Before we delve into the standard week in review format of the Incident Report, let’s talk a little about Frank Bill’s new release The Savage (FSG Originals). Yes, I know it’s neither small press or crime fiction, but Frank Bill has roots firmly planted there. I recently finished reading Bill’s first novel Donnybrook (FSG Originals) and I was blown away by its velocity and language. The Savage, which I am slowly savoring each sentence, as intensified the violence if that was even possible.
If you’re unfamiliar with Frank Bill there are two good places to start. The first is Bill’s essay, “The Grind”, which appears in Elizabeth A. White’s Editing & Reviews. The other is “Life of Salvage”, a piece of short fiction from 2014 in Beat to a Pulp’s webzine. The story opens, “Tobar Hicks and Molly Sellers’d led a life fueled by blistered hands of bad luck and the greasy-boned labor of living below the poverty line, scrapping everything from spent trailers, fridges, washing machines and A/C units to barter an existence from salvage yards in and around southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.“
A sentence like this one displays the cadence of Bill’s writing that I find intoxicating. The formality and politeness of the American South is evident, but the desperation of living day to day saturates the words with the sad hopefulness and stark reality his characters live in. As Bill says in an interview with David Cranmer at LitReactor, “ Constantly tightening and shifting it around. Big thing for me is action. My biggest fear is boredom and getting wordy.” And later, “For the most part I aim to be direct and in your face.”
In the Cranmer interview, Bill talks a little about what he reads. Bill goes further into depth about this in an essay in Literary Hub
It took years before I found writers that reminded me of where I came from. Farmers, factory workers, war vets, bartenders. People who drove rusted and dented vehicles twenty years past their manufacturing dates. They found comfort within the local bars, downing booze and playing euchre, passing conversations of one another’s daily misfortunes. They hunted and fished to fill their freezers with meat. Beat their kids when they did wrong.
In Criminal Element Cranmer, who is an author himself and editor of Beat to a Pulp, writes of Frank Bill’s The Savage that it “is an unnerving vision of a fractured America gone terribly wrong and a study of what happens when the last systems of morality and society collapse”. Cranmer ends his review, “In a grim, unforgiving world, Frank Bill maps out a harrowing, raw beauty, providing that much-needed sliver of hope in humankind in The Savage.
The Malcolm Avenue Review writes, “When Frank Bill writes something new I pay little attention to what it is, I just sign up and strap in. When I cracked open The Savage, I was immediately taken aback and gleefully entranced. Frank Bill, master of the nitty-gritty here and now of working class America is taking on the nitty-gritty of a future gone horribly awry. It’s a very timely look at an America that might have seemed untenable a mere year ago, but now feels like an all-too-near fork in the road.”
Now on to the regularly scheduled programming. As always, if there are some misspellings, broken links, or wrong information, please reach out to me and I will fix it quickly.
Aerogramme Studio points us to Steinbeck Fellows Program at San José State University.
Iain Maitland’s Sweet William (Saraband Books) is out. Maitland has an article about crime fiction and mental health at Shots. Books From Dusk Till Dawn writes that it “is an edge of your seat, nail-biting read that will haunt you way after you finish reading.” Random Things Through My Letter Box writes, “This is not a horror story, it is classed as a crime thriller, yet the horrors of the human brain are all very real within this troubling tale.” Linda’s Book Bag says, “From the very first word of Sweet William I was hooked. The writing is fantastic.”
Rachel Amphlett’s Hell to Pay (Saxon) is out. Bibliophile Book Club says it “is a fast paced thriller”. Novel Deelights says, “This is a quick read, one of those “I’ll just read one more chapter” books and before you know it, your afternoon is gone and you’re late starting dinner. Oops.” Chapter in My Life says, “If you like your novels fast-paced and twisted with a tension that leaves you weak at the knees; a narrative that has your heart pounding and a cast of characters that will either have you cheering them on or gunning them down (depending on what side you are on!) then you will love this book – hell you will love the whole series!” Have Books, Will Read writes, “Once again, Rachel Amphlett has written a brilliantly fast paced and complex investigation that keeps the reader turning the pages to find out what happens next.”
