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Building Character, On Writing

Meet Beth Haldane of the London Murder Mysteries

Alice Castle is the latest author to appear in this series I call Building Character. The author of the London Murder Mysteries series, Alice chose to write about her protagonist, Beth Haldane, who she calls a Marmite character. That means you either love her or loathe her.

But as Alice puts it, “Beth cares about the right things. She loves her son, she hates injustice.” I would say those are commendable traits.

Here I will let Alice do the talking.

Who is your character?

My favourite character in my London Murder Mysteries series has to be my protagonist, Beth Haldane. She’s a bit of a Marmite character, as we say in the UK – you either love her or loathe her, 17362662_1817860305204464_694387859854246869_nalthough luckily for me even the people who’ve told me she drives them nuts have carried on reading the books. I think she has enough redeeming features to atone for the fact that she’s a terrible prevaricator. She’s so bad she’ll even put off prevaricating until tomorrow.

What does she look like?

Beth has a long fringe which, as one of my reviewers pointed out, is now almost a separate character in the stories. The rest of her hair is brown and also pretty wilful. She wears it in a pony tail which she has to adjust a lot. She is also very short. The fact that she often can’t quite reach things or see over the heads of other people makes her try a lot harder in many ways and is one of the clues to her determined character.

What is your character’s back story?

Beth is part of Dulwich, as she has lived there all her life, but she has always felt like an underdog, due to her height, her appearance and her family circumstances. This enables her to see the absurdities of the place (and there are plenty) more clearly.

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Beth drives the action – she is forced by circumstances to become an amateur sleuth, then astonishes everyone, including herself, by being rather good at it.

Why should readers care about this character?

Beth cares about the right things. She loves her son, she hates injustice. She doesn’t like the idea of people getting away with bad things. In a city like London, where crime often goes unsolved and people can die unmourned, Beth is determined to get the bottom of the mysteries that she stumbles into.

Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

Beth Haldane’s small hand tucked itself into DI Harry York’s big, comforting paw. The warmth and firmness of his grip did a lot to distract from the horrible scene in front of her.

‘Can you see the head anywhere?’ she said through half-closed lids.

There was a pause.

‘Nope,’ York confirmed. ‘Looks like it’s been… eaten.’

‘That might explain the crunching sound I heard earlier,’ said Beth faintly.

As crime scenes went, it wasn’t actually the worst she’d ever attended. But the fact that it was in her own kitchen did make things very nasty. And seeing the perpetrator, sitting only a yard away from the grisly remains, was altogether too much.

‘Magpie, you’re a bad, bad cat,’ said Beth crossly. Magpie, looking up from washing her paws after a delicious extra breakfast, gave Beth a mildly affronted glance before continuing her ablutions. Feathers really did stick in the teeth.

(From Revenge on the Rye, published December 2018)

A synopsis of Revenge on the Rye:

Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, thinks she is going for a carefree stroll on Peckham Rye with her best friend, Katie, and her annoying new puppy, Teddy. But before Beth knows it, she is embroiled in her most perplexing mystery yet.

Strange events from her family’s past, present-day skulduggery in the art world, and the pressures of moving school in south London threaten to overwhelm Beth. Will she be able to piece together the puzzle before her son’s crucial interview at Wyatt’s? Or will Beth’s insatiable curiosity finally drag down all her dreams for the future?

Join Beth, her irascible on-off boyfriend, Detective Inspector Harry York of the Metropolitan Police, and the dog walkers of Peckham Rye in a tale of murder, mayhem – and bloody revenge.

About Alice Castle

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. Alice is currently working on the sixth London Murder Mystery adventure, The Body in Belair Park. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

She is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery

http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich,

http://myBook.to/CiC

http://myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

http://myBook.to/revengeontherye

Death in Dulwich is now also out as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Building Character, On Writing

Meet Hunter Wilson of Hunter’s Force

Val Penny is the next author to participate in what I call the Building Character series on this website. I invite authors to write about one of the characters crucial to their novel. In this case it is D.I. Hunter Wilson, protagonist of Val’s The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. She’s on to number three — Hunter’s Force. I’ve read the first two, enjoyed them, and fans of UK crime stories should take note of this series. Hunter’s smart and a great boss, who enjoys darts and beer when he’s not solving crimes. I’ll let Val tell you all about him.

