Staying in with M. N. Grenside

9781912666751-683x1024

It’s my very great pleasure to be part of the Love Books Group blog tour for M. N. Grenside today. Thanks to Urbane Publications and to Kelly, I’m staying in with Mark so that he can tell me all about his latest book.

Staying in with M.N. Grenside

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Mark and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Hi Linda, hope you keeping well and safe.

I am thanks Mark, especially with all this wonderful weather. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

9781912666751-683x1024

Tonight I am bringing along my debut thriller FALL OUT; the first in a franchise of thrillers set in the movie industry.

Oh, interesting. So, what can we expect from an evening in with FALL OUT?

You can expect a late night firstly as I hope you can’t put it down! It’s a fresh look at the thriller genre. In the same way as Dick Francis wrote stories with horse racing as the backdrop or Grisham used the law, I have used my experience in film and TV to write a thriller with an Entertainment Industry backdrop

That sounds great – an example of write what you know then. Tell me more.

The story starts out with the murder of a successful screenwriter who has just completed his latest script Fall Out, destined to be a huge hit and the best work of his career. However we discover it is much more than that; for a select group of people he has sent it to it’s a death sentence with a reveal of one of the last centuries greatest crimes. As the quote on the top of each screenplay reads:

The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed’. HONORÉ DE BALZAC

Now I’m intrigued Mark…

FALL OUT gently lifts the veil on not only how films get made but on the true story of one of the greatest crimes of the last century.

Does that mean you’re blending fact and fiction?

The story has a number of characters from a Talent Agent, Completion Bond Executive, Stunt Men, a designer of parties and stands in Cannes, a writer, a Producer, a sixty-year-old Filipino and the last person you would expect as a hit man… I’d get sued if I told you whom they are based on!

Maybe when Linda’s Book Bag readers have gone you can whisper…

In addition, I have used both well researched historical facts laced with a healthy dollop of fiction to create a hybrid book where hopefully the reader finds it difficult to separate reality from fiction. There is action, exotic locations, Da Vinci code type clues and I hope some fascinating glimpses at art, food and organized crime.

FAll OUT sounds very exciting. Tell me about the main characters.

It has two leads… Producer Marcus Riley and Designer Melinda ‘Mako de Turris’, who spark off each other. I hope there is a lightness of touch and humor which I believe is missing from thrillers today. As a film and TV Producer, dialogue that crackles and descriptive scenery are important to me. It’s a very visual read with a number of spectacular locations that I hope are both fascinating and different.

I love a visual read. Just what we need as travel is limited at the moment too. But tell me a little more about your background that has fed into FALL OUT.

After a brief stint in Kidnap Ransom and Extortion Insurance at LIoyds of London, I started my TV and film career working for Jim Henson and the Muppets. Over the years I made a number of movies, mini-series and series for worldwide TV, with productions for both US and UK networks. Somehow in the mid noughties, I also ended up being a  channel owner buying the international version of The Hallmark Channel. That was sold to NBC and I returned to producing. The last project was Treasure Island for SKY and NBC Universal with Eddie Izard, Donald Sutherland, Elijah Wood, Philip Glenister and Rupert Penry Jones!

Nothing unusual then! Honestly Mark, that’s some career!

This all gives me an insider’s view to the workings of the Entertainment Industry to give verisimilitude to the backdrop of  FALL OUT. On that front, I hope I succeeded with already some very kind endorsements from people in the Industry. These include a number of award-winning Producers of Oscar nominated movies and Emmy Award winning drama shows, home grown support from the CEO and owner of Hammer Films, the founder of Talk Radio, Broadcaster Emma Forbes and former CEO of Channel 5 and senior Exec at ITV and Sky Dawn Airey.

You must be thrilled with that. Who knows. We may see FALL OUT on screen sometime… But with all that experience why did you write THIS particular book?

Well, I unearthed a dark side of history on a visit to Asia. On its own it lacked a real story that is relevant today to wrap around it. So I chose the movie business; something everyone is fascinated about, yet the Industry itself keeps so may secrets to itself.

And on a personal basis, making movies by nature is a very collaborative business. I just wanted a chance to do something where I am in complete control! So if it’s a success I will no doubt be insufferable!

I think you’ll deserve that moment of being insufferable!

I have been very lucky with support. From the Publishers, my wife and friends and even from bestselling authors including Damien Lewis. I hope I have succeeded blurring the lines between truth and fiction with a fast paced but very different kind of thriller. As well as imparting some knowledge about really how our business works. Most important is your readers enjoy the ride!

I think FALL OUT sounds so intriguing. I really need to get my hands on a copy now!

What else have you brought along and why?

In addition to my writing I am an entrepreneur. I and two friends founded a CBD company Dragonfly Biosciences in 2016 so I have some CBD for you.

I’ve never tried a CBD product so that will be interesting for me.

I also love to cook and entertain so I have some favorite recipes. Parmesan soup, Lamb baked in hay and rhubarb and white wine jelly!

