The story behind Superposition by David Walton

Imagine yourself in the jury box.  On the witness stand is a Russian-born woman with connections to the mob.  Her lover has been murdered, crushing their plans to fake his death and run away to Switzerland together.  She is so hostile that she practically snarls at the lawyers on both sides.  Fiction?  Nope.  This is the real life trial I sat on as juror several years ago, that served as part of the inspiration for my latest novel, SUPERPOSITION.

None of the details of that case are in the book.  Instead, it was the experience of watching a story unfold a little at a time, as each witness told what they knew.  It was a fascinating way to tell a story, out of time order, the whole finally coming together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

At the same time, I was reading non-fiction books about quantum physics.  If the reality of that trial seems crazy, the physics of subatomic particles is even crazier.  At the subatomic level, nothing behaves the way we expect.  Particles exist in more than one place, or more than one state, at the same time.  Electrons move from point A to point B without ever existing in some of the places in between.  Measurement of one particle instantaneously influences another, regardless of the distance between them.

From these two unlikely parents, the idea for my novel SUPERPOSITION was born.  In the novel, as you might have guessed, the crazy properties of the quantum level start showing up in the larger world—-thanks to a new technology and the interference of an alien quantum intelligence.  Everyday objects jump through walls.  Bullets diffract instead of photons.  People exist in more than one place at the same time.

I love stories that tie my mind in knots, and this novel does that, combining the weird world of quantum physics with the out-of-time structure from the trial.  It's mind-bending, but it’s no cerebral drama.  It’s a fast-paced thriller, with high-stakes danger and a race to the finish.  It starts when a former colleague shows up at Jacob Kelley’s door full of unbelievable tales and fires a gun at Jacob’s wife.  When the colleague shows up dead, Jacob is accused of murder.  Soon he and his teenage daughter are on the run, pursued by the police and by a quantum intelligence unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter.  Father and daughter have to pick up the pieces, following multiple paths of possibility to get to the truth and put their lives back together again.

It’s a whirlwind from beginning to end, and it was great fun to write.  I hope you’ll give it a try!


David Walton
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REVIEW : Carus and Mitch by Tim Major

 

Tim Major is one of those authors who has been brought to my attention by a supreme British science fiction and fantasy magazine "Interzone". His "Finding Waltzer-Three" was simply superb and even though it was only two and half pages long I was taken back by how good it was. Needless to say it was my favourite story in that particular issue. In February Major published his novella "Carus & Mitch" which occupies a rather different place than the abovementioned story. To put things in perspective, it is a claustrophobic tale of two young girls who ever since their mother disappeared spend their lives in isolation and constant state of fright of what's lurking outside their doors.

Their precarious existence is marred by an undescribed event that occurred in the past. Nothing much is clearly explained but when Carus' memories pour through she's reminded of screaming and rising waters. Mitch on the other hand is still being an ordinary child unfazed by imposed restrictions. She questions her environment and is even curious enough to ask all those disturbing questions which in the end only serve to infuriate Carus. She's even unafraid to venture outside when answers aren't forthcoming and one of her expeditions leads her to discover stash of food hidden inside their garage. So what's really happening? I won't reveal what occurs next but as events progress a sense of doubt creeps into the version of the story delivered by Major. Are things really as they initially seem? It's a masterstroke that made me re-read the whole thing as soon as I've finished it - just in hope of finding more clues that I potentially missed first time around.

"Carus & Mitch" is a quick but totally intoxicating read. It delivers far more excitement and ambiance than you would expect from a story of that length and this serves as a best way to show the extent of Major's writing potential. I'm already looking forward for his future work but until then - a "Carus & Mitch" re-read anyone?


Review copy provided by Tim Major.
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REVIEW : The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

 

After being in work for many many years, Clive Barker's long expected new novel "The Scarlet Gospels" is finally here and the results are not what you would expect. If I remember correctly, I've read somewhere that Barker mentioned it as far back as 1993 and over the years many claims were made about its content. On one hand it was supposed to be a Barker book to end all Barker books, pushing over 232,000 words, rich in mythology and combining elements and characters from all across his canon in one massive door-stopper. Later reports mentioned that it has been scaled by significantly. Personally, I've kept my expectations in check. First version sounded a bit too ambitious and the horror as a genre has changed a lot in recent times. For me the worst possible scenario was that Barker will try to bring his characters up to contemporary standards in a way I don't like. In hindsight, I shouldn't have worried. "The Scarlet Gospels" is a surprisingly old-fashioned horror novel. It plays for maximum amount scars without using any fancy frills. Straight from the opening pages it brought be back to childhood when I was positively devouring this sort of stuff.

