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‘Keep away from it, Emma. It’s not safe.’ Simon was looking at her with his eyes rapt, serious, greyer than usual. That was last Tuesday afternoon. Only five days ago. Five days and a lifetime ago.

‘Don’t patronise me, Simon. I’m a big girl now. Besides, I hear things you don’t. Do you want me to tell you or not?’

He took her to the chippy down the road from the incident room. It had a dining room at the back, deserted at nearly three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. Emma didn’t even know the place existed, but the young man greeted Simon with restrained friendship.

‘I was about to close, but as it’s you…..’

He brought the coffee in fine, gold rimmed white china on a crafted wooden tray. It smelled like real coffee, submerging the oily vapours wafting from the kitchen.

‘My wife’s. She’s French,’ he explained solemnly.

‘The winds of change….’ Simon laughed quietly into her ear as soon as the door closed, and she joined him, thinking of what Father would have to say to French coffee and French women in an English chip shop, and that these days Simon was the only person that she could have a laugh with. Their fingers touched as they passed the milk to each other and again as they wondered over the exquisite silver spoon in the bowl of sparkling crystals of brown sugar.


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Posted by on 22/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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‘The minute I’m gone you’ll sneak into your workshop and start whittling that Deadhead away.’

Simon remained speechless for a moment. It had been months since he’d done any work on the wooden bust he’d started years and years ago. After the Old Mill murder, while he was recovering from concussion, he finished off the hair, the chin and the neckline. Muttering promises all the time, with each scrape of the blade. Promises to himself, to Pippa, to Chloe. To Adam and Eve and to Rudi. To the face emerging slowly and painfully from the yellowish, dry wood. To Emma. Even to Phil. Promises and resolutions. Big thoughts about honesty, love, guilt and absolution.  Redemption. Salvation.

Soon, however, life took over. Life always takes over death.

But, spookily, on his way home he’d been trying to figure out how to go about the eyes. The few pictures he had of the original, all of them old newspaper cuttings, left the eyes in deep shade.

‘No,’ he said, ‘no,’ with a small pain in his stomach and pointed vaguely at the stack of paperwork.

* * *

He made himself a cup of coffee, turned the TV on in the sitting room, locked the patio door and pulled the curtains together, then went to the cloakroom because he thought he could hear the tap running.

Gingerly, furtively, and only because he was passing, he opened the door to his workroom and switched on the light.

Why did Pippa mention the unfinished bust tonight of all nights?


Because she’d always believed it to be a portrait of a former girlfriend, a love of his life, someone he’d never talked about. Well, she was right about the last one. He’d never talked about Nicola Finsbury. Not a word. Not a whisper. Not to anyone.

He was going to tell Emma about her, of course. Tell her everything, just as it happened, nothing left out, nothing embellished. That done, he was going to ask her to forgive, to understand, to leave Philip and marry him before the baby was born. If she would still have him.








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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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It must have been Kevin Corrigan who had told Grant about Alex and Angel getting hitched. Kevin stayed on to do his LPC at Trinity, then got himself a training contract with Carroll and Carroll, Alex’s father and uncle.  Soon to be Carroll, Carroll & Carroll, once Alex completed his own apprenticeship with a distinguished law firm in London. Only, Alex was thinking of going to the bar, and according to Kevin, doing most of his thinking at the bar. Great many bars.  There had even been a small unpleasantness over some cheques, Kevin said in strictest confidence. Apparently, Alex had found one of the partners of the London firm dead at his desk. Dead as a doornail. From too long and too good living. As simple as that. So, remembering just how good that living used to be, Alex quickly helped himself to a couple of the old man’s cheques and, at least temporarily, resolved his current embarrassment over his rent bill and his credit card.

After a great deal of wringing of hands, sighing, pulling of strings and toing and froing, the Carroll brothers managed to save the young rascal’s skin and legal career, but only just, Kevin said.

He used to phone quite a lot in those days, Kevin did. From Spratton, of all places, as it happened. Carroll & Carroll had an office there, barely a mile or two away from Little Manor, their family residence at the time and Kevin wasn’t allowed to have Sean with him while lodging in the flat above the office. Carrolls’ sense of decorum wouldn’t allow such impropriety.  But Alex’s misdemeanour worked to Kevin’s advantage. The reprobate was dragged home by his ear and Kevin, a surplus to requirements but too useful to lose, was moved to the Loughborough branch. The position came with a quaint little cottage and no restrictions on company he kept. Sean, who was taking a long and very expensive route to becoming a specialist in International Law, was immediately installed as a live-in partner. ‘Like a fairy tale,’ Kevin had been happily chuckling down the phone every now and then. ‘Isn’t it just like a fairy tale ending?’ Grant could hear Sean joining in the laugh at the other end.

