Thursday 26 December 2013

Season greetings, and a new website

I've been noodling away at my author website in spare moments over the Christmas break (you know, in between eating too much, drinking too much and watching Doctor Who). I'd held off doing much beyond a holding page until now for a couple of reasons: firstly, I had to write the second Carter Blake book, and secondly I didn't have a good web design tool, and the free ones I tried kind of sucked.

With its usual impeccable timing, it just so happens that Google managed to launch a beta version of Google Web Designer about a week before I thought to myself: 'Hey, I wonder if Google offers free web design software?' The answer is yes, and if you're willing to put up with a bit of head-scratching, trial and error and occasional screams of frustration (it is a beta, after all), it's actually pretty good. It's certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than shelling out for a Dreamweaver license, and I didn't find it as restrictive as Wordpress.

I've had a look at a few other author websites and included the basics, but this is very much a work in progress. As we get closer to publication, I'll be updating the content with new articles, upcoming events and news, and no doubt I'll be doing a bit of tweaking on the design as well. You can have a look at, and any feedback is gratefully received. It seems to display okay on Internet Explorer and Chrome, but any Firefox aficionados with a bit of time to spend looking around are more than welcome.

Short update this time; there's some cold beer and leftover roast beef sandwiches I have to get to post-haste.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope Santa brought you some good reading material.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Grizzly murders and the perils of quoting The Boss

I've just finished going over the final page proofs of the book, which means (to my extreme nervousness) that it's now pretty much set in stone.

One of the few advantages of not having a publishing deal before now is that I was able to write The Killing Season entirely to my own timescale. That meant I could really take my time over it and make as many changes and tweaks as I liked en route to what I amusingly believed was a final version.

Lousy coffee purchased as table rental, pencil sharpened, ready to go...

I probably went through five or six drafts before it got to the point where I was happy to send it off to Thomas, my then agent. Since then it's been through another couple of rewrites with Thomas, and a further version with Jemima, my editor at Orion. It's been read by a copyeditor and a proofreader. A bunch of my friends have read it, as well as my new agent, Luigi. All of these people have fed back on it and helped to point out the little mistakes (as well as the not-so-little ones). All in all, you'd expect that it would be polished within an inch of its life by now, but reading the page proofs over this week, I still managed to find 37 new things I decided needed changing.

This ranged from minor continuity mistakes (such as referring to a 'cold October noon' which falls at the beginning of November) to minor formatting glitches to one embarrassing spelling mistake - on page 152 I found myself writing about a 'grizzly' manner of death. Since there were definitely no bears involved, I was glad to have caught this one.

One of the final changes was to remove a number of song lyrics. Another advantage of blasting out a publisher-less novel is the fact that you operate in a bubble of blissful ignorance of things like copyright law, and specifically how it gets complicated around song lyrics. Naively, I'd assumed you could quite reasonably include a line or two from a pop song in your book and it would be covered under fair use.

Not so. Quotations from song lyrics don't work quite the same way as literary quotations. For a start, nothing from the modern era (actually since 1923 or so, which is pretty much everything, pop-music-wise) is in the public domain. There is no fair use limit, so any part of the song other than the title is copyright. And the rights may be held by more than one party (songwriter, dead songwriter's estate, publisher etc). There's an informative article on the whole thing here, summed up by the author's advice: Don't ever quote lines from pop songs.

Orion flagged this up to me at the contract stage, and kindly offered to chase down the rights-holders to see how much it would cost to use the five or six song quotes I'd blithely tossed into The Killing Season. None of them were cheap.

So part of the process this week has been to surgically remove these expensive little samples and instead try to allude to the songs without directly quoting. There was one Bruce Springsteen lyric, however, that I couldn't bear to lose. It's from the song 'Nebraska' - I quote it in the epigraph and I like how it sets the tone for the book, so I decided that one was worth keeping. It worked out something like £36 a word for a two-line quote. Given the low-fi nature of that particular album, I've probably covered the production costs all by myself.

So the typos are fixed and the song lyrics have mostly been excised and I've made a few other little nips and tucks and now that's it. The next time I see The Killing Season, it'll be in a bookshop, which is exciting and terrifying and unbelievable all at once.

Thankfully, I won't have much spare time to worry about it. I need to get my basic website looking a little less basic over Christmas, and there's also the small matter of the revisions to Carter Blake book 2: The Samaritan, which my editor has now sent me. I'm told it's already in pretty reasonable shape for a Difficult Second Novel, but this time I'm under no illusions about how many more changes there will be between now and publication day.

