Publication Day!

Posted: August 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

Today’s the day that ‘City of Devils’ is finally out there for people to buy, read and I hope, enjoy. I walked to Blackwell’s bookshop yesterday afternoon for the beginning of the launch party and as I approached, there it was, beautifully displayed in the window and again in the shop itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited! Many thanks to all who came to the launch for both my book and fellow local author Will Sutton whose novel ‘Lawless and the Devils of Euston Square’ also comes out today. 

We sang, we read, prosecco and Pimms were served as well as some lovely themed nibbles and I think a good time was had by all. Manageress Jo West and her staff did us proud.

More thanks to all the people who supported me and helped in various ways to make this day happen – all at Orion, particularly Jemima Forrester, my lovely editor, my agent Luigi Bonomi and all at Good Housekeeping Magazine. (I’m in the Sept issue, out today, by the way.)

Time now to get on with novel number two – a sequel to ‘City of Devils’, ‘The Devil’s Daughters’, if I can get down from cloud nine for long enough! 





Diabolical Book Launch

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Tomorrow (July 31st) I am launching my novel ‘City of Devils’ at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Portsmouth. It is a joint launch with my fellow local author and ‘Victorian devil’ William Sutton whose book ‘Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square’ also comes out on Aug 1st. The launch will take place at 4.30 to 6.30 and will involve themed nibbles, fizz, books available for purchase (and signing) and some readings. So come along, meet Will and I
and join us in our celebration. Hope to see you there!

It was all so understated. No wigs, no bands, no grandstanding by the lawyers and yet it was still riveting. The Prosecutor did his job quietly, efficiently and oh so effectively. The Defence advocate provided us with an alternative suspect and cross examined him tenaciously in the hope of providing the jury with the reasonable doubt they needed to acquit.
But this was no courtroom drama in the traditional sense because the participants were real, as were the consequences. A man was on trial for the murder of his wife. There was no body so the evidence was circumstantial; but would it be enough to convict?
Despite the sober way in which this case was presented to us as an audience, there was still, to my mind, an element of voyeurism. This was put forward as an opportunity to witness the criminal courts in action but it was still edited in such a way as to provide entertainment and that felt wrong, somehow. The victim’s family were interviewed, their grief on show for us to watch. The daughter of both victim and the accused was asked about how she felt. It was clear she could not accept even the possibility of her father’s involvement in the death of her mother, and who could blame her?
Despite the claims that this was to educate and inform us, it was edited in such a way as to maximise its entertainment value. The question is whether or not that is acceptable.
There are moves afoot to televise trials in England. Again this is said to be for the sake of educating us about the legal system. But such programmes will require editing and that is where the problems may lie.
In the US there is sometimes live coverage but usually the material is edited so only the highlights are shown. There are interviews and commentaries which would not be permitted in this country due to the Contempt of Court Act. The question for us in the UK though is not so much how it would be done, but whether or not it should be done at all. Is it right to be ‘entertained’ by the plight of others? Are we just using education as a cover for our own prurience? These are the questions that need to be answered before trials appear on the television. Somehow I don’t think they will be.

Think that Fairy Tales are just for kids? Think again. Come and hear some of the up- dated variety performed by me and fellow local authors at this brilliant event this Friday July 12th at Grange Farm, Gosport.
Fairy tales don’t always end happily ever after!

