Interview with Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale

Today I am delighted to welcome Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale, to my blog (you may read my review of the book by clicking here). This book is the fifth in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series but the first that I have read. Adrian has provided some excellent answers to the questions I sent him. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

1. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a full-time writer of crime and spy thrillers, the ‘Beginners’ columnist in Writing Magazine, an occasional reviewer for SHOTS Magazine, have written hundreds of short stories and features for women’s magazines, invented a knock-down post for use on motorways, am a black belt and former taekwondo instructor – and most importantly, I’m married to Ann and live in Gloucestershire.

2. Can you tell us about Rocco and the Nightingale?

Lucas Rocco is a French detective posted from Paris (Clichy) to the tiny village of Poissons-les-Marais in rural Picardie in northern France (‘Death on the Marais’) as part of a government initiative to spread investigative resources to the provinces. His previous work means he’s accumulated some enemies, and in particular has been blamed (wrongly) for the death of an Algerian gang leader, Samir Farek (‘Death on the Rive Nord’). Now Farek’s brother, Lakhdar, has vowed to get even, and has hired an international assassin called the Nightingale to bring Rocco down.

Rocco’s big problem is that nobody knows the faceless assassin’s real identity. When it becomes apparent that there have already been two unexplained murders nearby, one of another policeman disliked by Farek, and one a minor Paris street criminal turned informer, Rocco realises he’s running out of time.

In the meantime, Rocco has to carry on his job, as it’s business as usual and crimes in Picardie, as elsewhere, wait for no-one. And there’s his elderly neighbour, Mme Denis, and the fruit rats in his attic to keep happy…

3. What inspired the book? 

Quite simply I wanted to try something else.** After writing five London-based crime novels (the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series) and the first of the Harry Tate spy thrillers (‘Red Station’), I wondered whether I could use my childhood experience of living in France and write a detective story set in the area where I lived (Picardie). It was a punt, pure and simple, just to see if it would work. It did and turned into four books and a novella. I’d been wanting to write a fifth for a couple of years, but wasn’t able to, and had got involved with other projects. But now it’s happened, and ‘Rocco and the Nightingale’ , thanks to David Headley and Rebecca Lloyd of The Dome Press, finally got to see the light of day, and I’m delighted with what they’d done with it.

** All writing is like that, to me, anyway; a try-out to see if I can do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it does. I like the does times best.

4. When writing, are you an architect who researches and plans everything in advance or a gardener who plants an idea and allows it to develop organically?

Well, ‘Rocco and the Nightingale’ is my 22nd published book and I’ve tried the planning route before, but always seem to go off-piste shortly after the opening chapter. I therefore wouldn’t meet the title of architect; but I’m not really a gardener, which requires a fair modicum of planning and forethought. What I tend to do is find a small nugget of something which seems worth looking at, then write a scene which occurs to me to see where it goes. (Yes, it’s that unstructured). That scene can be anywhere in the potential story-line, front middle or end, and will be in a long line of other scenes which I’ll set about stitching together to make sense. I suppose if I am a gardener, I’m the kind who tosses a seed in the air and wanders back later to see if anything has happened.

5. What is your favourite part of being a writer?

Publication is always top of the tree, but finding the story coming together and gathering pace is part of the ongoing buzz. I like the editing process, too, because that’s when you add polish and correct all those niggling typos, as well as spotting (hopefully) any bloopers.

Hearing from readers is a huge plus (especially the ones who like the books), because that’s when you find out which characters they enjoy – an important point when writing a series.

6. And your least favourite?

The gap between projects. If I’ve just finished one book, I often find I’m not ready to slough off all the research, writing and editing and launch immediately into another. That’s when I get restless and start kicking the furniture and wondering if that’s my lot. It doesn’t usually last longer than a couple of weeks, but during that time I write shorter pieces, reviews or catch up on my reading (and polishing the furniture).

7. Do you enjoy using social media?

Not so much. It’s a distraction when I’m writing and I’ve simply got a short attention span. I also dislike the negative side of it from those people who seem to enjoy insulting others just because they can. I do enjoy the humour, though, which can be shocking, subversive and occasionally give you a coffee-through- the-nose moment. I came off SM last year for several months for a break, and it was a great relief.

8. How actively do you seek out reviews of your books?

If you mean Amazon, I don’t. It’s lovely to see the ones which pop up elsewhere, especially from readers who write in (and with whom you can communicate), but being given a 1-star on Amazon because of the price of the book, for example, is less welcome. I also don’t ask people to review my books, because it feels pushy.

9. What do you choose to do when you wish to treat yourself?

It might sound boring, but I’m not much of a self-treater. (That doesn’t mean I mind anyone else treating me instead!) I do enjoy going to the afternoon pictures with Ann, though, because that means I’m beyond reach or distraction for a couple of hours, I can pig out on sweets if I feel like it and it reminds me of when I used to go to the flicks when I was younger.

