#BlogTour #Review 4.5* #TheWintersChild by @cassandrajaneuk Cassandra Parkin @Legend_Press #NewRelease

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
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The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin
Synopsis:

Five years ago, Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing without trace. Bereft of her son and then of her husband, Susannah tries to accept that she may never know for certain what has happened to her lost loved ones. She has rebuilt her life around a simple selfless mission: to help others who, like her, must learn to live without hope.

But then, on the last night of Hull Fair, a fortune-teller makes an eerie prediction. She tells her that this Christmas Eve, Joel will finally come back to her.

As her carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, Susannah is drawn into a world of psychics and charlatans, half-truths and hauntings, friendships and betrayals, forcing her to confront the buried truths of her family’s past, where nothing and no one are quite as they seem.

A ghostly winter read with a modern gothic flavour. A tale of twisted love, family secrets and hauntings.

My review:

I knew reading this novel would be eerie for me, as my youngest son is also called Joel. However, even I could not be prepared for how eerie. The novel jumps between the respective years and so we see Joel at various stages of his childhood. The descriptions of Joel at 5yrs old, matched my son to a tee. All of a sudden I felt a huge feeling of unease. So much so that I decided to finish the novel that day and only did so, in the same room as my son!

Susannah Harper is the protagonist, she is a broken and damaged soul after the disappearance of her teenage son Joel. The disappearance occurred 5yrs ago, since then Susannah has started a blog about the dangers of psychics and how they target vulnerable individuals. The novel details her own accounts of incidents with psychics, including the one that finally pushed her husband to leave her.

The novel opens at Hull fair, where a Roma fortune teller informs her that on Christmas eve she will see her son’s face again. Susannah is at the fair with her sister Melanie and her niece and nephew. Joel disappeared one day, after leaving school at lunchtime and has never been seen since. The pain, grief and anguish of the mother is evident on every page. It feels so real and I began to be absorbed by her story.
But that is exactly what she had intended………..

“This will be the last Christmas eve you’ll see his face again” Psychic

Susanah’s blog entries are scattered throughout the novel. The make for fascinating reading. There are taunting and malicious comments from the ghouls and trolls of the internet world. Also details of her relationship with her son. They offer an insight into her most inner thoughts and show how she is barely coping under the strain. Through her blog she meets local mum Jackie whose son Ryan has also gone missing. A friendship forms and it is as bizarre as it is intense. The blog details the way psychics fool people and provides points for readers to take note of.

“They thrive off our belief, we’re what keep their profession alive” Susannah

As the plot unravel we learn more about Susannah’s marriage to John, Joel’s father. We also learn there was a strange family dynamic throughout Joel’s childhood. One of competitive loving and control. We learn that Joel was an unhappy and depressed teenager, struggling with life at every turn. The novel details the day of the disappearance. The police officers who worked the case DI Armstrong (Nick) and DC Wood.

“John always loved me the best, but the one I loved the best was Joel” Susannah

When Susannah begins to have visions of Joel, everywhere she goes. Her sister Melanie fears for her sanity and urges her to seek help. Instead Susannah finds comfort in the arms of married police officer Nick. The friendship with Jackie, is intensified when Susannah tricks her into visiting psychic James O’Brien. James offers cryptic clues and misinformation, then finally he has an announcement that left me gobsmacked………..

The visions increase as Christmas approaches and I really feared for Susannah, she is a vulnerable woman, with so many untrustworthy people surrounding her.
Susannah is desperate for the truth and she wants it at any cost……..

The novel moving around Joel’s lifetime really adds to the plots depth. The confusion and mystery is on overload and this novel has ending that will rip your heart out!
*You have been warned! 4.5*

CP
Cassandra Parkin
Authors Links:
Website/blog:https://cassandraparkin.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @cassandrajaneuk
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5419377.Cassandra_Parkin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cassandra.parkin

 

#BlogTour #GuestPost #TheRedBeachHut by Lynn Michell @InspiredQuill @LinenPressBooks

*Apologises for delayed post, I have been in hospital and therefore unable to post on my designated date. Better late than never, here it is*

