Saturday, 26 June 2010

This Weekend

ROAD CLOSED reviewed in The Times
"well-written, soundly plotted, psychologically acute"
Marcel Berlins
Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Harrow
Not a bad weekend...
Leigh Russell

Friday, 25 June 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

Was chatting with some friends over the weekend re their summer reads and was struck by the fact that two of them were holding back on reading THE LOVELY BONES until after their holiday.

I’ve never consciously chosen a lighter read because I’m taking it on holiday but I’m sure it’s a subconscious part of my selection process. By lighter reads I don’t mean I exclude violence and dark subject matter. However, my poolside literature seems to be material that is in a comfortable context or genre rather than the sort of books I would normally jump at. The sort of books that challenge my perception, morals and make me rewardingly uncomfortable in the process usually go on hold for two weeks.

It’s a personal choice but I’d much rather something accessible and juicy over anything too heavy or intellectual while I’m relaxing. It’s got to be immediately engaging and capable of giving me that excuse to remain horizontal longer than I'd normally do in the middle of the day. But at the same time my holiday brain wants the experience to be effortless and thoroughly entertaining.

I suppose it’s the equivalent of watching a glossy Hollywood movie on the plane over art house material that’s often more rewarding.

It’s probably why good thrillers are so popular as holiday reads. I’ve got plenty of them that still have sun lotion on the pages. I certainly hope that there will be a few copies of STOP ME that will be christened in the same way.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Life Or Death Match....

by Matt Lynn

I was talking to my editor Martin Fletcher at Headline yesterday about the next book in the ‘Death Force’ series, which is going to be called ‘Ice Force’. The outline is looking great. But we were discussing whether one of the character should die, as they have done in each of the previous three books in the series.

We decided one should.

But who?

We picked a pair of characters, and decided to kill off one if England beat Slovenia today. And another if they get beaten.

So it really is a life or death match.

Friday, 18 June 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

Because I'm spending so much of my time perfecting book 2 I've been neglecting my reading which means that my summer book pile is now taller than I am. I'm determined to reduce it but this brings me to a subject that I've discussed with lots of other writers. Most of us agree that there are now so many books on our shelves that we will never finish them in this lifetime.

It's our own fault. We buy books by our favourite authors, books by new authors we're interested in, books by writers we meet on Twitter, books we feel we should be interested in, books we've had recommended or handed to us with an imperative recommendation and random books that we just can't resist plucking out of the bargain bin or the second hand shelf. It's these irresistible little gems that mean that our books are now being stored horizontally rather than vertically and form literary stalagmites in every room. That doesn't even take into account the books we'd like to read again - and there are certainly plenty of those.

Some writers and readers I know get genuinely depressed about this. That when they calculate how long they take to read a book and how long their life expectancy is there's still not enough time to read the books they already own let alone any new ones they might accumulate in the future.

The truth is nobody would stand in a library, look round and say 'I'll never get through all these.' A lot of us are lucky to have our own personal libraries but that doesn't mean we have to read them all. If there's something we really want to read then we'll read it. The rest are great to have in reserve.

So for my late summer reading I'm going to go for a mixture. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue - hell yes if I'm in the mood for something like that. It's usually the wild card that turns out to be the most enjoyable.

I wonder what criteria other readers use to make their summer selections?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Curzon Group Panel

On June 2nd we took a Curzon Group Panel to Shepherds Bush Library at the new Westfield Shopping Centre. Adrian Lewis was there taking photographs so here we are in action. From the left: Matt Lynn, Leigh Russell, Tom Cain and Richard Jay Parker - all talking at once. Read more about it on Richard's post here on 4th June.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

What Makes a Book Popular?

