Book Review – Sleepless, Louise Mumford

Back in February I was able to host Louise Mumford in my crime author month, and she introduced us to her novel “Sleepless”. I’m glad to say I have finally got round to reading it.

Here’s my review.

Thea crashes her car, probably due to a microsleep. Thea is a woman who doesn’t sleep much, most of us can relate to that, but for Thea this isn’t a temporary difficulty, it’s a long term, seemingly never-ending situation.  So when she gets a chance to be included on a sleep trial, she jumps at it. It is literally a jump from the frying pan into the fire.
There are lots of wonderful elements in this book, Louise Mumford brings the characters to life in a difficult situation so that even the darkness is readable.  It is an interesting exploration of the way that we convince ourselves that our worries are nothing to worry about, even when they are.

My favourite exchange was:
Thea: The man is a creep. 
Rory: The world is full of them, can’t knee them all in the balls.

Louise – we can try. But honestly, I’d sooner recommend reading “Sleepless”, wonderful book.


Previous interview: Louise Mumford

Booklink: Sleepless





Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed. Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

In the summer of 2019 Louise was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head.

Red for Right by GB Williams — Crime Cymru

In our How I Write series, our Crime Cymru authors share their insights into the writing process. This week, GB Williams talks about the importance of editing and of working with a good editor. Red for Right Every reader, and every good author, knows that good editing is as vital as good writing.  Writing starts […]

Red for Right by GB Williams — Crime Cymru

Competition News

Today I’m sharing some news about a new writing competition.

No photo description available.

It’s not exactly hard to find out that I’m a proud member of Crime Cymru.  The aims of the organisation are:

  • To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales
  • To help in the development of new writing talent
  • To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.

In support of these goal, the Gwobr Nofel Gyntaf Crime Cymru First Novel Prize has been created to identify, support and promote new crime writing talent from Wales. The Prize Committee consists of Katherine Stansfield, Alison Layland, Alis Hawkins and Jacky Collins. 

The prize has a similar structure to the Welsh Book of the Year, with two categories: Welsh language entries and English language entries. There will be two winners, one in each language category. For each language category there are separate judges and individual prizes. The competition is free to enter and has some fantastic prizes on offer:

  • There will be a Welsh-language winner and an English-language winner. Each winner will receive a four-night stay at Literature Wales’ Nant Writers’ Retreat Cottage, located within the grounds of Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd. The two winning writers will also be offered mentoring from Crime Cymru writers, to be undertaken in their choice of Welsh or English.
  • There will be two shortlisted writers in each language category. The prize for the shortlisted authors is a ‘book bundle’ comprising work by Crime Cymru authors, the titles of which will be determined by Crime Cymru. In addition, we hope that being shortlisting in a prestigious new prize will be useful in seeking publication in the future.
  • Both our winners and shortlisted writers will be awarded a complimentary festival pass to our in-person crime writing festival in Aberystwyth in 2022 where they’ll have the opportunity to meet a host of the UK’s top crime writers as well as industry professionals from the world of publishing.

Here are the key details you need to know:

  • The competition opened on 23 April 2021
  • The competition closes on 3 September 2021
  • The prize is open to writers currently living in Wales.
  • This is a first novel prize. To enter, you must not have previously published a novel, either traditionally or self-published. Writers who have published a book in forms other than novels (e.g. a poetry or short story collection, creative non-fiction) can enter.
  • The submitted novels do not have to have a Welsh setting or theme but they do have to be crime novels. For the purposes of the competition this definition is broad, including (but not limited to) detective novels, mysteries, thrillers, psychological thrillers. For a guide to the expansiveness of the genre, take a look at the scope of crime writing produced by members of Crime Cymru.
  • Entries should be the first 5,000 words of a crime novel plus a one-page synopsis which outlines the full plot of the novel. The novel does not have to be complete at the time of entry.

The people you need to impress are:

Top row, left to right: Jon Gower, Sian Northey, Gwen Davies. Bottom row, left to right: Clare Mackintosh, Awais Khan, Peter Buckman. Image credits: Gwen Davies’ photograph – Jessica Raby; Clare Mackintosh’s photograph – Charlie Hopkinson.

Useful Links
Crime Cymru
Wales Arts Review Article on the prize

So if you want to be one of the first winners of this new prize, get writing and I wish you all the best of luck.

New Crime Writing Festival

The UK has many parts, and it has many literature festivals.  Many, many of these are crime festivals.  They’re everywhere right?

Wrong.

Wales hasn’t had a festival devoted to crime literature – until now.

Crime Cymru was founded in 2017 by Alis Hawkins, Matt Johnson and Rosie Claverton. The group is all about supporting and promoting Welsh crime writing and Welsh crime writers.

