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THE MOTHER OF ALL COMPETITIONS …

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TKOTWTHIS IS A COMPETITION TO TEST SERIOUS CRI-FI BUFFS To win a copy of Emma Kavanagh’s brilliant new psychological thriller The Killer On The Wall you will need to exercise the grey matter. It may well be a distinct advantage if you are old enough to remember the 1960s! To be in the draw, you will need to identify the title of a 2009 novel which dramatised the Hammersmith Murders, and featured several real life personalities who feature in the montage below. We will post the prize worldwide, so followers in Europe, the Far east USA or Australasia are welcome to compete.
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A: David “Screaming Lord’ Sutch, a minor pop star, who contested many elections as the leader of The Monster Raving Loony Party.
B: Michael Holliday, a popular crooner who suffered from terrible stage fright, and committed suicide in 1963.
C: Pauline Boty, an outrageously talented painter and designer, who died of cancer in 1966
D: Freddie Mills, a brave light-heavyweight boxer who made a career as a TV personality after he retired from the ring. He died, allegedly at his own hand, in 1965.
E: The cover of the mystery novel, minus any text.

To enter the draw, write the title ( three words) of the novel as the subject, and email Fully Booked at the address below.

fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

The competition closes at 10.00 GMT on Sunday 23rd April.
Competition is open worldwide – we will post the prize anywhere!

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PRUSSIAN BLUE …Between the covers

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Philip Kerr’s long suffering and world weary policeman Bernie Gunther returns in this superb novel which straddles WW2. With astonishing skill, Kerr keeps two stories on the go, the earlier being set in Bavaria in April 1939, with the blue touch-paper for war already lit and Europe simply waiting for the bang: the second story takes us to October 1956, with a large part of Germany suffering under another tyranny – that of the Russian puppet government of the so-called German Democratic Republic. The two stories appear to be spinning happily along in their own unconnected orbits, but Kerr brings them ever closer together until they meet in a dazzling finale.

Philip_KerrBernie Gunther fans will already be aware of the company he is forced to keep in the years before and during Hitler’s war. Previous books have found him working uneasily alongside such monsters as Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, but it is his relationship with SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich that Kerr (left) has explored in the greatest depth. Now, Heydrich, ever mindful of his place in Hitler’s hierarchy, sends Gunther to Hitler’s Bavarian retreat in Berchtesgaden, ostensibly to investigate the murder of a minor functionary, but hopeful that Gunther’s investigations will embarrass Martin Bormann, personal secretary to the Führer, and Heydrich’s political rival.

The parallel 1956 story finds Gunther struggling to keep his false identity as a hotel concierge in the French Riviera. In The Other Side of Silence, the previous book in the series, Gunther became tangled in a net of espionage and treachery involving the writer Somerset Maugham, a former Nazi war criminal, and the British Secret Service. A British woman he befriended – and bedded – now proves to have been a ‘person of interest’ to the GDR, and in particular Erich Mielke, the boss of the East German Ministry for State Security, better known as the Stasi. Mielke travels to the Cote d’Azur, and makes Gunther an offer he can’t refuse. He must either go to England and kill Anne French, preferably with the GDR’s poison of choice, Thallium. The alternative? To be disposed of by the gang of Stasi thugs Mielke has brought with him from East Berlin.

PBThe human link between these two episodes in Gunther’s life is a fellow policeman called Friedrich Korsch. In his former life, Korsch helped Gunther discover who actually put the bullet from a Mannlicher hunting rifle through the head of a corrupt bureaucrat called Karl Flex on that brisk April day seventeen years earlier. Korsch is nothing if not a survivor. Unlike Gunther, who is forced to sail the post-war seas like a latter day Flying Dutchman, Korsch has taken the King’s Shilling – or at least Erich Mielke’s Deutschmark – and is under strict orders to make sure his former boss gets to England to kill the fugitive Anne French.

