Saturday 17 October 2020

Carter Blake on Audible Plus

 If you're in the USA and a member of Audible Plus (kind of like the Audible version of Netflix), you can currently stream the first four Carter Blake audiobooks for free.

Go here to see them in the Audible Plus catalog.

Eric Meyers did a really great job narrating these books, and I'm reminded that the American audio covers are all pretty good. Audiobook jackets can be a total mess for rights reasons, but I think these all hold up well and bear some relation to the plot of each book.

Happy listening.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Interview with Tony Forder - Don't Look For Me

Reposting this interview with fellow crime writer Tony Forder from 2017, around publication of Don't Look For Me

First of all, thank you so much Mason for taking part in this. You must be thrilled at the moment to have your new Carter Blake novel on release, his fourth outing.

Thanks for asking me! Yes, it’s hard to believe I’ll have four books published, as I still feel like a rookie.

I think those days are long behind you – you're rubbing shoulders with the good and the great of the crime literary field these days, and deservedly so.

So, I have to begin here: do you feel good, bad or indifferent at having Blake lumped together with the likes of Reacher, Gentry, Victor, Puller and, one of my favourites I have to say, Joe Pike?

I think it’s inevitable when you’re writing in this genre, and I am a fan of many of the above gentlemen (good choice on Joe Pike). I think there’s room for a lot of different approaches to the lone wolf genre, so I’m always a huge compliment when someone mentions my books in the same breath as Lee Child or Robert Crais.

They are all great creations, of course, but Carter Blake deserves to be right up there with them. More so in some cases.

Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym?

That was my agent’s idea. He suggested coming up with something snappy and American-sounding, and Mason Cross was the one we agreed on. I told him he could call me whatever he liked if he got me a book deal. The other advantage of having a last name beginning with C is it alphabetically places you alongside the premier league of crime writers: Chandler, Child, Connelly, Christie, Crais, Coben… it’s a good place to be on the shelves.

I guess a name in exchange for a book deal is fair enough. You know, when I first saw your name I did think it sounded more like a character than an author. And that is rather a slippery trick on the surname. Note to self: think of pseudonym surname starting with C – Leroy Cudgel… Nick Carnage…Hmm, I may just have something here.

Did you consider it a risk in setting your novels in a foreign country?

I guess there’s always the risk that you’ll get some things wrong, but I try to research as much as possible, and run drafts past my American friends. Having said that, a lot of the time I’m writing about characters and places that I’ve invented, so I know them as well as anyone. And while America is a foreign country, it’s a very familiar one, and they (mostly) speak the same language, which helps.

I think you're right – other than the precise geography, so much of which you can find on Google Maps anyway, we are surrounded by Americanisms all the time if you like crime.

Being a Scotsman, from Glasgow, were you at all tempted to add to the Scottish mafia of authors and set your work in your home country, or did you feel that you were looking for a different territory and genre to explore?

Both. I’ve written stories set in Glasgow and will definitely write a novel set there sooner or later, but I also felt it was quite a crowded market and, since I’ve always loved American thrillers, I thought I would give writing one a go. I think a lot of writers write what they like to read, and many of my influences are American.

I can understand that. I recently wrote the first draft of an action thriller, and my initial instinct was to set it in the US. I ended up writing the first half set here, and then rewrote it all again for the US, only to revert back to a UK setting. My first published short story was in an American setting, so I feel comfortable with the feel and the language, but I felt as if I was forcing it. Mind you, I've also re-written it in first person POV as well, so it would not surprise me if my UK-based third person POV first draft ended up being a US-based first person POV novel.

The action scenes feel extremely cinematic. Do you ever write something with an eye for how it might look if the novel became a movie at some point down the road?

Thank you! Obviously I would love for the books to be adapted at some point, but in fact I always tend to visualise my scenes in a cinematic way when I write them. I always think about how a particular scene would look in a movie; what actor might play a supporting character, what kind of music would complement a scene, stuff like that.

That's interesting. It certainly shows.

Who is your favourite modern day literary tough guy (and no, you can't go for Reacher!!)?

Hmmm… modern day, I’d have to go for Harry Bosch, who is tough as nails but not afraid to be a decent guy at the same time. I think Titus Welliver totally nails the character in the Bosch TV show.

I think I'd have to agree on all points. Harry is a real hard case – for me the best cop in literary fiction right now – and Titus Welliver now is Harry Bosch…minus the moustache.

