The Old Religion

Sometimes helping a stranger is the last thing you should do …
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The Old Religion

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Bonnier Zaffre, UK hardcover, November 2018

Welcome to the dark heart of Cornwall

Welcome The Cornish village of St Petroc is the sort of place where people come to hide. Tom Killgannon is one such person. An ex-undercover cop, Tom is in the Witness Protection Programme hiding from some very violent people, and St Petroc’s offers him a chance to live a safe and anonymous life.

Until he meets Lila

Lila is a seventeen-year-old runaway. When she breaks into Tom’s house she takes more than just his money. How wallet holds everything about his new identity. He also knows that Lila is in danger from the traveller’s commune she’s been living on. Something sinister has been going on there and Lila knows more than she realises

Little Triggers

Shaking down the politician hadn’t given him the righteous kick he thought it would. Coming home to an empty house, he had opened the bottle, flirted with it, kissed it, made love to it, cried into it and, eventually, killed it.
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Little Triggers

Paperback (UK)

Paperback (US)

Piatkus, UK hardcover, November 1998, ISBN: 9780749904555
Piatkus, UK paperback, May 1999, ISBN: 9780749931094
Allison & Busby, UK paperback, February 2007, ISBN: 9780749081089
Pegasus, US paperback, January 2008, ISBN: 9781933648552

Stephen Larkin Book 2

“Shaking down the politician hadn’t given him the righteous kick he thought it would. Coming home to an empty house, he had opened the bottle, flirted with it, kissed it, made love to it, cried into it and, eventually, killed it.”

Stephen Larkin is back in his native Newcastle and working as an agency journalist. To stop himself getting bored, he’s fighting greed and corruption in his inimitable way by blackmailing the powers that be into keeping their campaign promises. It doesn’t help fill the empty spaces in his life, though. He needs a purpose – which is why he jumps at the chance to track down a child abuser with friends in high places. A cynic like Larkin is automatically suspicious of people like Alan Swanson. A charismatic local chancer and self-styled Minister for Youth, Swanson is the man behind the “Rebirth of the Region” project. But is his interest in kids a chance for a photo-opportunity or something more sinister? Larkin thinks that, as a reporter, he knows all there is to know about the evil that men do. But nothing has prepared him for this… Tough, gutsy, brutal, LITTLE TRIGGERS is a tale of modern city crime.

Backstory

I‘ve always written about things that make me angry. This novel has child abuse at the heart of it. Enough said.

I became completely involved while writing this book, both learning to edit and finding my own voice. Writing this convinced me that maybe Mary’s Prayer wasn’t a one off, that perhaps I had some future in this writing lark.

My editor at the time said that most new writers spend five years writing their first novel and, when they’re given a two-book contract, panic and put down any old rubbish. Difficult second novel syndrome, she said. However, after reading LITTLE TRIGGERS and without wanting to denigrate Mary’s Prayer, she said it was the first time she had seen someone do it in reverse. If she was asked blind, she said, this was the one she would have said took five years to write.

Candleland

When Newcastle-based journalist Stephen Larkin is called down to London to help find a missing girl, he is unprepared for the violence of life in the capital’s underbelly. Caught up in a world of transsexual prostitutes, gun-toting Yardies and psychotic hitmen, Larkin must learn to fight dirty if he is to survive the experience.
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Candleland

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Ebook (UK)

Ebook (US)

Allison & Busby, UK hardcover, March 2000, ISBN: 9780749004644
Allison & Busby, UK paperback, February 2001, ISBN: 9780749004941
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Media, US ebook, December 2011, ISBN: 9781453237557

Stephen Larkin Book 3

When Newcastle-based journalist Stephen Larkin is called down to London to help find a missing girl, he is unprepared for the violence of life in the capital’s underbelly. Caught up in a world of transsexual prostitutes, gun-toting Yardies and psychotic hitmen, Larkin must learn to fight dirty if he is to survive the experience.

Backstory

The third book, and I was really starting to find my feet now.

I’d always wanted to do that classic type of quest narrative with the hero taken out of their comfortable environment and having to fend for themselves. That’s why Larkin leaves Newcastle and goes down to London.

When I’m not physically there I find it easier to describe a place so in a sense it was hard to write because I lived in London at the time and was writing about places I saw every day. I also wanted to see if such a marginalised character as Larkin could ever find somewhere he could call home.

