Guest Post Sarah Hilary Author of No Other Darkness

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting a guest post by Sarah Hilary for her fabulous novel ‘No Other Darkness’.

About Sarah:

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy.

Sarah Hilary portrait and collects of her grandparents and mother that were taken in a Japanese POW camp. Mementos - a heart shaped pendant and a crucifix carved from the canopy of a plane and a book.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 31/1/2014.

Her debut novel, ‘Someone Else’s Skin‘, the first of the Marnie Rome series, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer’s Book of the Month (described as ‘superbly disturbing’), a Richard and Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide.


No Other Darkness‘, the second in the series, is out now. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television.


In this guest post, Sarah tells us what it is like to be a crime writer and we find that crime writers have a devious sense of humour! 

The Secret Life of a Crime Writer 

by Sarah Hilary

How do you like your crime writers? Hardboiled with our collars turned up against a brickwall, or scowling into shot glasses in the dark corners of a dodgy bar? Hunched over typewriters maybe, with our shadows leaning in across our shoulders… We’re a moody, brooding bunch—right? Our minds full of nightmares and bloody thoughts.

Well, maybe there’s something in that last bit. But really? We’re some of the nicest, most normal people you’ll meet. Well-adjusted, even. When we hang out in bars we do so in groups and you’ll hardly ever catch us scowling, except when we have a deadline or an onset of edits. And then we usually end up having an online chinwag with other crime writers, swapping stories about deadlines and edits or funny stuff our kids did, or the strange looks we got when we said out loud the things we should’ve kept inside our heads (or our books).

Since I’ve become a crime writer, I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve been supported, cheered and consoled by other writers whose generosity has humbled me and whose sick sense of humour makes me feel a million times better about my own.

(Q. What’s red and green and silver? A. A zombie with forks in its eyes.)

I’m often asked if I read crime books for pleasure or only for work, and whether I avoid reading crime when I’m writing. I couldn’t avoid reading crime if you paid me. I love it too much. Love the shape and strangeness and the comfort of it. Of being immersed in a genre which so poetically and completely captures what it means to be human in this odd, mad, scary world we inhabit.

Crime fiction, at its best, is more honest and more subversive than any other form of fiction. I bloody love writing it, and I love reading it. I love the people who’re writing it—they’re my dear odd, mad, scary friends.

Readers of crime fiction are smart and inquisitive and won’t ever let you off a hook. All writing is a collaboration between writer and reader — a delicious dance or a hunt, perhaps — and crime fiction tops the lot. We may lay the scent and lure the reader in, but the real magic takes place in our reader’s head. That’s where the shadows become a hot spill of blood and the light scalps men into monsters.

I love the inside of a crime reader’s head. I wouldn’t trust Marnie and Noah to anyone else’s safe keeping.

If I’ve shattered any illusions about the secret life of a crime writer, just remember that the other thing we’re really, really good at is lying.

Right now I might be scowling into a shot glass in a neon-lit bar with a brickwall at my back and a dead body buried back home.

You’re the reader—you get to choose.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary

Sarah’s blog can be found here:

You can also find Sarah on Facebook:

Blog Tour

Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt

Devastation Road

I was fortunate to receive a copy of ‘Devastation Road’ from the author himself in return for an honest review via #BookConnectors. It is released in hardback on July 30th 2015 by Scribner UK, part of the Simon and Schuster Uk group.

At the end of the Second World War a man awakens injured and confused in a field, wearing ill fitting clothes . He has no idea who he is or where he has come from. ‘Devastation Road’ is the story of how he finds who he really is.

‘Devastation Road’ is a stunning read. Although this era has been used many times, this book provides a totally new perspective and approach so that it is utterly captivating. As I read I felt I wanted the narrative to conclude so I knew what happened, but at the same time didn’t want it to end because I found the writing so affecting. The narrative is rather like a flower that unfurls petal by petal, as Owen’s memories return, to create a work of beauty.

This is such an intelligent book. The title ‘Devastation Road’ has multiple meanings from the literal, physical devastation of war as refugees caravan their way along the road, to the emotional and psychological devastation of memory and identity so that the reader begins to question how they may have behaved in similar circumstances.

