much-admired historical thriller writer and author of the Mistress of the Art of Death series – loved writing and was as good at it as you can get. She was also a great mum, and, as all great mothers tend to be, a terrific nag. Ever since I can remember she had nursed a conviction that I should write novels. So when she died, suddenly and unexpectedly, halfway through a book it felt not only like the most dreadful thing that had ever happened to me but a rather weird challenge as well.

I took it up hoping to do her justice, to make her proud (even from beyond the grave) and because it was the very last thing I could do for her. The result is Winter Siege, her last novel and my first, published this week.”

WinterSiege

Click on the pic for a link to Amazon UK.

For Samantha Norman the unfinished Winter Siege was a gift from her late mother, launching her on the road of a new career in writing. Published today, it’s a standalone novel set in a freezing cold 1141. Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, watches in horror as a little girl with red hair is dragged away by his own men. Caught in the middle of the fight for England she is just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Gwil finds the girl close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment – and he knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her. But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment the cost of which none of them could have imagined …

A review of the novel will follow next week.

Anthony Horowitz to Pen New James Bond Novel Inspired by Original Unseen Fleming Material

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., The Ian Fleming Estate, the Orion Publishing Group, and HarperCollins US and Canada are delighted to announce that international bestselling and award-winning writer Anthony Horowitz is at work on an official new James Bond novel. Currently dubbed Project One, the novel is due for worldwide release on 8th September 2015.

The new book by Horowitz – a lifelong fan of Ian Fleming – will be set in the 1950s and will be unique among the modern James Bond novels, in that a section will contain previously unseen material written by Fleming to which Horowitz has had exclusive access.

Jessie Grimond, great-niece of Ian Fleming, said: “In the 1950s Ian Fleming wrote several episode treatments for a James Bond television series. But it never came to be made and he ended up turning most of the plots into the short stories that are now in the collections For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and The Living Daylights. However, there are a few plot outlines which he never used and which, till now, have never been published, or aired. Given that Anthony is as brilliant a screenwriter as he is a novelist, we thought it would be exciting to see what he would do with one of them.”

The treatment chosen by Horowitz, which will serve as a starting point for his novel, is entitled Murder on Wheels, and follows Bond on a mission into the world of motor racing. Familiar characters in the TV treatment include ‘M’ and Miss Moneypenny.

One of the country’s most prolific and successful writers, Horowitz has over 40 books to his name. His recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, sold in more than 35 countries, whilst his bestselling teen spy series, Alex Rider, has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide. As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murdersand the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War.

Horowitz said: “It’s no secret that Ian Fleming’s extraordinary character has had a profound influence on my life, so when the estate approached me to write a new James Bond novel how could I possibly refuse? It’s a huge challenge – more difficult even than Sherlock Holmes in some ways – but having original, unpublished material by Fleming has been an inspiration. This is a book I had to write.”

Lucy Fleming, niece of Ian Fleming, said: “We are thrilled that Anthony has taken on the Bond mantle, and can’t wait to read his novel. Anthony is a brilliant writer, as his millions of fans around the world demonstrate. He has an exceptional skill for writing spy thrillers in particular, and it is this coupled with the original Fleming material and his knowledge of and enthusiasm for Bond, which makes for a really exciting proposition.”

Malcolm Edwards, Deputy CEO and Group Publisher, Orion Publishing Group, said: “James Bond and Anthony Horowitz is a match made in publishing heaven. Anthony is a writer of exceptional skill and I have no doubt he will deliver a book that will resonate and delight Bond fans around the globe. For our part, we will publish the book in a way that celebrates the legacy of literary Bond and mount a campaign that will make publication day one of the biggest publishing events of 2015.”

Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher, HarperCollins US, said: “HarperCollins is thrilled to be publishing the new James Bond novel in the United States and Canada. Anthony Horowitz is an author of exceptional skill and range – his Sherlock Holmes novel, House of Silk, displayed his amazing ability to reanimate fictional characters to create a new and powerful narrative.  The combination of this talent, his inventiveness and brilliance as a novelist, and his access to hitherto unpublished Fleming material, makes this a uniquely exciting event for all James Bond fans.”

The book will be published by Orion Publishing Group in the UK, and by HarperCollins in the United States. The book rights were sold in the English language by Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown, on behalf of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd and The Ian Fleming Estate. International rights will be offered at the forthcoming Frankfurt Book Fair on October 6.

Further announcements about the project will follow in 2015.

