Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Shoot the Bastards now out in North America!

Michael - Thursday 

We're very excited that Shoot the Bastards was released by Poison Pen Press this week. Almost a year after it came out as Dead of Night in the UK, it's now available in North America. We were also delighted to get this great quote on the book from C.J. Box!
'Shoot the Bastards is an extraordinary tale of the extreme measures taken to combat international poaching and smuggling' - C J Box
As with all our books, the official launch will be at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis. Stanley will be in conversation with Kent Krueger, author of the wonderful Cork O'Connor mysteries set in the north woods. It should be a super evening.

If you are in the Twin Cities, please join Stanley and Kent:
JUNE 18: 18:30 for 19:00
Once Upon a Crime bookstore
604 W. 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55405

We had two main reasons for writing a stand-alone thriller. The major one was the slaughter of rhinos in southern Africa that was taking place as a result of the spiralling poaching pressure, which in turn was motivated by the rocketing price of horn in the streets of Vietnam and China. More and more money was being poured into protecting the rhinos with sophisticated sensing technologies, armed anti-poaching teams, and covert information gathering on the poachers. And despite all the hard work and commitment of the men and women involved, what had developed into a shooting war was being lost. The issues were often trivialised in South Africa with angry calls to "Just shoot the bastards!" Internationally, the issues were even less well understood.

Our second motivation was to stretch ourselves, to get out of our comfort zone with our beloved Detective Kubu, and to invent a new protagonist - someone quite different who could build a gripping story against the backdrop of rhino poaching and horn smuggling.

We immediately decided that we wanted an outsider for the role, someone knowledgeable on environmental issues, but not an expert on the rhino question. We wanted her - we decided on a strong female character for the role - to discover the situation for herself and be naïve about the whole scenario. She would be digging around for information about people who wanted to stay out of sight, so she needed a motivation to do that, and we made her an environmental reporter. We started writing and initially things went along really well. But then we started to hit problems. We knew what we wanted her to do, but we weren't really sure what her motivation was for doing them. Characters fight back when you force them. Their believability fades, and they become two-dimensional. We realised we had a problem. We had to rethink her.

Stanley had the great idea of making her a Minnesotan of Vietnamese descent, someone already somewhat between two worlds, and someone who could speak Vietnamese and had some insight into the culture. So Crystal Nguyen was born, and we made her a reporter for a newspaper in Duluth, Minnesota. Of course, we'd now traded one big issue for another. After all, what could be easier than two South African men writing about a female American who has a Vietnamese background? It took a lot of work, and Stanley wrote what was meant to be a few chapters about Crys's earlier life and ended up as a short novel. Later, we realised that she was motivated by more than her reporter's love of a big break-through story, that in fact she had a very strong personal interest in what had happened to a colleague in South Africa. At that point, she became much more real to us, and the book started to flow well.

However, we had wanted to be out of our comfort zone, and we certainly were! For the first time, we had real push-back from our editors, and they did a great job of helping us improve the book. We liked our first draft, but the final version is streets better. We're very grateful to them. Never underestimate a good editor!

In fact, the US version of the book has some changes from the UK version, and we now feel Shoot the Bastards is the book we wanted to write. Crys grew and developed through the story. What started as a thriller set around the rhino poaching has become Crys's story. We're not sure yet if there will be more Crystal Nguyen novels, but we now know how she would handle new and different challenges.

After six successful Kubu books, we'd become a bit casual about reviews. But this book was so different and had put us under so much pressure that we were biting our finger nails when Dead of Night was released in the UK. We're always delighted by strong reader approval, but the reaction to Dead of Night was very special. We could let our finger nails grow again!

“… an enthralling immersive read that won’t disappoint.”- Lizzie Hays, Promoting Crime Fiction

“This story is brutal, brilliant and utterly breath-taking, my favourite of this writing duo so far … Totally stunning in every sense of the word.” - Books from Dusk Till Dawn blog

“I don’t think I caught my breath properly the whole time I was reading it. It is the best thriller that I have read in a long while.” - A Little Book Problem blog

“Dead of Night may belong with the darkest of Noir writing, but it is also utterly thrilling, multi-layered, skilfully executed, educational, thought-provoking, and ultimately a really satisfying read.” - TripFiction blog

We hope you'll join Crys on her adventure. If you do, you can
Well, not a real one. We're trying to keep those alive and well in Africa. But you can win a beautiful, carved rhino from South Africa. Be one of four people to win a prize. First prize is the rhino, second prize is a secret, and third prizes and fourth prizes are a signed, first-edition hardcover of our first Detective Kubu mystery, A Carrion Death.
Email or mail us a copy of your receipt for buying Shoot the Bastards (or hand it to Stanley at the launch) together with your mailing and email addresses. You will go into a draw for a rhino, the secret, and one of these rare books. Entries must be received by midnight, July 31, 2019. Mailing address: Michael Stanley Books, 111 Marquette Ave, Apt 1702, Minneapolis, MN 55401.
Finally, what of Kubu? Well, he's alive and well and still cheating on his diet. We've just had final acceptance of the new book - a prequel to the series titled Facets of Death - from Poison Pen Press and it will be out in the winter.


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  2. Congratulations! I really enjoyed it. And did the title whip up a bit of a twitter storm over here?

  3. Thanks, Caro! And indeed it did! Lots of comments pro and con.

  4. I'm so glad the book and Crys made it over here. After all, they shoot horses, don't they?... so why not the bastards!!
    Congratulations on what will undoubtedly be another great protagonist!!

  5. I was privileged to meet Crys when she was still in Minnesota. Totally believable as a heroine and a woman. A rare, three-dimensional occurrence in fiction written by men. I can’t wait to see her go against the some of the baddest bastards on the planet.