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In Appreciation Of The Bonkbuster By Kat French

Claire AllanOn the final day of the book tour for Kat French’s new book called ‘A Summer Scandal’, we talk about the great authors of the bonkbusters.

Every year I write a summer book; this year my release is called ‘A Summer Scandal’, about a girl who unexpectedly inherits a pier in a south coast town she’s never heard of and packs her bags for a summer of adventure. I love writing a proper sizzler of a book – for me, a good beach read needs to turn up the heat! I’m hugely inspired by lots of writers, but I’d like to focus particularly on a genre that holds a special place in my heart – the bonkbuster! Bonkbusters, named affectionately as a mash up of a blockbuster and bonking, never go out of fashion. Fabulously over the top, they fizz with sex and scandal and absolute beach appeal; here are three of the most legendary authors in this genre.

Jackie Collins – The Queen.
Sadly no longer with us, Jackie was the queen of the genre by a long chalk. I think I’ve read every book she ever released, a steady diet of glitzy, glamorous scandal from the age of about fifteen! Thirty-two novels, more than five hundred million books sold and translated into forty languages – what incredible stats! I can’t imagine any one will ever topple Jackie’s crown, she oozed glamour in real life and seemed to live an LA lifestyle right off the pages of one of her racy novels. She lifted the lid on Hollywood and gave us all a peep behind the curtain. We salute you with champagne, Jackie.

A Summmer Scandal

Jilly Cooper
What Jackie is to LA, Jilly is to the rolling English countryside. Her Rutshire Chronicles (‘Riders’, ‘Rivals’, Polo, etc.) are a delicious thrill, full of adultery and scandal set amongst the British upper-class Polo and foxhunting crowd. Huge, heavy books that you read slowly so as not to get to the end too soon, and the ultimate sexy anti-hero in Rupert Campbell Black. Often loathsome but as sexy as they come, he is the poster boy of all things bonkbuster.

Shirley Conran.
I read ‘Lace’ at a rather impressionable age, and it has stayed with me ever since! I doubt there is a romance writer alive who doesn’t envy the line “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” – it’s a twisty tale of revenge and revelations set in the sixties and seventies, and is as much a story of four women’s friendship and self discovery as it is about Lily’s search for her mother. Anyone who has read Lace will never look at a goldfish in the same way again…

You can buy A Summer Scandal from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Summer On The Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish Studio Book Tour

Summer On The Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish StudioOn the book tour for Phillipa Ashley’s latest book called ‘Summer On The Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish Studio Book Tour’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the Summer story.

Dan had walked onto the stage and Poppy had perked up immediately. Admittedly, she couldn’t remember many of the details of the presentation, but as for the presenter himself – the hour had flown by. He was tall and fit with toffee-blond hair and he reminded her (a bit) of Ryan Gosling. He came across as confident but not cocky, and he really knew his stuff. When she asked a question at the end, he answered it politely and explained his point without patronising her. Afterwards, he made a beeline for her in the hotel bar and while his colleagues were getting pissed, he spent the evening chatting to her. She was impressed by his ambition and his attentiveness. He made her feel special and, by a huge stroke of luck, it turned out they only lived half an hour from each other.

They made arrangements to meet up on a date, and six months later, they’d moved in together. Two years on, their lives were as tightly intertwined as vines and Poppy hoped they would always stay that way: growing closer and building a future together.

‘So, how long have you been making a living from the gallery?’ Poppy heard Dan ask Archie.

‘Too long to remember.’ Archie chuckled, caught Poppy’s eye and winked. He started to explain to Dan how he’d bought and converted the boatshed into a gallery while his family were young. He mentioned ‘while my Ellie was alive’ more than once, which must mean he was a widower now, unless the lady at the cash desk was his current partner.

Poppy glanced at her phone and realised it would soon be time to walk down to the ferry. With a smile for Archie, she said, ‘I must finish my shopping,’ and left him and Dan talking. After swooping on a few ‘must-haves’, she took her purchases to the counter. The assistant added up the cost on an old-fashioned calculator and put Poppy’s money in an old cash tin.