I've been posting a lot about my recent activities. Life has been hectic with visits to stimulating writers groups and a host of searching interview questions both online and on various radio stations. I still have quite a few events to blog about. I haven't told you how much I enjoyed talking to Thames Valley Writers, or how I felt being interviewed live on Radio 91.8 FM (another live radio interview coming up next Saturday), or being approached by Woman and Home Magazine (where we talked about blogging!), or spending time signing airside at Heathrow Terminal 5 (where I saw ROAD CLOSED displayed at No. 7 on the WH Smith's Travel Bestseller Charts), hearing that my books are displayed at No. 4 and No. 6 on the Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Bedford, or the thrill of receiving an email from award winning author Sam Millar who's just read ROAD CLOSED "and really loved it" (Sam won the prestigious Aisling Award for Art and Culture, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition. His best-selling memoir, ON THE BRINKS, has recently been acquired by Warner Brothers... and that's just a taster)

But I thought it was time to return to some serious discussion about writing. Even I can see that there's only so much personal news I can blog about without becoming... how shall I put this?... repetitive... (OK, boring...)

One of the questions I was recently asked (Hayes FM) was:
"CUT SHORT launched in the summer and sold so fast your publisher had to reprint after two months. What elements in the book do you think made it so popular?"

That's a tricky one. What is it that makes some books grab our attention while others leave us unengaged?
For those of you who missed the radio broadcast my answer at the time went something like this.
"My books are plot driven so readers read on to find out what happens. But it is character that interests me. People fascinate me. Perhaps the popularity of my books is due to a combination of exciting plots and convincing characters." I went on to say that of course many authors achieve that, so I can't account for my success with CUT SHORT reprinted 3 times in its first year and ROAD CLOSED already off the starting posts, with its first few reviews pretty positive. So far a Top 50 Reviewer on amazon has said: "The characters are believable and I really like Geraldine... I also liked the way everything dovetailed together so that while you're reading you get those light bulb moments when a piece of the jigsaw slots into place..." Another reviewer says "tense and gripping... with an exhilarating climax that you don’t see coming until it is too late... Geraldine is a gifted, strong and likeable character." Sam Millar wrote of ROAD CLOSED that it is "a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative...Geraldine Steel is a complex and highly driven character, with multifaceted feelings of contradiction and nuance." Jeffery Deaver also mentioned plot and character, now I come to think of it, when he described CUT SHORT as "a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel." In fact most of my reviewers cover both plot and character, so perhaps it is a combination of strong plot and convincing characters that is winning fans for my Geraldine Steel series.

What elements in any book do you think make it popular? It's an important question for an author - but is it an impossible one to answer?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Leigh Russell Talks about ROAD CLOSED

Leigh Russell live interview on 91.8FM 6.30-7pm


By Richard Jay Parker

For most readers the argument is pretty academic. Books win hands down and the movie adaptation is often only interesting from the perspective of how the director's vision and actors' performances stand up to what you created in your imagination.

Movies rarely convey the depth and subtlety of books and frequently overpump them to satisfy a Hollywood sensibility.

But it all depends on whether you read the book first. If you didn't, how much of the movie is already implanted when you pick up the book? I recall finding it impossible not to think of Jack Nicholson as McMurphy when I read Kesey's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

I also read Jeff Lindsay's DEXTER after enjoying the series. Michael C Hall was in my head throughout. It's one of those rare instances when a lot of readers believe the TV series to be better than the books. Personally, I found the books darker and more humorous - Dexter's backseat psyche whispering blackly funny ideas into his ear was something that wasn't conveyed on the small screen.

Then there are movies that attempt to take on books that are unfilmable. THE NAKED LUNCH by William Burroughs for instance. The movie became a very different entity with little to do with the novel. AMERICAN PSYCHO took a different approach to the wealth of subject matter and merely tried to use key scenes to create a representation of the themes that Bret Easton Ellis explored. I thought that Mary Harron did a pretty good job but watching a movie and reading a book are simply two very different entertainment experiences. One serves it up while the other requires the complete investment of your imagination.

