#BlogTour Q&A with @detectivekubu Michael Stanley @OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda

dying to live blog tour poster
Dying To Live by Michael Stanley

Synopsis:

The sixth mystery in the beloved and critically acclaimed Detective Kubu series. Kubu and his colleague Samantha Khama track a killer through the wilds of Botswana on their most dangerous case yet.

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles… but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman? As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.

Q&A:

Q) Michael Stanley is the pen name for a writing partnership of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. For the readers can you give us a brief summary of yourselves and your latest release Dying To Live?

A) Michael is a professor of computer science at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Stanley worked in academics and industry in the US. We’ve been friends for nearly forty years, and we had a concept for a crime novel set in Botswana which became our first book – A Carrion Death – first published ten years ago.

Our protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu – a detective in the Botswana CID in Gaborone, whose nickname Kubu means hippopotamus in the Setswana language and that says it all. He’s very large, likes his food, but don’t get between him and his objective or you’re in trouble.

The books all have backstories of issues important in modern day southern Africa – blood diamonds, the legacy of the war in Zimbabwe, the plight of the Bushman peoples of the Kalahari, murders for body parts for black magic, and the growing Chinese influence. In the latest book – Dying to Live – the backstory is the idea of a plant in the Kalahari that prolongs life, and the greed of all the people who would like to get their hands on it. Does it really exist? Well, it might. And it really doesn’t matter because once people believe it does, their greed will stop at nothing to get it. Nothing at all.

Q) I have many writing partnerships I admire, one of my favourites is Lars Kepler. How does this work in terms of planning a novel and the creation of a plot?

A) We’ve developed a strategy which we think works well for us. Upfront, we work out a map of the plot, a synopsis, and the timelines. We try to get together to do that, and it takes a considerable amount of time. After that, it seems there are usually areas where one of us has a particular interest or a mental picture of what’s going to happen. He’ll write a first draft, and that is the starting point for multiple iterations. Often we will each be working on a different section of the book. This phase we can do by email interspersed with long internet telephone conversations. Eventually we go through each section independently to make sure it’s smooth, stylistically coherent, and that the characters’ behaviours are consistent from one place to another. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems to work. Most people can’t discern any changes of style as they read.

Overall, we think that writing together is slower than writing alone, but the benefits of having an immediate, interested reader and someone with whom to brainstorm far outweighs the drawbacks. And we have a great deal of fun!

Q) The series of novels is based in Botswana and has been described as sunshine noir. What was the inspiration behind the location?

A) Our first book required that a body be completely destroyed without trace—partly to hide the identity of the murderer and partly because it was crucial that no one ever found out who the victim was. In Botswana, it’s possible to drive out into the bush, throw out a corpse, and have the hyenas completely consume it, leaving no evidence behind. That would be much harder to do in South Africa. And we’re very pleased about our choice, because while there are many great South African mystery writers, we have a chance to explore the sorts of issues we mentioned above without the aftermath of apartheid colouring the whole story.

Q) One thing I absolutely love in literature is the ability to go globe-trotting from the comfort of my arm chair. One of my recent purchases includes the first in the series by Deon Meyer, set in Cape Town. I am also currently reading the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen set in Norway. Where are your favourite locations, in what you read?

Michael: I read a lot of African mysteries partly because I like their difference and the Sunshine Noir genre as a whole, and partly because I write a monthly column for the ITW magazine The Big Thrill called Africa Scene which explores recent mysteries and thrillers set in Africa. Other than that, I don’t think I have a geographic preference. If it’s good, I’ll read it!

Stanley: I like to read mysteries that give me both a strong sense of place and a memorable protagonist. A good test for these mysteries is that one cannot transplant them elsewhere; that the place has a profound impact on the story. A good protagonist is like a good friend–you develop an emotional attachment and want to get to know them better, warts and all.

Q) The location of the central Kalahari game reserve, instantly sounds atmospheric. How do you fully transport that onto the pages of a novel?

A) It’s a good question. One way is that we always visit everywhere in Botswana that we write about. We spend time there, try to get a feel for the place and the lifestyle of the people. We’ll probably write a few pages about it too. Very little of that actually gets into the final book, but we think that having that background makes our writing more genuine and gives a more authentic feel to the reader. Beside which we love exploring Botswana!

Q) The novel has themes of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, wrapped around a very cleverly thought out plot. How is this constructed within the writing, do you develop a plot/crime first and themes secondary? Or do you get a sense of the emotions of the theme and the crime grows from there?

A) We think it’s both. Basically we are ‘pantsers’. We like to have a basic structure—a theme, if you like—and then let the characters explore if for us. We often don’t know who the bad guy (or gal) is going to be until well into the book. That often only emerges once we know the characters much better. Eventually one emerges as the villain, trapped by his or her lies. Sometimes Kubu detects these before we do!

Q) What’s next for Detective Kubu Bengu? Is there a next novel planned?