And no, I haven't used any Springsteen lyrics in this one.

Saturday 16 November 2013

One year later

Today marks exactly one year since Orion signed me to a two-book deal for The Killing Season and its follow-up.

It's been a really busy year, what with carrying out edits on The Killing Season and writing the first draft of the followup, currently titled The Samaritan. As well as that, I've also been working the day job and, in what spare time remains, doing daddy duties on two girls and a baby boy (who was born the same week Killing Season was sent out on submission). So all in all, the year has gone by pretty quickly.

Book one will be published on April 24th next year, which is a mere 158 days from today, and things are already beginning to pick up speed. For example, Orion sent me through the final cover proofs, which look absolutely fantastic with the blurb and the gold lettering (I suspect I'm not alone among aspiring novelists to have always dreamed of seeing my name in embossed gold foil):

Also, I'm now appearing listed as a real-live author on the Orion and Hachette websites, complete with biography.

But one of the very best things that's happened lately is I'm starting to get endorsements from some of the established authors Orion sent my book to. Last week my editor Jemima forwarded me two fantastic quotes:

Mason Cross has created an enigmatic character in Carter Blake, a mystery man who is both cerebral and ruthless, an inexorable protagonist on the trail of an equally relentless and dangerous enemy. The writing is taut, intelligent, oozes suspense, and is an accomplished first book: The Killing Season is a highly impressive debut novel. Cross is a name to watch, and I eagerly await the next Carter Blake thriller.
- Matt Hilton

Pulse-pounding. Mason Cross launches into The Killing Season with no-holds barred, as he deftly combines an adrenaline rush plot with one of the best new series characters since Jack Reacher. Prepare to read all night .

- Lisa Gardner

We're definitely getting into regularly-having-to-pinch-myself territory. Just over a year ago, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself just to have a novel out on submission with major publishers. When I signed with Orion I was delighted to have been taken on by one of the best publishers in the business. Now, I'm getting fantastic feedback from some of the authors I've read and loved in the past.

Looking forward to the next 158 days...

Friday 11 October 2013

Assassin Procedural

Orion have asked me to contribute a guest blog to their excellent Murder Room site as part of the Read a Great Film month, where they invite authors to contribute a piece about a crime film they love that was based on a book.

I love all kinds of crime and thriller movies, so I had a very long shortlist, even after I discounted Chinatown for being an original screenplay (albeit heavily influence by Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels). I whittled the list down to three: LA Confidential, Angel Heart and The Day of the Jackal, eventually deciding on the latter

You can read my contribution below, or better yet check it out on The Murder Room and, while you're there, read some of the other great pieces by other authors on classics like Farewell, My Lovely and Manhunter.


Mason Cross examines the painstakingly realistic documentary feel of the film adaptation of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Fred Zinnemann's 1973 film of The Day of the Jackal, released just two years after the publication of Frederick Forsyth's hit novel, is that it does not feel like fiction.

Like the book, the film opens with a real-life event: the August 1962 assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle by disillusioned French militants. From there it transitions seamlessly into a taut thriller about the failed assassins engaging a mysterious foreigner, codenamed the Jackal, to complete the job. By necessity, the film hews very closely to its source material, because the plotting of Forsyth's book is every bit as meticulous and precise as the fictional plot within its pages.

Edward Fox is a great choice for the Jackal. He embodies the calculating sociopath of Forsyth's book without any of the baggage one of the bigger names under consideration would have brought to the role. Much as I'd love to see a version starring Jack Nicholson or Michael Caine in their early-70s prime, they would both have been entirely wrong for this role, because you'd be rooting for the assassin rather than Michael Lonsdale's Columbo-esque cop.

What really sets the film apart from the rest of the assassination thriller pack is the verisimilitude it brings to the various stages of the plot, from its grounding in real historical events to the painstakingly depicted manhunt for the assassin. The attention to detail in each scene, the interweaving of real historical figures and events, the omnipresent ticking clocks in the background, all work to create a documentary ambience that is reinforced by the almost total absence of a musical score. The film feels much closer to docu-dramas like All the President's Men than its more obvious thriller cousins.