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The Read Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
Synopsis:
“Their​ ​eyes​ ​met​ ​and​ ​locked.​ ​Pulling​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​from​ ​his​ ​pocket,​ ​Neville​ ​waved.​ ​Once.”
Eight​ ​year​ ​old​ ​Neville​ ​is​ ​the​ ​first​ ​to​ ​notice​ ​that​ ​the​ ​red​ ​beach​ ​hut​ ​is​ ​occupied​ ​again.
Abbott,​ ​panicked​ ​by​ ​what​ ​he​ ​believes​ ​is​ ​a​ ​homophobic​ ​cyber​ ​attack,​ ​is​ ​on​ ​the​ ​run.​ ​The hut​ ​is​ ​his​ ​refuge​ ​and​ ​shelter.
Inevitably​ ​man​ ​and​ ​boy​ ​collide.​ ​Their​ ​fleeting​ ​friendship​ ​is​ ​poignant,​ ​honest​ ​and​ ​healing. But​ ​Abbot’s​ ​past​ ​threatens​ ​to​ ​tear​ ​him​ ​away,​ ​as​ ​others​ ​watch​ ​and​ ​self-interpret​ ​what they​ ​see.
An​ ​evocative​ ​portrayal​ ​of​ ​two​ ​outsiders​ ​who​ ​find​ ​companionship​ ​on​ ​a​ ​lonely​ ​beach, Lynn​ ​Michell’s​ ​novel​ ​is​ ​about​ ​the​ ​labels​ ​we​ ​give​ ​people​ ​who​ ​are​ ​different,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​harm that​ ​ensues.

#GuestPost:

Writing Different Characters

Lynn Michell

 

The question asked most frequently by readers in an audience in front of a writer who has read from her novel is: ‘Is X based on you and your life?’ or ‘Is Y based on someone you know?’. Well, Yes and No. We can only write about what we have experienced, in some way, at some level, but our skill as writers is to transform those experiences, thoughts and emotions so that they transition and settle naturally into a narrative that isn’t about us. Now that’s not easy. A fair number of novels that arrive as submissions to Linen Press are authors’ life stories thinly and poorly disguised as fiction. They are of little interest, except to the writer.

 

How to transition to literary fiction? I think of my memory as a great big Lucky Dip of postcard images, snatches of conversation, gut felt feelings, and other detritus from the past. When I write, I probably clothe my characters with some of this rag-bag of words and pictures and feelings, but I don’t deliberately put my hand in and rummage around.

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That’s forcing the issue and trying too hard and that effort will show in the prose. No, it’s more that bits and pieces float up of their own accord as I write, and only afterwards will I perhaps understand some of the connections.

 

In terms of the progression from youthful to mature writing, I’d guess that most of us start with what we know and later develop the confidence to invent and create characters who are unlike any we’ve known. My debut novel White Lies began with my very elderly father dictaing his memoirs as a soldier. As the present faded, so his years of active service in World War II and in Nairobi during the Mao Mao uprising became increasingly vivid and real. These were the periods of his life when he was most fully alive, doing what he was trained to do. So yes, in that novel where I explore different kinds of war and

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different kinds of loving, one of my protagoists, David, is like my father, telling the story of the bloody uprising of the Mao Mao through eyes that only understand the colonial perspective. His wife, Mary, who has a passionate, adulterous affair with another officer who understands Africa, is in some ways not unlike my mother, but she isn’t her. I’ve given Mary my mother’s fragility and looks because I couldn’t imagine my father/David married to anyone who wasn’t fair and gentle but that’s where the similarity ends. Mary is herself – bold and passionate with a steeliness that allows her to defy convention and risk everything for the man she loves.

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 In The Red Beach Hut, I shed all connections with myself and my past, at least

consciously and explicitly. Who knows what goes on in the subconscious depths? It happened like this: when I wrote White Lies, I thought a lot about the themes and characters and gradually sketched in the people who walk the pages and the plot line that tells their stories. Abbott and Neville, in contrast, came of their own accord, ready made. I’d be pulling out weeds or walking the dog when I’d hear them talking. I’d tune in to their thoughts. I could see their faces and what they wore. They walked along the beach and into my heart. Avril Joy says exactly the same about writing her second novel Sometimes A River Song. The voice of Aiyana, child of the river, illiterate but wise and finely tuned in to her river landscape, came to her first and she listened to her. The story came later.