Parmesan Soup

Ingredients: (Serves a very generous 4-6)
2 white onions (coarsely chopped)
50 g unsalted butter
200 g Parmesan (freshly grated)
1 litre chicken stock
2 litres cream
1 litre milk
50 g lardons of unsmoked bacon (finely chopped)
10 branches of chives (finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 tbsp croûtons (fry some diced small cubes of country bread in olive oil until golden)
200 ml Madeira or Marsala
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
Crusty country white bread

Coarsely chop up the onions. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onions and sizzle away on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Add 150 g of freshly grated parmesan, chicken stock, milk and cream. Simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop finely the bacon or simply use the cubed lardons. Fry for 5 minutes until crispy. Put to one side. Finely chop the chives and shallots. Put to one side aside.

When the soup is ready, add the remaining parmesan. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Mix in a food processor, and strain through a sieve. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm. Add the Marsala stirring the mixture

Place the shallots, chives, croûtons and bacon in a soup dish, serve soup immediately.

Cut bread into large chunks. Simply the most glorious soup to warm you up!

Lamb in Hay

Ingredients: (Serves six)
1 3 KG leg of lamb
100 g soft butter
1 small bale of fresh hay (you can get it in any pet shop)
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper
Garlic

Take your roasting tray. Place silver foil underneath the base, not inside the tray and leave it attached to the roll and place roll beside the tray.

Make a bed of hay in it. Place your leg of lamb in it. Smear the top with the butter so the other ingredient can stick to it.

Crush a couple of cloves of garlic into small bowl. Add the content or a decent spring of rosemary, salt, pepper. Use scissors to finely chop up into a paste. Then add to the top of the lamb.

Next put more hay to the top. Using the silver foil then wrap at least twice round this mound of lamb and hay making sure there are no openings or gaps. If there are the hay will catch fire.

Pre-heat over to near max 475f/240c/gas 9. Slam in the lamb for 2.45hours.

Be simply amazed at the tenderness and wonderful aroma and taste. Magnificent!

Rhubarb and Muscat Jelly

Ingredients:
1 kg rhubarb
325g caster sugar
500 ml water
Juice and finely grated zest one large or two small oranges
325ml Muscat wine (or similar, Beaume de Venise etc)
9 leaves of gelatine

Prepare an over tray with some silver foil over base around 30cm x 20cm and 5cm deep. Preheat oven to 5/190c/370f

Chop rhubarb in to chunks as long as your thumb and place in tray. Sprinkle over the sugar orange juice zest and water. Bake for an hour. Take out and let rest.
Then strain into a jug. Will be about 700ml of liquid. Keep the pulp for another day to reheat and have with vanilla ice cream for a pie or trifle. You can freeze it if wanted. Add more wine until you get about 900 ml of liquid.

Gently oil a jelly mould it you want to turn this out when set or simply get a pretty glass bowl.

Soak the gelatine in water in a dish till soft. Then take two ladles full of rhubarb and wine mixture and place in saucepan. Bring to boil then remove. Drop in softened gelatine then whisk till dissolved. Add to rest of mix and stir.

Then either pour into jelly mould or bowl. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours to set and chill.

Serve with crème fraiche and a chilled glass of Muscat!

Oh, you can come again if you’re going to cook. What a glorious meal Mark!

melinda

Here are a few photographs from the book of things you may have thought I made up but are real! Mako’s Riva Melinda II, Death Flowers, Chrysanthemum Stones and the writer’s house on Venice Beach that belonged to Dudley Moore

flower 1 flower 2 death flower

I have never heard of chrysanthemum stones before and I really wouldn’t mind living in that villa.

villa

My other passions of classic cars and scuba diving are a little difficult to bring with me! Come out to Malta though and we will dig out a car, go for a drive then have a dive. And I’ll tell you more about the follow up, The Bastion! Some of it is set here.

Now that sounds a plan. Thanks so much for a really fascinating evening. You get that Parmesan soup served Mark and I’ll tell blog readers a little more about FALL OUT:

FALL OUT

9781912666751-683x1024

The Player meets Get Shorty in this thrilling debut from Mark Grenside.

An LA screenwriter is killed shortly after completing his latest script, FALL OUT – a thriller destined to be a blockbuster but written with a secret double purpose. Echoing events from the past the screenplay is sent to a very specific group of people and will change their lives forever. All are connected to a movie that had abruptly stopped shooting in the jungles of the Philippines years before. FALL OUT exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few.

Follow the story of Producer Marcus Riley, who sets out on an increasingly dangerous quest to get FALL OUT made. From a powerful Agent’ s office in Hollywood, hidden treasures in Belgravia and a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps to murder at the Cannes Film Festival, Marcus teams up with designer Melinda (Mako) de Turris as they and the other recipients of the screenplay are pursued by an assassin from the past.

With clues cleverly concealed in the screenplay, Marcus and Mako unravel a lethal puzzle that for some will bring death, others the truth and ends in a cave with a shocking secret…..

Published by Urbane books today 21st May 2020, FALL OUT is available for purchase here.

About Mark Grenside

images

Mark Grenside began his working career straight out of school at Lloyds of London, specializing in Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion Insurance. At 25 it was time for a career change and to dump the suit and tie so he started his media career working for Jim Henson and The Muppets. From that moment on he has been involved in Entertainment and nearly every aspect of it. Mark then went on to create and produce a number of television series and mini-series. At the same time he started a music management company launching million seller artist Neneh Cherry. In 2004 he arranged a $250 million buy-out of the Hallmark Channel International which was then successfully sold to NBC. He returned to producing a number of movies and mini-series.

