Tag Archives: Marnie Riches

Women in Gangland

That’s Manchester’s finest, plus a contribution from Lanarkshire. Marnie Riches and Mandasue Heller come from Manchester’s troubled north and troubled south respectively, and I have realised I was right to be scared of Marnie when I first met her. Anna Smith – with no exotic name – came more from poverty than the violence the other two were used to.

Mandasue Heller, Brutal

Gently guided through the finer details of gangs by Jacky Collins – no not that Jacky Collins – we spent an hour learning about the seedier side of life. Mandasue came to writing after a life as a singer, after having been attacked in her flat, along with her ten-week-old baby, and feeling fed up with the bad treatment she got from the police afterwards.

Marnie was so bored at work that she decided to write some children’s books, before realising that her language is ‘too foulmouthed and dirty’ for children, and she reckoned that what dead Stieg Larsson could do, alive Marnie Riches could do as well. And she has, with her George McKenzie books followed by her Manchester ones and now more crime on her home ground in and near Hale – ‘where the orange people roam’ – with Tightrope.

It was Anna’s publisher who suggested she try gangland crime, and having read one Martina Cole novel, she decided to have a go. Her character can be described as a ‘much more exciting me.’

An expert on Nordic Noir, Jacky found the books by these three women an eye-opener. They were really dirty and draining; ‘so raw.’

Marnie Riches and Mandasue Heller

Referring to Mandasue as the gangland queen, Marnie described her own childhood and how she ended up as the angry teenager from the council estate when she made it to the posh school, and from there to Cambridge. I learned more about her mother, too, and she sounds like quite a woman.

Mandasue started life in Warrington, before moving to Manchester at twenty, and she loves it! Anna knows about the poverty in Glasgow through her work.

Tightrope and Fightback

The way to write about bad characters who do really awful things, is to use humour. In fact, many of the bad people they have met are quite amusing. Sometimes the women are worse than the men. Marnie mentioned two girls everyone was scared of where she used to live.

The first question from the audience was how they felt about women being murdered [in books] and the short answer seems to be that since this really happens, it’s very real. Marnie has also murdered many men (fictionally) and while Anna likes men, she makes bad things happen to them.

Another question was if it’s possible to write about bad men with no redeeming features, and make it work. Admitting to being someone who used to have a massive crush on Darth Vader, Marnie said she writes about serial killers, and that she feels the continuity with their back story is important. She’s afraid someone will ‘recognise’ themselves in her books, and then she told the story of her builders, their criminal past and what you might do with a wood chipper.

Mandasue never writes about real people, but they do come up to her and ask if that was them. One criminal came to an event and said he liked her book, and how realistic it was. As did the undercover cops who used to work where she lived. She said her move away from the city in her latest book, Brutal, was not intentional; she just wrote what was in her thoughts.

She’s been a bit of a serial starter of books, and she described how her changing one line in the prologue, meant that the whole [of her next] book changed. Urged on by her agent, Marnie said she was supposed to mention that the Kindle version of Tightrope is available for 99p. And the next book is Backlash, out in January.

Marnie Riches and Mandasue Heller

Unlike last year when Jacky overran, it seems to have helped that she had no watch today, and we started and ended just when we were meant to. This was definitely worth missing the sunshine for.

A first bloody afternoon

Marnie Riches offered to carry my drugs for me. It was kind of her, but my haul from Boots weighed very little and I felt I could shoulder the burden on my own. Anyway, she’s the guest, about to enter her first Bloody Scotland weekend, and she should be looked after.

But I obviously didn’t take that sentiment so far that I didn’t let her pay for my tea and scone.

I had just had time for my drug run – I mean my long neglected shopping – before it was time to go and find Marnie at her hotel. Leaving the hotel en route for that scone across the road she encountered a hole heap of crime colleagues out on the pavement, and had to hug a few people like Luca Veste, Mark Billingham and Michael Malone, while I limited myself to uttering only one or two stupid comments.

We went to Loving Food, where we were offered a window seat, from which we saw the rest of Bloody Scotland’s cream of crime walk past while I demolished my scone and we both gossiped about what books we hadn’t finished and how well our children have done.

Craning her neck a little, Marnie kept a check of who seemed to be heading to the pub, asking me who that was who waved to me (Ann Landmann, on our second – of three – sighting of the day), my neighbours, and so on. It’s that time of year when everyone who’s out is a someone.

Well, maybe not the boob tube wearers. The weather was best Scottish and there were a fair few ‘light’ outfits  to be seen. However the two of us were decently covered at all times.

After waving in the general direction of where she’d find the Albert Halls as well as her church venue for Saturday, we recrossed King Street for Marnie to get ready for the evening’s torch-lit procession and for me to pick up my tickets before walking home in the sunshine. I’d like to think the lack of painful knees was due to David Almond’s walnuts. Not his personally; we have bought our own.