And a note on the villains: I wanted two evil henchmen in the book but was having trouble visualising them. After a totally surreal trip to Lithuania to do an acting job in the company of The Shend and Ray Trickett, my trouble disappeared. Lenny Lothario and Ringo Spectros were born.

Best not to ask.

The Mercy Seat

Once a renowned investigative journalist, Joe Donovan’s life fell apart when his six-year old son disappeared without trace. Now a virtual recluse, Donovan is abruptly thrust back into the limelight when a teenage boy makes contact, in desperate need of his help…
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The Mercy Seat

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Ebook (UK)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, January 2006, ISBN: 9781416502227
Pegasus, US hardcover, April 2006, ISBN: 9781933648002
Pegasus, US paperback, November 2007, ISBN: 9781933648330

Joe Donovan Book 1

Shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award for Best Thriller 2006.

Once a renowned investigative journalist, Joe Donovan’s life fell apart when his six-year old son disappeared without trace. Now a virtual recluse, Donovan is abruptly thrust back into the limelight when a teenage boy makes contact, in desperate need of his help.

On the run for his life, Jamal has in his possession something that holds the key to Donovan’s past, a past that can only be unlocked by forcing him to make a terrifying journey into the present.

As long-buried secrets emerge and the bodies pile up, Donovan finds himself caught up in a harrowing web of fear. In order to survive and uncover the disturbing truth at the heart of the dangerous world he’s found himself in, he puts together a team to help him, a team of outsiders that doesn’t care which side of the law it operates on.

And Donovan will surely need help. For he and Jamal are being hunted by a ruthless killer. A killer with a 100% success rate. A killer who doesn’t know the meaning of the word mercy.

Backstory

With The White Room I had pushed that bleak, brutal, prose-poetry kind of story and storytelling as far as it could go at the time and I wanted to do something different. Something where I could utilise all of my influences, from Shakespeare to Batman, Tony Hancock to Doctor Who, Doc Savage to Nelson Algren. A new contemporary crime thriller series set in Newcastle. I needed a new hero. Flawed, messed up, but empathetic, with an emotional reason for the reader to keep engaging with him. Enter Joe Donovan. And I also wanted to give him a team. I love the way group dynamics work in popular fiction, whether it’s the con artists of Hustle on TV, Batman and Superman and the rest of the Justice League, Richard ‘Avenger’ Benson and Justice Inc. in the Forties pulp novels… the list goes on. Enter Albion. And I wanted to tell the stories in a thrilling, character-based way that wouldn’t be afraid to tackle the big social and political themes but never in a preachy, boring or worthy way. I wanted a page-turner that made the reader laugh, cry and think. THE MERCY SEAT was the result. It got me some blinding reviews, some new readers and an award nomination. Didn’t win, though.

Bone Machine

The body is discovered in a disused burial ground. A young woman, ritualistically mutilated, her eyes and mouth crudely sewn shut. Her boyfriend is arrested and charged with the murder.

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Bone Machine

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Paperback (US)

Ebook (UK)

Ebook (UK)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, January 2007, ISBN: 9781416502234
Pegasus, US hardcover, November 2007, ISBN: 9781933648354
Pegasus, US paperback, August 2009, ISBN: 9781605980539

Joe Donovan Book 2

The body is discovered in a disused burial ground. A young woman, ritualistically mutilated, her eyes and mouth crudely sewn shut. Her boyfriend is arrested and charged with the murder.

He might have a vicious temper and a history of violence towards women, but is Michael Nell really a killer? Michael’s lawyer doesn’t think so. She’s hired Joe Donovan to prove his alibi.

Donovan’s investigations lead him into the murky world of people trafficking and illegal prostitution. But when the second body shows up, he realises it’s not just local gangsters he’s up against – but a deranged serial killer. A killer obsessed with the city’s dark history. A killer who leaves clues pointing to his twisted plan. And if Donovan and his team can’t decipher those messages in time, a killer who will kill again.

Backstory

I wanted to write a book that asked questions about cities. How their history informs the present, what part the inhabitants play, are the same things repeated in the same places over the centuries . . . that kind of thing. The publishers wanted a serial killer book. The challenge was to see if I could do it without glamorising the killer, fetishizing his methods or turning the whole exercise into violent torture porn – my sympathies are, and always will be, with the victim – and also incorporating the city itself. The sexual slavery trade was also getting headlines at the time but the scale of operations wasn’t getting the serious coverage I thought it should. And that was making me angry. And of course Joe Donovan is still on a quest to find his son. What if I combined all this together?