He has recently somehow morphed into a serial entrepreneur and is now a co-founder of seed to shelf CBD producer Dragonfly Biosciences (www.dragonflybiosciences.com) and a founder in two separate digital companies…. but has also seen a very good return from his love of cooking in an expanding waistline.

A probably unhealthy amount of time and money is lavished on a collection of classic cars that he has raced all over the world. He enjoys risk and has parachuted in New Zealand, scuba dived in the Pacific, hang-glided in the Himalayas and even tobogganed down the Cresta Run. In nearly every case chasing after his wife who is utterly fearless!

He is now writing the follow up to FALL OUT, entitled The Bastion. In addition he writes also puts out a humorous blog with subscribers in more than 40 countries. Mark has two grown sons, two daughters in law, three grandchildren and lives with his wife, a pug and a French bulldog in Malta.

Visit Mark’s blog for more information. Mark has just joined Twitter @MNGrenside too.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Fall Out poster

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

what Lies Between Us

It is far, far too long since John Marrs has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag and I am thrilled to be able to share my review of John’s latest book, What Lies Between Us for the blog tour today. My enormous thanks to Sophie Goodfellow for inviting me to participate. It’s a real honour to be closing the tour.

It’s over three years since I reviewed John’s The One here, and interviewed him about The One here. When John’s The Good Samaritan was published he provided a cracking guest post that you can read here too.

Published by Thomas and Mercer on 15th May 2020, What Lies Between Us is available for purchase here.

What Lies Between Us

what Lies Between Us

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

My Review of What Lies Between Us

Maggie and Nina are in a war of attrition.

Oh. My. Word. Now I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to review What Lies Between Us because anything I write may act as a spoiler for other readers. There is so much packed into John Marrs’ brilliant psychological thriller that I’m not sure how to articulate my thoughts.

From the moment I began reading What Lies Between Us I was captivated by the claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere created by the relationship between Nina and Maggie. Indeed, I found John Marrs entirely toyed with my mind as I vacillated between supporting the two women in turn, only to have my mind changed again in an instant, until I began to feel as controlled by the author as Maggie’s life is by Nina. This is such clever writing. Each of the women is pitiable, loathsome, duplicitous and endearing in various measure depending on the point in the narrative so that it wasn’t until the very last word that I decided whose side I was really on – and I’m not going to tell you for fear of giving anything away. The first person approach adds to the tension and appeal as both women’s voices are perfectly tuned so that it is as if they are speaking directly to the reader, making them complicit in the action.

The story line is fabulous. Short chapters add dynamism and excitement and there are so many plausible cliffhangers, hooks and twists that I found reading What Lies Between Us completely addictive. I felt as if I couldn’t leave Maggie and Nina alone in case they did something without me. I must have exclaimed ‘Oo,’ aloud at least a dozen times as I was wrong footed yet again by John Marrs’ skilful plotting.

Because the setting is confined for the most part to the house, the unnerving and claustrophobic atmosphere is enhanced, so that What Lies Between Us draws in the reader until they feel as if they are watching the action rather than reading about it. I loved the title because as well as the duplicity in the narrative, so much history and shared experience lies between Nina and Maggie. In addition, there’s a fascinating exploration of what lies between them individually and the reality of their lives and memories, providing several interpretations that are spellbinding for the reader. Self deception, delusion and manipulation are just some of the issues explored in this gripping read. Love and trust are equally sinister and made me question how we construct and adjust our truths until we lose sight of reality. This aspect made What Lies Between Us a surprisingly thought-provoking as well as enormously entertaining narrative.

I loved What Lies Between Us. It’s creepy, disturbing, occasionally violent and brilliantly written. John Marrs held me entranced and I had no choice but to devour this read. It’s superb and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

About John Marrs

John

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His science fiction novel The One has been adapted into a 10-episode drama series for Netflix by Misfits creator Howard Overman, and is currently being filmed. What Lies Between Us is John’s seventh book.

You can visit John’s website for more information and follow him on Twitter @johnmarrs1, Facebook and Instagram. There’s more with these other bloggers:

John Marrs Blog Tour Final

Staying in with Peter Taylor-Gooby

blood ties

I hosted a fantastic guest post from Peter Taylor-Gooby here on Linda’s Book Bag about why he writes dystopian fiction when The Baby Auction was published and having reviewed Peter’s Ardent Justice here, I’m thrilled to welcome Peter back to tell me about his latest book, Blood Ties.

Staying in with Peter Taylor-Gooby

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Peter and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

blood ties

Blood Ties, my most recent novel. I’m sure I could think of a good reason, maybe it’s got something to say about the strange mixture of isolation and kindness that seems to mark our times as we huddle in our houses and come to wave to our neighbours, or leave a few vegetables on their doorsteps or clap the NHS. The truth is that the book’s just out and I want to talk about it!

I can fully understand that. Congratulations on your third book Peter!

What can we expect from an evening in with Blood Ties?

It’s set in the context of people-trafficking but it’s really about the mingled love and tension between a father and his two children whose paths in life are very different.

That sounds very affecting Peter.

Here’s an extract:

Argon Road slants off the North Circular to the trading estate behind Ikea.

