Sunday 24 December 2017

Win books!

In the run up to the US publication of Don't Look For Me on January 2nd, I'm running some book giveaways over the festive season, so if you fancy entering to win, all you have to do is register to win below.

Remember, you can sign up to the readers club for more competitions and an exclusive free short story: Expiry Date.

These are all available worldwide, so good luck and Merry Christmas!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Time to Kill by Mason Cross

The Time to Kill

by Mason Cross

Giveaway ends December 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Killing Season by Mason Cross

The Killing Season

by Mason Cross

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Don't Look For Me by Mason Cross

Don't Look For Me

by Mason Cross

Giveaway ends January 02, 2018.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Saturday 23 December 2017

Soundtracks - The Samaritan

Welcome to the second instalment of me looking at the music referenced in my books, and how I use it to create a kind of soundtrack to the action. You can read the first instalment, on The Killing Season, here.

The Samaritan was the second Carter Blake book, and I set it in Los Angeles because I wanted to channel that long history of noir from Chandler to Ellroy to Connelly. It's also a city I've visited, and found fascinating. The book sees Blake on the trail of a killer who preys on victims who have broken down in remote locations.

Black Hole Sun | Soundgarden

The first chapter of the book is told from the point of view of one of the Samaritan's victims as she drives through a rainy LA night. Black Hole Sun is playing on the classic rock station she's tuned to, and she thinks about how weird it is that something from the 90s is already classic rock.

It is a classic though, and I love the way both the music and the video become progressively more sinister as they go. In the story, it helps to foreshadow the 90s flashbacks, and the memories of a key character.

Desolation Row | Bob Dylan

I was reminded of this when I was Googling for Samaritan references (what, that's research, not procrastination. I don't know what you're talking about.) If I had gone with an epigraph for this book, it would probably have been :

The Good Samaritan, he's dressing, he's getting ready for the show
He's going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row

I think it gives a nice sense of foreboding about the book. The lyrics of this song are amazing (of course they are, it's Dylan) and it's the final track on what is, for my money, his finest album: Highway 61 Revisited.

In the book, Desolation Row is downtown LA after midnight, when all the people have left and it's a ghost town. Blake turns the radio on in his car (a recurring theme, given the killer's MO) and this is playing...

Girl of My Dreams | Gene Austin

I was looking for an old-time crooner song to be playing when Blake infiltrated the Samaritan's hideout, because if there's one thing guaranteed to make a serial killer's lair more spooky, it's a crackly old recording of a 1920s pop song.

I remembered this song from the movie Angel Heart, and thought if it worked for Alan Parker it would work for me too. It also hints at the end of the book, where we meet the girl of the antagonist's dreams.

My My, Hey Hey | Neil Young

Kimberley, the woman Blake suspects is the Samaritan's final target, uses the most famous line from this song: better to burn out than fade away as a yearbook quote.

Again, although this song was released in 1979 on the Rust Never Sleeps album, it's also a 90s reference, because Kurt Cobain quoted it in his suicide note. Speaking of which...

Polly | Nirvana

A key character in the book is a Nirvana fan. They're also one of my all-time favourite bands, and this is one of their most deceptively creepy songs. Just an acoustic guitar, none of the usual feedback or screaming, but quietly disturbing in both lyrics and mood.

This one isn't specifically mentioned in the novel, but I was playing it a lot while I wrote the book. Got some rope, have been told / Promise you, have been true...

Next time: Young again, Hawkins and Creedence in Winterlong / The Time to Kill

Soundtracks blogs:

Friday 15 December 2017

Den Onde Samariten - Swedish edition

The Swedish edition of The Samaritan is going to be published by Modernista as Den Onde Samariten (The Evil Samaritan) next April. 

Really looking forward to seeing this one, as the Modernista hardback of Killing Season was one of my absolute favourite foreign editions.

If you're in Sweden, you can preorder a copy from Bokus or Adlibris. Tack för att du läser!

Saturday 9 December 2017

Soundtracks - The Killing Season

Looking back over the four books I've had published (and a fifth coming out next year), it's struck me how important music is to my writing.

That's not a huge surprise, because I love music. I'm one of those people who still has a physical CD collection, and laments the days where you could get an insight into a new friend by having a look at what albums they own. Asking to scroll through the songs on their playlist isn't really the done thing, and it's not quite the same.

I tend to listen to music without lyrics while I'm doing the writing itself - film scores, classical, jazz - but quite often I'll reference the music a character is listening to in a car, or that's playing on the jukebox in a bar. Readers have sometimes commented on the fact my books have a cinematic feel, which I take as a big compliment. Music is part of that - I like to think about the story as a movie, and what kind of music would enhance the scene.

I thought it would be fun to use this as a jumping off point for a series of blogs looking at the songs and artists I've namechecked in each book, and how I use them to set the atmosphere and comment on the story.

Since it's the first book, I thought The Killing Season would be a good place to start.

Nebraska | Bruce Springsteen

Killing Season ranges across the Midwest, taking in several states, including the one this song (and its parent album) is named after. It's one of the very best Springsteen albums. The stripped-down, mostly acoustic style creates a haunting atmosphere that's a world away from his stadium-filling anthems.

The subject matter song is appropriate for a thriller, because it's a true crime story, based on the case of teenage spree killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming in the winter of 1957/58.

Told from the point of view of the killer on Death Row, it resonated with me as I started to write the novel. One line in particular stuck out: when the narrator is asked why he did the things he did, he responds simply "there's just a meanness in this world."

I liked that so much I used it as an epigraph, although I didn't find out until later that you have to pay to do quote lyrics in a book, even just for a couple of lines.

America | Simon & Garfunkel

I've always loved this song. My mother had the Bookends LP and I'd heard it at an early age and then forgotten about it until it was used in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.

I started writing Killing Season in January of 2010. I knew I wanted to set it against the backdrop of the big, wide-open spaces of America. The first chapter of the book is told from the point of view of a man who is a passenger, being driven across open country. I had this song in my head, as it's one of the most evocative road songs I know.

As the chapter progresses, you start to realise the character isn't a romantic drifter like the characters in the song, he's a convicted murderer being transported to his execution. But just like the characters in Paul Simon's lyrics, he ends the chapter going to look for America.

One of Us | Joan Osborne

Unlike the two previous, this song was kind of a one hit wonder, but it was utterly ubiquitous on the radio in 1995.

I've always found something enjoyably sinister about the song. It reminds me of the way some psychopaths see themselves as gods among a sheep-like mass of humanity. A serial killer is also one of us, after all.

It inspired a nice little scene around the midpoint of the book where the villain Caleb Wardell toys with a waitress who suddenly realises who she's found herself alone with.

I try to avoid quoting lyrics these days, but I like to scatter references to songs throughout the books. It helps me build the atmosphere, and hopefully it adds something for readers who are familiar with the music, or are inspired to go check it out.

Next up, Dylan, Cornell and Young in The Samaritan.

Soundtracks blogs: