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Peter May tells us all about what led him to write his latest book, Runaway.

Peter May - my inspiration for Runaway

Peter May tells us all about what led him to write his latest book, Runaway.

Peter May tells us all about what led him to write his latest book, Runaway.

Peter May - my inspiration for Runaway

The story itself, obviously, drew its inspiration from the real runaway events, which actually took place in 1969. The characters drew their inspiration from different sources. Jack is partially based on myself. “Jobby” Jeff was loosely based on our then drummer, whose almost every sentence was punctuated by the word “jobbies”. Luke Sharp took his name from a childhood friend of my father (what were his parents thinking of), and his circumstance from another of my father’s friends called Johnny Main. Johnny’s parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and had dragged him around the doors with them for years. He ran away to the south when he was fifteen and never came back. But my father never lost touch with him, and I remember visiting him in Kent on a trip to France in the 1980s. Maurie’s Jewish background was based on my experiences of virtually growing up with Stephen and his family, and the whole community of Glasgow south-side Jews which existed during my childhood. And Dave was loosely based on a friend whose acquaintance I made during my short time at the DNS. He was hugely into music, and we would often meet at the Maryland Blues Club, in Scott Street, beside the Art School. However, cannabis was his predilection, rather than drink. The character of Dr. Cliff Robert was partly based on a very creepy manager we once had in Glasgow, but took his name from The Beatles’ song, “Dr. Robert”, which was the fictitious name The Beatles used for the doctor who provided them, and many other stars of the mid-sixties, with drugs. The character of Rachel, really, is the embodiment of that person we all fall madly in love with at some point in our lives, but are destined (for any number of reasons) never to be with. The Victoria Hall, where they boys find employment improvising dramas for an experimental community of mental patients, took its inspiration from the Kingsley Hall experiment run in the mid-to-late sixties by the famous Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing. There are two unusual coincidences in that. My wife, it transpired, was at school with R.D. Laing’s son, who later went on to write the definitive biography of his father. And it also turned out that R.D. Laing and myself were both trained to play the piano at the Ommer School of Music in Glasgow. To create and describe the authentic atmosphere surrounding events in the (fictitious) Victoria Hall, I was able to purchase online access to rare footage taken during the actual Kingsley Hall experiment. I also read several of R.D. Laing’s books, as well as the biography written by his son, along with an account of her time there written by the Kingsley Hall’s most famous resident, Mary Barnes, and her psychiatrist Joe Berke. I also visited the hall itself, which is still there, although all boarded up now. To get the detail right, I made the return journey of the old boys myself last year – through the Lake District and Leeds, to London, and all the locations there where the action takes place. I also did extensive research on the year 1965, including tracking down an original AA 1965 road map of Britain which I bid for on eBay, to fill in the gaps in my own memory. One particularly interesting location that I tracked down was the spot, behind the Savoy Hotel, where, in the spring of 1965, Bob Dylan shot the iconic video for his song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, and I had the boys witnessing the filming of it in the book. I took a photograph of myself in the very spot where Dylan had stood discarding his large lyric cue cards. The Merchants’ Tavern, which appears at the end of the book, is a real restaurant to be found in Charlotte Road in Shoreditch, London. It is owned by celebrity chef, Angela Hartnet, and the chef is her partner, Neil Borthwick, a young Scotsman whom I met when he was No.2 to the top chef in France, Michel Bras, and I spent time in Bras’s kitchen researching another book.

