Thriller of the Month – The Darkest Lies, by Barbara Copperthwaite

Like the famous Echo & The Bunnymen song, “The Darkest Lies” revolves around a killing moon. On brightly moonlit nights, two young girls are brutally attacked. Fobbed off by police and betrayed by friends, Melanie, mother of one of the victims, turns detective to find out who’s responsible for the awful crime.

At thirty-three, Melanie is a housewife and journalist manqué who has lived in the same Fenland village all her life. She thinks she knows everybody’s secrets, including her daughter’s. After all, Beth is an only child, and both Melanie and her loving husband have a close relationship with her. Nevertheless, as Melanie unpeels the surface of her neighbours’ lives, unpleasant truths are revealed. Melanie finds herself in danger, too, but willingly embraces it in her quest to avenge her daughter.

The strain on Melanie’s mental health and her marriage are too apparent. It’s impossible not to sympathise with her despite the poor choices she makes in her desperation to cope. This maintains suspense, as do the tantalising glimpses of the killer’s thoughts that punctuate the narrative.

“The Darkest Lies” is Barbara Copperthwaite’s third thriller. As ever, the pages keep turning right up until the nail-biting conclusion – on a moonlit night, of course…

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Like Barbara, I’m a British crime thriller writer. With other authors, I’ll be taking part in a big online thriller giveaway in June – sign up for my newsletter to find out more, and receive a free e-book of short stories.

Why dyslexia doesn’t stop you reading…

My grandfather was a telecoms troubleshooter. As a young Englishman in the early 20th century, he travelled the world, supervising the laying of cables across the sea, then keeping the signal crystal-clear after that. If equipment was broken, he’d fix it himself. His work took him to New York, Odessa and Persia, in ships and steam trains and a Model T Ford.

Despite his can-do attitude and undeniable skills, he never picked up a book. My grandfather was dyslexic; reading and writing was a struggle for him. He wasn’t alone, of course. Although I dodged that bullet myself (to compensate, fate decreed I’d be rubbish at DIY), dyslexia features in every generation of my family. In fact, 10% of Britons are dyslexic.

It isn’t that hard to produce a dyslexia-friendly book, but it costs more than a traditional paperback. That’s because, with larger letters and more space between the lines, the page count zooms up dramatically. Perhaps that’s why nobody has published fiction for adults with dyslexia – until now. Perfect City Press has produced new editions of my crime thriller, The Bride’s Trail, and its sequel, The Vodka Trail. Spot the difference! 

The Vodka Trail - Page 1 in traditional and dyslexia-friendly formats

The Vodka Trail – Page 1 in traditional and dyslexia-friendly formats

They’re also an option for older readers and anyone with visual stress – we’ve used a large sized sans serif font, lots of space, and cream paper, and they’re still affordable at £16.99. That compares with £7.99 for the traditional paperbacks and £1.99 for the e-books.

E-books are a great alternative, of course. You can adjust the style and size of the font, and sometimes the colour of the background. But for me, nothing beats a good old-fashioned paperback – and I suspect dear old Grandad would finally agree!

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I’m a British crime thriller writer. I’ve written a variety of short stories, and four full-length thrillers sizzling with suspense, sex, love and death. My latest, The Bride’s Trail and The Vodka Trail, are available in e-book, traditional paperback and dyslexia-friendly paperback editions through a variety of bookstores and online retailers.

Thriller of the Month – The Woodcutter, by Reginald Hill

“I lived in a fairytale,” Wolf Hadda tells his psychiatrist from his prison cell. As far as he’s concerned, he achieved the impossible and won his fair lady.

Trouble is, they’re no longer together. In fact, Wolf, a former financial whizzkid, is now a convicted paedophile and fraudster. He’s penniless and his youthful good looks are gone, ravaged by an accident during an unsuccessful escape bid. Needless to say, he’s been abandoned by family and friends.

Elf, his psychiatrist, finally achieves the breakthrough that at first seems impossible. Wolf admits the crimes he’s been denying for seven years. He’s released on parole. Elf congratulates herself on a job well done. She visits his remote country cottage and even begins to acknowledge that she feels attracted to this reformed character. Then, as bad things begin to happen to those who have crossed Wolf Hadda, she starts to question her own judgement.

