An Interview with Derek Hayes, author of Maid of Turpin’s

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As regular Linda’s Book Bag readers know, I’m always happy to support less well known authors and publishers so it gives me great pleasure to introduce Derek Hayes today. Derek’s latest book  Maid of Turpin’s was published by Bretwalda Books on 16th July 2016. Maid of Turpin’s is available for purchase here.

Maid of Turpins

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Young Sybil Turpin is an innkeeper who caters for the unsavoury underworld of 18th Century London. When she gets involved in a fiendish plot about spies and political intrigue her life is suddenly in danger from the most ruthless of men.

The year is 1720 and the government of Prime Minister Robert Walpole is overwhelmed by a criminal scandal which threatens to bankrupt the country. Richard Hamilton secret agent of the crown is sent to investigate. The story centres around the notorious tavern in Honey Lane; a lawless neighbourhood within Cheapside.

Turpin’s is ruled by a feisty young Sybil Turpin; an eccentric character who bathes daily in a hogshead barrel and rides like a highwayman.

She and Richard, himself an unconventional character, start as adversaries but when more brutal criminal activity unfolds, they join forces and their quest leads them around the streets of London, from Tyburn to the Bank of England; through Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to a prison vault under London Bridge.

Richard Hamilton may have met his match with this bold young woman but the Maid of Turpin’s has a further challenge ahead, far beyond her comprehension or ability.

An Interview with Derek Hayes

Hi Derek. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I’d describe myself as a well-fed bookworm, people-watcher, storyteller and an expert at make believe. They are lifelong attributes and still as useful now as they ever were. I read a lot and have quite diverse tastes. I usually have two or three books on the go at the same time.

I was a child of the fifties, but I hasten to add a very young one. I live in Wiltshire with my wife Jennifer and lots of grandchildren nearby; still able to indulge the story telling.  I spent most of my working life in the NHS and that was where the people-watching began. It was always a privilege being present through the critical times of other people’s life experiences; often of the dramatic and terminal kind. But then there was hospital humour; usually itself profoundly unnerving but always a palliative for the distress and sadness. Experience enough for several lifetimes.

(I bet!)

And tell us a bit about your Langford series of books.

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This is where the people-watching became reality for me. Set in the 1950s Langford Follies are a study of real people. All true to life characters, perhaps just a little exaggerated. Langford Quay is a real place for me.

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Life in the 1950s was far less complicated than now. There were only two private telephone lines in the entire village and most residents still had an air raid shelters in their back garden. There were many residents with painful memories of the war and war widows and ration books and a live-for-the-moment mentality.

I have detailed case histories written for the main characters, going right back to their grandparents. Knowing their background so intimately means I know how they will respond in a given situation. After that it’s easy; put them in an unusual situation and they take over. They almost write the script themselves. Then occasionally I can anchor the story to real life character; as when Gordon Drake meets Prime Minister Winston Churchill his hero.  (See the December Newsletter on my blog.)

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The third book in the series ‘Langford Liberators’ will hopefully be available next year.

What made you decide to write about a different era in your latest book, Maid of Turpin’s?

I was being told that the Langford Follies was not a popular genre. Look on the shelves in bookshops, they said. That simple mischievous lifestyle created by HE Bates in Darling Buds is not fashionable any more. So I chose to do a historic thriller. The story is set in 1720 in a notorious area of London called Cheapside.  I loved doing the historic research and was influenced by the Dennis Wheatley’s Roger Brook novels of the 1970’s.

In Maid of Turpin’s Sybil Turpin, the beautiful but feisty tavern keeper, meets the handsome if slightly accident prone Richard Hamilton, secret agent to Prime Minister Walpole; a sort of 18th century James Bond? Weaving it all around a real life event helps the believability. The story is based around the South Sea Bubble event.

How did you go about researching the detail of Cheapside in Maid of Turpin’s?

The single most useful research aid to writing the Maid of Turpin’s is my John Rocque’s 26 inches to the mile map of 1746 London. On a DVD it enables me to plot a route through the streets of Cheapside. From the Thames across the city up as far as Tyburn and beyond; it is possible to walk the streets with Sybil Turpin and imagine life in the poorer, violent areas of the city.   I placed the Turpin’s Tavern in Honey Lane and I could tell you how long it takes Sybil to walk down to the docks or out of the city to her secret lake for a swim.

