Saturday 30 May 2015

The King is dead - Long live the King!

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that there's not hellish much going on at May Contain Nuts these days. So, I've decided to suspend activities here ... but continue blogging over at my new site MJM Ink .

I have set up a new business - which formalises work I've been doing under the radar for years - providing editorial and mentoring services for aspiring authors. New posts will concentrate on writing advice and guest posts from authors with the aim of inspiring YOU, my fellow authors to keep on keeping on.

As the great man (Benjamin Disraeli) once said, "the secret to success is a constancy of purpose" and I hope the gems you read about over at MJM Ink will keep you firmly on track to achieve your goals.

See you there!


photo credit: <a href="">Symphony of Love Always believe that something wonderful is happening</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Monday 13 April 2015

It's ALL about me ...

Here's an interview I did with Mike Craven over at his new website ...

1.       This is the third book in the Ray McBain series, what made you choose to write it from Kenny’s POV this time round?
At the point I wrote this, the other two books were going the rounds of the publishers receiving rave rejections. As in, love this – had to stay up till 2am to finish it, but no thanks. I know, crazy, right? But that’s publishing for you.
I wanted to keep writing, but I didn’t want this next book to suffer the same response, so I just sat down one day and started working. No plan, no idea, I was just writing. What came out, like dictation, to my surprise was Kenny’s story.

2.       Your books all feature well developed characters, and although they are likeable, none of them are completely sympathetic. Was this a conscious choice or were you simply holding a mirror to society?

I would like to think that I’m that clever, but I’m not. I rarely write with such an agenda. I write in the first instance by instinct and if I like it when I’m doing the edits it stays. And when I’m doing the edits I’m asking myself how might the reader respond to this? Are my characters three-dimensional? No good guy is all good and similarly, no bad guy is all bad. The edit is where I examine if I have struck the right balance.

3.       Tell me why you write about a detective with an eating disorder! 

‘Cos alcohol has been done to death and although I don’t have an eating disorder, my relationship with food could be healthier. I’ve been on a yo-yo diet since my thirties. It’s exhausting! Most of what I put Ray through in that regard is something that I’ve experienced.
4.       Like Blood Tears, in Beyond the Rage you are writing a story set in the present but about events that occurred in the past. Is this something that particularly interests you as a writer?
Yeah, we can rarely escape our past. It is from that cauldron that our personality is born and it affects mostly everything about us. It’s something that readers can relate to. After all, we all have one. And it is a classic trope in fiction.

5.       Can you tell me a little about how you write? For example, what time of day is the most productive, do you set yourself daily word goals and how much plotting do you do or are you a start writing and see where the story takes you kind of writer?
I am a binge writer. I go for months, sometimes years without writing and then I get stuck in. My target tends to be more time led – but with an eye to the word count so I can gauge how well I am doing. And as I said earlier, I write by instinct, without much of an idea where I’m going.
It would be nice to be able to write to a plan, but I can’t seem to master that one.

6.       You’re a poet of some renown. How and why did you make the transition to being a crime writer and does your poetic background help or hinder when describing some of the brutal things the modern crime writer must?

The poetry came about by accident. My aim was always to be a novelist, but after joining my local writers’ club and having a go, I discovered I had an aptitude for poetry. I think it comes from a love of words. Which comes from being an avid reader all of my life.
When I first started writing novels, I was trying too hard and I learned I had to choose my moment. If you’re reading a fight scene, you don’t want the author to disrupt the pace by inserting a line of poetic prose. On the other hand, the “noticing” that poetry brings to the prose can help ground the reader in the story.
It all goes in during the first draft and then I shape it when doing the edits. Elmore Leonard is quoted as saying if it sounds like writing, he deletes. Far be it from me to ignore such a great writer, but there are times when I love to read a selection of prose where the word choice tastes good. The craft for me is knowing when to leave in and when to take out.

7.       I can’t let you go without talking about the Guillotine Choice, the book you co-wrote with Bashir Saoudi, one of the most harrowing yet uplifting fact-based novels I’ve ever read. How did you meet Bashir and how was the writing process different. 