‘You’ll wait for us? Ten minutes?’ I hand over an extra £20.

‘Sorry.’

The door locks click and he’s off.

I pull my coat tight and look round. The air’s damp from the river and smells of diesel fumes and tarmac.

Two-storey corrugated iron sheds line the road, each with its compound, behind a three-metre metal fence. Harsh yellow streetlights clustered in fours on forty metre poles cast midnight shadows. I feel like an intruder in a giant’s world. A huge lorry with blank sides like a moving fortress glides past, the driver invisible in the cab. In the background the roar of the A406 is continuous, here there’s the pulse of solitary engines and the occasional shout and clatter of iron crates, but no movement I can see.

I shift closer to Nic but she’s concentrating on the torn packet, holding it out in front of her as if it’s a map and she expects to see landmarks. I shade my eyes to look for numbers on the buildings.

‘That’s it.’

The letters SPM in lime-green neon, superimposed on a golden bullock, shine out from a scaffolding above a one-storey shed at the end of the row.

Nic’s ahead of me, I half run to keep up with her.

I can’t catch my breath.

‘Slow down, we’ve got to keep together.’

‘That’s it,’ she says again. ‘Don’t you see – they outsource. No forced workers actually in your restaurant, just in the packing shed.’

‘Nic, it’s just a business. Come on, you need to get home. We’ll sort out your pills.’

The windows along the side of the shed are ablaze with light. I smell the sour salt smell of blood and see people moving around inside. The fence is higher than the one for the next compound, and the gates are locked. Nic stands back, checking it where it turns a corner. The air’s chill on my face and I start to shiver inside my overcoat. She doesn’t seem to notice the cold.

She hooks her fingers into the wire mesh above her head and hoists herself up. I grab at her belt.

‘Don’t be a fool. That’s razor-wire on top.’

‘Lend me your coat.’

Her shoes are too broad to get a foothold. I catch her as she slithers down. She stumbles backwards against me and I get my arms round her.

She pauses for a second, leaning back into my chest. She’s so cold. I open my coat and wrap it round her. For a few moments neither of us moves. I could stand there, like that, forever, they’d find us frozen in the morning. She stirs and rattles the fence.

‘Thanks Dad. Let’s go.’

I take her hand.

‘I’ll see if we can get a cab on the main road.’

That is so intriguing. Now, of course, I’m desperate to know what happens next. I’m so glad I have a copy of Blood Ties to read.

What else have you brought along and why?

tracle cake

A bottle of wine because it helps the conversation along, some of my homemade treacle cake (Grandmother’s recipe!) and my earnest desire that we come out of this grim, glum crisis with a determination to keep the good things: kindness to strangers, generosity to the vulnerable who can’t get to the supermarket, our appreciation of all those from nurses to carers to delivery drivers who make our lives possible.

You can have the wine Peter as it doesn’t suit me, but I’m right with you for the treacle cake and your wishes. I think we need social and Blood Ties more than ever. Thanks so much for being here and chatting to me about what sounds like another brilliant read.

Thanks for inviting me along, Linda.

Blood Ties

blood ties

Blood Ties is about love, betrayal and compassion. Ritchie, a successful advertising executive, is blackmailed into leading a campaign to make modern slavery acceptable to the public. His children, activists in the struggle against people-trafficking, are horrified. The novel tells of his journey through a Britain where rich and poor live as close and as distant as the cheeks of the blade of an axe, and how he finds that it is only through self-sacrifice that he can reunite his family.

Blood Ties is currently available in e-book from all online sellers including here.

I shall be sharing my review of Blood Ties on 28th August 2020 to coincide with the paperback release day so do come back then and find out what I thought!

About Peter Taylor-Gooby

Peter.jpg

Peter enjoys talking to his children, holidays, hill-walking and riding his bike. He has worked on adventure playgrounds, as a teacher, as an antique dealer and in a social security office in Newcastle. Before that Peter spent a year on a Gandhian Ashram in Vijayawada, supporting himself as assistant editor on a local English-language newspaper. In his day job Peter is an academic but believes that you can only truly understand the issues that matter to people through your feelings, your imagination and your compassion. That’s why he writes novels.

His first novel, The Baby Auction, 2017, is a love story set in a fantasy world where the only rule is the law of the market. That someone should help another because they care for them simply doesn’t make sense to the citizens of Market World, any more that auctioning babies might to us. His second, Ardent Justice, 2018, is a crime story set in the world of high finance and city fat-cats, where money rules, but greed can trip even the most successful. Peter’s latest book, Blood Ties, 2020, is about the ties of love in a troubled family, and the bonds of debt that chain illegal immigrants to people-traffickers, and how they can be broken through self-sacrifice. He hopes you enjoy them.

For more information you can follow Peter on @PeterT_G.

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

where we belong

It’s two years since I first encountered Anstey Harris at a wonderful TeamBATC blogger and author evening that you can read about here. Then she was telling us about The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, a book I loved and reviewed here. We met up again at the 2019 evening and you will find out what happened then here. Sadly, I couldn’t make the 2020 event with Covid 19 looming, an abscess in my upper jaw and an appointment at the cardiac unit in hospital, so when a copy of Where We Belong arrived from the magnificent SJV I was thrilled.