Abigail Osborne’s The Puppet Master (Bloodhound Books) is out. Sweet Little Book says that after several days “the book is still stalking the confines of my mind.” Jen Med’s Book Reviews writes that it is “ a cracking debut from an author to watch.” Random Things Through My Letter Box says “is an intelligent and well crafted debut.” Damppebbles says that “Osborne is an intriguing new voice in the psychological thriller”. Keeper of Pages says that it delves “into dark areas and is a novel suited to those who enjoy dark themes without the ‘hard-to-read’ descriptive detail.” Ali – The Dragon Slayer writes that it is “a fabulous debut from Abigail Osborne”. Bits About Books writes, “The Puppet Master is a fascinating thriller that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.” Donna’s Book Blog says, “For a debut novel this book is fantastic!” Bookstormer says it “is a fantastic debut novel”.
Jamie Freveletti’s Blood Run (Calexia) is out. At Criminal Element David Cranmer writes, “Maybe it sounds plebian to call writing smooth, but that’s exactly what Blood Run is to me—a smooth, intelligent, fast-paced thriller that continually ramps up, achieving maximum heart rate. High respects to Ms. Freveletti for doing genre fiction right.”
Victoria Jenkins’ The First One to Die (Bookouture), the second in the Detectives King and Lane series, is out. Sweet Little Book writes, “As I ploughed my way through, the twists came thick and fast, snapping my neck as the plot intensifies. At times I was caught out, a twist would creep up on me that I didn’t see coming, causing me to snatch my breath and re-think where Victoria was leading me.” Donna’s Book Blog says, “a brilliant five stars for this one – a great page turner”. Hooked From Page One says “this is another brilliant book by Victoria Jenkins”. The Writing Garnet says it is “addictive, thrilling and severely intense”. Novel Deelights says it has “a masterfully crafted plot”. Orchard Book Club writes that the “book is action packed for the get go”. Ginger Book Geek writes that they “blinking well bloody LOVED this book”. Have Books, Will Read says it is “fantastic”. The Quiet Geordie says that “is a heart-stopping and shocking detective thriller”.
Danielle Zinn’s Snow Light (Bloodhound Books) is out. Rae Reads writes, “Even though Snow Light isn’t necessarily fast paced it does have a steady and constant pace throughout which gave me the chance to get to know the characters better and let the story develop more naturally.” Bookstormer writes that it is “a perfect crime winter read”. Books n All writes, “This is a debut novel by this author and a very impressive one at that.” By the Letter Book Reviews says it “is an atmospheric and intriguing read.” The Writing Garnet writes, “Whilst I was hooked on Snow Light, I did find some parts of the storyline to be a little slow. For me, I would have preferred it to be a little more fast paced as I felt that there were too many pregnant pauses. That said, Snow Light did keep me guessing until the very end, with the conclusion stealing the show. Definitely a heart in mouth moment!” Sweet Little Book says that Danielle Zinn “has an immense talent”. On the Shelf Review says that it is “a great debut novel“.
T.J. Brearton’s Gone Missing (Bookouture) is out. Nick is Life of Crime says that “the story was definitely gripping and intense at times but to be honest it felt to me like there was something missing.I never felt a connection to any of the characters and the ending could have been a bit less predictable.” Meanwhile Donna’s Book Blog writes, “I loved the pace and the characters were really good. There were quite a few twists and turns and I loved the overall suspense from the writing style which was up there with the same high standard I have now come to expect from this author.” The Writing Garnet writes, “I did feel that the story concluded rather abruptly though. One minute everything was fast paced and my heart was in my mouth, and the next minute everything just stopped and that was that. I’m not saying that the book should have dragged on – of course not, I just felt that the conclusion didn’t really match with the rest of the storyline.” Ginger Book Geek writes it “hits the ground running and maintains the pace throughout.”
Heroic Justice by M.A. Comley (Self-Published) is out Donna’s Book Blog writes,”Oh my goodness I absolutely loved this book!!! It has two of my favourite crime characters in lead roles and I did a little dance of excitement as soon as I started it!”
Susi Holliday’s The Deaths of December (Mulholland Books) is out. Off-the-Shelf Books says it “is definitely Susi Holliday’s best one yet.” Crime Thriller Girl writes, “Peppered with sharply observed Christmas holiday and habit references, this is a sparkly and blood-splattered read. It’s the perfect antidote to too much turkey and Christmas pudding – creepy, tense and twisty-turny as hell. I loved it!” Elementary V Watson says it “is a well written festive tale with plenty of punch and a killer last line.” BiblioManiac writes, “This is a superb police procedural. It is faultless and fluent in it’s execution of story, plot, action and resolution. It is well researched, it is exciting and dramatic and it is well paced. I think the thing I enjoyed most was the readability, the fluidity, the ease and effortlessness of the writing and dialogue.”