I joined Crime Cymru in 2018 and the group is growing all the time and right now, we are working on putting together Wales’ first international crime fiction festival Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival. The inaugural three-day festival will take place on the early May Bank Holiday weekend (29th April – 2nd May) in the lovely West Wales coastal resort and university town of Aberystwyth.

But in the mean time we’re running the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, we’ll be holding a free, digital festival this year – Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol. This live Zoom-based festival (April 26th – May 3rd) will introduce people from all over the UK/the world to the brilliant crime writing talent we have in Wales, as well as showcasing some of UK crime fiction’s household names. And, during our digi-fest, we’ll be doing our bit to support those who support us – booksellers. Each of Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol’s events will be partnered by a bookshop from which we’ll be encouraging audience members to order panel members’ books if they’ve been excited by what they’ve heard.

Gwyl Crime Cymru Festival

But in the mean time we’re running the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, we’ll be holding a free, digital festival this year – Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol. This live Zoom-based festival (April 26th – May 3rd) will introduce people from all over the UK/the world to the brilliant crime writing talent we have in Wales, as well as showcasing some of UK crime fiction’s household names. And, during our digi-fest, we’ll be doing our bit to support those who support us – booksellers. Each of Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol’s events will be partnered by a bookshop from which we’ll be encouraging audience members to order panel members’ books if they’ve been excited by what they’ve heard.

I’m honoured to be part of this, more so to be in event number 1 inn which Crime Cymru associate member, Amy Williams interviews CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Martin Edwards, award-winning Swansea author, Cathy Ace and me about our very different approaches to crime fiction. The event is supported by Swansea based bookshop Cover to Cover.

More importantly – the events are FREE!

All you have to do is register via Eventbrite and you’ll be able to join these events live.

For more information here are some links that you may want to check out:
Crime Cymru
Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU
Eventbrite
Cover to Cover Bookshop

Four Thoughts on Research for Writing

Writing historical fiction requires a lot of research, but it’s not just historical authors that need to think about research, it’s all of us. This is an area that Chris Lloyd knows a great deal about, as and “The Unwanted Dead” releases today, he’s here with his advice on research.

I write novels set in Paris under the Nazi Occupation. Inevitably, this calls for large amounts of time and planning spent on research, which can be immensely frustrating – for example, when you’re trying to find what colour ration tickets for wine were in June 1941 – but it can also be extremely rewarding. This is especially the case when the research turns up a whole story or character – or simply vignettes and small details of everyday life – that I would otherwise never have dreamt of. It can provide the central theme of the novel, or simply background that adds colour and authenticity to the story. And that’s when all the frustrations reduce to nothing and the hours spent tracking an isolated fact down becomes instantly forgotten. Along the way, I’ve come to a few conclusions about research that have helped me and that I hope might be useful to others.

1 Research, Research, Research

You can never do too much research.

I begin with a sort of immersive research. History books, films, documentaries, novels, anything that gives me a sense of the time and the place. This starts with the ‘big’ history – what was going on with the war elsewhere, major events in France, political machinations and so on – and then moves on to the fine detail. How my characters would have dressed, what they would have seen as they walked through the streets of Paris. Were the cafes and restaurants open? How many cars were there? How frequently would ordinary people have seen German soldiers or been stopped by them? How afraid were they? And how much did they simply try to get by despite the soldiers’ presence?

The next stop is to narrow the research down. My stories are set over a specific time period – The Unwanted Dead covers the first ten days of the Occupation, the second book (which I’m currently writing) takes place between September and November 1940. That’s actually extremely helpful and quite a relief. Whereas the immersive research can leave your head reeling with an information overload, the focused research not only pins the story down, it offers all sorts of opportunities for extra threads and characters thanks to the odd snippet of detail here and there that it throws up. This is where the research really helps the story start to gel.

2 Then stop researching

You can do too much research.

I know I’ve contradicted myself, but that’s research for you. Once the story starts to gel, that’s the time to stop researching. And for me, it’s important to know the exact moment. That’s partly because it’s much too easy to send yourself down a rabbit-hole, finding out all sorts of things you don’t need and confusing the issue. It’s all very well knowing what colour ration tickets for wine were in June 1941, but it’s a massive distraction if your story’s set in autumn 1940. There’s nothing like it for taking you off the boil. The main reason, though, is because it’s time to start exploring, time to start getting the story down on screen while it’s still fresh and exciting in your own mind. That’s when you can allow your characters to react to the research you’ve learned and do something with it.

3 Then do a bit more research

This is where it gets frustrating. You’ve got your story, the characters are lined up and waiting in the wings, they’ve already made their first moves, the streets are populated with your extras, and foul and bloody murder has already been committed. And that’s when you find you want Eddie, your protagonist, to go to a café for a glass of pastis with another cop to calm their nerves after the foul and bloody murder. But for them to do that, I have to know if that would have been possible under the Occupation. And it’s that moment of trying to find a very specific and very small piece of research that determines whether a scene can happen or not, or if it has to be adapted. And there’s nothing like it for slowing your writing down, as it can take hours and even days to find out that one minor piece of information. The sad news is you have no choice. If you want your story to be as authentic and accurate as possible, you just have to roll your sleeves up and dive into the deep research. That’s when you learn patience.