Where We Belong was published by Simon and Schuster on 14th May 2020 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Where We Belong

where we belong

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.

Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

My Review of Where We Belong

Cate’s moving with her son Leo and she isn’t happy.

I had unreasonably high expectations of Where We Belong because I absolutely loved Anstey Harris’ Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton. The author has not just met those expectations, but has exceeded them completely. I found Where We Belong an elegant, beautiful and emotional read that permeated the very core of me. The prose is somehow simultaneously understated, and elegantly descriptive, so that it feels like the reading equivalent of stroking raw silk. There’s quality, depth and a luminous sense of place and person that I found spellbinding and which took my feelings through the wringer.

It brought me enormous joy that Cate is a flawed fifty something woman because I could relate to her entirely. Her internal, as well as monetary, struggles mean that she has to draw on her past experiences and take responsibility for her life. This felt so realistic that I was on her side because of, rather than in spite of, her errors and flaws.  I thought Leo was simply wonderful. The way he is gradually uncovered by Anstey Harris is so skilful and sensitive that I’d defy any reader not to think they have actually met him. What the author has done here is to let the reader get to know her characters in the same way as those characters get to know one another and themselves. Indeed, the concept of giving others a chance and not judging too quickly is not only vital to the plot but manages to educate the reader without them even realising too.

And what a plot it is. In its basic form Where We Belong is quite simple. A woman and her son move into a dilapidated old house with an elderly retainer, but that would belie the twist and turns, the lies and deceit and the intricate tapestry of relationships that make Where We Belong so compelling. It’s not possible to say more for fear of spoiling the story but I was shocked, thrilled, delighted and very moved by the wonderful storytelling!

I think what makes Anstey Harris’ writing so perfect though, is her exploration of themes that weave so flawlessly into the story. Trust, love, family, community, loyalty and betrayal, humanity and a sense of home are just a few of the elements that combine in this glorious book. It is as if the author is shining a light on who we are and giving us permission to be human through her words.

Where We Belong is a book of searing emotion about love, loss and the potential of the human spirit. I finished it feeling uplifted, tearful and privileged to have read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Don’t miss it.

About Anstey Harris

anstey-harris-130146769

Anstey Harris teaches creative writing for Canterbury Christ Church University and in the community with her own company, Writing Matters. She has been featured in various literary magazines and anthologies, been shortlisted for many prizes, and won the H G Wells Short Story Award. Anstey lives in Kent, UK and is the mother of the singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan.

You can follow Anstey on Twitter @Anstey_Harris and visit her website.

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holton

51vicw6kcjl

My enormous thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side publicity for inviting me to participate in Noelle Holten’s paperback blogtour for Dead Wrong. I so enjoyed Noelle’s debut Dead Inside which I reviewed here that I’m delighted to have the chance to share my review of the second book in Noelle’s Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong, in this tour.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint One More Chapter, Dead Wrong is available for purchase through the links here.

Dead Wrong

51vicw6kcjl

The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

My Review of Dead Wrong

DC Maggie Jamieson wonders if she made a mistake in Bill Raven’s investigation.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first book in this series, Dead Inside, but Dead Wrong is even better and an absolute cracker of a book. Noelle Holten’s perceptive insight into her settings makes for an authentic and convincing story, as she has such knowledge of the world of criminology that her writing feels assured, competent and completely compelling.

In addition to the authenticity, the plotting and pace elevate the book into a completely transfixing read. Short, snappy, exciting chapters meant I was forced to read just one more until I’d consumed Dead Wrong. I simply had to know what happened next. I loved the linear chronology of the story because it felt as it I were discovering facts and details at the same time as Maggie, making me feel part of the action and enhancing my enjoyment. Dead Wrong is dramatic from start to finish and leaves the reader desperate for more. Much of the time I was reading I felt uneasy, wondering what might happen so that I found myself gloriously unsettled by the writing.

The gradual uncovering of Maggie’s private life and personality is brilliantly handled as a reader doesn’t need to have read Dead Inside to understand her and it is obvious that there is much more to discover in future books. She’s feisty, sensitive and completely believable. I especially like the way her ambivalent sexuality is part of who she is but doesn’t over dominate in the narrative. I also thoroughly enjoyed the rapport she has with Nathan and which acts as light relief after darker elements of the text.

I think Noelle Holten has created a dramatic, gripping series with Maggie Jamieson that belies her new author status. Dead Wrong feels as if it is part of the opus of a much more established writer because is is so tautly plotted, exciting and such an excellent read. I loved it.

About Noelle Holten

unnamed

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR and Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the #booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

For more information about Noelle, follow her on Twitter @nholten40, find her on FacebookAmazon and visit her blog.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Dead Wrong (1)

The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Anthony Jones

Cabinet of Calm jkt

I absolutely loved The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities that I reviewed here, so when Alison Menzies got in touch to see if I’d like to feature Paul Anthony Jones’ latest book, The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times, I was simply delighted to participate in the blog tour. I have my review of The Cabinet of Calm to share with you, but even better, I’m staying in with Paul Anthony Jones to find out more about it.

Staying in with Paul Anthony Jones

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Paul. Thank you so much for agreeing to stay in with me.

My pleasure, thanks for inviting me!

