Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Bay—new ITV crime drama set in Charlie Fox’s home town

A new six-part crime drama series started this week in the UK on ITV. Set in Morecambe and called The Bay, it stars Morven Christie as a Detective Sergeant, Lisa, who is assigned as Family Liaison Officer when fifteen-year-old twins go missing in the seaside town. Her job is to support the family and be on the inside for the police investigators.

As soon as the distraught father, Sean (played by Jonas Armstrong) arrives home, however, she discovers that he’s the bloke with whom she had a quickie while on a girls’ pub crawl the night before. Much complication ensues.

Morven Christe in ITV's The Bay

Morven Christie’s recent TV credits include Grantchester, Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, and The A Word. Jonas Armstrong’s recent outings include Ripper StreetTroy: Fall of a City, and Line of Duty. The work of playwright and screenwriter, Daragh Carville, The Bay has been mooted as ‘Broadchurch in Morecambe’—which I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet got around to watching.

I confess, though, that I do quite like TV dramas where one story is told over a number of instalments. You do seem to get more depth to the characters and, ultimately, more sympathy for the victim—and in some cases for the perpetrator as well.

Of course, I’m equally a fan of TV series made up of standalone stories—more like the way a book series is structured. At least if you miss one, you can still follow what’s happening in the next episode. Although, now we’re in the age of catch-up and box set TV, that’s not as much of a consideration anymore.

When it came to The Bay, one of the reasons I was keen to see it was because I lived around that area for many years, and briefly in Morecambe itself. The drone camera footage of the area was particularly effective, I thought. Apart from one climactic scene on the sands, they did seem to manage to pick filming times when the tide was up, which always makes the place look better! Even the famous statue of Eric Morecambe made a brief cameo appearance.

Stunning drone camera shots like this one are now well within the budget of most TV shows.

The other reason, of course, was that the first two books in the Charlie Fox series, KILLER INSTINCT and RIOT ACT, both take place around Morecambe and Lancaster. Indeed, the first scene in KILLER INSTINCT is outside an ageing Morecambe hotel right on the prom. I took a real building and renamed it the Adelphi—soon to be refurbished as the New Adelphi nightclub. The original was knocked down years ago.

I still find the area fascinating and full of dramas of its own, so it’s wonderful to see it playing such a major role in a new TV drama. And even though I had to bite my tongue at some of the decisions she made, I look forward to seeing how DS Lisa Armstrong manages to extract herself from the tangled web she’s unwittingly woven.

As for Charlie Fox, she fought her way out. What else did you expect?

Sorry, I couldn't resist!

This week’s Word of the Week is gaslighting, which is a term I’d heard but not clearly understood. It means to psychologically manipulate someone to the extent that they begin to doubt their own sanity. The term has only come into common usage in recent years but originates from the 1938 stage play ‘Gaslight’ by Patrick Hamilton. In the play—and two later film adaptations—a man dims the gaslights in his home and then persuades his wife that she is imagining the change.

May 2
NOIR AT THE BAR NEWCASTLE—the Town Wall pub, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5HX
Doors open 19:00

Organised by the inimitable Vic Watson, the line-up is Neil Broadfoot, Mik Brown, Ashley Erwin, Derek Farrell, Jónína Leósdóttir, Gytha Lodge, Judith O’Reilly, Zoë Sharp, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, plus a wildcard chosen on the night.

May 9-12
Friday, May 10, 13:40-14:30 Contemporary Issues: Reflecting How We Live Candy DenmanPaul GitshamCara HunterAmanda RobsonZoë Sharp (Participating Moderator)
Saturday, May 11, 11:20-12:10 Ten Year Stretch: The CrimeFest Short Story Anthology Peter GuttridgeCaro RamsayZoë SharpMichael Stanley (Stan Trollip), Kate Ellis (Participating Moderator)
Sunday, May 12, 09:30-10:20 The Indie Alternative Beate BoekerAdam CroftBarry FaulknerLynn FlorkiewiczZoë Sharp (Participating Moderator)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ready or Not, Here Comes THE MYKONOS MOB


Yes, dear reader, today is my once a year unabashed Blatant Self Promotion Saturday, because on Tuesday, April 2nd THE MYKONOS MOB is released.  It’s number ten in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery thriller series, made all the more special because it’s my first book under the auspices of my new publisher, Sourcebooks, which acquired Poisoned Pen Press as its mystery imprint in January.