This is a very visual narrative with settings so vivid they place the reader at the scene with the characters. I thought not translating Janek’s Czech words was perfect, giving the reader the same fragmentary and confusing experience as Owen.

As the truth about Owen’s journey was gradually revealed I found myself completely empathising with him. He is by no means a perfect person and this makes him all the more real and engaging.

‘Devastation Road’ ranks with the best books I have read since starting this blog. If readers have enjoyed, for example, the Pat Barker ‘Regeneration’ series or Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’ then they will adore ‘Devastation Road’. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown by Lynda Renham

50 Shades of Roxie Brown

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ by Lynda Renham from Andrew Cook at Raucous Publishing in exchange for an honest review. It is out in e-book today, 28th July 2015, and paperback in August.

Roxie Brown works as a cleaner for the gorgeous Ark Morgan about whom she has several ’50 Shades’ style fantasies. Unfortunately for Roxie, her boyfriend is not Ark Morgan, but Arsenal obsessed Darren. When she is given predictions about her future by The Great Zehilda, on a girls’ night out, Roxie doesn’t believe a word of what she says. Maybe she should. When Roxie casually looks though Darren’s telescope she becomes embroiled in a crime adventure that isn’t going to make life any easier. Roxie needs to get her murderer and her man. The trouble is, she’s not sure which is which.

‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ is entertaining from beginning to end. I found myself laughing aloud at several points as there are misunderstandings, double entendres, quips and farcical situations throughout. I made me think of a ‘Fawlty Towers’ in book form.

The use of the first person continuous present tense gives a vibrant immediacy to the writing so that it is as if Roxie is recounting the story to you as a reader directly with a kind of breathless urgency that matches the pace of the plot. Events pile up with real speed and lead to a highly satisfying conclusion.

I did think that some of the characters were a little stereotypical, especially Felix, but then they are exactly what readers of this romantic comedy genre would expect and want. The interplay between Felix, Sylvie and Roxie leads to some of the funniest moments. Speech is natural and engaging so that you feel as if you’re eavesdropping a set of slightly insane friends as you read.

I think those who’ve read and enjoyed books like Amy Lynch’s ‘Bride Without A Groom’ and want their romance laced with drama and humour would really enjoy ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’.

You can buy ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown here:

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

Waterstones UK:

What Happens in Cornwall by T A Williams

What happens in Cornwall

I was delighted to be offered the chance by Bliss Book Promotions to read ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ by T A Williams and to take part in the launch of the book. It was released on 20th July by Carina UK.

You can read more about Trevor Williams and sample a couple of extracts from ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ here


Sam’s relationship with Neil is not going well and the chance to get away to Cornwall for a few days seems like a good idea. A private island, an archaeological dig, several men, a reclusive world famous actress and Italian paparazzi all contribute to more than Sam might have bargained for.

Readers might be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that this is typical female authored chick lit. They would be wrong. ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ does indeed conform to many aspects of the genre, particularly with regard to romance, but it is so much more. I think the fact that it is written by a man, Trevor, gives an extra perspective so that the male characters are as well developed and believable as are the females.

The writing is assured, stylish and consequently very easy to read, sweeping the reader along with the plot at a cracking rate. There are several twists and subplots interwoven seamlessly to create a really satisfying story line that is exciting to read.

As well as elements of love and romance, ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ touches on some larger themes including the cult of celebrity, loyalty, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and education for those not fresh out of school, so that there is an intelligent depth to the writing.

The descriptions of Cornwall, the flora and fauna and the weather, create a real sense of place and setting that I found highly evocative.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘What Happens In Cornwall’ and I was disappointed when it ended. I shall be investigating more of T A Williams’ books and think they would appeal to readers who enjoy authors like Sheila O’Flannagan.

You can buy ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ here:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Barnes & Noble:

If you would like to find out more about Trevor (T A) Williams here are some links:





Amazon Author:

Win an e-copy of ‘What Happens in Tuscany’ by T A Williams

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

summer of secrets

I was delighted to receive a proof copy of ‘The Summer of Secrets’ from Ben Willis at Transworld Books in return for an honest review. ‘The Summer of Secrets’  by Sarah Jasmon is out on 13th August 2015 in both paperback and e-book.

