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Crime Fiction

#UKCBCShorts Who’s Angela?

Posted on 30th June 2019 in #amwriting/ advice/ Crime Fiction/ divorce/ domestic violence/ love/ Womens' Refuge
*SUMMER SHORTS* #ukcbcshorts
I’ve loved reading the ‘summer shorts’ on the UK Crime Book Club over on Facebook and although I am by no means a writer (but an ardent reviewer!), I have had a go and here is mine. Please be kind!
Who’s Angela?
It was too hot in the waiting room and she fidgeted, noting the trickle of a bead of sweat as it made its way down her back. Her eyes were drawn to the poster opposite, to the juxtaposition of soft pastel colouring against the stark image of a woman cowering below a man aggressively shouting in her face. Despite the heat, she was reluctant to remove her cardigan and risk showing the tiny inky dark bruise on her wrist, and so suffered the humid air. The bruise had been an accident but she didn’t need the stress of trying to explain.
Prescription in hand she waited in line at the Pharmacy, a small smile twitched the corner of her mouth as she remembered the ‘Ask for Angela’ slogans and wondered if it would work the same way at pharmacy counter. In all honesty she doubted whether it would even work in a bar, surely the majority of the time some poor girl would pluck up the courage to ‘ask for Angela’ only to be met with ‘What?’, ‘Who?’ or ‘She’s not on tonight’ rather than the promised waiting arms of a sisterly angel who would swoop you away from potential trouble.
Back at home she pushed the box of sleeping tablets to the very bottom of the tea towel drawer before heading into work; it wouldn’t do for those to be discovered. Medication wasn’t the answer and she knew it but sometimes a good night’s sleep was needed rather than lying awake all night pretending to sleep and worrying about what he was up to.
Work was getting awkward. The continual texting and calling, the photos, the emails, keeping on top of it all actually sometimes got in the way of what she was paid to do but it was a necessity and pretty much the only way to keep things from getting out of hand.
Arriving home that evening she automatically searched for Suki’s friendly face at the window or on the drive before remembering, with a sad heart, that the little cat was no longer there. Her one friend throughout the turmoil had been Suki with her ‘naughty tortie’ face and an attitude to match but lessons had to be learnt and the loss of little Suki sure had hammered that message home. After making a cup of tea she sat gently on the bench in the garden and noted the mix of wildflowers and grasses that had begun to sprout on the small cat sized mound of earth in the corner. He had dug the tiny grave in the pouring rain before tossing her broken body inside and it was positioned so that you could see it from every aspect of the garden meaning even a simple chore such as pegging out the washing soon became a reminder that it was best to behave.
Lost in her thoughts, she jumped when she heard his car tyres crunch onto the gravel as he parked meticulously on the drive. Tossing her now cold tea to one side she leapt into action and greeted him in the hallway. Like seemingly every night these days it wasn’t long before the questions and accusations began. Every detail of the day had to be picked over from the journey to and from work, to who had initiated each conversation in the workplace and why. Work emails had to be checked along with calls and texts. What was worse was that this didn’t happen every day, sometimes these checks didn’t take place for a couple of weeks making it so much harder to remember all of the details and the (always) innocent explanations for any perceived over friendly communications.
Dinner was made and eaten in stony silence, there had been another text message from Chris which had a kiss at the end of it and no amount of pleading and explaining had been able to make it ok. Chris was just one of those people who put a kiss on everything to everyone, it meant absolutely nothing but somehow it now seemed sordid. After just a few mouthfuls of macaroni cheese she ended up scraping hers into the bin, her appetite ruined by the adrenaline surge yet again. Mournfully her thoughts returned to Suki and how she always seemed to know just when to be extra cute or loving – she hated him most for what had happened to that cat.