And in case you’re wondering – no, they couldn’t have a glass of pastis. The Vichy government had banned all drinks over sixteen per cent proof, so they had to drink wine instead, and use up a ration ticket each. Ration tickets, by the way, whose colour was changed from one month to the next to prevent forgeries being made and sold on the black market.

4 Forget the research

There’s a famous photo of Adolf Hitler taken the one time he visited Paris, in June 1940. In it, he’s standing in the Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower behind him, on the opposite bank of the Seine. He’s flanked by architect Albert Speer and sculptor Arno Breker. Albert Speer claims the photograph was taken on 28th June, Arno Breker says it was 23rd June. They can’t both be right. My dilemma is which date do I choose.

I’ve got a similar problem with the second book. For the purposes of the story, I need Eddie to go to a specific opera on a specific day. I know the opera was staged in Paris – Fidelio, a story of political prisoners and freedom, a strange choice for the Nazis to have made – and I know it was in the autumn. The problem is I can only find one source for the actual date… and it contradicts itself. It first says Fidelio was staged at the end of October, and a few chapters later, it says it was in December. Again, I have to make my choice.

In both cases, I’ve driven myself up the wall trying to find a definitive date, but it’s impossible. And that’s when you have to forget the research and remember what it is you’re doing. You’re writing fiction. My own research in both cases has led me to a specific date for each of the two events, and I’ve made every effort possible to be accurate, but I also have to realise that this is when another element becomes important – the story. As I said, I write fiction. The history has to be accurate, the research has to be true, but it also has to contribute to the story I’m telling. Faced with contradictions in the research, and there are many, your choice has to come down to one fact. You’re a story-teller. You have to be authentic, you have to respect the past, but your story has to come first.


Chris Lloyd grew up in Cardiff and, after graduating in Spanish and French, spent twenty-four years in Catalonia, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer and translator. Besides this, he also lived in Grenoble for six months, researching the French Resistance movement, and in the Basque Country and Madrid. He now lives in his native Wales where he works as a writer and translator.

He writes the Eddie Giral crime thriller series, the result of his lifelong interest in resistance and collaboration in Occupied France. Living under the shadow cast by his experiences in World War One, Eddie Giral is a Paris police detective forced to come to terms with the Nazi Occupation of the city. Seeking to negotiate a path between the occupier and the occupied, Eddie struggles to retain some semblance of humanity while walking a fine line between resistance and collaboration. However, his greatest challenge possibly lies in overcoming his own inner struggle in asking what justice is when the notion of justice itself becomes as dangerous, blurred and confused as the times. The first book in the series, The Unwanted Dead, is published by Orion and comes out in paperback on 18 March 2021.

Chris is also the author of the Elisenda Domènech crime series, published by Canelo, featuring a police officer with the devolved Catalan police force.

Hard Return

Amy Lane is an agoraphobic who fights crime from her computer. If you like your crime with a side order of geek, you’ll love this series. Hard Return was the first of the Amy Lane mysteries that I read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even through it is the fifth book in the series, you don’t need to have read the rest to enjoy it.

Rosie Claverton grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home.

Her crime series The Amy Lane Mysteries debuted in 2014, about an agoraphobic hacker and streetwise ex-con who fight crime in Cardiff.

Between writing and medicine, she advocates for accurate and sensitive portrayals of people with mental health problems in fiction. She is a co-founder of the Welsh crime writing collective Crime Cymru.

Rosie lives with her journalist husband and her young daughters

Alison Layland

Alison Layland, another Crime Cymru author talks to us about her novels, skills with foreign languages and upcoming events to watch out for.

When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always told myself stories, including a couple of long-running soap operas, and I recently came across a treasure trove of childhood poems and songs. However, I only began to realise that I could actually be a writer when we moved to Wales, I took to learning the language, and our Welsh classes continued in the form of creative writing sessions. I found that writing in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue somehow broke down inhibitions and opened doors. I was thrilled when my Welsh short stories won Eisteddfod prizes, and I had a number of Welsh flash fiction pieces published. Since my first published novel, however, I’ve written mainly in English, my native language, and mainly novels, though I’d love to return to short stories and flash fiction as well.

What motivates you to write?

I love telling stories. There’s nothing more fulfilling than developing characters and then spending time with them, along with the satisfaction of a plot unfolding and loose ends coming together. From that, it’s probably obvious that I’m a character-led “pantser” when it comes to first drafts; meticulous planning takes over in subsequent drafts, however, and I enjoy both stages equally.

