New fiction titles

9780719818004Deadly Zeal by Jean Chapman

Ex-Met Inspector John Cannon and his partner Liz have a hectic life running a Lincolnshire pub. When a punter is murdered after a particularly raucous quiz night, a wealthy businessman is driven to seek Cannon’s help. Their life is turned upside down, and they embark on a precarious sea voyage to the frozen wastelands of northern Norway where they must evade the murderers and icy waters.

Jean Chapman began her writing career as a freelance journalist before going on to write fiction. Her books have been shortlisted for both the Scottish Book Trust Award and the RNA Major Award, and she is the three-time President of the Leicester Writer’s Club. Her previous books, including Both Sides of the Fence, A Watery Grave, and Deadly Serious, were all published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Deadly Zeal here.

Kicking Over the Traces by Elizabeth Jackson9780719817588

When her mother dies in a wagon accident, Florence is left at the mercy of her mother’s husband. At the funeral, he reveals he is not her real father and abandons her. Left with nothing but the clothes she stands in and her mother’s red coat, Florence takes on farm work to make ends meet, but her fortunes change when she discovers money hidden in the coat’s lining. As she navigates across the North Yorkshire moors alone after being forced to leave the farm she had called home, Florence encounters friends and enemies, often disguised as each other.

Elizabeth Jackson is a writer and psychotherapist. She is married with two sons and has lived in North Yorkshire all her life. Her previous book Language of Thieves was published by Robert Hale in 2011.

Buy your copy of Kicking Over the Traces here.

9780719816000Living Dangerously by Dan Latus

When old friends Anne and Josh Steele ask Frank Doy to look after their son, Tom, Frank can’t say no. After a drink-driving incident that took the life of his friend, the victim’s gangster father wants Tom dead. Frank takes Tom to an isolated cottage in wintry Northumberland, but trouble follows. As the lonely village is held siege during a blizzard, Frank fights to keep his charge alive. In the process he unravels a story at odds with the Steeles’ version of events – of a business partnership turned sour, and a young man placed in jeopardy by family loyalty.

Dan Latus lives in Northumberland with his wife. He grew up in Teesside which has been the inspiration for many of his novels. His previous books include Never Look Back, Risky Mission, Out of the Night, and Death at South Gare.

Buy your copy of Living Dangerously here.

The Murder List by Roger Silverwood

The women of Bromersley live in fear that their names are on the murder list. Bodies keep turning up – women in their sixties, always in the same disturbing pose, with a cauliflower in their laps and rice in their mouths. Inspector Angel discovers a list with the murdered women’s names on, but clues and forensics lead nowhere, and although witnesses report an odd-looking woman wearing a sheepskin coat, no one can find her.
Then, in the middle of the night, Angel receives a phone call…

Son of a Yorkshire businessman, Roger Silverwood was educated in Gloucestershire before National Service. He later worked in the toy trade and as a copywriter in an advertising agency. Roger went into business with his wife as an antiques dealer before retiring in 1997.

Praise for the author

‘Solid plotting, unpretentious writing, thoroughly reliable entertainment’ – Morning Star

‘Silverwood combines a classic mystery plot with well-developed characters’ – Publishers Weekly

Buy your copy of The Murder List here.

The Winding Stair by Millie Vigor

A single red rose on her doorstep and anonymous calls have made Ginny a nervous wreck. Seeking peace and telling no one, she runs away, but a rose is delivered to the hideaway. She’s at breaking point when suddenly contact stops. Returning home, she befriends quiet librarian Curtis, but realizes too late that her trust is misplaced. At Curtis’s mercy, she’s reminded of the poem ‘The Spider and the Fly’. She has walked up the winding stair, but will she walk free, or will she perish like the fly?

Millie Vigor was born in Dorset and was educated at Ludwell village school. At fourteen she left to start work and she considers this the beginning of her real education. Throughout her many jobs; kitchenmaid, farm-worker, glove-maker, canteen cook and B&B landlady, she took note of what made people tick and of sights and sounds, and stored this all away to use in her writing. In addition to articles and short stories sold to various magazines, her autobiographical book Kippers for Breakfast was published in 2003. Her recent books No Skylarks Sing and Paying Davy Jones were published by Robert Hale. She lives in Taunton, Somerset with her constant companion, a cat called Harriet.

Praise for the author

‘If the definition of a good book is being well-written, easy to read and hard to put down then Catherine of Deepdale is very good indeed’ – Shetland Times

‘The author evokes the wild, desolate landscape of the islands so vividly that it made me want to visit’ – Historical Novels Review

Buy your copy of The Winding Stair here.