How long have you got? I’ll give you the shortened version. Bashir had taken some time out of the computer industry to run a coffee shop. He stayed open late one night to try and get more custom. I was his only customer. Subsequent meetings, mostly of the “twilight zone” variety had me throwing my hands up and saying to the universe, ok I’ll write the book!
The difference here was that I had the skeleton of a story in front of me. And if I can torture that metaphor, this skeleton had a few bones missing as well as ligament, skin and muscle. But there was a direction. And a real man whose story had to be told. And told in a way that would honour him and his country.
Finally, what are you working on at the minute?
Another Ray McBain book. And the killer from the first one is back. If I tell you any more I’ll have to kill you.

Mike follows the interview on with his review for Beyond the Rage. Clicketty-click HERE if you want to read. (You'll need to scroll down past the interview to get to the review. Or, you could read it again if you're that bored.)

Wednesday 4 March 2015


It's been a while, folks, since I've had any book blethers on this here interweb thingy - so I thought I'd get back into it with a stoater of a book.

Loved, loved, loved this!

You've got a young soldier coming home from active duty - his grandmother who is in the early stages of dementia - and a host of family issues.

O'Hagan is one of those writers who have a precise eye and an exacting turn of phrase that leads to a hugely enjoyable experience. The Illuminations is full of insight, the dialogue sparks and characters lead you by the nose through their journey. What more do you want, people?

Go buy.

Friday 19 September 2014

The Scots: Wha's Like Us ...

It was during the eighties when I could first afford to buy my own books, instead of borrowing from the library. There was something about that growing collection that thrilled. At first, the ranks of books grew on the floor of my bedroom ....and then there was more than enough for me to justify me buying that first bookcase from MFI.

I still have those first books. Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, Jean M Auel, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen Donaldson, Eric Van Lustbader etc etc ... and the eagle-eyed among you will note that there’s not a Scot among them. A thought which prompts a shameful memory. I used to go into bookshops and walk quickly past the Scottish section. From somewhere I had grown the impression that if the writer was Scottish, it must be crap.

At my school in the seventies the only books we got to read were either American or English: Shakespeare or Steinbeck. Robert Burns’ poetry books were wheeled out once a year, but almost apologetically and without any effort to explain what the strange Scots words actually meant. There was no context given, we were simply expected to wrap our tongues around the odd collection of vowels and consonants. Although we spoke Scots on the playground, this was actually like a foreign language.

Our History lessons focused on certain topics that were likely to come up in the exams. Subjects like the Industrial Revolution, The French and Russian revolutions, The Boer War and the First World War. Again, note the lack of Scottish themes. We weren’t taught our own history.

Around this period TV was gaining traction and it became the social norm for families to gather round the television to watch the news (beamed in from London) and popular entertainment programmes (beamed in from London and the US). There were very few Scottish accents.
Admittedly, there were a handful of Scottish TV programmes but largely and especially in the early years they were of the tartan and shortbread variety and the production values – even to my unpractised eye –were second rate. BBC Scotland received (and still does) a fraction of the funds that Scots contribute to the TV licence fund. All of this confirming yet again, that if it came from Scotland, it was poor.

Demonstrate often enough to a child that it is too wee, too poor and too stupid and it will soak it up and accept it as fact.

(I actually heard two guys talking in my local gym and one used this as a reason to his mate as to why he was voting no. See. Imply it often enough and they will believe.)

In subsequent years we have Thatcher – a boom and bust economic cycle – a trumped up war in the Middle East – and now a government that has inclined so far to the right in recent years it’s a wonder Big Ben doesn’t have a lean to compete with thon tower in Pisa.

The impact of this kind of cultural stifling is subtle and yet, to my mind, far-reaching. I make no claim to being a social anthropologist, but I would contend that this is exactly the kind of situation from which our famous Scottish Cringe was born and has thrived. Throw in our Calvanistic propensities and it’s a certainty.