Bedtime always seemed to be a safe time, not much could go wrong – apart from the odd unexpected bruise (is that a love bite?) or lack of passion – but mainly bedtime was ok. To be sure though, she made them both hot chocolate and for once added sleeping pills to both of their drinks waiting patiently until the white powder fully dissolved before carrying them carefully up the stairs peacefully anticipating welcome oblivion.
The following day began badly. They overslept. He was clearly going to be late for his annual appraisal meeting and the agitation bounced off him in waves as he rushed to get ready. Well tough, she wasn’t helping him, although she was late too she found the woolly headedness to be almost pleasant and couldn’t help but smile as he grew increasingly flustered before heading out of the door with his face set in resignation of the fate that awaited him at work.
That day texts went unanswered, calls were sent to voicemail and emails were deleted. A cold hard rage boiled inside and solidified into something deeply unpleasant. Memories of Suki flickered and blurred as text upon text pinged into cyberspace. The evening was not going to be good. Had the worm turned? She didn’t want another failed relationship, especially as she’d been in an abusive relationship before and it never took look before people started talking about ‘common denominators’ – either way, things couldn’t carry on as they were.
‘999 call from a neighbour Sarge, show us as attending?’ PCs Brown and Lowe regretfully left their sandwiches but had at least managed to hang on to their take out cups as they ran back to their car and made their way towards the house, siren blaring.
‘Never any bloody parking round here.’ Brown said as he tucked the squad car artfully in between two enormous 4x4s. ‘We’ve been here before haven’t we?’
‘Yep.’ Said Lowe, with quiet resignation ‘neighbour quite often calls us out but it’s always a case of ‘no officer, just a lovers quarrel’ when we knock on the door.’
‘Sounds a bit worse this time though, dispatch said the caller sounded proper terrified.’
Silence descended as they approached the house, training kicked in instinctively and Lowe reported back that they had arrived while Brown knocked on the stylish grey front door; which he soon found to be unlocked. The scene inside the immaculately painted hallway was breathtaking, there was blood everywhere, literally everywhere noted Brown as he jump back before a drip could land on him from the Swarovski light fitting.
There was a wide stripe of blood along the highly polished flooring, which they followed through to the open plan kitchen where the couple both sat slumped on the floor.
‘Jesus’ muttered Brown as he took in the fading bruises layered among the new bruises, pale scars littering the torso whether from burns or previous stab wounds wasn’t clear but it was evident that pain had been inflicted frequently. The dark blackness of the gaping knife wounds left no doubt as to the source of the rich tang of the blood which filled the air. ‘There’s no pulse’ he shouted back to Lowe who had already requested two ambulances to attend the scene and nodded sombrely; neither of them had expected a pulse.
From the other side of the room she coughed and both Brown and Lowe turned towards her in slow motion incredulous that anyone had survived this bloodbath. Looking at her anew, Lowe’s eyes widened and she turned towards her partner seeking confirmation that they were both seeing the same thing.
The smallest nod of agreement from Brown was enough and Lowe leapt into action bfore the diminutive figure before them could wreak any further havoc. ‘You have the right to remain silent…’
It seemed the neighbours had been right all along ‘She’s going to kill him one of these days if you don’t stop her!’ They’d said on every single call.
© Lisa Hall 2019
Author’s note: if you have any concerns regarding your relationship, or the relationship of a friend or loved one, please seek advice and remember it doesn’t only happen to women. More information regarding the new laws surrounding psychological abuse and coercive control can be found here:

