The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Hello Book Lover,

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of Richard Osman’s debut novel with you as part of the audio book tour in association with Penguin and Audible. There has been much excitement about this book on social media over the past few months, so I was delighted when Chloe offered me a place on the tour, along with an audio copy of the book for review purposes.

So, what’s it all about?

I can honestly say that I have never read such a warm and up-lifting book about murder! Richard Osman has completely knocked it out of the park with this book. Most of us will know him from his hosting of the TV show Pointless, but he can now add the term novelist to his biography – and it won’t be long before adjectives like ‘successful’ and ‘chart-topping’ precede the word, novelist. This book will be huge.

Set in the retirement village of Coopers Chase near the south coast, The Thursday Murder Club comprises four elderly residents: Joyce, Ibrahim, Elizabeth and Ron. Joyce is new to the group, replacing Penny – a retired police officer who kept photocopies of unsolved murders after leaving the force. The club’s aim is to close the open cases, while eating cake and drinking tea – and occasionally enjoying the odd tipple.

The foursome are all from different backgrounds, both professionally and socially, and they each bring their own energies and qualities to the club. Things really become interesting, however, when the Thursday Murder Club find themselves with a real murder on their hands.

This is a book I will be buying as gifts for everyone, and recommending to anyone who needs an uplifting escape. Osman has created the most wonderfully believable and fabulous characters, not only in the central four, but in the entire cast. Because the characters are so good, I incorrectly assumed that the plot would be straight forward. Boy was I wrong! This plot twists and turns and takes you in unexpected directions.

Osman writes with total respect for the elderly. In Coopers Chase, minds are tac-sharp, even if bodies are beginning to fail. His observations on life are so tender and humorous without ever being at the expense of his characters.

As you progress through the story, you find out snippets about the often accomplished lives of Ron, Joyce, Ibrahim and Elizabeth. I have deliberately not given you a run-down on each of them, as I want you to discover and fall in love with them the same way that I did.

Osman will probably make you think about retirement homes in a very different way. I definitely hope to end up somewhere like Coopers Chase. I LOVED this book. I cannot wait for the next installment.

The Thursday Murder Club has definitely earned its place on my list of favourites for the year. Without a doubt, it is the most uplifting and heart-warming book I have read in a very long time – and let’s be honest, we all need these warm experiences this year!

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

P.S.

You can listen to a sample chapter on Audible by clicking here.

If you listen to the audio book via Audible, when you get to the end, there’s a very lovely conversation between Marian Keyes and Richard about the novel and his experience of writing and creating this new and wonderful fictional world. I did squeal when I heard that there will be a sequal with all of the characters who survive book one! This interview contains spoilers, so definitely listen after you have experienced the book!

If I haven’t convinced you to get your hands on The Thursday Murder Club, perhaps these bloggers can:

Finish Your Book by Lizzie Enfield

I am absolutely the target market for this book, and I suspect that if you are reading this, you are too. Maybe you have novel ideas and have started drafting, or you have a half-finished book sitting somewhere on your computer. If that sounds like you, then read on – you need this book!

Lizzie Enfield knows what she is talking about. She is a journalist, short story writer and has published four novels. This brilliant little book is full of practical suggestions for pushing through the doubt and deliberation to complete your novel.

Most aspiring writers begin with such enthusiasm and excitement, but loose the plot (!) half way though. I identified so much with many of Lizzie’s stories and anecdotes about aspiring student writers or friends of hers whose aim it is to write a novel. I have read a lot of books about writing and how to write ( it’s actually one of my distraction techniques) however, I do think this book has an edge over others I have read. Lizzie advocates that there are no rules when writing, and that each writer needs to find their own way, and what works best for them in their circumstances, but there is also a lot of sensible advice that I needed to hear, along with a range of ideas and suggestions that will help to suit you, whatever your circumstance.

At 72 pages, it’s a short book. I read it along with a notebook, and used it to make notes about my own unfinished book. It has driven me back to my lap top, and made excited about finishing my novel.