I’m also keen to explore a variety of issues in my fiction, and love the research that involves. In my first novel, Someone Else’s Conflict, the central issue, and springboard for the story, was the long-lasting effects of war – a fictional atrocity during the 1990s Croatian War of Independence – on two of my characters. I did a lot of research for the Croatian part of the story, including historical reading, travel and even learning the language to deepen my feel for the culture.

My second novel, Riverflow, was initially motivated by a desire to draw attention to environmental issues. As the story unfolded, I found myself drawn into my characters’ relationships and the effects of external events on my protagonists’ marriage.

Which do you like to write, series or standalones? 

My two published novels are standalone psychological mysteries. However, having spent months or years invested in my characters and their worlds, it’s tempting to revisit (on paper as well as in my mind!) and I’m attracted to the idea of a series. I’m not sure if it counts, but my work-in-progress is set in the future, and it refers back to some of the characters in Riverflow.



Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

One of the things I most like about fiction, both writing and reading, is that you can get close to characters you’d probably run a mile from in real life. A classic example is Bede, the protagonist in Riverflow. As I would in real life, I admire and respect his ideals, but he’s a really prickly character who would be difficult to know in real life – but the reasons for this are revealed in the novel. I know several readers feel ambivalent towards him and, as I do, sympathise with his long-suffering wife, Elin, but think of him as a difficult but ultimately sympathetic character.

All in all, however, my favourite character is itinerant busker and storyteller Jay Spinney, from my debut, Someone Else’s Conflict. Although he has a dark past and a reluctance to be open and honest, he is ultimately compelled to do the right thing, and several readers have fallen under his spell.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Although I try to see the nuances of all my characters and understand their motivations, some are nevertheless distinctly unlikeable. Mihal Novak, a small-time gangster in Someone Else’s Conflict is one of them, and in Riverflow it’s arrogant landowner Philip Northcote. Although he’s a true antagonist, I drew on aspects of a couple of people in real life when creating the character, so who knows, there may be some who relate to him more than I do!

Tell us about your last book…

Inspired by my own environmental activism, my second psychological mystery, Riverflow, was published in 2019, and chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month.

“In a village in the Welsh Marches, the undercurrents are as dark and strong as the River Severn. After a beloved family member is drowned in a devastating flood, Bede and Elin Sherwell only want to pick up the pieces and pursue their off-grid life in peace. But when a local landowner applies to start fracking near their smallholding, they are drawn in to the frontline of the protests. Mysterious threats and incidents begin to destroy trust, rake up the past and threaten their future together. Who is trying to ruin their world and how far will they go?”

What’s coming next…

I’m working on a novel set in the mid-21st century, about a community of people who have chosen to live an island life apart from a troubled society. As well as some intricate character relations and intrigues, I’m also really enjoying developing a vision of what the world might be like in three decades’ time…

Anything else you want to share?

I’m proud to be associated with Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival, the first international crime festival in Wales, for which I’m helping to organise a special competition. We’ll be holding a digital festival on 26 April-3 May 2021 and our inaugural in-person festival in Aberystwyth on 29 April-2 May 2022. Watch this space!




Alison Layland is a freelance writer and translator who lives and works in the Welsh borderlands. She is the author of two psychological mysteries, Someone Else’s Conflict and Riverflow, both published by Honno Press, and has also translated a number of best-selling novels.


You can find out more on her website at www.alayland.uk and her Alison Layland (Amazon Author Page), and follow her on Twitter @AlisonLayland


Thank you Alison, Wales is quite a seductive place to live, and I envy your skill with foreign languages.

Tomorrow and last up is writer Charlotte Barnes

Cathy Ace

Today the lovely Cathy Ace talks about her start in writing, her garden and the Cait Morgan series

When did you start writing, and why?

I was one of those children to whom their teacher says, ‘I asked for an essay, not a book!’, so I think I’ve always enjoyed writing. Indeed, I’ve been fortunate to have an entire career built on it in advertising, public relations, and training. My criminal side took a while to emerge; the first short story with a criminal bent I ever wrote was called ‘Dear George’. It was written in a car park in 1987, in about an hour and a half.

Why?