The detail is the thing I love most about The Day of the Jackal: the fascinating minutiae of the Jackal's preparations for the assassination, from procuring a false passport and commissioning a bespoke sniper rifle, to efficiently covering his tracks when the manhunt gets underway. If the story becomes a police procedural in the second act, then the first act is a less well-trodden genre: assassin procedural. The coldly efficient way the Jackal goes about his business serves to throw the brief outbursts of violence into sharp relief, so that it's genuinely shocking when he dispatches a blackmailing forger and an inquisitive lover with the same blank detachment with which he does everything else.

It's testament to the skill of everyone involved that perhaps the most tense scene in the film involves a lone man with a rifle firing three rounds into a watermelon suspended from a tree. The film, and particularly Fox's largely silent performance, has influenced pretty much every cinematic depiction of a coldblooded professional killer ever since, from Leon to the Bourne movies. The disturbing allure of the prepared lone-wolf sniper was certainly a big inspiration for my own thriller, The Killing Season.

By the climax, the film manages to pull off the novel's delicate balancing trick of building unbearable tension even though the end is never in doubt: we know the Jackal will fail in his mission because we know de Gaulle was not assassinated in 1963. The historical backdrop is real, but these events never took place.

And yet, it doesn't feel like fiction.

Monday 7 October 2013

London again

Last week I was in London again for my author photoshoot. I was booked in with some other authors who have recently signed with Orion to be photographed by Paul Stuart. He's good. Check out his website.

Basically, Orion needed some decent pictures of me for general publicity, the website, and of course the little thumbnail author pic on the back cover of the book. I always tell people I look bad in photos and they say everyone thinks that. Then they look at some examples of pictures of me, and are forced to agree that, yeah, I don't photograph particularly well. Something about the pained, tortured expression.

I took the train down, because door-to-door, it takes the same time as flying and you get to relax the whole time instead of wandering around airports praying your flight isn't delayed. The other great thing about the train is it gives you time to work. As my date for the photoshoot happened to coincide with the submission deadline for the second Carter Blake book, I was able to use the trip to make some last minute tweaks to the manuscript before emailing it off to Jemima, my editor at Orion.

The new one is called The Samaritan, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Jemima thinks. This one had to be turned around fairly quickly, in about six months, so I'm looking forward to a short break before I get the notes back and start editing again.

Anyway, back to the shoot. As someone who hates having his photograph taken, I was mildly apprehensive (okay, mildly terrified) about my first photo call, but the experience was surprisingly painless. Fun, even. It felt a little like I'd won a competition to be a famous person for a morning. Hair and makeup and somebody bringing me coffee and everything. The venue was a gorgeous loft studio in Shoreditch. Paul and his assistant Bradley did an excellent job of making me feel comfortable, and it looks like they accomplished the impossible and got some pretty good pictures of me.

I want to live here

After the shoot, I got the tube back into central London and met my old and new agents for lunch. It was a combination of introduction and goodbye, because my previous agent Thomas is moving on to a new career. I'm sorry to see Thomas go, because we had a fantastic working relationship and his input to the first two books has been immense. On the positive side, I don't have to look for a new agent because Luigi Bonomi (also of LBA) has taken me on. I've known Luigi for some time, and he was the first person to get in touch with me from LBA, but this was the first time we'd met in person.

Great food (I had the crab spaghettini), great wine and even better conversation. We talked about the books so far, what happens next, and generally had a great time discussing the movies and television shows and books we love. I think all three of us walked away with a list of things to read / watch.

After that, it was back on the train to head back to real life. Only 185 days to go until publication day...

Friday 20 September 2013

Bloody Scotland

I've been working flat out on the latest draft of the new Carter Blake book (the one that comes after The Killing Season), so I haven't had time to blog about my trip to Bloody Scotland. It was a lot of fun, and I even managed to get some writing done in between talks and beers. I've been to a few one-off events at literary festivals before, but this was my first full-blown crime writing festival.

It's a pretty new festival, in only its second year, but is already attracting attendees and big-name writers in droves. The first thing that really struck me was how well organised it was. Teams of volunteers on hand to direct you to the correct suite in the correct venue, talks that started and finished perfectly on time, well-ordered signings. Generally the operation seemed to work like a well-oiled AK47.

The second thing that struck me was how... integrated the whole thing felt. In a good way. There was no real attempt at demarcation between rank and file paying customers and the talent. Big-name authors were milling about the venues and buying drinks in the bar. There was no velvet rope separating the readers from the writers. Which was just as well, because almost everybody I met was both. I met a lot of cool people, both fans and authors, and got some great ideas and advice.