A) One of the pleasures of a series—both for readers and for the writers—is to explore the development of the main characters who appear in your novels. In a way, Kubu appears fully formed in A Carrion Death with his wife and respected status in the CID. We think it would be fascinating to understand just how he got there from rather inauspicious beginnings. So the new book is a prequel and starts with Kubu’s first day at the CID. He is overweight, teased, and a complete novice. What’s more he arrives in the middle of a high profile diamond-heist case. No one has much time for him, but Assistant Superintendent Mabaku takes him under his wing. By the end of the story, he’s very glad he did.

*Huge thank you to writers Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop for taking part a Q&A on my blog. I wish you all the best with the release of your novel.

Thanks very much for the opportunity, Anne!

Michael Stanley photo
Michael Sears & Stanley Trollop aka Michael Stanley 🙂
Authors links:
Web: http://detectivekubu.com/
Twitter: @detectivekubu
*The novel is released on 12th July in paperback but is available via #Ebook now!

 

 

#BlogTour #Extract #66Metres by @kirwanjf @TAsTPublicity

66 Metres by J. F. Kirwan Blog Tour
66 Metres by J.F Kirwan

Synopsis:

The only thing worth killing for is family.

Everyone said she had her father’s eyes. A killer’s eyes. Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow, she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.

Bound to work for Kadinsky for five years, she has just one last mission to complete. Yet when she is instructed to capture The Rose, a military weapon shrouded in secrecy, Nadia finds herself trapped in a deadly game of global espionage.

And the only man she can trust is the one sent to spy on her…

Extract:

The cold hit the nape of Jake’s neck as he rolled backwards, holding mask and regulator in place with one hand, torch in the other. Cool fjord water seeped into his hood and gloves. A single droplet defeated his drysuit neck seal and ran down his spine as he righted himself. Finning to the back of the boat in the moonless night, he shone his torch onto his left hand to give Andreas the ‘OK’ signal. In that brief moment he caught the concerned look on the skipper’s face while he lowered the green nightlight into the water to help them find the boat later.

Jake turned to the others, gave them time to get adjusted. Their torches, dangling from lanyards attached to their wrists, shone downwards, two cones illuminating the depths below, sharp halogen light diffusing into shadows. A few silver fish scurried away from the searchlight beams, unwilling to be lit up as tonight’s main course for larger fish. Beneath them the abyss of the fjord sucked downwards. Jake knew the lure of the deep only too well. He lifted his mouth out of the water.

‘Fin to the wall. We need a frame of reference as we descend, it’ll help to stop narcosis setting in.’

Jan Erik and Bjorn turned and finned towards the shore. Jake put his head underwater again and shone the beam down until it caught the green, orange and red flora of the underwater cliff face. He lifted his head. ‘This will do.’ He angled his torch upwards, still underwater, just enough so he could see their faces clearly, the water refracting the light through the thin layer of glacier run-off hovering near the surface, turning their faces a ghostly green. He searched their eyes. Anticipation had taken over concern. Good. Jan Erik grinned behind his mouthpiece, and Bjorn’s eyes adopted the look usually reserved for sharking blondes at discos.

They were both hungry for this, like he’d been two years ago when he first dived this deep. The adrenaline rush caught him, too. This is why I dive. He replaced his regulator, gave them the ‘OK’, then the thumb-down signal. They returned both signals, and the trio slipped below the surface.

Jake dumped air out of his stab jacket and sank backwards, breathing out a little through his nose into his mask to prevent redeye, and watched them do the same. He pinched his nose between forefinger and thumb and equalised the pressure in his ears. At six metres he gave them another OK signal, and they returned it. He did his trademark reverse pirouette and dove down head first, arms folded in front so he could see both dive computers, equalising his ears every five metres. Like free-falling, like flying, like surfing, like – diving. All his problems, petty concerns, worries and unsatisfied desires, condensed into the trail of bubbles behind him, cascading up to the real world where they belonged. He didn’t fin, and every ten metres he jetted a little more air into his stab jacket, compensating for the rising water pressure.

Bjorn shot down in front of him, finning hard. In Jake’s torchlight Bjorn looked like a fireball. Clearly he wanted to be first. Jake had told him not to do this, warned him that it rammed nitrogen into the brain and could trigger narcosis, the drunkenness that sometimes occurred below thirty metres when diving on air, and was far more likely at their target of fifty. He turned to Jan Erik to stop him from following suit, shaking a flat hand horizontally. Jan Erik rolled his eyes inside his mask.

Jake looked down again but could only see the glow of his light below in a stream of rising bubbles growing larger as they ascended. Bjorn had disappeared. Dammit! Fatality scenarios swirled into his mind. Blocking them off, he followed the stream of Bjorn’s bubbles, and checked his computer. He dolphin-kicked once to arrive faster, but not so fast as to unleash nitrogen narcosis on himself. Out of the grey the cliff-face appeared again, a seventy degree slope, and there was Bjorn, propped on it with his fins. Jake sighed through his mouthpiece, and relaxed.