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New Fiction (Buried River Press): The Music Room by Laura Kalpakian

The Music Room by Laura Kalpakian

9781910208250Young Marcella McNeill’s family are always rehearsing: her father is an actor, her mother Valerie an aspiring opera singer, her grandmother Gloria a renowned violinist. During the summer of 1969 – after their parents’ bitter divorce – Marcella and her little sister Rose-Renee are sent to live with their enigmatic grandmother in her decaying countryside mansion.

Instructed never to disturb the formidable woman as she endlessly rehearses in the music room, the children are left to run wild. They form a relationship with their cheerful neighbour Dorothea, who convinces their grandmother to allow the girls to be home-schooled with her sickly son, Rodney. Dorothea recognizes and nurtures the children’s gifts in ways they have never before experienced.

That autumn, their wayward aunt Linda returns home with a drawling, Arkansas boyfriend in tow. The struggles between mother and daughter – Gloria angry that Linda has abused and denied her gifts, Linda attacking her mother’s musical delusions – create a storm of clashing egos.

The Music Room is a novel of arrogance and artistry, of sacrifice and negligence, of delusion and conviction, of interminable rehearsal and profound performance. It is a story of love muddied with need, expedience, and opportunism – as love always is.

Laura Kalpakian

Laura Kalpakian is the author of twelve novels and three prize-winning collections of original short fiction. Her work has appeared extensively in the UK and the USA. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a residency at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and her 2007 novel, American Cookery was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A native Californian, Laura was educated on both the east and west coasts of the USA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

You can find out more about Laura at her website: http://www.laurakalpakian.com

Buy your copy of The Music Room here

Wendy Perriam: ‘Mother’s Day – And we’re all awash with schmaltz’

Wendy Perriam on mothers in fiction.

‘“Mothers are angels in human form, divinities on earth”; “God moulded my mother’s heart from gold and put shining stars in her eyes”. Such tributes paid to mothers online are surely only fitting for unbelievable paragons like Marmee in Little Women. Most psychologists agree that the mother/child relationship, and especially the mother/daughter relationship, is often intractable and fraught. According to research, women only finally appreciate their mothers after 183 rows and 164 door-slammings. (Don’t ask me how they record such things!) And serious mother/child disruptions are all too familiar in literature, from Ancient Greece to modern times – think Oedipus, Medea, Hamlet, Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary, or Lolita’s mother who puts her own sexual satisfaction above the safety of her daughter. And most crass and vile of all mothers must surely be Matilda’s, depicted by Roald Dahl as neglectful, idiotic and tyrannically abusive.

Even some of my close friends are in constant daily conflict with their daughters, or despairing of children who seem distant, recalcitrant or downright bolshie. So we’re faced with a dichotomy: angelic mothers, on the one hand, hymned and praised in treacly Mother’s Day cards and, on the other, the unwelcome truth of slammed doors and family rifts. Last year, I asked my Creative Writing students to write a one-page study of their mothers and was shocked by the number of callous harridans who nagged and scolded from those pages.

And, when it comes to me and mothers, I didn’t have the best start in the world! Born in the middle of the war to a highly anxious mum, who already had an underweight toddler, born prematurely and still giving much cause for anxiety, the last thing she wanted was another child. And who can blame her, with my Dad away, bombs raining down on the family home, and us forced to sleep in the cramped and smelly air-raid shelter under the dining-room table?

Even my actual birth was far from serene. Mum’s labour started in the middle of a horror film, precipitating a mad dash from cinema to hospital, where I emerged in an undignified rush, sickly-yellow from jaundice. One look at my ghastly hue and satanically dark hair was enough to convince my parents to change my name from Angela to Wendy – I was clearly more devil than angel. But, since Wendy isn’t a Saint’s name, the nuns who schooled me from age 4 to age 21 disapproved of it intensely.

Those same nuns constituted a whole troupe of alternative “mothers”– scary forbidding figures with, apparently, no hair and no discernible bodies, just long black gliding robes. Nor could one expect much mercy, let alone mothering, from such strict, judgemental disciplinarians, who regarded touch as dangerous and pleasure as a one-way ticket to Hell. My schoolgirl diaries record how often we were told we were “vegetables”, “hopeless failures” and “miserable worms”, who would never amount to anything.