Children's Spring 2015

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Eat Your Way to a Clean, Lean, Nourished Body in Less than a Week

The Soup Cleanse

Win a Champneys Detox Ritual Day for Two worth £250 with The Soup Cleanse Dieting is tough, especially around the Christmas season when there are tempting treats at every corner. If you are looking for an easy helping hand to get you ready for the party season then The Soup Cleanse is your best friend. With more than 50 delicious recipes and easy-to-follow detox programmes, you'll learn how to nourish and purify your body while flooding it with essential nutrients, as you sip your way through wholefood soups packed full of regenerative ingredients. Unlike many other diets, The Soup Cleanse is built on simple, satisfying recipes that won't leave you feeling hungry or deprived, making it accessible and easy to stick to, even for those with the busiest lifestyles. To celebrate publication, Champneys Health Resort & Spa are offering two people the chance to win a Detox Ritual Day at their Detox and Wellbeing Centre at Champneys Tring. It’s the first of its kind in the UK and launched in celebration of their 90th anniversary. Offering a range of water-based personalised treatments in a smart, ultra-modern purpose-built environment; this revolutionary hub has been designed to renew and reinvigorate. Using the recuperative qualities of seawater, algae and marine minerals, our treatments have been carefully selected for their stimulating, cleansing effects on both the body and mind. By harnessing the richness of the sea, you will feel the benefits of its revitalising and rebalancing properties – vital components of health and wellbeing. Their experts will provide a personalised programme that will: detox, improve circulation, promote wellbeing and help you to slim and tone. With five key treatments and the perfect post therapy relaxation experience, you will never feel so good. Step inside their haven of tranquillity to refine, relax and tone. Slow things down, take a step back and cleanse your body from the inside out. In six blissful steps, you will be taken on a voyage of discovery. Included in your day: 9am arrival Welcome and tour of the resort Light refreshments A detox ritual worth £69 3 course buffet style lunch, with the option of using our light diet room Unlimited use of swimming pool, sauna and steam room Access up to 20 fitness class per day* 6pm departure To enter fill in your name and email address below Terms & Conditions: 1. This is a prize draw to win a Champneys Detox Ritual Day for Two People worth £250. To enter, please fill in your name and email address in the boxes set out at the following webpage: www.quercusbooks.co.uk/soupcleanse. 2. Prize includes: Welcome and tour of the resort. Light refreshment. A detox ritual worth £69. 3 course buffet style lunch, with the option of using our light diet room. Unlimited use of swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Access up to 20 fitness class per day* 3. The Winner will be selected at random from the entries received in accordance with these terms and conditions by The Soup Cleanse authors, Angela Blatteis and Vivienne Vella, whose decision will be final. 4. The Winner may see their name posted on quercusbooks.co.uk and possibly other websites and Twitter accounts. 5. Prize must be booked and taken by 30th June 2016. *£3 charge applies for advanced class bookings only. Subject to availability. Valid Monday to Thursday only at Tring Champneys Health Resort and Spa. 6. Travel, accommodation and refreshments other than those stated at paragraph 2 above are not included in the prize. 7. Quercus Editions Limited (Quercus) is not liable for the operations of Champneys Health Resorts (Champneys) and accepts no responsibility for them. Participation in the Champneys Detox Ritual Day is subject to any terms and conditions set out by Champneys Health Resorts (for more information click here: http://www.champneys.com/spa-resorts/spa-resort-breaks/specialist-retreats/slim-and-detox/detox/champneys-detox-ritual-day/ here). 8. There is no purchase necessary to enter. 9.The prize draw opens at 12:01am GMT on 10 December 2015 and closes at 11:59 pm GMT on 31 January 2016. Any entries received outside these specified times and dates will not be eligible for entry into the competition. 10. The prize draw is open to anyone aged 16 or over in the UK except employees of Quercus and Champneys, their families, or anyone professionally connected to the competition either themselves or through their families. If the winner is under 18 years of age, the Winner may be asked to have his or her guardian complete waivers, consent forms and/or other documentation as prerequisite for being awarded the prize. 11. Only one entry per person allowed. Second or subsequent entries will be disqualified. Entries will not be accepted via agents, third parties or in bulk. 12. Quercus is not responsible for contacting or forwarding prizes to entrants who provide unclear or incomplete information or for entries lost, misdirected, delayed or destroyed. 13. Quercus reserves the right to alter the prizes or cancel the prize draw without notice. No cash alternatives to prizes will be provided. 14. The Winner will be contacted by email on or before Friday 5 February 2016 and his or her name will be published at www.quercusbooks.co.uk/soupcleanse on Friday 5 February 2016. 15. The email addresses of entrants may be shared with companies within the Hachette group of companies but will not be shared with other companies outside the group. It will be used by the Hachette companies to send you news about our books, products and promotions. You will be given the option of opting out in those emails if you don’t want to receive any further news from us. 16. By entering the prize draw each entrant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions. 17. This competition is being organised by Quercus Editions Limited, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ 18. These terms and conditions and any disputes or claims (including non-contractual disputes or claims) arising out of these terms and Conditions shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of England, whose courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