Who is your character?

Author pic Edinburgh

Author Val Penny

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is the main protagonist of all my novels. He is a career policeman
with a keen sense of justice. He is loyal to his children, his police team and his darts team. His partner is pathologist Meera Sharma. Hunter is besotted with her.

What does he/she look like?

Hunter is 48 years old. He is slim, 5’11” tall with intelligent, piercing blue eyes and short, straight brown hair.

What is your character’s back story?

Hunter is the son of a Church of Scotland minister. He and his brother were educated in the state system, not privately. He is intelligent but not University educated. Hunter and his wife divorced several years ago, after her sister had an affair with Hunter’s boss. When the man, Sir Peter Myerscough, dumped Hunter’s sister-in-law, the stress within the family caused Hunter and his wife to split. Hunter loathes Sir Peter but is fiercely protective of Sir Peter’s son, Tim who is a member of Hunter’s team

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Hunter leads the police team that investigates the crimes in my novels. He is central to the stories and he knows of the strengths of each member of his team and utilizes these to solve the cases.

Why should readers care about this character?

Hunter is a good guy. He cares about the safety of the citizens of Edinburgh, the well being of his team and the future of his children, Alison and Cameron. He is a normal, real person who enjoys going out with his partner Meera, and playing darts with the team in his local pub. He also enjoys a beer with friends.

 Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

DI Hunter Wilson looked at the time on his phone before he answered the call. 4.03am. If this was some comedian from the sub-continent calling to tell him about putting in a claim for the accident he hadn’t had… Then he noticed it was Cameron calling him.

“What’s the matter, son? This is a hell of a time to phone.” Hunter whispered.

“I didn’t know who else to call.”

“What’s the matter? And it had better be good.”

“It’s far from good.” Cameron told his father of the scene that had met him and his new friends when they got back to his flat.

“She’s had what cut off? Bloody hell!”

“I know, Dad, I know. And her head has been bashed in too. What do I do?”

“Well, now we have Police Scotland in place there is a Major Incidents Team, imaginatively know as MIT, that deals with cases like this.”

“Oh Dad no! The other girls’ll go mental. You come. Please? At least at first. I need your help.”

Hunter thought back to the days when Cameron used to ask for his help regularly: tying his shoelaces, drying him after swimming, learning to ride a bike. Those had been the golden years. It had been a long, long time since his son had sounded so desperate and pleaded for his help. It made Hunter feel good. He could help Cameron again. Brilliant!

Hunter’s Force Blurb

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature 

Can DI Hunter Wilson keep Edinburgh safe when he is the hunted?

DI Hunter Wilson is woken in the early hours of the morning by a call from his son, Cameron. Who has murdered the young student who shares Cameron’s flat? Why would anybody want to kill a young woman recently arrived in the city? 

Hunter's Force bannerNow that the united police force, Police Scotland exists, Hunter must call in the new Major Incident Team (MIT) to lead the investigation. Hunter’s ability to investigate anything further is put in severe doubt when someone from his past decides to take revenge on him. He goes missing and his team have no idea where to look for him. Who would want to stop Hunter in his tracks?  

Hunter’s team must work closely with MIT, with or without him, to solve the murder in this taut crime thriller.  

Author Bio

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, and Hunter’s Force are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fourth book in the series, Hunter’s Blood, follows shortly.

Author contact details

www.authorvalpenny.com

www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

twitter.com/valeriepenny

Author buy links

myBook.to/HuntersChase

myBook.to/HuntersRevenge

https://myBook.to/huntersforce 

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Isabel Long Series, Redneck's Revenge

Meet Isabel Long P.I.

Isabel Long is the star of my mystery series set in the sticks of Western Massachusetts. Actually, I name the series, which includes Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge, after her. She’s a long-time journalist who tries her hand at being a private investigator and does well by it. But who the heck is she?