Well, I’d been waiting to collect my sister at Gatwick airport, and her flight was delayed. I bought a magazine (I’d forgotten to carry a book – what an admission!) and the one I chose had a headline: ‘Murder, and be published!’. A couple of months later, in the middle of my workday as a sales person for a label-printing company, I left the HQ of one of my clients (Marks & Spencer) on Baker Street in London, and sat in my car in the multi-storey car park writing my short story entry to the magazine’s competition on a notepad. Fast forward a few months, and I was somewhat taken aback when I received a letter to say the story – DEAR GEORGE – would, indeed, be published in an anthology called MURDER AND COMPANY, alongside stories by ‘real’ authors. I was pleased, excited a little, but I’d just remortgaged my flat to be able to set up my own business, so it was a bit of a frisson rather than a ‘this could change my life’ moment. The same short story was then (in 1990) included in another anthology called THRILLERS, which was created for the GCSE English Language syllabus…which blew me away. By the time I was approached by Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres in 2007 asking if they could produce the story for BBC Radio 4, I had sold my business, migrated to Canada, and had written nine marketing textbooks, which had been published around the world. DEAR GEORGE was first broadcast on July 9th 2007 – my family in Swansea listened to it there, while I listened in Canada…it was a special moment. Sadly, my father died soon afterwards, and I decided that if I was going to write fiction I’d better get on with it. So I Indie-published a collection of short stories, then a collection of novellas, and my first novel (The Corpse With The Silver Tongue) was traditionally published in March 2012.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

Extreme violence, torture, detailed forensics, graphic sexual interactions, military-type activities, action scenes or chases: I don’t think I’d be good at writing about any of these, though I do read them. All that being said, I reserve the right to write about the threat of any/all of them, or the psychological/after-effects of any/all of them.

What do you like to do to relax when not writing?

Since March 2020 I’ve put a fair amount of time and effort into redecorating the house…I dare say I am not alone in this! However, my real passion is gardening. Having five acres to look after means I’m gardening on a scale I couldn’t have imagined earlier in my life, but I love it. Our home is half-way up a little mountain in south-western British Columbia, so our climate is virtually the same as it would be if I lived at the top of Kilvey Hill, in Swansea. Over the past twenty years we’ve planted dozens of roses, hundreds of rhododendrons, hydrangea, and hibiscus (hardy varieties only), as well as many other flowering plants you’d see in any Welsh garden. We’ve also planted a couple of hundred Japanese maples, of many different varieties, as well as other deciduous ornamentals (we’re fortunate to already have a fabulous variety of mature evergreens, many of which are a couple of hundred feet tall). Though it’s hard work, I find it incredibly relaxing (well, okay then, I find the gardening hard, but the sitting in the hot tub with a beer afterwards incredibly relaxing!). 

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Whomever I am writing about at the time – and that happens to be Cait Morgan. I’m currently writing the tenth book in Cait Morgan Mysteries series; they’re all written in the first person, from the point of view of Cait Morgan who (like me) was born and raised in Swansea, went to Cardiff University but then (unlike me) went on to Cambridge to gain her Masters degree in criminal psychology. She’s transferred to the University of Vancouver (based on a synthesis of two universities in the area where I taught upon my own arrival in Canada) where she’s now a professor, specializing in research into victim profiling. She’s been to the same schools as me, enjoys the same food and drink that I do (and, trust me, if she eats or drinks something in a book, I have thoroughly researched said victuals myself!) and is short and overweight, like me. She has habits and abilities, however – and a dark background – that I do not personally possess, so she’s not ‘me’. But I like the way she’s bossy – but fragile, always right – until she’s wrong, and thinks quite snarky thoughts – but tries her best to edit her tongue. She first appeared in three short stories in Murder Keeps No Calendar, then in a novella in Murder Knows No Season, prior to these soon-to-be-ten novels (The Corpse With The Iron Will will be published in May 2021).  A strange thing is happening at the moment: I’m having conversations about who will play Cait Morgan in the television movies that are going to be made of the books (by Free@LastTV, who make the Agatha Raisin series) – since she’s so similar to me it’s a bit like trying to cast myself! And, no, we’re not considering Meryl Streep – she can play almost anything, but I really, really want a Welsh woman to play Cait!

Links:
http://www.cathyace.com/cait-morgan-mysteries
http://www.cathyace.com/long-short-stories

The Wrong Boy: Suspense-packed page turner...the ending is a stunner by [Cathy Ace]

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

To be honest, every book I’ve written contains characters I’d prefer not to break bread with, but I think the one I grew to hate the most as I was writing him was Bob Thistlewaite, the ex-husband of one of the three women of the Jones family who run a pub called The Dragon’s Head in the village of Rhosddraig, in The Wrong Boy. This is a book of suspense, and every character has their secrets, so it’s difficult for me to say too much about the character here, because folks might not have read the book yet, and his role in it is small, but critical. Suffice to say, he richly deserves what happens to him. By the way, The Wrong Boy has also been optioned for TV, to be broadcast as a three-part miniseries in both Welsh and English, so I’ll be very curious to see who they cast for this character.
http://www.cathyace.com/the-wrong-boy

Tell us about your last book…

The Corpse with the Crystal Skull (The Cait Morgan Mysteries Book 9) by [Cathy Ace]

