Q&A with the massively talented Chris Nickson.

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Chris Nickson is in my opinion a man of many talents. Every book he has written I have thoroughly enjoyed. From Tom Harper in Victorian Leeds to WPC Lottie Armstrong which depicts the first female police officers in the UK & Dan Markham of the Dark Briggate blues, which has a whole Jazz/noir feel to it!
See http://www.Chrisnickson.co.uk for further details.

I was very happy when he agreed to be part of a Q&A for my blog, as the novels throw up so many questions for me regarding their inspiration & creation. This Q&A is related to the Tm Harper mystery’s series. Hope you enjoy it!

Q&A

 Q) One of my Favourite Characters in the Tom Harper series, is Annabelle. She is very inspirational in her views, morals, opinions and her characterisation is brilliant! Please can you give a brief summary of the inspiration behind the characters in the series & Annabelle herself?

A) Actually, Annabelle was where it all began. I wrote a short story based on an Atkinson Grimshaw painting (Reflections on the Aire: On Strike, Leeds 1879), and the young woman in the picture was Annabelle. After that, she started pestering me to write more about her. When I sat down to research the 1890 Leeds Gas Strike, she told me ‘I was there, luv. Let me tell you all about it.’ From there, she just grew. There’s a family connection, too, as my great-grandfather ran the pub (the Victoria) that she’s supposed to have run. He had it from the 1920s-40s, and before that he had another place in Hunslet, which is mentioned in one of the books. Annabelle gave me Tom – no surprise, as he’s her husband – and everyone else followed.

 

Q) What made you set the Novels in Victorians Leeds as opposed to Victorian London? I personally feel this is brilliant for northern readers & also adding the northern dialogue adds authenticity. It just all feels as though this actually happened!

A) Most of my books are set in Leeds. I know Leeds, I was born and raised here and I moved back here. I know Leeds, I understand how it works, the sense of it, the streets, and above all, the people. I don’t know London, I could never convince people that I did, and I’d never get the rhythms of speech right.

 

Q) One of my favourite themes in the series is the ‘heroes of the north’. So many inspirational people that you rarely see in fictional novels or Tv series. It makes for refreshing reading. But what is the story behind its inclusion in the novels?

A) If by heroes you mean ordinary people, that’s the reason right there. The vast majority die without leaving many ripples on the pool, and they contribute as much as everyone else. These books are, I hope, little memorials to those who might not otherwise be remembered. Tom Maguire, for instance, was a towering figure in Leeds politics for a short while, and one of the people behind the Independent Labour Party. His headstone still stands and there’s a red plaque commemorating him (in Leeds bus station, close to where his house was). But very few people could now tell you about him or what he did. That’s a shame. When he was buried, the route was lined with people. He deserves to be remembered, which I try to do.

 

Q) The afterword provides pointers to the historical research and accuracy. But what is the most fascinating/interesting piece of history you have come across so far? Does the research drive the plot building or the other way around?

A) Probably the only time the research has really driven the plot is with Gods of Gold and the Gas Strike. Other books in that series do use historical incidents, but they become the jumping-off point, like the fire in Skin Like Silver, or the torpedo test in The Iron Water. The books are driven by the characters more than anything.

 

Q) What are your favourite reads, from childhood to teenage years to adulthood? Did any of them influence your desire to be a writer or your various series?

A) I read widely from the time I could read, a real mix of things. I loved Henry Treece’s books, which might explain the love of historical fiction. But Tolkein, Ian Fleming, all the way to Hesse and Maugham. I read, that was it. My father was a writer, had a couple of TV plays produced in the late ‘60s, so that was a big factor. But from the age of 11, when I wrote a story in three paragraphs for a school assignment, something clicked. And if I couldn’t be a musician (I have, but not a very good one) I wanted to be a writer. It just took time to get there, and a wonderful detour through music journalism.

Leeds is at the core of what I write, and I try to make the place itself a character, so people feel they’ve walked on the streets, smelts the smells, been immersed in it. I started with the Richard Nottingham series, set in the 1730s (six books so far, a seventh coming this autumn), but there’s also the 1950s with Dan Markham and the 1920s with Lottie Armstrong, as well as Leeds, The Biography, which tells the history of the city in short stories. A city changes and evolves, and I try to capture that.

