McIlvanney Prize Blog Tour for Bloody Scotland 2021

I’m absolutely honored and thrilled to be able to kick off the Bloody Scotland Crime Festival, Mcilvanney Prize 2021 Blog Tour by asking one of the Nominees, Author of the brilliant The Coffinmakers Garden, which is a finalist, Stuart MacBride, some questions!

What was it like growing up in Aberdeen, and were you a good schoolboy? It was your fairly-standard-seventies-growing-up-in-suburbia experience, I suppose. Our housing development was at the western edge of the city, so we had fields behind our house, with pylons to be electrocuted on and a vast quarry that would kill you if you played there or swam in The Very Big Hole. So, of course, that’s what we did. As for school boyhood, I was OK, I think. I’m notorious for having very little memory of that time in my life. I remember winning a prize for painting a picture when I was wee, getting smacked with a ruler by the headmaster for something innocuous, and making a seal out of chicken wire and fake fur. You know: the usual…

If you had to pick one of your books as your favourite, which would it be and why? That’s a bit like asking a parent who their favourite child is. But, as long as no one’s going to tell the other books, my current favourite hasn’t been published yet. I wrote a couple of short novels during lockdown and they’re unashamedly fun with a nice mix of gruesome and silliness. I’ve no idea when they’ll see the light of day, but I really enjoyed writing them.

Have you ever been starstruck in the company of someone famous? Not really. The only person I think who would’ve provoked that kind of reaction from me would’ve been Spike Milligan. And I never met him.

How do you plan to write a new book? It all depends on the book. Some I plan from start to finish, some I plan the opening and closing and then see what happens as I go, and some I make up as I go along. The only consistent part is that there will probably be a mind map or three produced somewhere along the way. Oh, and I also keep notebooks stuffed full of rambling dialogues with myself, where I work through ideas about what’s going to happen next.

What are you afraid of? That I’m going to let people down.

Where do you find the inspiration for your characters? They come from all over, but in the Before Times a lot of them would be inspired by overheard snippets as I wandered slowly up and down the supermarket aisles. It used to drive my wife, Fiona, mad, but I’d visit every single aisle, even if I didn’t need anything from that section, listening in to other people’s conversations. The best ones were always when two people were going in the opposite direction, so I’d get different snippets on every aisle when I passed them, but always devoid of context. Filling in the blanks was always fun and could lead to some very dark places – which is useful when you write crime novels. But a gesture from a cashier, here, a word from a shelf-stacker, there, a strange way of walking from another shopper, and it all goes into the inspiration melting pot. Next thing you know: bingo, new character.

Your latest book, The Coffinmakers Garden is the 3rd in the Ash Henderson series, as a newcomer do these need to be read in order? I don’t think you need to read them in any sort of order – I’ve never been one for including backstory in my books, so you’ll only ever get hints about what happened in previous outings if it’s relevant to the story I’m telling at the time. If you do read the other books first, you might have a better understanding of why people are the way they are, but sometimes going backwards to previous books to uncover these things is part of the fun.

Which do you prefer cats or dogs? I’m a massive cat person. I gave DS Logan McRae (from my other series) a cat as an excuse to write about my beloved little girl, Grendel. Ash Henderson is the complete opposite to Logan, so I had to give him a dog. That said, I gave him an Aberdeen Terrier, AKA: Scottie Dog, and if I was to have a dog, it would definitely be one of those.

If there was a film of your life, which actor (dead or alive) would you like to play you? I don’t think I’ve led an interesting enough life to warrant a film. Bearded Man Sits At Home For Sixteen Years, Making Up Lies About People Who Don’t Exist isn’t exactly going to be a summer blockbuster, is it? There are far more interesting people to make films about.

You must pick 3 things to go into a time capsule to be opened in 50 years, what would you pick and why. Does the current cabinet count as ‘one thing’? Because if it does, and the time capsule is airtight, I’d definitely have them in there. But, assuming I’m not allowed to use it to purge our government ineptocracy, but if we’re looking to sum up what life’s like at the time the capsule is buried then I’d go for a big box of soiled facemasks, a laptop that only runs Zoom, and a DVD with the most ridiculous conspiracy theories available to the gullible members of society. I think you can guess why…

Do you find writing easy, and have you ever had any lessons? I don’t think writing should be all that easy. If it is, that means you’re not stretching yourself and trying to be a better writer. The easiest thing in the world would be to just sit there churning out the same book, time after time, with slightly different character names – and I’m sure we all know writers who do that – but I would look on that as a sign I’d failed and given up.