The Corpse With The Crystal Skull was published in June 2020, and I’m delighted with how well it’s been received. There hadn’t been a new Cait Morgan mystery since 2017, so I was a bit nervous about the long break between books (I’d been contracted to write the third and fourth books in my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, so Cait took a rest for a while) but I shouldn’t have worried, it seems. This ninth book in the series gave me a chance to take Cait and her husband Bud to Jamaica (each Cait Morgan Mystery is set in a different country) and I actually finished writing the book when I was in the Caribbean…in February and March 2020 when, as we all know now, the world was going to Hell in a handbasket! While editing the book, back in Canada in lockdown, I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the food, drink and HEAT I was missing (and still am). It led the Toronto Star to include this in its review, about me: ‘…more than adept at the Christie thing…’ and in The Jury Box (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine) they said ‘……a mystery involving pirates’ treasure, lust, and greed. Cait unravels the locked-tower mystery using her eidetic memory and her powers of deduction, which are worthy of Hercule Poirot…’ which thrilled me no end!

Here’s the back-cover blurb: Welsh Canadian globetrotting sleuth, and professor of criminal psychology, Cait Morgan, is supposed to be “celebrating” her fiftieth birthday in Jamaica with her ex-cop husband Bud Anderson. But when the body of the luxury estate’s owner is discovered locked inside an inaccessible tower, Cait and her fellow guests must work out who might have killed him – even if his murder seems impossible. Could the death of the man who hosted parties in the 1960s attended by Ian Fleming and Noël Coward be somehow linked to treasure the legendary Captain Henry Morgan might have buried at the estate? Or to the mission Bud and his secret service colleagues have been sent to the island to undertake?

What’s coming next…

The Corpse With The Iron Will, due to be published in May 2021. There’s no back-cover blurb yet (!!) but this time Cait and Bud find their next-door neighbour dead – so, whilst it is absolutely NOT a pandemic book, it does allow me to consider how a globe-trotting sleuth might feel about a murder/murders so close to home…and all of us have reassessed our perspectives of what ‘home’ means to us over the last year, I believe. Besides, I have to keep reminding myself that, as an author who’s enticed readers with the promise of armchair travel as well as a classic, closed-circle, puzzle-plot mystery to solve, I (and Cait!) live in an area many would like to travel to…the pristine wilderness of beautiful British Columbia, a rain forest with fascinating flora, fauna, foods, history, and art. If you want to be updated about my progress please follow me on
Facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-Ace-Author-318388861616661 or
Twitter, here: @AceCathy





Cathy Ace’s Welsh Canadian criminal psychologist sleuth Cait Morgan encounters traditional, closed-circle whodunits around the world, while her WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of soft-boiled female PIs who solve more cozy cases from their office at a Welsh stately home. Her standalone suspense novel, The Wrong Boy, has been optioned for TV (as have her Cait Morgan Mysteries). Shortlisted for Canada’s Bony Blithe Award three times in four years, winning in 2015, she’s also won IPPY and IBA Awards, and has been shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award. Cathy lives in Canada, having migrated from Wales aged 40.




Thank you Cathy. The Wrong Boy was the first of Cathy’s books that I read and knowing the area in which it is set, I found it very evocative not just of the place, but the people too.

Tomorrow, we meet Evonne Wareham.

Chris Lloyd

Chris Lloyd talks about his need to write, his process and Occupation

When did you start writing, and why?

I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. At school, I’d write long stories instead of getting on with my homework, which often got me into trouble with my teachers. I think I wrote because it was an escape from a routine, from the everyday. They were worlds and people I could make up, even if I never really had any control over them, and I also think that writing created a degree of confidence in myself that I never felt in real life.

I was also lucky in that my mum was a booklover and always encouraged me to read. When I was about ten, she gave me a copy of ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier, and I always think it was that precise moment that I knew it was what I had to do. Later, it would be my dad who encouraged me to write, telling me he’d read whatever I wrote.

My local library also has to take some of the blame. When I was growing up, it had a rule for children that said for every fiction book you borrowed, you had to borrow one non-fiction book. It was a wonderful idea, even if it might not have seemed it at the time, and it nurtured in me not just a love of reading, but a fascination with broad swathes of knowledge. Even as a kid, it just seemed that the obvious next step for me was to write my own stories. So when I was in my first year at secondary school, I plucked up the nerve to tell another kid in my class that I wanted to be a writer. He just looked at me solemnly and told me I had to wait until I was old enough. I’m still waiting for that to happen, but I’m also still writing.

What motivates you to write?

I think it’s a need to write. There are things I want to say and it just feels that stories are the most effective way of saying them and of getting people to read them. I think that’s why I love the crime genre, as it allows you to explore pretty much any subject you want and present its lighter and darker sides, and then end by offering some sort of resolution, which real life rarely gives.

