Thursday 30 March 2017

What She Lost by Susan Elliot Wright @sewelliot @simonschusterUK @TeamBATC

 Eleanor and her mother Marjorie have always had a difficult relationship and although they’ve tried, they have somehow just failed to connect.
Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, and as her memory fades, her grip on what she has kept hidden begins to loosen. When she calls her daughter to say, ‘There’s something I have to tell you’, Eleanor hopes this will be the moment she learns the truth about the terrible secret that has cast a shadow over both their lives.
But Marjorie’s memory is failing fast and she can’t recall what she wanted to say. Eleanor knows time is running out, and as she tries to gently uncover the truth before it becomes lost inside her mother’s mind forever, she begins to discover what really happened when she was a child – and why…
A story of family and secrets, perfect for fans of Maggie O'Farrell.

What She Lost by Susan Elliot Wright was published in paperback by Simon & Schuster UK on 9 March 2017.  Back in February 2015, I read and review Susan Elliot Wright's debut novel, The Things We Never Said here on Random Things. I absolutely loved that book, the writing is beautiful and I've been looking forward to her new novel for a long time.

What She Lost is another beautifully constructed story that kept me spellbound. The reader is introduced to Marjorie in the prologue set in 1967. Marjorie is in the delivery suite in hospital, in labour with her second child. She already has a daughter and is delighted when she gives birth to a son, Peter. Her husband Ted will be thrilled to have a son. Their little family is complete.

However, Peter's birth does not bring the happiness and joy that the young couple had longed for. Instead, Peter is severely disabled, and so begins Marjorie's long and painful journey into depression and fear.

The story then moves to the present day. Marjorie's daughter Eleanor is now grown and living on a community farm in North Yorkshire. Eleanor's life has not been easy, and she and Marjorie are not close. The community at the farm are her adopted family, it's the place where she feels safe and wanted. However, blood is thicker than water, and it is clear that Marjorie's health is suffering and Eleanor can no longer rely on her mother's friend Peggy to cope with the effects.

What She Lost is an emotional and at times, wrenching story that deals with the darkest of secrets and the effects that lies and deception can have on a family. As Eleanor struggles to understand what it is that Marjorie is desperate to remember, old wounds are opened up and examined. This author ably deals with serious and often distressing issues, including teenage pregnancy, dementia and the stigma often associated with mental health and disability.

Susan Elliot Wright is a hugely talented author, this is a hauntingly tragic, yet very sympathetic novel populated with characters who the reader will come to care about and cheer for. The human emotion is conveyed so precisely, this really is a wonderfully observed story. I loved it and would recommend it highly.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Susan Elliot Wright grew up in Lewisham in south-east London. Before becoming a full-time writer, she did a number of different jobs, including civil servant, cleaner, dishwasher, journalist, and chef.
She has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University, where she is now an associate lecturer, and she lives in Sheffield with her husband.
She is the author of The Things We Never Said and the Secrets We Left Behind.

To find out more, visit her website:
Follow her on Twitter @sewelliot

Puzzle Girl by Rachael Featherstone #BlogTour @WRITERachael @AccentPress is #PuzzleGirl

Love is a riddle waiting to be solved...  
Clued-up career girl Cassy Brookes has life under control until one disastrous morning changes everything. When she finds herself stuck in a doctor s surgery, a cryptic message left in a crossword magazine sends her on a search to find the mysterious puzzle-man behind it.  
Cassy is soon torn between tracking down her elusive dream guy, and outwitting her nightmare workmate, the devious Martin. Facing a puzzling love-life, will she ever be able to fit the pieces together and discover the truth behind this enigmatic man?

Puzzle Girl by Rachael Featherstone was published in paperback by Accent Press on 16 March 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

I'd guess that as a fifty-year-old married woman, I'm not really the target market for Puzzle Girl. It's been a while since I read about twenty-somethings looking for the ideal man whilst aiming for the top of the career ladder. However, Puzzle Girl is such a refreshing read and I enjoyed it very much. It was the perfect medicine after a particularly busy week at work.