10. What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

I most recently enjoyed ‘Bloody Reckoning’ by Rafe McGregor, ‘The Accidental Detective’ by Michael RN Jones, ‘The Liar’ by Steve Cavanagh (audio) and am currently listening to ‘Smoke and Whispers’ by Mick Herron.

11. Who would you like to sit down to dinner with, real or from fiction?

My parents. They’re long gone, but there are lots of things I wish I’d asked them when they were here. They were also great company and enjoyed a laugh.

12. What question has no interviewer asked that you wish they would?

‘So, Adrian, how excited are you at the impending release date of the new Quentin Tarantino blockbuster film based on your novel (insert title here)?’

AM

This post is the final stop on the Rocco and the Nightingale Blog Tour. Do check out the other blogs taking part, detailed below.

Rocco and the Nightingale is published by The Dome Press and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: Rocco and the Nightingale

Rocco and the Nightingale, by Adrian Magson, is the fifth novel in the author’s Inspector Lucas Rocco series of crime thrillers. It is the first to be published by The Dome Press. Set mainly in rural France in the 1960s, the protagonist is a competent and diligent police officer. It is refreshing to read a crime novel with a main character whose work is not affected by troubling personal issues.

The story opens with a murder on a lonely back road near Picardie in 1964. Rocco and his team are called to investigate but can find little evidence other than the body. Just as it looks as though the victim may be identified, Rocco is taken off the case and assigned to protect a senior government minister ousted from the Gabon Republic in central Africa. Unhappy with this new role Rocco can’t quite let the murder investigation go.

Using trusted contacts in Paris, links with a criminal gang and the recent murder of a former police officer come under Rocco’s scrutiny. It would appear that an assassin may have been hired for a series of vengeance killings and Rocco himself could be a target. Although willing to take additional precautions, Rocco does not let this potential threat affect his work. When fellow policemen are gunned down where he should have been the extent of the danger is brought home.

Rocco risks the wrath of his superiors by travelling to other jurisdictions to investigate further. With a far reaching case to solve involving a vicious gang leader out to prove himself and a killer who appears to believe he is fireproof, Rocco’s willingness to follow procedure will only stretch so far. He suspects his superiors of ulterior motives.

Having cut back on the number of crime and thriller books I am willing to read, as so many merged into each other, this story proved worth making an exception for. It is comfortably paced with a good mix of interesting characters. The plot concentrates on solving the crimes without veering into unnecessary subplots such as romance. It is deftly written with enough humour and warmth to balance the gruesome detail of much of the action. Despite being part of a series it reads well standalone.

An engaging police procedural set before many modern methods of crime detection and communication became available. Rocco may enjoy more than his fair share of luck in garnering relevent information and in survival, but this is a well put together, entertaining read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Dome Press.

 

Interview with Shelan Rodger, author of Yellow Room

Today I am delighted to welcome Shelan Rodger to my blog. Several years ago Shelan invited me to my first London literary event where I mingled with, amongst others, Broo Doherty and Anne Cater, both unknown to me at the time. I am delighted that Dome Press have chosen to release her beautifully written second novel, Yellow Room, which deserves to find a wide audience. Shelan has provided excellent answers to my questions – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

 

1. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and your background?

‘Writer and wilderness lover with a patchwork life’ is how I describe myself on Twitter. Born in Nigeria, I grew up in an aboriginal community on the Tiwi Islands north of Australia. I was eleven when my family moved to England and after graduating in modern languages from Oxford, my travels began again and I spent a number of years in Argentina and Kenya, before moving to Spain, where I live on a volcanic stretch of coastline in Andalucía.

Professionally, I started as an English language teacher, moving into a variety of roles over the years, all connected to international education, or learning & development projects around anti-discrimination and leadership during the time I spent in Africa.

Writing has been a lifelong passion, fuelled by a fascination with what shapes us and our sense of who we are – which I’m sure is partly driven by the mish-mash of cultures and landscapes in my own life!

2. Can you tell us about Yellow Room?

Yellow Room is a drama that explores the power of secrets, the forces that mould our sense of personal identity, the grey areas that flow between the boundaries of relationships. It is set in England and Kenya, with a poignant insight into the 2008 post-election crisis that took over a thousand lives.

3. What inspired the book?

Yellow Room was born from a very simple idea which I cannot share without giving too much away! But it grew out of a fascination with what creates our sense of who we are and whether the ‘I’ we believe in really exists or is just an illusion. And secrets! Why are we so fascinated by them? Why do we have them? Secrets are insidious, powerful, pervasive, also a clue to our sense of personal identity if we listen to them –  and I wanted to explore their power through the lives of my characters in Yellow Room.

I also wanted to explore the way our inner world interacts with and can be affected by another culture and external events around us and I did this against the backdrop of Kenya, where I was living when I wrote the first draft of the book. Much of the insight into the historical events, as well as the lives of street kids in Naivasha, is inspired by personal experience.

4. When writing, are you an architect who researches and plans everything in advance or a gardener who plants an idea and allows it to develop organically?