"The Scarlet Gospels" features two of is best loved characters and pushed them against each other. On one hand there's detective Harry D'Amour who's probably familiar to you from "Everville" and the short story "The Last Illusion" while on the other its none other than the iconic Cenobite Hell Priest Pinhead. Story recounts how the two originally met and their first encounter explains a lot about Harry's psyche. Pinhead had huge plans for him but someone Harry managed to resist him. Back in present Pinhead is up to his usual tricks and Harry's friend, blind medium Norma Paine is end up in hell after during one their investigations a Lament configuration box opens a gateway to hell. Harry is desperate and soon his ragtag band which compromises some familiar faces decides to go through the deepest recesses of hell to save her but Pinhead stands in their way. The sequences set in hell are some of the finest that Barker has put to paper.

 

"The Scarlet Gospels" is first Clive Barker's novel for adults in 8 years and it will instantly appeal to his constant readers. While it can be read as a standalone it's best enjoyed if you're passionate about his work so far. In that case, "The Scarlet Gospels" is a veritable treasure trove of details that explain and enrich many elements of the madcap world he's created. More importantly, "The Scarlet Gospels" is a proper, blood curdling classic horror novel that's been missing for years and that's all you can ask of it really. I've enjoyed it tremendously so here's hoping we won't have to wait another 8 years for the next one. Welcome back Pinhead, we missed you!


Review copy provided by Pan Macmillan
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REVIEW : A Cold Killing by Anna Smith

 

One of our favourite crime reporters Rosie Gilmour is back in her fifth novel "A Cold Killing" and this haven't been this bad in ages. Story opens up in London's King's Cross in 1999 as Ruby Reilly sits in a caffe thinking murderous thoughts and overhears the conversation of two old guys. She hears more than she's supposed to and from that point on her life changes. Later, University lecturer Tom Mahoney was brutally shot without any obvious reason. The whole situation looks suspiciously like an organised hit and Rosie goes head deep into an initially baffling investigation. There's a witness who has gone missing and this just might be a key Rosie needs to break in. Ruby has all the reasons to keep away. As Rosie uncovers more and more clues about Mahoney's past, the sinister truth starts to rear its ugly head, one which is far more frightening than she ever dared to imagine. Ministry of Defence and MI6 are involved, but in a worst possible way, and now even her life in danger unless she manages to uncover the truth.

The reason Anna Smith's Rosie Gilmour's series is so appealing to me is that she never writes clear cut stories with easily approachable characters and bland morality. Often when Rosie is concerned even as the ending comes I'm never quite sure what has actually happened - whether the good guys won and not. And then there's that element of feeling safe which is completely lacking. Anna is simply keeping it dangerous all the time,even when Rosie is concerned. With the amount of trouble she gets in I always feel like she's about to die in the most horrific manner possible. She occupies such an ugly world filled with some of the most despicable characters you'll ever meet so I wouldn't put anything past them.



Most frightening thing of all is that lots of the experiences that Rosie goes through are based on actual life experience of Anna Smith. She herself is an award-winning crime reporter who has assignment during some of the toughest conflicts of recent times including Kosovo and Rwanda. She was even held hostage once. All this gives her stories that authentic feel that sets her apart from her contemporaries. "A Cold Killing" is an excellent new addition to a great series. Very recommended.


Review copy provided by Quercus Books.
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The story behind Losing Faith by Adam Mitzner

The two questions I’m asked about my books most often are the two I find most difficult to answer. The first one is the most basic: “What is it about?” Yet that question throws me almost every time it’s posed because two answers simultaneously pop into my head: the one I give, which resembles the blurb on the back of the book; and the one I feel.

