September 20, 20114:06 am
March 3, 20145:27 pm
Simon Toyne popped into the studio recently to chat to BookD! Check out the video podcasts below to hear Simon talking about the Sanctus trilogy, his writing process, what happens when authors get drunk (!) and everything in between…
What question does Simon Toyne get asked a lot?
What happens when authors get drunk?
What Simon Toyne wished he’d known before he got published…
The television industry vs the publishing industry:
Simon Toyne on storytelling in TV, Movies, Books, and Music
What do you listen to while you write? Simon Toyne shares his playlist:
February 28, 20144:51 pm
The BBC has announced today the commission of two significant new drama adaptations to bring Agatha Christie masterpieces to a new generation of fans and celebrate Christie’s 125th anniversary in 2015.
A new adaptation of And Then There Were None, Christie’s most successful work and one of the best-selling crime novels of all time, will be written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, BBC; Oliver Twist, BBC) and is slated for broadcast at Christmas 2015.
Meanwhile, crime-fighting duo Tommy and Tuppence will return to our screens in a 1950s-set six-part adventure thriller series called Partners in Crime, starring David Walliams as Tommy. The first three episodes (TX autumn 2015) will be written by award-winning author, playwright and director Zinnie Harris.
David Walliams said: “In bringing these thrilling stories to the screen, it is our ambition for Tommy & Tuppence to finally take their rightful place alongside Poirot and Marple as iconic Agatha Christie characters. I was first drawn to the delicious notion of a married couple solving crimes together, and the more I read of the Tommy & Tuppence novels and short stories the more I realised they are among Christie’s very best work.”
New initiatives to bring Christie to a new audience also include a recently announced feature film, a star-studded re-make of Murder on the Orient Express from Fox produced by Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon and Simon Kinberg; and obviously the highly anticipated new Poirot novel by bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah for release on the 8th September, 2014.
Read the full article here:
February 26, 201412:40 pm
‘Intrigue, mystery and excellent history’ – what more could you want out of a historical thriller?! With Treachery, the fourth stunning novel featuring Giordano Bruno publishing tomorrow, we caught up with S.J. Parris to find out a little more about her writing, her inspiration, and what she has planned next for Bruno…
Treachery is your fourth historical crime novel featuring Giordano Bruno. What drew you to Bruno as a lead character?
Bruno caught my imagination from the first time I read about him, when I was an English Literature student researching the ideas of the Renaissance. His life was so full of drama – fleeing from the Inquisition, travelling all over Europe, living on his wits, becoming the friend of kings and nobles but also making enemies wherever he went – that I thought he was a gift to a fiction writer. But it was years later when I discovered the theory that Bruno had worked as a spy while he was living in England for Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, that the idea for the series began to germinate.
Do you feel that it is more difficult to write in the past than the present? Do you feel a need to be historically accurate to the reader or does this come secondary to the plot?
Actually I feel that it’s probably easier to write crime fiction set in the past, simply because the research is easier. I love contemporary crime novels and drama but it’s so technical now – you can’t solve a murder without forensics, surveillance etc – so it’s much harder to write a character who’s an amateur detective. Historical research is easier in some ways as much of it can be done from books and museums. I try to be accurate in terms of dates and structural detail, though I do rely on instinct a lot – the books are fiction, after all, and I feel now that my version of Bruno is a fictional character based on the real historical figure, who has taken on a life of his own. So I’m not too rigid about occasionally tweaking a detail or two if it serves the story better. I’ve taken one enormous liberty in Treachery, as I explain below.
Your research for Treachery took you to Plymouth. What fascinated you most about Sir Francis Drake’s expedition in the summer of 1585?