Thank you to Emma Dowson for a PDF of this book for review purposes, and thanks to Lizzie Enfield for putting the fire back in me.

Finish Your Book is available as an ebook or as a paperback from all the usual places.

20 Books of Summer 20

Hello Book Lover,

The 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is the brainchild of Cathy746, and one I am attracted to. I suspected upon signing up that I might not stick to the original list I set out to read. Why? I am a massive book magpie, and inevitably, my eyes light up when Book Twitter or insta introduces me to a MUST read – or at least, I convince myself it’s a MUST read and that I NEED it! I am also lucky to get invited to take part in blog tours, and often these books weave their way into your TBR.

Did that happen this year? Absolutely! I feel like I have cheated on the original list of 20, but I don’t feel any remorse! I’ve loved my summer reads. By taking part in the challenge, I have addressed the problem all book worms share – the TBR, so it has all ended well. I managed 24 complete books, 5 audio books and I am still reading (and enjoying) one rather large book from the list. I bet you can predict which one from glancing below at the original photo! 14 of my reads were from the original list.

So, this is the stack I originally posted at the beginning of June 2020.

For most, I have done mini reviews on instagram or on my blog, and I also have a few pending. I adore audio books and always have one on the go (I adore being read to!) I have added the audios to the end of the list.

Here it is, my summer reading list of 2020.

  1. True Story by Kate Reed Petty
  2. Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  3. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting – I enjoyed this books but did not love it. It ‘s a fascinating story of a family mystery and while the writing was beautiful, it was a bit long.
  4. The British Short Story 2019, edited by Nicholas Roche.
  5. Common People, an anthology of working class writers, edited by Kit de Waal. I have been dipping in and out of this book for many months, and absolutely love it. I have used it as a spring board to discover so many new and new-to-me authors. There are some old favourites in there too. It’s one I know I will continue to return to, and re-read.
  6. Walter & Florence and other Stories, by Susan Hill.
  7. Black Car Burning by Helen Mort.
  8. The Thing About December by Donal Ryan
  9. Europa 28 by Comma Press
  10. Sisters by Daisy Johnson A wonderfully unsettling book. I will post my review on instagram in the next day or so.
  11. Heaven My Home by Attika Locke
  12. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I am probably going to get lynched for this opinion, but I didn’t really enjoy this book…I know! I feel like a pariah in the book community! It was my first Shirley Jackson, and I have The Haunting of Hill House on my book shelf, so I won’t throw in the towel with her yet.
  13. The Innocents by Michael Crummey
  14. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
  15. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  16. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor
  17. Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver
  18. The Sound Mirror by Heidi James
  19. Shatlia Stories
  20. Homecoming by Luan Goldie
  21. Outsiders, a short anthology, published by 3 Cups Press
  22. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
  23. Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly
  24. Shuggie Bain – review to follow. Have just finished this. It really did not appeal to me when I initially read about it, but I trusted the champion bloggers on Bookish Twitter, and I have fallen in love with it. It’s so bleak yet beautiful.
  25. Ducks Newburyport*** by Lucy Ellmann I have not finished this 1000 page book, but I have made a good start (300+ pages) I find its size daunting, but deal with it by setting myself targets of a certain number of pages each week. I am enjoying it. It is very thought provoking and I do really like the narrator. Once you find the rhythm of the words, it tips along nicely.

Audio books

Bad Love by Maame Blue

Far From The Tree by Rob Parker

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – an amazing an unforgettable book, based on the lives of 3 separate and very different women living in the US. It’s so honest and visceral and absolutely attention grabbing. I highly recommend it.

Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie. I adored this book. It’s about a horrific accident which involved a plane crashing into a tower block in the East End of London. It focuses in on the lives of a few of the different characters who live there, and tracks their lives immediately before, during and after the disaster. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I am on the audio blog tour for this in September. You are in for such a treat when this is released. It is SUCH a wonderful book, and contained some of my favourite EVER fictional characters. I shrieked with excitement when I heard that there will be a book 2, featuring the same wonderful cast. Review to be posted in September.

