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Pam Rhodes

Pam RhodesPam Rhodes is known around the world as the presenter of BBC Television’s Songs of Praise and her popular Hearts and Hymns programme on Premier Christian Radio. She describes herself as an ‘anorak’ in her fascination for hymns old and new, and her books on hymn-writers, like Love So Amazing, Then Sings My Soul and Hear My Song are essentials in many a church vestry! A natural storyteller with 25 varied books under her belt, Pam is perhaps best known for her novels packed with down-to-earth characters and situations that inspire and entertain. ‘Springtime At Hope Hall’ is the first book in her ‘Hope Hall’ series.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I’ve been the presenter of the BBC Television series ‘Songs of Praise’ for more than thirty years, with a wonderful opportunity over the years to interview hundreds of people with challenging or inspiring stories to share. Back in 1995, a publisher asked me to write a factual book about behind the scenes on ‘Songs of Praise’ – but I didn’t feel I had the right to share those stories when I was mostly no longer in touch with the interviewees. So I tried my hand at writing a fictional account of the making of a ‘Songs of Praise’ programme instead, in which I could feature elements of the most moving stories, but change the characters, location and exact situation of their experience so that it was unrecognisable. That book, ‘With Hearts and Hymns and Voices’ is still selling well today, all these years later – and from that moment on, I was hooked on writing novels.
  2. You have led quite a varied career over the years, has this inspired your writing and your new book ‘Springtime at Hope Hall’?
    ‘Songs of Praise’ has provided me with an unmatchable tapestry of human experience and emotion from which I am able to draw. I think I’m a bit sponge-like whenever I hear a moving or challenging real-life story, so that when I’m writing, I can draw on those memories to create completely new fictional characters.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I like all sorts of reading, mostly nothing like the books I write myself. I love the books written some years ago by Fiona Castle, the widow of the entertainer Roy Castle. She has written several comforting and yet challenging books full of quotations as well as her own thoughts, and I often delve into them with great pleasure. Then, I love a good mystery – so Joy Ellis, the detective story writer is one of my favourites – and because I like a good romance too, I also enjoy the gentle, down-to-earth storytelling of Jill Mansell.
  4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    I have always loved ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’by Morris West. I read it first many years ago, and it really touched me. When I fancy the best possible reading experience – you know, a book with a storyline that has me bawling my eyes out – it’s that book I reach for!
  5. Why did you decide to write female fiction?
    I wasn’t aware that I’d ever made that decision! I don’t write for any one kind of reader, and I hope my books aren’t only entertaining for women. I mostly write stories based in communities – in churches sometimes, or in the case of this recent trilogy, a large Victorian community hall used by people of all age groups and interests – and I hope the books that appear as a result of that come from all sorts of age groups and interests too.
  6. Springtime At Hope Hall

  7. Who’s your literary hero/heroine?
    I’m not sure I can answer that in terms of the books I enjoy reading, because I simply love meeting and getting to know the central character of each and every story. Sometimes the character I like most actually plays a minor role – but is simply extraordinary as all ordinary people are. They are the characters I like best of all.
  8. What’s been your favourite part of the writing process?
    Simply sitting down at the computer and starting! I never allow myself an empty screen. Even if I have no clear idea where the storyline is heading, I just get started – and somehow all the other characters and storylines join me on the way!
  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    It would be hard to beat that wonderful opening line from Daphne du Maurier’s classic story of ‘Rebecca’ –‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” In a few short words, we recognize the heroine’s voice, where she is and the dreamlike atmosphere of that tragic story of love and loss.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    I’d bring a ‘Songs of Praise’ hymn book, because I’d be very happy not just remembering the melodies, but recognising the beauty of the words, especially those from writers down the centuries whose life stories are inspirational in themselves. I’d bring an old copy of Ripley’s ‘Believe It Or Not’. When I was a youngster, that was the book we were tucked up with if ever we were ill. I loved those unbelievably odd stories, and the pictures alongside each example have stuck in my mind too. I’d love to look through that old book again in more detail now. And I think I’d have to bring a Bible – because there is so much of it that I’ve never read. I’d like to have the time to read it with a greater sense of chronology, and of the characters and situations of the writers themselves.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think they should concentrate on the sheer joy of writing. Go to a writing course, if you feel that would help – but don’t let some suggested technique stop you just starting to write down what you want to say first, and then just letting your own imagination fill the page for you. It doesn’t matter if no one but you ever reads it, or if it is eventually published and read by thousands. The main thing is to enjoy the act of writing, which is as compelling as reading – and, I think, much more fulfilling.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My glasses. I can’t see a thing without them.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I am just about to bring out another trilogy, ‘Hope Hall’, all about a wonderful old Memorial Hall that could be very much like the community hall down the road from wherever you live. It’s open from morning till night for all age groups and interests – so that young and old, locals and visitors, meet up inside its walls.’Hope Hall’ is full of great characters, some of whom span the three books, whilst some of them feature in cameo storylines about the various group activities going on at the hall. All of life is there – emotional, challenging and downright fun!