This story began very clearly with Sir Philip Sidney. I’d enjoyed writing the interaction between Bruno and Sidney at the end of Sacrilege and I wanted to give them one more adventure together before they had to part company. Sidney really did go to Plymouth in August 1585 with the intention of running away with Drake’s expedition, because he had fallen out with Queen Elizabeth. We know a fair bit about this trip because he actually travelled with a courtier friend, Sir Fulke Greville, who wrote an account of what happened. I began to wonder about making Sidney travel with Bruno instead – I liked the idea of them having a kind of road trip together to watch that relationship develop, putting them into an unfamiliar world where they are at a disadvantage, with the added tension of Sidney trying to persuade Bruno to join them on the long voyage. Once I began researching Drake’s expedition, all the other themes of exploration, espionage and secrecy began to emerge and slot into place, with a fictional murder at the heart of it. It’s quite an audacious piece of invention, to insert Bruno into a journey he certainly didn’t make, and I apologise to purists, but I hope readers will feel it works as a story.
Do you have a storyline mapped out for the whole Giordano Bruno series or do you see where each novel takes you?
The storyline is ultimately determined by Bruno’s travels, and we do know quite a bit about where he was during the 1580s. So with each book I begin with the context, see who he associated with in each place and what was going on around him, and try to work out how a fictional murder could fit into that scenario. I know the end that I’m working towards, but I’m not sure yet how many books will happen in between!
Which author has influenced you the most and why?
Hard to choose just one! I’m a bit of a magpie with reading, I pick up bits from everywhere and it all feeds in. I do read a lot of crime fiction – for example Jo Nesbo, Tana French, Gillian Flynn – because I think those authors are absolutely brilliant at plotting, which is always the part I find hardest. I also watch a lot of long-form crime drama for the same reason, especially the Scandinavian ones.
In terms of historical fiction, Hilary Mantel is my idol – I love the Cromwell books, but I also think A Place of Greater Safety is an underrated masterpiece, I’ve read it more times than most people would ever want to (given that it’s 900 pages). She has such a gift for writing characters who belong entirely to their time and yet are entirely recognisable to us. Andrew Miller, Sarah Dunant, Iain Pears and Arturo Perez Reverte also write wonderful historical novels, I’m always waiting greedily for their next ones. But the book I always come back to, the absolute gold standard of historical crime (in my view), is Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. I could probably re-read that every couple of years for the rest of my life and not get bored.
Can you tell us anything about your next novel?
The next one will be set in Paris in the autumn/winter of 1585. Bruno is forced to return to the French court, which is torn by religious conflict that threatens civil war, and Bruno’s presence immediately antagonises the hardline Catholics. He will catch up with some of the characters from Prophecy, make a new enemy and continue to pursue his nemesis, Sophia.
I’m also experimenting with a series of novellas, to be released as ebooks, that will return to Bruno’s youth in Naples and fill in some backstory. The first, The Secret Dead, will be out in June this year.
TREACHERY is out on Thursday – pre-order your copy today!
February 24, 20143:41 pm
When A SONG FOR THE DYING by Stuart MacBride went to No.1 in the Sunday Times bestseller chart last month we were absolutely thrilled! This fantastic success obviously caused for a celebration, so last week we were delighted to welcome Stuart to the office to raise a toast to his fourth No.1 bestselling novel…
A crowd gathers to await Stuart’s arrival!
Stuart with his lovely editor and publicist
February 13, 20144:55 pm
We at Killer Reads like a bit of romance as much as the next person – but when it comes to reading we’d take horror over hearts any day! So with Valentine’s Day just a few hours away and our various news feeds filling up with talk of ideal dates, we decided to forget about a romantic meal for 2 and instead talk about who we’d invite to a killer dinner party for 6…
With such a wealth of criminals, detectives and authors to choose from, it’s nigh impossible to choose just six. However, there are only so many killers one dinner party can take so I’ve narrowed down the list to the following:
Dr. Alice McDonald
I have long wanted to befriend Dr. Alice McDonald, the ‘delightfully quirky’ forensic psychologist of Stuart MacBride’s creation. A borderline alcoholic with an array of charming neuroses, you can be sure there would be no awkward silences with Alice around.
Bruno is not just a spy for England, he’s also a former monk charged with heresy on the run from the Spanish Inquisition, and did I mention he’s a philosopher? You just don’t get that in this day and age.