I’ve never taken lessons, or belonged to a writing group. Now that’s not to say I have anything against them, or that they don’t work for some people, I just never felt that they would work for me. No two writers are the same, so it’s OK for us all to have different approaches. Do whatever works for you.

If you had to pick one meal as you last, what would it be? Lavish. A huge array of delicious fresh sushi that just kept on coming and coming and coming.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer, and what’s the best advice you’ve been given? The best advice I can give is: do it for the fun of it. Write because you love it. Write because playing God is really quite addictive. Don’t do it because you think it’s going to make you rich and famous. It’s possible, but it requires a phenomenal amount of luck and it’s a sad truth that very few writers are able to make a living from their writing, so you really have to love what you’re doing for the sake of it. The best advice I’ve been given is: finish the damn book. That’s what makes you a writer.

You can pick 4 famous people, dead or alive, for a dinner party, who would you pick and why? Spike Milligan, Marion Chesney, Sandi Toksvig, and my wife, Fiona. Spike, because I love the wit, warmth, and pathos of his war diaries, and I grew up on the Goon Show. Marion, who’s better known as M.C. Beaton, because she was one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to have lunch or dinner with, and an absolute firebrand who took no crap from anyone. Sandi, because I’ve been listening to her for years on the radio, and she seems really nice. And my wife, because there’s no one I’d rather have dinner with. If she gets to be there anyway, then I’d go for John Finnemore to fill the fourth seat, for much the same reason as Sandi.

Which book of yours would you like made into a film? The book I’d love to see as a big blockbuster film is Halfhead, my near-future thriller set in a semi-dystopian Glasgow. It’s not that I’ve got anything against any of my other books, but if you were filming Halfhead you’d need a shedload of special effects and fancy props and it would be so incredibly cool to see all the stuff that came from my imagination turned into reality.

Who is your favourite band/artist? Right now it’s a fifty-fifty split between Frightened Rabbit and the Foo Fighters. Though I listened to nothing but Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen while I was writing The Coffinmaker’s Garden. Make of that what you will.

What piece of culture or trend that has died out, would you like to see come back? People not being arseholes online to people they’ve never met, nor ever will meet.

You’ve been given an elephant, you can’t get rid of it, what would you do with it? Look after it as best I could. Why can’t I get rid of it? Is there some sort of worldwide elephant glut going on? Has someone flooded the market with cheap elephants and now everyone’s got one and no one wants to take my perfectly good second-hand elephant? What kind of weird world are we living in where there’s no takers for a free elephant?

What would be the perfect crime? Pretty much anything committed by a senior politician – there don’t seem to be any repercussions or consequences for them any more, so they get away with whatever they fancy then tell everyone that nobody’s interested and it’s time to move on.

If you could go back to one historical event to witness it, what would it be and why? Dinosaurs. DINOSAURS! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRR!

I’d like to say a huge Thank You to Stuart MacBride for taking the time to answer my questions, and wish him the best of luck with The Coffinmakers Garden in the McIlvanney Prize 2021. Also thank you to Fiona Brownlee for giving me the chance of a lifetime on my humble blog!

Stuart MacBride is the Author of the Ash Henderson Series, Birthdays For The Dead, A Song For The Dying & The Coffin Makers Garden

Stuart MacBride is also author of The Logan McRae Series, plus several short story’s and standalones including Halfhead A Dark So Deadly and Now We Are Dead (A Roberta Steel Novel)

You can find Stuart MacBride on Facebook

You can sign up to Stuart’s newsletter here

Stuart’s Website is currently under construction www.stuartmacbride.com

My Review of #ShesMine by @AAChaudhuri @HeraBooks @CROSSLANDAM – a superb psychological Thriller with immense twists!

Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves – but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

With a truly jaw-dropping end twist, She’s Mine is a dark, scandalous, and gripping read from a major new talent in psychological thriller writing. For fans of Harriet Tyce, C.L. Taylor and Apple Tree Yard.

I would like to say thank you so much to Alex Chaudhuri and Ania (@bookaholicme) for my gifted copies of She’s mine.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is my first read of one of AA Chaudhuri’s book, but from the first chapter I knew I was in for a fantastic read, and that it had me gripped.