Have you read any of these? Did you take part in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge?

Leave me a comment below.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Homecoming by Luan Goldie

Hello Book Lover,

Welcome to my stop on the Homecoming blog tour with Harper Collins. This is the second novel by Luan; her first, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize earlier this year (if you haven’t read it yet, I can also recommend it as it is fabulous.) Thanks to Harper Collins for my place on this tour, and for my copy of the ebook.

So, what’s it all about?

Set between London and Kenya, this novel spans two time periods in the lives of the characters. In the first, Emma and Evelyn are house mates and best friends, nearing the end of their time at university in London in the early noughties. Emma meets and falls for Lewis. Things become awkward when Evelyn bumps into Lewis in their shared kitchen one morning – they have history. Should she tell Emma or keep quiet?

Eighteen years later, we know that Emma is no longer around, and that her son, Kiama has tracked Evelyn down and appealed to her to travel to Kenya with him so that he can try to put the ghosts of the past to rest. He needs to try to make sense of what happened to his mother. Evelyn disappeared from Kiama’s life around the same time that Emma did, but he knows that she was her closest friend; the person who knew her best in the world.

Evelyn has her own motives for accepting this proposal, and somewhat reluctantly agrees to accompany him.

As we all know, raking up the past will undoubtedly impact on the present, and this is what happens in this book as we delve deeper into Emma history, and the secret that threatened everything.

This is a compelling read which I devoured. I loved the characters and the story, and it’s a book that will be on the top of my recommends when people say, “Have you read anything good recently?”

About the author

Luan Goldie was born in Glasgow but has lived in East London for most of her life. She is a primary school teacher, and formerly a business journalist. She is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2017 for her story ‘Two Steak Bakes and Two Chelsea Buns’. Her short stories have also been long and short listed by Spread the Word and the Grazia/Women’s Prize First Chapter competition. Nightingale Point is her debut novel.

Black Car Burning by Helen Mort

Hello Book Lover,

Black Car Burning is the first novel by Helen Mort, well-respected poet and short story writer based in Sheffield. It was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize earlier this year.

I love books set in the North, and was initially drawn to this one for its location. I have huge soft spot for Sheffield: I live about 20 miles away, and it is one of my ‘go to’ places. I love the people, the vibe, the shops and restaurants – it’s a small city with a huge heart. I also love driving though the city, and out to The Peak. I’m just a rambler, but am always transfixed when I witness the climbers take to the rock.

So, what’s it all about?

Black Car Burning is essentially a love letter to Sheffield and it’s climbing community out in The Peak District. Told from multiple perspectives, we learn more about the lives of a group of climbers, and the deep and lingering shadow cast by the Hillsborough disaster.

Caron is a climber. She has become obsessed with a difficult route known as Black Car Burning in The Peak. Her fixation pushes her away from her girlfriend, Alexa.

Alexa is a PCSO who is increasingly disillusioned with her job. Her mental health begins to suffer as her girlfriend, Caron, becomes increasingly distant. She finds herself thinking more about her estranged father and the chasm between them.

Leigh works in a climbing shop which Caron frequents. They become involved and Leigh is pulled into Caron’s life and her obsession.

An unnamed ex-police officer relives the trauma of the Hillsborough disaster.

And Sheffield…there are the most wonderful sections narrated by different parts of the city, extending out to The Peak.

Essentially, Black Car Burning it is about trust – trust in your climbing partner, your lovers, your mind. I absolutely loved it, and know it’s one I will return to in the future.

Five stars from me!

Thank for reading,

Emma x

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Welcome to day one of this Random Things blog tour for The Innocents by Michael Crummey, published by No Exit press. Crummey is a Canadian poet, short story writer and novelist from Newfoundland, and this book has already been published across the pond where it has received rave reviews, been nominated for 3 prestigious awards and had a superb endorsement from Emma Donoghue, among others. That said, this is my first book by Crummey. I was intrigued by the blurb and decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did! Thanks to Anne for my place on the tour, and to No Exit for my ARC.

