Anne Bonny #BlogBlitz #BookReview & #GuestPost #TheKillingTime by @WriterMJLee #NewRelease #Historical #Mystery 1930s #Shanghai #InspectorDanilov #Series @canelo_co

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The Killing Time by M J Lee – Inspector Danilov #4
Review copy
Synopsis:

As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…

Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.

Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?

Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.

My Review:

The Killing Time is set in Shanghai 1932, the year of the golden goat. I was instantly drawn to the era and location, as I am a huge fan of historical fiction. The novel opens with DS Strachan and Dr Fang at the autopsy of an unknown 13yr old boy. The child has a mutilated face and his right ear has been removed. He died via manual strangulation and was dumped at a building site. He shows no signs of sexual assault and his only identifiable feature is a strawberry birthmark.
It is a case that throws up more questions than answers. What is the motive? Why was he dumped at the building site? Who is he? Is someone targeting children?

‘This one is extremely personal, Inspector. Our victim, whatever his name is, will have been looking straight into the eyes of his killer as he died’ – Dr Fang

Locally students are protesting the Japanese occupation of Manchurita. Calling for others and shopkeepers to boycott Japanese trade. Thugs hassle shopkeepers and it becomes clear the ‘protest’ may require a police presence.
The novel further explores the political situation and expands to explain about the local gangs that operate.

Inspector Danilov is also experiencing his own personal grief and pain at the loss of his son Ivan; just 2yrs ago. The bereavement seems to be a driving force in his search for justice for the victims of this insane killer.

The novel is a complex murder mystery, with the reveal of the culprit at the end a brilliant piece of writing. Almost Columbo in style. The novel comprises of short, sharp and to the point chapters, which I like. The descriptions of Shanghai as a location are interesting. I think the novel could have benefitted from more female characters. It was comprised of nearly an entire male cast.

A complex mystery with elements of culture. 4*

Guest Post: by M J Lee

Is Shanghai the perfect place to set a crime novel?

Thanks for this opportunity to talk about myself and the Danilov novels. It’s something I love doing almost as much as I love writing the books.

I remember very clearly when the idea for writing a novel set in the Shanghai of the 1920s and 1930s came to me.

I was out strolling one evening in Shanghai (we were living in the city at that time). It was around dusk in October, one of the best times of the year in the city. Perfect walking weather. I reached the crossroads at Jiangxi Middle Road and Fuzhou Road, just opposite the Metropole Hotel. A square where four Art Deco buildings built in the 1930s meet. For a moment, there was no traffic and no people, a strange occurrence in a city of over twenty million people. I closed my eyes and was suddenly transported back to the 1920s, imagining old Dodges, Packards and Chevrolets rolling up to the hotel, discharging carloads of flappers and elegant men wearing tuxedos.
A lovely moment, trapped in time.

The Inspector Danilov books were born. And what a time to write about. Back then, the city of ‘joy, gin and jazz’ was an amazing melting pot of adventurers, spies, triads, opium smugglers, merchants, con-men, communists, criminals, fascists, Japanese miltarists, gamblers and refugees. With such a witches cauldron of deceit and double-dealing, happiness and despair, wealth and poverty, it soon became obvious that only a crime novel, with its strong moral compass, could explore the depths of the abyss that was Shanghai.

The two main characters, Detective Inspector Danilov and Detective Sergeant Strachan, are both outsiders, in a society full of outsiders. They are employed by the Shanghai Municipal Police but distanced and separate from the rest of their colleagues, and from the society of the time. Mavericks are always so much more interesting to read about and to write. The choice of Danilov as the lead in the books actually came from a line in a policeman’s memoir of the time. He mentioned that when they had a problem, both the French and Shanghai police turned to White Russian members of their forces to solve it for them.

So far, four books in the series have been published. The latest The Killing Time is set in Shanghai 1932, in the days before the Japanese invaded the city for the first time. It’s apart of the series but can be read as a standalone novel.

