Music to Write Books By – Rachel Dove

Today on Crimepieces, Rachel Dove, selects the music that she writes to. This is Rachel in her own words:

4bebfac6fbea36bb616912f605df16fbI am a wife, mother of two boys, perpetual student, avid reader and writer of words. I sometimes sleep, always have eye bags and dream of retiring to a big white house in Cornwall, with 2 shaggy dogs, drinking wine on my seafront balcony whilst creating works of romantic fiction. All done with immaculate make up and floaty dresses. 

In the meantime I nearly always remember to brush my hair, seldom have time to look in a mirror and write many, many to-do lists. 

51AWPvSAqALRachel’s debut novel, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street was the  winner of The Prima Flirty Fiction Competition. Set in an idyllic Yorkshire village, Amanda who is recently single and tired of the London rat race is determined to make her dreams of setting up a countryside boutique come true.

The music chosen by the authors appearing in this series of posts can be found on YouTube here.

Rachel, do you have particular pieces of music you write to?

I like all kinds of music, but I have a playlist for each project on Spotify. I love that app on my laptop, I plug my earphones in, ignore the sounds in the house, and write. I like pop music, indie, but I must admit to having a love for heavy rock too. My current male character, Thomas, is a bit of a rock enthusiast I think, and channels it through me!

Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?

Ever seen Grey’s Anatomy? How to Save a Life is used perfectly on there, to punctuate parts of a man’s life, including his death.

That spoke to me. The Cranberries – Linger – I have loved that song since my teens and wrote The House of Sugar Blood on that album.

Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood?

War Pigs by Black Sabbath – unusual I know, but it’s a long piece of genius – excellent to thrash the words out to. I listen to Classical radio stations in the car, but I find I can’t write well to them.

Are there any longer pieces you can recommend. If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose.

I love my playlists, but artists like Pink, Bowie, Paramore – all excellent artists with a good back catalogue to trance out to.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a book set in modern times, in Yorkshire but the story of the two characters starts overseas, in conflict. Thomas is a Captain in the army, Kate is a doctor on a stint over there, and it starts when they meet, on the worst day of their lives. The story is about their journey, not just about love, but about rolling with the punches that life throws you, adapting and learning to stride out into the world again.

Thanks, Rachel, for taking part and good luck with the writing. Rachel can be found on the social media links below.

Twitter: @WriterDove


More Ghostly Tales: Susan Hill, Joanna Briscoe and Caroline Mitchell

After handing in the manuscript for book three, I treated myself to a few ghostly tales to read late at night. They were a diverse bunch of books with shows how alive the genre still is. Most came recommended via a Facebook group for authors and bloggers called Book Connectors. It is one of the friendliest groups I’ve joined online and never fails to come up with great suggestions.

First up was Susan Hill. Famous for her Simon Serailler detective series and, of course, The 9781846685743-2Woman in Black, I had high expectations of Dolly. It’s a split narrative covering an incident in the childhood of Edward Cayley involving his cousin Leonora’s explosive reaction to a doll. When Edward inherits his aunt’s house, the repercussions of the act of violence begin to be felt. We’re in safe hands with Susan Hill and it’s a seriously creepy book with a slight but powerful storyline.

JoannaBriscoe_jaldenJoanna Briscoe’s Touched is published by the famous Hammer imprint and I found it to be very much rooted in the house-based supernatural genre. It’s clear upfront that a man, Pollard, has had a profound impact on the narrator. As we’re taken back into the past we discover his interaction with the Crale family. It’s a compelling read, well written although more mystery than supernatural. It had a Young Adult feel to it, which isn’t a criticism but a sense of how accessible Briscoe’s writing is.

14567325._SY540_Caroline Mitchell is a writer that I’d been dying to try for ages. I love the idea of combining a police procedural with elements of the supernatural and Mitchell excels at this. I wanted to read Don’t Turn Around so much that I purchased a kindle Paperwhite. Both my e-reader and the novel were great finds and I’d recommend Mitchell to anyone who likes a well-written police procedural. The supernatural element is understated and very realistic and this is a series that I’ll definitely be reading more of.