I’ve been told that those of you attending Left Coast Crime in Vancouver next weekend will be able to purchase pre-release copies, but if not, don’t fret because my website lists places where you can obtain a copy, as well as describing where I’ll be touring, frantically awaiting the opportunity of personalizing your copy with my new fountain pen.  And, yes, that’s the same schedule of book events as sits at the bottom of this post (and has on Saturdays for a month…subtly self-promoting).

So, what’s #10 all about?  My tag line for it is, “#MeToo meets the Mob.”  I say that because while Andreas wrestles to learn what’s behind the assassination of a corrupt ex-police colonel who’d run the island’s protection rackets—a hit that threatens all out war for control of the island’s vice operations—Andreas’ wife, Lila, struggles to find a meaningful role for herself beyond wife and mother. 

Serendipitously, Lila’s search introduces a new character that I’m simply wild about:  Toni, a devil-may-care American ex-pat who pushed her way into a leading role in the book as the quick-witted piano player in a gender bending bar by night, and the island’s most connected finder of stolen items and fixer by day. Toni’s contagious, iconoclastic zest for life soon turns Lila and Toni into fast friends, and they hit upon a plan to mentor young island girls caught up in an exploitative culture, unaware that their well-intended plans are on a deadly collision course with Andreas’ investigation.
But there is another way to look at The Mykonos Mob; from the perspective of Mykonians who asked me to write about the wildly profitable dark side of the renowned 24/7 international playground we call home, the sinister forces battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.

For those who look for bottom line messages in a book, one of my characters suggests a pretty good one:  As long as people thirst after vices, if you’re willing to offer a place for providers and seekers to come together and freely do their business, you will always make money—and all it will cost you is the community life and family values you once cherished.

NEWS FLASH. Just before posting this blog I learned Publishers Weekly had reviewed The Mykonos Mob, calling it “entertaining” and “fun.” As great as that was to hear, I was particularly moved by the reviewer’s grasp of the roles Lila and Toni play in the book. Here’s an excerpt from that review.

Siger’s entertaining 10th mystery featuring Chief Insp. Andreas Kaldis… his right-hand man, Det. Yianni Kouros, and the inspector’s perceptive and understanding wife, Lila, who welcomes a break from her routine life as a wife and mother. American expat Toni, a woman who plays piano in local bars and befriends Lila, says of Mykonos: “It’s a paradise for everyone. Until you become a victim.” Kaldis and Kouros are soon drawn into what is shaping up to be a turf war for control of the island’s many lucrative and shady dealings—from prostitution to exploitive real estate deals. But the question remains: who is really behind the killing of the colonel? Siger seasons Kaldis’s investigation with abundant slices of Greek history and island mores, along with Lila’s consciousness-raising conversations. Armchair travelers will have fun.

 And now I just learned that earlier today Library Journal released a review in which they also call my tenth Kaldis title, “an entertaining read.”  That’s back-to-back “entertainings” by big time reviewers.  Whoopee!!!

The Mykonos Mob is a very special book to me for many reasons, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my proudest reason.  It is dedicated to a Mykonian whose smile never failed to light up a room, whose charity was honest and without pretext, whose consideration and love for his family, friends and community served as a blessing and treasured memory to all fortunate enough to know him.  He appealed to our better natures and served as a beacon for the youth of his island seeking leadership into the future.  Sadly, he passed away while I was writing this book—at twenty-four, after a valiant battle against an insidious cancer, all the while smiling, enduring and strong. We shall not see your kind, sweet, soul again, dear Nikolaos Andreas Fiorentinos.