You can buy Summer on the Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish Studio from Amazon

Stalker Book Tour – Extract

StalkerToday on the book tour for Lisa Stone’s new book called ‘Stalker’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the chilling tale.

Visiting times for the high dependency ward (HDU) at St Mary’s hospital were from 2pm to 8pm. Derek planned to arrive at the hospital at 2.10pm, hoping no one else would be visiting Mrs Hanks. If there was anyone there he’d leave straightaway without even saying hello. He had a large box of chocolates tucked under his arm. He had wanted to bring her a bouquet of flowers, bright and forgiving; pink carnations, pale-blue hyacinths, red roses as an apology. But he’d found out while looking for the visiting times on the hospital’s website that in line with most hospitals they no longer allowed flowers on the wards for fear of bringing in infection or triggering allergies. So he’d done the next best thing and bought her a box of chocolates. He hoped she enjoyed them.

He felt bad, really bad. He’d never intended Mrs Hanks should be physically harmed. He hated violence, abhorred it; even watching it on the television or Internet made him cringe and turn away. He didn’t like to see people hurting each other, he wanted everyone to be kind. In his ideal world there would be no violence and every child would have two loving parents. It was OK to teach someone a lesson as long as it didn’t involve violence; that had been his intention with Mrs Hanks. He had wanted to teach her a lesson for all the times she’d cheated on her husband. Never for a moment had he thought Mr Hanks would react as he had, attacking his wife with that large spanner and beating her unconscious. He’d always been so placid and accommodating. It had shaken Derek rigid.

Derek parked his van in the hospital car park and made his way in through the main entrance, hoping Mrs Hanks was making a good recovery. He knew from watching their CCTV that she’d been alive when the ambulance had taken her away. At that point, Mr Hanks had gone with the police, presumably to make a statement. Derek hadn’t slept properly since, and not knowing how she was or what Mr Hanks had told the police was becoming unbearable. There’d been a small piece in the local newspaper, just saying that a woman had been found unconscious at her home in Princess Street and a man was helping police with their enquiries. There’d been nothing about how badly she’d been hurt, although being in HDU wasn’t a good sign, he thought. When he’d telephoned the hospital to find out how she was, the nurse had said they only gave out information to the next of kin and he should contact her husband. Clearly that was impossible, so he’d decided to visit in person.

The sign next to the lift showed that the HDU ward was on the second floor. With a shudder he got in and pressed for Floor 2. He hated hospitals and usually avoided them. His mother had been in hospital for two weeks when he’d been a child and at the time it had seemed she’d gone away forever. He’d visited her with his father but not every evening. His father wasn’t a good man and had resented having to look after his son. Derek remembered how unkind he’d been to him. He now associated hospitals with acute unhappiness and beatings.

The lift stopped and the doors opened. As he got out a woman stepped in. The HDU ward was signposted down a short corridor to his left. He stopped at the security locked double doors to the ward. If they asked who he was he’d have to say a relative. Summoning his courage – he hadn’t come this far to turn back now – he pressed the intercom button and waited, the tic at the corner of his eye began to agitate. Nothing happened so he pressed the button again and without any need to identify himself the doors released.

Did you enjoy that? Well, you can buy Stalker from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Choosing Locations By Susan Stairs

Susan StairsOn the book tour for Susan Stairs’ new book caleld ‘One Good Reason’, Susan talks about deciding locations for her novels.

Make your setting a character. We’ve heard that said time and again. Where the action takes place is as important as every other element in your novel. My first novel ‘The Story of Before’ is set in a housing estate just outside Dublin in the 1970s and is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Ruth Lamb. Because Ruth is a child and the story is hers alone to tell, the setting needed to be a place she was able to navigate easily, a place where she had free reign, somewhere she could easily interact with all the other characters. Hillcourt Rise is that place. An estate of over one hundred houses set around a green space, it is Ruth’s world. It is a world she feels part of – but only to a degree. She is an observer, an outsider who feels she has more in common with her neighbour – widow Bridie Goggin – than with the other children who live there. Almost all the action takes place within the confines of Hillcourt Rise as I wanted the novel to have a tense, claustrophobic, insular feel. 