Music to Write Books By – Tracey Sinclair

Next up on Crimepieces  is Tracey Sinclair who is choosing the music she writes her books to. The entire list of music chosen by authors can be found on the YouTube channel here.


Author imageTracey is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series, the latest of which, Angel Falls, is out now.



Do you have particular pieces of music you write to?

 I’m quite unadventurous with music, so tend to listen to the same things over and again, and go in phases with the same few CDs on rotation for a while before changing up to a new batch (I’m so unhip I’m still on CDs!). At the moment it’s Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, the Killers, and a band called American Music Club (and solo albums by their singer Mark Eitzel).

A friend bought me a Sophie Hunger CD, some of which is in German, and I’m enjoying that – it’s weirdly soothing listening to someone sing in a language you don’t speak.

I also love soundtrack albums, and mix CDs made for me by other people – my favourite treat is someone making me a CD, as I get to discover new music I’d never find myself!

Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?

 There’s rarely a direct correlation, but if I’m in the middle of a project, a piece of music can spark something – for instance, a lot of Bruce Springsteen (particularly The River, which makes me well up every time I hear it!) is incredibly evocative of working-class dreams gone sour and that feeds into something I’m working on at the moment.

Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood?

 I rarely deliberately use music to set a mood – which is good, otherwise everything I wrote would either be super cheesy or incredibly depressing, as that tends to be where my music tastes lie! But I do like the sense of yearning evoked by Rufus Wainwright’s Want and Poses albums, or the melancholy of Leonard Cohen.

Are there any longer pieces you can recommend. If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose.

 If I don’t want the music to distract me too much but I don’t want to work in silence (which I often do – sometimes I find music too much of an interference) I’ll choose something classical, or with no vocals: probably my go-to is the Piano soundtrack, by Michal Nyman. It’s just a beautiful piece of music and it also has personal resonance for me, as it reminds me of a close friend who died a few years ago, so it’s always a slightly bittersweet listen.

I also like Massive Attack, earlier Radiohead, and Portishead as background to work to – low key and melodic but the album tracks blur into one another slightly so less distracting than albums full of very different tunes!

What are you working on at the moment?

I have a few things on the go – the first draft of a new play, the sequel to the last Dark Dates book Angel Falls (which ended on a cliff-hanger so I think people would kill me if I delay with it!) and a couple of other ideas for longer pieces. I like to be busy!

Thanks, Tracey, for taking part and good luck with the writing. Tracey’s social media links are below.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00027]




Competition time: A Deadly Thaw, In Bitter Chill and cake!

IMG_0139Only seventeen days to go until the UK publication of A Deadly Thaw. I’ve had my copies of the hardback through the post and they’re gorgeous. They also look great alongside In Bitter Chill on the bookshelf!

13563676_10153618998626625_612631096_nTo celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of both books. Also, given how popular it was last time, I’ll send the lucky winner a Bakewell tart  from the original shop in Derbyshire. I’ll post this and the books to anywhere in the world so you can enjoy it with your cup of tea or coffee. I’ve used the photo from the last competition to show the cake. If I visited the shop to buy another to photograph for this competition, it’d be gone by tomorrow!

All you have to do to enter is fill out your name, e-mail address and the name of your favourite crime novel. Your e-mail will only be used for my newsletter and adding the name of your favourite book helps me filter out spam. The competition ends at 8pm on Sunday 21st August.

Thank you! The countdown to A Deadly Thaw’s publication has begun. Don’t forget you can pre-order it now on Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as in your local bookshop.

**The competition is now closed. The winner will be announced shortly**

Music to Write Books By – Susan Moody

Next up on my series of posts featuring music that authors write their books to I have Susan Moody.  I’ll be reviewing Susan’s book, Penny Black, shortly. The entire list of music chosen by authors can be found on the YouTube channel here.

susanmoodySusan was born and brought up in Oxford. She’s published 34 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake and the Cassandra Swann bridge series. She has also written many stand-alone novels, among them Losing Nicola and, most recently, A Final ReckoningThe Colour of Hope was an international best-seller and translated into many languages.

Her novelization of the Gold Blend coffee ads, Love Over Gold, reached the Sunday Times best-seller lists. Sadly, it was written under a pseudonym! She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the Universities of Tasmania and Copenhagen, and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers. She and her husband divide their time between south-west France and south-east Kent.