9780709093862So perhaps it’s little wonder that my latest short-story collection has Bad Mothers in the title. However, I didn’t consciously set out to write about mothers, good or bad, and it was only when I re-read the whole collection that I realized how many bad mothers feature in the stories. The thing about short stories is that they require much less pre-planning and structuring than novels, and seem to arise spontaneously, often prompted by childhood experiences. And, certainly, as a child, I was in frequent trouble both from my mother and the nuns. The latter eventually expelled me and told me I was in the devil’s power – the most frightening moment of my life, since Satan seemed totally real and terrifyingly evil.

In the story A Cuppa and a Biscuit, I recreate a younger version of my troubled schoolgirl self and re-enact her dread of Hell and damnation – still with me at the age of 74! This story is based on a real-life incident, when I was told by Reverend Mother (the most daunting of all mothers) not to keep fainting at Holy Mass. But how could I stop what she called “this pernicious habit”, when it seemed to happen automatically and I’d find myself blacking out and slumping to the floor? Truth to tell, I was probably just weak and hungry, since we girls ate nothing from early supper to post-Mass breakfast the next day.

However, as a counterbalance to punitive Reverend Mothers and cantankerously critical real mothers, there are some benign and gentle mothers in my new short-story collection. The title-story, Mouse, for example, features a kind and decent mother, whose only fault is her fear of mice. (This is an extremely common phobia, judging by the statistics, so I hope musophobics readers aren’t unduly alarmed by the book-jacket!) And Debs’ Mum in Presents is genuinely loving and caring, a supportive figure who cooks her daughter proper porridge in the morning; has her supper waiting when she returns knackered after work; makes her a hot-water-bottle if her period-pain is bad; sews new eyes on her old, balding teddy bear, and offers to make her curtains if and when she moves away from home. And the reason Debs doesn’t move, despite her desire for her own flat, is because of the very strength and solidity of that love, which she now sees as a precious gift – a gift of time, effort and devotion

And talking of gifts, I hope that, despite its title, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers will make an apt and unusual present for Mother’s Day. After all, if a few of the mothers prove alarming, the brilliant lovers may well compensate!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here 

New fiction: A Narrow Victory by Faith Martin

A Narrow Victory
Once again, ex-DI Hillary Greene is delving into the archives, trying to discover who killed an interior designer at a New Years’ Eve Party in 1999. Somebody clearly didn’t want 9780719814334Felix Olliphant to enjoy the momentous occasion of seeing in not only a brand new year, but a brave new millennium.
The trouble is, the more she learns about her murder victim, the less likely it seems that anyone would want him dead – he was a genuinely decent human being, and she can’t find anyone with a bad word to say about him. To add to her woes, it seems her lover and immediate superior, Detective Superintendent Steven Crayle, is being lured away from her team with offers of a promotion
elsewhere.  Can she keep her mind on the job, and find out who killed Felix? Or is this the first cold case that will defeat even her?

Faith Martin
Faith Martin was born in Oxford. She began her working life as a secretary but left to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. A Narrow Victory is the latest in the thrilling Hillary Greene series.

Available online to buy here.

Other titles in the Hillary Greene series
9780709092049 9780709094760 9780719807978

Wendy Perriam: ‘All set for Valentine’s Day!’

Wendy Perriam talks to us about Valentine’s Day and romance in her recent works.

‘Brilliant lovers sound just the ticket for Valentine’s Day! If we’re lucky enough to have one in our life, we can expect a profusion of hearts, flowers and chocolates on 14 February – and of course fireworks in the sack!

9780709093862But, in my new short-story collection, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, romantic relationships don’t always pan out quite so well. Even in the story Unbelievably Wonderful – again a title promising rapture all the way – Frances can only respond to her, yes, truly brilliant lover, Duncan, by pretending he’s someone completely and utterly different: her first teenage love, Josh, whom she’s never forgotten and regrets ever having left. So, in her mind she changes the tall, distinguished wealthy, high-powered Duncan into small, shabby, impoverished Josh – and, against all the odds, it does result in a “unbelievably wonderful” sexual encounter.

Another story, Venus, also takes an unexpected turn. Although Poppy is turned on, at first, by Leon’s erotic expertise, when he actually undresses she’s devastated by the sight of his spindly, withered body. Only then does she realize the full implications of the 60-year age-gap between them – something she’s chosen to ignore on account of his fame and distinction. But no amount of distinction can transform him into a virile young stud, so, appalled, she flees from his bed, while he, for his part, reacts with surprising venom.