I am sure I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Cabinet of Calm jkt

I’ve brought my new book, The Cabinet of Calm. I’ve been writing about the rarities and obscurities of the English language for nearly a decade now,but this is something a little different: it’s a collection of words that, were they to be a little better known today, could give us some much needed reassurance and peace of mind in difficult times. Each one has its own dedicated chapter, almost like a little essay, explaining not only its meaning and its history but what we can take or learn from it, and how knowing it can help or inspire us in unkind times.

That’s a perfect description of The Cabinet of Calm. I know it’s out today so congratulations. Tell me a little more.

I’m really proud of it, but it was a tough book to work on! I worked out quite early on in the research for it that when times are hard, people tend to turn to things like art and music to express themselves—they don’t tend to invent words just to make themselves feel better! So while there are countless stories and songs about dealing with things like the end of a relationship or of missing someone you dearly love, there isn’t a word in the dictionary that means something like ‘the knowledge that you’ll see someone you miss again in the future’, for example. So when I was first sketching this idea out, it became clear that I’d have to use a little bit of imagination and think a little bit outside of the straightforward dictionary definition of some the words I was collecting to show how comforting or inspiring they can be.

I think you managed that magnificently Paul.

For instance, there’s a really beautiful word, interfulgent, which literally describes something that shines through something that would otherwise block it out—like the sun through thick clouds, or through the leaves of a tree. Its dictionary definition is nice enough, but if you think of that word a little more figuratively, it suddenly becomes a lovely inspirational metaphor for the triumph of light over dark.So once I’d figured out that a more imaginative approach rather than a literal one might be needed, researching this book suddenly became a really fascinating linguistic treasure hunt, and I think there’s a really lovely collection of words here.

There most certainly is. Fast approaching sixty, I love opsimathy, for example.

So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Cabinet of Calm?

I’d like to think this book sits somewhere between an interesting language book, and a thoughtful, inspiring book, almost more akin to a self-help book.

A perfect description!

So on the one hand, if there’s something that you’re currently struggling through—like a loss, or a lack of motivation, for instance—then hopefully there’s a chapter here there might offer a little comfort or reassurance, or at least a little food for thought. On the other hand, if you’re just interested in the vagaries and weirdness of the English language, I’d like to think that there are enough intriguingly obscure words and etymological tales in there to entertain you along the way.

There’s a chapter that’s dedicated to breaking out of a boring routine, for instance, and it contains one of my favourite etymological stories: sphexishness is a word for mindless, robotic drudgery. So getting on the same train or driving the same route to work every morning could be described as sphexish. Sphex was the Greek word for ‘wasp’, and it’s now the name of a specific type of wasp that lays its eggs in little holes dug into the ground. In the 1800s, a French naturalist found that when the mother wasp was preparing the nest, she would always double check the nest hole to make sure it was safe absolutely every time she entered it—even if she had only been in there just a few seconds earlier. And it was this curious little wasp’s this instinctive, pre-programmed behaviour that inspired this bizarre word.

And that’s the beauty of The Cabinet of Calm I think Paul. There’s always a fascinating back story as well as a modern application in the entries.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

simon and garfunkel

I’ve brought one of my favourite songs, The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. It was actually my mum’s favourite song too, and it’ll always remind me of her. Sadly both she and my dad passed away shortly before I started working on this book—which actually became one of the reasons why I wanted to write it. There are a few chapters in there that deal with grief and bereavement, and the words I chose for those were really influenced by what had happened personally before I even started work on the book.

I’m so sorry for your loss Paul. Reading your Introduction to The Cabinet of Calm brought a tear to my eye.

But there’s a lovely word in there, minding, that’s an old dialect word for a memento or a keepsake that reminds you of something or someone that you dearly miss. And this song will always be a lovely ‘minding’ of my mum and dad.

How wonderful. It will indeed. Music is so evocative. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about The Cabinet of Calm. I’ve loved hearing more about it. Before I share my review, let me tell readers a little bit more:

The Cabinet of Calm

Cabinet of Calm jkt

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that it’s going to be okay… Open The Cabinet of Calm to discover a comforting word that’s equal to your troubles.

The Cabinet of Calm has been designed to be picked up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you’re feeling and you’ll be offered a matching linguistic remedy: fifty-one soothing words for troubled times.

From ‘melorism’ to ‘stound’, ‘carpe noctem’ to ‘opsimathy’, these kind words – alongside their definitions and their stories – will bring peace, comfort and delight, and provide fresh hope.

Written with a lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. Like language, our emotions are universal: someone else has felt like this before and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

So much more than a book of words, The Cabinet of Calm will soothe your soul and ease your mind. It’s the perfect gift.

The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times is published by Elliott and Thompson today, 14th May 2020, and is available for purchase through the links here. Don’t forget that your local bookshop might be able to deliver to you too!

My Review of The Cabinet of Calm

Fifty-one alphabetically ordered and unusual words.

Oh my goodness. The Cabinet of Calm was just the book I needed. It’s an absolute joy. Having read Paul Anthony Jones’ personal statement in the introduction I felt an immediate affinity with the author that enhanced my enjoyment because he convinced me that these words had come from his heart as much as from his intellect. I loved every moment of reading this collection and will be returning to it time and again.