Toby – 100WCGU – Week173

Posted on 2nd November 2015 in #writingworkshop/ 100WCGU/ Crime Fiction/ writing workshop

Toby paused, the agony of loss felt physical, he’d known it was coming but it still hit him like a punch to the heart.

The knowing, the expecting, the anticipating didn’t make it easier; the pain was just as raw and overwhelming as if it had been out of the blue.

He’d loved her. There was no denying it, she was the woman of his dreams and as the flames leapt skyward he knew his heart was breaking.

‘It’s done.’ He spoke the words curtly and ended the call. Turning his back on the burning car he walked away feeling his heart harden with every step.


This week’s prompt for the #100WCGU was:

Weather wise, it feels very strange here in the UK. It is now November but extremely mild. However, we have lots of fog around which makes for great atmosphere for the recent Halloween celebrations and this week, for Bonfire night. Let’s hope the temperature does not drop for November 5th. The prompt has to be around this theme, doesn’t it?!

It is: …as the flames leapt skyward..

If this is your first time here do check out ‘What is 100WCGU?’ for details of how to enter.


Toby – 100WCGU – Week173

Russian Roulette #100WCGU #week172

Posted on 29th October 2015 in #writingworkshop/ 100WCGU/ Crime Fiction

Simon felt the familiar thrill of anticipation as the man the by door caught his eye. Skilfully keeping up the pretence of flirtatious banter he finished off the cocktails with a flourish and handed them over. ‘There you go, girls.’ He said with a well practised wink that generated a ripple of giggles.

Little did they know that their chosen drinks, the Howling Dog, the Moon and the Creaking Boards made for quite the game of Russian Roulette as one of them contained Rohypnol.

Shortly after, the girls waved their goodbyes and headed out into the night; the man by the door followed close behind. The chase had begun.

~ ~ ~

The above is my entry into this week’s one hundred word challenge for grown ups hosted by the lovely Julia Skinner @JfB57 – the prompt for this week was …the howling dog, the moon and the creaking boards… To see other entries or to find out more and have a go for yourself, click here.

Senses #100wcgu week164

Posted on 24th August 2015 in #writingworkshop/ 100WCGU/ Crime Fiction

Every single whisper of wind, every footstep, every breath sounded deafening to her ears; something wasn’t right and every fibre of her being knew it. Straining to see, Eva peered into the small area lit up by her torch beam, and finally saw what they’d been looking for.

A whimper from under the pile of sacking confirmed the discovery and Eva ran over to hug the small blonde girl huddled underneath. With a smile she glanced at her partner but Noah looked worried. Before she could ask him what was wrong the girl whimpered again, “Where’s my brother?” she whispered.


Thank you for reading, I’d love it if you left a comment. This was my entry into the #100wcgu, week 164, to read more or to enter yourself please click here.

Moonlight Mile #bookreview

Posted on 20th September 2012 in #bookreview/ Crime Fiction


By Dennis Lehane

The official blurb: Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from her blue-collar Boston neighborhood. Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro risked everything to find her—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and broken home.

Twelve years later, Amanda, now sixteen, is gone again.

The disappearance of little Amanda was the case that troubled Kenzie and Gennaro more than any other. Still haunted by their consciences, they must now revisit the nightmare that once tore them apart—following the trail of a lost teenager into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, and Russian gangsters, right up to the doorstep of a dangerously unstable crime boss and his demented wife. Once again Patrick and Angie will be putting everything that matters to them on the line in pursuit of the answer to the burning question: Is it possible to do the right thing and still be dead wrong?

I had no idea what to expect of this book as it was written by the guy who wrote Shutter Island. If you’ve seen the film you”ll no doubt recall that it was slippery than a big of snakes!

With that knowledge, Moonlight Mile was more conventional that I expected. It fide have lots of clever layers and tiny subplots which all built up to create a well thought out story.

Brilliant characterisation, if a little stereotypical in places, but I have to confess I liked that.

If you are a crime thriller fan like myself I’ve no doubt that you’d enjoy this book.

For more reviews see my book review page.

Birthdays for the Dead #BookReview

Posted on 13th September 2012 in #bookreview/ Crime Fiction

Birthdays for the Dead

by Stuart MacBride

The synopsis bit: Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his home-made cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.

But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves. 

I have given this book 5 starts (out of 5) on Good Reads because, frankly, it kicks butt! I think it would make for brilliant TV.