Kevin had never asked him why, with the first from Trinity and the entire world at his feet, Grant chose to join the police only a week after graduation.  No LPC, no bar exams. No lucrative practice of any sort. The others whispered and wondered among themselves, Grant gathered from Rudi’s occasional hints. There were unmistakable, roundabout signs of whispering and wondering. Of rumours so preposterous that they could have been amusing if they hadn’t been less preposterous than the truth.

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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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To hell with caution! Grant’s anger churns painfully, sweeping over the stinging guilt, drowning the foreboding and reason. Following some half formed plan, quickly abandoned while he was still able to think rationally, he vaults himself half sideways half forward, his arms stretched out toward the only moveable object around, something big, heavy and hideous, a vase, a weapon. He’s there, he’s yanked it …

Dancer’s hands are up, shielding the face, or covering the eyes like someone who can’t bear to watch. The gun, forgotten, is pointed to the ceiling. ‘No! Stay!’

…he’s lifting it, his back muscles already straightening him upwards …

‘Stop it, you bloody idiot!’

… his hands are preparing for aim …


… the upward push from the forearms, the knees still bent …

‘You fucking jerk!’

… and casting him backwards, it’s off,  soaring in a curve towards the chair and the gun, into a blast that swamps the cries, and the crash, the fireworks of earthenware pieces, the chair wheeling away through the acid stench, then the pain, withering, cutting through the side of the head.

‘Moron! You fucking moron!’ Dancer croaks in the silence.

Grant is sitting on the floor, his knees pulled up a little and apart, the soles turned inward. The pain is some dizziness and a sharp sting now, a cut from the terra-cotta debris, blood and sweat trickling slowly down his cheek. He wipes it off with the cuff of his sleeve and at the edge of the warm little light, the stain soaks darkly into the pale blue fabric.

The face of the killer is only a few feet away. Lit from the left, the visible eye is wide open and bright, glistening with tears running down the pain creased cheek.

‘I nearly shot you.’ Incoherent between the sobs, choking on the scare.

‘Why didn’t you?’ Grant averts his eyes from the anguish, as if mere watching is an indecent act of complicity and compassion. His anger is still rumbling, echoing emptily through him. ‘Why didn’t you? What makes me different?’




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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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Gently now. ‘C’mon. Let’s go. There’s nothing for us here.’ The ‘us’ will tie them together, clasp their hands and their hearts closely while they walk out into a shared sunset. ‘C’mon.’

The weighted octopus moves still higher, still further out, longing to be caught and unburdened. ‘C’mon.’ Patience cuts sharply through Grant’s middle and hardens his calves and shins into a knot. But his warm, friendly hand is a steady, welcoming beacon.

‘I’m not ready.’  Checked by the whisper the movement stops in mid air.

‘You are. We both are. You’ve said so.’

‘I’m not ready!’  The cry thrusts the arm sharply forward into a blast of noise and sparks.

Grant steps back, quickly and sideways from habit. There is no pain. In the eye-watering acrid silence, worryingly, there is no pain and no sensation. He should have been hit. He was too close not to be hit.

‘I’m not ready. There are still things to be done, places to visit,’ comes ghostlike from the chair. ‘And neither are you, Inspector. You don’t deserve me yet. You’ll have to earn me first.’

Unbelievably, the miss was deliberate. Delivered to warn, to grab and assert. There is nothing Grant can do about the beads of sweat along the hairline, trickling down past his ear. 

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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized


The Spring Thriller Blog Tour 2013 – The Interview

Double Trouble

The Spring Thriller Blog Tour 2013 – The Interview

Q. How long have you been writing and what life skills do you bring to your work?
A. I’ve been writing and getting published since the age of five. At first it was poems, then poems and articles for children magazines, followed by my own regular slot on the radio and a youth magazine, and a regular column in a weekly paper when I was still at high school. I wrote theatre and literary reviews for the Student Magazine in my student years. I also had a drama produced by a national radio station.

What skills? Well, for a start, I’m observant. I prefer watching to taking part. I don’t believe in Good and Evil as discrete entities in their own right, which makes me, in general terms, non-judgemental. I’m a great believer in Terentius’ “Homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto”, meaning “I am a human being; nothing human is strange to me.” My life experiences are varied. I’ve travelled extensively and not just as a tourist, which means that I’ve seen first hand the slimy and often tragic underbelly of many different societies and social circles.

Q. Do you research content for your work and if so where from?
A. My books are set in the real world and therefore research is essential. While I was in full time work, I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the life and struggles of the less privileged, politics, policies, market forces and human nature. After my early retirement, I’ve been working as an interpreter and translator and that keeps me informed about all sectors of society – public, voluntary and private, as well as commerce, technology and humanities. Particularly relevant is my work with the police, prisons and the courts. That’s a great source of information about systems, procedures, legislation and the way they all work in practice. That also means that if I don’t know something from my own experience, I know where to find it and who to ask.