 Never heard of the term? It has its own page on Wikipedia, from where this quote comes …
…“a sense of cultural inferiority felt by many Scots, particularly in relation to a perceived dominance of English or anglocentric British culture, partly due to the importance of London, within the United Kingdom.”

One of the reasons I wrote the book, Carnegie's Call was to challenge this and to contribute to the conversation that would take us beyond it, to grow into a self-confident nation – for we are a nation – ready to take its place in the world on its own terms, not as the northern region - a narrow tartan backwater, as one pro-Unionist described us - of a larger state.

I don’t think such an inherited inferiority complex is unique to us Scots, but many other countries are able to work through it with an acceptance of their culture and shared identity and an ability to express their reality through self-determination.

In my view, there were lots of compelling reasons for us Scots to accept a state of independence, but for me, this was the most important one. I took in the arguments on the currency, the economy, our defence capabilities, our role on the world stage and thought, aye, fair enough, we can work through all that, but why is no-one talking about this?

With self-government would come self-confidence. It’s much more important than the pound/ euro/ groat in our pocket. To a nation that has been stifled in many ways, for more than 300 years  it is beyond price.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Wot I Read in July

The Dark Blood – AJ Smith

This is the 2nd in The Chronicles of the Long War series. (FYI - The Black Guard was the first.) And it is bloody brilliant. I do love me some epic fantasy and this book delivers on all angles. A carefully constructed world – just familiar and yet different enough to engage – great plotting, wonderful baddies and heroes you want to spend time with. Not read any fantasy for a while? Get stuck into this.

Cold in July – Joe R Lansdale

This book, from which the movie was made, had me scratching my head and asking, why the hell have I not read everything this man has ever written? He is tremendous. His characters are as quirky as a frog in a hat and his prose sharp and telling. Go read it already.

Walter Mosley – Rose Gold

A Walter Mosley release is an occasion in my house. What can I say, I’m a fan. And in this book, one of my favourite ever characters to be committed to print – Easy Rawlins – is back on the case.
Wonderful stuff.

Jay Posey – Morningside Fall

Legends of the Duskwalker Book 2 – follow up to “Three” the 2013 release from Angry Robot. This is sci-fi, but if you are not a fan of that genre don’t be put off – it’s gritty, truly action-packed and in your face. The action just does not let up for 400 odd pages. Just begging to be made into a movie!

Dominique Manotti – Escape

Two men escape from prison in a rubbish lorry. They part company, with Carlo heading to Milan and Filippo trekking over the mountains. Carlo is killed in a shoot-out with armed police and Filippo pitches up in Paris where he takes to writing a story Carlo told him in prison. A publisher loves it and it becomes a sensation throughout Europe. But the police don’t believe it is fiction – and the brown stuff goes splat onto the fan.

Manotti is a gifted writer, racking up the tension nicely thankyouverymuch. She also adds a touch of social, economic and political history for those readers who expect more from their authors than “just” action.

Deon Meyer – Cobra

Benny Griessel is back!!! Yeah, it’s totally worth three exclamation marks. Meyer is one of the best out there. He conjures up a tension that will have you reading into the wee hours. Go on, pick up one of his books. The man is a crime-writing genius.

1914 – Goodbye to All That (Writers on the conflict between life and art)

You have to stretch yourself as a reader now and again, yeah?  So get your baby blues stuck into this. It’s a truly fascinating collection of essays from a bunch of writers not afraid to give it some up close and personal stuff. You will be moved. You will be fascinated. Trust me.

What about you? What have you enjoyed reading this month?

Saturday 5 July 2014

June reading ... King, Ellory, Chaouki, Miller, Finder

I'm slipping up - only read 5 books this month. My excuse? The World Cup. Great, innit.

Anywho, here's what I read last month ...

Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

I just love me some Stephen King and yet again the man kept me enthralled while I was inside the pages of his mind. Here, he switches genre and we have a crime novel with a hugely engaging cast of (among others) a retired cop and his misfit friends.

Societal misfits are a strong part of the book and by having such character types at either side of the good versus evil divide, King provides a fascinating counterpoint.