And when did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I have always been a storyteller. The difference is that now retired there is time to write the stories down and share. And I can write every day. No one complains about me wasting time. Well almost no one.

I know you write short stories as well as longer fiction. Which do you prefer?

The short stories came first; lots of them. For many years I wrote competition pieces for the Writing Magazine and other journals. It taught me the discipline of writing succinctly and there was always the thrill of occasionally getting shortlisted; that meant sometimes getting a free critique – very useful. Both Langford Follies and Maid of Turpin’s started off as short stories and a critic saying to me, there is a full length story there for the writing.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I am passionate and disciplined about my writing but it is only a hobby; not to be taken too seriously. There are other important interests in my life like the health and wellbeing of the community I help to serve and my charities.

You seem drawn to the past for your writing. Why is this?

Something intriguing about the past and easier to imagine being present at the time.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

Writing is a joy but I am easily distracted and getting started is difficult sometime. I have a comfortable study where I write every day. Early morning is best for me but I can’t sit still for long, so after an hour I am looking for something important that cannot possibly wait, that must be done immediately. A break and then it means I come back refreshed for another session.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I am presently reading again Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey novels about Napoleonic warfare on the high seas. O’Brien is the master of clarity when it comes to life aboard ship in the eighteenth century. The rest of us can only marvel at his depth of understanding and knowledge. His narrative is so powerful he might almost have been there.

I’m also reading Andy Martin’s Reacher Said No.  The author sat beside Lee Child whilst he was writing Make Me. Terrific insight in to this best-selling author.

My third book is David Walliams Grandpa’s Great Escape. He’s a better children’s writer than he is a comedian.

(I think many would agree with that last comment Derek!)

If you could choose to be a character from Maid of Turpin’s, who would you be and why?

Richard Hamilton of course; he is the James Bond of the eighteenth century. However, gadgets don’t always work for him. Perhaps that’s why Sybil is attracted to him. He has that vulnerability which makes him adorable to the Maid.

If Maid of Turpin’s became a film, who would you like to play Sybil and why would you choose them?

I would choose Eleanor Tomlinson who plays Demelza in Poldark. She is a feisty character who would know how to pull Richard Hamilton’s strings.  I can see Eleanor slipping a noose around Hamilton’s neck on the Tyburn Tree whilst he tries in vain to release his hidden weapon.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Maid of Turpin’s should be their next read, what would you say?

Political espionage in eighteenth century London, criminal scandal, fiendish intrigue and romance in equal measure.

(Oo 15 words exactly!)

About Derek Hayes

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Derek lives in Wiltshire with his wife Jennifer and, having retired, spends his time reading, writing and entertaining his grand children.

You can follow Derek on Twitter, visit his blog and find him on Facebook. His monthly newsletter and short stories are available on his blog, The Bookworm and the Storyteller.

All of Derek’s books are published by Bretwalda Books and available on Amazon.

Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain

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I recently attended a blogger, author and publisher party thanks to lovely Sara-Jade, Project Manager at Books and the City, and in my goody bag was a copy of Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain. Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market was published by Simon and Schuster on 17th November 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and papaerback here.

Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market

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Christmas has arrived in the town of Wynbridge and it promises mince pies, mistletoe and a whole host of seasonal joy.

 Ruby has finished with university and is heading home for the holidays to save up for her trip around the world in January. Against her father’s wishes, she takes on a stall at the local market, and sets about making it the best Christmas market stall ever. There’ll be bunting and mistletoe and maybe even a bit of mulled wine.

But with a new retail park just opened on their doorstep, the market is under threat. So together with all the other stallholders, Ruby devises a plan to make sure that Wynbridge is the first port of call for everyone’s Christmas shopping needs.

The only thing standing in her way is Ruby’s ex, Steve. It’s pretty hard to concentrate on saving the world when he works on the stall opposite, especially when she realises that her feelings for him are still there…

This Christmas make time for some winter sparkle – and see who might be under the mistletoe this year…

My Review of Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market

Ruby is back in Wynbridge having dropped out of her masters degree. The trouble is, she hasn’t moved on as much as she’d hoped from her small Fenland town.