MJL
M J Lee
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***Don’t miss the other blogger on the blog blitz***
The Killing Time Blog Blitz

Q&A with @writinblues Richard Wall #Author of, Fat Man Blues #Debut #Indie #Blues

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Fat Man Blues by Richard Wall

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I grew up in a small market town in rural Herefordshire, England At age 18 I left to join the Royal Navy. After 22 years in the submarine service and having travelled extensively, I now live and write in rural Worcestershire.
My first short story, “Evel Knievel and The Fat Elvis Diner” (available on Kindle), was soon followed by “Five Pairs of Shorts” a collection of ten short stories, and another short story called ‘Hank Williams’ Cadillac’.
My stories reflect my life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture, be it tales of the Wild West, or of the simmering menace of the Deep South, or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the writing of Langston Hughes, or the music of Charley Patton, Son House, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits.

I’m also a self-confessed Delta Blues music anorak. A few years ago I embarked on a pilgrimage to the USA to visit the Deep South, where a bizarre encounter in Clarksdale, Mississippi inspired me to write my début novel, Fat Man Blues.

“Hobo John” is an English blues enthusiast on a pilgrimage to present-day Mississippi. One night in Clarksdale he meets the mysterious Fat Man, who offers him the chance to see the real blues of the 1930s. Unable to refuse, Hobo John embarks on a journey through the afterlife in the company of Travellin’ Man, an old blues guitarist who shows him the sights, sounds and everyday life in the Mississippi Delta. Along the way, the Englishman discovers the harsh realities behind his romantic notion of the music he loves and the true price of the deal that he has made.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) The idea began after the bizarre encounter in a Juke Joint. My friend (who was with me) said later, “That scene in the bar would make a great opening to a story.” I began writing, and with a little embellishment turned the encounter into Chapter One of the novel.
Writing took place during spare time away from my real job and home commitments. I’m not a planner, and so each writing segment would begin by reading the previous chapter and then continuing the story where I left off – when I get in the “writing zone” (my words) I see the action playing out like a hologram just in front of my eyes.
All in all it took about three years from start to finish.

Having completed the eBook version, I uploaded to Kindle and slowly people started buying it. I managed to secure an agent, but so far a traditional publishing deal is proving elusive. After a few more weeks of swearing and frustration I managed to design and create a cover, sort out the formatting and get a paperback version ready to upload to Createspace. Receiving the proof copy, and actually holding in my hand the result of three years work was immensely satisfying.
Marketing Fat Man Blues has proved to be harder work than writing it. As a self-published author, the onus is on you to not only get the book “out there” and noticed, but to keep it there. Social media has been invaluable for this. I began with Twitter and then FaceBook a little later.

I contacted local radio stations and secured interviews, and my agent approached BBC6 Radio Presenter Cerys Matthews, who mentioned the book on her show (and subsequently invited me as her guest to a music festival she organises in N Wales). Along this journey I have connected with and met some amazing people who have unselfishly assisted me with making my book known.
Two years from first publication, sales remain steady but I’m always looking for new ways to market it, even if it’s just slipping the title into conversation every now and then.
It’s all good.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Favourite authors are established writers Andrew Vachss, James Lee Burke, and Langston Hughes. My favourite new writer is Ran Walker – check him out on Amazon.
I can recommend any books from the above authors, but one of my favourite ever novels is “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. Breathtaking.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) As a child I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Spike Milligan was a favourite author, and at one time I had every one of his novels and poetry collections.
One book which stands out from my childhood (and which I still have) is Wild Trek by Jim Kjelgaard.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) I’ve had several favourite moments: I was extremely proud when the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, offered to stock Fat Man Blues in their gift shop. I was equally proud to receive a photograph of Rita King posing with my book (Rita King is the daughter of blues legend BB King). Meeting, and becoming friends with musicians Tone Tanner and Garrington T Jones, who very generously invited me to read from Fat Man Blues during one of their gigs. Another high-point was giving a talk about my book at Upton Blues Festival in 2017, and being introduced on stage by local blues legend Trevor ‘Babajack’ Steger.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for my wife, Barbara.

author
Richard Wall
Author links:
Twitter @writinblues
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Wall/100012790451828
RWall Website: https://richardwall.org/

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.