God Bless you.

My Upcoming Events

Friday, March 29, 4:00 PM
Vancouver BC, Canada
LEFT COAST CRIME –Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Moderating “International Settings” with Alice K. Boatwright, G.M. Malliet, Sujata Massey, and S.J. Rozan

Saturday, March 30, 4:00 PM
Vancouver BC, Canada
LEFT COAST CRIME –Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Panelist, “Keeping a Series Alive” with Anne Cleeland, Mary Jane Malfini/Victoria Abbott, Marty Wingate, moderated by Janice MacDonald

THE MYKONOS MOB book tour begins:

Tuesday, April 2, 7:00 PM
Seattle, WA
THIRD PLACE BOOKS (Lake Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

Saturday, April 6, 3:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
BOOK PASSAGE (Ferry Building-Embarcadero)
Author Speaking and Signing

Sunday, April 7, 3:00 PM
Orange, CA
BOOK CARNIVAL              
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, April 10, 7 PM
Pasadena, CA
VROMAN’S (East Colorado)
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, April 12, 7 PM
Dallas, TX
Interabang (Preston Oaks)
Author Speaking and Signing

Monday, April 15, 2:00 PM
Fountain Hills, AZ
Fountain Hills Community Center
Fountain Hills Friends of the Library Author Event

Tuesday, April 16, 7:00 PM
Scottsdale, AZ
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, April 24, 6:30 PM
Houston, TX
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, April 26, 7:00 PM
Denver, CO
Author Speaking and Signing

Monday, April 29, 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh, PA
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, May 1, 6:30 PM
New York, NY
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday, May 2, 7:00 PM
Naperville, IL
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, May 3, 7:00 PM
Chicago, IL (Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

Saturday, May 4, 2 PM
Milwaukee, WI
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday May 9, 5:00 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Nobody Would Believe it if You Wrote it: Fake News, Post-Truth and Changing Words,” with Fiona Erskine, William Shaw, Gilly Macmillan, moderated by Paul E. Hardisty

Friday, May 10, 5:10 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Sunshine Noir,” with Paul Hardisty,  Barbara Nadel, Robert Wilson, moderated by Michael Stanley

October 31-November 3
BOUCHERCON 2019---Hyatt Regency Dallas
Panel Schedule Yet to be Announced

Friday, March 22, 2019

The B Word.

As you will know if you have read the news, here in the UK we go from one political disaster to another.

And there is yet another around the corner if we are not careful.

The whole Brexit scenario is summed up by something that somebody witty posted on Facebook.

Three guys are in a nightclub. One decides he doesn’t like it and suggests another club to go to as it is better ( non specifically, just better). It’s one a.m., they set off and it starts pouring with rain. The new club is closed. They head back to the first one,  it doesn’t let them in. It starts to rain really heavily, they get soaking wet, and the three of  them are now standing outside a chip shop, arguing whose fault it is.

They decide to  get some chips, they have left their wallets in the pockets of their jackets. Inside the night club.

They start arguing about that as well.

As a Scot I would add that there’s a taxi nearby, engine running, warm air blowing. They have no money but the taxi driver says, don’t worry, we can sort out that at the other end and let’s face it, anywhere is better than here.

The driver takes the three men up to the middle of nowhere,  where the taxi breaks down. There is no mobile phone signal. They run out of petrol and hope. The driver says it doesn’t matter that they are isolated   on a moor in the middle of the night with hypothermia creeping in, none of that matters, because he owns his own taxi.


The SNP are trying to make the best of the chaos in Westminster or Westmonster as it is now known. They have also found a report than London will run out of water in 25 years and want us pipe ours down- this has provoked outrage.