I really enjoyed this entertaining festive read. Firstly the setting of Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market really appealed to me as I live in a small Fenland market town not far from the Peterborough mentioned in the story and I felt Heidi Swain had captured the essence of the area very authentically. I could easily picture the settings in my mind’s eye so which helped the story feel very realistic.

Whilst the narrative has a romantic theme and there is, as one would expect, a heavy reliance on the traditions of Christmas, I also thought there was a real depth to the story too. The sub-plot of Ruby’s Dad, Robert, was very well handled and surprising so that this wasn’t just a will they/won’t they chick lit. There is an honesty to the plot – life is not all wonderful in these settings and people do have to work hard to make a go of such places as the market featured in this story.

I appreciated the range of characters too. There is a sufficiently large cast to ensure enough variety, but somehow each character earns their place in the story and doesn’t feel extraneous, meaning that these become people the reader cares about. I really wanted Ruby and Steve to have a happy ending, but you’ll have to read the book to find out if that’s the case.

An element that surprised me in a way was the quality of ideas for small town regeneration. I think many a struggling market town could benefit from reading what initially appears a chick lit Christmas read. In Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market there are some excellent and achievable ideas that actually inspired me to want to be more creative. This is very effective writing.

So, if you’re looking for a romantic seasonal Christmas read that has conflict, depth and creative ideas to keep your attention throughout, you can’t go wrong with Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain.

About Heidi Swain

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Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she finally plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

Heidi can be found at the keyboard at all hours of the day and night and quite often scribbling longhand in her car during her lunch break. She lives in stunning south Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Cafe, was published on July 16th, 2015 and became an Amazon bestseller.

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All Heidi’s books are available here. You can follow Heidi on Twitter and visit her blog.

Setting and Characters, a Guest Post by Julieann Dove, Author of The Secret He Keeps

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Having featured Julieann Dove here on Linda’s Book Bag before, I’m pleased to host a return visit with Prism Book Tours to celebrate Julieann’s latest release The Secret He Keeps. The Secret He Keeps is out today, 8th December 2016, and is available for purchase here.

I’m delighted to be hosting a guest post from Julieann Dove all about the setting and characters for The Secret He Keeps as well as a giveaway for US readers at the bottom of this blog post.

The Secret He Keeps

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Dr. Rachel Miller has no recollection of what happened that night she climbed in the car with her husband and he drove recklessly into a tree. She has no clue as to why she survived and he didn’t. Nor does she understand why strangers are coming up to her on the street and telling her things she can’t recall about a life that seems so long ago. But Dane Stone knows.

Dane Stone is Rachel’s business partner…and her deceased husband’s best friend. He knows about the notes, the hotel receipt, and the reason she got in the car that night. It’s for her protection that he keeps the secret, but inside he’s dying to tell her.

The Setting and Characters for The Secret He Keeps

A Guest Post by Julieanne Dove

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The setting takes place in Mystic, Connecticut. This is a place my family visits once a year. As you may know, the movie, Mystic Pizza took place there. It was Julia Roberts’ first real acting gig, I believe.  I absolutely love that movie, so I thought, ‘what about another story that originates from there?’ And there I had it. My very own creation from a place I simply adore. You’ve got to visit if you get a chance and are on the east coast. It’s very quaint, and quite lovely. Don’t forget to visit Mystic Pizza. They play the movie on repeat and the pizza is out of this world!

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The characters in my book involve a girl and two guys—one living and one not so much. He does come back in rare flashbacks. Rachel is a recent widow, suffering from survivor’s guilt and a slight mishap of temporary amnesia from the traumatic accident. Her husband, Scott, died while driving them home one night. He was Rachel’s everything. She had him so far up on a pedestal, she could never imagine him falling from grace. But he did. (You’ll find out how she tripped up, by the end of the book!) And Dane, my second guy, was witness to it. He is Rachel’s business partner, and her husband’s best friend. Consequently, he is also in love with Rachel. He just has to wait until she’s ready to hear it…

About Julieann Dove

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Julieann lives in Virginia, yet longs to live everywhere else. It doesn’t come as a surprise that along with her gypsy soul, comes an active imagination. That’s why she loves to write and invent worlds and people, so that she can formulate their happily ever after. Hobbies include cooking new recipes, sewing, and spending time with her cute boyfriend/husband and five fabulous children. Vacations happen in Nantucket or the Carolina beaches–anywhere there is inspiration for her next book. One day she hopes to travel to Italy, drive one of those little cars around the countryside, and speak the language fluently! Please sign up for her newsletter to find out about new releases by clicking here!

