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Hello and happy Friday!  Welcome along to another post to “Celebrate Indie Publishing” and this week the book being featured is “Beware the Cuckoo” by Julie Newman, and the author in the spotlight is Simon Michael.

 


Book Feature:

Published: 18 May 2017

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“Lies, deceit and dark secrets – this is a wonderfully addictive read” – Sheree Murphy, actress and television presenter

They were reunited at his funeral, school friends with a shared past. A past that is anything but straightforward. A past that harbours secrets and untruths.

Karen has a seemingly perfect life. An adoring husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home. She has all she has ever wanted, living the dream. She also has a secret.

Sandra’s once perfect life is rapidly unravelling. The man who meant everything to her had a dark side and her business is failing. To get her life back on track she needs to reclaim what is rightfully hers. She knows the secret.

As the past meets the present, truths are revealed – and both women understand the true cost of betrayal.

My Thoughts & Review:

It’s not often that a book leaves me genuinely stumped about how to review it.  On the one hand there was a very luring mystery aspect to the plot of this book, but there was also a plot line that I found very uncomfortable to read and if I’m honest I don’t think I would have picked this book up had I known about it.   Abuse of any sort makes for harrowing reading but when it features heavily in a book it puts a reader in a difficult position.  Do they continue reading and hope that this aspect of the plot is handled sensitively and remains utterly relevant to the story or do they stop reading there and then and forever wonder what happens in the other parts of the plot?  This was  a quandary I found myself in earlier this week.

I would urge caution to readers who may find the abuse detail too much.  The mystery element of the book is written well, the creeping darkness that looms as Karen and Sandra’s shared past is recounted gives the reader a gripping read and the prologue really does grab you.  The pace of this is quite brisk, and the number of secrets that are buried in the plot keep readers on their toes.
Sandra was a character that I struggled to connect with, she was very vain and spoiled as a youth and seemed not have changed much in adulthood.  Karen on the other hand, a vulnerable youth, that survives to adulthood but is troubled by her past and the memories associated with it.  Neither of these women were particularly likeable but I think this helped give a sense of detachment when reading this.

You can buy a copy of “Beware the Cuckoo” directly from directly from Urbane Publications here, or alternatively via  Amazon UK | Book Depository


Author Feature:

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Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne.  Simon writes from personal experience: he was a barrister for 37 years and worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy during what was often considered the “Wild West” of British justice.  The 1960s was a time when the Krays and the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted the evidence and took their share of the criminal proceeds.   Simon weaves into his thrillers genuine court documents from cases on which he worked and the big stories of the 1960s.

Simon was a successful author in the 1980s, published here and in the USA, and returned to writing when he retired from the Bar in 2016.  The first two books in the Charles Holborne series, The Brief published in September 2015 and An Honest Man published in July 2016, have both garnered rave reviews for their authenticity and excitement.  The theme of Simon’s books is alienation; Holborne, who dabbled in crime and in serious violence before becoming a barrister, is an outsider both in the East End where he grew up and in the Temples of the law where he now practices, where he faces daily class and religious prejudice.  He has been compared to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, honourable men surrounded by corruption and violence, trying to steer an honest course.

The third book in the series, THE LIGHTERMAN, will be published in June 2017 and looks set to be another bestseller.

Simon lives with his wife and youngest child in Bedfordshire. He is a founder member of the Ampthill Literary Festival and a former trustee and chairman of the Road Victims Trust, a charity devoted to supporting those bereaved or suffering life changing injury on the roads.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I can lose myself in a parallel world, one very similar to the one I inhabit, but where I control the outcomes.  I can present my characters, in particular Charles Holborne – who bears more than a passing resemblance to me – with the same life choices, the same moral dilemmas and the same dangers that I have faced and have him do better than I did.  It’s a mixture of escapism and self-therapy.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author? 

The inverse of the previous answer: the area where I have no control, i.e. the business side of things.  Like every author I feel that I’m writing something worth reading.  More than that, I also believe I have something to say about the darker side of human nature, how we are all a mix of good and evil, and how in the end good usually prevails.  But having spent months crafting, tweaking and polishing to produce work of the best possible quality I can manage, I have no control over whether the book is a bestseller or it sinks into the abyss with thousands of others.  There’s a huge market out there, and it’s so disheartening how authors of the highest quality (and I’m not talking about myself) just don’t get noticed; so often authors with distinctive voices don’t get the prominence or the sales they deserve.  On the other hand complete and utter copycat pap finds its way onto the best-seller lists because it happens to be the flavour of the month, or because the Amazon behemoth decides to put its marketing heft behind it.  It’s iniquitous, random and dispiriting.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

There are too many to mention, but one book that I have returned to over and again during my life is The Adventures of Hiram Holliday by Paul Gallico.  I first read it in my late teens or perhaps early 20s when I was quite impressionable, and it had a lasting impact on me.  It is set in the late 1930s just as the Nazis are taking over Germany, against the backdrop of a Europe that was shortly to disappear forever.  It is the story of a mild-mannered rather portly old-fashioned American gent who turns out to have the heart and soul of a real hero, and some surprisingly useful talents.  He is not in the least brash and hides his light under a bushel.  He is the sort of gentleman (and hero) I have always aspired to be.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I do a lot of talks to book groups, clubs and associations (for example the WI), and really enjoy it.  Unlike most authors, I don’t talk directly about my writing but about my family’s unusual history, my journey from council labourer to barrister, some of the entertaining stories and personalities I have encountered at the Bar and the themes which inspire my books.  After 38 years of public speaking, I hadn’t realised the extent to which I would miss it when I retired from active practice.  Speaking to these groups allows me to continue performing.

I also spend a lot of time doing research (which I like – and which can be very seductive unless you force yourself eventually to get down to the actual writing); marketing (which I dislike) and social media (which I loathe, but see as a necessary evil).

Finally, I have bought a very old rambling farmhouse in Gascony, which I adore, and I go there for peace and tranquillity as often as I can.  My wife still works, so she and my adult children join me as often as their schedules permit.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I don’t have any routine for writing and I desperately need to create one!  My wife and family accuse me of having a “butterfly mind”, which flits from subject to subject and task to task.  If my wife is to be believed, it makes me extremely unproductive.  I point out that I had a very successful career at the Bar for over 30 years, and in less than three years since I took on my last case I have written four novels, not to mention creating the website, doing the marketing, social media, blogging, and so on.  Not bad for someone who is unproductive.

However, she is right to this extent: I need to work to a proper schedule and divide the day into sections for social media/marketing chores, actual writing, and domestic/childcare stuff.  At present it’s the writing time which gets squeezed and squeezed, moved further and further towards the end of the list, and sometimes never reached at all.  And, after all, that’s the bit I like the best.

I have no particular rituals.  When I do get to the writing I sit at my desk, wake up the computer and start.  Once there, four or five hours will pass without my even noticing.

A huge thank you to Simon for taking part and for sharing some more about himself, and I have to say that I did go and look up The Adventures of Hiram Holliday after it was mentioned as it sounds like a book I’d enjoy, and it’s currently at the top of my birthday wish list for next month along with The Lighterman .
If you would like to know more about Simon and his books check out his website or follow him on twitter @simonmichaeluk

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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