This isn’t so much a fairytale gone wrong as an allegory, especially as it features the shadowy JC, a spymaster with the power to put wrongs right. In a tale with many twists, it’s not always easy to tell who the good guys are, but at least we know by the end.

Reginald Hill sold millions of his Dalziel and Pascoe detective mysteries. The Woodcutter is another type of book altogether. With dodgy Russians, bent coppers, cokeheads and toffs, there are enough crazy characters and action scenes in The Woodcutter to please any thriller fan, but a heart-warming seasoning of humour and romance too.

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Like Reginald Hill, I’m a British crime thriller writer (my most recent book is The Vodka Trail), but I have other strings to my bow too. Get a free e-book of short stories – including crime, horror and romance! – by signing up here for my short and sweet newsletter.

Thriller of the Month – Dublin Dead, by Gerard O’Donovan

Newspaper stories of Irish crime lords describe mysterious murders and colourful characters like The Monk and The Viper. That’s plenty to inspire Gerard O’Donovan, who writes tense crime thrillers set in Dublin.

Dublin Dead’ is his second novel. In his first, ‘The Priest’, DI Mike Mulcahy and reporter Siobhan Fallon were an item. That’s no longer the case. Taken to the brink of death by a psychopath in ‘The Priest’, Siobhan bears physical and mental scars. She’s been suffering from PTSD. They’ve split up. For Mike, no other woman measures up to Siobhan, and his unrequired love for her is the thread that ties ‘Dublin Dead’ together.

Although they’re both investigating different leads – he a drugs deal that’s gone wrong, she a mother’s concern for her missing accountant daughter – their paths cross at several points in the story, including the dramatic finale. Gerard O’Donovan writes well, ratchets up the tension as the book progresses, and finishes with an unexpected but very believable twist. In my opinion, ‘Dublin Dead’ is the better book of the two, offering a smoother narrative and more hints at gore rather than graphic detail. It’s easy to follow without reading ‘The Priest’ first and those pages just keep turning. Highly recommended.

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I’m a crime thriller writer focusing on stories set in British cities. As a taster, read 5 minute crime thriller ‘The Gap’ here.

Characters I Hate, and Why

Some fictional characters are a joy to write about. I paid tribute to them in my blog last week. There are others, by contrast, that I hate. Every word added to the page is a triumph of willpower. Because I immerse myself in each character’s mind and thoughts, that’s a big challenge when his or her values are very different from mine.

Nowhere was that more evident than the chapters devoted to Jeb in my latest crime thriller, The Bride’s Trail. Apart from loving his mother, he has no redeeming features. Jeb is an East End villain, selling Class A drugs and running a string of prostitutes whom he’s hooked on his wares. Greed is his sole motivator. He lies, steals and kills without a second thought. The mind of a psychopath is a depressing place indeed. You can meet Jeb, and Kat, who gets the better of him – just – in short story The Gap, a “5 minute crime thriller”.

After The Interview brought Boris, a coward, womaniser and murderer. While I hoped to make his emotions and actions understandable to readers, I doubt that he was loveable. I couldn’t love him myself. His infidelity, the bullying treatment of the Polish concierge and the paranoid execution of his best friend were almost enough to drive a writer to drink. Boris hit the bottle instead…

By comparison, I said last week that autistic Jed Gardner was my favourite character in After The Interview. That’s not the whole story. His episodes of anger and misery cast a grey cloud over my life, and a huge sigh of relief when he finally found peace of mind. I was challenged by outrageous Tony, the womanising tobacco chief executive of Up In Smoke, too. An unreconstructed chauvinist and Big Tobacco poster boy, he was fun – but I still gritted my teeth as he sold tobacco to smugglers and treated attractive women as every bit as disposable as a piece of Kleenex. Interestingly, Tony wasn’t based on a real person, but several readers thought they knew him! A case of truth being stranger than fiction?

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Which fictional character do you love to hate, and why? Please drop me a line at aaabbottstories[at]gmail.com and let me know! As a British crime thriller writer, I’m open to feedback and suggestions for new angles. In fact, reader feedback is so important to me that every draft crime thriller is read by a panel of 20 beta readers before a final rewrite!