First off, when I decided to write a mystery, I wanted a protagonist who is a woman. Rednecks Revenge smallShe wasn’t going to be a sweet, young thing. She was going to be a woman with some good miles on her — what the French call une femme d’un certain age. Isabel has three grown kids and a granddaughter. She’s also a recent widow. As for looks, she’s attractive enough to gain the attention of older men.

And Isabel had a long career as a journalist — starting as a reporter covering the dinky hilltown where she lives to being the managing editor of a newspaper until that ended when it went corporate. When the new owner said everybody had to reapply for their job. Isabel said, “To hell with that.”

Yeah, Isabel is a bit on the sassy side. She doesn’t take crap from anybody. She’s also savvy, which made her a good journalist. Now it will come in handy as a private investigator.

Isabel lives in a hilltown in rural Western Massachusetts. She and her late husband, Sam moved there from the city to make a better life for their children. Conwell, population a thousand, is the kind of place where most people know each other for better or worse. Isabel probably knows them even better because her first job as Chasing the Case cover copyreporter was covering it. In fact her first case, featured in Chasing the Case, was also her first big story as a rookie reporter. That involved the disappearance of Adela Collins 28 years earlier.

Other occupational benefits: Keeping an open mind and being able to talk with just about anybody. Oh, yeah, being relentless until she gets her story — or the culprit.

Isabel is also of Portuguese heritage, or as she says, “Yes, Long is my married name. Ferreira is the name I got at birth. I’m a hundred percent Portuguese and proud that I’ve invaded a Yankee stronghold in the hilltowns.”

Isabel’s also ready to reinvent herself — as a private investigator and as a single woman. The second part means after a year of properly grieving her late husband whom she loved, she’s ready for relationship with another man — and she finds it. Her relationship with Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar, has its ups and a big down. But I’m not going to spoil what happens for readers.

So, how much of me is in Isabel? I’d like to say the sassy and savvy part, especially since I wrote these books in first person. I, too, was a journalist who started in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I’ve lived twice. But unlike Isabel, I didn’t become a P.I. Instead I write about one, and that’s fine with me.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter in Redneck’s Revenge. Isabel is meeting a licensed P.I. to see if he will take her on as an associate. The cops told her she had to work for one for three years before she could go solo.

I smile and extend my hand to Franklin Pierce. I feel a bit self-conscious my skin is colder and rougher than his. I’m curious why someone would name their kid after one of the worst presidents so far although I can think of a few other contenders. But now isn’t the time to bring up that observation. I need to win this man over. So, what will it be: Franklin or Frank although I seriously doubt Frankie. I play it safe.

“Mr. Pierce, hello.”

“Please call me Lin. And you? Is it Isabel or Izzie? Which do you prefer?”

I shake my head.

“Never Izzie,” I say.

“I’ll remember that.”

“Okay, Lin. How do you spell that?”

“L-I-N.”

Gotcha. I follow him inside. For a man who makes money investigating private cases, this office is a bit of a joke, or maybe he doesn’t make much. Someone could easily move in one of the cheapo dollar stores or a salon where they fix blue hair for old ladies. A cracked vinyl couch is set near the entrance along with a coffee table stacked with magazines I bet aren’t current. The only art on the walls are a print of Norman Rockwell’s “Runaway,” the one in which a cop talks to a boy inside what looks like a diner, and framed newspaper pages that are yellow and faded. We’re moving too fast toward the back of the office for me to read what they say. A desk piled high with papers but no booze bottles or ashtrays, I’m relieved not to see, is semi-hidden by a partition along with two chairs for guests, a file cabinet, and beyond them a door I presume leads to a bathroom. I smell pizza through the walls from the joint next door.

Lin places his cowboy hat on the desktop and throws his long canvas coat over the back of his chair before he sits. He wears a dark suit, a bit frayed in the cuffs. His striped tie has a stain, perhaps coffee or a drop of grease. He shaved this morning. And he’s almost due for a haircut. Yes, my observation skills are getting sharper. I will need them if I continue to investigate cases.

