There’s Been a Murder…

I’ve been interviewed as August’s crime author of the month by the There’s Been a Murder blog. Mainly talking about the forthcoming CANDLES AND ROSES (out on 27 September) along with a few other things. Thanks to Lynsey Adams for the interview, which you can read here.

And you can pre-order CANDLES AND ROSES here.

Candles and roses 2

Late Checkout – Competition Winners

Thanks to everyone who dropped by over the weekend to read our posts about Late Checkout and to enter the two competitions!

We have winners!

The winner of the competition to share the most interesting thing about your home town, was Amanda with this spooky offering.

‘I live in Hitchin in Hertfordshire. There was a road in Hitchin that was once called Dead Street, because not a single person living there survived the plague of 1665. More cheerfully, the first translator of Homer, George Chapman, who was believed to be the rival poet in Shakespeare’s sonnets, was born and brought up here. The house is said to be now extremely haunted.’

I particularly liked the idea of Dead Street – that might make a good title for a future book…

The winner of the competition, on Helen M Walters’s blog, for the story about the best mishap in a hotel is Awen, with this memorable story.

‘We went to a hotel in Malta two years ago. It had a balcony with sliding patio doors. One evening I was sitting on the balcony with my Ipad writing, husband asked if I’d like a glass of wine (silly question) As he brought the two glasses of wine out, he closed the door with his elbow, to keep the insects out of the room… and locked us out. We couldn’t climb over to anyone else’s balcony to knock on their door to tell reception. There wasn’t any one around to shout below, and to make matters worse, we’d put the bolt on the main door too. Neither had our phones to phone the hotel reception. I tried emailing the hotel reception… no reply. After a while I had the idea to use the SMSmessage app on my Ipad to message my son’s Iphone! Husband despaired as son never answers his phone! I text,’ Are you around?’ Obviously his mum asking a weird question from Malta got him worried, I got an almost instant reply. “Yeah, you ok?” I explained we were trapped on our hotel balcony, dad had shut the door behind him and it locked, and needed him to phone Hotel reception and ask them to rescue us, although the bolt was also on the room door.” Reply? “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!” He did phone them and sent a message that the porter would rescue us soon. After another 30 minutes we could see the handle being wiggled then a knife blade working on the door frame and lock and another 15 minutes later the porter opened the door. We were very pleased to see him as there were loads of biting insects gathering near my bare arms and legs. Apparently, he carries his trusty penknife around with him, as we were not the first people to get locked out. We were so grateful, but he wouldn’t take a reward ! After that we threw a towel in the door way to stop it closing.’

That’s exactly how any of my sons would have responded…

There were some other great contenders though, so do have a look at the comments on the competition posts as well.

Congratulations to both winners. We will be in touch in the next couple of days to ask for your addresses so that we can send you your signed books!

Meanwhile, don’t forget you can buy Late Checkout here.

And you can read a sample for free here.


Late Checkout – out now (and a competition or two)

Walters_LateCheckout_Banner1-1Well, it’s finally here. Publication day. And to celebrate the publication of Late Checkout we have, not one, but two book giveaways for you.

We’re giving you two chances to win signed paperbacks of my first two Alex Walters novels, Trust No One and Nowhere To Hide.

In my previous post here, I set out a few quirky facts about Stockport, the setting for Late Checkout. To enter the competition, I just want you to leave a comment telling me the most obscure or interesting fact about your home town (or the town where you currently live).

You’ve got until the end of Sunday and we will pick a winner on Monday morning

On Helen M. Walters’s (relation) blog there is a separate competition where we are looking for your oddest or most humorous experience of staying in a hotel. Anything from fire alarms going off in the middle of the night, to locking yourself out of your room in your pyjamas (or worse still, I suppose, not in your pyjamas). You can find the blog post here.

Oh, and you can buy Late Checkout here. Did I mention that it’s out today?

For more news about Late Checkout don’t forget you can follow my Alex Walters Facebook page here, or follow me on Twitter at @MikeWalters60.

We are also having a Thunderclap to publicise the book on 14 June. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it’s just a way of getting as many mentions of the book on social media as possible at the same time in order to give the book a boost. It only takes a couple of clicks and just means that you’re allowing your FB and/or Twitter to put up a one off promotional post. If you’re willing to help, you can sign up here.

‘Thou hart more than ‘atmakers…’

Walters_LateCheckout_Banner1The cover of Late Checkout shows a gritty-looking urban landscape. Rather than just picking a cityscape at random, those excellent people at Books Covered remained true to the book and selected a shot of Stockport where much of the book’s action is set. Those who know the area will recognise the church as St Mary’s and the building to the left as Bank Chambers, both just off Stockport Market.

Although there are numerous examples of crime fiction set in Manchester, I’m not aware of much set specifically in Stockport. My first two Marie Donovan books had some scenes set in Stockport, but ranged more widely around north west England. Much of Late Checkout, though, is set in the town and wider borough of Stockport, and that will also be true of its forthcoming sequel, Dark Corners.

Stockport’s an oddly atmospheric place, although parts of it are just odd. The ‘heart’ of the town is an anonymous shopping precinct built literally over the top of the River Mersey (for years, a reliable pub quiz question was which Football League ground was closest to the Mersey, but Stockport County kiboshed that through repeated relegations). Beyond that, though, a network of streets wind up through different levels, so that your perspective on the place always feels slightly out of kilter. Joy Division recorded Unknown Pleasures here. We have a Unicorn Brewery which brews Unicorn Bitter. We have one of the largest brick-built edifices in the world in Stockport viaduct. We have a Hat Museum. And we have our own pyramid, just off the M60.