Paul Spector, (from The Fall)
Sure he’s a psychopathic serial killer with a penchant for murdering women, but I never could resist an Irish accent. And those eyes.
Private investigator Jackson Brodie has always had a special place in my heart, ever since he rescued Binky Rain’s dubiously-named cat in Case Histories. He may be a touch abrasive at first but chip away at that tough guy exterior and you’ll find a hugely compassionate man underneath.
DI Sean Corrigan
I’d like nothing more than to pick the brains of DI Sean Corrigan, a man who can get inside the head of killers simply by looking at a crime scene. His unique ability for sniffing out criminals could also make for an interesting showdown with Paul.
The Shining remains to this day one of the most terrifying books I have ever read. Who wouldn’t want to meet the mastermind behind it?
- Lucy, HarperFiction
I’m not generally a massive fan of Valentine’s Day, so love the idea of hosting a killer dinner party instead.
I’d invite my husband, because obvs I want him there with me.
Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt, so they could serenade us.
Captain Jean Luc Picard, so I could hear his stories of growing up in France and travelling through space, and Poirot, just in case one of us gets killed.
It would be a most entertaining evening.
- Katie S, HarperFiction
For my Killer Dinner party for six I would have to go for balance: two killers, two detectives and two writers to document the entire thing.
In terms of writers, I’d have to go for Agatha Christie for a classic novelisation of the event and Alfred Hitchcock for the screenplay version.
My detectives would comprise of Poirot (for the comedy value) and Sarah Lund (in the hope that she would bring one of those lovely woolly jumpers as a gift).
I’d invite Norman Bates so that I could ask how he copes with being one of the most infamous killers in film history and, had she not been gunned down in the last episode, Gertrud Kofoed from The Bridge. This is mainly so that I could ask, “who was the man behind the it all and why did the viewers never find out?” As you can see, I just cannot let that go!
- Laura, Blue Door Books
February 10, 20143:29 pm
We were SO excited to find out that Payback by the brilliant Kimberley Chambers hit the number 1 spot in the Sunday Times charts last week!
Check out these fantastic video trailers for the book – if you haven’t read Payback already you’ll definitely want to after watching these!
Family. They’re supposed to watch your back. Not stab you in it…
February 6, 20141:36 pm
It’s cold, wet and grey outside and winter seems to be endless – so forget about the miserable British weather and let Will Adams take you on an exhilarating adventure to the warmer climes of Cyprus with his high-stakes thriller, City of the Lost!
We’re very pleased to welcome Will back to the Killer Reads blog today, to talk about the setting of his gripping new novel, which mixes historical fact with pulse-pounding action and high-stakes adventure…
One of the great rewards of writing archaeological thrillers is the opportunity it offers to visit fascinating new places every year (and as a legitimate business expense too!). That said, finding exotic locations in which to set books isn’t easy, particularly as (with stories like mine) they need to be plausibly capable of concealing the answer to a mystery undiscovered for hundreds or even thousands of years, in spite of all the latest technological advances.
The plot of City Of The Lost demanded a climax in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; preferably on its eastern coast, as close to the famous historical site of Salamis as I could get. A quick glance at a map shows the port city of Famagusta just a few miles south of Salamis – and it’s a place with a compelling history of its own.
Fifty years ago, its resort district of Varosha was Cyprus’s (and perhaps even the Mediterranean’s) top tourist destination. But then a botched Greek-backed coup prompted the Turkish Army to invade the north of the island and push south until they’d overrun approximately a third of it, including Famagusta and its Varosha resort. Then they stopped, effectively creating the ‘Green Line’ that still divides Cyprus today.
Most of this captured territory – including the bulk of the city of Famagusta – was quickly occupied by Turkish Cypriots and Turks from the mainland. But Varosha was instead completely sealed off by the Turkish army. And so it has remained ever since – a Forbidden Zone that becomes, with each year, ever more of a ghost city, its hotels crumbling into ruin, roofs caving in, abandoned cars rusting in its streets, its open spaces overrun by cactus and other vegetation, while endangered turtles nest upon its deserted beaches.