And extra kudos to a man who has had such an extraordinarily successful and long career that he can reference his own work within the pages of a new novel. Yup. Loved it.

Carnival of Shadows by R J Ellory

The blurb goes  … It’s Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man's body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.

And the scene is set for a book that tickles the intellect as well as your emotions. Again, a fascinating mix of oddball characters with a strong sense of time and place that Ellory combines with themes of trust, belief and the common man versus governmental forces to wonderful effect. 

The Star of Algiers by Aziz Chouaki

Moussa Massy dreams of being a star. A Kabyle singer in 1990s Algiers, Massy engages his audiences with a fusion of Arab and African melodies with American pop music. At 36, he desperately wants to marry his long-term fiancée and escape from the tiny apartment he shares with thirteen other members of his family.

He's signed by one of the hottest nightclubs in town and his dreams appear to be coming true. But this is short-lived: when the fundamentalist Islamic group FIS is elected to power, the city is enflamed with corruption and violence. As he fights to save his dreams in a society steeped in fanaticism, Massy’s passion for music turns to rage.

In animated, clipped prose, The Star of Algiers portrays the difficult truths of a country in persistent turmoil and vividly shows the aptitude for despair and loathing of those who have nothing left to lose. 

Powerful and thought-provoking, particularly when given that this book was published 12 years ago, and when daily news bulletins remind us that little has changed – and we see the rise and rise of fundamentalism.

Suspicion – Joseph Finder

Danny's teenage daughter Abby is the light of his life. Her mother died last year, and he is desperate to keep everything as normal as possible. But the situation is bad. Danny can't afford the private school Abby adores, and he can't bear to tell his daughter he has failed her.

By a stroke of luck, Danny meets Thomas Galvin, the father of his daughter's best friend and one of the richest men in Boston. But when Danny accepts a loan from him, the authorities turn up at his door. Now he has a choice. Face prison, or become part of a sting operation to bring down his new best friend – and one of the most dangerous men in the country.

A rollercoaster (excuse the cliché) wrapped up in the form of a book – this is a great ride – an ordinary guy in an impossible situation which has you constantly asking – what would I do? Perfect holiday reading

The Falcon Throne – Karen Miller (release date 9 September ’14)

I do love me some epic fantasy and as a long-time fan of Karen Miller I was keen to see what she would be up to next and boy has she come up with another cracker.

Want warring families, loveable, but flawed heroes and villains you will love to hate? Enjoy a plot with more twists and turns than a Tour De France stage? (Sorry. It’s on the TV as I write this.) Form an orderly queue here.
My only quibble is that there was some skimming, but this was a proof and hopefully will be tightened up before publication. Nonetheless, that didn’t distract from what was  essentially great fun and a cracking read.

That's what I read this month - what have you been reading? 

Monday 2 June 2014

A Book Lover's May - with Black, Cross, Robertson, Carey, Sinclair and Thomas

YAY - who loves books!!!

Here's what I read in May ...

Tony Black – Artefacts of the Dead (out in July '14)

Jeez, how busy is this guy? He's not only prolific, he's bloody good. (Makes me sick.) In this book, Tony is back on the crime beat.

DI Bob Valentine is back at work after a near fatal stabbing. The corpse of a banker is found impaled on a stake, in the town dump. (Playing to the gallery there, Tony, eh?) Somebody is making a statement and it's up to Valentine to find out who.

As usual, Black's writing is on the button – great characterisation, strong set plays and a pin-sharp commentary on the current lack in society. If you like a puzzle and a writer with intellect, TB is your man.

Mason Cross – The Killing Season

Mason is a new boy on the scene – and boy does he come roaring out of the blocks with a doozy of a thriller. There's enough excitement here for even the most jaded of adrenaline junkies.

Carter Blake is a fascinating dude and someone you will enjoy spending time with. Just let everyone know you are busy – close the laptop lid, switch off your phone, turn off the telly and settle in for an exciting ride.

For fans of Lee Child and Matt Hilton – yes, its that good. Can't wait to see what he does next.