Q. Tell us about one of your previous publications.
A. I’ve written and published two books in the Simon Grant Mysteries series, Hiding the Elephant and the sequel, Lock Up Your Daughters. They are both murder mysteries/police procedurals. Set in rural Northamptonshire where I used to live, they’re as much about anatomy of crime, human nature and relationships as about ‘whodunit’. I particularly like to explore the ‘why dunit’ side of the subject. Both books are written from two entirely different points of view, something I feel adds depth of perception and enriches the content.

Q. What are you currently writing?
A. I’m working mostly on the third book in the Simon Grant Mysteries series, For the Love of Honey. Like its two predecessors, it’s also written from two opposite points of view. Furthermore, the second POV character’s input is extended by other means. The format isn’t entirely new, Andre Guide and Aldous Huxley have used it before me, but I hope that I have found a fresh way of presenting it. I’m also working on a mainstream/historical, Klara and Her Dragons, a long term project, set in Europe between 1913 and 1975. It follows the fortunes of a woman less than favoured by either nature, birth or social background and her progress through those turbulent times.

Q. What is so special to you about the ‘thriller/mystery/suspense’ genre?
A. Absolutely everything! It offers the ‘grey cells’ challenge, the devil of the detail, the social and legal setup, and heaps and heaps of human nature and frailties. It’s delightful to both write and read.

Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
A. I love my garden, my family and friends, reading, socialising, travel (subject to health restrictions), good food, and healthy, passionate debates.

Q. What is the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to you?
A. OMG! So many things. Coming face to face with a wounded buffalo in the Zambian bush. Finding a way out of Angola in the middle of the night during a tense situation there. Flying through an electric storm over Java. Seeing a pride of lions in their natural habitat for the first time and watching them for an hour from just a few yards away sitting in an ordinary passenger car, or chatting to friends under a fruit tree while a fully grown, male wild elephant is feeding from it. Rearranging a date, originally planned in Rome on my way back home from Libya and his return to the UK from Egypt, with my then boyfriend, later husband, on the very night when Libya broke off all links with Egypt and having to pass the details of the new place and time plus terms of endearment via two embassies and a helpful manager of the Cirque du Soleil show.

And, of course all the family births, deaths, marriages, graduations and other vagaries of that nature.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?
A. I’ll do my best.

My website:

My Amazon UK book page:

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My Facebook page:

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Posted by on 09/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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Tim Ellis – Writer

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So, here’s the thing! I was reading an article in Writer’s Magazine about Bernard Cornwell’s day, one of my favourite authors. So, I thought if Bernard can do it, so can I. My day usually begins about 5am, but I don’t beat myself up if I have a lie in now and again. The dogs (four of them) look at me as if I’m a sandwich short of a picnic. Three of them get up, go out and then go back to bed. They’re more normal than me – ain’t that the truth?I make my coffee – always been a coffee drinker, but I don’t mind the odd cup of tea if the whim takes me – and switch my laptop on (a Dell Ultrabook XPS13). I work off a miniature 8GB Verbatim memory stick. All of my writing is on there, but I do back-ups onto another memory stick, which I keep separately. And, of course, most of my writing is in numerous places online anyway! Then I get stuck in by checking my emails, my sales, my rankings, my facebook page and I’m off. Whatever the project is I get stuck in. The whole purpose of getting up at this ridiculous hour of the day is to work in peace and quiet with an uncluttered mind. If you’re going to procrastinate (or feed the monkeys) then you may as well go back to bed.

So, how did I get into writing? Well, I look back over my life and see the milestones that lead me here. As a teenager I wrote poetry, and that has continued. I was editor of a magazine called “The Gopher” in my early Army days. I used to play in the regional Scrabble championships, construct crosswords for fun, and read everything that I could lay my hands on. And then, one day about six years ago, after I’d read a book on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, I decided I could do that, so I wrote Warrior: Path of Desitiny. Since then, I’ve written twenty novels – mostly crime.

I sit in the living room in my leather recliner chair. I have got a shed, but I’m not keen on spiders, and there’s no electricity in there. Now that I’m 60 years old, my wife says I can write where I want to – so I do. There’s only the two of us now – the son having finally got a life of his own – about bloody time I often say! So, life doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do much anymore. I started writing a while back when I was still teaching. The more I wrote, the less I wanted to teach. Then, four yeas ago I had a heart attack and survived. It was a good excuse to retire – so I did. I suppose I’m a writer now, and I don’t think there’s a retirement age for writers – they just get recycled through charity shops (Ha, ha! There wasn’t a joke for ‘old writers never die . . .’, so I just made that up). Maybe I should start writing humour! Hecklers can kiss my ballpoint pen!