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 I grew to love Neville and Abbott because although not perfect they represent much that is good – honesty, trust, compassion – when they are pitted against an explicit, bitter intolerance against people who are diferent, people who don’t fit society’s narrow norms and conventions. And during the time of the 2015 General Election when the novel is set, as now, sound bites of hatred were swilling around the political landscape and being aimed at immigrants, refugees and gays. Think of Nigel Farage’s Rivers of Blood poster. Abbott and Neville are outsiders in a society that has closed its doors on anyone who is not vanilla flavoured. I want others to warm to them as I did, and accept them.

LYNN-by-Nye
Lynn Michell
Authors links:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35329869-the-red-beach-hut?ac=1&from_searc h=true http://www.inspired-quill.com/product/the-red-beach-hut/ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Beach-Hut-Lynn-Michell/dp/1908600675/ref=sr_1_1?ie =UTF8&qid=1506877098&sr=8-1&keywords=the+red+beach+hut
Author bio:
I​ ​write,​ ​have​ ​always​ ​written,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​run​ ​​Linen​ ​Press​,​ ​a​ ​small​ ​indie​ ​press​ ​for​ ​women writers.​ ​It’s​ ​a​ ​fine​ ​balancing​ ​act​ ​but​ ​ever​ ​since​ ​I​ ​watched​ ​​Elvira Madigan,​ ​I’ve​ ​secretly wanted​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​tight​ ​rope​ ​walker. My​ ​fourteen​ ​books​ ​are​ ​published​ ​by​ ​HarperCollins,​ ​Longman​ ​and​ ​The​ ​Women’s​ ​Press and​ ​include​ ​an​ ​illustrated​ ​writing​ ​scheme​ ​for​ ​schools,​ ​and​ ​​Shattered,​ ​a​ ​book​ ​about​ ​living with​ ​ME.​ ​Those​ ​closest​ ​to​ ​my​ ​heart​ ​are​ ​fiction:​ ​​Letters To​ My Semi-Detached Son, my debut​ ​novel​ ​set​ ​in​ ​Kenya,​ ​​White Lies and​ ​my​ ​latest​ ​novel​ The Red Beach Hut. When​ ​not​ ​writing​ ​or​ ​editing,​ ​you’ll​ ​find​ ​me​ ​building​ ​a​ ​house​ ​and​ ​creating​ ​a​ ​landscape​ ​out of​ ​rocks​ ​in​ ​an​ ​oak​ ​clearing​ ​high​ ​above​ ​a​ ​small​ ​village​ ​in​ ​southern​ ​France.​ ​Hands​ ​on.

 

 

 

#BlogTour #Review and Q&A #DeadLands by @LloydOtisWriter 5* Genius @urbanebooks #DebutNovel @urbanepub

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis
Synopsis:

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alexander Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Dead Lands is the thrilling debut of award winning short story writer Lloyd Otis, and intelligently covers issues of race, discrimination and violence in a changing 70s landscape.

*Release date 12th October 2017.

My review:

Very few novels do I contact the publisher directly and ask to read a ‘coming soon’ title as soon as physically possible. This was one of those times! Dead Lands has an eye-catching cover and an intriguing synopsis. I was left dying to know more, little did I know I was in for one hell of a read………..

The location is London and the year is 1977, which makes for atmospheric reading but also an entirely different pace to a contemporary crime novel. Policing in the 1970s isn’t what it is today! A different era with its own approaches to racial profiling. Cransham, Lewisham and New Cross areas still left reeling from the ‘Rivers Of Blood’ speech of 1968 and its impact on London communities.
The backdrop of a right wing march in this novel offers a staggering reminder of that 1970s era.

The novel opens with violently brutal scene, it drew me in from the very first page! Police officers Detective Inspector Arlo Breck and Detective Sargent Patricia Kearns arrive on the scene. They are from the Sensitive Crimes Unit (SCU), basically dealing with cases that involve wealthy and influential people.
Money Talks!

The victim Janet Maskell has suffered a violent death. The scene offers little in the form of evidence except a name written on a magazine and a credit card both stating Alexander Troy. Who is Alex Troy? How does he fit in with the victim? Janet was a dedicated career woman and held a prestigious job with an investment firm. She had a routine life and no time for friends outside of work.
Who would want Janet dead and why?