The rise of independent publishers and self-publishers has seen a massive influx of crime and thriller novels available to buy. Do you think the market had become flooded, and therefore diluted?

I think there’s always been a lot of crime and thriller novels, because it’s such a classic structure. I think there’s enough room for everyone, and hopefully the very best rise to the top. It’s always been a crowded market though, going back to the pulp days – that’s a good sign because it suggests there’s still a big appetite for the genre among readers.

Agreed – given there are only so many plot devices, it's amazing how many different stories can be told.

I think fans will be interested to know – and I count myself amongst them – did you go the standard route of agent > publisher to get the first Blake novel out there?

Yes, although possibly with more luck than is normal. I was completely clueless about the publishing industry before writing my first novel, and was incredibly fortunate that a top flight agent approached me based on some stories I’d published online. I wrote one novel that didn’t find a publisher, but the feedback was generally pretty good, so that gave me confidence to write another, which was the first Blake novel, The Killing Season.

That sounds more like good writing attracting attention rather than luck, Mason.

In recent months I have read novels from mainstream publishers that break just about every 'rule' an author can break, according to agents, publishers and other authors. Do you think it is (a) true that established authors can get away with sloppiness and laziness, and (b) that the only genuine advice you can offer about rules when it comes to writing is that there are none that cannot be broken?

(a) I think that’s true to an extent, and often you’ll read Amazon reviews of the big names where people complain they aren’t as good as they used to be. Sometimes you can tell a writer is coasting and phoning it in, but if they’re selling books, they’re going to keep being published. I really admire writers like Michael Connelly and Stephen King who are still doing fantastic work after dozens of books. Ian Rankin’s most recent Rebus book is one of his best, and he’s been doing them for thirty years.

(b) That’s also true. I think the old saying is correct though – you have to know the rules before you can break them.

Agreed. Connelly also takes a breath when he introduces new lead characters, such as Haller and McEvoy. There's a new one coming this summer, which I think we're all looking forward to.

I often quote a Stephen King piece from the novella, The Breathing Method: It is the tale. Not he who tells it. I believe that to be true. What are your thoughts, please?

Depends on the tale! I think a brilliant writer can make an absolutely straightforward story compulsively readable, but it’s always a thrill to read a book with a fantastic hook that’s never been done before.

Those hooks are rare, but yes they are exciting when they appear.

When reading a new novel written by a friend, do you find it difficult to be critical?

No. you can be critical without being a dick. Luckily, whenever I’ve read anything written by a friend so far it’s been pretty good. As a writer I know my own work will always be improved by people giving me feedback and telling me what they liked and didn’t like, so it’s a vital part of the process.

Yes, I think criticism is to be welcomed provided it is constructive. Sometimes I read reviews on Amazon and they are crushing for no apparent reason (not my own so far, but they'll come, of that I have no doubt).

If you were sitting down to edit The Killing Season now, do you think you would end up with a different book at the end of it?

Good question. I’m not sure what specifically I would do differently, but it would be nice to add more foreshadowing of future events now I’ve written four and a half books about Blake. I don’t think it would be radically different other than cosmetically. That first one is probably closest to the book I envisioned when I started out than any of the others.

Interesting. I wonder if you think that's possibly shared by most authors, who perhaps have pretty much the whole first book mapped out in their heads, compared to those that follow.

Do you enjoy the non-writing elements that come with being a well-known author?

Not sure how well-known I am, but yes, in general! I enjoy travelling and meeting people, so that definitely comes in handy when it comes to the promotion side of things. Even at my level, it can be quite exhausting keeping up with all of the festivals, library talks, bookshop events etc., so I have no idea how the genuinely big names manage to balance everything.

Looking on from the sidelines it does seem a little overwhelming. On the other hand, the more you do the more popular you must be, I guess.

Final one – and please elect not to answer if you find the question intrusive. I was wondering whether your lifelong friends still refer to you as Gavin, or if the persona of Mason Cross has now devoured you whole?

Old friends still call me Gavin (or Gav, actually), but a lot of my fellow authors know me as Mason, simply because it’s less hassle to stick to one name at festivals and so on. I don’t make a big secret of it or anything, but it’s actually quite nice to have the separation, so I can compartmentalise my life a little more easily. It sometimes causes a problem when I check in at a hotel and don’t know which name I’ve been booked in under.