Bloody Scotland torches

Noir in Newcastle

Reading about what I’ve not done is one of your favourite blog things. Isn’t it?

So, this weekend I didn’t do Newcastle Noir, but I had thought I might, and it would have been good. Next year. I like these women who organise their own book festivals, in this case Jacky Collins.

Having been a bad witch and not kept up-to-date with who was going to be there, I’d missed that Marnie Riches was one such favourite author. According to reports on social media she had a great time.

Sigh. I’m happy for her, obviously.

I made up for not being there by – belatedly – reading Daughter’s offering from her Iceland trip; glossy magazine Iceland Review. (It was her gift to the Resident IT Consultant. I got a proper paid for one…)

They had an interview with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Her comment on being considered Nordic Noir was that being Icelandic and writing crime fiction you end up grouped with authors who don’t write particularly similar books. ‘You write what you want to write. You’re never thinking “oh, it’s not Nordic noir enough, I’ll throw in a snowstorm or a depressed cop,” it doesn’t work like that.

Oh well. These noirs do have a nice ring to them, be it Nordic or Newcastle.

The Girl Who Got Revenge

George, George… What shall we do with you? You run into danger with scant thought for your safety, and you run from commitment to a man who’s a bit too ‘dense’ to commit back. If it’s OK to call our detective dense?

In this fifth outing for Dr George McKenzie, she’s still using very bad language and falling out ever faster with the people around her. Van Den Bergen doesn’t understand her personal needs because he’s a grandfather with duties. And he has a lorryload of immigrants, one of whom is dead, to deal with.

Plus the unexpected death rate for 95-year-old men in Amsterdam is on the up.

There’s a lot going on here, but gruesome though the deaths are, they are not nearly as bad as they were, even if Marnie Riches still kills and maims quite inventively. Today’s crimes might have something to do with the war, but how?

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I made some pretty intelligent guesses as to what and who and how, and I was wrong about every single one. This is good stuff, if you can tolerate the blood and the suffering, and I don’t mean Van Den Bergen’s stomach. (But I have now gone off fruit and veg imports from the Netherlands, rather.)

Have made a note of how to arm myself for those awkward meetings with mass murderers. Thanks, George.

(All five George McKenzie novels are now available as paperbacks. High time they were!)

More George, and more Duffy

Great news on the crime front!

Today sees the publication of the fifth George McKenzie novel by Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge. It’s ‘only’ the ebook today, but don’t despair. On May 3rd we get the whole collected George on paper for the first time! I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. Except I just did. Sort of.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I imagine Marnie is equally pleased to see her first crime babies in actual print, after her Born Bad series which came last year.

I will get back to you when I’ve read about George’s revenge.

And on the Irish front, it seems we are to be rewarded with three more Duffy novels from Adrian McKinty. I had suspected the worst, but it would appear that Duffy didn’t sail into a permanent sunset after all. In fact, with news of three books, I will dare hope, and expect, that Sean Duffy lives through at least two and a half of them.

Adrian McKinty

So, plenty more Irish history for Duffy to solve crimes in, and no one could be happier than I am. Not sure how long a wait there will be, but it will be worth it.

Good news too for the Resident IT Consultant who has belatedly begun reading all six books. Don’t know what took him so long!

The #22 profile – Marnie Riches

She likes her Swedes. That’s always a good thing. Marnie Riches is about to spill a few beans, to celebrate the fact that you can actually have the Kindle version of her new novel Born Bad absolutely free if you hurry. Do it! Or pay money for the paper book. Or even both.

Marnie sent me a really beautiful photo of herself, smiling. Now, I don’t want you to get too comfortable, so here is a non-smiling Marnie instead, ready to tell you about herself and her writing:

Marnie Riches (by Phil Tragen)

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

All the books, ever! I slaved over a novelization of an epic 12th century Dutch poem that I eventually turned into a rather crap YA historical thriller. I lovingly put together a fully illustrated picture book about a messy hippo called Billy. I gave it the imaginative title of, Billy, the Messy Hippo. I wrote three middle grade novels, which turned out to be practice. I wrote six historical adventure novels for 7+, which were published under the pseudonym, Chris Blake (the first six in HarperCollins’ Time-Hunters series). But still not in my name! I wrote half of a YA manuscript, which got put to one side and forgotten about because of writer’s block nonsense and because it was…nonsense. I wrote a women’s novel that’s STILL on submission, even though it’s totes hilaire (yes, that was said ironically). Then, I was finally published with The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – my crime-thriller (not for kids) about a criminologist, set mainly in Amsterdam. I wrote three more George McKenzie thrillers, but the entire series is still digital only. SO…my first paperback didn’t come out until March 2017. Technically then, Born Bad – my tale of Manchester’s gangland – is my first book made from actual book. That’s many thousands of books before I got published. Luckily, I’m better with words than numbers, much to my accountant’s chagrin.