The papers cite of the upcoming ‘war on our streets’ fuelling the far-right march. The area’s deprivation and hopelessness adds to the racial tension and mistrust. With all this happening Detective Superintendent Anil Bashir wants to override his detectives and run Janet’s case his way. Leaving Breck disillusioned with police work altogether.

Breck is dealing with a distressed girlfriend, who appears to be suffering with mental health issues from the flashbacks of a recent attack. He also faces verbal abuse from fellow copper Riley. Kearns is divorced, lonely and has virtually no interaction with her only child. The role of a female police officer in the 1970s is fully explored. The police officer’s backgrounds adds to the complexity of this novel.
There are revelations, secrets and lies. They read brilliantly as a police duo.

The police finally trace Alex Troy and bring him in for questioning. He works at the same investment firm and was facing a disciplinary hearing that day, which Janet had run against him. Is this his motive? He is completely baffled with their accusations. He pleads his innocence but refuses to give an alibi.
There is confusion, when another Alex Troy is linked to the case.
Then Troy escapes……….

The case of the two Alex Troy’s is fascinating reading. Identify theft in the 1970s, easily done and impossible to unravel. With one a person of interest (POI) and the other, the prime suspect. The prime suspect is desperate and on the run!

Nosey neighbour Wynda Brodie, informs the police that Janet did have one frequent visitor. Her gardener and lover Benjamin Genta. Stating her dislike at the thought of ‘half-caste kids’ running up and down the street! It would appear Wynda, is uncomfortable with the colour of Benjamin’s skin.
But who is Benjamin Genta and how does he tie into the case?

The investigation continues, there are searches for the two Alex Troys, interviews with people connecting to the victim and searches of property. But they throw up more dead ends than leads. Breck decides to approach Benjamin and discover more about the victim Janet. Benjamin has a clean record and a serious distrust of the police. His brother was an innocent victim in a stabbing and he recites cases of police harassment and brutality from an officer named Riley. But he was in love with Janet and they held the same political beliefs with regards to the anti-fascist movement against the far-right march. Was Janet’s death politically motivated? How involved was she?

“We’re in the dead lands, a place where you’re judged solely by the word of others. No one ever gets out. They stay trapped forever” Benjamin Genta
*Still poignant 40 years later.

There are chapters written from ‘the messengers’ perspective that make for harrowing reading. But they add thrills, fear and mystery. Who is the messenger? With a fellow officer proving there is a fine line between police work and police corruption. With his potential involvement in the march. Then one of the Alex Troy’s dead body is discovered the case is blown wide-open. Breck and Kearns must solve this case and fast! Before more dead bodies pile up.

A multifaceted complex novel, with themes of violence, past secrets, lies, police corruption, betrayals, racial tension and civil unrest. 5* Genius

Q&A:

Q) As a duo DI Arlo Breck and DS Patricia Kearns, come alive on the page. They are an unlikely pair and I often thought to myself they are chalk and cheese. But when you dig a little deeper into their pasts, the reader discovers they are both just trying to survive their own personal secrets. Was this intentional, to have two police officers so different but yet so alike?

A)It was, because as we know, opposites attract but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that they are both desperate to make amends. It’s the common denominator that secretly binds them together as individuals. Having them be different characters allowed me to provide a few interesting moments between them.

Q) I was very surprised to discover that DS Kearns was a female, due to the era. What made you decide to cast the role of Kearns as a female?

A) I wanted to create a more equal playing field in the story. Career opportunities for women across many industries were sadly extremely limited during the 70s, which is one of the reasons why I put Kearns in a specialist unit. A place where the skillset of an individual surpasses gender. There, the fact she is a woman, wouldn’t be such an obstacle as in other areas. I also felt that Breck and Kearns would bounce off each other better if one was male and the other female.

Q) Breck faces a dominating and bullying relationship with fellow police officer Riley. Which made me utterly despise Riley. Was this also part of the writing process to give an honest portrayal of the police in the 1970s?