In the summer of 1983, 16 year old Helen’s world is suddenly injected with life and friendship as the Dover family move in near by. But all is not as idyllic as it may first appear and the events and secrets of that summer reverberate for 30 years.

I found it hard to believe that this is a debut novel, so assured and atmospheric is Sarah Jasmon’s writing. The style is mesmerising, encapsulating perfectly, through Helen, the feeling of being an outsider and never quite belonging. There is an underlying tension and wistfulness that draws in the reader. Helen experiences burgeoning sexuality, loneliness, love, and rejection. I think I felt every emotion as Helen, rather than with her, as her deep need to be accepted was conveyed so beautifully. I thought Helen was a kind of Everywoman in whom we can all find traces of ourselves.

I also thought the structure was perfect. Helen’s first person narrative set in 2013 is given through the prism of memory, secrets and denial so that the reveal at the end of the novel is all the more affecting. Using the third person to convey what happened in the past of 1983 is a stroke of genius. It is as if Helen is trying to distance herself whilst relentlessly replaying her life in her head and almost telling herself the story, rather than the reader following a plot. But Helen refuses to acknowledge the biggest secret of all – her own.

The quality of writing, the sense of atmosphere and the underlying emotion make Sarah Jasmon’s ‘The Summer of Secrets’ a novel that will stay with me for a very long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

A Rancher for Rosie by Molly Ann Wishlade


I have read very few erotic romances and, if I’m totally honest, have always been rather contemptuous of the genre. So, when the opportunity arose to read ahead of the publication of ‘A Rancher for Rosie’ by Molly Ann Wishlade I thought it would be interesting to consider a different style. I have to admit that my preconceived ideas were both misplaced and wrong.

‘A Rancher for Rosie’ is the second in the ‘Duggans of Montana’ series. Rosie loves Joshua, but he is younger than she and obliged to uphold the family name by conforming to his parents’ wishes. Unfortunately for their relationship, these wishes do not include marrying an older, and possibly barren, woman.

Despite being a novella, ‘A Rancher for Rosie’ has a well developed plot with plenty of action so that events race along to a highly satisfying conclusion. There are references to the first book in the series and I intend to read that too now but this book can be read as a stand alone story.

The characters are precisely defined and I found myself wondering what had happened to them, Catherine in particular, in the first Duggan book. There’s a good sense of the era through both the characters and setting.

The scenes of an erotic or sexual content are sensitively portrayed and highly effective and I think regular readers of this genre would love the book. My only complaint is that Joshua is too fair for my taste as I prefer dark haired men!

Whilst all the elements one would expect for this genre are present, what I hadn’t anticipated was the high quality of the writing. Hooks at the end of each chapter keep the reader interested. Conversation is natural and engaging and descriptions convey place extremely well.

A Rancher for Rosie is published on 4th August by Totally Bound Publishing and I wholeheartedly recommend it to lovers of erotic romance.

The Prodigal by Nicky Black

The prodigal

I was asked by the author, Nicky Black, if I would like a copy of ‘The Prodigal’ in return for an honest review. I was delighted to accept. It is available from Amazon, currently for 99p, as an e-book and also in paperback.

Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning to Newcastle, after 16 years away, to meet his daughter for the first time and take up a new police post. He isn’t prepared for just how deprived, and depraved, the area he grew up in has become. When he finds himself involved with Nicola, his world becomes ever more complicated and dangerous.

I’m not a natural reader of crime fiction but I can honestly say that I found ‘The Prodigal’ absolutely brilliant.

The fact that this originally began life as a television script serves only to amplify the quality of the writing. Much of the original dialogue has apparently been retained and means that speech is natural and completely realistic. Equally, descriptions are stunning and the whole novel is highly visual. Both setting and characters come to vivid (and sometimes terrifying) life because of the carefully wrought crafting. Each character is so clearly defined and three dimensional that the reader almost becomes them. I thought Micky was a triumph.

The themes are huge and sadly still all too familiar. Nicky Black does not shy away from divorce, domestic violence, drug culture, gangs, and relationships in all their brutal truth. To quote from the narrative, what we have here is often ‘Hardened, pitiless, vicious’. Reading ‘The Prodigal’ genuinely made my heart thump.

The plot is incredibly fast paced. There are twists and red herrings so that the reader is absorbed into the drama throughout. I cannot believe that the original script didn’t make it to production.