The centrepiece of the festival was the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year dinner on Saturday night. The guest authors were sprinkled liberally around the tables, so that everyone had a 'name' writer at the table. I got Craig Robertson, and took full advantage of the fact by interrogating him about the best way to be a working crime writer. Craig gave me some great advice and told me that as a writer with an agent and a book deal, I'm now eligible to join the Crime Writers Association. By coincidence, I had recently picked up Craig's Cold Grave, which has now moved to the next slot on my to-read list.

I went along to see my fellow Orion author Denise Mina talking about her experiences working for DC Comics, and particularly adapting Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for the medium. Denise was great as always (intimidatingly great - she could pretty much give up the writing and get paid for going around the world giving interesting talks), and it was interesting to hear about the process of adapting a novel into the graphic medium and the importance of being nice to artists. Interestingly, the crowd was mostly crime readers rather than comic readers, and Denise had to explain to them the age-old split between Marvel and DC fans. I've actually never really been firmly on one side or the other, and I can't understand people that refuse to read a book purely based on which company publishes it, but there you go. If you push me, I guess I'm a Marvel guy, but I like Batman better than any Marvel character.

Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville teamed up for a great event called Masters of the Dark, and the topics ranged from the pros and cons of killing off a series character to real-life policing anecdotes that would sound ridiculous if you tried to put them in a work of fiction. As someone once said, just because it happened doesn't mean it's believeable.

I went along to see Craig Robertson (along with Chris Carter this time) for a fascinating talk on serial killers, both fictional and real. It was great timing for me, as I'm currently finishing off a serial killer novel, and it was both comforting and alarming to discover there are other people who sit around all day thinking up ingenious ways to get away with murder. I'd love to read a medical thesis someday on the crossover between serial killers and crime fiction authors.

The festival closed with the main attraction: Lee Child. I've been a massive fan of Lee's since I picked up my first Reacher book a few years ago, and he didn't disappoint in person. He covered a lot of ground onstage, from his own life story to the deceptive heights of Hollywood stars. As a writer, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the genesis of Reacher, and how so much of what is fundamental about the character (his lack of a supporting cast, freedom from a drinking problem, his approach to laundry, even his name) came about as a reaction to a lot of the existing conventions in crime fiction. He also gave us a glimpse into Reacher's future, and at an eventual end-point to the series.

I stuck around for the signing and got to meet Lee in person. He was friendly, approachable and cool, like most of the thriller authors I've met. I got him to sign Never Go Back for my wife, who's also a big Reacher fan (she had stayed at home with the kids to let me go to the festival, so I thought she really deserved it).

After that, I got back in the car and headed home to get back to work on book two. Killing Season will have been out for a few months this time next year, so it would be nice to come back to the festival as a published author, as well as a fan.

Monday 2 September 2013


The good news: after around four months of working every spare minute when I'm not actually asleep, I finally have a first draft of the second Carter Blake novel. The bad news: there's still a ton of work to do.

To be honest, it's not really bad news at all, as I actually enjoy the editing process. It's the time when the book goes from a rough, unfinished state to something that's more like the story I have in my head. Writers are luckier than most, because we get so many chances to go back over our work and tweak it before we have to show it to anyone. I don't envy musicians or athletes who have to produce their very best work in the moment, as opposed to when they happen to be in the zone.

My first draft tends to be all about getting the words down on paper without looking back too much. I work mainly on the computer, although quite often if I'm out and about I'll write a chapter longhand in a Black n' Red notebook I carry around, and then transcribe it at night. Once that's out of the way I can go back through the manuscript and decide what things work, what things don't work, which characters need to be developed more, which chapters need to be moved around and so on.

The actual first page (yes, I do have trouble reading my own handwriting)
I'm pretty sure most of the editing routine I've developed for myself comes from Stephen King's excellent On Writing. Any aspiring authors reading this should do themselves a favour and buy a copy right now, because it's the most useful and genuinely inspirational book I've read on the craft.

As soon as I've finished the first draft of a book, I like to put it aside for a couple of weeks to get some distance from the daily grind of the writing phase. Deadlines don't always allow the luxury of a break, but it's always helpful when I can fit one in. Once it's time to get started on the next phase, I print the book out on single sides of A4 so I can sit down away from the computer and read through it. For some reason, I tend to miss typos more often when reading from a screen. If it's printed out on the page, there's nothing to distract you. Once I have the hard copy manuscript, I sit down with a notebook, a pencil and some highlighters and get to work.