The Innocents was inspired by a story the author found in a local archive about an orphaned brother and sister in 18th century Canada – the sister was pregnant, her brother assumed to be the father.

From that one sentence, Crummey has created a whole world, focused around a brother and sister.

Ada and Evered are two orphaned children living in an isolated cove along the Newfoundland coast. Their parents and younger sister, Martha, all die within 6 months of each other, leaving the siblings to fend for themselves. Ava and Evered are truly alone.

“The cove was the heart and sum of all creation in their eyes and they were alone there with the little knowledge of the world passed on haphazard and gleaned by chance.”

They know enough to keep themselves going from having helped their parents with their chores, Ava even assisted in delivering her sister, Martha. After the passing of their parents, the pair are desperate to remain in their home and need to throw body and soul into fishing the icy seas and foraging in the woods behind their shack in order to do so.

The Innocents is a story of survival and discovery which takes place in a location far removed from the rest of the world. Ada and Evered are innocents, navigating the harshness of their environment with little and often inaccurate understanding of the wider world.

“The list of Christian names Ada knew was short and all were gleaned from the handful of wayward Bible stories her mother had misremembered from her earliest years without church or priest to correct them.”

Crummey’s choice of words is exquisite and evocative. I felt as though I was transported back in time and given a window onto an outpost existence. I loved the exploration of the lives of the siblings: the impact of changes they experienced both in terms of visitors to their cove and the internal changes they experienced as they grew up, and how they coped given their limited knowledge of the world. At times dark and uncomfortable then heart-breaking and tender, this is a beautifully written, atmospheric novel which I know will linger in my heart for a long time.

Emma Donoghue and Michael Crummey will be discussing their new novels writer and journalist with Erica Wagner. 27 Aug @ 8.15pm

Register for free: http://bit.ly/in-convo-crummey-donoghue-wagner…

Scroll down for details of the stops on the rest of the blog tours, as well as the synopsis and endorsements.

Synopsis & Endorsements:

Richly imagined and compulsively readable, The Innocents is a riveting story of hardship and survival, and an unflinching exploration of the bond between siblings.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE GILLER PRIZE, THE GOVERNOR GENERAL’S PRIZE, AND THE ROGER’S WRITER’S TRUST FICTION AWARD

In centuries past, a brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated outport cove on Newfoundland’s northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean and a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but their family’s boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to help them survive.

Muddling through the severe round of the seasons, through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.

‘A gripping and credible page-turner about children surviving in the wilderness, but more than that: this Adam and Eve struggle to make sense of a world that’s somewhere between Eden and Hell. Michael Crummey writes like an avenging angel, never putting a word wrong’ – Emma Donoghue, author of Room

‘An extraordinary novel, emotionally precise, vivid in its portrayal of nature, and subtle in its exploration of the relationship between life and story’ – Wall Street Journal

‘In The Innocents, Mr Crummey, a Newfoundland native, captures in hypnotic prose the force of the driving sea and the ways of a beautiful, barren place where Evered and Ada are cast adrift’ – The Economist

‘Imagine Into the Wild with prepubescents, told in the voice of a William Blake acolyte as verbally inventive as Tolkien… The Innocents is a survivor narrative and a psychological thriller, a chilling study in isolation’ – Vulture

About the author

Michale Crummey was born in Buchans, a mining town in the interior of Newfoundland, growing up there and in western Labrador. After thirteen years in self-imposed exile in Ontario, he moved home to Newfoundland in 2000. He is the author of five books of poetry, a book of short stories, and four other celebrated novels, including the Giller prize-nominated River Thieves. He lives in St. John’s.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Hello Book Lover,

Let me confess something. I was offered a place on the Evie blog tour, but I turned it down, even though it sounded amazing. At the time, I was a bit overwhelmed at the amount of books I had already committed to reading. And I regretted it instantly. Evie felt like the one that got away. When the reviews came out, I knew I had made a huge mistake, and set about rectifying it by ordering myself a beautiful hardback from Bert’s, which arrived with scarlet ribbon! (Caroline would approve!)