Gunther escapes his Stasi minders and goes on the run in rural France. By hook or by crook, his aim is to get himself into West Germany where he stands a better chance of being protected from the East German thugs who want him dead. As he travels north and east, the two stories begin, slowly but inexorably, to converge. They used to say that all roads lead to Rome. In this novel, all roads lead to abandoned mines dug deep into a hillside in the Saar region – the Schlossberghöhlen. Here, Gunther tracks down the Berchtesgaden killer, and is violently reunited with the former policeman who helped track him down.

Kerr’s genius lies in the fact that he allows Gunther to drink Schnapps and share a cigarette with some of the most notorious killers of the twentieth century. He allows Gunther to make silent moral judgments on those with whom he is forced to rub shoulders, but when it comes to making big decisions, Gunther always takes the path which allows his head to remain connected to the rest of his body. The dialogue, as always, bristles with wisecracks. Kerr lets his hero come to within a cigarette paper’s thickness of signing his own death warrant, but grants Gunther the wit and wisdom to talk – or fight – his way out of potentially fatal confrontations.

Follow this link to read a review of an earlier Bernie Gunther story, A Man Without Breath. Prussian Blue is published by Quercus, and is out now.

COMPETITION … The Page 69 Rule

mayo-bannerThis fiendish competition has been devised by American crime writer Mike Mayo. He says:

“Marshall McLuhan came up with the page 69 test. According to Wikipedia, he said that when you’re trying to decide about buying a book, you should turn to page 69 and read the page. If it appeals to you, buy the book. If not, move on. All right, given that standard, take a look at these page-69 selections from three excellent mystery novels. Most of them are from the first edition, but I think the rule should apply to any hardback or paperback.”

What we want you do is to identify the three books which Mike Mayo has chosen. We have given you a pretty massive visual clue as to the author in each case!

BOOK 1

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BOOK 2

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BOOK 3

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blackoutTHE PRIZE? A copy of Marc Elsberg’s new bestseller, Blackout. This has been around in one form or another since 2012, but since it is billed as “a 21st century high-concept disaster thriller”, it is probably safe to assume that the latest edition has been made future-proof. Elsberg (aka Marcus Rafelsberger) was born in Vienna, and after training as an industrial designer worked as a strategy consultant and creative director in the advertising world. Blackout has a simple but rather scary premise. Quite simply, hackers decide to shut down Europe. They start in Milan, with the electricity grid. Then they rack up the attacks further afield. Half the continent is plunged into darkness while  people freeze and struggle to find food and water. Elsberg turns this nightmare scenario into an entertaining but disturbing thriller.

To win the book, identify the three novels quoted above. With Page 69 as the subject, email your answer to:

fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

1. The first correct answer drawn out of ‘the hat’ will be the winner.
2. UK and Irish Republic entries only, on this occasion, due to postal costs.
3. Competition closes 10.00pm GMT on Wednesday  15th February

THE DARBY FAMILY MURDERS

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There are trusting and optimistic souls who will tell you that no man is born evil, and no man is incapable of redemption. Unfortunately, the history of crime is riddled with examples of people who have simply been devoid of any sense of decency and have no moral compass whatsoever. Such a person was Edgar Edwards. Despite having only just been released from prison for earlier misdeeds in the autumn of 1902, he still believed he was smarter than the law – and his potential victims.

Seeing a newspaper advertisement for the sale of a Camberwell grocer shop, Edwards presented himself to John William Darby, at his shop, 22 Wyndham Road, in the south London borough of Camberwell. On visiting the shop in early December 1902, he explained to Darby and his wife Beatrice that the shop was just what he was looking for, and that he would take it on, and put a manager in place immediately. Before describing what happened next, we should take a moment to explain the murder weapon. Older readers will be familiar with sash windows. The concept seems alarmingly complex now, but basically, a heavy window frame could be raised and lowered with the help of a heavy iron counter-weight, hidden from view within the frame, and connected to the frame with a stout cord. Edwards arrived for his meeting with Darby armed with both sash weight and cord. It is believed that he bludgeoned to death Darby and his wife, and then used the cord to strangle their 10 month old daughter Ethel.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-19-30-07Having done the deed, Edwards concealed the bodies in a room above the shop, and installed his shop manager, a man named Goodwin. Goodwin and his wife ran the business for a few days, presumably oblivious of the dead bodies lying above the shop. In the meantime, Edwards had taken Darby’s gold watch and chain, and pawned it for cash. He had also rented a separate premises in the east London borough of Leyton, and on 10th December he explained to Goodwin that he was going to sell the Camberwell shop.