Definitely a gardener – and I love this image! I start with a vision of the tree I want to create and then rather blindly plant the seed that I hope will bear fruit, watering and nurturing my idea along the way, but also aware that the tree may turn out to look quite different to what I had initially envisaged, as it grows.

5. What is your favourite thing about being a writer?

It doesn’t happen all the time of course, but those special moments when you achieve a state of flow that is almost like being in a trance, when words just seem to wash through you and it feels as though you are just a vessel for the characters on your page to speak through. There is something very earthy and connected about that feeling, the sheer wonder of creativity.

6. And your least favourite?

Eternally brushing that monkey off your shoulder, the one who looks down at what you’re writing and says, that’s a pile of crap, who do you think you are? Or even, very occasionally, wow that’s amazing. I know that this monkey is not what I need – he can come out later and behave appropriately when it gets to editing but I don’t want him around when I’m writing.

7. Do you enjoy using social media?

I am a social media novice really. If social media were someone I was dating, I would say that I’m not quite sure what I think of him yet. He makes me feel connected, shows me the glamour of a bigger world and yet I am shy in his company and not sure I can trust him yet…

8. How actively do you seek out reviews of your books?

I read reviews with real curiosity to see how individuals react to my books, aware that everyone will respond differently and loving the various nuances that come through. Whether they are heart-warming, challenging, insightful – full of praise or even damning – reviews are life-affirming for a writer I think. Because at the end of the day writing is only one part of the process; being read is the other. And the insight into a reader’s response is a true privilege.

9. What do you choose to do when you wish to treat yourself?

Gosh, anything from a massage, or a sundowner somewhere beautiful with a friend, to meditating on a cliff overlooking the sea.

10. What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for The Time Being was a book I found intriguing; I love the way she explores and crosses the boundaries between past and present, between fact and fiction, between writer and reader.

Amanda Jennings is a writer fascinated by the different identities we all have inside us and what trauma and twists can do to wake these up and this is born out again by her latest novel, In Her Wake, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun was a delicious recent read; the almost dream-like way he uses language and the poignant exploration of buried love and longing.

11. Who would you like to sit down to dinner with, real or from fiction?

Gosh, that’s a difficult question, there are so many – real and fictitious!

Carmen de Burgos was a Spanish author and feminist activist born in 1867. She was an extraordinary and brave character, one of those people who make history, a woman who fought for freedom at a time and place where women were far from free. And she was born in the village of Rodalquilar, where I live in southern Spain, so it would be fascinating if she could time travel now to sit down with me for dinner at a local restaurant in the place of her birth.

12. What question has no interviewer asked that you wish they would?

What an interesting but difficult question! Well, a lot of questions that writers are asked naturally have to do with what their books are about and what has inspired them or the writing process that created them. I haven’t (yet!) been asked the question: ‘What difference, if any, would you like your writing to make?’ I think that would introduce an interesting perspective, about what an author aspires to in terms of the relationship between writer and reader and the tiny part they play in the world…

Yellow Room is published by The Dome Press.

This post is a stop on the Yellow Room Blog Tour. Do check out the other blogs taking part, detailed below.

You may read my review of the original release of Yellow Room here.

 

Book Review: Sleeper

Sleeper, by JD Fennell, is the first book in a proposed action adventure trilogy aimed at young adults. It introduces the reader to sixteen year old Will Starling who has been training since the age of twelve with the agents of VIPER. This ruthless organisation has military links around the world, access to advanced weapons technology, and is intent on acquiring power and wealth for its elusive puppet masters.

When the story opens it is 1941 and England is at war. Will is near Hastings on the mission for which he has been groomed. He is to infiltrate a country house and steal a notebook containing codes and instructions. He has been ordered to kill anyone who gets in his way. Will is backed up by other VIPER agents who are unaware that the teenager has been duping them. Will intends to keep the notebook and hand it on to others equally keen on gaining control of the secrets held within.

A running battle ensues and Will ends up half drowned in the sea. He is rescued by a passing fisherman but has no memory of who he is or why he was being pursued. The notebook he finds in his blazer pocket is his only clue. He sets out to uncover his past, but must first escape killers who are hot on his tail.

Will’s combat skills are impressive and he discovers that he is not the only teenager who has been trained in this way. With the help of associates he meets at a school for underage spies he starts to unravel the secrets of the notebook. To save London he must find the Stones of Fire before VIPER catches and defeats him. A ruthless psychopath known as The Pastor is also intent on recovering the notebook, and Will is not the only double agent.

The action is relentless and the death count high with short chapters and concise, fluent narrative keeping the reader engaged. I became a little frustrated at Will’s reluctance to kill but this adds to the character’s ambiguity which I hope to see developed further in subsequent instalments. Although aimed at young adults, who will likely enjoy the vicarious thrill of out-witting evil adults and solving ancient puzzles, it is an entertaining adventure for any age.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Dome Press.