DC Ash Henderson is policeman on the edge and he makes for a fantastic character. I started off missing Logan McRae and the well-known, well trodden streets of Aberdeen but was soon sucked into the downright murky world Ash and his faithful sidekick Rhona. I didn’t like the Dr McFruitloop character when she was first introduced, felt she was a little too contrived, but I grew to love her after a couple of chapters. 

I should add that before anyone reads this book they need to be fully aware that the subject matter is grim beyond all measure. It is painful to read and certainly not for the feint hearted. It goes WAY beyond the usual line in the sand for describing atrocities and if you look directly at it you’ll struggle to read on! I tend to read the words but ignore the content when he’s talking about the girls.

OK so why did I give it 5 stars?

This book doesn’t confirm to the norm. It doesn’t do as you expect it to. MacBride has been brave enough (bored enough?) to throw the crime writers rule book out of the window and he has written an outstanding standalone book which is like no other.

DC Ash Henderson is a ridiculous yet fantastic character. He does not abide by the rules – most similar characters fly close to the wind, or bend the rules but he does not have any boundaries not a single one. It is exhilarating to read about someone who just does want he wants/needs in order to get what he wants.

This book seems to have been somewhat slated on Amazon and I think a lot of its critics were expecting a fluffy crime book that follows the crime-by-numbers format of some other writers. It is hard reading in places. The pace does move so quickly that you literally feel your head spinning. It is down right gritty, grim and unbelievable; yet FABULOUS.

I loved it.

Having said that, I’ve gone from this to the slightly more frothy Notting Hell as I felt I needed to wash all of the macabre grimness out of my system!

The Silence by Alison Bruce #BookReview

Posted on 4th September 2012 in #bookreview/ alison bruce/ cambridge/ Crime Fiction


by Alison Bruce

I have so looked forward to this book!

I even queued for it during the launch at Heffer’s in Cambridge where I finally got to meet the lovely @Alison_Bruce in person :)

The official blurb: Joey McCarthy is stabbed to death in a pub car park in a random act of violence. Shortly afterwards Charlotte Stone’s terminally ill mother dies and then, within weeks, two of her teenage friends commit suicide. With her home life disintegrating and both her father and brother racing towards self-destruction Charlotte realises that her own personal nightmare may not be over yet.

When DC Gary Goodhew finds the body of another suicide victim he is forced to recall some deeply buried memories of an earlier death; memories which lead him to Charlotte Stone and the events in her life.

From their individual points of view they both begin to wonder whether all these tragedies are somehow linked to a bigger picture.

And if they are right, then who will be the next victim?

After reading only a few pages of The Silence I remarked to my partner that this was “her [Alison Bruce’s] best book yet!”. I’ve been hooked on this series since book one but it seemed to me that in this book Alison’s writing has taken on new a depth; it seems more confident, more accomplished and the book seemed (to me) to move at a different pace to its predecessors. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the pace and direction, hold on tight as half-way through it seems to go up a gear and bursts forward shifting the whole focus of the story and racing towards its conclusion.

It offers a more complex plot than the previous books and immediately draws you in to the story which then leads you down more dark alleys and dead ends than a maize maze… Ok so that’s not the best analogy in the world but you get the idea 😉

I thought Goodhew seemed a more sensitive soul in this book and his memories of an earlier car crash showed us a new side to him and helped (in my head at least) to further define his enigmatic but oh so likable personality.

There were a couple of things in the book which I felt were ‘left hanging': DI Marks was very thoughtful and brooding throughout the book and although a brief explanation was proffered, it felt to me as though there was more to it; also, I was expecting fireworks between Goodhew and (the deeply unpleasant) Kincaide especially after Kincaide sinks to a new low with his malicious lies but Goodhew seemed to let it go. I wonder if both of these are being saved up for the next book?

The Silence very quickly had me hooked and, as usual, attempting to guess the outcome! I thought it was very clever the way the story constantly seemed to circle the central characters from the student house and I enjoyed the dynamics and differing personalities within the group. Except for Oslo, one word, ewwww!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Silence and can’t wait for book 5!