A) To some extent, yes. The 70s had a lot of controversies, so there are some things that I just couldn’t underplay when setting its core in London. The stories about people being wrongly arrested, being discriminated against on a regular basis back then, and corruption, have already been well documented. To not have a character like Riley around wouldn’t be true to the decade. Having said that, not all officers were bad and that’s where Breck comes in. He’s Riley’s opposite in a sense.

Q) With themes of corruption and coercion, sometimes it was difficult to take the individual characters at face value. This added to the mystery and suspense feel of the novel and I was desperately trying to figure it out, before I got to the end. Is this sort of layered writing difficult to write, do you have to remind yourself who’s who? Does the direction of a character every change during the writing process?

A) Yes, this sort of layered writing is difficult to write because if there are multiple layers to a story, it can’t be rushed. Those layers have to understood by the author inside out. Once the author has that understanding, then the ultimate direction of the characters won’t change, their responses to situations may fluctuate, but their true direction will remain intact and the author won’t get confused with who’s who.

Q) Writing a novel set in 1977, is very different to the novels that flood the market. what was the inspiration behind this era? What was the research process for understanding policing in 1977?

A) For my debut I wanted create a story that you could say was under represented in the crime fiction market. Readers don’t want all books to be the same and we authors are creative, so we can try new things. I think there needs to be individualism in writing that continues to offer readers as much choice as possible. In terms of research, I underwent a lot for the period. From sifting through newspapers of the time, to speaking to someone who was present at ‘the march’ which serves as the backdrop to the story, and I was able to get on-the-job insights from a retired police sergeant that served during the decade.

Q) Breck identifies with Benjamin in the novel, almost as if he can imagine life thorough his eyes. We the reader also then witness Benjamin appear to let down his guard around Breck. How do you plan how various characters will interact with each another?

A) Good question. I think the keyword here is backgrounds. The background of a character leads me to decide how best that particular character would interact with others, especially in one-to-one scenes.

Q) If I had to sum up your novel in 5 words, I would say it is edgy, tense, unique, intelligent and thought-provoking. What 5 words would you use?

A) Thank you, Abby, that’s very kind. I honestly don’t think I could choose any different, or better, words than those.

Q) Finally, the question I am dying to know the answer to, is this debut novel the start of a Breck & Kearns series? If so are you working on ideas/themes for the next novel?

A) Breck & Kearns deserve their moment. I spent a lot of time considering who they were and what they were supposed to represent. Dead Lands is their story, from the beginning to the end, alongside a piece of real history. Will they return? Never say never.

LO2
Lloyd Otis
Author Bio:
Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.
Authors Links:
Web: http://www.lloydotis.com/
Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/lloyd-otis/
Twitter: @LloydOtisWriter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LloydOtisWriter

 

 

 

 

#BlogTour #GuestPost #TheSecondSon by Andy Blackman #NewRelease @gilbster1000 #Belize

*Apologises for alternate date for #BlogTour post, this is due to a recent hospital admission*

The Second Son Cover
The Second Son by Andy Blackman
Synopsis:

As the second son of the Duke of Hampshire, Grenville St John Hampton isn’t likely to inherit his family’s title or estate, leaving him pondering an empty, aimless future. During the summer break from university, he impulsively decides to go backpacking with one of his oldest friends, Johnathan; their destination is Belize.

One sultry night on the Central American coastline, Grenville and Johnathan meet Tom. A game of darts takes a vicious turn. Realising he has nothing to look forward to back at home, Grenville decides to stay on in Belize with Tom, in pursuit of adventure. Together, the new friends establish an import business, and for the first time in his life, Grenville has a sense of purpose.

But back in England all is not well. The sudden death of his brother leaves Grenville with an unexpected – and now unwanted – inheritance, with new consequences and responsibilities. He will return to claim the family’s seat with a dark secret in tow.

#GuestPost

Why you choose Belize as a location?

 

The reason I chose Belize as the place where Tom and Grenville meet, is because whilst serving in the British Army I was lucky enough to have served there for six months in 1983.

In 1983 Belize is not the same country as it is today, in 1982 Belize was granted independence on 21 September 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation because of its longstanding territorial dispute with the British colony, claiming that Belize belonged to Guatemala. About 1,500 British troops remained in Belize to deter any possible incursions.