Child Abduction, Depression, Drug Abuse, relationships are all intertwined in this absolutely brilliant psychological thriller.

Alex has written a deeply tense and twisty thriller, and I could not put the book down….nor stop gasping out loud! The emotional writing of this story from several peoples point of view is stunning, so well researched and written that you would think Alex has gone thru this herself!

All the characters are extremely well rounded and really made you feel their emotions like it was coming off the page in waves! Although there are many protagonists, the storyline is clear and easy to follow but be ready for MANY twists and gasp inducing moments!

I am not going to give any spoilers here as I really think its a book that needs to be read to fully appreciate how talented AA Chaudhuri is, if this is her first thriller then holy moley, she needs to get writing more!

This is going to be one of my favorite books this year and will be fighting for position in my top 5 ( I may have to make it a top 10!)

If you like a book that keeps you thrilled and one that you cannot put down, then She’s Mine is one you MUST buy!

5 Star read

A.A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer. Born and raised on the south coast, she now lives in Surrey with her family.

Once a highly ranked British junior tennis player, she toured the women’s professional satellite circuit as a teenager, and achieved a world ranking of 650. After returning to full-time education, she gained three As in A-Level History, English Literature and Theology, a BA Honours 2:1 in History at University College London, and a commendation in both the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at the London College of Law.

She trained as a solicitor at City firm Norton Rose, before going on to practise as a commercial litigator at two other City firms, Kendall Freeman and Travers Smith. She left law in 2008 to pursue her passion for writing. She also passed the NCTJ fast-track newspaper journalism course in 2010, in respect of which she was awarded The Oxford University Press Public Affairs Award for the most outstanding public affairs central government paper.

The Scribe and The Abduction were published by Lume Books (formerly Endeavour Media) in July and December 2019. Both books have hit the bestsellers lists in the UK, Australia and Canada, with bestseller tags in Australia and Canada. They will also be published as audio books by Isis Audio in January and March 2021, read by David Thorpe. She currently has four other standalone crime novels in the pipeline.

She has previously self-published two women’s fiction novels under the name Alexandra Sage: Love & Limoncello and the sequel Love & LossLove & Limoncello has sold more than ten thousand copies to date, reaching number 53 in the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers List in October 2014.

She also contributed a short story, The Encounter, to LUME Books’ crime anthology Given in Evidence published in May 2020, and written many articles and short stories for The Crime Writers’ Association.

In February 2021, Alex signed a two-book contract for two standalone psychological thrillers with HERA BOOKS.  The first, SHE’S MINE to be published in summer 2021.

You can follow AA Chaudhuri on Twitter – @AAChaudhuri,

Instagram -@a.a.chaudhuri

Oh website here – https://aachaudhuri.com/

No Honour by Awais Khan

The Blurb…….

In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.

When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.

Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.

Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.

I had seen a lot of reviews for No Honour by Awais Khan, and although its not my normal Genre, I know that Orenda Books never publish a doozey, so i ventured in.

From the first page i was utterly gripped and appalled, this is not a book for the faint hearted, its a hard hitting, emotional story of female honour killing in modern day Pakistan.

I found it compelling and harrowing at the same time, I’m not sure that I’ve read a book that manages to write such beautiful prose about such awful events and activities before, but the further i got into it, the more I knew this is a masterpiece of our time!

It feels weird saying what a superb book No Honour is when its such a sad hard-hitting subject matter, but if we don’t write about these things then nothing will change, and if there’s one thing I’d like to see happen from Awais book, its that it helps change the ancient ways to a more equal society for women.

I was really taken by the lead character’s of Abida and Jamil, their inner strength and love for each other is so well written, you could almost feel their pain and love coming off the pages in waves. And the thing that I liked the most was the ending!

I did have to take breaks from reading No Honour as I found it, in parts, very harrowing, but its not written to shock, it is integral to the storyline.

I’m so glad I read No Honour, it is definitely a 5 star read, and opened my eyes to how other cultures live, which lead me to Google to find out more!

Awais Khan

Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He has studied creative writing with Faber Academy. His debut novel, In the Company of Strangers, was published to much critical acclaim and he regularly appears on TV and Radio. Awais also teaches a popular online creative writing course to aspiring writers around the world. He is currently working on his third book. When not working, he has his nose buried in a book. He lives in Lahore.

