Dark London – An Anthology

When I first heard about Dark London, an anthology for charity of dark stories set in or about London it felt like a perfect match, I was thrilled when my short story got accepted to be in it.

I was at the end of a year and a half of writing my last novel The Tower which is set in the East End of London with some meanderings into the City and I felt like my mind was saturated with the dark side of the London I had left behind when I moved out to the coast. Ghosts and murder were all I had thought about for a long time while writing, and that shows no sign of slowing.

I miss London a lot, I dream about being there almost every night, it haunts me daily and follows at my heels. I am happy being haunted by it though.

As I still felt so immersed in the city it was easy for me to cast the nets in my head for another little dark tale to share, and I settled on the name of it before I even knew where the story would go.

I had an image in my head of London Fields late at night, a scene from The Tower that had some roots in reality, and I thought of terrible things that had happened in London parks in real life and my earliest awareness of how a park could be unsafe even in the middle of the day was the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992. I have always been haunted by the thought of a person, murdered and abandoned somewhere to be found by unsuspecting dog walkers. And the title of the story was there – ‘The Place Where She Stopped Living.’

And so somehow my nameless protagonist was born, a non descript woman in her 40’s who likes to go for walks during the night and chat to whatever ghosts she encounters on her wanderings, often helping them to relax into their afterlife or just be there to talk to. In this short window into her life she comes across the titular ‘She’ shortly after someone ended her young life.

She is a gentle person, her ordinariness making her almost invisible in the surge of the city streets and her softness seems at odds with the dark side of London, but she knows the streets of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green better than most.

Location Inspirations;

Commercial Road and Whitechapel High Street – an area I first learned about quite young when I stumbled across my dad’s Jack the Ripper books, also somewhere I frequented at night for a while.

Brick Lane – one of my favourite places, full of great food smells, fabulous shops and markets and by night a great place to drink and buy bagels.

Hackney Road – anyone who has read The Tower knows this place is special to me and one of the locations sits on the junction of the fabulously named Allgood Street.

Shoreditch and Spitalfields – the church of St Leonards sits on the Junction of Hackney Road and Shoreditch High Street and I used to pass it on my commute every day – fans of the TV series Rev would know it well. Also Christchurch beside Spitalfields Market the market is a familiar sight.


Dark London is being released to raise money for The London Community Project and Centrepoint. Please do treat yourself to a bunch of amazing stories from some wonderful writers and help support some of the most disadvantaged people in London.

Pre-orders are available for the e-books now, via these links: mybook.to/darklondonone & mybook.to/darklondontwo

Paperback editions will be released on 25 June and 2 July.



My very own wayback machine

This is utterly beautiful and so very true

Thefinestlash's Weblog

gemma-evans-64661-unsplashWhen I was a smallie, I always thought of being a grown-up as a finished state, a perfected art, no more polishing, no more learning. I thought of this in a good and a bad way: The good was that I would feel settled, secure and done. The bad was that this state was unchangeable, and if I happened to cross the threshold into Real Solid Adulthood at a time of sadness or difficulty, that I would be stuck like that to the end of my days, like a scrunched up face locked in place by a vengeful wind. This worried me, Little Me, but I was lucky to have school years that were mostly bearable and sometimes even joyful, twenties that were deeply compelling and interesting, and I always had confidence that far surpassed my abilities, which kept my spirit buoyed.

In recent years though, for various reasons, that…

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Purgatory Hotel by Anne-Marie Ormsby #BookReview (@AMOrmsby) @crookedcatbooks #HalloweenReading #booklove #PurgatoryHotel

Awesome review!

A Little Book Problem

image2“Dakota Crow has been murdered, her body dumped in a lonely part of the woods, and nobody knows but her and her killer.

Stranded in Purgatory, a rotting hotel on the edge of forever, with no memory of her death, Dakota knows she must have done something bad to be stranded among murderers and rapists. To get to somewhere safer, she must hide from the shadowy stranger stalking her through the corridors of the hotel, and find out how to repent for her sins.

But first she must re-live her life.

Soon she will learn about her double life, a damaging love affair, terrible secrets, and lies that led to her violent death.

Dakota must face her own demons, and make amends for her own crimes before she can solve her murder and move on.

But when she finds out what she did wrong, will she be truly sorry?”


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Behind the Book; Redneck’s Revenge


So summers pretty much over and it’s time for me to dig back into the blog (which is no hardship let me tell you) so I’m going back to what I love and that’s chatting to other authors about their work and the processes behind the books they write.


I’m starting off with the wonderfully talented Joan Livingston, author of Chasing the Case, the first in a series about journalist/sleuth Isabel Long. And I’m very glad to say she took some time out to answer my probing questions regarding her latest novel Redneck’s Revenge which is released through Crooked Cats Books on 26th September.



