blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Players – Darren O’Sullivan*

Read my review of the author’s previous book Dark Corners

 In this game it’s kill or be killed…

A stranger has you cornered.
They call themselves The Host.
You are forced to play their game.
In it one person can live and the other must die.

You are the next player.
You have a choice to make.This is a game where nobody wins…

A nerve-shredding cat-and-mouse serial killer thriller that will keep you guessing and reading into the night, perfect for fans of Adrian McKinty, John Marrs and Steve Cavanagh

My thoughts: trips to Peterborough are never going to be the same again, and neither are pipecleaners!

A motorbike helmet wearing man declares himself “The Host” in a series of horrific videos where he makes two people fight to the death while threatening their loved ones, but who is he and why is he doing this?

Inspired by the classic Trolley Problem and the idea of whether humans are always good, this is cold blooded and deeply chilling thriller. DI Karen Holt is suspended but that doesn’t stop her trying to catch the sinister figure instigating these terrible events, even when it puts her in the killer’s sights.

An interesting protagonist, Karen spots clues before some of her colleagues but she isn’t perfect or always able to save a life, which makes for a more realistic character. She is however perhaps too driven, after the case that led to her suspension, she’s willing to risk everything, from her career to her marriage, to her life, to solve this case fast, and she misses things because of that.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Book Blitz: Time Ripper – D.E. McCluskey

TimeRipper

Welcome to the book tour for time-travelling, sci-fi, TimeRipper by D.E. McCluskey! Read on for more details and a chance to win an amazing giveaway– A copy of the book AND a $20 or £20 Amazon gift card! 

516jOXX7aqLTimeRipper

Publication Date: February 25th, 2021

Genre: Time Travel/ Thriller/ Historical Fiction/ Sci-Fi

Publisher: Dammaged Productions

It is the year 2288, and Earth is reeling from the most horrific terrorist attack it has ever endured.The Quest, a pseudo-religious splinter group, have taken a stance against the Earth Alliance’s authority of the planet.It is down to Youssef Haseem, now the highest-ranking official left in the EA, to build a team to face the threat of total inhalation if he doesn’t stand down and bow to The Quest’s demands. Then the leaders of The Quest disappear, and a legend emerges in the year 1888. But just who is the mysterious stranger stalking and viciously killing women on the streets of Whitechapel, London?A mission is launched! A battle of wits against time itself. A fight to be played out in the present and the past, with the fate of humanity at stake.Legends can happen anytime…

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About the Author

Author Photo

My name id David McCluskey, I am an author from Liverpool in the UK. I have written seven novels so far. TimeRipper is my latest. I started writing about 15 years ago, beginning with short horror stories for children that were written in rhyme. I enlisted the services of an artist and created my very first comic from them. Interesting Tymes is a great seller at comic conventions around the UK, as it offered something that a lot of comics these days don’t, something for the children to get their teeth into (so to speak).

I then began to create more comics, some for children, some for adults, before creating my own graphic novels. Doppelgänger is a dark psychological horror, Olf is a children’s graphic novel about Father Christmas and his reindeer, A Christmas Carol is a rewriting of the original tale, but in rhyme, and DeathDay Presents is an adult comedy based in Hell.

From there I moved on to writing novels. My debut novel The Twelve is still my best seller on Amazon.

I write under the name of D E McCluskey for my adult fiction, and I will be launching a children’s range of novels this year under the name Dave McCluskey (I don’t want children buying some of the other horror based stuff by accident).

I still live in Liverpool with my partner, Lauren, and our children, Grace and Sian. We have a sausage dog called Ted, who likes to leave little sausages around the house, just to remind us why he is a sausage dog.

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Blog Tour: Mamma – Diana Tutton*

The doomed mutual attraction of a middle-aged widow and her new son-in-law, who is much closer to her own age than her daughter’s, forms the central drama in this social comedy with tragic overtones.

Joanna Malling lost her husband in the first year of their marriage. At the age of 21 she was left with a baby daughter to raise alone. Now twenty years later, Libby is herself a grown woman living in London, and Joanna buys a new home to begin the next stage of her life. But her solitary existence is about to be shattered when Libby announces she is engaged. And with a change of job for her new husband Steven, the newly married couple move in with Joanna. What starts as an uneasy relationship between Joanna and Steven develops into something much more intimate and reminds Joanna of all she has missed out on. With Libby growing suspicious, Joanna must make a heart-rending decision.