You will find more about Julieann Dove on Goodreads, Facebook, and Pinterest and by following her on Twitter.

Lucky US readers can also enter to win a signed copy or an e-book of another of Julieann’s books, Waking Amy, by clicking here.

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The Reading Group: January by Della Parker

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I really enjoyed reading The Reading Group: December by Della Parker so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read The Reading Group: January via Netgalley. You can read my review of The Reading Group: December here and the e-book is currently free here.

The Reading Group: January, part two in the Reading Group Series, was published by Quercus on 1st December 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book here.

The Reading Group: January

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Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker – never mind that she’s only got one real success under her belt. And this year she’s determined to up her game: Little Sanderton’s singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!

But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what’s best for everyone else, her own life couldn’t be less of a fairytale romance. Between looking after her cranky father and running her own business, she doesn’t have time for a relationship. Her friends in the Reading Group know better though: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected of places . . .

This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen’s Emma . . . but who’s got time for fiction when romance is in the air?

My Review of The Reading Group: January

This month the reading group are tackling Emma by Jane Austen, but Anne-Marie is so busy interfering in other people’s love lives she hasn’t got time to read the book and maybe she should.

Initially this story didn’t appeal as much as the December one and it took me a while to get into the rhythm of it. However, on reflection, I think that is a strength of the story because Emma is my least favourite of Austen’s works and I think I may have found the resonances too strong, reminding me of my own prejudices. It didn’t have the emotional pull of Grace’s December story for me as it is more light hearted.

That said, the more I read the more I enjoyed it and January is a highly entertaining read, feeling more like chick-lit than December. Anne-Marie is so well defined as a character, busybodying in other people’s relationships so that she hasn’t actually got a love of her own. As the story went along I really warmed to her and wanted her to be lucky in love too. This may only be a novella of just over 90 pages, but the characters are never two dimensional, but rather they feel real and human.

I liked the humour presented, mostly through Anne-Marie’s matchmaking efforts, that made The Reading Group: January the kind of read just right for a commute or cold winter’s afternoon. It doesn’t matter if the reader hasn’t encountered the first story in this series as January stands alone perfectly and you certainly don’t need to have read Emma. I’m looking forward to encountering The Reading Group: February as the reading group are embarking on Lady Chatterley’s Lover and I’m dying to know what Della Parker makes of that! It’s sure to be entertaining.

About Della Parker

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Della Parker lives in a Dorset village with her two large hounds.

Before becoming a writer she worked as a Customer Services Manager for a water company. Solving customer complaints is not a million miles away from solving plot problems, so Della thinks her former life was quite a good background for a writer. And of course there were the wonderful characters she met.

When Della is not writing she enjoys running marathons and going to the gym for long workouts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the time to pursue these worthwhile hobbies as often as she’d like to – as she much prefers writing!

All the books in Della’s Reading Group Series are available here.

You can follow Della on Twitter and visit her website here. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

On Location, a Guest Post by Ali Sinclair, Author of Under the Spanish Stars by

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I adore travel as much as (and possibly more than, dare I say it) reading, so it gives me great pleasure to welcome Alli Sinclair to Linda’s Book Bag today in celebration of Under the Spanish Stars as Alli tells us all about the exotic locations for her books.

Under the Spanish Stars is published today, 6th December 2016, by Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from Amazon UK, Amazon US, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo and from Barnes and Noble.

Under the Spanish Stars

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Amid the vivid beauty of Granada, a woman entrusted with unraveling a family secret will discover the truth about her heritage – and the alluring promise of love…

When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Charlotte Kavanagh will do whatever she asks of her—even if it means traveling to a country that broke her abuela’s heart. Can an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer unlock the secrets of her grandmother’s youth in Spain? To find the answers she needs, Charlotte must convince the charismatic and gifted musician, Mateo Vives to introduce her to a secluded gypsy clan.