I take Lin’s cue and choose one of the chairs opposite him. He studies me as I unbutton my coat and slide it away. I came dressed for this interview in a blouse and skirt. I pulled my silver hair back into a twist, now that it’s long enough. I haven’t dressed this fancy since I got canned from my job as the managing editor of the Daily Star. Now that I’m not sitting at a desk all day, I’ve lost some weight, a welcome development. My cheekbones are even more pronounced.

“Nice work on the Adela Collins case,” Lin says. “I was impressed. It’s tough to solve a missing person’s case after so many years. How many was it?”

“Twenty-eight.”

He repeats the number.

“Yup, that’s a long time.”

REDNECK’S REVENGE: The second in the Isabel Long mystery series has a formal launch Sept. 26. You can buy paperbacks now and pre-order the Kindle version, which will pop into your device that day. Here’s the link: mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

By the way both versions are available for its predecessor Chasing the Case: mybook.to/chasingthecase

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: A sunflower on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Mass., the village where I live.

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Author Interview, Crooked Cat Books, New release

Opening Scene: Hunter’s Revenge

Val Penny is the next author to be featured in my Opening Scene series, specifically for her next mystery set in Scotland, Hunter’s Revenge. Here’s how she pitches the book, the second in her Hunter series: “Hunter by name – Hunter by Hunter's Revenge Covernature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.”

I read the first in this series and was hooked. But then again, I am a huge fan of mysteries set in the UK. She is also a fellow author at Crooked Cat Books.

Hunter’s Revenge has a Sept. 9 release.

Here are the links to buy Hunter’s Chase and Hunter’s Revenge: myBook.to/HuntersChase and myBook.to/HuntersRevenge. 

So how does Hunter’s Revenge begin? Here’s a description from Val.

 DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer.

Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang, but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

Here is an excerpt from the prologue of Hunter’s RevengeHunter's Revenge Banner

The last thing Georg did on his eighteenth birthday was kill a man.

He really hadn’t meant to kill the Stasi officer in front of him, but it was him or Georg – and Georg did not want to die. It was the first time he’d seen a corpse. The streets were slick with ice. The man lost his balance and cracked his head on the pavement. Georg stared down at the body: there was blood and brains all over the pavement. He looked into the officer’s eyes. They stared blindly to heaven, but Georg knew there wasn’t a Stasi officer on earth who was going there. He looked away from death and towards his friends in horror, but when they saw what had happened, they scattered. Georg picked up the officer’s gun and began to run.

More Stasi officers appeared as the boys fled.

Georg was out of breath when he got home.

“What’s the rush, son?” his father asked.

“Shit, Dad! It’s bad.”

“You’re drunk! No language in this house, boy,” said his grandmother.

“Dad, the boys and me were leaving the bar to come home and we saw a Stasi officer”

“So?”

“We were laughing and having fun.”

“And?”

“For a laugh I knocked his hat off.”

“Idiot! You know Stasi have no sense of humour. Ever. So what next?”

“He pulled his gun and told us to stand silently against the wall.”

“And you apologised and complied, I hope.”

“I panicked and punched him. He slipped on the ice and fell over. He hit his head on the ground, and when I checked him, he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. I just took his gun and ran.”

The silence in the room was deafening.

“You did what? You fucking idiot! Did you really punch a Stasi officer? Are you mad? You know we don’t even have to openly engage in resistance to draw the attention of the Stasi and incur its retribution. Just failing to conform with mainstream society can be enough. Shit! I sired a fool.” Georg’s father’s red face reflected his rage.

“And now you are here,” his grandmother added. “You ran home, leading them straight to us. We will all die now. Thank you.”

“What is all the noise?” Georg’s mother came through from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron. His twin sister Ingrid and younger brother Wilhelm followed her. They looked bewildered. Their father rarely raised his voice, especially not to Georg.

As his father explained the issues, Georg’s mother burst into tears.

“They will kill him,” she whispered. 

About Val Penny:

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.

She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

Val Penny on social media:

www.authorvalpenny.com

www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

twitter.com/valeriepenny

 

 

 

 

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