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Belize was always for the Army on a state of battle ready, but did not stop us from having a good time whilst there. The country was split in two parts by the Army, Belize North run from AirPort Camp from the Capital, Belize City, and Belize South run from Punta Gorda , where I was stationed. Punta Gorda was not as built as it is today the camp was situated some 5 miles from it in the jungle, but we used to take trips to Punta Gorda at weekends to visit the local bars.

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The border between Belize and Guatemala.

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The Border between Mexico and Belize.

So as I spent some time in Belize and knew the county quite well I decided to include it in my book, as it was a place I knew about and could confidential write about. I love my time spent in Belize and as I mentioned in my book the first thing that hits you is the heat, it is soul sucking and takes ages to get used to it, but eventually you do. The only way from the North to the South was by boat and my first few days in the country was on a small landing craft going down to Punta Gorda wishing like many others it would all end soon. That is why I could have Tom in my book sail his boat, as I had done it myself so I knew it was possible.

#BlogTour #GuestPost #FoxHunter by @authorzoesharp #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #Action

*I have swapped #BlogTour dates with the lovely Ayo from Shotsmag Confidential, due to being in hospital, apologises to the author & publisher*

CF12-FH-US
Fox Hunter by Zoe Sharp
Synopsis:
The dead man had not gone quietly … There was a time when I would have given everything I owned to be the one responsible for that.’

Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.

Now she doesn’t have a choice.

Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.

Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:

Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.

At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

#GuestPost:

THE IRAQ WAR AND CHARLIE FOX

Zoë Sharp

I deliberately did not set out to put Charlie Fox down into the middle of the Iraq wars. For a start, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that led to the Gulf War took place in 1990-1991, which is rather early for Charlie to be involved unless she enlisted in the army as a very young girl soldier. The second major Iraq War with Western allies, which ended in the fall of Saddam Hussein, finished in 2011, by which time Charlie had been back in civvy street for some time.

 

Considering the way time can be stretched and compressed in the world of a book, though, there’s no reason she couldn’t have played an active military role in any of the conflicts of the late 1990s or early 2000s. After all, when Robert B Parker wrote the first of the books to feature his classic private detective, Spenser, (THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT, published in 1973) the character was described as a veteran of the Korean War of 1950-1953. This would have made Spenser a somewhat elderly (but still remarkably agile) man by the time the fortieth novel in the series, SIXKILL, came out in 2011, a year after Parker himself died at his desk. However, because book-time was in play Spenser was able to remain ageless to the last, existing in a kind of floating ever-present.

 

I deliberately did not want to place Charlie into a full-blown military situation in my latest book, FOX HUNTER, as that period of her life belongs in the past. I know Lee Child has returned several times to Jack Reacher’s service as a military cop, but I have already made it clear that Charlie’s time in uniform did not end well, and I didn’t want to take her back there.

 

Not yet, anyway.

 

I do intend to return to Charlie’s army past in the project I’m currently working on, which will be a prequel to the series. It will detail not how she came to be thrown out of Special Forces training, but what she had to do in order to be chosen for it in the first place.

But that, as they say, is another story.

For FOX HUNTER, I wanted to take Charlie to the Middle East in general—and Iraq in particular—but in more contemporary, post-war times. I wanted to explore the roles of women in this uncertain and shifting landscape, both those working in the male-dominated profession of the private military contractor, and those living day-to-day amid the threat of violence and retribution. In this situation, Charlie is both an outside observer, able to empathise only too well with victims, and very much an active participant.

 

By focusing down onto individual stories rather than global themes, I hoped to portray a broader picture of this troubled area, where good and evil are rarely clear cut, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to behave with honour. Somehow, that felt easier to write in such an unsettled location. Having said that, as I read the news reports at home every day I think this story could have been transported back here just as easily.

We live, as the Arab curse has it, in interesting times …

Zoë Sharp was a photojournalist for almost twenty-five years before she quit to write fiction full time. She loves to travel—and has done so by all means including horseback, camel train, motorcycle, yacht, skidoo, and steam locomotive, as well as by more conventional forms of transport. She has so far achieved well over a million words in print, and there’s no sign of her stopping any time soon. www.ZoeSharp.com

ZoeSharp-copyrightNickLockett2015
Zoe Sharp