Books by this author

You can buy No Honour from Orenda books here – https://orendabooks.co.uk/product/no-honour

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Blurb! –

At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man–the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon begins to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

This was my first read by Catherine Ryan Howard and I really had no idea what to expect, I had bought The Nothing Man with her latest book, 56 Days. So i started reading…well from the first few pages i was totally obsessed!

The very unique and unusual storyline set my book-reading soul alight! I was up until 3am the first night reading it, and it creeped me out so much i had to go and check the back door was locked (not that that made me feel any safer!). The characters are so well written, the plot of amazing and the descriptions of crimes were so real, that i was physically anxious and felt them, if you know what I mean.

I wont give away any of the storyline, but i must say that the two leading characters are very different, are very real, and gave me a visceral reaction to both! Emotions all over the place in this book. And the underlying threat and creepiness made my anxiety spike, and lead me to pop an extra pill, BUT that is surely the mark of an exceptional book!

The pace is high-octane all the way through and to be honest i never really had any expectations as to the ending, but it was very well done!

An edge of your seat, thriller, so intelligently and brilliantly written, its gone straight into my own Top 10 of the year, and quite frankly, if you’re a Crime Fiction fan it should be on your read list, up there with likes of Silence Of The lambs, a truly superb book. It needs to win ALL the prizes in my humble opinion!

If i could rate this 10 out of 5 I would! Bloody brilliant! I am now a fan of Ms Howard and look forward to reading 53 Days.

You can find Catherine’s website here – https://catherineryanhoward.com/

#CoverReveal #TheCaseOfTheMissingFirefly #StonbridgeMysteries4 @cmacwritescrime @RedDogTweets via @judefire33

The Case Of The Missing Firefly (The Stonebridge Mysteries 4) by Chris MacDonald

The notoriously hard-drinking, backstabbing Stonebridge Radio crew are having their Hallowe’en party on Winkle Island, rumoured to be the most haunted place in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, Adam and Colin are there too, having accepted an easy payday from Colin’s event organising mother.

At dinner, a shocking announcement is followed by an even more shocking murder, and the theft of a priceless Firefly necklace. To top it all, thanks to a raging storm, everyone is trapped on the island.

Faced with devious radio presenters, a strange tour guide, and a rampaging murderer, Adam and Colin are back in business. The Case of the Missing Firefly is the fourth in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

Pre-Order in paperback, hardback or eBook, NOW from Red Dog Press https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/the-case-of-the-missing-firefly

Chris is also the author of the fantastic DI Erika Piper Series

You can buy them here from Red Dog Press here – https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/a-wash-of-black-hardback

ChrisMacDonald_edited.png

Chris McDonald grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London.

He is the author the DI Erika Piper series A Wash of Black, Whispers In The Dark and Roses for the Dead. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, in the shape of The Stonebridge Mysteries, as a remedy for the darkness. 

He is a full time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Find him on twitter @cmacwritescrime

1979 by Val McDermid (Allie Burns 1)

The shadows hide a deadly story . . .

1979. It is the winter of discontent, and reporter Allie Burns is chasing her first big scoop. There are few women in the newsroom and she needs something explosive for the boys’ club to take her seriously.

Soon Allie and fellow journalist Danny Sullivan are exposing the criminal underbelly of respectable Scotland. They risk making powerful enemies – and Allie won’t stop there.

When she discovers a home-grown terrorist threat, Allie comes up with a plan to infiltrate the group and make her name. But she’s a woman in a man’s world . . . and putting a foot wrong could be fatal.

Now I’m a massive fan of Val McDermid (should be DAME Val McDermid in my option!) , so I was hugely looking forward to reading 1979…. And boy, I was not to be disappointed!

The first in a brand new series, Allie Burns budding Journalist at the Clarion newspaper in Glasgow, sets a great pace from the first chapter!

A train journey on a cold snowy January day brings the first in a series of exciting events, that start a thrilling journey through births, deaths, gangsters, terrorists and drunken journalists, that gripped me from page one!

Setting a book in 1979, seems not so far in our past, but the attention to detail in explaining why it’s now a world away from today’s technological advances, was written so well, I actually felt I was there and it bought up some great memories for me. I always love that a writer can take us places in our own memory, whilst, at the same time, we travel with the fictional heroine! From Showaddywaddy to terrorist threats to strikes, the historical part of this novel has it all….it felt extremely genuine, and the reader can see how much effort was taken in researching this.