The SNP have to be careful though.  Overall Scotland did vote to stay in the EU. (60/40 %)

Did everyone who voted to stay in, also vote SNP? What if the SNP supporters voted to leave, i.e. no Brussels, no Westminster only Edinburgh. There is a common theme of Scotland  turning into a pseudo Scandi country, and those that support that idea will be non EU supporters.

Is anybody seeing the chaos when countries that have been together for 50 years try to separate? Imagine the chaos of separating after 350 years? Oh yes, we have our own legal system, church and educational system they say. Indeed we do so why separate.

Then the SNP said we would have our own currency if we part. That also scared a lot of people as all mortgages would remain in sterling, all bank loans in sterling etc. The Royal Bank of Scotland, after THAT fiasco is owned by the taxpayers of the UK ( I’ve kept that simple!). Now the SNP have said that we would join the euro…. And nobody wants that idea either.

And the SNP seem very sure that an independent Scotland could waltz back into the EU with no questions asked. ( The main argument for this is that we are lovable.) The EU, being wary of the economic troubles the admission of less wealthy countries have brought, are  bringing in more stringent  joining rules And Scotland might not  be wealthy enough to join.

It’d all incredibly depressing.

As somebody said, if some party wants breakfast and the other wants dessert, nobody is going to be happy with bacon flavoured custard. It’s the issue with the yes/no response on a vote form.

And it’s going to happen again, we could vote for an independent Scotland and then the EU issue will raise its head immediately, and then a slow dawn of realisation may happen. There is no going back.

Not only is it depressing it's also very stressful.

Today, as I type this, there is yet another online petition going round to revoke article 50.  (I.e. we are saying we want to withdraw the statement we made about leaving) or something... At 6 am it was 350 000, at 7am it was 500 000. At 10.30 the amount of activity has crashed the website.

 So I have taken up swimming . It’s very quiet under the water- they can't get me there.

Caro Ramsay

Thursday, March 21, 2019

From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath

Michael - Thursday

Beira, Mozambique
Today is Human Rights Day in South Africa, a public holiday, and I'd meant to write about what that means to us here and what it's trying to achieve. However, to follow the title with another biblical quote, “Man proposes, but God disposes". In the light of the staggering human tragedy in eastern southern Africa, our efforts at equality seem somehow trivial.

On 15th March—the Ides indeed—cyclone Idai struck the Mozambique coast with gale force winds of 100 miles per hour, a storm surge of 20 feet, and torrential rain. More than 25 inches fell in some places. One always hopes for the best and prepares for the worst, and on this occasion the worst happened and there wasn’t a lot of preparation. The cyclone made landfall twice—first it drenched Malawi, then returned to the sea to recharge, and then hit Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city and home to more than half a million people. According to the Red Cross 90% of the city is damaged or destroyed. In a statement, they said, "The scale of damage caused by cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying."

The area around the city is completely flooded. On Sunday a large inland dam burst cutting off the last remaining road access to the city. The people are stranded. Beira is now virtually an island.

The cyclone went inland causing flooding wherever it went. Like much of rural Africa, the usual concern is much more about drought than flooding, and so the results were catastrophic. The president of Mozambique estimates that as many as a thousand people may have died. The people are stunned, waiting to pick up the pieces of their lives, wondering whether or not they can survive.

But Idai wasn’t finished. It headed west into Zimbabwe—a country already struggling with economic woes. Widespread flooding there has claimed many more lives. Houses have been washed away in mudslides or simply collapsed under the winds and floodwaters. My gardener’s house in Malawi was so weakened that one wall collapsed and the second bout of wind and rain flattened the rest. One of his countrymen I spoke to just shrugged. “We can’t complain,” he said. “God wills it. At least other people didn’t do this to us.” Some comfort, I suppose.

Latest reports suggest that around two and a half million people may have had to evacuate their homes. It may well be the worst natural disaster ever to devastate the southern hemisphere.

(The pictures are from the Washington Post.)