I don't think I'll ever stop printing the first draft out, no matter how good e-readers get.
I'm doing two things as I read through the first draft. Most importantly, I'm finding out how well it reads. Reading a book in one or two sittings is a completely different experience from writing it in small daily chunks of a thousand words or so. The read-through will give me a good idea of what works and what doesn't and what the big things I'll need to change are. As I'm reading, I'll use my notebook to record ideas for new scenes or edits to existing ones.

That's the big picture. The second thing I'm doing is looking for the smaller pieces of work that need done at the level of paragraphs and sentences and words: things like typos and awkward sentences and the places where I need to carry out some research before revisiting. I mark any mistakes with the pencil so I can fix them later, and add any extra detail that needs to be there in the margin.

I like to use real locations, buildings, street names etc in my books wherever possible, so quite often in a first draft I'll have something like:

"Blake stepped out onto xxx street and headed east. The sun was
beginning to set behind him, casting elongated shadows ahead."

This is where the highlighters come in. I use them to flag up any piece of information I need to check for consistency. For example, I tend to use one colour for information about location or geographical description, one for descriptions of characters, one for equipment (weapons, cars, whatever), and one for any mention of time or dates. In the example above, I'd want to check which street Blake was stepping onto, and if it makes sense for the sun to be setting at that point in the story.

It saves a lot of time later on if I can scan through the manuscript looking for any mentions of the time as it ensures I can keep everything as consistent as possible. It also stops a character from having blue eyes in one scene and green in another, or being 'on-camera' in one place when they need to be committing a murder somewhere else. This kind of thing is invisible to the reader if you get it right, but it's always noticeable if you screw it up. The second draft is where I start forcing myself to pay attention to the fine detail.

By the time I'm finished, the manuscript usually looks like a cross between a term paper with a lot of mistakes and some kind of day-glo Jackson Pollock painting. In the chapter on editing in On Writing, King recommends putting a symbol at the top-right of any page where you've made an edit, so you can find the pages that need attention easily. The first draft of this book is 365 pages, and if I'd bothered to do that, I'd have an edit symbol on roughly 364 of them (I'm pretty confident the cover page is okay).

Once that's done, I'm usually brimming with ideas of how to improve the book, and eager to get back in front of that Word file where I can start tidying things up and transforming it into something I'd be happy for people to read. For me, this is when the book really starts to come together.

And that's why I actually quite like editing.

Thursday 15 August 2013

***placeholder for embarrassing pun***

I am really bad at coming up with relevant titles for blog posts.
For some reason, no matter the topic, I always end up reaching for the most obvious, groan-inducing pun. Maybe, somewhere deep inside me, there lives a frustrated tabloid journalist. Example: I came very close to calling this post 'The Proof of the Pudding', because it's about me receiving the bound proofs of The Killing Season.
Get it?
So from now on, I'm going to try really hard not to attempt punning titles in this blog. Apart from the name of the blog itself, which is a bad pun. If you catch me doing it, please feel free to slap me.
Anyway, now that I've got that awkward confession out of the way, I'll get to the point. The bound proof is basically the prototype. It's the version of a book publishers use to make sure it hangs together as a physical object; that the design, colour and any special enhancements on the cover work; that the typesetting for the interior pages is right. It's also a great way to spot any remaining typos or glitches in the text before it's too late. Finally, it's something the publishers can send out to advance reviewers that's a bit more manageable than a giant stack of paper, and a bit more special than an e-book.
The marketing team at Orion have really outdone themselves on these. As a complete newbie to all this, I'd assumed the proofs would be a rough mockup, thrown together as a fairly basic package. What I didn't expect was an exclusive promotional cover design, high-quality die-cut card and embossed foil... actually, I think it's technically debossed. (I only know the terminology because I bought a lot of comics in the 1990s.)
So we have a teaser promotional cover...
...underneath which is a secondary cover with lots of lovely quotes about the book...

 ...and then we get inside the book and... it's an actual book. Which I wrote. Wow...


Finally, the back cover of the proof displays the awesome cover art that will go on the real hardback when it comes out in April. I've gushed previously about how much I love this cover, so I don't need to do that again here, but suffice to say I'm very pleased with it.

The first thing I did after pawing the book for a few hours was to slot it into an actual bookcase. (I have a lot of work to do before I really belong among any of those names).

So that's it. It may be a dry-run for the real thing, but it sure feels a lot more like I'm a real author now. I can't get over how cool the experience of flicking through an actual, physical book and seeing pages and pages of stuff you made up is. 
Which reminds me, I still have pages and pages of stuff to make up for Carter Blake book two...

