Tag: crime reading

Writing From Your Gut – Guest Post For Lori’s Reading Corner

Writing From Your Gut – originally published at Lori’s Reading Corner on 27th July 2017

You need to have guts to be a writer, even right from the start. When you first sit down to write a story, it can be quite daunting. There are millions of books out there, telling you exactly how you should do it, ranging from how you should lay things out, to what pens you should be using, to what word processor is the best. You end up with a bucket-full of decisions to make before you even get to the actual important bit – the story.

But then comes more decisions, more and more books about what story decisions to make, what structures your story should adhere to, what direction your character needs to go. You can be so bogged down in the whole fear of the thing that you can forget the sheer joy of what you are doing. You are creating. You are making something. You are letting your mind build something that only you can decide how it will end.

But how can you make the right decisions and just enjoy the moment? Well, chances are, you’ve already got a fair idea.

Every single day we inhale fiction of some kind, whether it be in the books we love so dearly, the TV shows we binge on Netflix, or even that daft little story behind Candy Crush Saga. And the end result of this is, whether we like it or not, that we get a sort of schooling in drama, in terms of what works and what doesn’t. We develop an ear for it, just through immersing ourselves in it.

So, when you sit down to write your story, just go for it. Don’t be bound by formula or fear of doing something different. Write what feels right to you, and more often than not, if it feels right it usually is right.

I used to get so hung up on whether my characters and situations were too hokey, too contrived, too silly. I used to worry about making decisions for my characters, and whether their dialogue was corny. But then I learned to trust my gut and see what came out at the other end.

When I sit to write, I have the barest skeleton of where I’m going, but absolutely no roadmap. I set up a scenario, and usually have an idea for a scene I want to get to – but no initial thought of how to bridge the two. Then I start writing, let the words flow and the characters develop, and before long the story is making decisions for me, the characters are deciding what they should be doing organically, and you’re away. So much of the time, if you write from your heart and gut, I’m convinced that:

1. you will have a great time.
2. you will write something that in some sense works.

The important thing is to do it. Just let the shackles go, trust your instincts, write your story and go for it.

Forget fear.

Once you’ve got those words on the page, those chapters all done, nobody can take that from you. You did it! Chances are, it won’t be perfect – but you’ve still got your story. You can change things any time you like, but what you can’t change is a story that doesn’t exist. You can’t polish something that just plain isn’t there. But you do have something you can work with.

It’s OK to have a detailed plan, but’s also OK to not have one, and it’s OK to wing it. But whatever way you approach it, just go for it. Write, have fun, enjoy the sheer happiness of creating something and be proud of what you’ve achieved when you’ve written it. And when you look back at what you did, I bet you sit there and say ‘you know, some of this ain’t half bad’. And that’s a start. You can work with that.

Trust yourself. Deep down, even though you might not feel it, you’ve got a fair idea of what you’re doing. Those guts you showed to write in the first place? Listen to them.

The Dry and its amazing claustrophobic openness…


I grabbed The Dry by Jane Harper on a whim, having seen that beautiful jacket and read half a line of the synopsis. I think I’d clicked BUY NOW before I’d even realised I’d done so. I’m a huge sucker for atmospherics, mysteries, fascinating locations and dark backstories. So me and The Dry hit it off immediately.

What I didn’t know however, was that the book has been lauded internationally for some time – I actually only found out that it was very popular indeed when I was in my local Waterstones and there were stacks of them all over the place. And immediately on opening the book, I could see what the fuss was about.

It was enthralling from the very first line, demanding to be read further. It is an expert example of the sort of thriller I love. The town of Kiewarra is as much a character as any human in the book, and I’ve never read something that is so wide open, so barren, so vast and subject to the elements, yet feels so darn claustrophobic. It’s somehow a choking void, a massive suffocating vacuum. It is a marvellous feat, and this atmosphere infuses the tragic, serpentine tale of what really happened to the Hadler family with such wrought tension and urgency that it was genuinely hard not to read it in a single, equally urgent, sitting.