The author: Diana Tutton (1915–1991) was a British writer whose novels focused on taboo relationships and family dysfunctionality. In the Second World War she drove a WVS mobile canteen, before she followed her husband to Kenya and joined the FANYs. In 1948 the family moved to British Malaya where she wrote her three novels. Mamma was published in 1956.

My thoughts: I have enjoyed discovering new-to-me women writers through this British Library project (I also really like their Classic Crime series too) so was delighted to be asked to review Mamma.

You might think that the 1950s were very staid and writers never covered anything eyebrow raising or taboo, but you’d be wrong. Diana Tutton is proof of that. Her books were about some very shocking subjects, including incest, and this one is about a doomed and never acted upon romance between a woman and her daughter’s new husband.

Joanna is only 5 years older than Steven and resents the idea that she should just fade into widowhood, she’s not even comfortable with the idea that her daughter is old enough to get married at 20. Her frustrations about the roles society boxes women into are genuine and haven’t hugely changed since the 50s – Maiden, Mother, Crone is a trope from the Ancient World that persists.

This makes her see Steven, 15 years older than Libby, differently. She isn’t initially very keen on him and worries about the age gap between him and her daughter, the life experiences are so different. But Libby insists it doesn’t matter. And it isn’t until circumstances force them into sharing Joanna’s house that she realises her indifference is really something more.

I found this compelling and utterly fascinating, both for what it has to say about women and also the plot, which is slow burn and sneaks up on you. What seems like a gentle domestic tale is much more, but not apparent on first glance. I felt for Joanna, for the way she’s forced into roles and made to act like a woman much older, when at 41 she’s still fairly young and if she were around now would be seen quite differently.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Blitz: Born in Salt – T.C. Weber

I’m thrilled to share this brand new Dystopian Thriller, Born in Salt by T.C. Weber with you all today! Read on for more details and a chance to win a digital copy of the book, in your format of choice!

PSSSST! It’s also available for review! Contact R&R Book Tours for more info!

BornInSalt_ebook_cover_FINAL

Born in Salt

Publication Date: May 1st, 2021

Genre: Alternate History/ Dystopian

Fifty years after a coup replaced President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship, America is a land of hopelessness. Ben Adamson, a 19-year-old farm boy in southern Illinois, wants only to spend his time fishing and hunting. But when his dead brother demands justice for his suspicious fate in a colonial war, Ben and Rachel, his brother’s fiancée, are drawn into an underground revolutionary movement.

After staging a rally against the war, Ben and Rachel are arrested by the Internal Security Service, who have perfected the science of breaking people. Ben is given a choice: betray the rebels, including his best friend from childhood, or Rachel will be lobotomized.

Although traumatized and addicted to a powerful drug, Ben refuses to doom anyone he cares about. Can he find a third option? Can he free Rachel and strike back at the dictatorship, while dodging the suspicions of police and rebels alike?

Excerpt

The New Bethany Town Square was a small grassy space in front of the county courthouse. Main Street split into two here, running to either side of the square and the courthouse before recombining. To the south of the square, it ran past most of the stores. To the north, it passed the city and county police stations, then a stretch of newer buildings and houses.

The year after I was born, 1965, was the twentieth anniversary of retaking the Philippines from the Japanese, forcing them into an armistice. Every town got a statue. In New Bethany, the government erected a marble Marine in the middle of the town square, rifle held high in triumph. It wasn’t an ideal spot to call for an end to war, but it was the only public space in town.

Rachel lived only a few blocks from the square, but I insisted on picking her up. The police would have seen the flyers by now, and might want to arrest her before we even started.

I was late again. Rachel stood on her front porch, wearing her funeral dress and tapping a foot. She carried a paper shopping bag in one hand, and scowled at me.

“Sorry I’m late.” At Rachel’s insistence, I’d put on my suit, and it took me forever to get the damn tie right. “Are you sure you want to do this? Talking to people one on one is a lot safer.”

Her face tightened even more. “It’s a little late to back out now. Besides, God blesses the righteous and Jake will be with us.”

I led Rachel to the truck and opened the passenger door for her. “Let’s get it over with, then.”

I parked on Lincoln Street, just off Main, and we hopped out into chilly gloom. Dark clouds gathered in the west, threatening rain. I focused on the task—swung down the tailgate and pulled out the mike and amp I’d borrowed from Jesse, the band’s bassist. He’d kill me if they got wet.