I lived in Seattle for 20 years, and was a music journalist there during the grunge years and after. I’ve tried to capture that in Emerald City and West Seattle Blues, which are set in the music scene. The place is wonderful, everything people claim. My little homage, although those are only available as ebooks and audiobooks, an experiment of sorts.

After moving back to the UK, I spent a bit over four years near Chesterfield, and grew to love the place. The plot for The Crooked Spire came in just a few seconds when I was driving through the town, and now there are two others – The Holywell Dead will be published in the summer, although that will be the end of the series.

*Huge thanks to Chris Nickson for taking part in the Q&A.

Review/New release: On Copper Street by Chris Nickson 5*

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On Copper Street by Chris Nickson

The blurb:

Detective Inspector Tom Harper finds answers hard to come by in his latest, most challenging, investigation to date.
Leeds, England. March, 1895. The day after his release from prison, petty criminal Henry White is found stabbed to death at his terraced home on Copper Street. Pursuing enquiries in a neighbourhood where people are suspicious of strangers and hostile to the police, DI Tom Harper and his team find the investigation hard going. If anyone knows anything about Henry White s murder or the robbery that landed him in gaol in the first place they are unable or unwilling to say.
At the same time, acid is thrown over a young boy in a local bakery in a seemingly unprovoked attack.
Praying for a breakthrough, Harper knows that he must uncover the motive in each case if he is to have any chance of catching the culprits. Of one thing he is certain: if he doesn’t find answers soon, more deaths will follow.

My review/thoughts:

On copper street is the fifth instalment in the Tom Harper series, set in 1895 Victorian London. This is in my opinion Tom’s most complex case to date.

The novel opens with Tom performing a routine check-up on Henry White’s residence. Henry having recently been realised from goal for robbery. Tom arrives to find Henry’s dead body; he appears to have been killed during his sleep. It isn’t long before Tom becomes distracted by the dead body of Tom Maguire and a recent acid attack on a young boy in a Bakery! With body’s stacking up it appears Tom is going to have to keep his wits about him!

The young victim of the acid attack Arthur Crabtree is blinded in the incident and a young bakery assistant (Annie Johnson) is also left disfigured. This attack happens in Tom’s old partner Billy Reed’s wife’s bakery. So we quickly see the return of Billy to the case in question. Billy is keen but doubts his skills at detective work, requiring some encouragement from Tom. Is the acid attack the work of a madman? Or something far more sinister?

Tom’s young daughter Mary is now 3 and wife Annabelle as independent as ever with her suffragist/political and union goals. Tom is called to speak with Superintendent Kendall & learns he is leaving his post due to ill health. Will Tom take over? Will he be approved to when his wife’s opinions are known far & wide over Leeds? Fear/poverty/inequality and secrets are rife in this novel and ultimately it is what makes it so gripping to read! The rich/poor divide rarely ever has no effect on the crimes in hand. I felt this is the first time we see changing times in Leeds. There is so much historical relevance, especially with the real life character portrayal of Tom Maguire. This got me really thinking about northern English Heroes and how they almost fade from history without authors like Chris Nickson to bring them back to life! Emmeline Pankhurst, William Tuke and Joseph Rowntree are 3 of the northern heroes I grew up being told all about as a young Lancashire lass. This series has fantastic characterisation, not only of the central characters but also of the wrong uns and misfits! The dialogue adds authenticity and the historical facts add up! If you have been reading historical fiction but haven’t discovered Chris Nickson, now is your chance J A huge 5* from me!

*I received an Ebook copy via netgalley in return for an honest review.

Book List inspired by Black History Month!

This is NOT a black history month book list; this IS a book list inspired by black history month. Let me explain, I read a huge amount of books that would fall into this category. But in my opinion black history is history and everyone should be reading & learning it all year not just in the month of February!
I saw a promo post yesterday with only 3 choices & I knew that if I wrote such a list, my list would be enormous and would feature female/male writers, fiction & non-fiction, old skool reads & new releases. Something for everybody. I mentioned this in passing to my husband who quickly pointed out ‘isn’t that what your blog is for’ so here goes!