The complete Penny Wanawake series has been re-issued by publisher Williams and Whiting.

Susan, do you have particular pieces of music you write to?
Had I not turned to crime, I would love to have been a C&W singer, belting out those songs about wicked women and faithless love. When I lived in Tennessee, that’s all you could get on the radio.  And Tennessee is where I got the inspiration for Penny Wanawake, my tall, black, beautiful photographer protagonist (all 7 now reissued by Williams & Whiting)
Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?  
Not consciously, but music itself, be it classical, folk, pop, etc, does help to settle down and face that screen.  The only thing I don’t listen to when writing is jazz.  Too unsoothing.
Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood?
If I want to write about love, particularly love gone wrong, unrequited love, broken love and broken dreams, nothing beats The Carnival Is Over, closely followed by I’ll Never Find Another You, both sung by the Seekers.  They work every time.  It’s hard to see the keyboard through a veil of tears, but I manage.
Are there any longer pieces you can recommend. If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose?
Mozart, and more Mozart.  Symphonies in particular.   But I listen to all of his stuff.  Purists despise compilations of the  Best Bits,   It’s the mathematical purity of Mozart that I love, the sheer and absolute pleasure of his delicate precision, as fragile as a snowflake.  And of course you can sing along as loudly as you like.
What are you working on at the moment?  
The third book in my new series (published by Severn House),  featuring  feisty Alex Quick, ex-copper, art lover and general nosy-parker.
Thanks, Susan, for taking part and good luck with the writing.

Review: Shirley Jackson – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

51jgtF1zbgL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_We Have Always Lived in the Castle  is a difficult book to categorise in terms of a review. I read it under the auspices of a ‘forgotten’ crime book but it’s since become clear that Jackson certainly hasn’t been forgotten by her readers. She’s been cited as influence on writers as diverse as Stephen King, Donna Tartt and Neil Gaiman and it’s not difficult to see why. The book opens in the Blackwood family home and Merricat preparing for a shopping expedition into town. She’s despised and mocked by the local community and it’s revealed that the isolation she lives in with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian is the result of her sister’s acquittal of the murder of the rest of her family years earlier. When Cousin Charles comes to visit with designs of the family fortune, Merricat is determined to protect the fragile stability that they’ve created inside the imposing home.

This is an impossible book to review because much of its greatness comes from the second half where there are shocking reveals and touching gestures of humanity. Merricat is portrayed as an innocent, cooped up in the house with two eccentrics who live life much as before ignoring the world outside. Tension is introduced into the story through the guise of a shady cousin who although blustery in character at least has the vestiges of normality about him. For much of what you read is smoke and mirrors and a shocking act moves the book in a different direction than expected.

It’s hard to compare this book to any other. I’m sure Stephen King fans will love it but it’s also a work of literary fiction where plot strands remain open. The afterword by Joyce Carol Oates is fascinating and perfectly placed (I hate forewords that give away the plot).

If you’ve not tried any Shirley Jackson here’s a deliciously creepy place to start. On the strength of this I’ve ordered The Haunting of Hill House because I’m pretty sure she’s going to be a fantastic writer of the supernatural too.

Music to Write Books By – Nick Triplow

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page a YouTube clip of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. It’s a piece of music I’ve written much of my third book, A Patient Fury, to. A fascinating discussion ensued and I’ve asked a few writers to do guest posts to share music that they write by.

All the recommendations will be on the Crimepieces Playlist on YouTube.

First up is Nick Triplow who shared some of his favourite pieces on my original Facebook post.

Nick TriplowNick is the author of the South London crime novel Frank’s Wild Years and the social history books – Family Ties, The Women They Left Behind, Distant Water and Pattie Slappers. His story, Face Value, was a winner in the 2015 Northern Crime short story competition.

Originally from London, now living in Barton upon Humber, Nick played guitar in the  80s indie band, I Can’t Scream. His beloved Aria Elecord acoustic is strategically placed close to his writing desk.

Nick, do you have particular pieces of music you write to?

Pretty much across the spectrum in terms of style and genre. I’ll choose a handful that have lasted and that haven’t worn themselves out.