Since 1974, there have been multiple efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem. Many of them have foundered on the question of what to do about Varosha. The Republic of Cyprus has insisted it be handed back first, as a gesture of goodwill. But Turkey – and, in particular, the Turkish Army – has always refused. Maybe that’s simply a hard-nosed negotiating tactic.
Or maybe there’s a darker reason…
February 3, 201411:47 am
‘If you’ve got a pulse, you’ll love Scott Mariani. If you haven’t then maybe you crossed Ben Hope!’
- SIMON TOYNE
We at HarperCollins are very proud to publish the top ten Sunday Times bestselling author SCOTT MARIANI and I’m delighted to reveal the brand new Ben Hope thriller, publishing on 5th June 2014:
With sales of over 1 million copies in the UK alone and publishing deals all over the world, Scott Mariani is at the top of his game with this sensational new thriller!
If, like us, you’re already a huge fan, don’t fret! The countdown has begun …
And if you’ve not come across Scott Mariani and Ben Hope before, you are in for a treat! But don’t just take our word for it – here is a snapshot of his readers’ rave reviews:
‘I can’t wait for the next Ben Hope book, one a year just isn’t enough!’
‘Ben Hope is a loner in the tradition of Jack Reacher… A seeker of truth like Robert Langdon… and as much as an enigma to many as Jason Bourne is… He is a British hero who is driven by tragedy in his past to right the wrongs in the present …’
‘Why have I not discovered this author sooner?! Like Dan Brown but better. Thank you Scott for a fantastic read’
‘An action hero to rival Jack Reacher’
‘Seduces you from the word go … I was gripped’
‘I’ve never read a book as quickly as this as I found it so intriguing, exciting, and enjoyable’
‘Why the name of Scott Mariani isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Lee Child, Vice Flynn or Robert Crais I just do not know!’
‘I like to read Wilbur Smith’s books and find Scott Mariani’s are just as good’
‘New, fresh and exciting, more please!!!’
‘If you’ve not caught the Ben Hope bug yet don’t worry, just hop on board now, it’s not too late to enjoy this series of quick “Jack Reacher” type modern day action mixed with some “Da Vinci Code” intrigue’
January 31, 201412:26 pm
Some fun Friday reading for you – here is the second part of our interview with Bruce Holsinger, author of A BURNABLE BOOK…
Which author has influenced you the most and why?
Charles Dickens. I read all of Dickens voraciously while in high school, and I suppose it’s the combination of complex but elegant plots, memorable characters, and dark and impure motivations behind human actions that draws me most to his fiction.
Is there a book you have read that you wish you had written?
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. This is a book that has changed what historical fiction can be and do.
What are your top ten favourite books?
Not inclusive, and not necessarily in this order, and a bit eclectic, but…
1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Sure, it’s a Booker Prize winner and maybe the greatest historical novel ever written, but at heart it’s pure suspense. I’m fascinated by the Reformation, and she brings it alive in such an extraordinary way.
2. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. One of my purest memories is my first reading of this book. A perfect story in so many ways.
3. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. The darker side of Dickens, and I’m compelled by the London it draws. The opening scene on the Thames, on the river between the bridges, is probably the most filmic moment in nineteenth-century fiction.
4. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien. The first of a long series of historical novels I haven’t allowed myself to finish. I limit myself to one a year to keep the Napoleonic pleasures drawn out.
5. In the Woods by Tana French. The debut novel by one of the greatest contemporary Irish writers. Every paragraph is a shadowy work of art.
6. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child. Jack Reacher. Short sentences. Sleepless nights.
7. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. An encylopedia of the medieval world: all the sin and sickness, sublimity and hope. Alongside Paradise Lost and the Odyssey, one of the greatest poems in the western tradition.