The Girl With All the Gifts – M R Carey

If you fancy a slice of different – give this book a read. The blurb says it's like a cross between The Walking Dead and Kazuo Ishiguro – and that quite neatly sums it up.

A fungus has infected mankind turning most of them into zombie-like creatures, called Hungries – yet some of the children infected manage to retain their humanity – alongside their hunger for human flesh.

The girl of the title is one of the infected children – who has the hunger, and a near genius IQ. She's part of a government run installation, designed to research for a cure. Until a group of human survivers wreck the place and … you'll need to get the book to read what happens next.

If you switched off at the word “zombie” - don't worry, this is safely the most original slant on that sub-genre I've come across. It's fast paced, thrilling read – part chase/ thriller/ horror/ SF – ach, don't worry about the label. I loved it.

(nope, it's Craig)

The Last Refuge – Craig Robertson

Robertson cleverly combines Tartan and Scandi noir in what could possibly be his best book yet. I thoroughly enjoyed this, which is just as well as I'm going to be interviewing the man himself at a couple of events.

The writing is descriptive when it needs to be and succinct when that it required. Strong characterisation and strong set-pieces tied in with a nice line in humour.

I'm wondering if Craig is being paid anything by the Faroes tourist board – I certainly wanted to visit after I read this. Indeed, if any aspiring writers out there are struggling with the concept of “sense of place”, then you should get yourself a copy of this book, like, now. Quality work from start to finish.

Blood Whispers by John Gordon Sinclair

I might have been seen rolling my eyes when I first heard that yet another celeb was writing a novel and I read JGS' first novel Seventy Times Seven with a sceptical eye. He very quickly won me over and I realised that I was reading the real thing from the first paragraph.

This, his second novel is even better. Fair to say, I raced through it and bloody loved it.

We have a gutsy, sharp as a tack heroine, Glasgow gangsters, CIA dirty tricks and an Eastern European drug lord. His heroine, Keira Lynch is one of my favourite new fictional characters – with one of the most unusual back-stories you will come across in the genre.

Right, Gordy, get cracking. When can we see your next book?

David Thomas – Ostland

Wow. Just wow. I'm in awe of writers who use research for a novel in such a way. You know while reading it that the research has taken the form of an iceberg. We see enough to convince, while realising that the author knew so much more about his subject.

Also, this is a book that has the holocaust as its theme and if you are going to tackle that particular subject you really should have something different to say and Thomas certainly has.

Our character is seen first as you young man in the 1930's Germany working as a police detective chasing a serial killer. Then we see him as a war criminal in the 60's being investigated for war crimes. A ploy that toys with your feelings. When you first see the man, you like him, you're drawn to his work ethic and intelligence and then ... Very clever and hugely effective.

This is a stunning book. Painful to read, but important. As the man says … lest we forget.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Introducing ... Bill Daly

MM - Hi Bill, welcome to May Contain Nuts. You have 7 words. Describe your new novel:

BD - Adultery, drug-dealing, murder in contemporary Glasgow.

MM - You have another 21. Tell us some more:  

BD - Psychopath on the loose, an assassination in Kelvingrove Park, a planned terrorist atrocity – all set against a background of religious bigotry.  

MM - Why write crime?

BD - The kind of books I most enjoy reading are humour and crime, so it seemed natural to try writing in these genres. 

MM - I don’t normally ask about a writer’s age - but I’ll make an exception with you – what age are you?

BD - I bet you wouldn't have asked that question had I been female! :-)   I've just turned 70.

MM - So, you are in your second flush of youth - what took you so long - and please tell us about your journey to publication? I’m sure a few of aspiring readers will be inspired by it.

BD - While I was working, I wrote humorous articles for various newspapers and magazines, but it wasn't until I retired that I found time to try my hand at writing novels. In fact,
Black Mail is the first novel I've had published by a conventional publisher, but I previously self-published a humorous spy novel, entitled The Pheasant Plucker.