I did. The result was BONE MACHINE.

White Riot

The body is discovered in a rundown area of Newcastle. A Muslim student, savagely beaten to death, then torched. Blame falls on the far right National Unity Party but for once they appear to be innocent. In fact, with elections looming, they are poised to make significant gains.
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White Riot

Paperback (US)

Ebook (UK)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, January 2008, ISBN: 9781847390585
Pegaus, US hardcover, March 2009, ISBN: 9781605980270
Pegasus, US paperback, June 2010, ISBN: 9781605980959

Joe Donovan Book 3

Joe Donovan’s back.

The body is discovered in a rundown area of Newcastle. A Muslim student, savagely beaten to death, then torched. Blame falls on the far right National Unity Party but for once they appear to be innocent. In fact, with elections looming, they are poised to make significant gains.

Not the best time for Trevor Whitman, ex-Seventies radical, to return to his native North East. He’s haunted by his violent past and receiving death threats over the murder of a policeman years ago. Joe Donovan and Peta Knight are called in to investigate.

After the death of a supposed would-be suicide bomber, the investigation takes on a more dangerous form as Donovan and the rest of his team enter the dark, twisted heart of radical urban politics, where players on all sides hide their true agendas behind masks of hatred. The investigation also cuts dangerously close to home for Peta, forcing her to reconsider every belief she has ever held.

Soon Donovan and his team are the targets of a ruthless killer unlike any they have ever faced before. A killer who will do anything to ensure a potentially explosive thirty-year secret remains buried. Anything, no matter who stands in his way. Anything, even orchestrating a brutal race war that will tear the city apart.

Donovan and his team will need all their wits and skill to get out alive. But he has something else on his mind. Because he’s tracked down his missing son.

Or thinks he has…

Backstory

Extremism has always fascinated me. I’ve always found it an excuse for disappointed individuals to find a scapegoat to blame for how shitty their lives are. Then to externalise that feeling and go and attack someone. It’s the opposite of a common shared humanity. And whether these people are acting from religious or political convictions they’re all areseholes. Now I thoroughly agree with that. But I’m also intelligent enough to realise that these individuals aren’t created in vacuums. There’s cause and effect at work here. They might do monstrous things but they didn’t start out that way. They were taught, encouraged and nurtured to do that. That was what I wanted to explore in White Riot. I also wanted to look at the definition of terrorism. Back in the Seventies when organisations like the Weather Underground and the Angry Brigade were at their height, they were considered freedom fighters, doing what they did for the greater good. Would they still be considered that way now? Was it right to look at them that way then? Step forward Trevor Whitman . . .

Speak No Evil

Anne Marie Smeaton is back in the hometown she hasn’t seen for forty years, trying to live a normal life with her partner and teenage son. But that’s impossible for Anne Marie. Because forty years ago, when she was eleven years old, she did something unspeakable.
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Speak No Evil

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Paperback (US)

Ebook (UK)

Ebook (US)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, February 2009, ISBN: 9781847390592
Pegasus, US hardcover, June 2010, ISBN: 9781605980966
Pegasus, US paperback, November 2011, ISBN: 9781605982625

Joe Donovan Book 4

Anne Marie Smeaton is back in the hometown she hasn’t seen for forty years, trying to live a normal life with her partner and teenage son. But that’s impossible for Anne Marie. Because forty years ago, when she was eleven years old, she did something unspeakable. Something so horrifying that society has shunned her ever since.

She’s trying to make peace with her past by telling her story to journalist Joe Donovan. But it’s not that simple. By dredging up memories she usually keeps repressed, Anne Marie is unleashing old nightmares from the past. Suffering from horrifying visions, she sometimes does bad things. Things she has no memory of afterwards.

So when a teenager on her housing estate is murdered and she wakes up with blood on her hands, Anne Marie naturally fears the worst. Desperate, she turns to Donovan for help. But Joe Donovan might have his own reasons for getting involved. Reasons which have to do with the disappearance of his son. . .