As well as being a fantastic read, I thought ‘The Prodigal’ was actually a terrifyingly accurate portrait of some of the most deprived areas we have, with the violence, filth and, more importantly, the lack of hope some people face. For what is, in essence, a crime novel, ‘The Prodigal’ is, curiously, profoundly moving. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Guest Post Elaine Spires

It is my very great pleasure to host a guest post from author and actress Elaine Spires


Meet Elaine:

Elaine Spires is a novelist, playwright and actress. Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine’s keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels. Elaine spends her time between her homes in Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.).

Here Elaine tells us about ‘Writing About What You Know’

I know that there are authors who write about things they have no experience of and I praise them and salute their talent.  Included in these, of course, are sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers and there have been some outstandingly successful ones, such as J K Rowling, J R R Tolkein, H G Wells.  Is using initials only a prerequisite to writing in this genre?

I, however, have always found it much easier to write about what I know.  (Cop out!  I hear you shout?)  And my background is Travel and Tourism.  For twelve years I was a tour manager for a singles’ holiday operator.  I accompanied groups of singles holidaymakers to worldwide tourism destinations.  The smallest group I ever took was five plus myself to Luxor.  They were five of the nicest people you could have ever wished to meet and we have a really super time.  The biggest group was forty-five to Icmeler, Turkey and that was far too many.  Four days in and I still wasn’t sure if I’d seen everyone or knew who everyone was.  Strangely enough, though, this trip was remarkably problem-free.  The group fell into about five smaller groups – this tends to happen in most groups whatever their size – although one night we did all go into Marmaris en masse to Bar Street and that was a hoot!

As you can, perhaps, imagine, being a tour manager was fertile ground for book ideas and so after writing my first book, What’s Eating Me, I decided to write a trilogy about singles’ holidays and produced Singles’ Holiday, set in Antigua.  This was followed by Singles and Spice, which takes place in India’s Golden Triangle, Delhi, Jaipur and Agra and then Single All The Way, which unfolds in the snowy English countryside at Christmas.

All of the characters are fictitious as are the hotels and resorts in all three books, but the places the groups visit really exist.  So, in Singles’ Holiday, for example, the Mango Tree Resort doesn’t exist, but Hemingway’s Bar in St John’s does, so does Jolly Harbour and Shirley Heights.  And the same happens throughout the other two.  Sweet Lady, which tells the story of artist Eleanor West and her daughter Victoria who spend a winter in Antigua, follows the same pattern; real places but fictitious characters.  Holiday Reads and Holiday Reads 2 are short story collections set in places that I visited while I was working in tourism.

To me it makes sense to write about what I know.  Nothing annoys me more when I’m reading a book than when the writer has been sloppy, not done their research and there are glaring mistakes.  This tends not to happen if you’re comfortable and familiar with the setting and details.  I am a huge fan of Kathy Reichs, who was a forensic anthropologist and I just love the real touches in her books.  The same happens with John Grisham and the law.

I’ve recently read a book that took all my strength to finish, simply because of the mistakes in it. If writers are going to put in odd words of a foreign language they should always get a native or fluent speaker of that language to check what they are writing.  That way you avoid making your reader laugh for all the wrong reasons.  And in all the years I’ve travelled and lived abroad I have never come across ONE foreigner who uttered the phrase ‘It is, how you say?’  People just don’t speak like that!  Another mistake that gets me screaming is when a foreign character is speaking English and knows words such as sanctimonious or infrequent or distraction (I’ve just chosen three words at random here) but then needs to ask ‘It is, how you say?  Difícil, no?’  I’m sorry, but to me, that is ludicrous.

By writing about what you know you keep it real. That isn’t to say you can’t do your research and write a book on something you knew nothing about, but if you do that, make sure your research is thorough and at least get someone from that industry/sport/country/community/business/world to read it through and give it the all-clear.  That way you don’t leave yourself open to criticism from people like me!

You can find out more about Elaine here:

Elaine’s Books 

‘What’s Eating Me’ What's eating me

Eileen Holloway is an obese mother of two, whose husband went out to see a man about a car one night and never came back, struggling to keep all the plates spinning.  But Eileen becomes a celebrity the day her mother puts her forward for Barbara’s Beautiful Bodies, a reality TV show which follows the journey of the seriously overweight as they are put on a rigid diet and exercise routine to change their lives for better and for ever. ‘What’s Eating Me’ looks at what happens to her once her journey to reach her target weight is over.