So, a case of putting on your Mason Cross hat when writing or doing writerly things, but just Gav or Gavin at other times. Sounds like a nice balance.

And that's it. Thank you again for taking part. I must warn you, I read the latest Puller novel recently and could not finish it. If I had to read one more character 'bark' I would have felt obliged to call Battersea Dogs Home. If Blake does that to me, we may just have a falling out. I think we're safe, though – I get the sense that Carter Blake is going to be doing good deeds for some time to come.

I hope so! Thanks for the questions.

Well, my review of the book is in, so you held up your end of the deal, Mason. My sincere thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for me.

Don't Look For Me - review

Four books into what will clearly be a long-running series featuring the enigmatic Carter Blake, and Mason Cross has so far been able to give his readers something different each time. Different, yet familiar. Opening up a new Mason Cross book is like sliding into a pair of old slippers.

Sure, you know Blake is going to be involved in a fight within the first few chapters, that he will be both hunter and hunted, and that he will not only emerge victorious but also unruffled. We know that about Bond and Bourne and Reacher, et al, but it doesn't stop us coming back for more. Wild horses could not prevent me from gaining access to more Carter Blake in the future, that's for sure. I like the fact that Blake is not perfect – he gets surprised at times, he gets hit, he gets beat up, and occasionally he loses his man. It is that lack of perfection that makes Blake all the more real, and all the more appealing.

The past continues to draw Blake back in. Last time out it was his ex-colleagues who dragged him back, and now it's an ex-girlfriend. It seems the past will not remain where he left it, but when someone is in trouble, Carter Blake steps up. No matter what awaits him in the shadows.

In Don't Look For Me, Blake has to contend throughout with someone who has a similar set of skills, a similar approach to achieving goals, and a similar method of dealing with opponents. A wily, cussed character, with an appreciation for an adroit foe. I liked Gage. I saw him as a man worthy of Blake's best efforts. Carter Blake with a black hat.

I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of this book, and in addition to Blake and Gage the two female characters were also engaging, though in very different ways. One I liked, one I did not, and I wasn't quite sure whether I was supposed to. The action is spread over hundreds of miles, mostly in Nevada and Arizona, and as usual the physical scenes are cinematic. Early intrigue leads to understanding, which in turn leads to anticipation. A couple of unusual settings here, too, and they play a role in developing a brooding atmosphere.

One of the things I admire about fast-paced action thrillers of this ilk is the author's ability to maintain that momentum and to create plenty of conflict along the way. Having written one myself recently I can attest to the fact that a lot of work goes into making it all seem effortless (something I am still striving to achieve). Mason Cross has succeeded yet again in delivering that pace and drive and character and story all in one neat package that sweeps you up and carries you along for the duration, never allowing you back down until you are sated by the ending and wishing you could go back and start all over again.

 A five star read.

Buy Don't Look For Me here

Thursday 2 July 2020

Locked Up Festival

This afternoon sees the opening of the first-ever Locked Up Festival, organised by Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste of the brilliant Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast.

As you would expect from the title and, well, *gestures at the world* this is a virtual festival, which means you can attend from wherever you happen to be on the planet.

Just check out this amazing lineup...

I'm really proud to be helping open the festival at 2:30pm this afternoon. Our panel is on One Star Reviews (n.b. I've got enough, if you were thinking of kindly providing me with inspiration), and I'll be talking to Elly Griffiths, Chris Brookmyre and Mark Billingham about our best worst reviews.

Tickets for the full weekend are a mere £20, and every penny goes to support the work of the Trussell Trust. I believe ticket holders will be able to view panels on catchup after the live broadcast, which I guess is one big advantage over a physical festival.

Get your tickets here, but be fast, as it's almost sold out.

Sunday 28 June 2020


This weekend I should have been in Lyme Regis for the inaugural Lyme Crime festival. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to that, but unlike most similar events, the estimable Paddy Magrane and his team decided that the show must go on (virtually).

I think it worked really well. Of course there's no substitute for being physically present at a festival, but the panels ran really smoothly over Zoom, and it was great that people were able to tune in from all over.

I was part of two events (one for What She Saw Last Night with Susi Holliday, one for Hunted with Tony Kent), and you can watch them both here.

I guess that's one advantage over live in person festivals - anyone in the world can 'attend' a panel, months after it's happened.

First up on Thursday, an encore version of the Train Noir tour Susi and I embarked on last Autumn. We talked about our train-themed mysteries and why night trains are so popular in crime fiction.