Jessica Cornwell talks about her inspiration for writing her new novel, The Serpent Papers.

Writing The Serpent Papers

When I set out to write a novel, the first thing I encountered in the dark recess of my imagination was a man. His name was Ferran Fons, and he was a lonely, aging, professor at a drama school in Barcelona. Fons had an office window facing the theatre across the courtyard and so he spent the majority of his day staring at an enormous poster hanging from the wall of the building. The poster featured a portrait of a beautiful young woman. Her name – I knew in a flash – was Natalia Hernandez. And very soon she was going to die. In the weeks and months following my discovery of Natalia Hernandez, I found myself writing a mystery. New characters sprang into being – the irascible Inspector Fabregat with his love of rich food and distaste for murder – tormented by the unsolved deaths of four young women, bodies tattooed with cryptic letters, tongues cut from their mouths. Next came Rex Illuminatus: a thirteenth century Majorcan mystic who hid The Serpent Papers beneath an alchemical scrawl, secreting away an ancient manuscript written in the language of witches. Anna Verco presented herself as a young, American academic whose psychic abilities and quest to find the Serpent Papers lead her into the drawing room of Inspector Fabregat… a decade after the murder of Natalia Hernandez. I had not set out to write a thriller, but suddenly I was. Not only that, but I knew, without doubt, upon finding Anna, that I was also writing a trilogy. I read and reread the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While making notes in the margin of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, I repeatedly returned to Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone and the gothic novels of Horace Walpole and Mary Shelley. I wanted to write a contemporary thriller that had its roots in nineteenth century crime, so I analyzed the structure of the gothic novel, and decided that the first pulp books had evolved into vampire stories and then into serial killer narratives. I set the book in Barcelona’s gothic quarters, with its air of supernatural menace. Amidst the distinct flavor of an old, and violent, fairy tale – I saw Anna Vero driving the action forward. I loved her feminism, her single mindedness, her independence and focus, and how little she wanted to share of herself. Anna takes her lead from The Killing’s Sarah Lund, The Bridge’s Saga Norén (with whom I am completely obsessed) and Lisbeth Salander – the queens of Scandi Noir – but she’s also a very different interpretation of the genre’s damaged ‘woman detective’ or female protagonist. She blends the supernatural and the hyper-real, and in that way I think she’s quite original – and genre-bending. She also consistently surprises me, leading me on unexpected adventures into Palaeography courses at Senate House in London, the Manuscript room at the British Library, and up rocky Majorcan trails in the pouring rain. Throughout, Anna Verco remains deliciously, autonomously her own.

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Crime Files discovers what Tom Callaghan would do as the master of Cluedo and who he'd have at his dream dinner party. . .