It’s just 7am, and I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks since 5am relating to my latest police procedural bestseller The Terror at Grisly Park (Quigg 5), which I published on Monday. Yeah, being a writer means doing loads of rubbish that isn’t actually writing, which is probably a good job because otherwise my brain would turn to mush if I tried to write all day. So, I like to intersperse my writing with frequent trips to the kitchen to make drinks/snacks/chocolate, the odd tweet/retweet, reading the news/sports on Yahoo, and so on.

My days are mostly the same because I don’t want to do anything much except write. At about 8:45am I go for my shower, and then take the dogs for their first walk. Gives me a chance to think through what I’m writing and what I’m going to write next. I have a target word-count of 1,000-words a day, but again I don’t subject myself to self-flagellation if I don’t make it. Most days I achieve a lot more, but I work on a larger target of 10,000-words a week, 40,000-words a month, and a finished 80,000-word book in two months, which is what I’ve been achieving for a while now. Being old, wrinkly, crotchety and forgetful has its advantages.

After I’ve walked the dog I generally get back to writing for a couple of hours. At midday I have my lunch and watch something I’ve recorded on Sky+ for an hour, and then I have a siesta for an hour or two. I get up again and start writing. At around 3pm I take the dogs for their second walk, and then write some more. At 5.15pm I put my laptop down and watch Pointless (big fan Alexander and Richard), watch the news and then do a bit more work until about 8pm and then I call it a day and watch some TV. Most of my writing gets done between 5 – 8am when there are no distractions.


There’s lots of talk about planning, chapter outlines and a dozen other ways to write. Each to his own. When I’m writing police procedurals I like to have a title, the names of my lead character(s) and a location before I start – this means I own it. It’s mine. That’s it really. I then begin writing and go where the characters take me. I have a notebook by my chair, and I keep notes of what I’ve got to include in the future. I write in scenes, and I try to make each scene as interesting as I can. I suppose you can relate it to: Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. If you’ve got your scenes right the book should be good – build it a brick at a time . . . Well, as long as you’ve got a plot, a story, interesting characters, conflict, and all the other things you’re meant to have in a book.The wife got up. I grunted at her a few times – she’s happy. Had a shower, walked and fed the dogs – they’re happy. Made a coffee and had a couple of pieces of toast – I’m happy. Back to writing. You know, I had a quick look at rules for writers – there’s a whole bunch of them that people have come up with from Diane Athill (who?), through George Orwell to Jeanette Winterson (who?). Anyway, I thought I’d let you know some of the ones I abide by:

1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue (Elmore Leonard). Although sometimes I break this rule, but not much. I try to use actions, body language, or speech indiosyncracies to indicate who’s speaking,
2. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” (Elmore Leonard). I very rarely use adverbs (or “ly” words). Adverbs are telling – I prefer to show through actions and body language.
3. I don’t use “suddenly”.
4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters (Elmore Leonard). I’m a bit in the middle with this one. I do give some description, but not too much.
5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip (Elmore Leonard). Yes, I’m one of the readers that skip, and I keep this in mind while I’m writing.
6. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue (Helen Dunmore). Yes, I tend to do this. I go to bed, and between the light and the dark, my characters show me where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing next.
7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk Helen Dunmore). While I’m walking the dogs, problems often get solved. If your instinct is saying it doesn’t work, your instinct is probably right – change it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it doesn’t work.
8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key. I agree. Get up, get writing. Do it every day – rain or shine. No excuses – just do it.
9. Use layering. When I re-read that one time I think about: The five senses, the descriptions, the dialogue, the emotions and feelings, body language, conflict, actions, the pace, active/passive, and long/short sentences.
10. Also, I keep it simple, I make sure there’s lots of “white space” i.e. I use a lot of dialogue. I like reading dialogue. I tend to skip over chunks of description when I’m reading.

Some of the rules I break with wild abandon:

1, Keep your exclamation marks under control (Elmore Leonard). No, I tend to use a few more than 3 per 100,000-words!
2. Read it out loud. I can already hear it in my head, so I tend not to read my work out loud. Although the wife has caught me muttering to myself on occasion.
3. Cut. What I write is usually the finished product. There’s nothing to cut generally because my writing is minimilastic anyway. I re-read what I’ve written, make some minor changes, etc., send it off to the proofreader. Make some more minor changes.
4. Avoid using a thesaurus. I use the online version whenever I lose a word, or I need a definition. My memory isn’t what it was, and Statins make it worse, so I break this rule when I need to.
5. Cut out the metaphors and similes (Esther Freud). No, I break this rule regularly. Metaphors and similies are like old friends.

Well, I think that’s about it. A life in the day of Tim Ellis.

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Posted by on 07/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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