Saturday, 18 January 2014

Review - Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

The blurb reads like this …

A man is burnt alive in a suburban garden shed.

DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to investigate the murder. Their victim is quickly identified as a migrant worker and a man several people might have had good reason to see dead. A convicted arsonist and member of a far-right movement has just been released from prison, while witnesses claim to have seen the dead man fighting with one of the town's most prominent slum landlords.

Zigic and Ferreira know all too well the problems that come with dealing with a community that has more reason than most not to trust the police, but when another migrant worker is attacked, tensions rapidly begin to rise as they search for their killer.

How much did I enjoy it?

I know it’s the first month of the new year, but if I read a better debut in the next 12 months I’ll be hugely surprised, cos Long Way Home is a faultless, thoroughly engrossing debut that already has the feel of a long established series of novels.

As the cliché goes, the devil is in the detail and Dolan is already adept at pinpointing just the right information and in the right amount that makes us believe in her characters and immerse us in the setting.

Zigic and Ferreira are well-drawn pair of characters and duo I would be more than happy to spend hours of reading in their company.

This is a police procedural with heart and conscience. Yes, the puzzle is important, but much more telling is way the author depicts the lives of those caught up in people trafficking and the those who pray on them.

I couldn’t be more impressed – this is a stunner - and I can’t wait to see what Dolan does next.

Shell out your shekels HERE

Friday, 10 January 2014

QnA with my bud, Gill Hoffs

(Here's Gill's grinning fyzzog)

  1. So, what you pimping these days?

A tale of gold and grim reality, “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic”. It’s about an enormous luxury ship that left Liverpool 160 years ago this month for the Australian Gold Rush only to sink in mysterious circumstances two days later, a few miles from Dublin. Although the ship was literally a few metres from land, close enough for ropes and spars to be got across to form temporary bridges, more than half of the people on board died including virtually all of the hundreds of women and children. Shipwrecks were common then, an accepted risk to travellers, and around three vessels were reported wrecked in British and Irish waters every day. But this particular shipwreck made the papers around the world, with thousands of articles written on it at the time. I’m amazed that it isn’t better known today.

  1. How did you come across such an amazing story?
Quite by accident. I was in the museum in Warrington, where I live, looking at shrunken heads and the like, when I saw a cabinet of shipwreck artefacts including crockery and a porthole. Now, Warrington is an inland town and the stretch of Mersey near my house is so shallow you can see discarded bicycles poking out and sometimes wade across when there’s a drought, but according to one of the curators ships had been built here. One of them, the RMS Tayleur, was the largest ship of her type at the time and certainly the most luxurious, and he suggested I look her up online. When I read some of the survivors’ accounts I wept until I was a snottery mess, and didn’t think I should ever look at them again for the sake of my sanity (and my over-wiped nose), but I just couldn’t stop thinking about the people on the ship.

  1. How long did it take to research and write?

Hmm … about two years, start to finish. That’s including the research for a short piece on one of the children on board, submitting a proposal to my lovely publishers Pen & Sword, and editing. And we moved house to Scotland and back while working on it, too. But I don’t feel like it’s quite done yet, even though I’ve just watched it being bound and turned into actual factual books.

(here's wot Gill's so excited about)
  1. Your previous outing into print was a collection of short pieces, did a longer piece of work involve any different challenges?
The short piece on the Tayleur is actually included in my first book, “Wild: a collection” (published by Pure Slush), so “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur” could almost be seen as a sequel. Yes, I found it more challenging to judge pacing and the arc of the chapters and the book as a whole in the longer piece, but luckily my editor, Jen Newby, let me work on the book until I was happy with the flow.

  1. Where can we buy a copy?

You can purchase it from Pen & Sword HERE, bookshops including Waterstones (with or without the apostrophe) and WH Smith, online retailers, and also Warrington Museum and the Ocean Explorer Centre near Oban. Plus there will be talks and events about the Tayleur and Victorian sea travel (and maggoty food, yum!) at various locations throughout the UK where you can pick up a copy and probably cake, too. I’ll be posting details on my site and social media closer to the time, or you’re welcome to email me at to find out more.

  1. What was your biggest writing “learn” from this project?
To take care of myself physically while I work instead of just pushing on, and to organise my notes better while I work instead of constantly putting it off ‘til later then panicking when I can’t find the precise survivor quote that I need. And to hide my printouts from my son unless I want them illustrated with bums and killer crabs.

  1. What's next?
Raising awareness of the Tayleur tragedy – many of these people were heroes and they should be celebrated, not forgotten – and, as you put it, pimping my book. I’m researching the Mary Celeste for a thriller, and other shipwrecks and Victorian sea travellers in case they would suit another nautical nonfiction book, and still writing short pieces, too. I’ve sent a maritime thriller set in the 1930s out to agents so my fingers, toes, eyes, and legs are crossed for the time being, and apart from that I’m reading and watching a ton of DVDs and crappy TV. And preparing for an appearance at the Other Worlds Convention (you can get info on this event HERE) alongside my fellow writers Kevin G. Bufton and Die Booth in Warrington in April. And trying to get rid of the writers’ arse that’s developed from too much Nutella and sitting at my laptop. And sleeping.

Ways to keep in touch with Gill ...

- Search Gill Hoffs on Facebook.
- And connect with her on twitter @GillHoffs