Hugely recommended, and delighted to hear there’s a follow-up incoming!

A Wanted Man – FREE TODAY!

‘A Wanted Man’, is FREE today!

A Wanted Man
‘A fantastic read with brilliant characters… A perfect ending… did not see that coming. 5 stars’

‘one of the best books out the hundred I’ve read this year so far’

‘A great read from start to finish – highly recommended’

To grab your copy, head on over to Amazon – thanks always for your support!

Old Faithful

Nice recent family sunshine holiday enhanced by enjoying a favourite author’s standalone work. 

The thing with CJ Box is that he’s so reliable that I don’t even see it as expenditure when I order his books – I know it’s going to be what I’m after. It’s a happiness investment. 

This was a cracker, with a plot/characters that could be from next year’s biggest movie blockbuster. 

Only almost 30 years late…

One of the problems of days only having 24 hours in them is that it doesn’t possibly give you enough time to get everything done. I’m not talking about the mundane day to day stuff, but more like, well… I thought I’d have mastered at least fifteen languages by now, and be a 7th dan black belt in something obscure and dangerous. And it means that oftentimes things slip the net.

Getting stuck into the works of Ian Rankin is one of them, I’m ashamed to say. A name that is essentially a byword for peak British crime writing, and I haven’t managed to get there yet… but thankfully I’ve managed to put it right.

I’m so glad I did. Rankin’s words have been dissected by hundreds of much worthier voices (and much more on-the-ball voices) but I can easily see Rankin’s work nestling in alongside my all time favourites and biggest influences. There is a bravery, a poeticism, an economical forthright darkness that had me enthralled. One of my favourite descriptions of Adrian McKinty’s work is ‘this is hard boiled crime fiction with a poet’s touch‘ (Peter Blauner), and that felt resonant here too – and it was reading Rankin’s praise of McKinty that reminded me I had to get onto Knots and Crosses, the first of Rankin’s iconic Rebus series.

In doing so I have found another mesmerising literary voice whose work I can’t wait to press right through. I have ordered the next ten Rebus books as a start. It’s not often I’ll be so impetuous but on this occasion I’ve no doubt it’s the right move.

Wait, is that the doorbell? Please be the postman with a sizeable book-shaped parcel…


Rogue Lawyer…

Grabbed this one, John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer, while I was at Copenhagen airport, and dug straight into it on the flight home.

Grisham’s writing is, as always, dependable and engaging, and the story of a lawyer who will represent literally anyone, and the scrapes that might cause, is one that I enjoyed. It read much more like a compendium than a stand alone novel – I’m not sure that’s a gripe, more of an observation. There were strands weaving through four fairly distinct stories, so it was like reading four shorts.

The courtroom settings and procedural thrills are Grisham at his purest, while a few critics have noted that this is Grisham on autopilot. However, if you enjoy your Grisham novels (and I have been known to myself) then you’ll find this a breezy, engaging yarn.

A pint of the black stuff…

The Sean Duffy series became a favourite long before this sixth instalment, but this could be the best yet. Now a firm calendar highlight, the release of a new Duffy book guarantees a darkly funny, gripping ride with a cast of characters that I now find indispensable.

For me personally, Adrian McKinty is a close to literary royalty as it gets, and he consistently delivers the kind of prose, plots, twists and dialogue that have me in awe every single time. Whenever I am asked for my list of authors who inspire me, his is the first name out every time.

I took Police At The Station And They Don’t Look Friendly with me on a little trip away to Copenhagen with my wife – our first just the two of us since our first daughter was born seven years ago. I don’t think my wife got more than two words out of me on the flight over, and I think they were ‘coffee, please’ (she’s a good ‘un, she really is). Entranced is the word.

I finished it sometime in the wee hours of our second night there – and was immediately gutted it was over. Duffy now in his late 30s, wrestling with fatherhood and his career, not to mention all the parties whose feathers he has ruffled in the previous five books, is a stone cold hero of modern crime literature – an ace, layered, caustic, witty protagonist that you’d just love a pint of the black stuff with. I can’t wait to see Duffy shell-suited to the max in the nineties, tackling banking corruption and financial collapse in the noughties and doing, well, who in the merry hell knows what with Brexit and Trump when he eventually gets to this decade.