‘Sweet Lady’         sweet lady

The story with a couple of huge twists, where nothing is as it seems!  East London artist Eleanor West is holidaying in Antigua with her daughter Victoria before her latest summer exhibition.  When beach-bum Tyrone walks into their lives, nothing will ever be the same again.

The Singles’ Trilogy

‘Singles’ Holiday’


Antigua, the Caribbean at its most luscious; cloudless, cobalt skies, silver sand, turquoise sea, and a group of total strangers, with just one thing in common: they’re single.  Some have come just to have a good holiday; some for something more.  Some will become lifelong friends; others just won’t get on.  But it is, perhaps, their tour manager Eve who has the biggest shocks of all as she takes care of her group through sunny days, boozy, balmy nights and a tropical storm as we get to know each group member, while they, in turn, get to know each other.

‘Singles and Spice’


A singles’ holiday to India’s Golden Triangle – Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, tiger-spotting in Ranthambore, the noisy, crowded streets of Delhi – all go to make up a trip that is hot, humid and spicy. Eve Mitchell, Travel Together’s tour manager extraordinaire has a couple of familiar faces in her little group of travellers and others that she hasn’t met before; sexy man-eating pensioners, a compulsive over-eater, a constant whiner and a man with a personal problem. And there’s a big surprise awaiting someone -and Eve! – one morning at dawn. By the end of the tour, which sees our group travelling by plane, coach, rickshaw, train and elephant, she will know rather more about some of their innermost secrets than she’d like.

‘Single All The Way’


Travel Together Tour Manager Eve Mitchell is planning a quiet Christmas at home to rest and relax before an extra-special New Year. But she soon, very unexpectedly, finds herself in the depths of the Essex countryside looking after a singles’ group which contains some old, familiar faces and some pleasant – and not so pleasant – new ones. With its country walks, quizzes, disco and black-tie ball, the Christmas and Twixmas Break passes quickly, but just as they think it’s all over the plot takes a twist and we learn some dark secrets…

Short Story Collections

‘Holiday Reads’holiday-reads

Short stories for your sun-lounger – or wherever! Seven women, each with a different holiday problem. Meet, Olivia, who wishes she wasn’t on a tennis holiday; Estelle, alone on a cruise; Fiona who’s flying too close for comfort; Shelley, who shouldn’t have got involved with a foreigner; Alison who finds our her husband’s off on a cruise – but not with her!; Eloise who’s having a rotten time in Ibiza and Karla who’s desperate for her family holiday in Corfu to go well…

‘Holiday Reads 2’


More quirky short-stories with a holiday theme for reading on the plane, on the beach or by the pool, your back garden on a sunny afternoon or curled up on the sofa if it’s raining.

Two Novellas

‘The Christmas Queen’ – in which we meet up with Eileen Holloway again. Her whole life through, Christmas for Eileen has always started with loads of work and preparation and ended in bitter disappointment, and involved huge amounts of energy and emotion along the way. But this year, although she knows it will be emotional, she’s determined things will be very different. This year she’s going to be a Christmas Queen…

‘Weak At The Knees’ – Estelle is out and about making her Valentine’s Day deliveries. What she discovers as she presents four very different women with an armful of flowers is a real eye-opener …

COMING SOON – THE BANJO – A trilogy set in Dagenham from 1950s – present day.

Ordinary Joe by Jon Teckman

Ordinary Joe

I was delighted to receive a copy of Jon Teckman’s ‘Ordinary Joe’ from Goodreads ( ‘Ordinary Joe’ was published by The Borough Press on 16th July 2015.

Joe West is a slightly too short, slightly too fat and slightly too balding Jewish accountant, so when he finds himself in bed with the glamorous Hollywood actress Olivia Finch he doesn’t know what’s hit him (literally at times!).

The opening sentence of ‘Ordinary Joe’ propels the reader straight into a madcap narrative that maintains its pace and attraction from beginning to end. The writing is witty and engaging so that I found myself sniggering and laughing aloud on many occasions. The plot twists along with some real surprises along the way. I thought the style was assured and well maintained throughout.