So, what’s it all about?

It’s the summer of ‘62, and Evie Epworth, Yorkshire lass, has just finished her O’ Levels. The future is uncertain for her, and she spends a lot of time thinking about the sort of Woman she would like to become. Everyone has an opinion, apart from Evie. Her father has become involved with their housekeeper, vile Christine, who has moved into their farmhouse, and is intent on destroying it, and replacing everything with the contents of British Home Stores.

While Christine tries to take control of Evie’s home and her future, Evie needs to fight back, and does so with a whole host of wonderful friends and neighbours.

This book is a tonic. I don’t usually laugh out loud at books, but I did with this. Numerous times. I found myself reading passages aloud to my husband (and I don’t often do that) and we enjoyed discussing many of the Yorkshire-isms I came across (I married a Yorkshire man, and have lived in God’s Own County for almost 20 years, but sometimes the language still puzzles me!

If you’re in the mood for a book which is funny, down to earth and no nonsense, I strongly recommend you grab yourself a copy. Evie is a fabulous character, and her supporting cast are equally charming and wonderful. I bloomin’ well LOVED it😍

Out now and available in all good book shops.

Picture taken at Cayton Bay, on the Yorkshire coast. (Scarborough in the distance)

Far From The Tree by Rob Parker

Hello Book Lover,

Welcome to my stop on the Audible blog tour for Far From the Tree by Rob Parker, organised by Midas PR. I have always loved crime fiction – especially a police procedural – and I find I have been more drawn to this genre recently. Apparently, I am not alone. Figures show that book sales soared during lock down, and that crime fiction has seen a particular boost. I’m not really sure what that says about us, but books like this are providing a total escape right now.

So what’s it all about?

Gritty and northern, are two words that spring to mind when describing this book. Rob Parker takes us on a dark journey to the underbelly of the north west, where we encounter the handiwork of organised crime gangs in Warrington, Liverpool and Manchester.

DS Brendan Foley has risen rather quickly up the ranks. He is focused, determined and dedicated to his career. When a mass grave containing 27 bodies is discovered on the edge of Warrington, he is champing at the bit to make his mark with this huge case which has attracted nationwide interest. However, Brendan quickly discovers that one of the bodies in the grave is that of a close family member. The situation becomes complicated and he struggles to separate the professional and private. He is forced to take a leave of absence. But he can’t stay out of this. It’s personal.

Foley’s trusted colleague, Iona Maddison, will keep him in the loop – he hopes. Like him, she is dedicated to her career – but can she risk everything for Foley?

This novel will take you along on a twisting road where criminal gangs and corrupt police officers intersect at every junction. It shows the terrifying hold and power of the drug lords, and how little the loss of life means to them.

How will Foley and Maddison solve the case of the Warrington 27?

This is a gripping tale which is sure to delight fans of the genre. Far From The Tree is book one in a new series which will feature Brendan Foley – I can’t wait for book two!

Thank you to Amber Choudhray for my place on this blog tour, and for my audio copy of the book for review purposes. Scroll down for the official synopsis, along with details of the other great bloggers reviewing, and the author, Rob Parker.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Synopsis:

Brendan Foley has worked to balance the responsibilities of a demanding job and a troublesome family. He’s managed to keep these two worlds separate, until the discovery of a mass grave sends them into a headlong collision. When one of the dead turns out to be a familiar face, he’s taken off the case. 

Iona Madison keeps everything under control. She works hard as a detective sergeant and trains harder as a boxer. But when her superior, DI Foley, is removed from the case, her certainties are tested like never before. 

With stories of the Warrington 27 plastered over the news, they set out to solve the crime before anyone else. The local constabulary is small and under-funded – Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, and he’s not letting a rival force take over. Not with the secrets he fears are lurking. Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases. 

But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why? Foley might not like the answer…. 