Jenny Blackhurst’s The Foster Child (Headline) is out in the UK. BiblioManiac writes, “I didn’t really want to stop reading The Foster Child. I loved the uneasy atmosphere and the way Blackhurst managed to tread the line between reality and suggestion, how she made it convincing, rooted in reality and yet also convinced me to accept something much darker.” Brew and Books Review says it “is a stunning read.” Hooked From Page One called it “a seriously creepy read”.
Rob Sinclair’s The Silver Wolf (Bloodhound Books) is out. Crime Book Junkie writes, “Spy / action thrillers are not normally my bag but Rob Sinclair’s writing and characterisation of Ryker has totally captured my imagination since I started this journey with the secret agent back in Dance with the Enemy. Bookstormer says it is “a high adrenaline read”. By the Letter Book Reviews says that it is “an absolute must read for fans of the series.” My Chestnut Reading Tree writes, “If you love The Bourne series then you absolutely have to read The James Ryker series.”
Stephen Edger’s Dying Day (Bookouture) is out. My Chestnut Reading Tree says that “Stephen Edger has delivered a top notch crime thriller here that literally had me gasping out loud at one point!” The Writing Garnet “absolutely loved this book”. The Book Review Café writes, “Flipping heck I just loved Dying Day it’s much darker and than the first book in the series, and do you know what? that’s just the way I like a crime thriller to be, make of that what you will!” Chapter in My Life writes, “This one is perfect for armchair detectives who love their reading ponds full of red herrings!” Crime Book Junkie said that they “really enjoy Stephen Edger’s writing.” Sweet Little Book writes that it “is a fast-paced thriller which had me turning the pages faster and faster, absorbing the intensity of the plot.”
Guy Fraser-Sampson’s A Death in the Night (Urbane Publications), this is the fourth in the Hampstead Murder series. Books From Dusk till Dawn writes, “I love the olde world feel from this top-notch team of Detectives that appear in all of the books but is set firmly in present day. This is investigating with modern technology and old school thinking and it works so perfectly.”
Some other releases this week are: Corrie Jackson’s The Perfect Victim, Mari Hannah’s The Death Messenger (Pan) which is the second in the Matthew Ryan series, CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards (Orenda Book) and Shakedown by Martin Bodenham (Down & Out Books),
- This Week
- Week of November 27
- Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (Fahrenheit Press)
- Deadly Dance by Hillary Bonner (Severn House Digital)
- The Desperado / A Noose for Desperado (Stark House Press)
- The Good Samaritan by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
- Her Best Friend by Sarah Wray (Bookouture)
- The Liar’s Promise by Mark Tilbury (Bloodhound Books)
- The Mansions of Murder by Paul Doherty (Severn House Digital)
- Murder in July by Barbara Hambly (Severn House Digital)
- Now You See Me by Kierney Scott (Bookouture)
- The Silent Children by Carol Wyer (Bookouture)
- Week of December 4
- Week of December 11
- A-List by D.P. Lyle (Oceanview Publishing)
- The Blade This Time by John Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Corrosion by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- The Disassembled Man by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Factory Town by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Foul Trade by B.K. Duncan (Bloodhound Books)
- The Incurables by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Know Me Now by C.J. Carver (Zaffre)
- The Stolen Children by Kerry Wilkinson (Bookouture)
- Week of December 18
- January 2018
- Bad Samaritan by Dana King (Down & Out Books)
- Blackchurch Furnace by Nathan Singer (Down & Out Books)
- The Body Looks Familiar / The Last Mrs. Five (Stark House Press)
- Come Out and Play by Dylan Young (Bookouture)
- The Cost of Doing Business by Jonathan Ashley (Down & Out Books)
- The Daughter by Lucy Dawson (Bookoutre)
- The Good Liar (Bookouture)
- Hang Time by S.W. Lauden (Rare Bird Books)
- Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books)
- Life During Wartime and Other Stories by Thomas Pluck (Down & Out Books)
- May by Marietta Miles (Down & Out Books)
- One Last Hit by Nathan Walpow (Down & Out Books)
- A Scholar of Pain by Grant Jerkins (ABC Group Documentation)
- The Suicide Watcher by Gayle Curtis (Zaffre)
- Touchfeather by Jimmy Sangster (Brash Books)
- Truth or Dare by Richard Paker (Bookouture)
- Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan (Bookouture)
- Vindication by H. Terrell Griffin (Ocean
- The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
- February 2018
- Blood Rites by David Stuart Davies (Urbane Publications)
- A Darker State by David Young (Zaffre)
- The Devil at Your Door by Eric Beetner (Down & Out Books)
- The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner (Down & Out Books)
- Little Liar by Clare Boyd (Bookouture)
- The Missing Child by Alison James (Bookouture)
- The Reunion by Samantha Hayes (Bookouture)
- When the Devil Comes to Call by Eric Beetner (Down & Out Books).