Cassy is an interesting character, she has a touch of Bridget Jones about her, certainly the annoying parts that drove most of us mad, and especially the endearing, lovable traits that made us all forgive Bridget anything. The reader is introduced to her on what is potentially a very big night for Cassy, she's attending a dinner with sought-after clients. If this goes well, then it will be the big break that she's worked for, it could open the doors to much bigger and better things. The one fly in the ointment is Martin; her colleague. He wants to get to the top just as much as Cassy does, and it seems that he will stoop to anything to get there.

The night does not end well. Cassy receives shocking and heart-breaking news just as dinner is about to be served.  A few weeks later, when Cassy is given the opportunity to redeem herself, everything goes pear-shaped once again. She finds herself in the waiting-room of a NHS walk-in centre, waiting to see a doctor, with a suspected sprained ankle.

That visit to the walk-in centre is the real beginning of Cassy's story. When she discovers a half-completed puzzle in the waiting room, she becomes determined to track down the guy who filled out the answers; her 'puzzle man'.

Rachael Featherstone writes with wit and lots of humour. Cassy is infuriating, embarrassing, she over reacts, she's quite self-centred, but she provides great entertainment. Puzzle Girl is escapism at its best, it is fast-paced, packed with an assortment of well crafted characters who are vibrant and colourful.

An enjoyable, fun story that is well written and put a smile on my face.

About the Author ~ taken from

Born and raised in London, in 2013, we decided it was time for some country air and now live in Hampshire with my husband.

My path of writing has been a little unorthodox. Anthony Horowitz and J K Rowling saved my childhood as they taught me to love books. Nevertheless, I went on to read Mathematics at Oxford University, New College. I think the universe was trying to tell me something when I received my highest mark for a mathematical essay. Not that I paid much attention. After graduating I spent the next three years working in London. 

When my mum was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in 2012, I decided it was time to listen to the universe. It felt like the right time to make writing more than just a dream.

I am represented by literary agent, David Headley, MD at D.H.H Literary Agency and Goldsboro Books.

I have also completed a Masters in English Literature with Creative Writing modules at Surrey University in 2015, just to make sure my mind is properly adapted from numbers to letters!

My debut novel Puzzle Girl is out 16 March 2017.

For more information visit
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @WRITERachael

Wednesday 29 March 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Peter Swanson @PeterSwanson3

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life

I am really excited to welcome author Peter Swanson to Random Things today. His second novel, A Kind Worth Killing was one of my Top Reads of 2015, and I was delighted to see my review quoted in the paperback edition. I read and reviewed A Kind Worth Killing here on Random Things in January 2015.
Here's a little snippet from my review:
"Be prepared for a story that has more twists than a theme-park roller coaster, with some screeching hand-brake turns that will leave you wondering what the hell just happened. The author structures this novel so very well, with alternative viewpoints from Ted and Lily, this enables the reader to have a little more information than either of these two characters, but with some unpredictable shocks thrown in."
Peter's third novel, Her Every Fear was published by Faber in January this year. I really enjoyed it, and  read and reviewed it here on Random Things for the Blog Tour in January.

Peter Swanson's debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart (2014), was described by Dennis Lehane as a 'twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride' and was nominated for the LA Times book award.
His follow up, The Kind Worth Killing (2015), a Richard and Judy pick, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Silver Dagger, and was named the iBook stores Thriller of the Year and was a top ten paperback bestseller.
He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @PeterSwanson3

My Life In Books ~ Peter Swanson

In order to try and lend some order to the sheer number of books that have been important to me, I thought I’d break down this list into five year increments, and pick just one book from each period of time. Here goes.

Age 1 – 5: Hard to remember, of course, but even at that age I loved creepy things. One of my favorites was Mercer Mayer’s One Monster After Another, even though, or maybe because, it gave me some pretty vivid nightmares. There was one illustration in particular that haunts me to this day. It is the surface of the ocean, and below it are dozens of lurking monsters. Possibly a metaphor for the types of books I love now.

Age 6 – 10: John Bellairs wrote a bunch of books that were kind of the Harry Potter of their day, although not as globally successful. My favorite was The HouseWith a Clock in its Walls, sort of a gothic thriller for pre-teens. An orphan goes to live with his mysterious uncle, and discovers some genuinely creepy secrets. My favorite book from this period not written by Roald Dahl.

Age 11 – 15: The age when I began to seriously dig into adult fiction, discovering Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, and Robert Parker (author of the Boston PI series Spenser). But the one book I’ll pick is Robin Cook’s Coma, a disturbing medical thriller that might have been the first adult book I read, picking it up after my mother was finished with it. It opened my eyes to the exciting world of adult fiction.

Age 16 – 20: I veered a little bit away from crime fiction during these years, reading literary fiction, some brilliant, some a little pretentious (like me at the time). Tough Guys Don’t Dance by Norman Mailer was a thriller, but a literary one, and I fell in love with its florid prose and alcoholic protagonist.

Age 21 – 25: Sometime in this five year stretch, I first read Lucky Jim by KingsleyAmis. Not a mystery, but this comic novel is still my favorite book of all time. It’s comforting, funny, and made me feel better about my own bumbling life. Still does.

Age 26 – 30: This was a period when I was serious about becoming a poet, and reading as much poetry as I could get my hands on. Besides the Collected Works of William Shakespeare, if I could have saved one poetry collection from my burning apartment it would have been High Windows by Philip Larkin.

Age 31 – 35: After a few years away, I got interested in crime thrillers again. I went through a period of reading every John D. MacDonald novel ever written (no small task—he wrote nearly a hundred). It’s hard to pick a favorite but I’ll say A Flash of Green, a perfect thriller involving corrupt land speculation in Florida. MacDonald’s story-telling skills and prose style made me want to try my hand at writing a thriller myself.

Age 36 – 40: I began writing my own novels in this period, penning several unpublished thrillers. I continued to read a wide array of mysteries from different countries and different eras, and discovered a crime novel, A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin, that I fell in love with. It provided a blueprint for me on what a crime novel could be; main characters can die, there can be starts and restarts, and it is always good to focus on the criminals.

Age 41 – now: Right before I got my first publishing deal, I went through a rough patch of not believing in myself as a writer. Around this time, I read Stephen King’s On Writing. I’ve loved King for years, but this book, half an autobiography, and half a no-nonsense guide for writers, was hugely inspirational to me. It taught me that if I loved to write, I just needed to keep doing it, every day. I still reread this book when I need a little booster shot to get me going again.

Peter Swanson ~ March 2017

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins @PaulaHWrites @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow

The addictive new psychological thriller from the author of The Girl on the Train, the runaway Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller and global phenomenon.

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, satisfying read that hinges on the stories we tell about our pasts and their power to destroy the lives we live now.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins is published in hardback by Doubleday on 2 May 2017 and is the author's second psychological thriller novel. I read and reviewed her first; The Girl on the Train, here on Random Things back in January 2015.

There can't be many people who have not heard of Paula Hawkins and her amazingly successful novel, The Girl on the Train. It has sold millions of copies, it was adapted for film by Hollywood, it has been such a huge hit. Imagine having to come up with a story to equal that? There will be critics, readers, bloggers and reviewers waiting to pounce, to dissect every word and to compare the two.

So, it was with a little anxiety and a touch of nervousness that I took a huge breath and opened up my advance copy of Into The Water. See, I wasn't the hugest fan of The Girl on the Train. Looking back at my review, I see that I loved the writing and the beauty of the detail, but the thriller element didn't really impact on me that much. I've been looking forward to this next book so much.

Into The Water is excellent! My very early teaser review on Goodreads said; 
"I've spent the past two days absolutely transfixed by Into The Water. It is sublime. Dark, creepy and sinister with characters that will eat into your soul."
Jules returns to her home village after the death of her sister Nel, to care for Nel's teenage daughter. Jules and Nel did not speak for years, and returning to the place that holds so many bad memories is not something that Jules is looking forward to.

The police say that Nel jumped into the part of the river known locally as The Drowning Pool, but her daughter Lena is convinced that Nel would not do that. Nel had been obsessed with the history of the river, and had ruffled many feathers in this small community by beginning to write a book about all of the women who had died in the pool.

Water and the river are the constant, central theme to this story, totally enveloping each character and each part of the plot, providing a link that cleverly knits everything together.
Books and stories can be compared to the course of a river, with a flowing plot, and hidden depths, and Paula Hawkins has certainly incorporated all of these into this alluring and quite stunning novel.