The Cabinet of Calm is an exquisite book. I have to mention the hypnotic cover design as the gold lines give the impression of calm and order akin to the raked gravel in a traditional Japanese garden and enabling the reader to centre themselves before they have even opened the pages. This book can quite easily be used as a self-help supportive text as words and chapters for ‘when your love is unrequited’, ‘when you’re work-obsessed’ or for ‘when you’re missing your family’ for example, are exactly the kind of situations when we all need support. In today’s Covid 19 dominated society I genuinely believe The Cabinet of Calm could at least help a reader feel less isolated and even help those with life threatening depression. It’s reassuring to be able to define our feelings and emotions and at the very least The Cabinet of Calm is completely distracting.

However, that isn’t to say that The Cabinet of Calm is a ‘worthy’ or ‘hippyish’ text. Far from it. Grounded completely accessibly in the author’s personal viewpoint but with fabulous word etymology, history, geography, linguistics, literature and anecdotes The Cabinet of Calm appeals to and entertains scholars and lay people alike. Each word is afforded a thorough explanation cross-linked within the text but also to other aspects, so that dipping in to the book can lead to all kinds of literary adventures.

Most of the words in The Cabinet of Calm are new vocabulary for me. I definitely need to cultivate cultellation in my life and I loved finding that the sensation I often feel of not quite being clear in my thinking, for example, means I am probably suffering from stavaig!

The Cabinet of Calm is probably the most relevant book that there could be for the current state of the world. But ameliorating international events aside, Paul Anthony Jones has created the most fascinating, uplifting, educational and entertaining collection that would be perfect for any reader. I thought it was wonderful.

About Paul Anthony Jones

Paul

Paul has a Masters in Linguistics and is a language blogger from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His obsession with words began with a child’s dictionary he received as a Christmas present when he was eight years old.  As @HaggardHawks he has tweeted obscure words since 2013 and now has a social media following of over 75k, including the likes of JK Rowling, Robert Macfarlane, Susie Dent, Richard Osman, Greg Jenner, Ian McMillan, Rufus Sewell, Simon Mayo, Michael Rosen and Cerys Matthews.

Paul’s website HaggardHawks.com brings together the entire HH network including a blog, books, quizzes & games, the 500 Words YouTube series, Instagram gallery and newsletter.He regularly contributes to the media.

You can follow Paul Anthony Jones on Twitter @HaggardHawks, and visit his website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Cab Calm blog tour rev

Discovering The Watch List with Joseph Mitcham

watch list cover new

One of the joys of blogging is discovering new, and new to me, authors. When Joseph Mitcham told me about his debut novel I simply had to invite him onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me more about it. Luckily he agreed to stay in with me, explain more and share an extract.

Staying in with Joseph Mitcham

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Joseph. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

watch list cover new

The Watch List is my debut novel, so you’re stuck with that for now! I’m halfway through the first draft of the second book; the next in the Atrocities Series.

Sounds like an exciting time for you Joseph. Congratulations on your new series. What can we expect from an evening in with The Watch List?

A healthy dose of intensity from a story told in a harsh reality. It’s a hard-hitting military techno-thriller that explores what might happen if the UK Terror Watch List got into the hands of a group of well-trained Service veterans. I’ve taken insights from my own service to give the book an edge of authenticity that seems to be hitting the right notes with others who’ve served – this makes great reading for those who haven’t (so I’m learning from my reviews).

Oh – this sounds like an exciting version of write what you know. Tell me more.

The book is gritty and detailed when it comes to the meat of the story, but if you make it through the first chapter – you’ll be all right! The real tough part of the book is the ethical battle that the team is faced with, particularly for Alex, the lead character who is a thoughtful kind of guy. I’m proud of the fact that my ‘hero’ is not your typical ‘warrior type’, he is the sensitive soldier; I found this a key factor in making the book credible and original. I have gone to lengths to communicate how battle situations don’t come naturally to all soldiers, even some of the ex-special forces characters in the book.

I think we tend to forget that our service people are just that – people. 

I’ve been blown away by some of the feedback that I’ve had in reviews. Key themes are that The Watch List is gripping, ‘unputdownable’ – many readers have finished it in one or two sittings. Others comment on the level of realism and how it has opened their minds to the current terror situation.

You must be thrilled to have that kind of reaction. The Watch List certainly sounds a fabulous read to me and I’m delighted to have it on my TBR.

What else have you brought along and why?

quince gin

I’ve brought a few Jamiroquai and Moby albums that are perfect for a couple of the lighter chapters in the book, and they’ll be comforting whilst reading the gnarly bits! I’ve got a photo of a buddy on mine who was killed in tour whilst we were deployed in Afghanistan, 2006; his death taught me an immense amount about soldiering and this is reflected in the book. I had to bring a bottle of quince gin to toast a good evening’s read – have you got any tonic?

I have Joseph. I’ve never tried quince gin so I think it would be perfect to toast your colleague too. You pour the drinks whilst I tell everyone a bit more about The Watch List. Thank you so much for staying in and telling me more about it.

The Watch List

watch list cover new

Sixty-eight dead and nearly three hundred injured in a hostile vehicle and bomb attack on a community festival in Birmingham, the country is in shock.

Battling the mental turmoil of the aftermath, Alex, a former Army communications specialist, stumbles across the UK Terror Watch List – he cannot resist the challenge of stealing the list from under the nose of his contract supervisor, Lucy Butler, a razor sharp and headstrong Intelligence Corps corporal with big ambitions.