    You can buy ‘Springtime At Hope Hall’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

    Follow Pam Rhodes on Twitter and her website for updates.

All The Rage By Cara Hunter

All The Rage‘All The Rage’ is the latest book by Cara Hunter in the DI Fawley series.

A girl is taken from the streets of Oxford. But it’s unlike any abduction DI Fawley’s seen before. Faith Appleford was attacked, a plastic bag tied over her head, taken to an isolated location and then, by some miracle, she escaped. What’s more, when DC Erica Somer interviews Faith, she quickly becomes convinced that Faith knows who her abductor is. Yet Faith refuses to press charges. Without more evidence, it’s looking like the police may have to drop the case. But what happens if Faith’s attacker strikes again?

This is the first book that I’ve read by Cara Hunter and it was an absolute cracking introduction to the DI Fawley series, granted there’s been a few books already in the series, but at no stage in the story, did I feel lost or confused by the characters.

The story is primarily about a young woman who is attacked but doesn’t want to press charges. But when the incident is investigated further it’s discovered that the case isn’t as straightforward as suspected and finds DI Fawley his himself revisiting an old case when similar patterns emerge.

The story is seen through multiple perspectives in the stories, whether it’s victims, police or potential suspects all giving different insights to the story. They are all clearly outlined so that the reader doesn’t get confused.

Right from the outset, the story really pulls the reader in, it’s fast paced and edgy and deals with current issues such as transgender and hate crimes and all cases are handled with sensitivity and are thoroughly researched, that really makes the reader emphasise with the unfortunate victims. But with each hard hitting scene or discovery, Cara injects a little of humour into the story to lighten the storyline.

I found there to be quite an array of characters, from the quiet and brooding DI Farley, to DI Somer, a young detective that reminds me DI Tennison from the ‘Prime Suspect’ series.

With unexpected drama, unreliable characters and narratives, ‘All The Rage’ is a story that packs a dramatic punch that had me hooked until the final page.

You can buy ‘All The Rage’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Death Deserved By Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst

Death Deserved‘Death Deserved’ is the latest book by writing duo Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV. Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing. Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention. Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

Death Deserved is the first book in a new crime series by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst and it’s an absolute cracker introduction to the Alexander Blitz novels.

In a world where being a celebrity is the desired career, a serial killer is killing celebrities and the only connection between them all is numbers. Detective Blitz is the detective in charge of the case, but with every moment that passes, another life is claimed and the public and press are going mad as their favourite television and radio presenters being killed one by one. Aspiring crime journalist Emma is dedicating her time to this case and is determined to be one step ahead of all the other newspapers, even if it means putting her own life in danger.

The story is written from the perspective of Blitz and Emma as well as the celebrities that are being targeted. The different insights in the story, give an interesting slant in the terms of police procedure, from the crime scenes, the news conferences as well the world of journalism and reality stars.

