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Quentin Bates

Quentin BatesQuentin Bates is the author of six crime fiction novels and the translator of Ragnar Jónasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir novels. His new novel, ‘Cold Breath’ is published by Constable on the 11th October.

  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 a journalist for quite a few years – nothing wildly exciting, as I write mostly about shipping – so it was a side-step into books and fiction. I did a creative writing course, mainly so I could have an afternoon a week off work, and the first book in the series grew out of that course – even though I had gone into it expecting to come out writing non-fiction.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book, ‘Cold Breath’?
    ‘Cold Breath’ is the latest in a series that centres around a Reykjavík police officer called Gunnhildur Gísladóttir who has solved a good few murders before now. In this book things are a little different, as I wanted to take her out of her comfort zone entirely, so instead of hunting a criminal, she has been assigned to be a bodyguard for a visitor to Iceland who has a price on his head. The two of them have little in common and don’t like each other a great deal, and it isn’t clear if the mysterious visitor is everything he claims to be. That’s about all I can say without giving away any spoilers.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Lilja Sigurðardóttir (whose books I translate into English) because Lilja is loads of fun. Dominique Manotti and William Ryan, John Lawton, John le Carré and Len Deighton and because I love their books. Barbara Nadel because she has a wicked sense of humour, and writes brilliant books. My old friend Guðlaugur Arason because he was, like me, a seafarer, and he’s a fascinating character. And maybe Douglas Adams…
  4. Why did you decide to write crime?
    I’m not entirely sure. It was something I had been tinkering with for a while and when it came to it, it was almost a snap decision to go down the fiction route. As I said, I had expected to be firmly shackled to non-fiction rather than crime novels, but sometimes these decisions seems to take themselves.
  5. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I would have liked to have started earlier, and a little more confidence at the outset would have been ideal.
  6. Who’s your favourite villain?
    The chilling General Carmona, the Hairless Mexican from one of Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden stories.
    Cold Breath

  7. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    ‘It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.’
    ‘Earthly Powers’ by Anthony Burgess
  8. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    It’s hard to tell, as there are so many. It’s probably ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ (preferably the omnibus edition of the whole trilogy in four parts), Saki’s collected short stories and ‘The Code of the Woosters’ by PG Wodehouse. On a desert island, I’d need something that raises a laugh.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Just concentrate on the story and don’t let yourself get sidetracked. Don’t be afraid to cut stuff that doesn’t work. Try to do something on your WiP most days, even if it’s just a few words, as it keeps it ticking over in your mind. Don’t ask your Mum’s opinion of your work – ask someone who doesn’t love you.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    As little as possible. Preferably nothing more than a table with a keyboard and a screen.
  12. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    Right now I’m back in translation mode, working on two more books by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Cage which will appear in English in 2019, and Betrayal in 2020, as well as the translation of Indriði G Thorsteinsson’s Cab 79 which has just been published. There’s my own stuff as well, which is on the back burner at the moment. There’s a story that’s brewing, but I’m not sure yet if this will be Gunnhildur or something different.

    You can buy Cold Breath from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Promise Book Tour – Extract

The PromiseEnjoy an extract from Katerina Diamond’s latest chilling tale called ‘The Promise’.

Imogen put her hands on her hips and looked around the room some more. It was a small space and they were on the verge of being in the way, so she signalled to Adrian who stepped out of the room first. She followed him, nodding to the technicians, and they headed down the corridor, peering into the bathroom.

Another technician was in there taking swabs and samples. They would have to come back when it had been properly processed; there simply wasn’t enough room for everyone. This initial assessment would have to do for now.

DCI Mira Kapoor was standing in the lounge when they got downstairs. She had a suitably sombre expression on her face. She always behaved the way she was supposed to behave, said what she was supposed to say when in public. At the same time, she was quite rebellious, at least on the sly, in her office where it mattered.

She listened when she needed to listen and she never took any action that wasn’t carefully considered. Imogen was quite taken with her, although she still reserved some judgement; she had been burned by her superiors before.

‘Poor girl. I want you two to speak to the neighbours and work colleagues, see if you can get a picture of who she was. Later on, you can speak to the sister, she was pretty inconsolable by all accounts and the hospital have admitted her. She’s sleeping now apparently.’

‘OK, Ma’am,’ Imogen said.

As they went to leave, the DCI spoke again.

‘Grey, can I have a private word?’

Imogen nodded to Adrian who carried on outside. The DCI gestured to Imogen to come closer and jerked her head at Adrian’s fast retreating back.

‘How is he doing?’

‘OK, quiet. He’s OK though.’

‘Do you know if he’s been to see the bereavement counsellor?’