As a writer, I’ve always been more interested in unworkable couplings and tempestuous liaisons than in quiet, contented relationships. After all, Cupid carries two different sorts of arrows: sharp ones of pure gold, which fill a person struck by them with uncontrollable desire, and blunt, lead-tipped ones that wound their victims with an overwhelming feeling of aversion. And I’m very much aware that, beneath the showy petals of Valentine’s Day red roses, lie sharp and dangerous thorns, and that even the most luscious of chocolates can sate and glut and stale.

None of the stories in Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers actually takes place on Valentine’s Day, but I’ve included it in earlier books. For instance, the two protagonists in my novel, The Stillness The Dancing, find themselves, on 14 February, staying on a remote Scottish Island, where David is researching the life of a seventh-century Celtic Saint. He suggests they mark the occasion by re-enacting the ancient Roman Festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on the same date as Valentine’s Day and thus claimed by some authorities to be historically linked with it.

So, after beating the bounds of the island and singing to a tame seal, the couple return to their windswept cottage for a ritual meal symbolizing fertility and fruitfulness. Yet, when they go upstairs for their first attempt at sex, it all goes disastrously wrong, & Morna lies miserable and frustrated, secretly enraged by the Catholic conditioning that has taught them both that sex is sinful and an instant passport to Hell.  Suddenly, though, she explodes in a wild tirade against nuns, priests, Popes and all those prissy celibates whose teachings have restricted her life and David’s so severely.  And the tirade itself finally ignites his passion, thus saving their offbeat Valentine’s Day!

In another novel, Second Skin, newly widowed Catherine has arranged to meet the handsome but troubled poet, Will, for a meal on Valentine’s Day. When she arrives, attired in her best but worryingly late, she finds him shabbily dressed, frozen stiff and distinctly grumpy – hardly a good start to the evening. And further problems and jealousies erupt during what she hoped would be a romantic dinner. In fact, it’s only when she actually takes the initiative and demands a kiss from the unforthcoming poet that, again, all is eventually resolved, since fortunately he obliges with full, red-blooded exuberance.

So what of my own Valentine’s Day this year? At the ripe old age of 74, I can hardly expect a passionate encounter, except perhaps in fantasy – one of the main resources for any writer. But I won’t be alone in my celibacy. According to recent research, 79% of us Brits would rather have a good night’s sleep than have sex with our partners, and more than one in five women would prefer to kiss goodbye to their sex-lives than have to give up chocolate. In fact, 33% of females obsess about chocolate during the day, compared with only 18% who fantasize about sex.

Beetles and gastropods, however, put us humans to shame. Recently, I was researching the sex-lives of lowly creatures (don’t ask why!), and it appears that the sex-crazed ladybird can mate for up to nine hours every day, and garden-snails aren’t far behind. The latter rub and bite each other in untiring sexual marathons, lustfully waving their eye-stalks, and even firing mucous love-darts at each other.

So perhaps I was mistaken in not including a ladybird or a snail or two in Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers. Nonetheless, Cupid’s love-darts are certainly present in the book, so I hope it will make an appropriately diverting gift for Valentine’s Day. If nothing else, it will undoubtedly last longer than chocolates or red roses!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here

New fiction: The Barchester Murders by G.M. Best (Buried River Press)

Ahead of the bicentenary of Anthony Trollope’s birth in April of this year, we publish The Barchester Murders, featuring the writer alongside many of his characters

9781910208083

Anthony Trollope finds the beautiful city of Barchester idyllic on visiting it for the first time. This idyll is, however, soon shattered when the body of Thomas Rider is discovered in the almshouses known as Hiram’s Hospital.

Trollope soon uncovers the existence of a long-hidden secret which has the power to destroy the reputation of the Reverend Septimus Harding, the Warden of Hiram’s Hospital, and his-son-in-law, Dr Theophilus Grantley, the Dean of the Cathedral and next in line for the position of Bishop of Barchester.

A number of the old bedesmen at Hiram’s Hospital would do anything for the Warden, and his daughters, Eleanor and Susan, have every reason to want the secret kept. It is also possible that family friend and Eleanor’s admirer, John Bold, may have had a hand in the crime.

With so many suspects, the local police officer is at a loss as to how to solve the case. The murderer soon strikes again and it falls to Anthony Trollope to unpick the mystery.

This book does not require you to have read Anthony Trollope’s classic works, but those who love his novels will enjoy meeting their key characters again.

G.M. Best

Brought up in the North-east, G.M. Best studied History at Exeter College, Oxford and went on to become the headmaster of Kingswood School in Bath. He has written widely on Methodist history and is currently Warden of the New Room in Bristol. His previous novels, Oliver Twist Investigates, Wuthering Heights Revisited and The Jacobite Murders were published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of The Barchester Murders here

OUT NOW: Old Sins, Long Memories by Angela Arney

9780719813689OLD SINS, LONG MEMORIES

G.P. Lizzie Browne moves from London to a small town on the coast, looking forward to a quiet life, but when she finds a murdered patient on her first day it seems that perhaps Stibbington is not so quiet after all.