I live in France and when The Pheasant Plucker went on sale in the local bookshops, the Professor of English at Montpellier University happened to pick it up and he was sufficiently impressed with the use of language in the book that he decided to make it a text book for his course in Applied Foreign Languages. The students have to study two books over the course of a year, so he decided to make it a 'Scottish year', the other text book being Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close.

At the end of the year, the students were asked to vote on which book they preferred (you may be able to infer the outcome, otherwise why would I be telling the story?). Now I would be the first to admit this wasn't a level playing field - it was more like a pitch with a forty-five degree slope: a light-hearted romp where the action takes place in the students’ home town, versus a gritty Edinburgh-based murder.
I suggested to my publisher that he might like to put a strap line of "Voted better than Ian Rankin" on Black Mail, but for some strange reason he declined. I think he was worried that Ian might sue.

MM - Just turned 70 and your debut (traditionally published) novel is just out. I'm sure a lot of aspiring authors out there will take great heart from hearing that. What’s next for Bill Daly?

BD -My publisher wants we to write a series of Glasgow-based crime novels featuring DCI Charlie Anderson.  The second in the series, Double Mortice, will be published early in 2015 and I'm currently working on the next one - so I'm being kept pretty busy.

MM - You live in France, why not set your book there instead of Glasgow?
BD - My first novel, The Pheasant Plucker, was set mainly in France, but Glasgow is the ideal setting for Tartan Noir. Noir Français somehow doesn't have the same ring to it.
MM - Oh, I don't know. Peter May said he couldn’t write about Scotland until he was living elsewhere. Is that how you feel?

BD - I've never felt like that. But the circumstances are different. It's more than thirty years since I left Scotland - and when I was living there, I wasn't doing any writing. But I get back to Glasgow three or four times a year, so in many ways I don't feel I have ever left.  

My thanks to Bill for his time. You can find buying information about Black Mail here for readers in the UK. And The Pheasant Plucker can be purchased HERE

Thursday 1 May 2014

April Reading - Fishman, Pizzolatto, Zander, Burnet, Johnstone, Welsh, Iles and Daly

A Replacement Life – Boris Fishman (out in September)

Slava Gelman wants to be a great writer, but can't get past his job as a researcher at a New York magazine. Then his beloved grandmother dies, and his grandfather corners him with a request: to write a few Holocaust retribution claims that aren't quite true. Slava is reluctant, but when he gets into it, his semi-fictional accounts of a generation's real suffering turn out to be the best writing he has ever done - and a surprisingly wonderful way for Slava to reconnect with his family and his own roots. . A beautifully evocative, warm, witty and emotionally powerful debut novel.

Galveston – Nic Pizzolatto

From the creator of True Detective … Roy Cady is by his own admission 'a bad man'. With recently diagnosed lung cancer and no one to live for, he's a walking time-bomb of violence. Following a fling with his boss's lover, he's sent on a routine assignment he knows is a death trap. Yet after the smoke clears, Roy's would-be killers are dead and he is (mostly) alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he finds a beaten-up woman in the apartment, and sees something in her frightened, defiant eyes that causes a crucial decision. He takes her with him on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas.

The writing has a clarity and lyrical quality that had me in awe. This is noir with a warm and beating heart. Loved it.

The Swimmer – Jaokim Zander – out in July '14

An ex- US soldier now living in Sweden is called to a late-night meeting with a former army colleague. Before his friend can explain why he called him out, he is shot by a sniper. And so sets off a cat and mouse chase through a snow and storm-bound Sweden.

The multiple viewpoints gave me some trouble at the start, but once I got my eye in the chase was on and I gobbled this book up like a starving man at a buffet. Apparently this book is everywhere in Sweden right now – come the summer, I expect it to be every bit as popular over here.

The Dead Beat – Doug Johnstone

We're in present day Edinburgh. Martha is on her first day's work experience on the obit desk, when the journalist who normally worked there phoned in his own obituary before killing himself while still on the phone.
There's a lovely slice of black humour right there to kick off this cracking read. I raced through this book about families, lies, secrets and revenge - quite possibly Johnstone's best book yet. More over at Crimesquad

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins – Irvine Welsh

First off, this book has got as much to do with Siamese twins as Trainspotting had to do with, well, Trainspotting. What it is, is a book about a personal trainer who goes just a wee bit overboard while training a client. Well, more than a wee bit, to be honest. She goes postal.