The Calling #BookReview

Posted on 16th August 2012 in #bookreview/ alison bruce/ book review/ books/ Crime Fiction

The Calling

by Alison Bruce

Synopsis: Kaye Whiting went to buy a birthday present and didn’t come back. Fifty miles away in Cambridge town centre a deeply disturbed young woman is standing by a payphone. She often feels compelled to do harmful things and is driven by a desire to make a call. When Kaye’s body is discovered, the only clue DC Gary Goodhew has to go on is a woman’s voice on his voicemail saying, “Kaye isn’t the first and won’t be the last…”

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am reading my way through the Alison Bruce books after discovering and loving Cambridge Blue.

I have one negative comment and I’ll get it out of the way first (Alison already knows this anyway!) I’m really sad that the cover has been changed from the original one which was:

I personally love the original style of the jacket covers and think it’s a real shame that they’ve been made more generic by the publishers.

Anyway, the book!

I know from my Q&A session with Alison that The Calling, although being the third in the Cambridge Blue series, is actually the first one that she wrote and I read the book with that knowledge to see if I could ‘tell’. I certainly don’t think it is screamingly obvious, but there were a few subtle differences about DC Gary Goodhew’s personality?

I love it when I get to start a new DC Gary Goodhew book, it’s great to settle down with a book knowing that you love the characters and that you love the writing style. The Calling did not disappoint. It is fast paced (as all of the series have been so far) and you get drawn into the story very quickly, making it hard to put the book down.

Poor Kaye, I was willing her to hang on and was quite shocked when she didn’t! That was totally unexpected for me but it was a great way to be thrown straight into the book. I thought that the pain portrayed by Kaye’s mother was excellently observed.

I kept changing my mind about who my chief suspect was as the story progressed and I enjoyed being kept on my toes as new developments arose. I liked the way that the crime was solved between DC Goodhew and the enigmatic character ‘Marlowe’ and thought the relationship between their, equally untraditional, personalities felt very plausable.

As ever I have no intention of giving away the ending to this book, except to say that I one point I did think Alison had taken leave of her senses with the way the story was heading but it was of course just another cleverly woven red herring!

Great book – if you are new to the Cambridge Blue series, please pick up a copy of Cambridge Blue first and fall in love with enigmatic DC Gary Goodhew!

An Interview With The Author: Alison Bruce

Posted on 3rd May 2012 in #bookreview/ Crime Fiction/ Interview An Author

Having recently read and loved Cambridge Blue, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to interview the author; Alison Bruce. I found her answers to be refreshingly honest and genuinely interesting; she offers some great tips and suggestions for anyone hoping to be published.

If you have any questions for Alison, please add them in the comments section and am sure she will be happy to respond :)

Q1. When did you write Cambridge Blue?

Cambridge Blue was the second detective novel I wrote, I started it in 2001, was unhappy with what I first wrote, so I threw it away and started again. I’m guessing it was somewhere around 2005 when I finished it properly, and it was 2006 when I signed my first fiction book deal. The hardback of Cambridge Blue was published in 2008 and then the paperback in 2010.

Q2. What are the best and worst things about being an author?

When you are writing a book and you’re never completely sure that you will get it published, that can be a bit depressing. Once you have a book published the next worry is whether you can do it again. Most of the downsides to writing go on in my own head! The most exciting thing for me has been the number of people who are getting in touch asking me when a book will be out, I find it amazing to hear from people on the other side of the world who are reading and enjoying the Goodhew series.

Q3. There is a theory that every writer has an uncompleted novel tucked away in a drawer – do you? If so, why did you abandon it and do you think it will ever see the light of day?

I think that theory is especially true when you consider that it is said that most authors’ first books are largely autobiographical. Writing can be a fantastic way of giving ourselves therapy after we’ve been through personal traumas, but I reckon it would be hard to get a novel published that read like a thinly veiled true story. Of course that does happen, but I think the odds are more in your favour with a book that includes original characters, concepts, plotlines etc.