About Rob Parker

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in a village near Manchester. The author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black, Till Morning Is Nigh and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow, he enjoys a rural life on an old pig farm (now minus pigs), writing horrible things between school runs.

He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK – while boxing regularly for charity. Passionate about inspiring a love of the written word in young people, he spends a lot of time in schools across the North West, encouraging literacy, story-telling, creative-writing and how good old fashioned hard work tends to help good things happen.

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Available now in hardback and on e-readers

Hello book lovers,

I’m delighted to be kicking off this blog tour for Set My Heart To Five with a Q&A session with Hollywood screenwriter and Scottish author Simon Stephenson on his debut novel Set My Heart To Five, soon to be a major motion picture.

Set in 2054, when humans have locked themselves out of the internet by forgetting the names of their favourite teacher and first pet, Simon Stephenson’s dazzling debut, Set My Heart to Five, is a hilarious, touching, strikingly perceptive story of the emotional awakening of an android named Jared, and a profound exploration of what it truly means to be human.

Born in Scotland and now living and working in LA as a writer, Simon Stephenson is a former NHS doctor who worked in paediatrics. His memoir Let Not the Waves of the Sea about his brother being killed in a tsunami was a highly acclaimed award winner. He spent two years writing at Pixar in San Francisco and originated and wrote Amazon’s forthcoming feature film LOUIS WAIN (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy). Julia Roberts is also attached to his screenplay TRAIN MAN.

Simon, welcome to my blog and congratulations on the publication of your first novel. What kind of reading experience can we expect from Set My Heart to Five?
With Set My Heart To Five I set myself an ambitious goal: I wanted to give the reader the same
kind of experience I got from watching the kind of movies that Jared, our android narrator, falls in love with – movies like Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and Field of Dreams. In other words, I wanted to make readers laugh and cry as I took them on an exciting, funny and emotional journey through a different world, and to have that journey culminate in the precious human experience of catharsis. I will of course let you and your readers be the judge of whether or not I have been successful!


What was your inspiration for the novel?
Inspiration for me often tends to come from the fusion of several experiences, and Set My Heart To Five was no exception. I had the idea for Set My Heart To Five when I was living in the Bay Area, a place where the future feels imminent because every second person you meet seems to have some terrifying start-up company to pitch you that invariably involves AI stealing somebody’s job. My own day job at the time was writing a movie for a studio famed for the profound emotional experience of their films, and so I also spent a lot of time each day thinking about what it is in art and – especially film – that makes humans feel.
On the most personal level, Jared is quite a lonely and awkward android, and these two things exacerbate each other: he desperately wants to be a part of things, but never quite feels he knows the right thing to say. I think many of us humans are not unfamiliar such these feelings, and certainly a lot of that stuff draws from my own experiences.

Your first book was a memoir. How different did you find writing a novel set in the future?
Let Not The Waves Of The Sea was about losing my brother, so Set My Heart To Five was undoubtedly a lot more fun to write. That said, once you actually get down to it, the act of writing never feels so very different. It takes the same things – patience, determination, coffee – and that eternal determination to get to the end of the current draft and start in again on the next one.
In terms of the specific challenge of writing about the future, I inadvertently made things easy for myself by setting the book in a 2054 that is a combination of the old and the new.
The background to the world of Set My Heart To Five book is that in 2037 we in the western world accidentally locked ourselves out of the internet by forgetting the names of our favourite teachers and first pets. As such, by 2054 we no longer have things like airplanes – they all fell from the sky on the day of the Great Crash, and the ongoing lawsuits have prevented any recovery – but do have androids, because of course China was not silly enough to have locked itself out of the internet. This set-up gave me leeway to concentrate on the more funny and absurd elements of the future, such as the fact that there is no longer a moon because Elon Musk incinerated it in a ‘hilarious’ prank.