Then on Saturday morning, Tony Kent and I discussed our new action thrillers, and talked about the mechanics of a thriller in Setting the Pace. This one was live, so we were getting questions from the viewing audience, which worked pretty well.

There are over a dozen panels available to watch again at the Lyme Crime YouTube page, so head over there, subscribe, and experience a book festival from the comfort of your living room.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Hunted - publication day

Hunted, my first book under the pseudonym Alex Knight, is published in the UK today.

It's a little weird having a new book out right now. Normally, I would have a launch event at a bookshop and get to meet readers, sign some books and have a few glasses of wine. There would be post-launch drinks in a beer garden somewhere with other writers and readers. 

But obviously none of that's happening right now, so Hunted is going out with a little less fanfare than normal.

I'm really proud of it and I think it's one of my best books, so I hope people buy it. 

You can help by getting the word out, telling your friends, leaving a review (if you like it, feel free not to if you hate it!), talking about it on Facebook - anything you can do will be much appreciated.

In the meantime, you can tune in virtually to OnLyme Crime on Saturday morning at 11am to see me and Tony Kent talk about Hunted and his fantastic thriller Power Play.

Check out the blurb below, and you can read chapter one on the Alex Knight website - if you enjoyed the Carter Blake books, I think you'll love it.

– Sunday Times bestselling author Steve Cavanagh

Trade Paperback



You're woken early by the doorbell. It's a young girl, the daughter of the love of your life. She's scared, covered in blood, she says her mother is hurt.

You let her in, try to calm her down, tell her you're going to get help. You reach for your phone, but it lights up with a notification before you touch it.

It's an Amber alert, sent to every one of the four million phones in the Bay Area - a child has been abducted by a dangerous suspect.

The child is the girl standing in front of you.

The suspect? You.

Saturday 20 June 2020

Lyme Crime - see me twice!

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Rather greedily, I'm going to be appearing at OnLyme Crime twice - once as Mason Cross, once as Alex Knight.

First up, I'm doing the TRAIN NOIR panel with SJI Holliday. We did a Train Noir tour in the Autumn for What She Saw Last Night and Susi's brilliant thriller Violet and it was so much fun, so I'm looking forward to the (virtual) reunion.

Then, on Saturday morning, I'm teaming up with Tony Kent for SETTING THE PACE, which should be a lot of fun too. He'll be talking about Power Play, which I read this year and absolutely loved. It's also the first-ever event for Alex Knight and for Hunted.

As you would expect, this is a virtual festival, and details of how to book your free ticket will be available soon, check out the Lyme Crime Facebook page for more details and the rest of the lineup.

Thursday 25th June, 6pm
Train Noir
SJ Holliday and Mason Cross discuss their most recent novels, both of which are set on trains, talking about the journeys that inspired them and how this particular form of travel lends atmosphere, momentum and claustrophobia to a thriller.

Saturday 27th June, 11am
Setting the Pace
When a book becomes a rollercoaster. Thriller authors Alex Knight and Tony Kent reveal the secrets to writing a page-turner.

Saturday 2 May 2020

Who the hell is Alex Knight?

So it's May, and my new book has usually appeared by now, and some people having been asking where it is.

Well, the bad news is there is no Mason Cross novel this year.

The good news (hopefully) is that I do have a new book coming out.

It's under a different name. Why? A few different reasons, some to do with marketing, but also because it feels like a different kind of thriller than the ones I've written up until now.

It starts with the protagonist, Jake Ellis, being woken by banging on the door.

Molly, the teenage daughter of his girlfriend is there, covered in someone else's blood. Her mother has been shot, she thinks she's dead.

Shocked, Jake reaches for his phone to call for help, but at that moment it lights up with a notification.

It's an Amber alert. A child has been abducted, the suspect is armed and dangerous. The child is Molly.

The suspect's name is Jake Ellis.

It's called HUNTED, and here's the cover.

It's published in the UK on June 25 2020.

Check out the Alex Knight website for more, and you can pre-order the book in the UK  right now from Waterstones, Amazon and Hive (Hive is a particularly good option right now as it will help support indie bookshops when they need it most).

I hope you like this one. And if anyone has any ideas of a good way to launch a book in the middle of a pandemic, do let me know...

Friday 24 April 2020

Quizknobs & Zoomsticks

How's your lockdown going?