To make this list the best it fully can be, I have scoured my book journals, tbr pile & wish list. I will identify this throughout the list. I can’t include reviews for all the ones I have read but will include my star rating & a brief summary. They are in no particular order.

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Fiction:

  • IQ by Joe Ide – 5* Genius – New release IQ is a new release, set in modern day LA. I described IQ as a ghetto Sherlock Holmes in my review, this novel is clever, edgy and unique!
  • Heartman by M.P Wright (JT Ellington series) – 5* Genius JT is a Bajan cop turned private eye, when he arrives in Bristol UK from Barbados. Set in the 1960’s the novel gives a full & well written description of the era & attitudes at that time. JT is one my favourite characters ever!
  • Noughts & crosses by Malorie Blackman – TBR pile I had this YA book recommendation from my little brother. It was his favourite book in his teens. It is due to be adapted to a TV series on the BBC.
  • An Untamed State by Roxane gay – 5* This tells the story of Mirieille Duval Jameson, her life in Haiti as daughter of one of the wealthiest families. It details her subsequent captivity & ordeal. But also draws on the backdrop of poverty, inequality, corrupt governments and growing anger. A dark, brutal read but extremely noteworthy.
  • Devils Peak by Deon Meyer – Wish list I added this to my wish list due to its location & themes. Set in south Africa this novel tells the story of returning freedom fighter Thobela Mpayipheli
  • Natchez Burning trilogy by Greg Iles – 5* Genius This trilogy is majorly intense. It also has reflective chapters jumping between modern times and the 1960’s. Set in the deep south of the USA, it explores the inner workings or the KKK and the effect they have on everyone they touch.
  • The calling by Neil Cross (John Luther series) – 5* This is the novel featuring John Luther from the much loved series with Idris Elba. Set in modern times with John Luther the protagonist cop, we all know & love.
  • Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye – 5* Set in the Florida keys in the 1930’s this novel covers the black soldiers who returned from WW1 and the trying times they face. When a white woman is found murdered, suspicions quickly fall to the veterans.
  • Small Great things by Jodi Picoult – 5* This was a heavily anticipated novel as the author is so well known. It centres around one woman’s struggle to clear her name and the bigotry she faces. The novel has a thought-provoking & clever twist.
  • The Wrath of Moses by John sturgeon – 4* Centred around cop Moses in the crime plagued Levee District. This is a heavily layered crime novel of exceptional depth. Aside from the usual dramas Moses is Moses’s biggest enemy.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – 5* Genius One of my favourites of 2016. I can’t even begin to explain how significant this novel is. Set in the era of slavery, this novel focuses on the story of Cora & her escape via the underground railroad. Incredibly moving!
  • Colour Bar by Susan William –TBR pile Added due to my wish list due to its unique & inspiring love story. The true story of a 1947 multi-racial romance between an heir to Africa and a white British woman. Currently screening as a movie in the UK
  • The Speech by Andrew Smith – 5* Another of my favourites from 2016. Set in 1968 & covering Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech. This novel merges fact & fiction and is an educational & moving read. Essentially about racial politics in the UK but written in such a well detailed way!
  • Gloria by Kerry Young –TBR pile Set in 1938 Jamaica covering political change & social justice from a female perspective. This was an obvious choice for my wish list.
  • Lies We All Tell ourselves by Robin Talley – TBR pile Another YA pick, This one set in the backdrop of the civil rights era yet also features an LGBTQ theme. Unique pick.
  • You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood – 5* Genius – New Release This is a courtroom legal drama, where the reader becomes a jury member. The beauty of it is, it forces you to think like someone who may not live like you or look like you. Puts you solely in their perspective.
  • Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley – 5* Genius The series starts out with an old skool edge to it and Easy is by far one of thee most coolest book characters to date! The novels each have unique themes and I am still working my way through the series myself.
  • Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines – 5* If you ever want to fully understand the term ‘white privilege’ this is the novel for you! The story of two youngsters who never stood a chance due to circumstances outside of their control.
  • Axeman’s Jazz & Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin – 5* Genius The series begins in New Orleans and is a fictionalised portrayal of the real Axeman killer. Heavy on detail and depth, this series is amazing!
  • Darktown by Thomas Mullens- 5* Genius Atlanta 1948 this novels covers the first ever black cops in the USA. Boggs & smith are the two main cops; they are written very well. Soon to be a major TV series in the USA.
  • The Book of Night Women by Marlon James – 5* Genius Written by Manbooker winner Marlon James, this is probably the most brutal & deep novel I have ever read about slavery. The dialogue is intense, yet it makes the reader slow down and appreciate & saviour every single word.
  • All Involved by Ryan Gattis – 5* Set in the 1990’s this novel covers crime/gang culture and the LA riots.
  • The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna – 5* I met my husband the day of his return from Sierra Leone with the UK military. So this novel instantly intrigued me. Set in the late 1990’s it tells the story of ordinary people living through great loss & hardships. Extraordinarily moving!
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – 5* Recent winner of the Manbooker Paul Beatty debates race & culture with an unusual approach. I get the distinct opinion Paul doe’s seek validation in the form or reviews & awards. But it definitely deserving! Hilarious & controversial!
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – 4* No list would be complete without the mention of this novel. It is eerie, harrowing & fierce.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin –TBR pile Published in 1852, this a well-known & famous anti-slavery novel. I must make some time for it soon!
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – Wish list I am a difficult woman, so I feel I shall be gripped by this!