Told in the multiple voices of the vast cast of characters, the reader glimpses different angles of the same story and it is this complexity that delighted me the most whilst reading. Multi layered, but finely bound together, the author tantalisingly drip feeds her clues and reveals, whilst gently exposing the characters and their histories.

As I said in my earlier review snippet; this really is a sinister read, the darkness and danger of the water is conveyed perfectly, along with the gripping exploration of past events, tied in with and linked to the current deaths in the village.

So so dark, yet stylish and slick. Into The Water gripped me, twisted me and totally consumed me.
Absorbing, moody and atmospheric.  I loved it.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. 

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been published in over forty languages, has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and is now a major motion picture starring Emily Blunt. Into the Water is her second thriller.

Follow her on Twitter @PaulaHWrites
Instagram @paulahawkins2010

Monday 27 March 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Nuala Ellwood @NualaWrites #MySistersBones

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life

I'm delighted to welcome author Nuala Ellwood to Random Things today. Nuala's debut thriller, My Sister's Bones was published in hardback by Penguin in February this year.  I read and reviewed My Sister's Bones here on Random Things in October last year.
Here's just a snippet of what I said about it:
"My Sister's Bones is exceptionally well written. It is brimming with suspense and unease, there are dark dark uneasy themes but the elegant and clever writing lift the story. Compelling and haunting, I'm certain that My Sister's Bones is going to be one of 2017's big sellers."

Nuala Ellwood moved to London in her twenties to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, but ended up writing novels instead.
She went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at York and was awarded funding from the Arts Council for the research and development of My Sister's Bones, her debut thriller.
Her father and sister are both journalists, and their experiences inspired the events of this novel.

Follow her on Twitter @NualaWrites

My Life In Books ~ Nuala Ellwood

Long before Harry Potter and Hogwarts there was Mildred Hubble struggling to fit in at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. I first discovered this series of books when I was seven years old and felt that I’d found in Mildred a true kindred spirit. Like her, I struggled to fit in at school, particularly when it came to PE and Maths. But though Mildred messed up royally in potion making class and broomstick formation she always managed to come good in the end, though her methods were anything but conventional. I was just the same and to this day I’m still a little bit Mildred Hubble in my approach to life.

I loved this book so much when I was little. It had everything I could wish for in a story: an ancient haunted house surrounded by water, a demon tree and three seventeenth century child ghosts who befriend the main character, ten year old Tolly, when he arrives at Green Knowe to stay with his grandmother. I also fell madly in love with Alexander, one of the young ghosts. At the age of eight, a seventeenth century flute-playing phantom was pretty much my idea of perfection!

Pat Barker’s novels have been a huge inspiration to me over the years. I first read Regeneration when I was thirteen. At that age I didn't really have any idea about war, let alone the horrors of trauma and shell shock. Yet as I read Pat Barker's spare, haunting prose something sparked inside me: an anger, a questioning. I remember reading The Ghost Road in one sitting with tears streaming down my face as Barker described the final moments of Hallet, a young soldier. Before he dies he attempts, several times, to say something, but his injuries make speech almost impossible. Finally, the psychiatrist, Rivers, manages to work out that he is saying 'it's not worth it.' As Hallet takes his final breath the other patients in the ward repeat his words over and over like a mantra. That scene is one of the most powerful reminders of the futility of war and I return to it again and again when I want to remind myself just how good writing can be.

 I read Dubliners when I was seventeen and had never been so drawn into a world, its sounds, smells and voices. It was like shining a spotlight onto a stage and seeing a life unfold in the space of a few moments before the light faded again. Coming from an Irish background I could recognize the inherent Irish melancholy that seeps through each scene. It made me want to write stories, tell stories and explore those hidden worlds beyond the light.

There are some writers that you appreciate, admire, even love, and then there are the ones that become part of your soul and for me, that writer is Virginia Woolf. From the moment I read Mrs Dalloway as a teenager I felt that I’d been re-introduced to an old friend, someone that I had known forever. At each stage of my life there has been a Woolf novel to guide my way.  As a writer I love her use of language and her boldness in creating a whole new literary form. I love the beauty of her sentences and the way she uses words like scattered petals, throwing them up into the air and seeing where they will land. But it is in her diaries that the real Virginia Woolf shines through. It is here that we see all her doubts and insecurities as well as her triumphs, the vital human being behind the cool Bloomsbury façade. Whenever I’m in need of guidance or reassurance I open the diary up at random and the answers I’m seeking, whether emotionally or professionally, will be there.