Although the central character, Joe, has committed an act of adultery for which he cannot be forgiven in my view, he is presented with such skill that I had to sympathise with him, even when I felt frustrated with him as he tried to cover his tracks and spiraled himself into greater and greater lies and difficulties. He is, however, frequently self-deprecating and directs humour at himself so that he feels like a real person rather than a character in a book. The first person narrative style is so natural it is as if a friend is recounting the events.

Scenarios are vividly described making them easy to picture. Without wishing to reveal the plot, I loved the moment, for example, when Joe finds himself in a counselling session with his belligerent work colleague Joseph Bennett.

Jon Teckman’s ‘Ordinary Joe’ will appeal to anyone who wants a well plotted, well written and highly entertaining read. It put me in mind of the classic comedies of British television like ‘Dad’s Army’ or Morecambe and Wise.

If you don’t get around to reading ‘Ordinary Joe’ then I have one piece of advice – be careful what socks you wear. And if you do read it, you’ll know exactly what I mean!

Author Interview James Silvester

Escape to Perdition

I recently read ‘Escape to Perdition’, the debut novel by James Silvester, and was so impressed by the quality of writing I was cheeky enough to ask James if he would be interviewed for my blog. He kindly agreed.

Hello James, and welcome to Linda’s Book Bag.

Hello! Thanks for having me!

‘Escape to Perdition’ is your first novel. Please can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

The inspiration came from being in love with these countries and finding their history absolutely fascinating! It does annoy me that Prague these days is more known as that place Stags go to throw up in and Slovakia is so often confused with Slovenia. The history of the region is so important and I wanted people to know about it. People forget, but the Velvet Revolution was the catalyst for the collapse of the Soviet Union and I wanted people to see that, in the right circumstances, the region could be a catalyst again.

How much time did you have to spend researching the background to ‘Escape to Perdition’ and how did you go about it?

Quite a bit, but it’s time I enjoyed spending. I actually first learned about the Prague Spring in school. There’s a bit in the book when Peter tells Herbert of his old school classes, learning about the Spring and the Velvet Revolution and those are actually my own memories of my history classes. I’ve also taken full advantage of being married to someone from the region; being able to talk to real people who lived through some of these events has been invaluable. To fill in some gaps I’d spend time scouring the internet for official records and the like. I’m a bit of a history geek so I loved doing that.

I found reading ‘Escape to Perdition’ quite disturbing as it reveals the murky underworld of officialdom. Was that your intention, or were you more interested in showing the character of the protagonist Peter Lowe?

Both (if that’s not too much of a cop out answer). I very much wanted it to be character driven; I get a bit bored of spy films where protagonists can walk through explosions, sleep with a multitude of partners, kill two dozen bad guys and saunter nonchalantly home without so much as a second glance. I wanted something where the enormity of what is typically portrayed as a simple act, like killing someone, actually had an impact on the killer. I mean, it must be a hellish experience, to commit murder and live with it. Sooner or later a job like that must take its toll on the perpetrator, however strong they think themselves to be and however noble they feel their intentions are. But I also wanted to see Peter’s other layers; his job and his reaction to it dominates his life, but he’s trying, in his way, to have a normal life too, even if just with his music and his few friends. Ultimately those attempts to cling onto normality are futile of course.

As for the unpleasantness of officialdom, I think that’s my reaction to the hypocrisy of real life politics. As a child, things are pretty black and white, there are goodies and baddies, but as you get older you realise the lines are blurred and there’s not much our beloved leaders, from all Parties, won’t do to protect their interests.

Peter Lowe is a flawed character with a love of drink and jazz. I notice your biography says you were once a DJ. How much of you is there in Peter’s character?

I haven’t killed anyone yet. There are bits and pieces in there, I think. We share a love of the same music and, like him, I first really got into it during a difficult personal time. We all have our dark moments in life (and our bright ones, thankfully), and I think that the ‘moody, blues loving loner’, is probably me at my worst. I’d like to think I’m generally more agreeable than Peter, for the most part.

(He certainly looks it!)

James Silvester photo

What do you think might happen in Czechoslovakia in the future?