            When the question is asked to me about my most recent novel, Losing Faith:

I say: Losing Faith is about a lawyer named Aaron Littman who runs the most powerful law firm in New York City. He’s approached by a new client, a shady Russian businessman named Nicolai Garkov, who is accused of securities fraud and suspected of terrorism. Garkov has discovered that Aaron and the judge presiding over his case, Faith Nichols, had an extra-marital affair, and Garkov wants to use the threat of the affair to blackmail Aaron and the judge. The book concerns Aaron struggle to save his career and family.

But I feel: Losing Faith is about the people we love, the strength of our love for those people, and what we’re willing to do to protect them.

            This disconnect is at the heart of the writing process. When I conceive of a book, I’m not thinking about the plot, or the murder, or who done it, or the twists that I hope send the reader in the wrong direction only to have them shocked when the truth is revealed. Rather, I’m focused on who is protagonist, what does he or she want most, and the transformative nature of that quest.

            With Losing Faith, before writing a single word or conceiving of a single character, I knew that I wanted to explore the lengths someone might go to keep what he had, and whether the people who loved him would stand by him when everything collapses – especially if the downfall was due to self-inflicted wounds.

            Once I have the theme in my mind, I try to craft a story around it. One of the ways I measure the finished product is whether the novel conveys the themes in the way that I initially envisioned them. I think I did that in Losing Faith, but like with all writing, my opinion matters much less than that of the reader.

            The other question that gives me equal pause is just as basic: “Is the novel autobiographical.” And as with the “What’s the book about?” question, I once again have competing thoughts.

The first response is that it is a work of fiction, and so the characters, particularly the main character, is not me or anyone else in real-life, and the events are 100% the product of my imagination. Applying this rule to Losing Faith demonstrates its truth: Although like Aaron Littman, I am a practicing attorney in New York City, I differ from him because I am not the chairman of the most powerful law firm in the country, none of my clients are suspected Russian terrorists, and I have never had an extramarital affair with a beautiful judge or had a client threaten to ruin my career or marriage.

            If I ended the analysis there, I could pass any polygraph with saying “No, Losing Faith is not autobiographical.” But, of course, there’s more to it than that. Much more.

When I write about a character’s fear of losing what he has, I’m thinking about my own fears, and when I write about the lengths someone will go to protect a loved one, I’m thinking about how far I’d go, and how far I think those that love me would go for me. Of course, the conclusions my characters reach, and the actions that they undertake in the novel, are not necessarily how I would think, feel or act in that situation, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that when I consider a character’s response to a situation, I start with what I’d do if I were them. From there, however, I consider all the ways the characters are different from me, and craft a response that is true for that character.

So to recap: Losing Faith is about the blackmail of a powerful lawyer by a shady Russian terrorist, and also about so much more; and it is a work of pure fiction and also autobiographical.


Emily Schultz
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REVIEW : Rook Song by Naomi Foyle

 

Naomi Foyle's "Astra" is one of the books that I'm growing fonder of as more time passes by. There's something about Naomi's style that I find instantly appealing and despite the fact that I've initial found "Astra's" overuse of prefixes and acronyms slightly distracting I eventually got used to them. I liked the way she tackled difficult social issues so the next instalment of Astra's coming of age tale couldn't come soon enough for me. If you remember, the world she lives in is a fragmented post-apocalyptic society where misinformation and propaganda rule. It's an advanced society but one scarred by the environmental mistakes of the past. Since her young age Astra has been prepared for her place in a society only to have everything turned upside down. So "Astra", the novel, revolved mostly around her struggle to rediscover herself but being only the first book in a proposed trilogy it left more issues open than resolved.

Recent published second part of "The Gaia Chronicles" follows on from its predecessor and finds Astra working for Council of New Continents or CONC. Her job isn't anything glamorous but it's crucial for her well-being. She's still suffering from the effects of genital branding and preventive Memory Pacification Treatment. Despite everything Astra has retained her impressive drive and rebellious nature and the only thing that occupies her waking hours is her quest to avenge the death of her Shelter mother Hokma. And if possible at all, she also wants to find her Code father. But as she stumbles once again into a web of intrigue she quickly realises that nothing much has changed. Apart from CONC, there's three other fractions struggling to secure the political power. There's notorious Is-Land Ministry of Border Defence (IMBOD), N-LA and YAC. This is still a very disorienting environment that has much more depth than was initially obvious.