Backstory

If you do something bad as a child does it define your life? Should it? Or should there be a chance of redemption, of forgiveness? And what about the things that were done to you in the first place? Can you ever escape them?

I was thinking about child murderers when I came to write this book. Mary Bell, Thompson and Venables . . . and I began to wonder what would happen to them in later life. How they would cope. How they would live. Then I remembered the furore surrounding the release of Gitta Sereny’s brilliant biography of Mary Bell and the subsequent witch hunt. Then I thought of the child killer I had created for my earlier novel The White Room. And this book began to take shape . . .

And Donovan, of course, is still looking for his son. But he also has a daughter. What’s she been up to recently? Can Donovan and her still have some kind of relationship? Let’s find out . . .

Born Under Punches

1984: Thatchers Conservative government in power. The miners on strike. Two Tribes going to war. 2001: Blair’s Labour government enters its historic second term. The rail network is collapsing; the National Health Service is descending into chaos. Things can only get better?
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Born Under Punches

Ebook (UK)

Ebook (US)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, March 2004, ISBN: 9780743449519
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, US ebook, December 2011, ISBN: 9781453237564

Stephen Larkin Book 4

1984: Thatchers Conservative government in power. The miners on strike. Two Tribes going to war.

2001: Blair’s Labour government enters its historic second term. The rail network is collapsing; the National Health Service is descending into chaos. Things can only get better?

Coldwell, a former pit town on the Northumberland coast, was once a cheerful and prosperous place. It now lies bleak and eerily empty. Moving seamlessly between 1984 and the present day, this tautly-plotted thriller involves five Coldwell inhabitants whose lives are radically changed by the strike: Tony Woodhouse, a professional footballer who cant escape his shady past; Tony Jobson, cruising the streets of Newcastle violently collecting debts; Mick Hutton, a striking miner, desperate to find ways to support his growing family; Stephen Larkin, an idealistic young journalist, determined to expose the truth about the strike – as he sees it; Stephens sister, Louise, in love with Tony Woodhouse, stalked by a shadowy figure from her past. As the lives of the five unfold, it becomes clear that the strike of 84 will have unforeseen and devastating repercussions – not only for those directly involved, but for future generations too.

Backstory

This was the book I became a writer to write. Unfortunately I didn’t think I was good enough initially; I needed a few novels under my belt before undertaking something as complex and ambitious as this.

The miners’ strike of 1984 was such a pivotal moment for both the country and myself. It redefined (or undermined) the very definition of democracy in this country. It was also the one event that politicised me. The book itself is fiction, the events within are not. However, I didn’t want to make it a dull, worthy, preachy book. I wanted a fast-paced crime thriller that readers could connect with. After the book came out, I was approached by an ex-miner who told me, ‘You wrote my life.’ That was, and still remains, the highest praise one of my books has ever had.

I wouldn’t say this is my favourite book, because writers shouldn’t pick favourites among their own work (if for no other reason that they’re usually the worst judges) but I will say this. If a writer’s books are all his children, then this is the one that got to university.

The White Room

Newcastle, 1946. 19-year-old Jack Smeaton returns from the trenches, his hair turned white by the trauma of WWII…
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The White Room

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Ebook (US)

Pocket Books, UK paperback, March 2005, ISBN: 9780743449526
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, US ebook, December 2011, ISBN: 9781453237571

A Guardian Book of the Year

Newcastle, 1946. 19-year-old Jack Smeaton returns from the trenches, his hair turned white by the trauma of WWII. He seeks solace in socialism, falling under the spell of the young T. Dan Smith, visionary future leader of the city council, architect of tower blocks and sculpted concrete. Meanwhile, the future of Monica Blacklock, victim of a childhood of abuse, seems unremittingly bleak. A chance encounter with a handsome young man on the banks of the river Tyne looks set to change her life for the better. But handsome, psychopathic Brian Mooney has plans for Monica. In fact, Brian has plans for lots of people… A masterfully contrived fusion of fiction and real life crime, THE WHITE ROOM is a gripping tale of passion and violence, desire and revenge, spanning four tumultuous decades.