In Elgar’s Sospiri (Hope):

Arvo Part’s Spiegel am Spiegel:

and the Adagio from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A (hark at me, getting all Desert Island Discs):

there are three pieces, slow movements with a pent up emotion that puts me in a good place to write.

I remember I was walking through the City of London – must have been in the late 1980s – and I came across this odd little record shop near Holborn. Inside it was more like a library than your local Our Price or HMV. There was a bargain bin of cassettes. I picked out Miles Davis’s music for the French noir film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows).

At the time, all I knew about jazz was my dad’s old Kenny Ball records. But this has an incredible atmosphere, rainy streets, running for your life, a time and place that mainlined on imagination. Sensual, frenetic. This still gets regular plays.

Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?

The night I began writing Frank’s Wild Years, I was listening to Tom Waits. It was a cold night in February – I live in an old house that’s hard to keep warm and Tesco’s had a post-Xmas deal on Johnnie Walker Black Label. Let’s just say I was in a Tom Waits state of mind. I’d had a bunch of ideas working away in my subconscious about a South East London story, something that looked into the soul of the place and wasn’t all coke and guns. Listening to Tom Waits brought my ideas together: a single image, three characters in a pub, and the beginning of a story. All there in those opening lines of Tom Traubert’s Blues: ‘Wasted and wounded, it ain’t what the moon did, I got what I paid for now. / I’ll see you tomorrow, hey Frank, can I borrow a couple of bucks from you?’ And there they were, a long way from Brooklyn or Philadelphia, but right in the heart of South London, just as wasted and wounded. Bells whisky, B&H, warm pints and loneliness, and Frank was a bloke with a past no one knew about.

Since my friend, the songwriter James Varda died last year, I’ve often turned to his music for inspiration. The last song on his penultimate album, The River and the Stars, is fundamentally about not giving in. I’ve been working on a biography of Get Carter author, Ted Lewis, and to say it’s been hard going at times is something of an understatement. Many mornings James’s words on that song have inspired me to write: ‘So be the days and moments / And be the real work / Stay away from empty rooms /Where old temptations lurk / And if today is fine / Tomorrow has no claim to make’.

Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood – I love Holst’s ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ for example to get me in the mood to write angry passages?

For the first novel I wrote, The Paradise Man, which, sadly, is still in the drawer. (Do all authors have one of those?) I used Mark Lanegan’s album Bubblegum to get that sense of a character crossing from the straight world into a land of shadows and uncertainties. Tracks like Hit the City have a dark energy, takes you places you probably wouldn’t want to go. It’s not anger exactly, but it’s on its way. I should also mention Lanegan’s albums with Isobel Campbell; they have a real bittersweet quality which make them ideal writing music for me.

Are there any longer pieces you can recommend? If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose?

I’ve often worked to soundtracks for that reason, a mood set and sustained. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s music from the film The Assassination of Jesse James has an offbeat elegiac quality I really like. It’s minimal, often just guitar or piano and violin, and it has some of the repetitive themes that I like in, say, Michael Nyman or Philip Glass.

Glass’s Violin Concerto is a great piece.

Likewise, Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony – the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs – was hardly out of the CD player for a long time.

Thanks for these great recommendations, Nick. Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment.

I’ve  recently completed a biography of Brit-noir pioneer, Ted Lewis, whose landmark 1970 novel, Jack’s Return Home, was filmed as Get Carter. I’m now looking for a publisher for the Lewis book and working on new fiction, including a follow-up to Frank’s Wild Years, provisionally titled The China Hall.

Thank you and good luck with the writing!

Review: Helen Cadbury – To Catch A Rabbit

NEW-rabbitI met crime writer, Helen Cadbury when I appeared with her on a panel at Newcastle Noir. We had a fascinating discussion about the importance of setting; Helen’s books are located in South Yorkshire and it was a delight to read a novel that had a such a strong sense of place.

The author takes a classic police procedural structure and gives it a modern twist. The protagonist of her book is Sean Denton, a Police Community Support Officer. This immediately gives us readers a sense of a community that we live it. PCSOs are, for many of us, the face of modern policing and in Doncaster they’re at the front end of what happens on the street. In To Catch a Rabbit, Denton finds a dead woman slumped against a trailer. CID are reluctant to investigate and the PCSO decides to take matters into his own hands.