The amp had a power inverter so you could run it off a car battery. Together they weighed at least a hundred pounds, so I’d strapped them to a stand-up dolly. No mike stand, but I had enough to carry as it was. I handed Rachel the black microphone case and cables and she slipped them in her bag.

A couple dozen people were in the square, wearing coats over Sunday suits or dresses, the women’s hats sprouting feathers of near-extinct birds. I recognized Alyce and maybe half the others.

Rachel’s face fell. “I was expecting a lot more.”

“Maybe they’re afraid,” I said. “Or it’s the weather.”

“Or they don’t care. The weather is fine.” She straightened. “We’re early. More will come.”

My stomach seized. Figures squatted or lay on rooftops around the square, pointing guns and cameras.

Atop the three-story law office building, a suited man held a long-lensed camera. Next to him, a man in black body armor braced a high-powered rifle on a tripod while another peered through binoculars. Opposite the courthouse, on the First Consolidated Bank roof, more of the same. On the east side of the square, city police aimed guns out the second-floor windows of the column-fronted City Hall.

The courthouse itself had a peaked roof. After the coup, the government had added a wooden bell tower on top, from which, I supposed, you could see the whole town. Beneath the purely decorative bell, half hidden by white columns, a dark-suited man stared at us through binoculars. A sheriff’s deputy pointed a rifle with a fancy scope.

I’d never seen anything like it. Security for visiting politicians, sure, but nothing like this.

The clock on the bottom of the tower read 12:18. We had twelve minutes to prep or escape.

“Do you see the snipers?” I whispered to Rachel.

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “But we’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just trying to intimidate us.”

She was probably right. They wouldn’t actually shoot us. Or would they? We were easy targets, standing still in the open. They could take their time and go for a head shot.

Past the bank, I spotted Paul standing outside the New Bethany Diner, sipping soda or something from a jumbo-sized paper cup. No sign of the others. Not surprising, since the group hadn’t approved our rally. And it was better Sarah wasn’t here—that would just add to my worries.

Rachel hugged Alyce and other people she recognized, then reached in her bag and pulled out my brother’s portrait, the one that had been propped on his casket at the funeral. She leaned it against the base of the soldier statue.

Behind the picture glass, Jake smiled at me. I plugged the mike into the amp and clipped the amp to the car battery. I flipped a switch and the power light turned green. I tapped the mike, and the speaker thumped.

I wanted to hurry this up and waved Rachel over. I handed her the mike. “You’re on.” The battery would last at least an hour, but I doubted we would have that long.

Rachel examined her filigreed watch. “Let’s let the crowd grow.”

I glanced at mine. 12:30.

More people arrived. But half were cops—city police, county police, state police, and eight men wearing silver long-sleeved shirts, black pants, and matching ties. Their caps bore a perched eagle clutching a saber and whip. Internal Security.

New Bethany’s gray-haired police chief paced back and forth, carrying a megaphone. The Internal Security troops stared at us, long batons and compact submachine guns fastened to their belts.

My knees shook. “Rachel, I’ve got a bad feeling. Really bad. We should go, right now.”

Available

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About Author

TW author photo

Ted Weber has pursued writing since childhood, and learned filmmaking and screenwriting in college, along with a little bit of physics. Trapped at home during the “Snowmageddon” of 2010, he transformed those interests into novel writing. His first published novel, a near-future cyberpunk thriller titled Sleep State Interrupt, was a finalist for the 2017 Compton Crook award for best first science fiction, fantasy, or horror novel. The two sequels, The Wrath of Leviathan and Zero-Day Rising, are also available. His latest release, Born in Salt, pits an Illinois farm boy against a ruthless fascist government that took power in a coup. Mr. Weber is a member of Poets & Writers and the Maryland Writers Association, and has run numerous writing workshops. By day, Mr. Weber works as an ecologist, and has had a number of scientific papers and book chapters published. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Karen. He enjoys traveling and has visited all seven continents.

For book samples, short stories, and more, visit https://www.tcweber.com/

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Book Review: The Broken God – Gareth Hanrahan

Dark gods and dangerous magic clash in this third book of Gareth Hanrahan’s acclaimed epic fantasy series, The Black Iron Legacy. “This is genre-defying fantasy at its very best . . . Insanely inventive and deeply twisted” (Michael R. Fletcher). 