When I started my first book I had obviously read quite a few books and took the naive view that writing one probably wouldn’t be that tricky. It was much, much tougher than I expected and yes, I did start with a semiautobiographical plot.  Luckily I have a big fan of crime fiction and chose to embed my experiences within a much darker murder story.  And finally, in answer to your question, no it is not tucked away in a drawer, but was published in 2011 as The Calling, the third DC Goodhew novel.

Q4. Who would you say is your biggest literary influence?

I’m not sure I have just one, I’m definitely as influenced by films and music as by books, as far as I’m concerned they are all means of communicating stories.  I grew up on the classics, Christie, Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh and Patricia Wentworth.  This was at the same time as listening to doo-wop and Rob Orbison and watching TV imports like Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and every classic movie I could.  I have a long-standing affection for Jane Eyre which I read every couple of years.  I love Harlan Coben’s, Linda Barnes’ and Lisa Gardner’s books, and British writers including Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Mo Hader, Stephen Booth and RJ Ellory, whose book A Quiet Belief in Angels is one of the most stunning I have ever read.

Q5. I love DC Goodhew, did his character come to you all at once or did it change as you wrote?

When I started writing my first book I had an idea but no plans to write a series.  The protagonist was a young woman who is stalking her ex-boyfriend and anonymously reporting him to the police. I needed a detective to follow-up on this thread of the story and included a young DC named Gary Goodhew, when I needed the police to be involved again I wrote him into that chapter too.  Goodhew’s role grew rapidly and along the way the book developed into The Calling as it is now.  I was crying as I wrote the last couple of pages and the only character I couldn’t bear to leave behind was Gary.  That was the moment I realised I was writing a series!

Q6. His grandmother is wonderful, I wish I had a grandmother like her! Was she based on anyone you know?

Visually I imagine her as a younger Honor Blackman.  She’s a sharp thinker and glamorous in an assured way.  She’s obviously a strong woman and supportive of Gary but I don’t think anyone would be too surprised if it turned out she’d had a few wild years in her youth.

Q7. You are fantastic at crime fiction, do you see yourself sticking to this genre or is there a different style that you fancy taking on?

Thank you.  I write the occasional short story that’s not totally crime, but 3000 words seems to be the maximum I can write without feeling like it’s time for a murder.  On top of that I have so many crime novels in my head that I doubt I’ll ever run out of crime books I’d like to write.  I have worked on a couple of screenplays and I’d love a project like that.

Q8. Which do you prefer:

– Wine or beer?  I’m not a big drinker but maybe the odd glass of white or rose, and once in a while a bottle of Sailor Jerry!

– Cats or dogs?  Was dogs, now cats.  I grew up with dogs but have ended up with three cats and I love them.

– Mac or pc?  I know how to use a PC better than a Mac, but I have a Mac and love it, I just need to get to grips with the hotkeys to get faster!

– Tea or coffee?  Tea, tea, tea!  Love it, can’t write without it.  I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee…

– Morning or evening?  Night time, from 9pm until whenever.  I have written through the night many times and often come back from gigs in the small hours (my husband’s a musician).

– Harry Potter or Northern Lights?  Harry Potter, the films though because (shock, horror, am I the only one) I haven’t read the books.

Q9. Who is your favourite author?

I don’t think I have one, some individual books are fantastic and I love Ed McBain and Dashiell Hammett, but if pushed I have to point out there’s only been four times when I’ve read every crime novel an author has written and the culprits are : Agatha Christie, Harlan Coben, Conan Doyle and Sue Grafton.

Q10. There are lots of aspiring authors out there and it’s well known that being ‘spotted’ by an agent or publisher is difficult; how did you get your big break?

When I finished my first book I went to a writing event where the guest speaker was a top agent for crime fiction, I approached him afterwards and he agreed to read my book.  He was very keen and gave me excellent advice on developing the series. If you can get good professional advice then take it, he wasn’t the agent I ultimately signed with, but his observations were hugely helpful and came with the benefit of years of experience in an industry where I was just trying to get my first opening.