NON- Fiction books:

  • Roots by Alex Haley – 5* The incredible story of Kunta Kinte. One I am certain I will never forget. Should be studied in schools.
  • Africa by Richard Dowden – 5* A comprehensive look at the history of Africa the problems is faces and the huge cultural gifts it has to offer. Made me want to visit Africa asap.
  • The autobiographies of Nelson mandela 5*, Martin Luther King 5* & Malcolm X 5* genius. I do not read autobiographies usually but my dad wanted me to read Nelson Mandela’s and I ended up reading these 3 back to back! Inspiring stuff!
  • We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Phillip Gourevitch – 5* I wanted to educate myself on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It alarms be how this is kept from mainstream education.
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B Tyson – 5* This is an in-depth look into the torture murder of Emmett Till and those who allowed it to happen. It also references modern day crimes against children such as Trayvon Martin.
  • Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaite – TBR pile This non-fiction title covers the role of the British military & the UN during the Genocide of Rwanda.
  • Cut by HiboWardere – TBR pile Centred around FGM and the writers own experiences. The author has kindly agreed to feature in a Q&A when I read & review this book.
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali – TBR pile Focused around the roles of women in Islam and the writers experiences as a Muslim.
  • They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery – Wish list The main theme is the foundations of the black lives matter movement. Also chapters focused on individual cases of police brutality and subsequent murder of back citizens in the USA.

I hope there is something that may interest you on my list. Also please feel free to contact/message/comment me with further recommendations!

Abby

 

Chance Encounter

Review and Q&A with Chris Nickson tomorrow!

Chris Nickson

Tomorrow, On Copper Street, the fifth of my Leeds Victorian novels, is published. Like the rest of the series – and like my Richard Nottingham books, set in Leeds 150 years earlier – the social conditions of the people, and the city itself are vital parts of the story. Yes, they’re mysteries, crime novels, but with a Dickensian social conscience. For me, it’s impossible to look at the past without seeing the dirt, smelling the stink, and hearing the pain of so many who lived there.

The books are, perhaps, a way to offer some sort of memorial to the unremembered, the ones who, like my own great-great grandparents, were buried in common graves.

But first, to whet your appetite for On Copper Street, how about a new Annabelle Harper short story?

Leeds, 1896

She’d gone five paces past the man before she stopped. There were beggars everywhere in…

View original post 1,492 more words

Author Q&A with Matthew Pritchard! One of my favourite writers of 2016!

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Matthew Pritchard author of Scarecrow & werewolf – Q&A

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Q) I found the character of Danny Sanchez very unique. I loved the investigative journalism edge & the Spanish/English/ex-pat themes in the novel. Can you explain for the readers the background & creation of the character Danny Sanchez?