If you haven’t found McKinty and the Duffy books yet, please get your act together sharpish. You will not be disappointed.

From Bloody Scotland to Deep Down Dead…

When Deep Down Dead was first published as an ebook in October, I managed to convince myself to wait for the paperback in early January. I was very excited to read it, and had been for years – so I thought a couple more months couldn’t hurt.

Then the reviews started coming in – five stars upon five stars, with some of the biggest names in crime writing on both sides of the Atlantic weighing in with heavy praise and before I knew it, I was bursting to read it even more. The paperback couldn’t arrive quickly enough.

The reason I was so excited is because I was actually present when the book was pitched as part of the Pitch Perfect contest at Bloody Scotland 2014 (a hell an event, by the way). I sat there (having just signed with my own literary agent, tentatively dipping my little toe into the literary waters) and listened in awe as Steph Broadribb span a fascinating yarn about a female bounty hunter in Florida, drawing from her own experiences training as a bounty hunter in California – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was a book I wanted to read immediately.

Prior to that event, and for a good year after, I never once made the link that Steph was in fact Crime Thriller Girl, the popular crime blogger whose reviews, articles and recommendations I had always followed and enjoyed. It was only when word started to get out about ‘the book with the female bounty hunter in Florida’ that the penny began to drop. I was thrilled and delighted to hear that I was actually going to get to read that exciting story, that Steph was going to be published, and that that same story that got me hooked in that pitching contest was going to be her debut.

Regarding the book itself, there are far more eminent crime writers out there whose words carry far more weight than my own – but I just love what Steph has done, how she has delivered it, and what a great series (I hope!) she has set up. I’m fully invested in Lori Anderson, JT and Dakota, and am so excited to see what happens next. If you like your thrillers fast, urgent and gripping, with a great, fresh, relatable protagonist, in a setting that drips with intrigue and genuine authenticity, then Deep Down Dead will be right up your street.

As I’m learning, in crime publishing you tend to find just the nicest people – and Steph is no exception. She has been so kind, generous and encouraging towards myself, in ways that I never expected or assumed.  Make no mistake, Crime Thriller Girl is one of the good guys… and to see this book go from beginning to such a spectacularly successful end is so very pleasing.

Difficult one, this. I excitedly got hold of a book that the world has been raving about, and I’m ashamed to admit I really didn’t like it. Books and stories are so subjective that it’s impossible to please everyone, and I’m sure the wider reading world is completely justified in praising the work. Technically it was marvellous – it was just that I couldn’t stand the protagonist. I’ve been mulling over as to why since I finished it, and I think I’ve hit on it. 

The main character of this book was just utterly subservient to men, their wants and desires. She was weak-willed, passive and fickle. It was maddening. I kept wanting to leap into the pages to shake some backbone into her, but it wasn’t just the main character who was portrayed in such weak terms – the other women in the story were all floundering, flawed and damaged with the same stereotypical traits. 

I have two little girls and I’m trying to bring them up, empower them, to be strong, spirited, independent women who can go and do anything they want in life – the polar opposite of the women in this book, and in that sense, I couldn’t relate to or respect them at all. It frustrated me so much that it was quite a sad reading experience in the end, and I feel bad for not liking this book because the effort and achievement of the author is really something. But I can’t help feeling this way about it! 

This is no essay on gender equality, or a comment on modern gender roles etc, because I’m not in any qualified position to comment. I’m just a father of girls who believes in equality, believes in strong female characters in creative projects and believes that there has to be something more to life for a woman than trying to satisfy the impossible demands of the man you happen to be saddled with.

After I finished, I grabbed the first of Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series ‘A Drink Before The War’ and from the first page it was like a long cool glass of lemonade – refreshing in every way. Lehane is now another of my go-to’s if I need to redress the balance.