Jordan Harper tells his story in short, crisp sentences and descriptions that cut like knives. While channeling the best of Charlie Houston and Don Westlake, Harper is his own man. And by doing justice by Polly – by respecting her character and fleshing out her journey – Harper elevates She Rides Shotgun to the level of the very best of this year’s novels.
I have a thing for detective novels. They’re tend to blur the lines of morality better than most. Detectives are paid by desperate people to “do the right thing” and operate outside the confines of the law, so they’re always free to be absolute savages about it. I don’t read many series because they tend to become same-y after a couple volumes, but one I’ve always stuck with is Lawrence Block’s private detective Matthew Scudder. I’ve recently finished volume #7 Out on the Cutting Edge and force it so admit, that guy doesn’t know how to be boring. What makes Scudder such a special character? Why does Out on the Cutting Edge succeeds where so many volume #7’s have failed?
Iain Ryan has crammed a lot into The Student. It’s dark, gritty and sharply focused. It uses the nature of a small town and the even tighter campus society within it to achieve a type of closed-room atmosphere to great effect. It makes some pointed observations about the day-to-day impacts of dealing as well as using drugs. It talks about sex, exploitation, violence, pornography, corruption and the cool, ruthless heads at the top, intent on making money no matter the cost, regardless of the consequences. It’s violent, graphic, no holds barred and peppered with imagery and language that make it required reading for fans of the blackest, darkest noir.
Life of a Nerdish Mum says of Ragnor Jónasson’s Whiteout (Oreanda) that it is ”another excellent nordic noir from Ragnor Jónasson”. Chapter in My Life writes, “The Dark Iceland series evokes a quiet stillness in me and Whiteout was no exception. I think I could read these books in 80-degree heat and I’d still need to pull the blanket around me to keep the chill-out.” Life of Crime writes that “this is by far my favourite of Ragnar’s Dark Iceland series to date.” Books, Life and Everything writes that it is “a master class in crime writing”. BOLO Books Review writes: “In the Dark Iceland series, Ragnar Jónasson has proven that it is possible to blend the traditional traits of the cozy crime novel with the darkness of the noir genre. The novels continue to get better – which is saying a lot, since Snowblind was such an impressive debut. The fact that these books appeal these two vastly different reading populations highlights just how unique they truly are.” Book Lover Worm says that “if you love locked room mysteries or slow burn psychological stories then this is definitely the book for you.”
A Have for Book Lovers writes of Shalini Boland’s The Secret Mother (Bookoutre) that it “is brilliant, fast-paced and addictive”. If I Could Only Read Faster writes, “It wasn’t that it was the best written book or the most amazing storyline but there was something about it that grabbed me and kept me hooked.” Donna’s Book Blog writes that it is “one of the best reads of the year for me”. The Quiet Geordie says, “his is an enjoyable fast paced read which when I finally sat down to enjoy I read in one sitting. I was slightly disappointed as I worked out many of the twists much earlier they they were revealed, but it has not put me off reading another.
The Quiet Knitter reviews Alison Brodie’s self-published Zenka saying “it’s a well written crime thriller with a difference.” Everywhere and Nowhere writes, “This book definitely took me by surprise, I am glad that Ms. Brodie keeps finding new ways to grab my attention and I am looking forward to the next book that I get to read.” Bits About Books says it “a humorous, quirky novel of violence and romance”.