Enter a city of dragons and darkness . . . The Godswar has come to Guerdon, dividing the city between three occupying powers. A fragile armistice holds back the gods, but other dangerous forces seek to exert their influence. Spar Idgeson, once heir to the brotherhood of thieves has been transformed into the living stone of the new city. But his powers are failing and the criminal dragons of the Ghierdana are circling. 

Meanwhile, far across the sea, Carillon Thay—once a thief, a saint, a god killer; now alone and powerless—seeks the mysterious land of Khebesh, desperate to find a cure for Spar. But what hope does she have when even the gods seek vengeance against her? 

“A groundbreaking and extraordinary novel . . . Hanrahan has an astonishing imagination” (Peter McLean). 

My thoughts:

The third book in The Black Iron Legacy hits the ground running, with Cari on the way across the sea looking for a cure for Spar’s slow fading away. But her leaving Guerdon leaves the New City vulnerable to others.

The dragons of Ghierdana have set up shop, as part of the Lyrixian delegation occupying the city and are sinking their claws into the criminal underworld.

I was totally hooked from page one, this series has been one of my favourite of the crop of newer fantasy writers in the last few years. Intelligent fantasy, smart world building with engaging and personable characters. I was really engrossed in the story, Cari develops as a character even further, as she learns more about who and what she is.

The various plot lines start to coalesce as the book heads towards its conclusion, setting up further adventures to come in the next book, which I cannot wait to read.

A big thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this book.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Paparazzi – Jo Fenton*

A stalker. A popstar’s family murdered. A terrified photographer.

It’s thirty years since Becky White joined the police. Now, six months after leaving the force, she is
suffering from PTSD, when an old friend turns up with a tempting offer.
Following the creation of The White Knight Detective Agency, their first client is a press photographer – a member of the Paparazzi – a young woman with a mysterious and troublesome stalker.
But as the case develops, Becky and Joanna find themselves embroiled in murder. When they are unable to prevent further deaths, their investigation takes them down an unexpected path.
But can they trust their instinct? And will they identify the killer in time to save a child’s life?
Paparazzi, the second instalment in the bestselling Becky White Thriller series. takes you on a journey into the deceptive world of superstars – and those who follow them!

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Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire, UK. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered
Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.
Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career
as a writer of psychological thrillers.
When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.
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Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Revelation by Jo Fenton (Open INT)

My thoughts: this was an interesting crime novel, and I couldn’t guess the killer, which is always a good thing. As ex-copper turned PI, Becky is a fascinating character, she no longer has the powers to arrest she once had or the resources, but she’s still clever and has a nose for detection. Her colleagues Joanna and Will are able to assist and are as brave as she is, which comes in handy when confronting a murderer.

The only thing that jarred a bit for me was the inclusion of either MI5 or 6, looking to recruit Becky, they got in the way a bit and it wasn’t fully explained as to what they wanted, I found Roger a bit too pompous and oblique. Hopefully in the next book this plot line is expanded upon and makes a bit more sense as I got a bit fed up every time the investigation got a bit sidetracked.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.


**Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and wil lnot be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random
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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Girl on the Platform – Bryony Pearce*

A missing child. A single witness.

I am the girl on the platform.

When new mother Bridget catches her train home from London, she witnesses something terrible: a young girl is taken from the platform, right before her eyes.

No one knows where I am.

But no one is reported missing and with Bridget the only witness, she is written off as an attention seeker. Nobody believes her – not even her own husband.

Can you find me?

But Bridget knows what she saw, and becomes consumed with finding the little girl. Only she can save the child’s life… but could delving into the mystery cost Bridget her own?

A dark and absorbing thriller with the impact of memorable series like Broadchurch or The Missing, perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Erin Kinsley’s Found.

My thoughts:

This was a clever and enjoyable thriller, exploring ideas of memory and mental illness.

While suffering from post natal depression, a terrible condition, and on medication, Bridget sees a child being abducted from a train station platform. But no one believes her.

Unable to trust her memory, and her rather terrifying mother, scared she might lose her baby daughter, she tries to prove she saw a crime and isn’t crazy.

As someone who lives with depression and anxiety, I completely understood how frustrating Bridget found things, people so easily blame your mental health when you seem a little unsure about things. It’s a cruel trope and unfair. Just because you’re unwell doesn’t mean you can’t see things or be trusted.

Bridget’s mother is the one spreading doubt about her health, manipulating events and causing fractures in Bridget’s marriage. I really didn’t like her from the off.