8. American Pastoral by Philip Roth. Roth’s darkest and greatest novel, extraordinary for the way it lifts the veil of family romance and peers at the ugly truths beneath.
9. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. The lower the stakes the higher the dudgeon, and this novel is filled with it. A quiet setting but full of broiling passions and repressed ambitions.
10. The Canterbury Tales. Saints and thieves, priests and murderers, false piety and horrific violence: what’s not to love? Some of the greatest stories in the English language, and they never get old.
A big thank you to Bruce from the Killer Reads team, for taking the time to answer ALL of our questions! We’re an inquisitive bunch!
A Burnable Book is out NOW! Order your copy today!
January 30, 20145:57 pm
Today at HarperCollins we had a special event called the ‘HarperCollins Exec Job Swap Day’, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Members of our Exec board swapped their ‘day jobs’ for different roles around the company. We at Killer Reads gained a brand new Marketing Assistant, in the form of Group Sales Director, Oliver Wright!
As you can see in the photo below, we set him straight to work with the task of writing a Killer Reads blog post. Read on to see what he had to say about his day in the HarperFiction marketing team and which crime thriller books he would recommend!
Today I’m lucky enough to be working in the fantastic Harper Fiction marketing team! They have me for a day.
Given where I am posting this, I should explain they haven’t kidnapped me and to the best of my knowledge they are going to let me go at the end of the day. They’ve been working me hard and I’ve been “chained” to my desk all day long!
My day job is Group Sales Director for HarperCollins, but today I am enjoying learning all about the world of marketing, including my first ever tweets… luddite that I am!
I’ve just finished reading two of our latest crime and thriller novels that I highly recommend. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, to be published 13th March, is an intelligent thriller set in the American deep South. It uncovers the dark, disturbing and unsettling history of racial violence in the 1960s and the ripples that still affect people today, as well as highlighting the continuing issues of race that still exist not very far beneath the surface in modern day Mississippi. Featuring the charismatic Penn Cage character the story moves at a frenetic pace with a tightly woven plot and layers of conspiracy keep you guessing throughout.
I’ve also just read a great debut crime novel, Dead Gone, from the British writer, Luca Veste. I really enjoyed the characters in this novel, from the lead detective, to the very well drawn and believable psychopath behind the murders and psychological games that keep the police guessing and lead to the very dramatic conclusion.
I need to get on with my day now, they are cracking the whip again here in HarperFiction to make sure they get their pound of flesh!
To donate to this great cause, visit our Just Giving page now!
Today is the publication of Will Adams’ exhilarating page turner, City of the Lost!
This high-stakes thriller mixes historical fact with pulse-pounding action, adventure and conspiracy – and is completely gripping! We are very excited to welcome Will to the blog today, to talk about how the story came about…
Many years ago, feeling in urgent need of a bit of winter sun over my Christmas break, I booked a last-minute flight to Istanbul then packed up my suntan lotion, T-shirts and sandals and set off for the airport. The snowstorm I landed in lasted pretty much the whole week. But I did at least get to see Troy for the first time, a place I’d been hankering to visit ever since being captivated by my children’s editions of the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid.
Only natural, then, to want to write a book about the Trojan War and its heroes. Which is how City Of The Lost got its start. But – as ever – the process of research fundamentally affected the story I wanted to tell. I always strive to base my stories on a foundation of historical and archaeological truth, and the truth of the Trojan War (including whether it ever even happened) is frustratingly elusive. That’s largely because the ancient world plunged into three or even four centuries of chaos, war, famine and depopulation shortly after the period in which the Iliad was set – a Dark Age so brutal, disruptive and prolonged that historians still puzzle over how Homer managed to get so many of the details in his stories right. Oral tradition, after all, can surely only explain so much. And there are other anomalies that need explaining too. Languages lost then mysteriously revived. Cultures and crafts that vanished for hundreds of years, then reappeared remarkably unchanged. And a multitude of cities that claimed foundation by veterans of the Trojan War or their contemporaries, yet which belong to another era altogether.