Q&A with Tom Callaghan

If you were stranded on a desert island and could take one crime novel, one DVD boxset and one character from a crime novel, who/what would you take? ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘The Wire’, Charlie Parker from the John Connolly books. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would be on the menu? Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Basil Bunting, Captain Beefheart, Miles Davis. We’d eat Cantonese, steak, vegetarian, Classic Italian, rural French, and lots to drink. But the real answer is a mix of Thai and Vietnamese dishes with my wife Sara and my son Akyl. Are you a hero or a villain? I’d probably be the observer who avoids getting involved, a minor character whose name appears halfway down the credits. What is your favourite line from a film/TV series/book?· What crime novel do you wish you had written? Film: “I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time… to die…” TV series: Bladerunner Book: I would love to have written ‘The Big Sleep’. If your book was being made into a film, who would you want to play the lead character? Ideally, a Kyrgyz actor should play the part of Akyl Borubaev, which would be the opportunity of a lifetime. But if the film were set somewhere else, then you’d want a tough guy who’s also compassionate. Daniel Craig? Where are Bogart and Mitchum when you need them? What’s the scariest place you’ve visited? Peru, in the middle of a civil war. OR Rochdale town centre, on a Saturday night. You are master of cluedo and have any name, weapon and room at your disposal, whodunit and what happened? As I’m the master, I’m taking the game out of Tudor Hall, and placing it in the Kulturny bar in Bishkek. All the rooms have dead gangsters in them, shot, stabbed or poisoned. Whodunit? It’s up to Murder Squad Inspector Akyl Borubaev to find out…