The final act is full of twists and surprises, and takes this into darker territory. I wasn’t expecting any of it and it was cleverly done.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Queen of Romance – Liz Jones*

The first biography of the bestselling author and journalist Marguerite Jervis Daughter of an officer of the Indian Medical Corps, Florence Laura Jarvis (1886 – 1964) was born in Marguerite Burma and became one of the most successful novelists of her time .

During the course of her 60-year career, Marguerite published over 150 books, with 11 novels adapted for film, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), the directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock. In her heyday she sold hundreds of thousands of novels, but is now largely forgotten; under numerous pseudonyms she wrote for newspapers, women’s magazines and the silent movie screen; she married one of Wales most controversial literary figures, Caradoc Evans.

She also trained as an actress and was a theatrical impresario. Known variously as Mrs Caradoc Evans, Oliver Sandys, Countess Barcynska and many other pseudonyms, who was she really?

Liz Jones has dug deep beneath the tale told in Marguerite Jervis’s own somewhat romanticised memoir to reveal what made this driven and determined woman. And what turned her from a spoilt child of the English middle classes to a workaholic who could turn her hand to any literary endeavour and who became a runaway popular success during the most turbulent years of the 20th century.

Liz Jones writes drama and creative non-fiction, reviews, short stories and journalism ranging from Take a Break to New Welsh Review. Along the way she has raised two daughters, tried to change the world, worked in a café-cum-bookshop, a housing association, in community development and lifelong learning. She is now a Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University.

My thoughts: this was a really interesting book. I hadn’t heard of Marguerite Jarvis or any of her aliases. Even studying English Literature for years, she never crossed my path as a writer. Which is a shame. Her life was more interesting than fiction. She reinvented herself so many times, as a writer, a “countess”, a theatre owner. Her books were made into films during the silent era, and then adapted into plays for her theatre company.

I really enjoyed learning about this interesting and colourful woman, her life, marriages and work. Her devotion to her last husband, Welsh writer Caradoc Evans, and her son Nicholas meant she never stopped writing, desperate for money to support them. It’s a shame her books seem to be hard to get hold of these days, yes I looked, as while they’re not particularly fashionable, they’re a part of literary history.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club – Faith Hogan*

Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

‘Uplifting, emotional and brimming with warmth and humour’ – Cathy Bramley

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save
Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.
As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.
In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…

From bestselling Irish writer Faith Hogan, The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is an emotional story about finding new friends and living life to the fullest, that will appeal to fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Heidi Swain and Liz Fenwick.

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Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is
unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.
She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

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My thoughts: this was a lovely, heartwarming story of family and friendship. Do have the tissues handy as there is a weepy bit.

Set in a small village in Western Ireland, the story revolves around the recently widowed Elizabeth and her friend Jo, the founder of the Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club. As Elizabeth adjusts to her new life, Jo’s daughter and grandson move to the village, looking to make a change.

I loved the characters, Elizabeth experiences a late blossoming after her husband dies and finds a new purpose, Jo is a delight, always full of joy. Lucy, Jo’s daughter, is a great addition to their gang and the other characters, Dan and Niall, are always interesting.

The story is sweet and enjoyable, the women’s friendships, Niall’s coming out of his shell and Dan’s journey are all tender and touching.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Guest Post: Paul Maunder on writing The Atomics and my review!

Today author Paul Maunder has kindly written about his experience writing new book The Atomics and I’ve been lucky enough to have read it (Thank you Lightning Books for my copy). My review follows after Paul’s essay. Enjoy!

A GOTHIC STORY OF MADNESS, REVENGE AND URANIUM-235
Midsummer, 1968. When Frank Banner and his wife Gail move to the Suffolk coast to work at a newly built nuclear power station, they are hoping to leave violence and pain behind them.
Gail wants a baby but Frank is only concerned with spending time in the gleaming reactor core of the Seton One power station. Their new neighbours are also ‘Atomics’ – part of the power station community. But Frank takes a dislike to the boorish, predatory Maynard. And when the other man begins to pursue a young woman who works in the power station’s medical centre, Frank decides to intervene.
As the sun beats relentlessly upon this bleak landscape, his demons return. A vicious and merciless voice tells him he has an obligation to protect the young woman and Frank knows just how to do it. Radiation will make him stronger, radiation will turn him into a hero…

A Productive Mid-Life Crisis

My winding path to publishing The Atomics

Paul Maunder

When I started writing fiction in my early twenties, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m sure many fiction writers will recognise that feeling, but my ignorance ran especially deep. Throughout my teenage years I was engaged in, obsessed by, cycle racing. My dream was to win the Tour de France not the Man Booker Prize. I read nothing but cycling magazines. But cycle racing is a cruel sport; I discovered the sizeable gap between my ambition and my ability, and at eighteen, tempted by the opportunity to reinvent myself at university, I gave up the lycra. 