It was a couple of years later before Cambridge Blue was completed and by then the first agent I had approached had gone off the boil. In addition I also realised the importance of having an agent who seemed like somebody you would still want to work with in 20 years time and I decided that it would be a good idea get out to events where I could meet publishers and agents face-to-face.

I made the shortlist of 8 agents and approached them all. Many agents will be getting a huge number of proposals sent to them each year. In my personal opinion it is a really good idea if they can put a face to a name.  What’s even better is if they know from meeting you that you will be an author that will enjoy going to events and promoting their work.  When you do approach an agent it’s also good to know who you think your readership will be and how you would describe your work in terms of genre and sub-genre.  Sometimes I hear people say “but it’s not really like anyone else’s book”, fact is though that every book needs to have something different in order to get published, but it can’t be sold if the bookseller doesn’t know where to put it on the bookshelves.  Ultimately it may be marketed in a way that is not what you expected, that doesn’t matter, it’s just really good to show that you have a market in mind and you understand that publishing is a business about selling books not just producing art.

Q11. Where and how do you prefer to write?

I started answering these questions sitting at a table in a holiday camp in rain-swept Hemsby as my husband’s band was doing a gig.  I’m finishing it in Carrington’s Cafe in Ely.  I’ve written on a train, a tube, a boat, in the car, under a table, lying on floor, the trampoline, the bed.  Sometimes I even sit on a chair and write at a desk.  I’m not a hugely fast writer and I have a lot of other time constraints so when it comes to the crunch I just do it wherever and whenever I can in order to get the story down.

Q12. How long did each book take you to write?

I had the idea for The Calling in 1989 and it finally came out in 2011.  I’m hoping that’s the last time I spend 22 years between having an idea and seeing it published!  It took me a long time to work out exactly the right way to do it and in the end I had piles and piles of notes, then when my daughter was a month old I made the decision to finally finish it, that was in 2000 and I finished at the start of 2001.

I started Cambridge Blue in 2001 and I suffered from the notorious Second Book Syndrome.  I wrote, threw away, re-wrote, threw more away and carried on like this until I think I threw away about quarter of 1 million words to get the final 95,000.  By then it was the start of 2006.  Book 2, The Siren, and book 4, The Silence, were both written comfortably within a year.

Q 13. What is your best cure for writers’ block?

Just like writing itself I suspect everyone has their own triggers for writer’s block and equally their own solutions.  For me I have discovered that nearly every case of writer’s block is when my subconscious if telling me that what I’m about to write won’t work for one reason or another.  Sometimes that means revisiting the scene and trying to tell it from another character’s point of view, or maybe starting the scene from a different point or even scrapping it entirely.  Usually when I have identified my underlying concern the writer’s block just disappears.

Q 14. What sort of child were you at school and did your English teacher have you pegged as a future author?

Mostly I was quite quiet at school, I lacked the confidence to speak out in class and was frequently told off for daydreaming.  By far my best subject was maths and although I liked English I certainly didn’t excel at it.  I remember I had an English teacher called Mr. Howe and when we were about 15 years old we had to sit our mock exams.  The long question was ‘Write About The Journey’ and I imagined I was held up in a traffic jam on the way to work and described the fascination of the drivers in the queue as they approached and started rubbernecking the scene of the accident.  Mr. Howe held back my paper until last then announced to the class that there was one paper he refused to mark, he handed it back with the words, ‘I don’t know what you think you’ve written here, but I was disgusted.’

That’s probably the only time when a schoolteacher conveyed to me that I  have the ability to write with  impact!

Q15. When I finish reading a book that I’ve loved I almost feel a bit bereft as I miss the characters in my life. How do you feel when you’ve finished writing one?