Similarly to its predecessor, Astra's search for her own identity forms a central part of "Rook Song". As more and more avenues are closed for her, Astra grows increasingly agitated with her environment but she doesn't despair. If anything, she grows more feral. For a middle book in a trilogy "Rook Song" offers a surprisingly good read. It reveals just enough to keep you hungry for a sequel but yet it is not frustrating when it decides to withdraw. What's still slightly frustrating is that the amount of acronyms and character is occasionally overwhelming. Luckily similarly to "Astra" this is only a minor inconvenience because as soon as you get into the character all these become logical and usable. What more important is that "Rook Song" is better book than "Astra" in a similar way that "Astra" was better than "Seoul Survivors". Naomi's writing feels more confident and earlier in a book she goes completely experimental with the way she tell the story. In one of Asar's chapters words and font sizes go in all directions. It is truly fascinating to discover how richly detailed her world is. The amount of planning she put into "The Gaia Chronicles" must've been immense and she utterly unafraid to tackle its complexity head on. As such, "Rook Song" is brave and unexpected. It is one of those literary sf books that don't play for the masses and that are sadly often undeservedly overlooked. So, if you like your SF intelligent and stimulating do yourself a favour and pick up both "Astra" and "Rook Song". You won't regret it.


Review copy provided by Jo Fletcher Books.
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REVIEW : Red Icon by Sam Eastland

 

In my review of "The Beast in the Red Forest", previous book in Inspector Pekkala series, I proclaimed my belief that there's every possibility that crime thrillers set in places like Russia or former communist countries could be the genre's great next thing. Though as of yet this hasn't happened, Eastland's Inspector Pekkala series is increasingly becoming of paramount importance for this uncharted territory. Eastland's novel as just great. Stalin's Russia places interesting restrictions on his characters and the way plot unravels is refreshingly innovative. To make things even better Eastland has done his fair share of researching the period in question so his novels, apart from being a rather exciting read even when based on the stories alone, also feel quite authentic. Sixth novel in the series, "Red Icon", just published by Faber Books, offers more of the same and it's such a pleasure to once again encounter our intrepid inspector for whom the trouble is never far behind.

"Red Icon" takes place during 1945 as the German army is on the verge of a full blown retreat. During all this chaos Captain Antonin Proskuryakov and Sergeant Ovchinikov who find themselves in Ahlborn in Germany, some 70 km from Berlin, seek refuge in the crypt of a German church after their tank is destroyed by a mine, only to discover a skeleton of a priest. In his hands priest is clutching The Shepherd, an icon last seen in the possession of Rasputin. The tumultuous history of the icon is described as the story goes back to 1914 where Pekkala is tasked with guarding the icon while being on the Tsar's court. This fascinating thread which occupies the first part of the book is vintage Eastland, rich in historical detail and twisted plotlines. Back in 1945, news of the The Shepherd's discovery spreads fast and soon Stalin sends inspector Pekkala to unravel the truth behind the legend, making a full circle of events. Over the course of his investigation Pekkala will discover the whereabouts of long thought extinct band of fanatics who are after The Shepherd and claim it as their own. The reappearance of icon, together with a fearsome chemical weapon called Sartaman which stems from Hitler and IG Farben, means that, unless Pekkala manages to stop them, there are dark times ahead.



"Red Icon" strikes a somewhat different tone that of its predecessor "The Beast in the Red Forest" by being somehow less glum and more adventurous. This is especially evident by the appearance of this immensely powerful chemical compound in the second half of the novel which forces Pekkala's move on more than one occasion. This time the stakes are much higher than ever before and this later part stands at odds with the beginning set in 1915. But I've mentioned earlier, this is simply a vintage Eastland. "Red Icon" opens a new chapter for Pekkala and offers plenty to engage the existing reader while at the same time being a perfect starting point for new ones.


Review copy provided by Faber Books.
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The story behind Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner

I was fifteen when I first dreamt of being an internationally published author. I published my first book when I was twenty-eight. It was well received in Germany and Austria, as were my next books, but I still dreamt of being read in England, in America, in Scandinavia.

By 2013, I had written what I thought was my break-out book, Woman of the Dead. Luckily, I was right and it is now being published in twelve countries. I grew up reading American thrillers – my heroes are Lisa Gardner, Gillian Flynn and Stephen King. So imagine my delight when I shared a stage last month in Norway with Lisa Gardner – who has called Woman of the Dead ‘one of the most arresting thrillers I’ve read in years’ – and Peter James, who joked that I was Austria’s most famous living author. Now I’m being published by the same people who published Gone Girl, and there is a lot of talk in the UK about German-language crime becoming the new ‘Scandicrime’. It is a dream come true.