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Q&A with Andreas Norman

If there was a film of Into A Raging Blaze, who do you think would play the main characters of Bente Jensen, the Secret Service Head, and Carina Dymek, the civil servant on the run? Well, the Swedish original of Into A Raging Blaze (En rasande eld), is actually being adapted for bigscreen right now by a major Swedish film company. They are right now starting to cast it! But then of course, Bente and Carina will be played by Swedish actors. In a British remake I would love to see a character actress like Jodie Foster or Imelda Staunton play Bente, who could take on that utterly unsentimental, tough-minded, no-nonsense type of woman. Carina – I think Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emily Blunt or Sarah Solemani would be perfect for the role. Brainy actresses with a lot of energy. You worked in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ten years in Counter-terrorism and Security. Can you tell us anything about the kinds of projects you worked on, and what it was like? They were mainly projects launched to prevent further terrorism – in other words, the recruitment and radicalisation of individuals and groups in countries around the world. I can't tell you much more, it is all very classified information; other than that we worked in partnership with other countries on this, and their police forces, intelligence agencies as well as various local non-governmental organisations. Our main slogan was: counter-terrorism without the respect for human rights is counter-productive. That was a one-liner I came up with, actually, in order to easily convey the Swedish view on these matters. And I still believe that it is absolutely valid. If you violate people's basic rights, you will end up with more politically motivated violence, and that is unfortunately what is happening today in, for example, Pakistan and many other places around the world today. How much is the diplomatic service as portrayed in the novel based on your experience of that world? The descriptions of the Ministry’s interior and other places are absolutely authentic; you could use the book for a guided tour around the Swedish MFA and the Government offices! If you ever visit the pub Pickwick’s on the corner of Fredsgatan and Drottninggatan in Stockholm, where all the civil servants hang out after work, look out for the elk head hanging on the inner wall. You'll find that place, and all other locations in the book exactly as I describe them. It was great fun to portray my workplace and the people in it. There are such a wealth of stories and characters in the diplomatic and intelligence community, that for most of the time remain untold, unseen, due to the secrecy that surrounds the trade. At the same time, there’s a lot that is universal which every person who spends their days in an office can easily relate to: the struggle for having an office with a nice view, the byzantine procedure for requisitioning an ergonomic chair, the career angst, all that. You left the Ministry to become a full time writer. What do your former colleagues think of the novel? Were you worried about revealing any government secrets? They think it’s great! I was surprised and happy to get so many positive reactions from colleagues in the MFA. Dozens of ambassadors and desk officers from all over the world have emailed me to congratulate me on what they felt was both a very entertaining and wholly accurate panorama of the rather absurd everyday life in the foreign service. I think many felt that, for once, their profession and work life had been portrayed in an authentic way. I wasn't worried for a second that I would reveal any secrets. I'm so used to handling classified information, you know, and the people in the ministry knows that. But just to be sure, I actually read my first draft as if I were looking for intelligence, classified procedures, etc. In some cases I obscured one or two details to make sure that Into A Raging Blaze would be useless – as intelligence, I mean. Your novel has a plot point whereby British agencies and GCHQ use cyber-spying to access private communications in European countries, even from governments. Was this based on fact when you wrote it, and if so, how did you come across the information? Sure, this is common practice. Just look at what Snowden revealed: NSA tapping the mobile phones of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. My book basically outlines GCHQ’s mass surveillance programme code-named Tempora. I was not aware of the code name at the time I wrote the book, but knew something like this existed. That was in 2009. It was also in this period that NSA got enormously enhanced capacities to collect and store data, and later, to mine them. They were building big new facilities in Utah for data storage. As part of my job in the Foreign Ministry, I had the opportunity to learn how the signals intelligence agencies were organised, their methods, their technology. It was top secret back then; now you can find all about it on Google in an instant. Since you wrote the novel and it was published in Sweden, the world woke up to the same reality when Julian Assange published Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. What was the reaction to your book when this happened? A lot of readers were surprised by how close to reality my book actually was. Everyone who read it reacted with, ‘Wow, did you know about all this?’ Especially since the depth of the partnerships between NSA, GCHQ and the Swedish signals intelligence agency FRA was revealed later that year. Then even political op ed's in the main Swedish papers started using my book as a starting point for discussing the surveillance scandal, which thrilled me. The Swedish agency took a lot of criticism for being mixed up in the mass surveillance revealed by Snowden, and my story pointed towards precisely this partnership. It´s called Five Eyes, by the way. Al Gore has now come out in support of Snowden. What do you think of Snowden’s and Assange’s actions, and the reaction to them? I completely agree with Al Gore's statement. Snowden has done everyone a great service. Leaking classified information is always damaging someone, and sure, if it’s being revealed to the public, there is a risk of jeopardizing national security or hampering operations that can save lives. But when state agencies like the NSA or GCHQ operate massive systems that violate the basic civil rights of millions of innocent people, and do so without any democratic control, you end up with a state within the state; an omnipotent machine working outside the boundaries of democratic society, and that is very dangerous. That cannot be tolerated in an open, democratic, rule of law-based society. Assange created the platform for leaks, and Snowden provided the content. How uncomfortable it ever may be for state agencies and corporate executives, I think society will always need whistle-blowers like them. That the intelligence community reacts with horror is no surprise. Disappointing, but not a surprise at all, is the way the Obama administration is pursuing whistle-blowers like Snowden and Manning, in spite of their rethoric about openness. What is most worrying is the complacency of the public. But I think this is due to the fact that we, the ordinary internet users, have no alternative to the internet. Even though our digital lives are being monitored we have no real way to protest, since you can't really say, ‘Hey, I'll stop using the internet and go buy some other product!’ In a way, it shows the limits of consumer power. What is needed are sound state policies that put citizen rights first. The leaked documents in your novel are plans for a Europe-wide intelligence service that would not only cross borders, but skirt national and international law in the name of counter-terrorism. Are there any signs that this is a real possibility, and what would you consider are the major risks of such an operation? The idea came to me when I learned about the US drone warfare in Pakistan. There you have exactly this situation. The US Air Force fly thousands of drone missions for the CIA over Pakistan every year. They fly wherever they want, target whomever they want, regardless of Pakistani law, and probably also in violation of international law. What if drone missions were carried out over UK soil, with the silent approval of the British government and the EU? That is the question I hope my book raises. Even more chilling is that the US administration also targets its own citizens, putting not only foreigners but Americans on so-called 'kill lists'. This practice not only violates basic rights of individuals, but weakens the judicial system, and corrodes the trust we put in our governments. It's a disturbing development. Your fictional ‘European Intelligence Service’ had a clause allowing American services to launch attacks within European borders if they could justify a potential threat. Your novel shows convincing ‘threats’ can easily be created from little evidence. Do you think that US intelligence services pushes the boundaries of acceptable strategy, and how much are European services in thrall to them? Yes, well, you know, intelligence services are masters of fabrication and betrayal. To fabricate ‘threats’ to support wars and other foreign policy adventures are textbook tactics. Just think of the introduction to the Iraqi war, and the massive fabrication of ‘threats’ back then. Or the last and current US administration's circumvention of international law, in order to justify huge counter-terrorism operations. Today, the Obama administration have moved more towards extrajudicial assinations, drones and special forces operations, and the CIA, together with parts of the US military, like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have turned into smooth war machines. What if it would lie in the interests of the US to launch the same counter-terrorism operations they carry out in Afghanistan or northern Pakistan in the heart of Europe, and the EU would condone it? That question lies at the core of my book. It's fiction, but at the same close to reality. Because all intelligence services depend more or less on each other. You trade intel, you build alliances. The US service is the most powerful player, simply on the strength of their vast capacities. They can push boundaries to fit their objectives and cooperate with European services when it serves their interests. The Brits have a privileged position in this business, being very close to the US system, whereas the Swedes are just a minor, but useful partner. As I put it in Into A Raging Blaze: the Brits and Americans create the weather of tomorrow, while the Swedes are forced to guess the forecast. In the novel, a young Egyptian-born civil servant in the Swedish Ministry of Justice is suspected of being linked to a terrorist cell. How much do you think immigrated Arabs, North Africans and people of Islamic origin are at risk of being unjustly persecuted? Or is paranoia justified in the face of a terrorist threat? Intelligence services nurture professional paranoia, and rightly so; it’s part of their job description to be suspicious. But in the today’s era of counter-terrorism, with its strong focus on Islamic fundamentalism, whole Muslim minorities run the risk of being regarded as a ‘problem’, or an environment conducive to political violence and terrorism. When a security service try to pin down someone who might pose a terrorist threat, a large number of people are screened, which is standard procedure for all investigations. The problem is, with the mass surveillance currently in use, it is possible to screen literally millions, which means that whole populations of Muslims or immigrants – for example, everyone in the UK with the surename ‘Mohammad’ – could be routinely monitored. This is a depressing reality, and adds to the strong islamophobic tendencies we witness in Europe today. In the UK, John Le Carré’s novels were instrumental in forming the spy compromised group in opposition to the realpolitik practices of ‘big brother’ CIA. In your novel there’s a similar relationship, but between the Swedish and British, relatively. Is this a realistic portrayal? Yes, absolutely! The only difference is, Swedes are nicer because they are weaker and further down the food chain in global politics. If Swedish services had the same spying capacity as the colleagues in Vauxhall, not to mention Langley, they would be meaner, I'm sure. But there are historic reasons as well to why Swedish services are less ruthless than their AngloSaxon counterparts: we have not been forced to fight for our survival in World War II or fight terrorism at home; we have no recent colonial history, no real ambition to dominate the world – other than perhaps through exports of pop music, cars and crime novels. Swedish intelligence services are just small, efficient sub-suppliers in the global security business. It’s funny you mention LeCarré, since his latest novel A Delicate Truth is quite a turnaround where he portrays the British government and the MI6 as the corrupt and morally rotten ones, don't you agree? I hope Mr LeCarré nods in approval of my portrayal of the Swedish-British relationship. The recent European elections saw a surge in extreme right-wing groups gaining votes. Why do you think this is, and how might it affect counter-terrorism and relationships between diplomatic services? Oh, I just get depressed when I think about the recent EU-parliament election . . .The reasons for this can probably be found in the recent economic recession that plagued many European countries since the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008. Europe is being strongly affected by globalization, and financial crises with immediate repercussions in national economies, resulting in redunduncies and harsher everyday lives for a lot of people. This generates fear and hatred. When citizens don't feel that there is a social contract anymore, that there is no state to provide them with basic services, there is always a temptation to join the populist chant. It’s easy to blame immigrants, or a weak minority with no voice, like the Roma. Fascism offers a tempting dream of unity and strength. It’s an enthusiastic ideology, selling easy solutions. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lost in this dream nowadays. To diplomats, the appearance of right-wing extremists in leading positions around Europe complicates bilateral relations. Some relations will become frosty, new alliances will be made. For example, a social liberal democracy like Sweden cannot rely on support from Hungary or Denmark in the EU-council for its view on migration. And so on. For professionals in the intelligence services, an increase of militant right-wing extremists of course means more work, and in the long-term perhaps also a shift towards monitoring right-wing terrorist networks more closely. After the Utöya massacre and the bombing of the Norwegian government offices in 2012, this has certainly been the case with Norwegian and Swedish security services. What are you writing next? I have a book out in autumn, 9,3 på Richterskalan (9,3 on the Richter scale). It's an eyewitness account of my days in Thailand after the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. I was sent to Thailand as a member of some one the first response teams, being a young diplomat who just entered the service. My publisher calls it a harrowing read, I suppose it is. Right now, I'm writing the sequel to Into A Raging Blaze. You'll see more of Bente Jensen, this time in a family crisis with lethal consequences. Surveillance, counter-espionage, deadly lies and deception, all against the backdrop of the recent Crimea crisis. That’s about all I can tell you, the rest is classified!