There’s also nothing quite like the thrill of creating characters and worlds. The whole process of writing fiction is deeply enthralling, from the spark of an idea that wakes you up in the middle of the night to the research that throws up surprising nuggets sending your story dancing off in a whole new direction. And then there’s the blank screen staring back at you and the tentative first words, the first draft and (and this will be unpopular) the rewrites. I complain and swear at every single part of it, but I could never live without it.

Which do you like to write, series or standalones?  If you write both, what do you find the difference?

Every time I try to write a short story, my immediate thought is that it’s too limiting, that I’d like to pursue the idea further and turn it into a novel instead. And the same pretty much goes for series versus standalones. I get involved with the characters and the worlds and I immediately know the moment I start planning that I want to carry on living with them and see how their stories develop across other books. The other great thing about series is that I know the characters, so there isn’t the need to discover a whole cast of new ones every time I start writing. It feels like getting old friends to help write the story with me. And I find that there’s always something in one of the character’s stories or personalities that I want to come back to in a later book.

Having said that, there are a couple of ideas I’ve got for standalones that I really want to make the time to explore. Well, I say standalones. That can always change…

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

That would have to be Eddie Giral, who’s the main character in my latest book, The Unwanted Dead. Eddie’s a police detective in Occupied Paris, fighting his own battle to try and do his job properly under the Nazi regime. I love writing about him, both because he’s a very complex character and because the stories are in the first-person, which really lets me get inside his mind (and him inside mine!). He tries to be a good man in bad times, but he’s fundamentally flawed – he’s human and fallible, his moral compass can go badly wrong and the choices he’s made in his life haven’t always been the most palatable, to the point of being self-destructive. So much of the stories are about Eddie’s struggle to retain (or regain) some semblance of humanity while walking a tightrope between the occupier and the occupied and between resistance and collaboration, and he doesn’t always get it right. And still I love him.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

There’s a character in The Unwanted Dead who makes my blood boil. His name is Hauptmann Karl Weber and he’s an officer in the Wehrmacht. I’ve tried to be realistic with the characters in the story in that not all the Occupiers are essentially bad people and not all the Occupied are essentially good people – they were individuals caught up in the politics of the time – but Weber has a sense of entitlement that cuts through to the bone. He’s supercilious and arrogant and every jobsworth and self-appointed elite that any of us has ever had to put up with.

Tell us about your last book…

The Unwanted Dead begins on the day the Nazis march into Paris. Four refugees have been found gassed in a railway truck. Later that day, a fifth man commits suicide. Despite opposition from the occupiers and reluctance and apathy from the rest of his police colleagues, Eddie becomes obsessed with finding the truth. On a continent where thousands are dying every day, the four murders in the railway yard come to mean everything to Eddie, a redemption for the mistakes he’s made in his own life. His investigation, though, will lead him to suspect a far greater crime, one that he refuses to believe possible and that will bring him into the gunsights of the Nazis.

What’s coming next…

I’m working with my editor on the edits of the second book in the Eddie Giral series – no title yet – which involves prisoners going missing from one of Paris’s biggest prisons and a plea for help from someone from Eddie’s past. I’m also starting to research and plot Eddie’s third outing, which takes place at Christmas 1940, when the complexion of the Occupation was beginning to change for the worse.

Anything else you want to share?

I’m a member of the Crime Cymru collective of crime writers and very much looking forward to our Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival. It’s the first international crime fiction festival in Wales and will be online this year (26 April – 2 May) and in Aberystwyth in 2022 (30 April – 2 May).




Originally from near Cardiff, Chris Lloyd lived in Catalonia for twenty-four years, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer and translator. He has also lived in Grenoble – researching the French Resistance movement – as well as in the Basque Country and Madrid. He now lives in South Wales and is a writer and translator.

He writes the Eddie Giral series (Orion) set in Occupied Paris. He is also the author of the Elisenda Domènech crime series (Canelo), featuring a police officer with the Catalan police force


Where to find Chris Lloyd:
Website: https://chrislloydauthor.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrislloydbcn
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrislloydbcn/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chris_lloyd_author/
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Lloyd/e/B01GQH7Q5C/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1


Thanks Chris, like you I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, fantastic isn’t it?

Tomorrow, we’ll met Cathy Ace

Alis Hawkins

Today we’re talking to Alis Hawkins, writer of the Teifi Coroner series (historical crime) and founder of Crime Cymru

What motivates you to write?

Writing is a compulsion for me – a need. Popular wisdom tells us that we shouldn’t identify ourselves by what we do but who we are – but a writer is who and what I am. If I don’t write for a week or two I’m itching to get back to it, which makes the periods of research necessary for historical books a bit of a trial on occasion.

Which do you like to write, series or standalones?  If you write both, what do you find the difference?