How did I know I’d written my break-out book? I just had the sense that this story – a story of revenge starring Blum, an undertaker whose husband is murdered – was the most complete, most distinctive and ambitious book I had written. Woman of the Dead is both a thriller and a love story. Blum, like Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter, is a serial killer, a character who does terrible things, but the novel wouldn’t work if you didn’t sympathise with her and feel her pain.

To make this work, I needed to get under Blum’s skin and feel what drives her, and to do that I asked myself whether I could ever kill. The answer wasn’t the one I was expecting – I was unnerved to find that I could imagine myself contemplating revenge if I was in terrible amounts of pain; if something had happened to my wife or children.

Like most writers of crime fiction, I have always been fascinated by the taboos around death. For my previous novels, I had talked to gravediggers and forensic scientists; I’d spent afternoons walking around cemeteries. But to write Woman of the Dead, I realised I had to get even closer to death. Let me explain: I wanted Blum to be an undertaker. That worked from a plot point of view: I wanted her to have a way of disposing of her bodies without attracting undue attention. But I also wanted to write about death from an unusual angle – all crime fiction comes down to death but I wanted to write something different; something darker. So I went to an undertaker in my home town of Innsbruck and asked whether she could give me an introduction to the world of the dead. She said she would but only if I didn’t just stand around watching and taking notes; only if I got involved. I worked for that undertaker for six months. It was the most humbling thing I have ever done.

I enjoyed my time with Blum so much that I couldn’t stop at one novel. The second book in what is now a trilogy is coming out in Germany later this year. I very much hope you enjoy reading about Blum as much as I am enjoying writing about her.


Bernhard Aichner
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The story behind The Detective's Secret by Lesley Thomson

I begin my writing process with an image. For this novel, the image was a windmill on the Sussex Downs with windows inserted beneath the sails. Anyone living there could see for miles.

In my twenties I read Victorian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s description of an economically efficient prison. His ‘Panopticon’ was a tower with cells fanning out around it. No guard need be in the tower since the windows would be screened, prisoners couldn’t tell who was up there. Yet, Bentham believed, they would assume that they were under surveillance and behave accordingly.

In their paper The Panopticon’s Changing Geography (2007) Jerome E Dobson and Peter E Fisher identify three waves of surveillance technology. ‘Panopticon I’ is Bentham’s concept. ‘Panopticon II’ is George Orwell’s 1948 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, envisaging how television might be used by a totalitarian government. Now, we’re in ‘Panopticon III’. Many of us accept trackers on our mobile phones, CCTV on our streets and barcodes revealing how we shop. We tacitly consent to being watched.

Facebook is a window into other lives. We watch each other.

Both of my characters are observers. Stella Darnell owns a cleaning business called Clean Slate, so she can closely observe more homes, offices and other buildings than is possible in most jobs. As the series title, The Detective’s Daughter, suggests, Stella’s father Terry was a detective with the Metropolitan police. I made Stella a cleaner because she enters rooms that, like crime scenes, are disrupted and a mess and, as Terry did, she restores order. In The Detective’s Secret, Stella adds ‘detection’ to services offered by Clean Slate.

Her side-kick, Jack Harmon, is a train driver. Bringing his train into stations, Jack observes his soon-to-be passengers waiting on platforms. He rarely speaks to them, but knows them by their behaviour, attire and their facial expressions. A nocturnal flâneur, Jack randomly walks night-time streets populated by phantoms, a quietened city of shadows and receding footsteps. Yet nothing Jack does is random. Entering the mind of a murderer, he hunts out those who have murdered or who will murder.

I realised that if Jack lived in a tower he could watch London. What kind of tower? Not a high-rise block of flats, because I want him to be alone. West London has plenty of parks and commons, but I’d be stretching credibility to place a windmill by the Thames at Chiswick, where my story is set. Driving along the Kew Road - on tower alert - I spotted the water tower in Kew Gardens, built to supply the Palm House. Water towers are used to store water for different purposes, domestic, commercial or botanical, and as I now know, are in cities all over Britain.