There’s always something fascinating about police personnel who go off-piste, the sense that danger lurks not only outside the force but also within. This is also true of Denton’s investigative efforts which gives the book a strong urban feel. I’ve never been to Doncaster but the city comes alive in the author’s writing. It’s recommended as a ‘literary crime novel’ and I have to say that I wholly concur. To Catch A Rabbit  was a worthy winner of the northern crime competition and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.


Review: Erik Axl Sund – The Crow Girl

The-Crow-Girl-by-Erik-Axl-Sund-665x1024The Crow Girl is a book that I’ve been dying to read for the last few months. It’s been marketed as this year’s hottest Scandinavian thriller and I was intrigued to discover what makes it stand out amongst the other Nordic offerings. It’s also been translated by my favourite Scandi translator, Neil Smith. His translations are always a joy to read which is crucial for this book because, at 768 pages, the prose has to be compelling enough to keep the reader interested. I don’t mind reading a book this length, at least not once in a while, but it’s impossible to carry around the hardback in your bag which meant snatched chapters here and there when I sat down to read.

However, one sleepless night I got seriously into the book and read about half of it into the early hours. It’s the perfect time for a book where the violence is dark and shocking. Regular readers of this blog know that excessive descriptions of gore don’t do it for me and you should be warned that the threat of horrific death is there from the first chapter. However, like Pierre LeMaitre’s excellent, Alex, the violence is essential to the plot. For the crow girl of the title is the damaged Victoria Bergman whose abuse from an early age is explicitly detailed. This is more than a story of the abused becoming an abuser, however. The relationship between Victoria and her psychiatrist Sofia Zetterlund is complex and contains plenty of surprises as does Sofia’s romance with detective Jeanette Kohlberg.

Unusually I’m not going to precis the plot. It would be too easy to giveaway spoilers and one of the book’s strengths is the complexity of the narrative strands where nothing is as it seems.

So what keeps the interest going for such a lengthy book? Firstly the character of Victoria is fascinating in its complexity and the reader never feels comfortable in making any assumptions about her motives. Secondly the authors (Erik Axl Sund is a pseudonym for Jerker Ericsson and Hakan Axlander Sundquist) have cleverly constructed the plot so that reader is sent in all directions. The chapters are very short, sometimes you feel ahead of the police and others you’re left scratching your head as to what is going on.

Like all great crime novels, the resolution pulls all the narrative strands together  although I must admit there are a couple of points where I’m not sure I understand what happened. What I should do at this point is reread the book but I’ll have to leave that to a time in the future.  However, in my opinion The Crow Girl deserves the plaudits it has received and I was delighted to read a book where neither the length nor extremity of violence felt gratuitous.

Review: Marcus Sedgwick – Mister Memory

sedgwickm-mistermemoryukI don’t read as much historical crime fiction as I used to which is a shame. There’s nothing like being transported to another time and place with a dash of murder in it. It’s also nice to read something completely different occasionally and Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick is certainly a cut above the usual crime novel.

We’re in fin-de-siecle Paris where Marcel Després shoots dead his wife, Ondine after catching her in a compromising situation with her lover. Sent to an institution, Asile de Salpêtrière, his doctor Morel discovers that Després has a memory that forgets nothing. Along with Inspector Petit from the Sûreté who is assigned to the case, they delve into Després’s life and history to assemble the portrait of a remarkable man.

There’s a wealth of fascinating historical detail in Mister Memory. Asile de Salpêtrière was a famous Parisian institution where women diagnosed with hysteria were placed by the unscrupulous and ignorant. Predominantly, therefore, a female institution which has opened up to men, Després is portrayed as an innocent amongst the criminal and insane. It’s tempting to try to put a modern diagnosis on his condition. A memory that never forgets anything, an inability to recognise faces and an essential innocence suggests a form of autism. The book though is as much as the men around the case as Després.  We’re treated to sumptuous descriptions of Paris and the minutiae of a fascinating investigation.

Mister Memory is a beautifully written tale of the limitless of memory and the boundaries placed on love.