In a sequence that would probably be dismissed as preposterous if pitched as a movie screenplay, Edwards then dismembered the remains of the Darby family, and transported them in hessian sacks to Church Road, Leyton, where he buried them in the back yard. Thinking he had become a criminal genius, Edwards decided to reprise his masterstroke. Unfortunately for him, his assault on another shopkeeper, this time a man named Garland, misfired. Garland was able to escape and fetch the police. When Edwards was arrested, the police found John Darby’s business cards among Edwards’ possessions, and after excavating the back yard at Leyton and finding the remains of the Darby family, the police had more than enough evidence to charge Edwards with murder.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-19-31-44His trial at The Old Bailey was something of a foregone conclusion, brightened only by speculation as to whether Edwards would plead insanity. It was revealed that there was a strong streak of mental illness in his family. His mother and an aunt had died insane; one of his cousins was in an asylum and two others were what contemporary newspapers called “mental defectives”. Edwards was found guilty and apparently burst into manaical laughter when he was sentenced to death. As he stood on the scaffold on 3rd March 1903, it is alleged that he turned to the prison chaplain, giggled, and said, “I’ve been looking forward to this lot!”

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The Little Shop of Horrors at 22 Wyndham Rd, Camberwell, where the entire Darby family was murdered for greed and gain by Edgar Edwards in 1902 remained one of London’s most notorious murder houses for many years. In 1906, George R Simms noted that the shop had changed hands twice since the murders. Country folks, ignorant of its history, have taken on the business, but found out about the dreadful deeds enacted unders its roof – and left again. Another writer noted that the shop had stood empty for many months after the murders, since no-one wanted to live or do business in a building with such terrible memories, even at a reduced rent. He went on to say,

“It had a very desolate look when I walked past it some months after the killings, but on walking there a few years later I saw that a saddler and harness maker had set up business there.”

It seems that the shop stood until the 1940s or 50s, after which it disappeared, perhaps as a result of wartime bombing or peacetime redevelopment.

INTERVIEW . . . Joseph Knox

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Sirens, the debut novel from Joseph Knox, has hit the crime fiction world like a cruise missile in these first days of 2017. On one level a police procedural, Sirens takes off in several different directions, and is full of wickedly sharp prose and a kind of grim poetry that shines an unforgiving light on modern Manchester and its criminal underworld. You can read our review of the book here, but it is a pure pleasure to have the author answering a few questions.

Tell us something about your background, and how you came to be a writer.

I began writing from a very young age. I was an insomniac as a kid and my parents quickly realised that giving me books and notebooks would stop me wandering round the house at night making trouble. I was sketching out short stories, comedy routines and characters as soon as I could hold a pen. Every word of it was shit – but it was a great early lesson in what writing really is: sitting alone for many hours, trying to reach that perfect moment where you forget you’re a person, forget you’re a boy in his bedroom writing, and begin to inhabit whatever world you’re writing about.

For readers who have yet to meet Aidan Waits, run through his CV.

Aidan is already on his very last chance as a detective when he’s caught stealing drugs from evidence. Although he uses substances, the reasons for his theft aren’t so cut and dry. He’s already an outsider. An unnatural fit for the job, he has a keen eye for detail and human frailty but is disconnected from those around him and filled with anger. The source of this anger, and Aidan’s self-destructive tendencies, is a key plot point of the book. There are flashes that he might be a keen detective, even a good man, but due to several things, might be too compromised to do the right thing.

sirensIt seems from Sirens that you have a love-hate relationship with Manchester. Give us some idea of your impressions of the city. Was it a wrench to move to London, or a relief?