I had found Jack’s Panopticon. From his tower he will watch for murderers.

The Detective’s Secret is about betrayal and revenge. How we fall short of others’ expectations and how we might respond to those who let us down. I write about our darker sides. I say ‘our’ because the good are sometimes bad and the bad can be good.

An eclectic genre, crime fiction allows me to explore a broad range of themes and ideas. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Christie’s Miss Marple and Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey are some of my early influences. Like Wimsey and Marple, my character Stella Darnell is an ‘unofficial’ detective, although unlike them she has a day job.

The London of my novels owes much to Dickens, another inspiration. Twisting alleyways, leafy streets and Thames towpaths are wreathed in fog. Cobblestones and worn flagstones, slick with rain, shimmer in sallow pools of lamplight. The Detective’s Secret is set between the Great Storm of 1987 and the 2013 St Jude storm. The Thames endures across the centuries, its currents strong enough to carry a body out to the sea.

My work is influenced by psycho-geography, the emotional relationship of individuals to the city in which they live and walk. Landscape holds our hopes and dreams, disappointments and tragedies, we have an inner map of our desired paths. Stella and Jack navigate such paths through London, each haunted by childhood memories and impressions embedded in streets, in brickwork and the patina of pavements. Researching The Detective’s Secret, I walked the area, Corney Road and the cemetery opposite it, along the river and beside the Great West Road. I lingered outside houses where my characters live and imagined them inside. Fiction merged with reality. I was walking my story.

The well-worn advice to ‘write about what you know’ is only partially true. I’m frequently asked if I’m as skilled a cleaner as Stella is. I am not. My study is often lightly festooned with cobwebs and my desk greyed with dust. When I finish a novel I have a ‘Stella’ flurry and whisk about with a mop and a duster, otherwise the cleaning in my novels is outside my experience.

Growing up, I travelled everywhere on the London Underground. The smell of warm dust, the percussive clatter of the wheels and the hush of train doors are in my bones. I gave Jack a role I dreamt of doing. He drives on the District line, choosing the ‘dead-late’ shift because he likes the night and the tunnels. Jack is intuitive and, to Stella’s practical mind, fanciful. Yet they are perfectly matched and together they solve crimes.

My stories include coincidences. Researching for The Detective’s Daughter, I experienced two coincidences more implausible than anything I invent.

I approached the British Water Tower Appreciation Society – that such an organisation exists is extraordinary enough - and discovered that it was run by a man I grew up with, we played in the streets and parks of my stories. Nat Bocking sent a reading list that propelled me into the history of the pros and cons of water tower construction.

The second coincidence. I told an old friend about my water tower novel and she said that her brother, the designer Tom Dixon, had bought one in West London and converted it into flats. Tom lent me the key.

One summer morning - in the liminal state between reality and fiction that I enter when creating a story - I climbed a metal staircase at the side of the tower and with trepidation - I’m not great with heights any more than cleaning - unlocked the tower.

Tom had told me that the roof offered a three hundred and sixty degree view of London. The skylight was heavy and wouldn’t budge. I persisted and was nearly concussed when I lifted it then let it bang shut. I couldn’t give up. Using my vestiges of strength I heaved it up and staggered out onto the roof. The skylight stayed upright, threatening any moment to close. Under a hot sun, I constructed a scene in my notebook where Stella cannot open the hatch, but must or the consequences are terrible. I absorbed sound and lack of sounds, no bird song, no human voices, an occasional horn from traffic far below. In ‘reality’ if the hatch shut I would be trapped. As happens in fiction, my phone battery died. No one would hear me shout. I scribbled furiously. I was Stella trying to open the hatch.

A week later I was in more trouble. Chiswick Mall is a secluded street of Victorian mansions that, like much of this area, is timeless. At low tide, the Eyot opposite is connected to the ‘mainland’ by a cobblestoned causeway crossing an expanse of mud. When the river fills it becomes an island. I trudged around the Eyot, dipping beneath willow fronds and parting reeds, taking pictures on my phone (a reason why the battery fails). I was Jack following his secret path to the Garden of the Dead. Photographs provide a record of the topography, street corners and ramps, colours and textures, although when writing I may change these details. I find clues in the images. I too am a detective.