You want it - we've got it

Stocking Fillers

By George, these nifty little books have shot straight to the top of many-a-Christmas-list this year, and are guaranteed to go down well with a mince pie or two. Enid Blyton's books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy confront a number of new adult challenges, like finding a decent gluten-free cream tea, surviving an unbearable work strategy away day and navigating the murky waters of parenthood! The Five Go series is available to buy online at Waterstones, Hive, Amazon and from your local indepdendent bookshop. Next on the Chirstmas list we have the book that accompanies the hilarious, massively successful My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast: the ultimate, annotated edition of Belinda Blinked. Rocky Flintstone's now-legendary porno (sorry, erotic novel), became a sensation thanks to the outrageously funny podcast created by his son and two friends, who week on week read (and critiqued) chapters of the book. Adored by legions of fans, My Dad Wrote a Porno has been downloaded over ten million times - and we've made it into a steamy book once again. Available to buy at Waterstones, Amazon and from your local indepdendent bookshop. Up for a challenge in 2017? Why not learn to play the piano? We've got just the book you need - How to Play the Piano by James Rhodes. An accessible and inspiring guide by the pianist and international bestselling writer James Rhodes, who promises that this book gives anyone with two hands, a piano or an electric keyboard and just 45 minutes a day the tools they need to learn to play Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major in 6 weeks, even if they know nothing about music and have never even touched a piano before. Available at Waterstones, Hive, Amazon and from your local independent bookshop. Dust off your axes, it's back! The interactive follow up to last year's Christmas sensation Norwegian Wood is available to anyone looking ro get crafty this Christmas. An original gift for all seasons and the perfect fireside companion, The Norwegian Wood Activity Book, with it's bespoke wooden finish, will bring warmth and entertainment to armchair enthusiasts and active woodcutters alike. Available to buy at Waterstones, Hive, Amazon, Wordery and from your local indepdent bookshop. The Most Wondeful Time of the Year is a hilarious and heartwarming Christmas comedy from Joanna Bolouri, the bestselling author of The List. It's perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Kat French and Lindsey Kelk, and will have you laughing all the way to New Year! Available to buy at Waterstones, Hive, Amazon and from your local indepdendent bookshop. What is more irresistible than an adorable puppy looking for a home and a family to love him? NOT MUCH! The Christmas Guest is a touching story of Teddy, the little lost puppy who appears on a family's doorstep covered in snow just before Christmas. Turns out, the family need Teddy as much as he needs them,and they might just have made each others Christmas wishes come true. Available to buy at Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon and from your local independent bookshop. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a kitsch novelty knit - now you can make your own with these, fast, easy, no-knit ideas for one-of-a-kind Christmas jumpers. Make Your Own Christmas Jumper by super-crafter and blogger Nicolette Lafonseca is a wonderful gift for that crafty someone. With all styles covered - be it glitzy and glam, twee and tasteless, laugh-out-loud or cute as a button - you're sure to find your perfect Christmas look, not to mention all the sequins, pompoms and twinkly lights your heart could desire. Available to buy from Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, Amazon and from your local independent bookshop.

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