Characters I Love, and Why

As it’s St Valentine’s Day (read my thoughts in last year’s blog about it), I’m penning a tribute to the characters I really love. They may not share my values, but boy, these people were fun to write about. Here are the ones I love – and why:

Alicia, the amoral merchant banker in Up In Smoke. She has two aims in life – climbing the corporate ladder, and having fun. If a fling ticks both boxes, she’ll go for it. Never self-pitying, always resourceful, she’s hardly a role model, but she’s always interesting.

Tony, also from Up In Smoke (hear a chapter from the crime thriller here) is a textbook villain. A womaniser and a homophobe, he runs a tobacco company and uses his power to seduce every woman who catches his eye. Bad boys are just so entertaining…

…but the good guys are too. Jed Gardner, the autistic hero of After The Interview is my favourite character ever. Deeply flawed, struggling to understand and be understood, he makes mistakes and loses everything – but bounces back. As does Andrew Aycliffe, who would be my ideal boss.

Crime thriller The Bride’s Trail, on the other hand, stars strong women – orphaned Kat and her loyal flatmate, Amy. Both have a dry sense of humour, an excellent foil to the arrogant men they meet. I deliberately chose to keep Kat’s point of view hidden and reveal her personality through the eyes of others. That will change in the sequel planned for release this summer…

Although hardly characters in the conventional sense, buzzy Birmingham and frenetic London feature in all three crime thrillers – and many of my short stories, available free on this website.

I aim to build empathy for all my characters, but I don’t love them all. Some are simply too challenging. Find out more next week, when I tell you which characters I hate – and why!

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I’ve been a British crime thriller writer for several years, and an occasional writer of short stories for many more. If you like my blog, why not invite me to speak at your book group, social circle or business network? Please drop me a line at aaabbottstories[at]gmail.com!

Short Stories for your Coffee Break

In today’s frenetic world, stopping for a coffee is one of life’s pleasures – a precious pause to relax and reflect. It’s a great time to read a short story too. E-books can even be carried on a Kindle or smartphone, ready to slip a few minutes of sheer entertainment into that busy lifestyle.

I suggested a few superb short stories for you in a blog last summer. Do take a look at those recommendations – and some new ones below!

You don’t have to know Britain’s second city to enjoy The Sea in Birmingham from the respected Tindal Street Fiction Group. Writers include wonderful Kit de Waal and rocker Ryan Davis (seriously! Google him). The stories are beautifully written urban tales, each one thoroughly enjoyable. For me, they’re still more…Kit’s story sent a wave of nostalgia to carry me back to summer days lounging in my landlady’s garden. The Kindle book costs less than a latte – great vfm.

Ruth Rendell (whose The Tree of Hands was my Thriller of the Month in November) was arguably the greatest British crime thriller writer of her generation. Her Collected Short Stories are also a joy to read.

Breadcrumbs by Simon Fairbanks is next on my reading list! His full-length sci-fi fantasy novels The Sheriff and The Curse of Besti Bori overflow with chills, thrills and spills – so a good read’s guaranteed.

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I’ve written some sparkling short stories too, including five minute crime thriller The Gap free on this website. To receive my free e-book, Something In The City, just sign up for my newsletter here!

Thriller of the Month – The Firm, by John Grisham

John Grisham, crime thriller writer extraordinaire, describes himself as “America’s favourite writer”. His British sales aren’t exactly small either. His classic, The Firm, illustrates why his books sell by the million.

For a thriller, it has a slow and gentle start. Mitch McDeere, about to graduate from law school, is offered the job of his dreams at Bendini, Lambert & Locke. The law firm lures him with a fantastic salary, a BMW and a swanky house. His young bride is unimpressed that she’s expected to transform into a Stepford wife, but Mitch throws himself heart and soul into his work. Grateful for the riches heaped upon him and ambitious for more, he works a hundred hours a week. Sometimes, he slaves at his desk all night, popping home for breakfast and a quick shower at the crack of dawn.