A perceptive question! I’d say my relationship with Manchester leans more towards love. I grew up in Stoke on Trent and, to me, Manchester was the big city. It was where I dreamt of running away to, where I did run away to when the time came. It was the first place I ever really had my heart broken. The first place I had my nose broken. I failed in every way possible when I lived there – financially, romantically and personally. But I always appreciated it; to be surrounded by beautiful buildings, many of which clashed with garish modern things; to be surrounded by more art, artists, love and imagination than I could understand; to walk from one side of the city to another over the course of several hours, watching all kinds of strange, new people. The more I write and think about it, the more I love it. But I know my life would be very different if I’d stayed. Perhaps I never would have made it out of those basement bars Aidan’s stuck in?

Staying with Greater Manchester, it seems to me that it has always ‘punched above its weight’ in terms of awful criminal deeds. Given the history of villainy which includes Brady and Hindley, Trevor Hardy, Harold Shipman and Dale Cregan, do you think that is a fair assessment?

Punching above its weight is a pretty good line for Manchester in general. Like all truly great cities, it offers possibilities. Annihilation and salvation. The atmosphere of Manchester is both breathtakingly beautiful and bluntly cruel. Why wouldn’t that broadcast out to the population?

Sirens is almost blacker than Noir. Which authors from the darker end of the crime fiction street have influenced you?

James Ellroy is very important to me. As are the obvious hard noir guys like David Peace etc – and the weirder ones like James Sallis. The biggest influence on me as a writer, though, is Ross MacDonald. Archer is a man trying to understand people, trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. As the world gets crueler, that’s more important. Certainly as Aidan finds himself surrounded by enemies and, at a certain point in the novel I think it’s fair to say, finds himself totally doomed, his sympathy – rather than his bravery – is what I admire most.

jnSirens is a great title. Are we talking blue flashing lights or voluptuous ladies luring sailors to their death?

Thank you. The first time I thought of Sirens as a title for this book (working title was: Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs) was when listening to There There by Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s wonderful line; ‘There’s always a siren, singing you to shipwrecks’ seemed to sum up Aidan’s plight.

There’s so much to love about the word. Sex, danger, lights, noises, police, women, temptation. Could be a straight description of the almost-mythic women in the novel. A nod towards Aidan’s weakness for them. A nod towards what might happen to him if he succumbs to this weakness. But, yes, also a reference to the police. Their corruption is a major theme of Sirens. A combination of the two meanings, a police siren and a destructive siren, could even give the impression that the real danger in this novel is on the side of the law…

The craze for anything Scandinavian in crime fiction seems to have passed. With your experience of selling crime books to the public, what do you think will be ‘the next Big Thing’?

Ah! No one ever gets this shit right and why would they want to? The joy of books is surprise – a line, a title, a bestseller. I also read as much around the map as possible to avoid trend books. With that said, in general fiction I’ve recently been enjoying a lot of Faction. That is to say, novels which combine fact with fiction – perhaps even ones where the authors themselves can be characters. Perhaps not a future trend, but an idea of some crime books that’d turn my head.

What next for Aidan Waits?

Aidan Waits will return in 2018 in The Smiling Man. Based on a real-life unsolved murder. One of the most maddening and confounding I’ve ever encountered, mesmerising, kaleidoscopic evil, with surprisingly little written about it. I want each of the Waits novels to be a different kind of crime novel. The first is the undercover book. This is Aidan and his monstrous partner Sutty investigating a real case and driving each other mad.

The Waterstones Exclusive of Sirens contains a Waits short story which takes place after the events of Sirens, and lightly sets up the events of book two…

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS … Fraser- Sampson & Knox

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Just days away from the big day, and my postie is still delivering the goods, in this case two handsome looking novels to go into my reading and reviewing schedule.

gfsMiss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson
Fraser-Sampson (left) clearly has an eye and an ear for all things Golden Age, and many of you will have read his recreations based on EF Benson’s characters Mapp and Lucia. His earlier crime novel, Death In Profile, successfully merged aspects of Golden Age fiction with a present day setting. The author calls the series The Hampstead Murders and, as before, a team of detectives led by Superintendent Collison finds that death is no respecter of prime London locations. It seems that we even have a guest “appearance” by a distinctly famouus former resident, and the back cover of the book tells us.

“Above the series hovers Hampstead, a magical village on a hill hauntingly evoked, the elegance of an earlier time, and the elegiac memory of the Queen of Crime herself”

Miss Christie Regrets is published by Urbane Publication, and will be available on 12th January.