Can you tell us about your journey from medicine to becoming an author?
I was the kid who had read my way through the entire children’s section of the library by the time I was eight, and so of course I was always scribbling out little stories along the way. But I always enjoyed the sciences too, so I hedged my bets in high school and when it came time to go to university, the choice was between studying English or Medicine. I chose medicine, possibly not unrelated to the fact that I loved the television show ER. (A smarter kid than I may have realised they were drawn to the incredible storytelling and not the hospital precinct itself.)
It was in medical school that I really started to write, I think in part because the leftover part of my brain needed a workout. I began to have a little success in short story competitions and so forth, and when I was twenty-four I took what was intended to be six months out of medicine to complete the great book of literary short stories by me that the world desperately needed at that point. Mercifully, nobody wanted to publish them – because if they had, I am sure we wouldn’t be having this conversation now – but one of them was made in to a short film, and that opened up some doors in the screenwriting world.
For many years – and through various life events – I bounced back and forth between writing and medicine, before finally becoming a full time writer seven or eight years ago. I still miss so many things about medicine – mainly the people, my colleagues and the patients – and regularly harangue my medical friends for updates from that world.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
This depends on the day! On good days, when the words are flowing, writing can feel like gliding down a frozen river on ice skates. On bad days, I am in that river, floundering in the icy water and shouting to the people on the bank who cannot hear me. Most days, I am somewhere in between.


Are you a disciplined writer?
Alas, I think there isn’t another way. Elizabeth Gilbert has a great TED Talk about the job of a writer being to simply show up to one’s desk every morning – regardless of how ‘inspired’ one is feeling – and I wholeheartedly subscribe to her view.
In this regard, there are two concepts I love. One is the German concept of ‘Sitzfleisch’, which translates as ‘siting flesh’ and, as I understand it, means ‘staying power’, the ability to keep persevering. I think this, perhaps almost as much as anything on the creative side, might be the key requirement to writing a book. (Jared, the narrator of Set My Heart To Five is a big fan of the German word and feeling ‘Schadenfraude’, so he would no doubt appreciate this.)

The other idea is the old Hemingway quote that ‘The only kind of writing is rewriting’. I subscribe wholeheartedly to this view, and screenwriting – which often involves multiple rewrites over a period of years – is great training for this.

Who is your favourite author/s?
My favourite writer working today is probably Jennifer Egan. ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’ remains the first book I recommend to friends, but her range is incredible, and her newest ‘Manhattan Beach’ is yet another triumph. In terms of writers from the past, I have always adored John Steinbeck. I am drawn back over and again to his work, and find something new at every turn.

Your book is being turned into a film. Are you involved in this process?
Yes! I have written the screenplay. I should caution that I’ve been around the film world long enough never to get too excited until the cameras are physically rolling, but the process so far has been a dream come true.

How have you been spending lock down?
As a writer who works from home, my lockdown life has not been so different from my usual routine of writing, reading, cycling and daydreaming.  I did sign up as a volunteer to go back to medicine but so far nobody has needed my services, which is probably for the best all round as I have been out of practice for a while now.  

Simon, thank you so much for answering my questions. It’s been so interesting chatting and learning about you and your writing process.

Set My Heart to Five is out now, and available in all good book shops, or online.

You can follow the blog tour with Midas PR through to the end of July – check out the reviews, guest posts and extracts.

Thanks for reading & take care,

Emma x

About the author:

Simon Stephenson is a Scottish writer based in Los Angeles.  He previously worked as an NHS doctor, most recently in paediatrics in London.  

His first book, LET NOT THE WAVES OF THE SEA (John Murrays, 2011), was a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 and won ‘Best First Book’ at the Scottish Book Awards.

Simon moved to the US followed the success of his spec screenplay, FRISCO, a semi-autobiographical story about a depressed doctor who desperately needed a change.  The script was at the top of the Blacklist – an industry-voted list of Hollywood’s favourite unproduced scripts – and opened the door to a screenwriting career in the US.  In 2015, Simon was photographed alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’.  His friends never tire of telling him that Screen International were at least half right.   