So is there an instance of the book and the movie being equally enjoyable? Personally, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is one of the few examples I can think of. I enjoyed the book and its moral dilemma as well as simultaneously learning the language of Nadsat. Kubrick's interpretation of the story, his striking visuals and undeniable stylising of the character make it difficult to separate the two in my mind. FALLING ANGEL is another example. I saw the movie (ANGEL HEART) first but enjoyed Hjortsberg's book because I knew what the ultimate destination was.

Obviously, it's all subjective but I think it's often the case of not expecting the movie to be as good as a personal reading experience but that it should use its own devices to add something extra.

Anyone out there have a book and a movie they enjoyed equally?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Fun of Being Insignicant!

ROAD CLOSED came out two weeks ago and has already started to sell. Of course, I’m a very small scale operator in a world where the big players expect to sell tens of thousands of books every week. Still, there are only 5 copies of ROAD CLOSED left on where it’s had its first amazon review – 5 stars from a Top 50 Reviewer and Vine Voice who concludes the review: “Give Leigh Russell a try - I'm sure you will not be disappointed.”

WH Smith’s Travel selected ROAD CLOSED for a promotion and I just received an email from the books manager one branch where ROAD CLOSED has sold 115 copies in 2 days (OK, I was there signing, but still…) I wonder if book sales are so exciting for the big names? I suspect not, because they must expect their books to sell in huge numbers. I’m still excited when one person buys one of my books.

It’s no secret that I completed the first draft of CUT SHORT in six weeks, and two weeks after I’d sent out the manuscript I received a phone call from a publisher who offered me a three book deal. After editing, rewriting and research, my first book hit the shelves and sold out so fast that it was reprinted three times in under a year. Following that success, ROAD CLOSED has just been published ahead of schedule as WH Smith’s Travel selected it for a promotion. It’s been a thrilling rollercoaster but my publishing deal turned up so suddenly and unexpectedly that I still can’t believe this wildly exciting experience is really happening to me.

I only discovered my passion for writing three years ago when an idea for a story popped into my head and I began to write it down. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop writing. As Eugene Ionesco said, “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”

I’ve heard it said that finding a publisher is like climbing a high mountain. Once you reach the summit, you see an even higher mountain ahead – book sales. This week is half term so I’m doing four book signings, giving a talk, appearing on a panel of bestselling crime writers, and completing the first draft of my third book. I enjoy giving talks and going to book signings, getting out and about meeting readers, but all this promotion is another demand on my time.

Sometimes I think I must be slightly insane… but I love writing and everything associated with it, and the pressure of limited time seems to help my creativity almost as much as a deadline from my publisher! Another benefit of being so busy is that I have no time to stress about how my second book will be received, and no time to worry about “writer’s block”. If I have a free hour or two, that’s it – I’m writing!

So my really exciting news is that I’ve just sent the COMPLETED first draft of DEAD END to my agent. Watch out for it in 2011 and, in the meantime, here are the links for CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED in case you want to take a look.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Curzon At The Bush

By Richard Jay Parker

I haven't been to Sheperds Bush for a couple of years so was staggered to find the new Westfield Centre there - less a shopping centre more an escalator village of restaurants and department stores. Just on the edge of it is the very modern Westfield Library where The Curzon Group assembled on Wednesday and were made very welcome.

It was a genuinely balmy evening which understandably presented alternative possibilities to sitting indoors but our audience looked genuinely attentive despite the heat. Leigh Russell chaired and Matt Lynn, Tom Cain and I contributed to a lively discussion.

After reading excerpts from our books we then discussed myriad writing topics including writing a series, character development, putting characters under pressure, violence in thrillers and our individual approaches to planning and writing generally.

We then took questions about writing international thrillers, police characters and the origin of The Curzon Group name.

We could have rattled on all evening and our hour and a half was quickly up. We signed books and then retreated to the one place the temperature demanded. I don't think I need to spell it out.
Happy weekend.