The storyline is brilliant, as always from Val McDermid, I was fully engaged and loved the fact that it was set in the world of journalism, especially because in 1979 (when I was 12, I wanted to be a journalist or a Police Officer…both of which never happened sadly) and it’s so authentic, or it felt that way to me!

In summing up, a fantastic start to a great new series, with some genuine OH NO moments! Immersive, thrilling, gripping, authentic with a hearty dash of Watney’s Party 7!

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Val McDermid Official Website – https://www.valmcdermid.com/

Evaders by E.C Scullion (Tom Holt 2)

A crime has been uncovered. Clare Buchanan has been missing for almost twelve years.

Former security manager Tom Holt knows that the man responsible for her disappearance goes by the name of Capricorn.

On the run in South America, Holt’s life is in danger.

In London, journalist Nash Akinyemi discovers the story that could make her career; a chance to finally step out of her mother’s shadow.

Talented thief Becca Wylde has worked for Capricorn her whole life; now it’s time to break free.

Together, Holt, Nash and Becca must risk everything to expose Capricorn’s secrets to the world. Yet Capricorn has his own weapon. Anton Merrick has a dark past, and he will stop at nothing to keep them all silent…

From the streets of London, to the shores of Chile, to the tropical islands of Panama, the race is on to expose the truth, before the truth gets buried. The second novel from the author of the bestselling Intruders.

Phew I am totally breathless after finishing Evaders the second in the Tom Holt series by the super talented Emma Scullion.

Following on from Intruders we are on another exciting thrill ride thru South America on the hunt for justice with Tom Holt and some trusty sidekicks.

This second book almost reads like a family saga, with all the characters and connections, I loved this as Intruders had left me with many questions and in Evaders we get the answers to those. The underlying romance between Tom and Becca is so compelling, and both these characters are now fully rounded and extremely likable….I really want them to get together 🤣🤣!

As usual the descriptions of the places Evaders takes us on out thrilling journey are impeccable, and again left me googling to see where they were and some real photos. In fact my only suggestion would be to include a map in the beginning of each book ( because who doesn’t love maps in books!), the tension and storyline just grows and grows as the book continues, and several times I was on the edge of my seat holding my breath in anticipation!

In short, Evaders is a fantastic follow up to Intruders, I am really looking forward to Book 3 ….hurry up and write it please Emma!

5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Read.

You can buy Intruders and Evaders from https://www.reddoorpress.co.uk/products/evaders

Intruders by E.C Scullion

Disgraced security consultant Tom Holt accepts a job from a mysterious lawyer, on behalf of a client named Capricorn.

Holt’s team comprises Anil, a safe-cracking ex-con; Ray, a disgruntled logistics man, and Becca, a fiery red-headed thief with as much attitude as she has talent for picking pockets.

On arrival in the alluring Argentine city of Buenos Aires, Holt’s past swiftly catches up with him. As he begins to question the client’s motives, he finds there are darker, more sinister characters who show loyalty to his employer.

Who is Capricorn?

What’s inside the safe?

Tom Holt is about to discover how far he will go to expose the truth, even if it means risking everything, including his own life…

This is my first book by Emma ( E.C) Scullion, I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of the second book in the series, Evaders by the excellent Red Door Books, but i wanted to read in order, so i was happy to purchase Intruders.

As you can see from the premise above, this is an International Thriller revolving around the character of Tom Holt, an ex Security Consultant with an addiction to Gambling…especially other peoples money! We follow Tom across the world in an effort to retrieve something from a safe in Argentina, with a group of mismatched ( at first ) cohorts.

Just when you think things will work out, you are hit by curveballs of plot twists and things start to get very sticky indeed to Messer’s Holt et al!

I loved the storyline, I thought it was intelligently written and the characters were so well described that I could almost visualize them in person, some of the scenes are so visceral and real you can feel yourself starting to sweat with anxiety and fear ( my types of book! ) The descriptions of the settings were also extremely detailed and it really gave me a taste of places I’ve never visited ( I even went to Google to look up photos ), when you understand that the Author has lived in some of these places you can see how well she has written the book, brilliantly.

The ending was in no way a dud, it was left with some tantalizing plot twists that made me start reading the follow up book Evaders straight away.

I would urge that anyone who likes thrillers with an International feel to read Intruders, a really gripping and fun read, it ran like a movie whilst i was reading it!

5 Star read for originality and adventure.

You can contact E.C Scullion on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EC-Scullion-Author-111812643696797