For One Good Reason

My second novel ‘The Boy Between’ is split between two settings and perspectives: 14 year-old Tim in 1980s rural Ireland; and 27 year old Laura in Dublin in 2011. Aside from deciding that this was the best way to tell the story, I also wanted very much to juxtapose the two different Irelands, so to speak, and show how much things changed in the years between them. Central to the plot is the contrast between how we communicate now and how we did back in the 1980s. The criss-crossing back and forth from the past to the present allows the reader to empathise with both Tim and Orla and understand how their stories interlink and collide. 

‘For One Good Reason’, I wanted a more exotic location, but one that would also have a link to Ireland. For the plot to work, Laura, the protagonist – a girl from Dublin – needs to become someone she’s not and that is a lot more difficult to achieve on home turf. So I set the major part of the novel in the South of France, in a villa owned by her godfather in the hills above Nice. I’ve visited Nice many times and felt I was familiar enough with the area to describe it accurately and allow it to feed into the action convincingly. 

For my next novel, I’m back in Ireland with the action set between a girls’ secondary school in the 1970s and, mainly, an old house that’s for sale in contemporary Dublin. I’m captivated by the past and by the ways that memory and mystery can work both with and against each other and how we can convince ourselves things happened as we remember them. But did they really?

You can buy One Good Reason from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Catering World And Me By H.V. Coombs

Murder On The GreenToday on the book tour for ‘Murder On The Green’, the latest book by H.V. Coombs, we talk about working in the catering world.

I drifted into catering late in life by accident. I was looking after my two children at home, bored and so, when a free day in the week became available, I decided to do a cookery course which was something I’d always been interested in.

Only one was running at a suitable time, a Thursday, and that was NVQ Cookery 2 at Aylesbury, a large town up the road. I thought, well, I could learn like the professionals. I called them up, it was cheap and they said not working in catering didn’t matter. So, aged 40, I found myself back at college with a bunch of 16 year olds. That was oddly intimidating, but the kids were really welcoming, despite the fact that I was as old as their dads. A fortnight later I found myself working weekends at a Loch Fyne restaurant.

To say it was a shock to the system was a wild understatement. I had, mistakenly, thought that I was a good cook. That Friday night I watched as the head chef, Paul B, singlehandedly cooked about two hundred main dishes in three hours, pretty much faultlessly, helped by a sous chef and someone else doing vegetables. I realized then that I wasn’t a good cook and never had been. I realized then that I actually knew sod all.

Watching a well-drilled kitchen brigade in full operating mode on a Saturday night is an awesome sight. After working together a while you develop an almost psychic bond with your fellow chefs. There is also a tremendous sense of camaraderie forged by the hours, the stress and the relentless time pressures.

The downside of it is that in this febrile, hot-house environment, hatreds flourish and resentments, seething resentments of someone grow and multiply. Weird behavior is, or can be, the norm. Drugs and alcohol abuse are commonplace. It’s also, sadly, an environment in which bullies thrive. Part of it due to a macho culture, part of it due to tradition, ‘twas ever thus type thing, and part of it I think like Stockholm Syndrome, working in a kitchen you lose sense of reality, the outside world is a kind of vague, unreal place. You often work six day weeks, arrive at ten a.m and leave after eleven pm and your day off is often spent getting hammered in a pub.

That makes it a good place to set a crime novel, everyone from the kp to the restaurant manager is capable of killing just about anyone.

‘A Taste of Death’ and its follow up, ‘Murder on The Green’, are partly set in this odd, twilight world and in the equally strange world of a village in the Chilterns, but that’s another story.

Hopefully as well as enjoying the plot and characters, the reader will get some idea of the potential drama going on backstage and realise that when you think, ‘that soup’s been a while coming,’ absolute mayhem, if not actual violence, could well be going on behind those swing doors leading to the kitchen.

You can buy Murder on the Green from Amazon