Backstory

This was the other book I became a writer to write. My dad used to work with T Dan Smith in the Sixties and I grew up just down the road from where Mary Bell killed those children, literally in the shadows of Dan Smith’s new tower blocks. This brave new future destroyed before it had already been built. It was such a powerful image and metaphor that I had to use it. I carried it around for years before attempting to write it down. It wasn’t what the publishers were expecting and consequently they didn’t know what to do with it. However, it’s the book people always want to talk to me about, it’s the one that most got under people’s skins and into their heads and, I hope, hearts. It’s a dark book but, I think, not without a redemptive ending. Because there has to be redemption. Otherwise what’s the point?

Mary's Prayer

Sober and disillusioned with London, tabloid journalist Stephen Larkin reluctantly accepts an assignment to cover a gangland funeral back home in Newcastle.
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Mary's Prayer

Paperback (US)

Ebook (UK)

Piatkus, UK hardcover, July 1997, ISBN: 9780749903985
Piatkus, UK paperback, July 1997, ISBN: 9780749930288
Allison & Busby, UK paperback, December 2001, ISBN: 9780749005856
Pegasus, US paperback, November 2006, ISBN: 9781933648187

Stephen Larkin Book 1

Sober and disillusioned with London, tabloid journalist Stephen Larkin reluctantly accepts an assignment to cover a gangland funeral back home in Newcastle. Several years earlier he had left sick and disgusted, vowing never to return, but the pull of the city, and the promise of a juicy story, finally persuades him to return. While there, Larkin’s old flame Charlotte asks him to check out the alleged suicide of her friend Mary – a course of action that will leave Larkin bruised, battered and with some painful memories of the city he was trying to forget. Dark, compelling and relentless, MARY’S PRAYER is a razor-edged crime debut from a powerful new voice in crime fiction.

Backstory

It seemed simple at the time. Take the template for contemporary American crime fiction, with its sense of urgency and engagement, its urban locale, its CNN-reportage-spat-back-as-literature quality, its dirty realism and all the other things that made it so vital and thrilling an unlike British crime fiction of the time and import it. Get an urban setting (Newcastle), a flawed, troubled but essentially just hero (Stephen Larkin), a plot exposing the corrupt underbelly of society, give it a vigorous mix, have a grand time writing it… and hawk it around for five years until it finds a publisher. And in the meantime watch other writers who had the same idea at the same time take off in front of you. Oh well. Never mind. That’s life. I did it, it’s there and I’m still proud of it.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH

Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain.
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The Woman in Black

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Hardcover (UK)

EBook(UK)

Hammer, UK hardcover, October 2013, ISBN: 9780099588498
Hammer, UK paperback, January 2014, ISBN: 9780099588290

Sequel to The Woman in Black

Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain.

In London, children are being removed from their families and taken to the country for safety.
Teacher Eve Parkins is in charge of one such group, and her destination is an empty and desolate house that appears to be sinking into the treacherous tidal marshes that surround it.

EEL MARSH HOUSE

Far from home and with no alternative, Eve and the children move in.
But soon it becomes apparent that there is someone else in the house; someone who is far deadlier than any number of German bombs …

GREAT LOST ALBUMS

We can all name the classic rock and pop albums of the last fifty years. But what about the great lost albums? The albums that fell behind the back of the musical sofa? The albums that, in a very real sense, have been completely made up by the authors of this book?
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Great Lost Albums

Hardcover (UK)

EBook (UK)

Sphere, UK hardcover, September 2014, ISBN: 9780751557060

Now Available!

We can all name the classic rock and pop albums of the last fifty years. But what about the great lost albums? The albums that fell behind the back of the musical sofa? The albums that, in a very real sense, have been completely made up by the authors of this book?

It took a bestselling crime writer or three to hunt down these fifty lost classics, and an award-winning TV comedy scriptwriter to buy them a pint and make them write it. From the 60s to the 00s, with track listings and full histories, Great Lost Albums reveals the recordings that—just perhaps—never existed, but really should have done.

Albums include:

  • Bob Dylan’s legendary collaboration with Liberace
  • Joy Division’s ‘musical theatre’ period
  • Coldplay’s IKEA Sessions, including ‘Conscious Uncoupling (See Leaflet for Details)’ and ‘In my Place (There’s a Lovely HEMNES Shelving System)’
  • The Who’s magisterial, abandoned rock opera ‘Bingo Wizard’
  • Kraftwerk’s hastily deleted Christmas album, featuring the melancholic classic ‘I Wish to Return this Item’

…and many, many more.