Tell us the basic premise of your novel and tell us a bit about your lead character Isabel Long?


When I started the Isabel Long mystery series, I wanted a strong female protagonist, someone who was savvy and a bit sassy. I also wanted to create a mature woman who was reinventing herself because of her circumstances.


So who is Isabel Long? She’s a long-time journalist who was the managing editor of a local paper before she got canned. The paper’s new owner said she had to re-apply for her job, but she wasn’t having any of that.


Like many journalists, Isabel has the curiosity gene. She also has a stack of cold case files she snagged from the newsroom on her last day. Among them was her first big story as a rookie reporter: the disappearance of a woman in the small town where they both lived. That was her first case — and the plot for Chasing the Case.


With her success for that first case, people are reaching out to her. That’s what happens in the second, Redneck’s Revenge, which has a Sept. 26 release.


Actually, the start of the first book is the end of a really bad year for Isabel, including the sudden death of her husband. But her period of grieving is over and she’s ready for new adventures — and having a man in her life. That happens when she works part-time at the local watering hole.


Isabel has an unusual Watson — her 92-year-old mother who comes to live with her. She is based on my own mother, who is now 94. She also has three grown children and a baby granddaughter.


I will admit there’s a lot of me in Isabel. We are both long-time journalists. We’re both of Portuguese heritage. But while Isabel became an amateur P.I., I just write about them. .


Did you take any inspiration for ‘the case’ Isabel is chasing from any real life crimes?


Not really. In the first, the mystery of a woman’s disappearance has lingered for 28 years. In the second, a woman asks Isabel to find out what happened to her father. The official story is he was passed-out drunk when his house burned down in his junkyard. She believes he was murdered. Both came from somewhere in my brain, as does the third.


Why did you choose the setting you chose and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?


I chose to set my mystery — plus other fiction — in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts in the U.S. I am talking about rural towns around a thousand people or less. My family and I lived there for 25 years before we moved to Taos, New Mexico. After 11 years, we returned. When I was a reporter, my first job was covering the hilltowns, so I got to know them intimately. I am enamoured by small towns, where it seems everybody knows each other and their business.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line?


No, I just took what I know and had my way with it.


Do you have a favourite novel or writer who has inspired your own writing?


I can’t think of one author who has had that much power over my writing. But over the years, I have found many authors who have showed me what’s possible to do, especially in creating believable characters.


What is your ideal writing environment? 


I write at home, typically early in the morning. But sometimes an idea strikes me during the day and I can’t wait to get it down. I have an office again, but before our recent move to the home we renovated, I wrote at the kitchen table of the apartment we were renting. My office is not very quiet as my husband’s wood shop next door makes a lot of noise. But I have strong powers of concentration, probably from working in a newsroom.


What are you working on next?


I am getting close to the end of Checking the Traps, the third in this series. A few of the characters from the first two are in this one. I love them too much to let them go.

joancc logo



Huge thanks to Joan for stopping by, if you want to catch up with her you can find her here;


and pre-order a copy of her latest release from amazon here



Heres a little teaser –




Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over, but no surprise there since his sister turned out to be the killer. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.




Behind the Book: Napalm Hearts



Today I’m joined by author Seamus Heffernan to discuss his debut novel about an American private detective looking for a missing woman in London.

When I first read about this new book I was instantly taken by the fact that it’s set in London, and when I discovered the author had lived in my favourite city for several years I was interested to find out his inspiration and old haunts.

Everyone’s experience of London is so individual – I never get tired of talking about it…..

Tell us the basic premise of your book.

It’s a detective story about an American PI working in London. He is making a decent living working infidelity cases but is pretty bored, so when (trope alert) a rich and powerful client hires him to find his missing trophy wife, he jumps at the chance. From there, the necessary twists and (occasionally violent) complications ensue.

It’s a mystery story, and while I certainly wouldn’t describe it as high literary art, it is a book that explores some tough themes: Loneliness, class, love, sex and loyalty. The protagonist, Thaddeus Grayle, never really fits in. He’s an American navigating life in a strange land, and then takes a case that plunges him into a part of his adopted city he has never seen before. For him, the story is about being an outsider in worlds you don’t really understand.

What made you choose the locations you use in London and do they have any personal significance for you?

Oh God, yes. I spent five years in London and loved it. I grew up in a pretty small place and since I was a kid I wanted to travel and live in a massive city. London was perfect—it’s truly a world capital and there are only a handful of those on the planet, so I felt pretty fortunate to be there.

That said, the end of my time there was tough. My marriage broke up and I went through a pretty long period of loneliness and self-doubt. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone in a massive city—I adored London but I could feel the city and its temptations swallowing me up whole. I moved back to my hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for a hard life reboot and I’m pretty sure it saved me.

