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

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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.

 

The Blog Tour: A Few Words from Liam

Nowhere to Hide coverHi. My name’s Liam. You don’t know me.  Well, not unless you’ve read Trust No-One or Nowhere to Hide. Then you’ll know me a bit, though mainly from Marie’s point of view and I’m not sure how reliable that always is.  I don’t mean that she lies about me.  I’m just not sure that she knows me as well as she thinks she does, if you get my drift.

Anyway, my name’s Liam and I’m Marie Donovan’s boyfriend.  Or partner.  Or whatever the correct term is.  We live together, or at least we do when Marie’s not working at the other end of the country doing whatever it is that she does.  I mean, I know roughly what she does, working undercover.  But she’s not allowed to tell me all the details, obviously.  Which means that I don’t really know her, either. Or at least not as well as I once thought I did.

They’ve asked me to do an introduction to this series of interviews.  There’s been a blog tour, you see, and several very kind people have been hosting interviews with characters from Nowhere to Hide. Marie, and her boss, Hugh Salter.  And a couple of people she’s working with.  And her former both, Keith Welsby.  I quite liked Keith.  I mean, old-school, and you wouldn’t want to discuss politics with him, but he seemed quite straight.  Which is ironic, as things turned out.

The tour’s now finished so we thought we’d now post all the links here.  I’m not sure why they’ve asked me to write this introduction.  After all, I’m just Liam.  I know nothing that’s worth knowing.  I’m an artist, or at least that’s what I always wanted to me.  But, to be honest, I’m not sure that I ever really quite had the talent.  Not to make it big.  And now it’s too late.  I’m not well, and I’m not sure I’ll ever paint seriously again, even if Marie doesn’t quite realise it yet.

How did I get on to that?  I just meant to say a few bland words of introduction.  I’d better get on.  If I talk too much, I’ll probably end up saying things I regret.  About me.  Or about Marie.  Things I know that I probably shouldn’t.

So let’s just give you the links to the interviews.  First, with Marie.  (You’ll have to scroll down for that one).

She seems quite keen on that Brennan chap, doesn’t she? Not sure I fancy sharing a desert island with him.  What does he have to say for himself?

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Hm.  Not exactly lacking in ego, if you want my opinion.  Who else is Marie working with?  Lizzie Carter, whoever she might be.

Not sure I’m any the wiser about Ms Carter, though it sounds as if there might be more too her than meets the eye.  Now we have Marie’s boss, the delightful Hugh Salter.  I’ve only met him once, but that was enough.  Wouldn’t trust him any further than I could throw him, which is my condition is no distance at all.

Hah. Yes, that sounds like Salter, all right.  A calculating cold fish with no discernible sense of humour.  The polar opposite of his predecessor, poor old Keith Welsby. Well, I say poor.  He’s had enough back-handers at least to keep himself well-stocked with beer, from what Marie tells me.  But he’ll take us out on a high note.

So that’s them.  Five characters in search of an author to tell their stories.  Six, if you count me.  But you shouldn’t.  Because I’m not part of the story.  Nobody’s watching me.

Thanks again to Leigh Russell, Sally Quilford, womagwriter, Cally Taylor and Deborah Carr for hosting the interviews.  You can still buy both the Kindle editions of Trust No One and Nowhere to Hide for about the price of one of Keith Welsby’s pints.

Touring the Blogs

Many thanks to the wonderful Helen Hunt for organising a blog tour for me in support of Nowhere to Hide.  I’ll update you as they appear (though the full list is up on Helen’s blog) but the first post has been hosted courtesy of the generosity of Leigh Russell, author of the excellent Geraldine Steel books.  Sincere thanks, Leigh. Strikes me we should engineer a fictional meeting between Geraldine and Marie sometime…

Next post on Friday 11 January.  Keep watching the skies…

(While I’m here, I’ll also just point out that not only can you currently buy the Kindle edition of Nowhere to Hide for the absurdly bargain price of 99p, you can also currently buy the first Marie Donovan book, Trust No-One, for the almost equally ridiculous price of £1.49.  Which means you can buy both books for the price of a cheap sandwich. And think how quickly you’d eat that).

Nowhere to Hide

Just to remind you that Nowhere to Hide is now available from, as they say, all good bookshops.  You should also be able to find it, for a bargain price, alongside your grocery shop in Asda.  The Kindle version is flying moderately high in the charts, and you can also listen to the audio version, beautifully read by Mike Rodgers.

I’m more than a little excited to say that the book’s already had a terrific review on the Crimetime website from none other than the great Mark Timlin.  I was genuinely gobsmacked.  And also a very nice review in the Daily Mail, who described it as a ‘police procedural for a new age’.  Oh, and there’s also an interview with me on the Morgen Bailey blog, which will tell you everything you ever wanted to know and probably a lot more.

And, if that’s not enough, I’ve also been slightly disconcerted (as you may well be) to see my face plastered all over the current edition of Writers’ Forum magazine.  That’s bound to shift a few units.  And it certainly made the checkout man in Smith’s do a double-take when I bought a copy.