Tuesday 16 July 2013


The cover of The Killing Season has now been added to the listing page on the Waterstones website, so I guess it's okay to share now.

All I can say is WOW.

Friday 5 July 2013

Covering the bases

I've been hard at work on the next Blake book, but in between doing that and dealing with the mundane everyday life stuff, I've been getting regular updates on The Killing Season's journey through the various stages of production. I'm enjoying these updates - they're like little reminders every couple of weeks that this is really happening and there's going to be a real, chunky hardback book at the end of the process.

I just finished going through the unapproved copyedit and, of course, couldn't resist tweaking a few things here and there. This despite the book already having been through three major drafts, a polish, another draft following my agent's suggestions, and another draft after that once the book had been picked up by Orion and they'd made their suggestions. The one constant is that the book keeps getting better (I think) each time.

I've read this novel more times than I've read anything else I've ever done, and I'm pretty sure I could recite it by heart by now. That's why it's always good having a fresh pair of professional eyes reading something over. Somehow even on the sixth or seventh run through (or whichever this is) you can still find things to fix or improve or fiddle with. I'm starting to think that no book is ever truly finished until they print the damn thing. Of course, that's probably the very moment I'll notice some glaring typo on page 214...

The other cool thing about a real, physically published book, is the cover. I've just had a sneak preview from my editor and it was everything I hoped and more. I was cautiously optimistic, because Orion have some very nice looking products on the shelves at the moment, but suffice to say they've exceeded my expectations.

The best thing about it is it's immediately identifiable as an action thriller, and yet it isn't a picture of a guy with his back to us walking into a barren landscape holding a gun. I think it's really going to stand out on the shelves.

They're still tweaking (I guess covers are like novels in that respect), so I don't think I'm allowed to share it just yet. When they're happy with the final version, I'll post it here.

Friday 28 June 2013


Hi, I've just sold my first novel, The Killing Season, to Orion through my agent. It's an action-packed thriller starring Carter Blake: a conflicted hero with a murky past, who specialises in finding people who don't want to be found.

I set out with a simple goal: to write the kind of book I like to read. It's influenced by the people I admire, from the classics (Chandler, Cain, Ludlum, Forsyth, John D. MacDonald) to the present-day masters (Connelly, Child, Paterson, Coben), but I like to think I've put a spin on the genre that's uniquely mine.

I'm excited about the prospect of seeing my book on the shelves, and particularly pleased that it's going to be published by Orion, who publish so many of my heroes, dead and alive.

The Killing Season will be out in hardback in April 2014, so I expect to be blogging, tweeting and doing everything else that's expected of a rookie novelist as we get closer to publication day.

I'm going to be fairly quiet for the moment, though, because I have something much more important to do first: I have to finish writing the next book.

Press release from Orion

Debut Author Mason Cross To Orion

Posted at 5:27PM Tuesday 02 Apr 2013

Editor Jemima Forrester has pre-empted World rights for two books in a new American thriller series by debut author Mason Cross from Thomas Stofer at LBA literary agency.

THE KILLING SEASON is the first book in a brand-new series featuring Carter Blake, a bounty hunter with a shady past. Smart, strong and intuitive, Blake is hired by the FBI to help them track down Caleb Wardell, a terrifying serial killer who has escaped from death row. But Wardell is no stranger to Blake. He's met him once before and, what's more, Blake had the chance to take him down then and he didn't. Now, aided only by Special Agent Elaine Banner, Blake must use all of his expertise if he is to track down the calculating killer before it's too late.

With a faultless blend of compelling action, intelligent plotting and well-drawn characters, THE KILLING SEASON is a polished debut thriller with a fantastic new series character.

Jemima Forrester said: 'As a voracious thriller reader I am always on the lookout for an intelligent new series to hook me, and when I first read THE KILLING SEASON I couldn't believe it was a first novel. It's slick, fast-paced and has a central character who could give Jack Reacher, Alex Cross and Jason Bourne a run for their money! We're really excited about building this accomplished debut into an exciting new brand.'

Author Mason Cross said: 'I'm delighted that my first novel will be published by Orion. From the first meeting, I was bowled over by their enthusiasm and vision for the book and the Carter Blake series. When it comes to thrillers, Orion is the best in the business, and I'm honoured to be in the company of so many of my favourite authors.'

THE KILLING SEASON will be published in April 2014 in hardback, trade paperback and ebook. German translation rights have already been sold to Goldmann.