As I reach the end of writing a book I always find that my writing speed and hours both increase dramatically.  It’s quite typical to have at least 2 overnight writing sessions in the last week.  With the last book I was at my desk almost 40 hours the last 48.  I finished, went to bed, woke up with a headache, went down with a cold a few days later and all in all felt completely burnt out for about a week.  I seem to do this to myself at the end of every book and it’s not because I’m cramming, it’s just that when the end is so close the words just flow into my head… If only they would do that at the very start of the book.

Emotionally the feeling is very similar, I have a huge high that lasts a couple of days then a more subdued feeling for the next couple of weeks as I realise that I have to say goodbye to that set of characters in order to work on something else. For an author writing a series they have the opportunity keep all the characters they care about the most, even if the character is initially intended for only one book it is always possible to write about them again if you really want to.  Readers of the series will notice a character who appears briefly in Cambridge Blue making another brief appearance in The Silence.

Q 16. Where do you get the ideas from for your crimes?

I don’t know, I’m not saying that lightly, I’ll have a thought then find my brain jumping around between a whole series unconnected ideas and drawing them together into one story.  Lying in the bath helps.

Q17. I’ve only lived in Cambridgeshire for 5 months and am still finding my way around, if I go into Cambridge and look for the places mentioned in your book will I find them (are they real)? A kind of ‘Cambridge Blue Murder Tour’ if you will!

In 2010 I spoke at the library in Downham Market and one of the ladies in the audience particularly liked Cambridge Blue, she belongs to a U3A reading group and suggested that it should be their reading choice.  She has now organised a Cambridge Blue Book Walk and this week I will be joining them as they follow the route of the crimes and investigations featured in the book. I use fictitious addresses for murders (I figure that no one wants to read a novel and find out that the murder victim was found slumped across their own kitchen table), but apart from that I aim to give the reader a Goodhew’s eye view of the real city, it is his favourite place in the world and as a boy growing up there he would have experienced it totally differently to most.

Q18. What is the best/worst job you’ve had?

I’ve had a crazy number of jobs, plenty of admin jobs, taxi driver, IT manager, DJ, electroplater, project manager, dress-maker, film extra, (useless) bar worker etc, etc and every Monday I used to dress as Andy Pandy to run promotions at the local bowling alley.  I stopped after 3 months when I was finally told that the outfit was see-through when I stood in front of the fluorescent lighting on any of the lanes.  Hmmm.  Probably not my best job, but not my worst either.  Being a mum is fab but I never feel as though that counts as a job.  I love working in a creative field, love mental challenges, love working under pressure.  I hate being bored.

Q19. What is your favourite TV show?

The Mentalist.  I love the scripts, characters and neat one liners… oh, and that Simon Baker’s OK too.

Q20. You know yourself better than I do (obviously!) what question should I have asked you?

Turning the tables on me?  You crafty woman, this question asking lark is tricky!

Here are a three quickies about writing…

Any favourite books on writing you’d like to recommend?

Story by Roger McKee,

How to Write a Blockbuster (Teach Yourself Creative Writing) by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherly,

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande and

Novel Writing: 16 Steps to Success by Evan Marshall.

What favourite tips have you been given?

Just don’t give up is probably the best but I also like When you write let your heart lead your head, but when you edit let your head take charge.

What advice do you have for debut authors?

Ask questions and talk to other authors.  After slogging away for what feels like forever you secure you first book deal, but that doesn’t mean you instantly feel confident at events or with the writing of the next.  Virtually every author has been in the same boat and I think you will find plenty happy to share tips, give encouragement and almost certainly learn from your writing experiences too.  If you can get to know other authors with the same agent, publisher or who are local to you.

The Gary Goodhew Series

Cambridge Blue

The Siren

The Calling (paperback July 2012)

The Silence (hardback July 2012)

All published by Constable (UK) and SOHO Constable (US)

Her true crime books Cambridgeshire Murders and Billington, Victorian Executioner are both published by the History Press.

For more details, see or follow @alison_bruce on Twitter

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