Both have their merits but I seem to have had most success writing series and there is a huge amount of pleasure – for me at least – in returning to characters who I know and the world in which I’ve placed them. It’s exciting to be able to move the relationships between my characters forward from book to book and to watch them develop. The two main protagonists in my Teifi Valley Coroner historical crime series, John Davies and Harry Probert-Lloyd are both very young men – 19 and 26 respectively – and still getting to grips with their place in the world which makes following them from book to book very appealing, and sometimes surprising. For instance, in the most recent book in the series (due to be published later this year) I sent John off to 1851’s Great Exhibition in London and was quite surprised by his reaction to the whole thing!

But there are obviously difficulties in writing series too. At a basic level you have to remember what you’ve said in previous books – everything from biographical details like birthdays to the main plot events and how your characters reacted – but there are also issues which relate to the reader’s experience. For instance, most people don’t read series chronologically because, for stocking reasons, most bookshops will only have the most recent book in a series on sale at any one time. So if somebody’s coming to your series with book three or four, you have to give them enough detail to understand the characters’ backstory without annoying readers who have been with you from the beginning. That’s a particular issue for me because Harry Probert-Lloyd has a form of partial sight called macular degeneration which means that he’s not completely blind but doesn’t see detail, and that has to be explained in each book. I aim to get around the need not to annoy loyal readers by trying to show different examples of the impact of his condition on Harry in each book.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

I don’t think there are any topics which I would absolutely refuse ever to refer to but there are things I will never write about in graphic detail – for instance sexual crimes against children. Often, if something like that comes up in a book, I find it’s enough to allude to things and the reader’s imagination fills in the rest.

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

I’m going to have to cheat here and name both my central characters from the Teifi Valley Coroner books – John Davies and Harry Probert-Lloyd – because they’re an indivisible pair. When we first meet them, Harry is heir to the Glanteifi estate and John is a solicitor’s clerk but, despite their different social status, they’re so much more than the investigator and his sidekick. John and Harry are equal partners in the business of investigating sudden death and both tell the story in each book in alternating chapters. That way, the reader always knows what both of them know but John and Harry often aren’t aware of what the other is thinking which can make for interesting conflicts.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

It depends on what you mean by least favourite because awful characters can be really fun to write. Hob Cleeve in my Black Death-set novel The Black And The White is cunning, manipulative and ambitious – not somebody I’d want to spend much time with in real life but fabulously fun to write!

Tell us about your last book…

My most recently published book is Those Who Know. The third in the Teifi Valley Coroner series, Those Who Know sees Harry dabbling unwillingly in politics as he stands for election as Coroner for the Teifi Valley (In the first book None So Blind, Harry was investigating a murder as a private citizen, in the second, In Two Minds, he was asked to stand in as corner due to the illness of the incumbent.)  now he’s been acting as stand-in due to illness). To his surprise, Harry finds himself with Liberal party backing but it’s not just the Tories’ candidate for coroner that he’s fighting against, it’s also the magistrates and the police force who would rather that their coroner were slightly less thorough – and expensive.

And party support doesn’t come without its downside. Jonas Minnever, Harry’s election agent, wants him out pressing the flesh and wooing the electorate, so when a sudden death is brought to his attention on the campaign trail, Harry finds himself in a bind. Does he give all his attention to the inquest as his conscience and his inclinations tell him he should? Or does he take Minnever’s advice, leave things to John, and confine himself to electioneering?

A middle-way compromise proves equally damaging to both causes and Harry finds himself going into the inquest on Schoolteacher Rowland’s death disastrously badly prepared. The inquest runs out of his control and the outcome threatens to see an innocent man hanged.

In the final week of campaigning, as Harry tries to find a way of re-opening the inquest, his Tory rival suddenly disappears, and new evidence comes to light which takes John off to London to investigate. What he discovers leads to an explosive election day and yet more pressure on Harry to act.

In a morally complex case where, it seems, nobody is truly innocent, Harry struggles to find the most just outcome.

What’s coming next…

I’ve just finished book 4 in the Teifi Valley Coroner series (working title is Not One Of Us). It’s scheduled for publication in September this year but after the events of 2020, we all know that publishing schedules can be a bit mutable!

Anything else you want to share?

Last year I was enormously thrilled when In Two Minds, the second of the Teifi Valley Coroner series was shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger award. Slightly less thrilling was the online ceremony which replaced the usual gala awards dinner!




Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in West Wales where she learned Welsh from the other kids in her primary school playground. After a very enjoyable seven years at the local comprehensive she was whisked off to the ivory towers of Oxford University where she acquired a degree in English and an interest in psychology and communication which led her to train as a Speech and Language Therapist. Since the early nineties, she has been working with autistic children and their families, bringing up her two sons and writing historical and crime fiction. Find out more at www.AlisHawkins.co.uk


Thanks Alis, always lovely to hear from you.  Looking forward to seeing more of Harry and John.

Tomorrow we’re joined by Jackie Baldwin