‘He hasn’t mentioned it, but I’m going to guess not.’

‘See if you can get him to, please. Last thing I need is him cracking up.’

You can buy The Promise from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Book News – Happiness For Beginners By Carole Matthews

Happiness For BeginnersCarole Matthews has already revealed her new book for 2019 called ‘Happiness For Beginners’

What the back cover says –

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with an attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.

Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.

But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

Feel-good, funny and an absolute must-read from the queen of romance Carole Matthews, Molly’s story will make your heart sing. New beginnings and second chances abound in ‘Happiness for Beginners’.

You can pre-order Happiness for Beginners from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 21st February 2019.

Dear Mr Pop Star By Derek and Dave Philpott

Dear Mr Pop Star‘Dear Mr Pop Star’ is the latest book by writing duo and father and son, Derek and Dave Philpott.

For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs. But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back. ‘Dear Mr Pop Star’ contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

If you’re looking a book that is something a little bit offbeat or quirky than I would thoroughly recommend ‘Dear Mr Pop Star’, a book that consists of a collection of letters that Dave Philpott has written to popstars over the last 30 years, questioning their choice of lyrics.
In these frank and bemused letters, Derek expresses concern and confusion over the song lyrics and takes them literally in some parts, whilst comparing them to his own real life situations, I particularly loved the letter to The Knack about their song called ‘My Sharona’. Often, the letters are also accompanied with replies from the artists who have taken the time to explain the lyrics and their meaning to the concerned man.
Hilariously funny in parts and wonderfully poignant in others, ‘Dear Mr Pop Stars’ is an entertaining read that provides some insights into some of the world’s most famous lyrics that we all often wondered about. Featuring replies from Spinal Tap, Dr. Hook and The Eurythmics, this book is a must for all music lovers.

You can buy Dear Mr Pop Star from Amazon

The Dangers of Jumping the Shark (and the Risks of Staying on Dry Land) By Helen Fields

Perfect Silence On the book tour for the latest book in Helen Fields’ D.I. Callanach series called ‘Perfect Silence’, Helen talks about writing and jumping the shark.

Rarely is a TV episode so bad that it coins a phrase denoting the point at which all credibility has been lost, but many years ago a show called ‘Happy Days’ did just that when the lead character “The Fonz” decided to water-ski over a shark. From that moment on the show died a creative death, and the phrase “jumping the shark” was born. It’s rather sad for a show that a whole generation loved, but it serves as a lesson to everyone in the writing industry – books, theatre or screen writing – not to overstep the mark.

That may be more true in crime writing than in any other genre. You can get away with a lot more in sci-fi, and to an extent in dystopian fiction, but broadly speaking the same rules apply. Last week I watched ‘Sicario 2’ at the cinema. It’s high budget, the cinematography is impressive and the acting is good. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the entire film, but *spoiler alert* at one point the lead character is shot in the head. Fortunately for the audience all is not lost because we later find out that the bullet passes through one cheek and out the other, leaving our hero free to continue the story. The bullet holes are clean and his teeth seem relatively unaffected. Now I would pay good money to sit down for a coffee with that particular hero (Benicio Del Toro is a heart-throb of mine) but for me – perhaps not for others – the writer had jumped the shark.

Keeping credibility with you audience is vital. Keeping credibility with your audience whilst creating an engaging, thrilling story line, with the necessary twists and red herrings, now that’s an art form in itself. The story has to be believable. If it’s not, and your reader hits that “Really?” moment, you’ve lost them. Honestly, as a writer, it’s a minefield. Some years ago I stopped reading a crime series when it all got too far fetched. These days, as a writer, I’ve a lot more sympathy. There is a demand to produce the most gripping story line you can. Every reader (including me) wants that one special book you literally “can’t put down.” But the cost in terms of credibility can be high. As can playing it too safe. Real life is rarely as exciting as the fiction we love. The stakes are rarely as high. The ticking clock syndrome (portrayed so brilliantly in the series 24) almost never happens. But keep it too real, make it too believable, worry too much about proper procedure and what the police would actually do in any given scenario, and bangs goes your pulse-racing read.

I wish I had answers. I think credibility has as much to do with how you write as what you write. Your characters have to be fully engaged. your dialogue has to be honest and real. If you’re introducing an incredible element, it has to have a credible reason for existing. But the truth is, this is the hardest element of thriller writing to get right. We all slip sometimes. I’m hoping readers will be understanding and a little forgiving. For me, I end each book by inserting an additional editing phrase, which consists of me asking myself the question, “Did I jump the shark?” As and when I do, I’m sure readers won’t hesitate to let me know!

You can buy Perfect Silence from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.