It's been lovely weather here in the UK this week, and for the first time in my adult life, I'm grateful to have a garden. We're really fortunate that everyone is safe and well so far, and with three kids in the house, there's always something to do.

One of the many effects of the pandemic is that pretty much every literary festival has been cancelled for the foreseeable future. As in so many other fields, the void is being filled with online events, one of which I'm really excited to be part of next Friday. 

The upside of everything going online is you can join in from literally anywhere. Just subscribe to the new Crime Waves YouTube channel and you can join us.   

Thursday 2 April 2020

Short story - People You May Know

A few years ago, I sent a short story called People You May Know to members of my readers club - I've gotten in the habit of sending out a story to the club on Christmas Eve, and you get another one right away for signing up, so if you haven't done that, you can sign up here.

Recently, it struck me that that particular story is appropriate for this strange time we're all living through, because it deals with someone isolated at home, able to communicate only at distance.

Even before the virus, it was something so woven into the fabric of our lives these days: that we can have conversations with people from all over the world any time we choose, without leaving our living room.

Sometimes, you feel like you know these people you've never met on a deeper level than some of your friends in real life.

What happens if one of them confessed to doing something terrible? What would you do?

That's what this story is about. I hope you enjoy it.

For Kindle: click here to download 

For the iTunes / Google Play / Kobo / other (epub) file: click here to download

For a PDF of the story instead: click here to download

Tuesday 31 March 2020

California Dreaming

So how are you coping with The Great Lockdown?

We're all healthy so far, thankfully, and settling into a strange routine where the whole family is around, all the time. I'm making sure to get out for a walk or a run every day to stay sane, but I've managed not to go anywhere crowded for a week now, which I'm aware is a privilege not everyone has right now. I'm really grateful we have a big enough house that we're not on top of each other, and for the first time in my life, I'm actually glad we have a garden (I detest gardening, but like being outside).

On the work front, I've been writing the new book and noodling around at a couple of other projects, though like most people I'm finding it difficult to focus right now.

Strange to think I was in Berlin a little over three weeks ago, and everything was pretty much business as usual. The new normal has descended suddenly. My two younger kids have asked if this kind of thing happened when I was a kid, and I had to explain that no, this has never happened before.

I'm used to working from home and I'm not somebody who has to be socialising at all times, but I do miss being in the city, and going for coffee, and looking forward to a summer of book festivals that now can't happen.

Whenever cabin fever has mounted over the last few days, I've been thinking about my trip to California last November. I was doing some research for my next book, which is out in June (and I promise to tell you more about it soon) but I'm so glad I did it before the virus appeared on the horizon.

Even back then it felt like a beautiful break from reality: waking up every morning to blue skies and sun, exploring San Francisco on foot, driving north on the 101 through the redwoods and past some of the most stunning coastline I've ever seen, drinking Sunkist and Sprite with no sweeteners, listening to classic rock on the car radio, and almost never hearing the word Brexit.

So here's some sunny (and sometimes foggy) pictures from Before. I'm thinking about the places I've been in the past year, and the people I've spent time with, and hoping we'll all be able to go places and see people in real life sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Stay inside, stay safe, and I'll see you on the other side.

Thursday 30 January 2020

Interview on BBC Radio Shetland

I visited Shetland for the first time at the end of last year. It was just a short trip, but I got to see a bit of the mainland and take some nice pictures. It's a beautiful place, quite unlike anywhere else in the British Isles.

While I was there, the excellent Shetland Library put on an event for me, and I was interviewed for the books programme on BBC Radio Shetland.

You can listen to the interview here - my part starts at 31:39. I talk about how I write, and why I used to deliberately forget my PE kit...

Here's some more pics - if you get the chance to visit, I recommend it!

Thursday 2 January 2020

What She Saw Last Night - 99p Kindle deal

Happy New Year!

What She Saw Last Night is on sale today in UK ebook for 99p. If you haven't read it yet, pick it up now! If you have, please tell a friend.

As usual, the Kindle price is being matched by Kobo, Google and iTunes.

"Delivered with the kind of writerly acumen we have come to expect from Cross." - Financial Times

"If you like your thrillers fast-paced, with lots of surprises along the way, this is definitely for you." - Heat

"Gripping Stuff" - Daily Mail

    "A chase thriller that begins as a locked-room puzzle" - Morning Star

"A truly original thriller, reminiscent of Hitchcock and Christie." - Woman's Way

Buy What She Saw Last Night here