A classic example of this is Rome, reputedly founded in 753 BC by descendants of the Trojan veteran Aeneas. Another is Carthage, legendarily founded by Dido some fifty years earlier. The romance between these two iconic figures is one of the most celebrated of antiquity. Yet it makes little sense. For the Trojan War is typically dated to the 12th Century BC, meaning Aeneas would likely have been dead for nearly three hundred years before Dido was even born.
Love conquers all, they say; but surely there’s a limit.
Historians therefore attribute their supposed affair to poetic licence. That certainly makes sense. Carthage and Rome were the great enemies of the ancient world, after all, so what more fitting backdrop to their wars could a poet want than an ill-fated love-match between their founders? But I’m a romantic at heart, so I’d like to think there’s a different explanation.
And City Of The Lost offers one.
January 29, 20149:22 am
This week sees the publication of A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger, a stunning debut historical thriller set in the turbulent 14th Century. We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Bruce to the Killer Reads blog today, to talk about the fascinating story behind this epic novel…
Crime, corruption, international conspiracy, deadly prophecies and missing manuscripts, English prostitutes and Italian mercenaries: A Burnable Book is a historical thriller that tells a big story with a lot of moving parts.
While writing the novel I often felt that I was scripting an episode of The Wire—but setting it in medieval England rather than present-day America! At its heart, though, A Burnable Book tells a more intimate story about a real-life friendship, and it was imagining the dark sides of this particular historical friendship that inspired me to begin sketching out the larger tale told in the novel.
John Gower, our deeply flawed protagonist, was an English poet who lived in the late fourteenth century—the age of Richard II, John of Gaunt, and Henry Bolingbroke, whose lives are so vividly recreated in several of William Shakespeare’s history plays. This was also the age of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, and generally regarded as the greatest English writer before the Bard. Despite his prolific career and his featured role in Shakespeare’s Pericles, though, Gower has always suffered by comparison to his more illustrious contemporary. Yet Gower and Chaucer were close and perhaps life-long friends. We know about this friendship from several sources, including a document granting Gower power of attorney during one of Chaucer’s mysterious trips to Italy. They both lived in and around London (Chaucer over Aldgate, Gower across the bridge in Southwark) and must have swapped poetry and discussed their writing on a regular basis.
There are also several fascinating moments in which the two men speak to one another within the lines of their poetry. One of these is an intriguing stanza that comes near the end of Troilus and Criseyde. It begins like this (and I’m modernizing the Middle English):
Oh Moral Gower! This book I direct
To thee, and to thee, philosophical Strode,
To approve, and where there’s need, to correct…
In calling his friend “Moral Gower,” Chaucer portrays his friend as the morally upright fellow that tradition has assumed him to be. This is a view seemingly validated by Gower’s own poetry, which can tend to be rather plodding, severe, and, yes, moralistic. (“Philosophical Strode,” incidentally, is Ralph Strode, a medieval London lawyer who also plays an important role in the novel.)
The protagonist of A Burnable Book is a more…let’s say compromised Gower. We all have at least one difficult friendship, full of petty jealousies and unspoken resentments. One of the guilty pleasures of writing this novel has come in portraying the darker sides of Gower’s character and of his friendship with Chaucer.
The story begins as Chaucer sets Gower on the trail of a lost book of prophecies—a book with explosive implications for the realm, but also for the complicated relationship between these two old friends. As the bigger story plays out in the arena of city politics and international intrigue, Gower must confront the more intimate balance of loyalty and betrayal as it bears on his closest friendship, his family, and his own life.
I suppose all of this explains why I love writing historical fiction—and also teaching it to college students (in my day job I’m an English professor at the University of Virginia). Historical fiction allows you to tell big, sweeping stories about the past, yet forces you to ground these stories in the difficult intricacy of human relationships and rivalries.
No one understood these tensions more deeply than John Gower. As he put it near the end of his greatest work, “I know not how the world is went.”
- Bruce Holsinger
A Burnable Book publishes on Thursday 30th January – order your copy today!