Hercule Poirot Novels by Agatha Christie from The Folio Society

PoirotNovelSetFSThe Folio Society has put together a beautiful set of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels. Illustrated by Andrew Davidson and with introductions from Anthony Horowitz the titles in the set are: The Mysterious Affair at Styles; Murder on the Orient Express; The ABC Murders; Death on the Nile. This set retails at £110 from The Folio Society, available here. The quality of production makes it something to treasure as well as providing an opportunity to acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with Poirot, pursuing four of his best known cases.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

AC4When the wealthy Emily Inglethorp is poisoned at her country house, Styles, the culprit seems obvious. Her husband Alfred was heard to quarrel with her violently – and was seen buying strychnine in the local town. Yet when he is just about to be arrested, Hercule Poirot comes forward to save him. He reminds all concerned that appearances can be deceiving, and that there are unsolved oddities in the case – including the shattered coffee cup, the scrap of green cloth and the burned fragments of a will … The first novel to introduce us to both Poirot and Hastings, this is also one of Christie’s most satisfying mysteries.

Murder on the Orient Express

AC1A curious group of passengers is assembled on the Istanbul–Calais coach of the Simplon Orient Express. They include a Russian princess, an Italian salesman, an English colonel – and Hercule Poirot. The morning after the train is stopped dead by a deep snowdrift, American millionaire Mr Ratchett is found stabbed to death, his compartment bolted on the inside. It is clear that the murderer must be one of his fellow passengers – and must still be on the train. One of Christie’s most famous novels, Murder on the Orient Express boasts a truly audacious solution.

The ABC Murders

AC7Alice Ascher, an elderly shopkeeper, has been murdered in Andover. Next, the pretty waitress Betty Barnard is found dead in Bexhill-on-Sea. Each of these murders is hinted at beforehand in a taunting letter to Poirot, signed ‘ABC’. Together with his friend Arthur Hastings, and a team from Scotland Yard, Poirot must pursue the ABC serial killer – in a battle of wits that soon becomes very personal indeed. The murderer keeps one step ahead at first, but as Poirot puts it, ‘He cannot help throwing light upon himself …’ Unusually for Christie, The ABC Murders employs multiple narrators, spinning an ingenious web that culminates in a startling finale – a truly brilliant mystery.

Death on the Nile

AC6Poirot has decided to escape the winter with a cruise down the Nile River in Egypt. Among his fellow travellers are a couple on honeymoon, Simon and Linnet Doyle. They are being stalked by Simon’s former fiancée, Jacqueline de Bellefort, who shows Poirot her pearl-handled pistol – ‘a dainty toy’. Shortly afterwards, Linnet Doyle is shot in the head. Suspicion falls on Jacqueline, but Poirot knows that other passengers had their own reasons to bring death to the Nile. Inspired by Christie’s travels with her archaeologist husband, this world-famous story has twice been adapted for the screen.

image007

Reading Matters Moves

Kim’s wonderful book site, Reading Matters has moved and can now be found here.  It also has a new and rather modern look.  But above all, it’s the content that drives me, and I hope you, there.  And in a world of increasing commercialism among book blogs*, Kim retains sound values including independence at the core.  Take a look if you’ve not already done so.

ReadingMattersNew150914[* This might be the topic of a future post here.]

CWA Dagger in the Library 2014 Longlist

The longlist for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library has been announced on Random House’s Dead Good Books site. Click on the pic for further information.

LibraryShortlist2014Longlist:

  • MC Beaton (Constable & Robinson)
  • Tony Black (Black and White Publishing)
  • Sharon Bolton (Transworld Publishers)
  • Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
  • Mari Hannah (Pan)
  • James Oswald (Michael Joseph)
  • Phil Rickman (Corvus)
  • Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
  • Mel Sherratt (Thomas & Mercer)
  • Neil White (Sphere)

Want to ask Kathy Reichs a question?

Here’s your opportunity:

Join Kathy Reichs, bestselling author and forensic anthropologist in a broadcast from London’s Barts Pathology Museum on how forensics have influenced her career. Send your questions in now!

Broadcast: 17th September at 17:00 (UK time)

KRBNLJoin us for a special broadcast with bestselling author and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs at London’s Barts Pathology Museum! As part of Kathy’s UK tour to mark publication of her new novel Bones Never Lie, she will be giving a fascinating illustrated talk on forensic anthropology and how forensics has influenced her writing career.

From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerising thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and continues to do so for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has travelled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI) she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted with identifying remains found at ground zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Dr. Reichs is one of only eighty-two forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. A native of Chicago, she now divides her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Québec.

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. She has written seventeen bestsellers featuring Dr Temperance Brennan, including the forthcoming new thriller Bones Never Lie, as well as a forensic series aimed at young adults. She is a producer on the chilling hit TV series Bones.

Join us for this special broadcast and be sure to send in your questions by 12pm on 16th September to make sure Kathy has a chance to answer them.

Kathy Reichs is joined by Carla Valentine, Technical Assistant Curator in a special broadcast from London’s Barts Pathology Museum. Watch the broadcast at 5pm on 17th September.