A few years after relocating, I started knocking around ideas for a book and my narrator needed a voice. I could hear my own loss and that awful sense of urban isolation creeping into his, and decided to stop fighting it and let it happen.

The book looks at the underbelly of the city – where did you take inspiration from for the darker side of London?

Too many long nights in too many dive bars.

I’m pretty sure a fair few Londoners can relate to that…..What made you want to become a writer?

I don’t know if anyone “decides” to become a writer—you either want to do it or you don’t. That said, I had always been a pretty decent professional hack, hence having worked in marketing and communications for a long time. But fiction was always my goal. Eventually I just stopped making excuses not to do it, and started getting more serious about it.

Do you have a favourite author?

For sure, but I think it’s safer (and more fun) to list a few that have stuck with me through the years. Outside of crime fiction, some modern writers I like include Bret Easton Ellis, Douglas Coupland, Michel Faber and Lee K. Abbott. Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov for the classic short stuff. I used to be heavy into comic books and find Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis interesting.

Within the genre: Ian Rankin, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. Finally, any of us who dare put “crime fiction writer” anywhere near a résumé must willingly genuflect to Chandler and Hammet, of course. And they totally deserve it.

Which famous people (alive or dead) would you most like to have a few drinks with?

OK, I’m going to cheat a bit here and force myself to not pick any writers.

My background is in criminology, so I would enjoy chatting with Fred Abberline and John Douglas. Abberline was the lead investigator for the Jack the Ripper murders and Douglas pioneered psychological profiling for the FBI, so I imagine they’d have a lot to talk about.

I’m also a sports fan, so I would ask Dennis Bergkamp (former Arsenal footballer) and Bob Gibson (former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals) to hang out sometime. They were both geniuses in their respective games, but also delightfully cranky.

Finally, I’m really fascinated by people’s creative processes and how they make what they make, so I’d love to just be able to sit in on the recording of one of my favourite albums and talk to the musicians and producers involved. I’d spin a wheel and land somewhere between Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Big Black’s Atomized.

What are you working on next?
In no particular order:
• The follow-up to NAPALM HEARTS.
• A TV pilot script, a dramedy about the day-to-day grind of working in government from the point of view of the people who serve the public every day. A somewhat kinder, gentler The Thick of It, perhaps.
• Meeting agents.
• Getting by with a little more exercise and a little less sleep.

Huge thanks to Seamus for stopping by, I’m really enjoying the book so hopefully a review to follow if I can tear myself away from house renovations….

You can (you should) order Napalm Hearts here

And get in touch with Seamus here –

Official Website



Crooked Cat Books


About the Author;
Prior to his writing career, Seamus Heffernan worked in education, journalism, marketing and politics. He currently works for a Member of Parliament. Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he has called several places home, including a lengthy stint in London, England. He presently resides in British Columbia, where he splits his time between Abbotsford, Mission and Vancouver.
His short fiction has previously appeared in The Raspberry and Louden Singletree. NAPALM HEARTS is his first book.

Behind the Book: Ninja School Mum


Today I’m joined by author Lizzie Chantree, who coincidentally hails from my home county of Essex. We oddly lived not too far from each other long before we ever met, so I’m very glad to be talking to her and showcasing the writing talent of Essex (its not all orange tans and fake lashes people!)

So in between the school run, Lizzie is an inventor, business woman and artist. And sometime burner of cakes…..

She has a long list of previously published books and another on the way this year through Crooked Cat Books – but today we are all about the Ninja School Mum so lets get stuck in.



Tell us the basic premise of your novel?


Ninja School Mum is about a single mum who moves to a small town to make a fresh start with her son. She has a mysterious past and tries her best to fit in with the other parents on the school playground, but some of them have secrets of their own.


 What inspired you to write this story? Are your characters based on anyone?


I was inspired to write the story from seeing the way people tend to gravitate towards others like them at the school gates. It made me curious as to why a few people are always on the outside looking in and what would happen if one of them had a secret they didn’t want anyone else to discover.


I make up my characters and don’t base them on anyone I know. I am always noticing mannerisms and quirks of personality that would make a good character though!


Why did you choose the setting you chose and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?


I chose the English countryside as it’s somewhere I love to visit. There are so many wonderful buildings and quaint towns hidden away next to forests and along shorelines, to explore. I enjoy the architecture and the history and every time I visit one, I think how exciting it would be to make up a new story there. If I manage to find a cream tea while I’m wandering around being nosey, then that’s an added bonus!



Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line?


I usually think of places I have visited as I love to travel, especially within the U.K. There is much to discover in the countryside and also in the cities. I always have quirky businesses in my books and I use my own twenty years of running businesses as reference. Writing about them makes me feel like I experience what it would be like to run some pretty amazing businesses, so it can be great fun. I visited a tree climbing centre a few times when writing Ninja School Mum, as one of the main character’s, Zack, has inherited a crumbling estate and tree climbing centre.