Jake realised he hadn’t been breathing much, and took three slow breaths. As he neared Bjorn he checked his own air gauge: two hundred bar. Plenty. He and Jan Erik touched the silt with their fins, a couple of metres from Bjorn. Jake checked both his computers. Fifty metres. Exactly. This was a bounce dive. Touch fifty, then ascend to decompress, to let the nitrogen flush back out of their bloodstreams, at nine metres, then six metres. He took a few more measured breaths. He didn’t bother to look around – mainly silt anyway – his job now was to get them back up to safer depth. He signalled to Jan Erik ‘OK’, then ‘Up’. Jan Erik pretended to wipe a tear from his mask with a gloved finger – he wanted to stay longer. Jake shook his head, and Jan Erik nodded, returning the ‘Up’ signal. Jake turned to Bjorn, who was still balanced on the tail edge of his fins, staring down into the abyss. Jake gave him the ‘OK’ signal, then Jan Erik’s torchlight lit up Bjorn’s eyes. They were bloodshot, glazed, half-closed, as if he was drunk. Narcosis. Shit. At the same time that Jake reached out for him, Bjorn gave the ‘Down’ signal, and did a pretty good impression of Jake’s reverse pirouette. He dove deeper into the fjord.

Jake’s fingers just missed Bjorn’s trailing fin and he watched, unbelieving, as Bjorn spirited downwards. In the two seconds that followed, he calculated the odds of catching Bjorn before they went too deep, and whether he should focus on stopping a single fatality turning into a three-diver fatality, then traded that risk against trying to explain to Bjorn’s sister Vibeke and the authorities how he’d stood by and done nothing while watching Bjorn plunge to his death. He flicked his wrist to Jan Erik, gave the ‘Down’ signal and dolphin-kicked hard after Bjorn.

Jake finned fast down the escarpment, exhaling steadily. Depth and time were the dual enemies. The faster he caught Bjorn, the better. One of his computers, the Aladin, beeped an alarm. Sixty metres. The rising partial pressure of oxygen would begin killing them soon. Breathing hard, with Jan Erik close behind, Jake raced for Bjorn’s red fins. The second computer, the Suunto, beeped. At last he grabbed one fin and then a leg, and yanked Bjorn around to face him. Both he and Bjorn were still sinking. They bumped into the sludge-covered escarpment like two drunken men falling down a hill in slow motion. Jake had to let go of his torch. It spun around wildly, strobing like a disco light as he gripped Bjorn’s harness with one hand and inflated his stab jacket full of air with the other. Bjorn’s eyes were nearly closed. Nitrogen narcosis had taken him elsewhere. Jake checked his second computer, the Suunto – the Aladin had stopped working – sixty-eight metres. His fins found purchase on the slope. He flexed his knees and with both hands shoved Bjorn’s body upwards.

Jan Erik arrived.

Jake could hear his own heart pounding. But there was another, stranger, pulsing white noise, growing louder. The beginnings of oxygen poisoning. He pointed to his inflate button, and he and Jan Erik both pumped air into their jackets. Jake had just given the ‘Up’ signal when Jan Erik’s eyes went wide, seeing something behind Jake. Jake turned just in time to see a snowstorm of descending silt they must have kicked up whilst chasing Bjorn. In the next second it enveloped them like thick soup. He couldn’t see his outstretched hand. He reached for Jan Erik but he was already gone, hopefully upwards. The white noise was now a din in Jake’s head. He knew what it meant. He was going to black out. Then he would sink. And then it would all be over.

He finned hard, worked his thighs almost into cramp. He had to get up above fifty. Once he was moving upwards, the air in his jacket would carry on expanding and propel him to the surface. If he blacked out and didn’t wake up till he reached the surface, it would be a nasty decompression incident, but that was preferable to the alternative. It grew more difficult to concentrate. The porridge-like silt meant he could barely read the Suunto, even when he held it right in front of his mask.

He suddenly didn’t know which way was up, or where his torch was. All around him a sea of clay and bubbling blackness. White noise roared in his ears like a jet engine. Then he remembered – follow the bubbles. Watching their direction in front of his face, he righted himself, and kicked hard. Jake felt himself lifting. He dared to hope, and read the Suunto, counting down the metres. Fifty-nine, fifty-eight… He was going to make it. His eyes watered inside his mask. The crushing noise pressed inside his skull. Concentrate! Fifty-three … fifty-two … fifty-one … fifty-two … fifty-three… No! That wasn’t possible! How the hell could he be going down? There were no currents in the fjord. Numbness crept over him. Unable to fin any more. His legs not responding. Fuck. Not like this! Seconds, seconds… Then he remembered. He reached down to his right side and cracked open his emergency cylinder. It blasted air into his jacket, squeezed it tight around his chest and shoulders like an airbag. The white noise wailed like a hurricane in his head.

He blacked out.

KIRWAN Barry 01 ret 6x8
J.F Kirwan
Authors links:
Web: jfkirwan.com
Twitter: @kirwanjf

*The novel is available via #Kindle #Ebook for just 99p 🙂