Click here to submit questions before the show (make sure it’s before 12pm 16th September)

Website: www.kathyreichs.com

Hashtag: #BartsBones

kathyreichs

Acts of Omission – Terry Stiastny

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

Avid readers who recently appreciated the slow burn intensity of The Honourable Woman: take note. Terry Stiastny’s Acts of Omission may at first appear a languorous novel but when the denouement comes it is rewarding; perhaps not satisfying, but very definitely rewarding in its emotional hit.

In the journey to get there Stiastny draws on her background as a former BBC journalist who covered the politics of Westminster and who spent a period based in Berlin. Acts of Omission deftly weaves through the corridors and rooms of the Houses of Parliament and the high-intensity pressure houses of journalists’ newsrooms. The author takes us back to 1998 and is clear that “the gilt is starting to come off a new era” but makes no reference to the specific politics and politicians of the day.

Like The Honourable Woman, Stiastny’s Acts of Omission has secrets at its heart, decisions, actions, failures to action. And with three central characters we see how the unpicking of one stitch unravels their lives and the lives of others close to them.

Alex Rutherford, a young man who has a desk job in the intelligence services does not follow procedure when he joins some old university friends for a night out in the City. He takes his laptop with him, and within it, a disk. The following morning he wakes to a hangover and the realisation that he is no longer in possession of both.

Mark Lucas, an inexperienced MP recently appointed as Foreign Minister is travelling to Berlin. He is aware of a disk containing a list of the names of British informants to the Stasi that is now in the hands of the Government. The Germans want it back and are very likely to raise the issue. Elected and promoted with a squeaky-clean transparency persona, Lucas is warm to the thought of return of the disk but the diplomatic service will not hear of it.

The disk turns up at the newspaper where journalist Anna Travers works. Like Rutherford, Travers is not long out of university; she is hungry and ambitious. Suddenly winning a place on the “disk team” she is one to start unpicking the stitches when the paper’s investigation begins. As the unravelling erupts we see the impact on the lives of many and to Stiastny’s great credit we also feel the human cost.

In Acts of Omission we see the machine in action in the corridors of power and its efficacy is scary.

This thought-provoking novel delivers more than one powerfully emotional sucker punch before the last page, and is a political thriller to stand alongside the best.

Unravelling Oliver – Liz Nugent

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

2014 is proving to be a year where some pretty routine reading comes interspersed with the odd surprising gem. Before reading the last page of Unravelling Oliver I checked whether this debut novel was shortlisted for the CWA’s John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award. It appears to be eligible but was not entered. Had I still been a judge I’d have asked for this novel to be called in and then championed it. Why? Because Liz Nugent offers us something different, superbly written.

It is in the construction of this novel that we experience the ‘something different’. Brutal in its opening – ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her’ – it is Oliver we first meet, learning that he has attacked his wife Alice and put her in hospital. Thereafter the story unfolds with a different voice in each chapter, similar to Simon Lelic’s Rupture but without the framing of each being a police interview of a witness. This is more a series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads and as such lends a greater intimacy to the reader. This intimacy is both compelling and, on times, uncomfortable.

It could be argued that Oliver has already unravelled at the opening of the novel and it is through the voices of others in his life, during different periods of time, that we come to see how Oliver was in fact built, from boy to man. With such a brutal first line of introduction it is hard to imagine any sympathy for Oliver, but you may be surprised.

Nugent has created a narrative that maintains pace and tension, and she deftly drops in her teasers so that when the reveals are delivered they still come with a sucker punch to the stomach.

Unravelling Oliver is precision-engineered, intelligent writing and top notch psychological suspense.

There are good reasons I have told you very little about the plot itself. Just read it.

‘We laughed until our sides were sore, but our glee was different. Mine was bordering on hysteria.’

ITV3 Crime Thriller Season: The Crime Thriller Club

From the press release:

This September is ITV3 Crime Thriller Season, featuring a TV series dedicated to crime writing. The Crime Thriller Club, sponsored by Specsavers will, each episode, feature ‘Living Legends’ – a series of interviews with bestselling authors in the world of crime and thriller fiction. Authors interviewed this year will be Dean Koontz, Denise Mina, Robert Harris, Val McDermid, Michael Connelly and Lynda La Plante – who will all be members of the CWA Hall of Fame.
At the core of each episode of The Crime Thriller Club will be The Crime Thriller Book Club, in which six specially selected titles will be critiqued on air. This year’s selected titles are:

  • Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse (Bloomsbury)
  • Entry Island by Peter May (Quercus)
  • Letters To My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliffe (Constable & Robinson)
  • Treachery by S.J. Parris (HarperCollins)
  • The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly (Mantle)
  • Watch Me by James Carol (Faber & Faber).