I heard shouting. A man was waving from Chiswick Mall, his words lost in the breeze rattling the reeds.

‘…tide...is…!’

The slick of water, which had been a hundred metres distant when I arrived, was about to cut me off. Semaphoring thanks, I stumbled, skidding and tripping, to the causeway, tight-rope walking it as water washed over the cobblestones. Deep in my unfolding story, I had ignored the rhythmic lapping of the tide returning. By the time I got to the Mall, the causeway was submerged, a ripple of conflicting currents indicated a shadow path. Write about what you know. I put this experience into The Detective’s Secret.

Reality becomes fiction. I moved the water tower from Ladbroke Grove to the Thames overlooking Chiswick Eyot. At night it casts a shadow over the black waters of the Thames.

From his Panopticon, Jack surveys London. No one knows he is watching. Or so he thinks.


Lesley Thomson
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The story behind House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of Echoes began with both an image and a feeling. The image was of a man watching his dog run through an overgrown field in front of a dilapidated mansion. The feeling was the man’s certainty that he doesn’t belong there.

This initial flash became the book’s first scene, and this sense of alienation became central to the novel. Through the course of the book, the chief characters—Ben and Caroline Tierney and their eccentric son, Charlie—feel increasingly estranged from their peculiar home, the odd denizens of the nearby village, and each other. House of Echoes is a thriller with tinges of horror and crime and winks at gothic conventions, but for me the crux of the story is this young family and how their lives and relationships descend into distrust, fear, and madness.

In some ways, these characters bring the worst of their problems with them when they abandon Manhattan in their search for a fresh start. They arrive in Swannhaven, a tiny village in a remote corner of New York State. Their home, the Crofts, is massive, decrepit, and filled with secrets.

World-building is generally associated with fantasy and science fiction books, but I loved the challenge of creating a place that’s both grounded in our reality and governed by its own rules. For me, the key was developing a setting at once evocative, familiar, and flexible. An old house surrounded by dense forests, a village with a bloody history, characters who have no clue what they’re getting themselves into: this is a classic setup. Once you establish readers’ expectations you can begin to subvert them. That’s when the fun starts.

The onset of a blizzard is one of plot’s catalysts and I’ve always found winter especially rich in atmosphere. I’ve lived a lot of my life in cities, but went to college in Central New York and have spent a good deal of time in Western Massachusetts. Winter is serious business in these places. A bad storm can drop yards of snow and knock out your power and heat, trapping you not just in your home but within an expired century. The season’s first snow always gives me a thrill, both of anticipation and of dread. These cold months can be desolate and claustrophobic, but there’s also something fantastical about them: the way sound changes as it reverberates among frozen trees, how sunlight and moonlight are caught and amplified by snow and ice. As a setting, it’s both beautiful and pregnant with danger.

All of the main characters in House of Echoes evolve through the narrative, but perhaps none of them undergo more of a change than the Tierney’s eight-year-old son, Charlie. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I think he’s my favorite. He’s an unusual kid: vulnerable but strong. Smart yet lost. He finds himself (and other things…) over the course of many hours spent exploring the old growth forests around the Crofts. Many of the book’s early readers had young children of their own, and a universal concern among them was how long of a leash Ben and Caroline give young Charlie. An eight year old allowed to wander the forest for hours on his own. Um, no, I don’t think so. I made some tweaks accordingly. What I didn’t realize until the end of the revision process was that in writing about Charlie’s experiences in his mysterious forest, I was replicating an element from my own childhood. From ages 7-10, I lived on the slope of a mountain where we didn’t receive any television signals. I filled my afternoons exploring overgrown footpaths lined by nettles, collecting eggs from stagnant ponds, and building dams along seasonal streams. Like Charlie, I’d just moved from a huge city and this vast, strange, natural space seemed to belong on another planet. His were the perfect eyes through which to witness the wild beauty of the forest and mountains.

Writing from Charlie’s perspective was a huge amount of fun. He’s a special age, one when the lines between fantasy and reality have not yet solidified. Huge, impossible creatures in the forest can be just as real and frightening and unfathomable as a mother’s anger. A dreamer like Charlie is fun to write because he can imagine and believe in both miracles and terrors.

Though, as he and the rest of his family eventually learn, some terrors are all too real.


Brendan Duffy
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