The enigmatic Mateo speaks the true language of flamenco, a culture Charlotte must learn to appreciate if she wants to understand her grandmother’s past–and the flamenco legend that has moved souls to beauty, and bodies to the heights of passion. As Mateo leads her into the captivating world of the music and the dance, Charlotte embraces her own long-denied creative gift and the possibility of a future rich with joy…

On Location

A Guest Post by Alli Sinclair

I’m delighted to be celebrating the release of Under the Spanish Stars with all of you. Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Linda!

(You’re very welcome Alli)

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I love to write stories set in exotic destinations that have family saga, mystery, and a touch of romance. My first book, Midnight Serenade, was set in Argentina and my next release will be Under the Parisian Sky, set (surprisingly!) in Paris (available from July 2017). I have been lucky enough to travel and live in some amazing parts of the world, and one of the aspects I love when travelling is learning about the country’s culture and history. I have Spanish ancestry so I was naturally drawn to setting a book there and when I was trying to figure out which part of Spain, I remembered the amazing and mysterious flamenco caves in Granada. From there the idea expanded into a multi-generational saga, with a decades old mystery, and a young woman on a quest to discover her heritage that has been shrouded in secrecy. That was when Under the Spanish Stars was born.

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One of the reasons I like setting my books in foreign destinations is that the country’s culture and history can become a character in its own right. Elements such as weather, politics, music, art, and war, can have profound influences on the human characters in a story, and I pay just as much attention to the setting as I do with human characters. I think it’s entirely possible for readers to develop strong feelings one way or the other with the setting of a book. Have you ever read a story where the sights, smells, and atmosphere feel so very real that you could be standing in that country in that moment, even if it’s set one hundred years ago? I love that feeling and that’s what I aim to create in my books—a chance for readers to go on a journey of the senses and emotions and immerse themselves in a world they may never get the chance to visit. And for readers who have been to that destination, it’s a opportunity to revisit and reminisce.

As with all my books, they require in-depth research and I have been lucky enough to have flamenco and history experts help with Under the Spanish Stars. Through this research I uncovered some little known facts about flamenco and how it was heavily influenced by Spain’s political climate when General Franco ruled. In fact, in all three of my books, the stories explore how dance and music have had a strong effect on the politics of the country they are set in—tango and Argentina, flamenco and Spain, and the Ballets Russes in France.

Writing Under the Spanish Stars was such a delight. Spain is full of colour, a fascinating melting pot of cultures, breathtaking natural and man-made settings, and history that is intriguing and diverse—the perfect country to set a story with an emotional, cultural and geographical journey.

About Alli Sinclair

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Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author of books that combine travel, mystery, and romance. An adventurer at heart, Alli has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and immersed herself in an array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery.

You can find out more on Alli’s website, on Facebook, Goodreads and by following her on Twitter. If you would like to be part of Alli’s VIP Club with free membership and a chance to receive giveaways and competitions especially for members, you can sign up here.

An Extract and Giveaway: Hell is Empty by Conrad Williams

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Having previously interviewed Conrad Williams, author of Hell is Empty here on Linda’s Book Bag, I’m delighted to be part of the launch Celebrations for Hell is Empty, book three in the Joel Sorrell series. Hell is Empty was published by Titan on 25th November 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here and through following the publisher links.

Today I have an extract for you from Hell is Empty and the chance for readers in the UK, Canada and the US to enter to win one of three paperback copies of the book.

Hell is Empty

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Private Investigator Joel Sorrell is exhausted and drinking hard, sustained only by a hopeful yet baffling note from his estranged daughter, Sarah. An SOS from an old flame whose child has been kidnapped gives him welcomed distraction, but the investigation raises more questions than answers. Then comes the news that his greatest enemy has escaped from prison with a score to settle. With Joel’s life and the remnants of his family at stake, any chance of peace depends on the silencing of his nemesis once and for all. But an unexpected obstacle stands in his way…

An Extract from  Hell is Empty

The flat, without Mengele, was quiet and grey. He really brought the place to life, even if his raison d’être was to deliver death unto all. I retrieved my laptop from behind the sofa cushion and stuffed it in a rucksack. I looked around the flat longingly, wishing I could stay, but it was too risky. It was mid-afternoon, the sun leaving the sky, which was turning the colour of petrol. I’d suffered a long wait coming back, the motorway reduced to one lane because of an accident. I was hungry and tired, but I was always hungry and tired. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be rested and replete.

