I’m a big fan of thrillers and so I was delighted when Caoimhe O’Brien from Sapere Books got in touch to see if I’d like to be part of the blog tour for Simon Michael’s latest book. Had life been less frenetic I would have loved to have shared a review with you today. However, I’m thrilled to be staying in with Simon Michael today as he has some interesting things to tell me!
Staying in with Simon Michael
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Simon and thank you so much for agreeing to stay in with me.
It’s an honour to be invited. I’ve spent some time looking at your back catalogue of previous guests and I’m in some pretty illustrious company.
I love staying in with authors as you can tell, and it’s great to have you here. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought The Waxwork Corpse, the most recent in the Charles Holborne thriller series, which was published in December.
Sapere Books have republished the first four books in the series (and done an absolutely stonking good job with them too!) but this is the first brand-new title since my move. While all of the books are based upon true high-profile stories from the 1960s, often involving the Kray twins, and cases on which I worked as a barrister, this one was particularly well-known.
Some of your more mature readers may remember the TV and newspaper coverage of the case of the airline pilot who killed his wife and dumped her body in the deepest Lake in England, Wastwater, only for the body to be found almost a decade later almost perfectly preserved.
Oh my goodness yes! I remember that as it wasn’t long after I got married. Hmm. That must make me one of the ‘more mature’ amongst us!
When I tell the story as part of my “one-man show” I watch people’s mouths drop open when they hear of the series of extraordinary coincidences and mishaps which led to the man’s arrest. But that’s only half of it, because he then contested the murder trial at the Old Bailey, so that’s the part of the thriller which turns into the courtroom drama.
This sounds fabulous. I can’t wait to read it. What can we expect from an evening in with The Waxwork Corpse?
It might not just be an evening! Reviewers are often kind enough to say they couldn’t put Charles down, but this time I’ve received more than one complaint that the reader kept on promising to stop after one more chapter, then another, and then another, only to find it was 4 am before they fell asleep over the book.
You must be delighted to have that kind of response to your writing Simon.
Although I’ve fictionalised it and woven Charles through the investigation and the trial, it really is one of those true-life crimes from which it’s hard to tear one’s eyes away. I first learned of the case while sitting in a robing room waiting for a jury to return with a verdict. Barristers waiting for juries will often pass the time by retelling the story of their cases, but when we heard this one you could hear a pin drop, and I knew that one day I’d have to write it as a novel.
At the same time The Waxwork Corpse is in some ways the most personal book in the series. I can’t give too much away (spoilers) but there are distinct parallels between what happens to the accused and my family situation.
You can’t just drop that in to the conversation and move on Simon! Now, of course, I HAVE to read The Waxwork Corpse as soon as I can.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
Well, I’ve brought two things, both related to the story. Hold your nose for the first, because I’ve brought a piece of what they call reflected scalp, taken off the deceased during the post-mortem, and now pickled in formaldehyde.
Oh. Most guests bring something to eat or drink…
One of the more gruesome things pathologists do when looking for cause of death, particularly in a corpse that has been long-dead, is to make an incision along the hair line and pull back (“reflect”) the scalp as if pulling off a swimming cap. It may, for example, reveal bruises which were not detectable on the skin surface. When I decided to write this story, the solicitor for the accused man sent me all the prosecution documents, including the post-mortem report, photos and all. The post-mortem is described in some detail in the book.
That sounds like research beyond the call of duty to me!
Secondly, I’ve brought a silver trophy cup. Watch out for it; it’s a big clue to the double twist at the end.
I definitely like the trophy more than the reflected scalp. Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me all about The Waxwork Corpse Simon. You’ve thoroughly intrigued me. I think Linda’s Book Bag readers might need to see the full blurb and where they can buy the book:
The Waxwork Corpse
Charles Holborne is back – with his strangest case to date! Perfect for fans of John Grisham, Robert Bailey, Michael Connelly and Robert Dugoni.
A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…
Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.
But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press.
By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake. It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.
The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.
The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…
The Waxwork Corpse, based on a real Old Bailey case, is the fifth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.
The Waxwork Corpse is available for purchase here.
About Simon Michael
Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: a barrister for 37 years, he worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. The 1960s was the Wild West of British justice, a time when the Krays, the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted evidence and took a share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers real events of the time,the cases on which he worked and his unusual family history in the East End.
Simon was published here and in America in the 1980s and returned to writing when he retired from the law in 2016. The Charles Holborne series, The Brief, An Honest Man, The Lighterman, Corrupted and the latest, The Waxwork Corpse, have all garnered strong reviews for their authenticity and excitement.