This novel had such an impact on me when I read it and it has inspired my writing in so many ways. The title is taken from a Henry James line -  ‘never say you know the last word about any human heart’ -  and that quote pretty much sums up what novel writing is all about for me. This book is a beautiful evocation of an ordinary life played out against the pivotal moments of the twentieth century. Written in diary form, the protagonist, Logan Mountstuart, starts the novel as an idealistic 15 year old, determined to make his mark and become a literary star, and ends it as a frail, jaded yet content eighty-five year old man. Along the way, he meets some of the key figures of the twentieth century including Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Ian Fleming, men and women who not only shape their times but Logan’s destiny too. But it is the smaller incidents in Logan’s life, the ordinary times, falling in love, becoming a father, dealing with death and loss and ageing, that deliver the most impact. When I finished this book I wanted to go back and start all over again, rather like Logan felt when he reached the end of his remarkable life.

This collection of short stories, written by the neuroscientist David Eagleman, imagines richly different afterlives in order to answer the question of what happens to us after we die. In one afterlife, God is no bigger than a microbe and completely unaware of your existence, in another you are recreated based on your credit card records. But it was the story entitled ‘Prism’ that really affected me. In this afterlife you live alongside yourself at different ages. So the vibrant seventeen year old you, full of dreams and ambition will encounter the jaded, exhausted forty year old you juggling job, kids and house and just about managing; your careworn eighty year old self, all wrinkles and creaky joints will bump into the smooth skinned, energetic eleven year old you while swimming in a lake. And your twenty-eight year old self may break up with a lover in a restaurant and then encounter the thirty-five year old you sitting at the next table wistfully thinking of what could have been. But it was the last line, spoken by an invisible committee of gods, that has stayed with me ever since and made me look at my life in a completely different way: ‘You were all these ages, they concede, and you were none.’

Nuala Ellwood ~ March 2017

Friday 24 March 2017

Boundary by Andree A Michaud #BlogTour @noexitpress #BoundaryBook

It's the Summer of 1967. The sun shines brightly over Boundary Pond, a holiday haven on the US-Canadian border. Families relax in the heat, happy and carefree. Hours tick away to the sound of radios playing 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. Children run along the beach as the heady smell of barbecues fills the air.

Zaza Mulligan and Sissy Morgan, with their long, tanned legs and silky hair, relish their growing reputation as the red and blonde Lolitas. Life seems idyllic. 

But then Zaza disappears, and the skies begin to cloud over...

Boundary by Andree A Michaud is published in hardback by No Exit Press on 23 March 2017. It is translated by Donald Winkler.

Boundary is a crime novel, it is also a novel of great beauty, of lyrical and ethereal prose that is often challenging and complex, but gradually draws in the reader as the story unfurls.

Boundary Pond is an all-American holiday park, nestled on the Canadian border and popular with families. The summer of 1967 is warm and the strains of popular music flavour the air, This is a place of idyll and fun, relaxation and games. Until the body of teenage Zaza is discovered, caught in a hunter's trap. Boundary begins to feel darker and more oppressive, with stories from the past revealed. Ghostly obsessions and long-ago passions become a central feature of the story.
Zaza and her friend Sissy are well known within the small Boundary community. Self-centred, haughty, admired, feared, they are the centre of their own worlds, and when Sissy disappears too, residents become overwhelmed with suspicion, grief and fear.

Told from different perspectives, primarily through the investigating police officer and young local girl Andree, the author sows many seeds into the reader's mind. She creates an intimacy that can feel oppressive and quite dark at times, yet it still feels like a thriller.

The atmosphere of the setting is wonderfully done, The expertly described location adds a depth to this story and thrusts the reader right into the heart of that small holiday park, that has big big secrets.