I’ve just returned from a research trip to this fascinating city. (Thanks to Lesley Reeves at Southsea Travel for organising it.) Every time I go there I find something new to marvel at. Here are five ‘magical’ facts about the place that you may not be aware of.
One: The city forms part of two triangles: the white magic triangle with Lyon and Prague and the black magic version with London and San Francisco. In the novel there is one fairly obvious reference to this but I wonder if you can find the second one, hidden in the text.
Two: The city is reputed to be the location of the gates of Hell itself. They are said to be found beneath a statue (see the cover and the beginning of the book) located in the Piazza Statuto. Here, many years ago the Romans would execute their condemned and bury them. Later it was the site of Turin’s Gallows. In the novel…let’s just say they live up to their name for one person.
Three: Don’t tell Dan Brown but the Holy Grail is supposed to be buried in the city, beneath the Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio. In front of the Church can be found a couple of statues, Faith and Religion, which are said to be connected to the prophecies of one of the city’s famous former residents, Nostradamus.
Four: Not only can you find your way to Hell here but if you look carefully you can also find your way to infinity, the door to which is located beneath the Angelica Fountain in the Piazza Solferino.
Five: Another door – this time allegedly created by the Devil. This large wooden door with its ornate carvings can be found in the Via XX Settembre. It appeared overnight in 1675 and is said to be Satan’s own handiwork.
This is just a selection of spooky locations in this atmospheric city…but there are a whole host of other things. It really is a great place to visit.

So it’s done. The final edits are all but completed and the publication date of my first novel City of Devils (Aug 1) is not far away. I thought then that this was a good time to look back to how the novel started.

City of Devils Cover

As you may know, the book is a historical crime thriller set in the Northern Italian city of Turin in 1887. One of its main characters is a man called Cesare Lombroso, the world’s first criminologist. He was a quite remarkable character in many ways. It is true that he had some fairly controversial theories about criminals and their provenance, many of which have been largely discredited over the years, but he also promoted and popularised the study of crime which was, in the nineteenth century, as it is today, a subject close to the public’s heart. As a personality he was mercurial, forever curious and undoubtedly theatrical which made him into something of a celebrity.

All students of criminology, including my own, learn about Lombroso towards the beginning of their studies. One rainy Monday a few years ago I was discussing his work with my first year tutor group when one of them asked me whether or not Lombroso had ever investigated crimes. That question planted a seed in my mind that grew and grew. I realised that he would be a fascinating candidate for detective. What, I wondered, would Lombroso do if he did have to investigate a series of murders? Would he use his own theories and if so, how successful would they be? At the time I was fishing around for ideas for the final project in my MA in creative writing and this felt like a story and a character that I would enjoy working with – and so it has proved. The more I read about Lombroso and his world, the more intrigued I became. His interests were extremely varied, extending from the study of criminals and their physical and psychological characteristics which involved conducting experiments using all sorts of odd equipment (as featured in City of Devils) to more unusual aspects such as psychic investigation, hypnosis and spiritualism.

Learning more about Lombroso has been a fascinating experience,. But as you can probably tell there is much more to discover and share. So watch this space!

Writers to watch

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Last week I read from ‘City of Devils’ at the launch of the Writers to Watch Anthology, a collection of work from those who took part in 20×12 at last year’s Portsmouth Book Fest. Essentially 20 local authors performed their work for 12 minutes at Central and Southsea libraries. It was decided to put it all together in form of an anthology (available at Waterstones and Blackwells in Portsmouth) and the launch was on Thursday 7th March – appropriately enough World Book Day.


This was a very enjoyable experience, not just because it gave me a chance to perform (spot the frustrated actress on the right!) but also because I had the opportunity to listen to my fellow Portsmouth writers do likewise. They are an extremely talented bunch covering all sorts of genres – from Victorian crime to teen and children’s fiction, history, monologues and fabulous poetry. Will Sutton, Matt Wingett, Charlotte Comley, Zella Compton, James Schillemore, Richard Williams, Maggie Sawkins, Amber Dodd and Gareth Toms (and me of course) all did readings at Old Portsmouth’s Square Tower – probably one of the most atmospheric venues in the city and beyond.
We all met at a Re-Authoring workshop which taught us how to lower our inhibitions and take the usual author’s reading just that little bit further. It seems to have paid off! Our audience were very appreciative – so thanks to them for coming out on a wet and windy night.
On Saturday some of us did a repeat performance at a Charity Book Swap at South Harting primary school in aid of the Ben Williams Trust – a great cause – take a look at their website for details
It was a fantastic day – books everywhere, coffee, cake and some wonderful stories in a competition for young writers as well as our readings – what more could you ask?
Anyway thanks to all involved in organising both of these occasions – hopefully the first of many.