Interesting. Again the cop out answer is ‘I don’t know’, but I have a gut feeling that one day the boundaries will change again. For as long as I’ve been travelling there I haven’t come across any great burning desire to reunify, however almost as soon as I finished writing the book I found out about a new movement with that precise aim. I believe they are trying to seek cross party support for a referendum on reunification in 2018, which would be absolutely fascinating to observe!

What are your writing routines and what do you find easiest and most difficult about the writing process?

I wish they were a lot more routine than they are! I have a day job and a young family so actually getting the time to write can be a miracle. I started writing Escape to Perdition in my lunch breaks at work and as it developed I’d write in the evenings and late at night. The most annoying parts of the process, for me, would be when I’d actually managed to plan out some civilised writing time, sit down, open my laptop and nothing would come. Or else, I’d be at some kid’s birthday party trying to stop my three year old from hurling herself from the top of the ‘big kids’ slide and be hit with a sudden moment of inspiration I couldn’t write down. Writing is like a drug; once you start you can’t stop, but it’s probably not very good for one’s health…

You chose to publish with an independent publisher, Urbane Publications, why did you choose them and what was the process like?

I went with them because of Matthew and his truly unique approach. I was aware of writers for mainstream publishers often being treated like cattle on an abattoir conveyor, but Matthew’s genuine interest in and care for my project was palpable. The process has been a joy and has felt, at least to me, like a genuine partnership. We discussed retitling the book to better position it from an SEO perspective (stuff I wouldn’t have even thought of) and his comments on the script were always intelligent and considered. I really can’t speak highly enough of Urbane and would encourage any writer to make Matthew their first port of call.

(Urbane Publications can be found at

As a wannabe Doctor to replace Peter Capaldi, a Manchester City fan and an emerging writer, if you could only choose one of those for future success, which would it be and why?

Matthew Smith is a Gillingham fan and has never forgiven Man City for beating them in the 1999 play off final, so it’s probably better for my writing career if I don’t choose that one! I would dearly, dearly love to be the Doctor, but hand on heart I want to make it as a writer. At the risk of sounding pretentious it just feels ‘right’, and holding your own book makes you hungry for more. Plus, if I can’t be the Doctor, who’s to say I can’t write for the show one day!

What are you currently writing and will there be a sequel to ‘Escape to Perdition’?

I have a few things sketched out to keep me busy for the next few centuries, one way or another. I have outlines for a dystopian thriller and a contemporary horror story which I’d like to get down on paper in the next couple of years. There’s also a political comedy I’d love to have a bash at, tentatively titled, ‘The Forward Halt of Michael Disraeli’.

As for a sequel, I suspect whether or not it sees the light of day will depend on how ‘Escape to Perdition’ is received, but I’m hugely focussed on writing it now. I’ve had a couple of conflicting thoughts, but essentially, ‘Escape’ is the middle part of a trilogy and the sequel will raise the stakes considerably. We’ll find out more about The Child and his motivations and see how Mirushka is driving the country. We’re coming up to the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring and the sequel will have a storyline to match that momentous event. I very much hope there’ll be an appetite for it and it will see print one day. Watch this space…

Other than ‘Escape to Perdition’, which other book do you wish you had written?

‘1984’ and ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. ‘1984’ still unsettles me to this day and remains as frighteningly relevant as ever it was. It amazes me that we, as a people, still seem intent on sleep walking into that nightmare, oblivious to the daily erosion of liberties that has haunted us for decades. And I’d love to be responsible for the adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, what an absolute masterpiece.

What do you like to read when you’re not writing or trying to educate your children about music?

Will you shout at me if I give another cop out answer? I have a genuinely eclectic taste, but I’m a particular fan of the ‘Sharpe’ series by Bernard Cornwell, as well as Ian Fleming and Arthur Conan Doyle. Mary Shelley wrote my favourite novel of all time, in ‘Frankenstein’ and I adore ‘King Rat’ by James Clavell, a very moving book I’d urge you to read. Recently I’ve been catching up with my Urbane colleagues. I read ‘Close of Play’ recently (loved it) and A Barrowboy’s ‘Cadenza’ is next.

James, thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

If readers would like to see what I thought to ‘Escape to Perdition’, you can read my review here:

James’ novel is available from Urbane Publications or Amazon