I can assure you, having worked with many lawyers in my corporate career, that this is horribly realistic. Indeed, there appears to be a macho culture that prizes the ability to pull “all-nighters”. So far, so normal, then. But, just as Mitch settles into his new position, he’s approached by the FBI. Suddenly, the tension mounts and Grisham’s pace escalates to a breakneck speed, keeping the pages turning once Mitch realises he’s becoming trapped in a web of crime. He faces a race against time as he tries to escape with his life.

Mitch is by no means the perfect hero – he’s swayed by hard cash, and he hates his in-laws – but Grisham still makes him a sympathetic, and credible, character. His world and his troubles easily hold the reader’s interest. Do give John Grisham a go, if you haven’t already!

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Although proudly British, I’m also a crime thriller writer. Corporate skulduggery features in my books The Bride’s Trail, After The Interview and Up In Smoke, along with heady emotions, crime and suspense…

 

Living in a Box – Why Crime Thrillers are my Genre

I describe myself as a British crime thriller writer. While strictly truthful – I’m British, and I write books containing lots of thrills and crime – it’s not the whole story. My full-length thrillers also sizzle with suspense, sex and romance. There’s often a dose of office politics, as corporate emperors play games with each other.

Why, then, be pigeonholed in a box labelled “crime thriller”? There are four reasons why I believe choosing a genre is important:

#1. Readers know what to expect. It’s true of any genre, whether it’s sci-fi, horror or even divisions of non-fiction like biographies. An avid crime thriller fan can accept a little romance creeping into the plot. It may even be the motive for the crime (in After The Interview, a single adulterous incident has far-reaching consequences). On the other hand, a reader of romantic fiction might balk at a murder or two.

#2. It’s hard for readers who love blockbuster-style thrillers (or any other niche for that matter) to find them at random in the packed General Fiction shelves of bookstores.

#3. It makes comparisons easy. I’m not Kate Atkinson, Ruth Rendell or John Grisham, but my books are a little like each of them – and If you love any of them, you’re likely to enjoy my fiction too.

#4. The book trade – the mighty Amazon, bookstores and wholesalers – prefer it.

I give myself more latitude when I write short stories. Some, like 5 minute crime thriller The Gap, available free here, slot naturally into the crime fiction genre. Others delve into the realms of horror, romance and the supernatural. If you haven’t read my free e-book, Something In The City, yet, click here to receive a copy, and see for yourself.

Thank You!

Happy New Year! As we race into 2016, it’s time to thank everyone who’s made 2015 great for me. Most of all, I owe a debt of gratitude to the readers who bought my latest crime thriller, The Bride’s Trail. From your reviews, it seems you liked it! Please tell your friends!

Thanks also to…

…the 20 readers who gave me feedback on the draft book. It’s a much tighter, colourful and interesting read because of you. Special thanks to Liz Ascott, RIP and much missed.

Katharine D’Souza for her skilful and diplomatic editing.

Pete Sutton for his fantastic Bristol Litfest events – it was a pleasure to take part in two of them.

…Foyles Bookshop, Brewsmiths, the Grosvenor casino, the Haggerston Tearoom, the Happy Heart Café, Waterstones and others who hosted live fiction events and book launches – they were brilliant.

…Donna Marie Finn of Twitter’s #TheCultureHour and Dave Massey of #BrumHour for their faith, support and inspired ideas. Teamwork is dreamwork after all (take a look at this guest blog I wrote for authorpreneur Amy Morse).

Glenn Richardson, who suggested the secret tunnels under Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter as the setting for action scenes in The Bride’s Trail – and local librarian Jackie Molloy, who took a cameo role in the book.

New St Authors, Pigeon Park Press, Simon Fairbanks, Suzanna Stanbury and other writers who helped me out. I love your work too!

…all the authors whose fabulous fiction I enjoyed in 2015 – too many to mention!

my newsletter subscribers. I hope you liked your free e-book, Something In The City.

Wishing you all great things in 2016!

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I’m a British crime thriller writer, author of full-length crime thrillers The Bride’s Trail, After The Interview and Up In Smoke. My New Year’s Resolutions boil down to read, write and be nice! More in my last but one blog.