Wrestling with his conscience and the ethics of tackling unconvicted suspects, Alex enlists the help of famed former UK Special Forces Warrant Officer, Craig Medhurst. Alex struggles to win the respect of Craig’s core team, but together they hatch a daring plan to act on their selected targets. Can Alex use his charm to persuade Corporal Butler to join them?

The Watch List is available for purchase here and in case that has whetted your appetite, here’s an extract for you to enjoy:

An Extract From The Watch List

{BEGINNING OF} CHAPTER 12 – A PINT

“Are you sure you’re up to this mentally, Alex? There’s no shame in walking away and leaving us to it you know mate; we’ve got plenty of communications experts in our network.”

“No way.” Alex says, not quite convincingly. “I know that this project is what I want. Every time I see footage of the Birmingham victims, those poor kids – no, this needs to happen and I’ll be proud to be a part of it.”

“It does Alex, and it will, but that’s not what I asked, I asked if you were up to it. There’s no shame if you’re not. I’ve seen the toughest of guys crumble mentally when their hearts are not completely in something as challenging as this.”

“You don’t think I’m up to it?”

“Listen Alex, it doesn’t matter what I think, there’s no way I can judge, it’s for you to decide.”

“Can’t a man of your experience tell who’s got the minerals and who hasn’t?”

“All I know is that you’re untested in that way Alex. Even if you’d been through the mill like me and my boys, that’s still no guarantee.” Craig looks into his pint glass thoughtfully.

“You’ve been caught by surprise before then?”

Craig lowers his voice further, “Listen, I’ve seen some of the worst action encountered by my former regiment, which by definition, is about the worst that anyone anywhere could have been exposed to, so I have difficulty in understanding why others, including some of my closest comrades, have succumbed to mental health dramas, PTSD and all that. I don’t pretend to understand it and I don’t judge, not anymore.”

“That sounds like a hard lesson learned?” Alex says whilst trying to make eye contact, but Craig is solemn, with his head down firmly over his pint.

“I saw it first hand when my best mate committed suicide shortly after leaving the service.”

“Oh Craig, I’m sorry.”

My best mate, Gaz, flung himself down the stairwell in his swanky flat, leaving himself hanging a couple of feet off the floor in his living-room. The cleaner found him the next day.”

“And you never saw it coming?”

“I’d known him forever. We met on soldier selection at Pirbright and we went through every stage of our careers together – purely by chance at first, but we became tight in the Anglians and decided to give selection a go together; we made sure that we’d follow the same path – we were like brothers… more than brothers. He was an emotional kind of guy on a different level to me; he’d cry like a baby after every kill – a lot of tears. The years took their toll, forcing him from service before his time, and compounded with the shock of civvy street, it all became too much.”

“Jesus.” Alex doesn’t know what else to say.

“I’ve done some serious soul-searching whilst mourning Gaz, but without tears. I just find myself zoning out thinking about him, and his situation, from time to time. As much as mourning my friend, I’ve had my own internal struggle to come to terms with.” Alex becomes conscious that Craig’s reassuring pep talk is turning into his own counselling session – he is unsure of what to do or say, but carries on listening intently.

“Is there something wrong with me? Why do I feel nothing about the things I’ve seen, done or been exposed to? I have this creeping feeling that there is something deeply wrong with me and that it could spill out at any moment, like it’s in the post and there’s nothing I can do about it. I know myself as an openly emotional person in other ways, I’d get a wobbly chin from a heated exchange in the NAAFI, or a lump in the throat watching DIY SOS, but the dead or dying on the battlefield, even my own men – not a flicker. Something is definitely amiss and there surely must be some sort of mental deficit to be repaid.”

Alex tries to respond with feeling; “I’ve not seen anything like what you’ve seen. One of my mates was killed on tour, but I wasn’t there. Another guy I knew from basic training was killed in a vehicle accident on the area, but things like that happen, they don’t really affect you that badly. I can’t begin to imagine losing close mates the way that you have. To be honest I don’t know what affect our project will have on me. All I know is that I want to be a part of it and that I’m willing to take the consequences of our actions.”

“That’s honourable Alex, but you keep thinking about it.”

The two men turn to their pints for a moment of silence. Alex tries to put his experience in perspective with Craig’s, and struggles to fathom how he must be feeling – the torment that he must wrestle with every night before he goes to sleep. He thinks of how he might cope with the guilt that he may feel for the executed targets, and whether the saving of lives that he expects to achieve from this mission can provide sufficient recompense.

*

(I don’t know about you, but I really want to know what happens here!)

About Joseph Mitcham

Author Bio Photo (1)

Joseph Mitcham served with the British military, in elite and technical units, for over 16 years. His service not only gave him a thorough tactical and technical understanding of some of the techniques and processes employed in his first novel, it also provided him with the opportunity to develop himself, earning a first class honours degree in business leadership.

The inspiration for writing ‘The Watch List’ was taken from personal experiences from the roles that he has served in, and characteristics from some of the people that he has served with.

Joseph has written an incredible, yet compellingly credible story that plays out in our world as he sees it today.

For further information you can follow Joseph on Twitter @MitchamJoseph.