Boundary is a stimulating and elaborate story, sometimes it can be difficult to follow, it certainly takes a little time to settle into. However, it is immensely satifsying and the reader is rewarded with fine writing, elegantly crafted characters and a immersive setting.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Andrée A Michaud is a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction (Le Ravissement in 2001 and Bondrée in 2014) and the recipient of the Arthur Ellis Award and the Prix Saint-Pacôme for best crime novel forBondrée, as well as the 2006 Prix Ringuet for Mirror Lake (adapted for the big screen in 2013). As she has done since her very first novel, Michaud fashions an eminently personal work that never ceases to garner praise from critics and avid mystery readers alike. In 2010, her thriller Lazy Bird, set to the rhythms of jazz, was published by Les Éditions du Seuil in France, as part of the Point Noir Collection.
Donald Winkler is a Canadian Documentary maker and French-to-English literary translator. He won the Canada's Governor General's Award for French to English translation in 1994, 2011 and 2013.


Thursday 23 March 2017

Deadly Game by Matt Johnson @Matt_Johnson_UK @OrendaBooks #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. 
Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all… 
Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.

Deadly Game by Matt Johnson was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 March 2017 and is the second in the Robert Finlay series.  I read and reviewed the first, Wicked Game here on Random Things in March last year.

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Matt Johnson, here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour for Deadly Game.  Matt is sharing with us the books that have inspired him and left a lasting impression on his life, This is his My Life In Books.

My Life In Books ~ Matt Johnson

When asked to look back at a life reading, it’s surprisingly hard to remember the names of authors and the titles of work that you’ve enjoyed. I read, not simply for pleasure, but to learn, and as I’m now approaching my sixth decade on this earth, I’ve worked my way through quite a few books.

So, I’ve decided to concentrate on those that I really remember, as this must be because they had a sufficiently marked effect to have burned their content into my conscious memory. I have quite eclectic taste, as you will see.

I start with a book I read during my early teens. It’s Mike at Wrykin by the well-known author P.G.Wodehouse.
As a lad, I was very keen at sport and was house-captain for both rugby and cricket. So, a tale set in a school about a boy of my age excelling at sport – and all told with the author’s brilliant wit – was bound to appeal.
It did. And it’s a story I remember with fondness.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by science. Man had just landed on the moon – no, I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories – and the idea of space travel and life on other worlds sparked the imagination of many a writer.
One of the very best exponents of this genre was Frank Herbert.
Dune is one of the most famous science fiction novels ever written and needs little by way of introduction. It was described as one of the landmarks of modern science fiction.
Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ and similar incredible worlds could do well to read this and learn where these ideas first started.

Although not a fan of graphic horror films, I do admit a weakness for an imaginative book that can leave the gore to your imagination.
Chiller-fiction, I believe it is called, and James Herbert was the UK’s best exponent, to my view. The Fog was the first of his books to grab my attention but I soon went on the read others such as The Rats and Survivor.
Herbert’s writing has been a huge influence on my own. His twenty-three novels sold more than 54 millions copies worldwide and in many translations. I’m sad that, as he died in 2013, I will never get to meet him to thank him.

One of the masters of the genre I have entered with Wicked Game and Deadly Game has to be Lee Child.
Killing Floor introduced the world to Jack Reacher, a character who has become even better known than his creator.
Reacher has such universal appeal, to readers of all ages, male and female, that he has set the bar, the target to which all other authors in this genre must aspire.
I haven’t read the most recent Reacher books, but the early ones never failed to grip me. Killing Floor, given that was the first time I met the 6’7” military cop, is to my mind the best.

In more recent years, I have tried to broaden my horizons, to read outside my favoured genres and look at the work of fine authors. It was with this in mind that I started Birdsong.
This is one of the very first books that, when I finished the final page I put it to one side and just sat there, stunned. I really enjoyed Birdsong that much.
 Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Sebastian Faulks at an event and we enjoyed a good chat about football – a shared passion – about writing and about my first literary events, which were on the horizon. Sebastian was kind enough to share a tip with me, and then to demonstrate it to the audience. He advised me to be careful, and not to spill my wine all over my notes as I started to talk!

When my partner first handed me a copy of Pillars of the Earth, I felt quite daunted by its length. I’m glad I persisted.
This incredible novel kept me occupied for weeks. I found the story drew me in and I really needed to follow as the stories of the characters unfolded.
If you haven’t read it, try it. After all, Ken comes from Wales, which speaks volumes in itself!

Matt Johnson ~ March 2017

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for 25 years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent's Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People's Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital.
Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition.
His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game once again draws on Matt's experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor.

Find out more about Matt Johnson at
Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Johnson_UK