A) Danny is my alter ego. Physically we are the same, our music tastes are the same, as is our clothing and sense of humour; we are also both obsessive about writing and research, and are both loners.
I was a journalist in Spain for 10 years and worked closely with the expat community, hence the ring of authenticity to some of the scenes depicted in the book.
Danny, however, is a far better reporter than I ever was and he works the sort of juicy stories I dreamt of discovering, so I guess there is an element of wish fulfilment in the character, too.
However, unlike Danny, I have managed to give up smoking, eat well and get myself relatively fit, but he is still the conduit through which I examine the world, and his progression over the three books I have written that feature him closely mirrors my own life experiences. 

Q) The book briefly covers the realms of mental health & psychiatry. Also the damage of abusive childhoods on an individual’s growth. I found this fascinating as it is well documented & society is desperate to uncover what causes a warped mind. Did you research mental health?  Were there any particular cases in the media that have stuck with you or you were reminded of in the writing process?

A) I did a lot of research on serial killers during the writing of the book, and the one factor 95% of them had in common was abusive, miserable childhoods.
Also, since Hannibal Lector became a cultural icon, many other writers have chosen to portray serial killers as suave, intelligent and sophisticated individuals, when the opposite is almost always true – the majority of serial killers are really very mundane people with a history of failure, who are only distinguished by their complete lack of empathy with other human beings and their manipulative, predatory nature, and I wanted to really hammer that point home in Scarecrow.

Q) As stated in my review, several times Scarecrow is a very dark & gritty novel. It certainly isn’t a novel you forget too quickly. Was that always the intention, to write a novel that also had a shock feel to it?

A) I knew from the start I wanted to do something different and unusual with my book, so I decided to make men the victims of my serial killer rather than women, and began to research killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Nilsen.
When you begin to realise how disturbing, violent and bizarre their crimes were, it is very difficult not to write something that deeply affects the reader. 

Q) In my review I reference a recent factual case with similar themes as the motive of The Scarecrow killer. As a former journalist yourself, are you influenced by real life criminal cases?

A) Some writers seem to delight in imagining crimes of an almost impossibly grotesque nature and then describing them in  pornographic detail.
I, however, always stick to things that have actually occurred in real life and use a “less is more” approach, only hinting at the most disturbing elements of the crimes depicted in my stories.
I have also befriended a professor of forensic science, so he checks all the details in my books, and sends me examples of real life case studies of murders – truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is usually also better.

Questions re: Detective Inspector Silas Payne series

Q) Werewolf was in my favourites of 2016 list. This is how I discovered your writing & was previously unaware of the Danny Sanchez novels. Does it benefit authors to have various different series?  Is it difficult in the writing experience?

A) I can’t speak for other authors, but I enjoyed the change in setting immensely. I did not find the transition particularly difficult, mainly because discovering the historical details about the period – especially the demobilisation of the German army and the constant search for SS and Nazi Party members hiding among normal soldiers – was so fascinating.

Q) Where did the idea behind Werewolf come from? Why the WW2 era?

A) My father is a collector of WWI and WWII books and military memorabilia, so I grew up in a house filled with gas masks, helmets, uniforms and rifles – it was pretty much a given I would write a book set around that particular time period.
The specific genesis of Werewolf came when, as a teenager, I met a man who had served in Germany in August, 1945, when the British Zone of Occupation was being established. He described the chaos the country was in and the fear of attack by “werewolves” (German soldiers who had taken to the forests to continue fighting) while doing night time sentry duty.
The name stuck in my mind and 20 years later I began writing and researching the project. 

Q) Both novels are incredibly well written, how long is the process from idea to publication?  Can you talk us through your writing process?

A) It takes me roughly 10 months to start and finish a project. My writing style developed as a result of reading authors such as Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy, both of whom use simple, declarative sentences filled with nouns and verbs, and only sparsely seasoned with the odd adjective or adverb.
I am ruthless in paring down my own work, and normally only use 30% of what I actually write for any given project. I also try to avoid using metaphors and similes whenever possible – instead, I seek concrete specific nouns that require no further explanation. This is what (I hope) gives my writing style its edge and relentless pace.
As for my routine, I wake around midnight and work through the night until about 08:00. Then I sleep for a while, do a bit of reading then hit the hay around 16:00. I don’t like socialising, so the weird hours I keep are not a problem – I love solitude and, apart from my girlfriend and a very few specific friends and family members, I try to minimise my contact with the outside world as much as possible. 

*Huge Thank you to Matthew for answering my questions!