If you could sit down and discuss secret lives with any famous people/characters alive or dead who would you choose?


I find Sherlock Holmes totally fascinating, but would love to discuss creativity and inspiration with Ed Sheeran, Chris Martin and Beyoncé. I imagine that Beyoncé would make an amazing Ninja School Mum. She’s such an athletic person and she’s so creative that she would be able to weave a story around you with ease.


What are you working on next?


I have a new book out in July, called, ‘If you love me, I’m yours.’ It’s about an eccentric family of artists and some beautiful little paintings which have been left on park benches across the countryside, which have the press in a frenzy of excitement and the person who painted them trying to hide their identity.



A big thank you to Lizzie for taking time out of her hectic life to chat to me! You can catch up with her online here;

Official Website



And you can get your own copy of Ninja School Mum here




Leaving London

“My Dad says that being a Londoner has nothing to do with where you’re born. He says that there are people who get off a jumbo jet at Heathrow, go through immigration waving any kind of passport, hop on the tube and by the time the train’s pulled into Piccadilly Circus they’ve become a Londoner.” – Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch


If you had said to me 5 years ago that I’d be living in Margate in a quiet back street I’d have laughed at you and said “No chance”.

My love affair with London is well documented, you only need to look at my Instagram feed and you will see years of photos documenting early morning appreciations of Tower Bridge, weekend strolls around the deserted streets of the city and busy meandering around Spitalfields and Brick Lane. Even this blog is named after a line from Tennyson’s poem about London.

The problem with London is that its not just a place that you live in. Its a place that lives in you, it gets into your skin, the dirt from the traffic, the dust from the streets and it works its way into your blood. When you visit you can go home, wash it all off you, get it out of your hair. But when you live there, its under the skin.

For me London is home, like a giant bed that I fall back into when I get off the train, I feel instantly at ease, welcomed. Expected. I don’t know why it happened, I didn’t move there til I was 30 and after living there for less than a year I was sure I would never live anywhere else. I belonged in London, London was mine. I felt more myself than I had ever done and every day was an adventure, there was even excitement in getting the underground somewhere. Before long I opted for bus travel, always sitting upstairs at the front with the best views.

But life changes, children happen and house prices sky rocket and you feel bad that your child will have to go to a school that hasn’t had a good OFSTED. In short priorities have to change, and my need to be within half an hour of east London at all times has had to go on the shelf. So we left, we sold our small two bedroom house in south London and bought a large three bed bungalow in Margate a 10 minute walk from the beach that my daughter has fallen so in love with. And I do love Margate. It has the same vibe as East London had 10 years ago, that feeling that something was changing, that the surge in art studios and vintage clothing shops meant that you knew there were like minded people living nearby.

When I think about it now Margate is probably the only place I could have moved to. Brighton, my favourite place to run away to, is just as expensive to live in as London, so we would have traded like for like, just with a seaside. But Margate has something about it, unexpected. I thought it was a dive when I first came here 10 years ago, but with the opening of the Turner Contemporary and Dreamland, and the countless independent shops in the Old Town, its really a very different place. And I like that I can walk along a very unassuming seaside street and come across the treasure of a cute café or shop.

London will always be a part of me, somewhere in the deepest parts of me I will always be there. I still wake from dreams of wandering her streets at night, no company but the passing cars and moonlight. There is no escape from that, and to be honest I wouldn’t want to change it.

So I have traded the city for the seaside, and I am very happy, when I walk along the beach I am grateful for big skies and fresh air, and that when my daughter asks to go to the beach it doesn’t mean 2 hours in the car before we hit sand.

But I have these last words to say to London…..my Dear John letter….

London I’m leaving you.

And it’s like the end of a relationship. Probably toxic, definitely expensive.

But my god I love you. In all the ways I know how and others I don’t understand. This affair has gone on for 10 years. And it’s an affair because you cheated on me everyday, you were rarely all mine, you were always so busy, with all the other people who are so in love with you.

Every day I’ve breathed you in, thrilled by being in your presence, overlooking your many faults just because I’m so blindly infatuated with you.

You take all my money, you leave me stranded in the rain when you randomly with hold buses. You leave me swearing at overly busy train stations with empty information boards. You offer me more than I can afford, and then give me so many freebies I get hooked again.

You are not just a city, you’re in my blood. When I’m not near you I miss you and all your dirty streets and overpriced bars. I just want to be with you all the time.

But it’s over.

We both know we will hook up again, I’ll come back and dizzy in your presence I’ll get drunk and stay the night.

And I can live with that.

But the day to day of us is over. I’m walking away.

What hurts is you won’t even notice I’m gone…..

All photos property of the author.