If your tastes in humor lean toward the tasteless, then step right in. It’s not a laugh riot on every page, but there are moments of comedy gold here. But it’s the bloody well done murder mystery you’re after anyway. A mystery fan will eat it up looking for the similarities to Christie and others of this ilk as well as thoroughly enjoying having the rug pulled out from under him in the final pages. You’ll get some laughs, some chuckles and some well-earned gasps. Just like comics’ slang for doing well in a set you might say that Fred Van Lente really killed with his debut mystery. Slaughtered them even.
Paul D. Brazill always has great book recommendations. This week it is B.R. Stateham’s A Taste of Old Revenge (Endeavour Press) saying that “is a gripping, well- plotted, crime thriller that is full of cinematic images and sharp twist and turns, and really would make a great film.”
- The 13th Victim by Linda S. Prather (Self-Published) Donna’s Book Blog
- Afterlife by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer) Crimespree Magazine
- All the Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker (Zaffre) Linda’s Book Bag
- The Beekeeper by Stewart Giles (Joffe Books) Books n All
- Bitter Moon by Alexandra Sokolff (Thomas Mercer) Chapter in My Life
- The Boy Made of Snow by Chloë Mayer (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) The Quiet Knitter
- Courage Resurrected by R. Scott Mackey (Self-Published) Sons of Spade
- Cruel Secrets by Kerry Barnes (Self-published) The Book Review Cafe
- Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li (Legend Press / Polis Books) Books From Dusk Till Dawn
- Damage by Martina Cole (Headline) Crime Book Junkie
- Disposable Souls by Phonse Jesseom (Vagrant Press) Crime Watch
- Don’t Tell Meg by Paul J. Teaugue (Clixeo Publishing) By the Letter Book Reviews
- Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler (Bonnier Zaffre) Snazzy Books
- Dreams of a Broken Man by Roger Bray (Self-Published) Books From Dusk Till Dawn
- The Girl in the Fog by Donato Carrisi (Abacus) Crime Fiction Lover
- The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd (Cornerstone Digital) Keeper of Pages
- I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll (Thomas & Mercer) BiblioManiac
- The Liar by Steve Cavanagh (Orion) Live and Deadly
- Murder in Little Shendon by A.H. Richardson (Serano Press) Mysteries in Paradise
- A Murder of Crows by Ian Skewis (Unbound) Love Books Group
- Nothing Save The Bones Inside Her by Clayton Lindemuth (Self-Published) Book Postmortem
- A Patient Fury by Sara Ward (Faber & Faber) Bitter Tea and Mystery
- Pigeon Blood Red by Ed Duncan (Creativa) The Dorset Book Detective
- Rest in Peace, Baby by Vicente Morales (Self-Published) Col’s Criminal Library
- Real Tigers by Mick Herron (Soho Crime) The View from the Blue House
- A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood (Killer Reads) Chelle’s Book Reviews
- Silent Lies by Kathryn Croft (Bookouture) A Ticket To Everywhere
- State of Emergency by Mary Hallberg So Many Books, So Little Time
- The Stopping Place by Helen Slavin (Ipso Books) The Writing Garnet
- The Surrogate by Louise Jensen (Bookoutre) My Chestnut Reading Tree
- Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (Zaffre) Compulsive Readers
- To the Devil, My Regards by Anthony Neil Smith and Victor Gischler (Self-Published) Col’s Criminal Library
- Unger House Radicals by Chris Kelso (Crowded Quarantine Publications) Shotgun Logic
- Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalessen (Orenda Books) A Crime is Afoot
- Written in Blood by Layton Green (Seventh Street Books) Always Reading / Novel Gossip
Larry Enmon, author of Wormwood (Bloodhound Books), writes about the allure of mysteries and his work as a police officer.
Another writer once asked me how many homicides I saw as a uniform police officer. This started me to thinking about all the different types of death I investigated. Each had a mystery associated with it that needed solving. I saw death by shooting, stabbing, drowning, electrocution, crushing (yes, that happens), poisoning, blunt force trauma, falling, hanging, and burning. I was the first unit on the scene, and it was my job to determine what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and round up the witnesses before the homicide detectives arrived.
Many people expect police officers to be some sort of cross between Superman and Batman in our day job, then go home and have dinner with our partner and forget all about our investigation till the next shift. Yet there is always a build-up of trauma which will eventually impinge upon your mental health. We teach ourselves to put protective barriers around our emotions, but there are often chinks in our armour.