I went out the way I’d come, stealthy as a ninja wearing slippers. Back in the car. Back on the road. The whole operation had taken just over five minutes.

Except.

Well, there was a car behind me.

London, you say. No shit, you say.

And yes, it may well have been my paranoid guardian angel whispering away in my ear, but part of me was trying to persuade me that I’d seen the car earlier, as I had arrived. Not that it was particularly remarkable. Just a silver-coloured Skoda Octavia. Two people sitting in it. But I’d noticed it, even if only peripherally via the sleepy back brain. And I’d noticed it again now, as I drove through Marylebone in the direction of Marble Arch. I kept telling myself it was nothing, that I was reacting like a hair trigger, and that at every roundabout or traffic light they would turn a different way and I could laugh at myself for being the world’s biggest tool. But they kept on after me, staying three or four car lengths clear, staying on me even when there were cars or buses between us. I turned left and turned left and turned left until I was back where I started and they were still there. It was as if they didn’t care that I could see them. They were relentless.

And so now what? They were either Tann’s lot or Mawker’s lot. I could either try to lose them or I could confront them. There was something attractive about that: blocking them at a red light and swinging the door open. If it was Mawker’s lot, they might just tell me to get back in the car and stop acting like John Wayne. If it was Tann’s lot, I might just be turned into a fine red mist. But then if they were after me to kill me they could have done that already. Who’d have thought being followed could be such a brainteaser?

Lose them, then. And do it quick. I dropped into second and hurled the car into a side street, got up to third. Touch the brakes and hard right, really make those tyres sing. I opened the window and listened. An engine protesting – but it could just have been the echoes of my own as I toed it through built-up areas. I slalomed left and right down a series of streets. I was near Brompton now, around the back of the V&A museum, heading towards Sloane Square. I planned ahead: charge across Chelsea Bridge and get on to Nine Elms Lane, try to find somewhere to hide in the little jungle of warehouses, depots and distribution offices between the river and the railway line.

I was close to the south side of the bridge, Battersea Power Station like a table turned turtle to my left, when I heard and felt a pop just above my head. There was a sting of pain: blood started leaking into my left eye. I turned to see a bullet hole just to the left of the rear window. I hadn’t been shot (but I wondered by how many centimetres… or millimetres… I’d escaped the bullet); it was a metal splinter that had grazed my forehead. Looked worse than it was. I was more put out that they’d damaged the Saab than the fact they’d got their shooters out in broad daylight after all.

I wellied it, and came screaming through Queen’s Circus at the foot of Battersea Park at close on fifty miles per hour.

Another pop: one of the tyres shredded and control went walkabout. I managed to steady the car somewhat, but she was drifting and the steering wheel was becoming more and more unresponsive until it felt as if I was trying to wrestle it free of an invisible grizzly, intent on mashing us into the wall. I got over the railway bridge but by then I could hear ominous grinding from under the car so I brought her to a stop and got out smartish, tense against the sound of an engine throttling up, and a third shot, which I might or might not hear.

I sprinted along the main drag, looking for a place where I’d be able to shake off my pursuers, but they were stickier than a teenager’s sock. I thought about crossing the road and trying my luck in New Covent Garden Market, but here they came. If I tried to get over the road now I’d be in full sight of them: they’d turn me into chunky Joel salsa. I heard the squeal of brakes and car doors charging open. No voices. No entreaties to stop. Death was all over their lack of vocabulary. Silent. Final.

I did hear the gunshot when it came, for the record, as it whanged off a length of metal fence about a foot from my left ear. I couldn’t help thinking, uncharitably, that had Mawker shown the same kind of commitment and effort over the years then Tann might have been apprehended long before all of this had ever happened and Sarah would still be at home.

I jinked left down Kirtling Street, Battersea Power Station just up ahead. The site traffic entrance was heavily populated by guys in orange jackets who watched, bemusedly, as I came clattering by. They disappeared too, though, when they heard the gun fire. I don’t know if it was because of the acoustics or whether I’d put some distance between us, but it sounded as if that shot had originated further away than before. I risked a glance back but couldn’t see anything. I kept going along depressingly colourless access roads, past rusting gates topped with razor wire. The tarmac here was layered with pale dust. Cement, most probably. Another shot. Close to my foot; I saw sparks fly off the blacktop. Time slowed. I heard the breath in my lungs churning through each bronchiole. I felt the pulse of blood reach every capillary extreme. Ahead was a squat building with metal shutters and niggardly-looking windows. To the left was a ready mix plant dominated by a mound of sand twenty feet high. Warning signs were plastered all over the gates:

SAFETY STARTS HERE. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER. USE FLASHING BEACONS OR HAZARD WARNING LIGHTS BEYOND THIS POINT.