Best place for inspiration?

Walking amongst normal people.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

My Time-Hunters books were published under the Chris Blake pseudonym as there were several writers working on the series at once. I’m fine with that. I’d happily write again under a pseudonym and fully expect any of my women’s fiction to be published as such. Many crime-writers relaunch their careers as debuts by writing under pseudonyms.

What would you never write about?

I’ve written about people-trafficking, the sex industry, Charlemagne the Great, fairies, dead Egyptians, Vikings, organ harvesting, paedophile rings, missing children, Mexican cartels, gangsters and Manchester. I’ll pretty much tackle anything as long as it doesn’t involve too much hoovering.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I’ve spent too much time trawling Amsterdam’s red light district and also the medieval churches of the low-lands and Germany. But that’s more to do with my being a little odd, a history dork and a linguist than being a writer. I met a couple of very interesting criminologists and had an exchange with the head of forensic pathology at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Unexpected enough for you, Bookwitch? I could tell you I also met the Duke of Edinburgh on many an occasion, but then, I worked for him, so that was fully expected.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

I’d like to be George McKenzie, of course, because she’s even mouthier than me and doesn’t grunt when she bends over. She’s got better hair too.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

This would be wonderful because those enjoying the TV programme or film would rush out and buy all of my books. I could have Born Bad merchandising with special Sheila O’Brien dolls and a branded range of antacids, “As used by Chief Inspector Van den Bergen”. It would rock.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

I haven’t been asked anything really odd yet. I was asked at a bookshop recently what advice I’d give to the reader’s 24 year old son, who aspired to be an author. My answer involved living a little longer and doing a good deal more before attempting to write.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I can lay laminate flooring, tile badly and decorate. I can pave a patio. I can router out a hole in a worktop for a kitchen sink. I bake brilliant bread. I play bass and rhythm guitar. I’m excellent at sewing on buttons. I’m really good at swearing.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Narnia, any day of the week. Everyone knows Enid Blyton’s best books were “The Mystery of…” books and “The Thingy of Adventure” books.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Bookwitch, of course! Then, my ex-husband. Then, Stieg Larsson, for giving us Salander. Then, Saga Norén.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

In packing boxes, currently. I moved house almost a year ago and still haven’t unpacked for fear that the various infestations in my superannuated bungalow will see my books as a food source or new habitat.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

My Time-Hunters books. Although my own son is a reluctant reader and wouldn’t read them. He did, however, go bonkers over the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other Jeff Kinney books.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing. Some might say writers are just a bunch of narcissists telling big fibs. I say, every author has stories inside them, trying to punch their way out. We get dented in the head if we don’t tip those stories onto the page. So, the writing comes first.

Marnie Riches, Born Bad

The Duke of Edinburgh! Who’d have thought? And strictly speaking Marnie chose far too many Swedes (I said favourite!), but I’m feeling generous today. In my head Marnie is George McKenzie, and no one sensible would want to hoover unnecessarily. I could do with a new patio, though, Marnie.

Marnie??

Where did she go?

From the launch pad

There are only so many simultaneous launches a witch can attend. Last night offered two; both of which I dearly wanted to go to.

Marnie Riches, Born Bad

Marnie Riches brought her new baby, crime-thriller novel Born Bad, into the world at Waterstones Deansgate (that’s Manchester, folks), and it felt like such a special event that for weeks I believed it would be the one to take me back there at long last. After all, what else would I be doing on a dark February night?

The answer to that is three things, and being exhausted and having the builders [still] in were two of them. I sensibly declined in the end, and no sooner had I done that than James Oswald declared he was also launching his new novel at exactly the same time, at Waterstones West End (that’s Edinburgh), and this did feel a lot more feasible. But in the end the same three things conspired against me and I didn’t go.

Sigh.

I trust books were launched successfully anyway, and that Written in Bones is now sailing somewhere well past Princes Street Gardens, possibly as far as the Meadows, where it might encounter the dead body I told you about yesterday. If James continues to write and continues to launch, it is my ambition in life to go along to one of these events. Perhaps the trains will even run all evening at some distant point in time.

James Oswald, Wriiten in Bones

Back to Marnie and Manchester. Born Bad is about bad people doing bad things in Manchester. It has a great cover, and I’m so happy for Marnie, whose first paper book crime novel it is. The George McKenzie books are ebooks (they ought to be in paper as well!). There was mention of booze with the invite, but as I wasn’t going to drink any, I reckon my absense won’t make a difference.

I’ll get to Manchester one day. And Edinburgh. Well, the latter could be next week.

Meanwhile I’ll polish up the broom.