For example, a lot of police officers find that dealing with adult deaths can become just about bearable, but when suddenly faced with the death, rape or torture of a child, their defences aren’t able to cope and they unravel. If you’re used to dealing with stabbings, but then come across scores of people blown up by a bomb, this can completely wreck the impenetrable armour you thought you had in place.
At Do Some Damage Marietta Miles, Sarah M. Chen, and Susie Henry talk about sex.
With regards to views on sex, America seems caught in this strange tug-of-war with herself. There is still a large blanket of conservatism, at times puritanical, that covers our country. Yet, at the same time, there is this machine we call Hollywood, apparently built on a foundation of oppression and subjugation, pushing out unrealistic, sexed-up merchandise.
I think the best writing advice I’ve given a student is the best advice I have for any writer: Read a lot. Write a lot. Tell the kind of story you’ve learned you like to read—Contempt for material or for an audience shows through. You don’t have to become a grammarian, but learn how the language works, because that’s the toolbox you have.
The worst advice? Probably when I’ve recommended grad school to some of my brightest students. Not because there’s anything wrong with grad school per se, but because the academic job market for my field is somewhere between lousy and “Stephen King novel.” The kids are amazing and bright, and in a just world, they’ll succeed, but I write noir. Just world? Pfft. I fear I may be giving them directions to a very difficult pathway.
Eric Beetner, author of the forthcoming The Devil at Your Door (Down & Out Books), talks about how he got started in the writing business at The Thrill Begins and it comes to do one thing, “Keep on writing.”
This business is glacial in its pace. Don’t wait for it. Keep writing and never think your best work is behind you. Never put all your hopes and expectations on one project. Ideas are free and there are always more of them around the bend. That’s what makes a writer. It’s about what you’re writing and what you will write, not what you have written.
At Do Some Damage Scott Alderberg, author of the forthcoming Jack Waters (Broken River Books) writes about how sometimes a character just grabs your imagination.
Funny, but a book written over 80 years ago by a person with whom I have nothing in common, about a character with whom I share few traits, filled a need and provided an escape from the grating and clamor of today.
At Criminal Element Emily Littlejohn looks at the weather and its effect on story.
Mystery writers especially have a long tradition of presenting dark, bleak weather as an omnipresent character in their novels. Part of the enjoyment of a good mystery is imagining yourself beside the hero, stalking the villain, moving about in the shadows
At Chelle’s Book Reviews Sheryl Browne stops by to talk about her DI Matthew Adams series.
One thing I took away from my trip to Texas is that moderation is highly overrated. Don’t order a half-pound of BBQ when a full pound is available. The liquor tax is lower there, so go ahead and buy the 1.75 liter bottle, and don’t visit one bookstore when you can visit them all.
At SleuthSayers Leigh Lundin talks about Gillian Flynn and her “brilliant writing”. I have only read Gone Girl which I found not only to be over-rated, I believe it cheated the reader. So much was I turned off by Flynn’s tricks I really don’t see myself ever picking up a book by her again.
At Do Some Damage Holly West writes about the pleasures and difficulties of beta reading.
I’m still not great at it, to be honest. As I read, I realize when something’s not quite working for me, but it’s sometimes hard for me to articulate exactly what it is. I find myself babbling in my comments, hoping I’ll eventually land on my point, or at the very least, my note will notify the writer that something in the narrative tripped me up.
Still, understanding what’s not working for me in someone else’s novel helps me pinpoint what’s not working in my novels. It’s great practice for critiquing my own stuff.
The point is, the books I choose to write are a product of my, shall we call it, pork-and-beans attitude. I really don’t give a crap about researching popular genres and writing the kinds of books I think people might like.
For me, writing shorter form pieces such as novellas or short stories allows room for experimentation. By that I mean I can try different points of view so I can introduce support characters to the reader more fully, or that I can write a plot which doesn’t have the legs to be a full novel, but is still intriguing enough to be told in short form.
Writing Before I Wake was an experience unlike any I’d had before in my writing career. It was all consuming. Psychological thrillers are relentless—the tension never drops, the suspense increases with each turned page, and the characters live in an almost constant state of fear and confusion. I’d wake in the night, thinking about Susan. She’d speak to me in the shower, telling me what happened next, forcing me to end my ablutions early so I could find a pen and notepad to write it down.