DCI Adam Maguire, and colleague Steve Grayson, haven’t been challenged by a case for a a long time and welcome this break from their normal routine, except that there seems to be no apparent motive for anyone to kill a harmless young drop-out.

When a second body, similar to the first, is found in Lizzie’s garden she is drawn into Adam’s investigation against her will, and against her better judgement and her quiet life is riven with tension and conflict.

Angela Arney

Angela Arney was born in Hampshire and still lives in the New Forest. She is now widowed and has two children. Before writing she had a varied career as a caberet singer, a teacher, and then hospital administrator. She has written a number of romances and four mainstream novels, but then took time out to return to the theatre as a director of amateur companies. She has now returned to full time writing.

Get a copy of Old Sins, Long Memories here.

OUT NOW: A Full Churchyard by Nicholas Rhea


9780719813658A FULL CHURCHYARD

Detective Inspector Montague Pluke, of CID, is England’s most superstitious police officer. With crime at its lowest level for years, he decides to conduct a cold-case review.

But there are no major unsolved crimes so, alerted by his wife, Millicent, to a large number of recent deaths – all attributed to natural causes – his expert knowledge of superstitions and folklore lead him to identify areas of suspicion sufficient to justify re-opening a case. Could an undetected mass-murderer be operating in Crickledale?

His inquiries reveal that many of the deceased had been attended by Crickledale Voluntary Carers and he quickly produces a list of possible suspects. Indeed, the entire team of carers falls under suspicion – and Detective Inspector Pluke’s wife, Millicent, is one of them.

NICHOLAS RHEA

Nicholas Rhea is the pen-name for Peter N. Walker, formerly an inspector with the North Yorkshire Police and the creator of the Constable series of novels, the inspiration for the long-running and critically acclaimed ITV drama series Heartbeat. As Peter N. Walker, he is the author of Portrait of the North York Moors. He lives in North Yorkshire.

To buy A Full Churchyard, click here.

OUT NOW: Fate Has No Mercy by David Creed

Fate Has No MercyFate Has No Mercy

Fate Has No Mercy describes the path followed by one man on his way to an archaeological discovery, potentially of extraordinary importance, his crisis of conscience and the cruel decisions he must take: if he publishes his findings, he may well seriously damage the lives of people he has come to hold in high esteem; people who recently, in fact, saved him from a cruel death.

There appears no acceptable way out of his dilemma until he encounters a woman from his past, whose unforgettable image and plight have dogged his memory for twenty years. This woman will go on to fulfil the role which – one suspects – was destined to be hers from the outset.

David Creed

David Creed was born in Sri Lanka and educated there and in Britain, at Eton, Cambridge and the University of London. After four years as a professional cricketer, he again went abroad, working for the British Government in Africa and the Australians in New Guinea It was there that he became involved in a specialized branch of education and returned to Britain for further training. That completed, he and his wife, also a successful writer, took teaching contracts in various parts of the world, including India, South America and the Middle East.

Buy Fate Has No Creed here.

OUT NOW: The End of a Journey by Grace Thompson

The End of a Journey by Grace ThompsonGrace Thompson lives in Swansea. She has a son and a daughter, as well as five grandchildren. Her previous books, also published by Hale, include Nothing is Forever, Gull Island, Goodbye to Dreams and Pity the Lonely Dreamers.

The End of a Journey by Grace Thompson

Zena Martin and her brother, Greg, are content with their lives and plans for their future: Zena and Jake Williams are about to announce their engagement, and Greg hopes to persuade Rose Conelly to meet his family and begin the next stage of their relationship.

Then their father dies suddenly and secrets come to light that change everything. Zena begins to doubt her happiness with the kind-hearted Jake when his generosity is more for others than for her. Greg is distressed when Rose leaves the town without any explanation.

But it is their mother’s secret that is hardest to understand. And when everything is revealed and explanations are offered, what will be left of their once optimistic future?

Praise for Grace Thompson

‘Sparkling with warmth, wit and charm…a must read.’ – Red Roses for Authors

‘Novels about the lives, loves, trials and tribulations of fictional Welsh families’ – Wales on Sunday

The End of a Journey by Grace Thompson is available to buy now

The End of a Journey by Grace Thompson