As a screenwriter, Simon nonetheless continues to be much in demand on both sides of the Atlantic.  He spent two years writing at Pixar in San Francisco, and originated and wrote Amazon’s forthcoming feature film LOUIS WAIN (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy). Julia Roberts attached to his screenplay TRAIN MAN, and the film rights to SET MY HEART TO FIVE were pre-emptively acquired by Working Title Films, Focus Features, and Nira Park’s Complete Fiction Pictures. Edgar Wright is set to direct the film from Simon’s screenplay. 

One of Simon’s most memorable moments from his time in Hollywood was taking a meeting with an actor he admired most, and then having said actor kindly insist on driving Simon home in his distinctive vintage Porsche while telling him about his mind-blowing stories about his canonical body of work.  As a token of thanks, Simon then gave that car to the villain in Set My Heart To Five!

Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver

Publisher: Orenda

Published: in paperback August 2020

Available now on e-reader. Signed and numbered hard back editions available from Goldsboro books.

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Hello book lover,

I’m delighted to be kicking off this #RandomThings blog tour for Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver. This is the third of Carver’s books featuring DS Pace (Good Samaritans and Nothing Important Happened Here Today being the previous two), but don’t be put off if you haven’t read the previous two because it works completely as a stand alone. I am new to the Will Carver party, but I’m very aware of the excitement and respect he inspires in the literary world. I knew I was missing out, so jumped at the chance to read and review Hinton Hollow. I will warn you that in picking up this novel, you are in for a dark yet truly original reading experience!

So, what’s it all about?

In a world where mediocrity is deemed enough, where doing what is expected is judged to be ‘going above and beyond’, where standards have dropped and people are generally disappointing, evil needs to work hard to make its presence felt.

This novel is crime thriller like no other, in that it is narrated from the point of view of evil. Evil has been around since time began – we are aware of the major historical events where he has made his presence felt. Now, Evil follows DC Pace from London to Hinton Hollow – his home town – immediately after the end of Nothing Important Happened Here Today. Is Pace the curse that brought the malevolent presence to the town? Can he provide the cure?

Over the course of five days, Evil transforms this sleepy idyll into a place of nightmares. For some, Evil simply brushes through their lives, a dark malevolent cloud inflicting disturbing sensations on the inhabitants of the town; for others, Evil encourages them to act out of character, break their marriage vows, make bad decisions; but for one ‘ordinary man’, it transforms him into a killer on a spree, someone who devastates families, friends and neighbours. Hinton Hollow will never be the same again.

Evil’s omniscient narration cautions us on our life choices, explains and excuses his own actions, and allows us to see each death or wrong doing from multiple viewpoints, giving the reader a comprehensive picture of events over the course of five days. It’s a roller coaster ride which will provide some moments of calm between the highs and lows. You will meet many characters along the way, good and bad. Evil, however, makes no distinction between them. Nor is he the perpetrator. Evil simply plants ideas, whispers suggestions, prods, instigates. It is the people of Hinton Hollow who follow through with the actions.

This is how evil works. I just have to get you started. What you do with that feeling is entirely down to you.

Here is a book which will really make you think about the human condition, will make you examine your views and responses to events. It is truly original and brilliant, and will undoubtedly appeal to fans of crime or thrillers. I absolutely loved it, and I am certainly going to check out Carver’s previous DC Pace novels – but I may need a recovery period from the Hinton Hollow experience!

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for my place on this Random Things blog tour and for my e-copy of the book for review purposes. Scroll down for the official synopsis, along with details of the brilliant bloggers reviewing on the tour and for information about the author.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Synopsis:

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.

Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.

Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow. Because something was coming.

Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.

Making them cheat.

Making them steal.

Making them kill.

Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to home to escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.

Hinton Hollow is an in-depth look at the small town over the course of five days- in which it’s transformed from a sleepy idyll to a place of horror.

Pace returns from London (you may be acquainted with him if you’ve read Carver’s two previous novels in this series) for a sabbatical – a working break from the previous case where…not expecting to walk into the situation he meets. He is home, but without a home. Has evil followed him? Is he the curse…and the cure?

About Will Carver:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.