On, past a rank of front-end loading static bins. To the right, construction barriers and signs warning that demolition was in progress, but over the fence it was just flat concrete and a single lobster-red digger. Nowhere to hide. In front of me a host of vans and more hi-vis and helmets.

‘Help me,’ I gasped.

Another gunshot. One of the construction guys went down holding what remained of his knee between two suddenly crimson hands. His screams echoed off the acres of pristine glass on the new residential area behind him.

Fuck it, I thought, and charged through the lot of them before they knew what was happening. They were all either trying to help their colleague or fleeing the scene anyway. Nobody cared that I was bolting for the main doors and the millions of square feet beyond. A luxury collection of spacious suites and 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments and penthouses, the banners gushed. Last few remaining. It could have been describing my nerves.

Giveaway

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Open in the UK, Canada and the US only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 13th December 2016. Click here to enter to win one of three paperback copies of Hell is Empty by Conrad Williams.

About Conrad Williams

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Conrad Williams is the author of seven novels, four novellas and two collections of short stories. He has won two major prizes for his novels. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel, (British Fantasy Awards 2010), while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007.

Conrad Williams is an associate lecturer at Edge Hill University. He lives in Manchester, UK, with his wife, three sons and a monster Maine Coon.

You can find more about Conrad Williams on his website and follow him on Twitter. You will also find him on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Living Locations, a Guest Post by Rachel Amphlett, author of Scared to Death

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I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Scared to Death is published today 6th December 2016 by Saxon and is available in paperback here.

To celebrate today’s publication, Rachel has kindly provided a guest post all about setting for her new Detective Kay Hunter series.

Scared to Death

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A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

Living Locations

A Guest Post by Rachel Amphlett

I’ve always been a traveller at heart, and especially now that I currently live in Brisbane, Australia and am the proud owner of two passports, one Australian and the other EU.

Until recently, I’ve had to do a lot of the research for my writing via the internet. The sheer danger associated with some of the locations in my espionage novels has meant that I couldn’t travel to those places, even if I wanted to!

So when the nugget of an idea for a new character first popped into my head earlier this year, I was actually quite excited that I’d be able to base the series around my old stomping ground of Maidstone in Kent.

I lived on the outskirts of Maidstone between 2002 and 2005 before emigrating, and because we have family and friends in the area, it’s meant I’ve been able to return there every couple of years. Some things have changed, of course – the centre has been redeveloped in the intervening years, and I discovered a whole new dual carriageway that I really don’t recall being there in 2005 (!), but for the most part, familiar surroundings have made writing in a new sub genre a little easier.

What has changed for me since moving away is that I now view Maidstone through different eyes – that of a tourist. I have to admit, I took for granted how close we were to the countryside when living in Weavering – we used to walk our old dog, Odo, across the railway line and over a field into Bearsted, returning home via a pub (hey, it’s traditional English dog walking thing to do – don’t judge me!).

I used to work in the town during that time, and would sometimes have to walk to work along the A20 – the same route that one of my victims takes on her way home – trust me, I know what it’s like walking along there at night when it’s raining and cars are splashing through puddles – I’ve been soaked through plenty of times!

When I was writing Scared to Death, I was therefore able to use a mixture of my own memories, a recent trip back, and Google Earth to create the world within which my characters live and work. I tried to keep the locations as close as possible to real life, but there are a few exceptions to that rule – I think that’s okay in fiction.

For now, the Kay Hunter series will stay in the Maidstone area, although of course I’ll be including a bit of artistic licence around that – but rest assured, there are plenty of locations I’ve got lined up that will keep Kay and the team very busy for the foreseeable future, and it gives me a great excuse when I’m next back in the area to walk around and seek out new areas for story ideas!

About Rachel Amphlett

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Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.

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An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.

You can visit Rachel’s website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

There’s more too with these other bloggers:

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