I really liked the two main characters in this story. Blitz is a fascinating character with a past that has clearly damaged him, which is clear from the opening scene in the book. He’s smart, articulate and is quick to piece things together. Himself and Emma make an unlikely duo as the pair of them team together to work out who is the next victim.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the chapters are short and snappy and the writing is fast paced with many twists that really hold the reader’s attention. I always find it fascinating when two writers write a book together but this book flowed seamlessly, weaved with drama and suspense throughout.

This is the first book that I’ve read by both authors and thought it was a fantastic introduction to a new series and one I’ll certainly look forward to reading more off. Atmospheric from the first page, this Nordic crime novel is cleverly written with many surprises along the way. At the start, it’s initially a bit slow but quickly gathers momentum that made the thriller impossible to put down.

A slick and fast paced thriller that is perfect for Jo Nesbo fans, ‘Death Deserved’ is a cunning and disturbing story about the price of fame and obsession.

You can pre-order ‘Death Deserved’ from Amazon and will be avaialble to buy from good bookshops from 20th February.

The Liar’s Daughter By Claire Allan

The Liar's Daughter‘The Liar’s Daughter’ is the latest book by Claire Allan.

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon. But grief is the last thing that Joe’s daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe’s death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won’t be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him.

Claire Allan is back a new thriller that had my attention gripped throughout. Set in the maiden set of Derry, this psychological thriller is a twisted story of lies and deceit. To the outside world Joe McKee, is the perfect man, God fearing Catholic who took over the care of his partner’s child when she died. But there is another side to Joe, that the only people closest to him know about. So when Joe finds out that’s he’s dying, he expects everyone to rally around him, but everyone is actually counting down until he dies and when he suddenly does die, everyone is a suspect.

The story is seen primarily through the eyes of Heidi and Ciara, the daughter of the dead partner and Joe’s biological daughter. They hate each other, Ciara hates Heidi for taking away her father and Heidi hates Ciara for the bullying and pain Ciara inflicted on her whilst going up. But unknown to both of them, they have more in common than they had ever known.

Both women are interesting. Heidi is a new mother who is fiercely protective of her baby, she’s meek and has struggles in her life, whilst Ciara, I found to be quite a dislikable woman. She’s brash, harsh and is always turning on Heidi, who I found myself quite protective off.

The story is written in past and present tenses and really helps with characters development and shows the reader why both women behave in such a way. I despised Joe, Claire really achieved an instant hateful man who’s slime and sleaze oozed off the pages. So when he’s killed, it’s understandable why there are so many suspects!

Bleak and atmospheric, this book is a tough book to read, touching on abuse and mental illness, this pacy thriller really gripped my attention. With unreliable characters and suspicious situations and a menacing plot line that really pulls the reader in, ‘The Liar’s Daughter’ is a taunt and twisty story that will have you guessing throughout.

You can buy ‘The Liar’s Daughter’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Noireland Is Back For 2020

Noireland International Crime Festival, BelfastA new year, a new line up and a new venue, Noireland is officially back with a bang.

Taking place on Saturday 28th March, this packed one day event will be taking place at its new home at the Clayton Hotel, Belfast.

The event sees the return of some of Northern Ireland’s finest authors as well some authors that have already graced the Northern Ireland crime scene such as Ann Cleeves and Liz Nugent.

They have also crammed in bestselling author, Mark Billingham, as well as a walking tour, a special screening of ‘Odd Man Out’ the wonderful Jack-a-noir-y and even a creative writing morning which promises to be informative, affordable and useful to all aspiring crime writers.
This year’s NOIRELAND is also full of exclusives – early releases from the likes of Steve Cavanagh, Brian McGilloway and Jane Casey. Plus, a sneak preview of Adrian McKinty’s new Sean Duffy novel at Jack-a-noir-y.

Check out the ‘At a Glance’ NOIRELAND programme to find out what’s on in our ‘Writers’ Morning’, ‘Noirish Afternoon’ and ‘Noirish Night of Stars’.