This is fun and funny and written in a way that only Mr Welsh can manage. Not for the faint-hearted, but then you knew that already.

Burning Natchez – Greg Iles

Its so great to see Mr Iles back with a book. This man tells a fantastic tale and if you haven't read him before, you should seriously sort that out.

We are in present day, Natchez which is south of the Mississippi and the sins of the past are about the crash down on a few of the locals. The book was inspired by a series of unsolved race murders during the 1960's and that harsh history is brought to life in this fascinating and utterly consuming novel. It's a bit of an epic at 788 pages – and I lost a Saturday and a Sunday to it. Quite honestly couldn't put it down. LOVED it. Full review over at Crimesquad

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau by Graeme McRae Burnet (pub date - 17 July '14)

The central conceit of this is that the “book” is a found manuscript, translated by the author, Burnet. It tells the tale of the disappearance of a young woman from a small town in France near the Swiss border and how one of the town's male inhabitants is affected by this event.

I am not an expert on modern French literature, but I have read a few crime novels translated from the French and Burnet has completely nailed the tone, colour and sly wit that I enjoyed so much from the natural French authors.

This is a novel that allows the story to unfold at its own pace, so not one for the plot hungry among you - but certainly one for those who enjoy a more measured and cultured read. 

The main character, Manfred Baumann is beautifully and convincingly drawn and you can't help but be drawn into his gradual disintegration. More over at next month.

Black Mail by Bill Daly

Last, but in no way least, we have a new boy on the crime scene giving us a satisfying slice of tartan noir. Along Glasgow's grim streets - according to Daly's vision – one can find an intriguing mix of sexual affairs, corrupt businessmen, revenge, incest, paedophilia, IRA sympathisers and the titular blackmail. Who knew? There's lots going on here and it's all very well orchestrated by Daly. A hugely enjoyable read and well worth your hard-earned.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Mightier than the sword - the power of books

At the end of the Cambridge launch of The Guillotine Choice a young man approached me at the signing table to say hello. As he stepped closer and bent forward so that our heads were at the same level, I realised that he had something to say that he felt really strongly about.

He introduced himself – shook my hand with great warmth – and said, I can't thank you enough. What you are doing is incredibly important.

I was taken aback – and humbled by the passion in his voice.

Since I started this book I knew what Bashir and I were embarking upon had an importance beyond us. A man, that a huge region of Algeria called father, was, with luck and a fair wind, going to have his incredible story highlighted to the world - and the family would have something to go to the French authorities with and ask for an apology and a pardon.

This young man in front of me was about to indicate that the book had significance even beyond that. He explained that he was Algerian and that the experiences of his countrymen and women had been ignored, not only across the world, but in the countries that really needed to talk about it – France and Algeria. He went on to say that official estimates are that around 1.5 million people died in the struggle for independence and that if one was to consider those who lost their lives throughout the time of the French colonisation of his country, it would not be outside the realms of possibility to suggest that the number of dead would be double this.

He went on to ask that if this was the number of dead – how many other people had been damaged by the conflict? Had his country ever recovered? How many people with untold stories were there in Algeria?
We don't talk about this, he said. We don't teach it in our schools. Our politicians don't even acknowledge it. 

How are we going to move on from the past if we don't face it?

He looked at the queue waiting to have their books signed lining up behind him aware that people were waiting to speak to me. He shook my hand again and said – so, thank you, I pray you and Bashir's book helps the conversation start and the healing to begin.

You can get the book here.

And here's where I hand over to you, dear reader. If you enjoyed the book and appreciate what we are trying to achieve with it, please be our advocates. Talk about it to your friends, urge them to read it for themselves - review it online in all the usual places. The more successful the book is the more realistic our aims become.

With thanks,
Michael & Bashir