At university I studied politics. Literature was only a very faint beep on the edge of my radar screen. I still wasn’t reading novels (I was barely reading the politics books required for my course), yet in the third year, when allowed to choose a course from another department, I went for an English Literature course about the American city. Perhaps that was the first glimmer of an interest in books, though I was too busy organising raves and other nefarious pursuits to really think about it.

The crucial moment came in the summer after leaving university. A friend lent me his copy of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I read it quickly and was absorbed, appalled, exhilarated. It was not the sex and violence that attracted me but the idea of what a novel could be. It was so different to my preconception of what constituted ‘literature’. Immediately I thought, I can do that. And I started doing just that.

It only took a few days for me to realise that I could not do anything remotely like that. But by then the addiction had taken hold. I was a writer. I knew that with absolute certainty. 

Over the following two decades I wrote five novels, plus a couple of false starts. I enrolled on the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, where I studied with Andrew Motion. I consumed books on the craft of writing and ploughed my way through dozens of novels. My ignorance about literature had allowed me to start writing without the sense of inadequacy that cripples many aspiring writers who know what a good book is. I saw this happening in my MA classes – the older, more experienced readers in the group would produce ten pages of prose but condemn their own work because it didn’t live up to their idea of what they should be producing. I had no benchmarks so I arrogantly thought that everything I produced was top-notch. 

I inched towards publication. Each novel I wrote was better than the last. I could always turn out a few pages of half-decent prose, but my downfall lay in bigger, structural issues. Plot, or lack thereof. Story, ditto. Characters that didn’t live and breathe. I submitted to literary agents and endured the slow drip of rejection letters. 

In the year that I turned forty I signed with a fantastic literary agent, one of those big names in the industry who commands respect from publishers. I had a novel set in the Second World War that felt ready, and a couple of editors were interested. I felt certain this was the moment I would drag myself across the line (I still had the arrogance of self-belief). The editors passed. My agent encouraged me to redraft the book, and I got lost in a maze of rewriting that I didn’t really understand or believe in. I lost sight of what the book was about. By the eighteenth draft I was left with a big mess.

I gave up. Switched to journalism and non-fiction. Published two books – with relative ease – about cycling. This was my mid-life crisis, more sedate and productive than buying a sports car or having an affair. Writing non-fiction required me to pull together a lot of information then build a story out of it that would, hopefully, engage the reader and keep them turning the pages. That transformed the way I looked at fiction. 

My earlier novels had been filled with all the strange and disparate ideas that had been floating around my head at that particular time – Cornish independence movements, custom coffin-makers, mobile libraries, dance music, Dad’s Army. The books had a facetious, too-clever tone. They didn’t hang together as stories, and there was no emotional truth at their core. Writing non-fiction taught me the importance of story, above all else. And the importance of considering the reader at all times. Previously I’d thought that whatever I wrote would be so perceptive, so insightful, that any sensible reader would be impressed. Now I understood just how daft that position was.

When I started The Atomics I focused on story and character. Create real characters, tell their story. That was my mantra. Now the book is about to be published by Lightning Books. I got there, eventually.

The Atomics by Paul Maunder is published by Lightning Books on May 3rd  

My thoughts: this was a really interesting book about a man slowing unravelling while working at a nuclear reactor and living in a small, intense community in a remote part of Suffolk.

There’s a sense of claustrophobia and a sort of incestuousness, the employees and their families seem to only socialise with each other, and Alice, who’s from the local community feels like something of an outsider.

Frank is seriously disturbed following the events that drive him from Oxford, and this leads him to do some terrible things. He’s also convinced that the uranium used at the plant is gifting him powers, as opposed to making him ill. The quiet desperation of his wife, Gail, increases as his mania does.

I found the growing violence and strangeness in Frank fascinating but also repelling, the voice in his head is menacing but also seductive in its desire for destruction.

Alice and Gail are also interesting – neither really belong in the village, even though Alice grew up there. Both want things their current lives won’t give them and don’t really know how to get them.

Thank you to Lightning Books for my review copy and Paul for sharing his experiences with us.