Sirens by Joseph Knox
I already had a sneak preview – and a very atmospheric extract read by the author – at the Michael Joseph bash a few weeks ago, but the finished article is beautifully jknoxpresented. This is the debut novel from Joseph Knox (right) and by contrast with Miss Christie Regrets and its golden tinge, this is very much noir territory. The book opens in a bleak Manchester street and, as you might expect, it’s raining. DC Waits, a young Manchester detective is drawn into an investigation of the disappearance of Isabel Rossiter and he finds that her home life is complex. Meeting her rich and influential father, Waits has to mine down beneath the conventional surface of the Rossiter family until the truth begins to emerge – and it is far from pretty.

Sirens will be available on 12th January, and you can look out for full reviews of both of today’s featured novels nearer the publication date.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS …Beyond All Doubt

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“OK GUV’NOR – IT’S A FAIR COP …you got me bang to rights…” I don’t suppose fictional villains have uttered those words for many years, but I have to confess my personal guilt and push my wrists forward for the click of steel as the handcuffs snap to. My crime? (Takes a deep breath..) I am addicted to crime fiction set in England. Well, there it is. Out in the open. People are supposed to feel better after confession, aren’t they?

Many of you may have suspected this for some time. My enthusiasm for Jim Kelly, Christopher Fowler, Phil Rickman (well, OK, I know Merrily sometimes strays into Wales in the course of her priestly duty..) Dorothy L Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Graham Hurley, Mark Billingham, Chris Nickson, Nick Oldham, and many more is, I hope pretty obvious. I retain a healthy respect for dark deeds further to the north, and yield to no man in my adoration of Harry Bingham’s Welsh lass, Fiona Griffiths. A corner of my heart is forever Los Angeles when it comes to PI novels, and the humid passions of The Deep South as described by James Lee Burke and Greg Iles will always set my pulse racing.

But it is England, my England for me, when it comes to a crime read that will force its way to the top of my reading pile. Should someone have the temerity to conduct an autopsy on my mortal remains when I Cross The Bar, they may well find two words engraved on my heart. The Midlands. The land of my birth, the home of Shakespeare, Philip Larkin, Arnold Bennett, The Archers – and the Crossroads Motel.

bad1There are few places more English than the lovely town of Evesham, the setting for Beyond All Doubt, by local author Paige Elizabeth Turner. The River Avon adds majesty to the Worcestershire town, but can also yield unpleasant discoveries, as when the bloated corpse of Juanita Morales is finally released by the riverbed weeds, much to the horror of passers by, and to the vexation of local police officers DI Marchant and DS Watts.

Beyond All Doubt, which is on sale now, has all the elements of a police procedural combined with a tense legal drama, and the bonus of a wonderful geographical setting. If you are lucky enough have a decent local bookseller you can find the book there and it is, as ever, available on Amazon. If you want to find out more  about the author, you can go to her own website by clicking the image below.

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COMPETITION!

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mercy-killingCOMPETITION – Win a copy of Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts, and read how the apparent murder of a registered sex offender places huge strains on the community, and asks the local police force a big question about where their loyalties lie; to local people, or to the letter of the law? You can read our first take on Mercy Killing here. The last Fully Booked competition of 2016 challenges you to two tasks.

TASK ONE – open the Advent calendar window for Monday 12th December.

TASK TWO – After you’ve enjoyed the beautiful music, email Fully Booked with the name of the day’s featured author in the subject box. Email address for entries is;

fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

There’s no need to put any further details. There will be a draw of all the entrants, and the winner will notified in the usual way. This time we are only posting to mainland UK, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The competition closes at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday 18th December.  Rules, as ever, below.

RULES

  1. Competition closes 10.00pm London time on Sunday 18th December 2016.
  2. One entry per competitor.
  3. All correct entries will be put in the proverbial hat, and one winner drawn.
  4. The winner will be notified by email, and a postal address requested

HAPPY CHRISTMAS …. from David at Fully Booked

Here’s the FULLY BOOKED Christmas card for 2016. There’s also a song to go with it!

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