I was once the intended victim of a spectacularly inept attempted mugging in one of the alleyways connecting the lower and upper parts of the town. I was already walking away when the two teenage assailants were interrupted by an elderly lady with a shopping trolley. They both fled. I don’t know if that’s typical, but I don’t imagine there’s any more crime in Stockport than in other similar urban areas.  Even so, we’ve had our share of killings over the years, sometimes gangster-related. One or two of those I’ve appropriated, in suitably fictionalised form, in past books—including in one case transposing the murder to the Mongolian steppe. The killings in Late Checkout, though, are entirely fictional. So are the locations in which they occur, but I’ve tried throughout, as I did in the two Marie Donovan books, to set them in a real and recognisable landscape. And however fictional they may be, they’re still probably no less likely than a Unicorn Brewery or a motorway-side pyramid.

Oh, and the title of this piece? That comes from some glorious sleeve-notes written by the ever-entertaining former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor for an album recorded in Stockport by the Liverpool group Scaffold. The notes conclude: ‘Good old Stockport. Thy ‘eart beats strong and thou hart more than ‘atmakers.’ So now you know.

In the next room…

Walters_LateCheckout_Banner1My new book, LATE CHECKOUT (out this coming Thursday, 9 June, by the way) was inspired in part by all the nights I’ve spent in hotels during my working life. I spent much of my day-job career in roles that involved extensive business travel. Business travel sounds exciting—and occasionally it can be—but mostly it involves traipsing, in some combination, from airport to railway station to to office to anonymous hotel and back again. Over the years, I became more adept at finding hotels with a little more character and charm, generally cheaper and more friendly than their chain equivalents. But often you’ve little practical choice about how you travel or where you stay, and you just have to make the best of what the fates land you with.

Sometimes the outcome can be positive. I’ve discovered a few excellent places over the years through accidents of geography. But often the results are—well, mixed. I recall staying in a small hotel in Paris where the built-in wardrobe smelt so disgusting that I was convinced there must be a body, human or otherwise, bricked up behind it. There was a hotel in the south-west where the menu offered a ‘melody of fish’—all frozen and breaded, even though the hotel was minutes from the sea, and with no trace of any tune. And then there was the hotel on the edge of a safari park (no, me neither) where I was woken in the night first by the sounds first of some big cat roaring immediately outside my window and second of an, um, over-excited couple in the next room. I don’t think there was any link between the two disturbances.

Of course, as a writer, you mostly spend your time in hotels watching and speculating about the other guests. I spent several weeks staying in a bleak budget hotel in an industrial suburb of Paris where, for a number of days, my dinner was enlivened by two earnest Gauloise-smoking young men sitting nearby. They looked like characters from a Godard film and I began to envisage them as professional hit-men, whisperingly preparing their next job in that anonymous place. When they ceased appearing in the restaurant, I imagined that they had completed their work and moved on into the trans-European twilight. They no doubt worked in IT. But their fictional equivalents have made more than one appearance in my subsequent books.

Mostly, though, I’ve just been fascinated by the whole hotel experience. If you’re in the right (or wrong) frame of mind, there’s sometime uniquely eerie about hotels—particularly soulless business hotels. They have the same feel across the world. A pretence of luxury that’s often barely functional. The knowledge that, in many cases, the illusion is  being maintained by staff who are poorly paid and often badly treated. Above all, the mystery of quite who might be living, only a few feet away from you, in the identical room next door.

It was that last question that provided the genesis of LATE CHECKOUT. The hotels in the book are a varied bunch. They are all, I should stress, entirely fictional, though inspired by countless places I’ve stayed in over the years. In all of them, though, someone is waiting just along the corridor…


First Light: A Tribute to Alan Garner


I imagine you’re all heartily sick of my going on about my new book (that is, Late Checkout, out on the 9 June), so I thought, for the first time in a while, I’d post something that has nothing to do with crime fiction.

A few months back, I did my tiny bit to support the publication of a new Unbound book, First Light, a tribute to the writer Alan Garner, edited by Erica Wagner and featuring an extraordinary range of contributions.  Garner’s always occupied a special place in my literary heart, and it’s clear from the book that an awful lot of people feel the same. His books offer something unique in English literature.

Like most Garner enthusiasts, I first came across his early books as a child. His first book, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, is undoubtedly flawed (he describes it as an ‘apprentice work’) but its power is undeniable. Its successor, The Moon of Gomrath, is even more remarkable—I’d forgotten quite how remarkable until I came to re-read it to my own children, who became lost in the same magic that had gripped me thirty or more years before. Each book after that, up to the most recent Boneland, has demonstrated a continuing progression in skill and ambition which again seems unprecedented in English writers.

First Light is, perhaps against the odds, a worthy tribute. This kind of book is usually a mixed bag of the excellent and the ‘will this do?’ mediocre. But clearly Garner inspires the same excellence in his fans as he demands of his own work. The contributors range from writers clearly influenced by Garner’s work—Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman—through to those who’ve been sucked into the orbit of Garner’s wider enthusiasms and interests, such as archeologists, astronomers and historians. But, for me, almost every contribution offered a new insight into Garner’s distinctive genius.

I’ll probably write more on here about Garner, because reading First Light has prompted a number of thoughts about his books, but for the moment I’ll just recommend that you get hold of a copy of First Light yourself. If you’re a Garner enthusiast, you’ll want to read it. If you aren’t (yet), the book may well help turn you into one.