Road Trip Reads: Merle by Angela Wren

A post from Katy Johnson about Angela Wren’s crime novel Merle – which Angela was reading from at our joint reading event in Tickhill (with John Jackson) last Thursday.

Katys Writing Coffee Shop

Continuing my series of reading books appropriate to the places I visit:


Passing through France, I grabbed a copy of this detective story set in the French town of Merle. I’d really enjoyed Messandrierre by the same author so was looking forward to reading this one. Jacques Foret the very likeable main character in Messandrierre also stars in this story. Formerly a gendarme, he’s now a private detective and is called in by The Vaux organisation to investigate malpractice within their firm. But the case turns out to be more complex than it appears and then a young woman’s body is discovered. Who’s behind it all and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

The story starts quite gradually as we’re introduced to the firm and its problems but what I loved here was the sense of place and the growing tension between Jacques and…

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Welcome, Seamus!

Today I am delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat Author Seamus Heffernan, whose first novel, Napalm Hearts, is published on 24 April.

Welcome, Seamus!  Tell us all about your debut novel, Napalm Hearts.

NAPALM HEARTS is a detective story about an American PI working infidelity investigations throughout London’s back alleys and hotels. Successful but bored, he wants to shake things up a bit, and so takes a case from a wealthy member of the English aristocracy to track down his missing trophy wife. It’s a fast-paced thriller with some heart, and features a detective, Thaddeus Grayle, who is a flawed guy trying to be a bit better.

What made you want to write it?

Motivation came through the anxiety that comes with this choice: Do you take a risk and try creating something that anyone would actually like to read, or do you do nothing, knowing all too well you’ll very likely regret squandering what little talent and opportunity you might have had? I mean, we’re all operating on limited time here, so you need to make some choices about what you want to throw yourself into. Me, I always wanted to try and write a detective story and the moment finally came to say “Ah, what the hell.”

You see, when I was a kid, I spent way too much time reading mystery stories, comic books (almost always Batman, naturally) and watching TV like The Untouchables or Crime Story. I knew if I was ever going to try and write a novel, it would have to be in that world.

That said, it’s not like humanity is crying out for another crime novel, so you really have to be pretty cocky or straight-up delusional to think yours is adding anything new or interesting to the genre. Perhaps I landed squarely in between those extremes, but once I really got going with it I decided it wasn’t completely terrible and wanted to see it through. Let the genre fiction chips now fall where they may.

So what’s next?  Something in the same vein, or are you branching out?

I’m working on the follow-up to NAPALM HEARTS—which was never actually the goal, but it’s happening. I never intended it to be a series but when I got to the end I realized these characters had room to grow. That’s the only way doing a series interests me: Do the people in these stories have anything new to say? For now, they do.

I’m also writing a TV pilot script about civil servants and the politicians they work for. It’s more tongue in cheek and heartfelt rather than laugh out loud funny, and it’s primarily an exploration of the kind of person who would willingly work in politics but actually have to serve the public. Pop culture hasn’t done a great job with this type of work. They either over-romanticize it (The West Wing) or portray it as relentlessly mean-spirited and self-serving (Veep, The Thick of It). Mine comes from a different, perhaps gentler, place.

How did you come to publish with Crooked Cat?

When you’re a new writer, getting your manuscript out into the world means going one of two routes: You can pitch to an agent and hope they take you on and push you to the bigger publishing houses, or you can submit directly to independent presses that accept unsolicited submissions. I went with option 2. Crooked Cat was kind enough to get in touch and say they wanted to work with me, so here we are.

What about yourself?  What else will the readers be interested (or shocked) to know about you?

I went to Catholic school and seriously considered joining the priesthood when I was younger.

Canada, eh?  Is that like the USA but colder?

That’s so weird. You said “colder” when you meant “better.”

Kidding, kidding. However, my day job is working for a Member of Parliament, so safe to say I am very proud to be Canadian and to work on behalf of our constituents.

Finally, what question would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t?

What’s the best thing about your first book coming out?

And what is the answer?

That anyone wants you to write the next one.

Thanks for having me, Tim!

You’re very welcome, Seamus.  Hope your book is a big success! 


NAPALM HEARTS may be ordered here

Get in touch with Seamus Heffernan through any of these:

Official Website





Meet the Crooked Cat Authors

I’m very much looking forward to joining two other Yorkshire-based Crooked Cat authors for a reading event next Thursday.

Angela Wren (with whom I shared another event last October) will be talking about her crime novel, Merle, in which investigator Jacques Foret delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent.

Also there will be John Jackson, a retired ship’s Captain who lives in York and writes historical fiction based on his remarkably colourful family tree!  He will be introducing his book, Heart of Stone, the story of a girl who is owned by an Earl, but loved by his brother.

And I, of course, will be talking about Revolution Day, in which ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor clings to power as his vice-president plots against him and his estranged wife writes her memoir of their marriage and of Carlos’ rise to power and descent from idealism into autocracy.

So if you’re in the Yorkshire area, why not come along to Tickhill Community Library, Market Place, Tickhill, Doncaster DN11 9QU at 2.00pm on April 26th?  Please telephone the library on 01302 742871 and let them know you will be there.  Tea/Coffee and biscuits will be available.

The Prisoner

My novel Revolution Day is currently available for 99p in the Crooked Cat Easter Sale, along with lots of other great books – today is your last chance to snap it up for the reduced price.   To whet your appetite, here’s a short excerpt.  Ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor is taken by Manuel, his vice-president, to see a prisoner who appears to have information about a threat to his regime.  But who is the real threat.  Is it the dissidents, the Americans, or Manuel himself?


The young man was sitting bolt upright in the chair, a posture which at first sight sat oddly with the expression of overwhelming weariness upon his face. Closer inspection would reveal, however, that his arms and legs were strapped to the chair, preventing him from slumping forward and giving him very little freedom of movement in any direction. There was blood around his mouth and nose, and bruises were beginning to form around his eyes. Facing him, in two more comfortable chairs against the far wall, were two guards, dressed not in uniform but in jeans, t-shirts and trainers, their thick arms copiously adorned with tattoos. A key turned in the lock of the room’s heavy door, and the door swung open.

“Sit up straight. You’ve got some important visitors.”

Three men entered the room; first, holding the key, an intelligence officer in a grey suit, a surprisingly slight and innocuous-looking man. The other two were known to all present as the Vice-President (and Minister of Information) and the President of the Republic. The guards sprang to their feet and saluted enthusiastically, hastily moving to positions behind the prisoner so that the VIPs could occupy the chairs they had just vacated. The intelligence officer also saluted, and waited for his guests to sit down before addressing the President.

“Presidente, allow me to present to you Hector Aguilar, until recently an activist with the Freedom and Democracy Party, who has provided us with some important information which we believe you would wish to hear.”

“I would salute you too, Presidente,” said Aguilar, “but as you can see, my arms are tied to this chair.” One of the guards moved to hit him, but the Vice-President stilled him with a wave of his hand. He then turned to face the President.

“Thank you for setting aside some time from your busy schedule to come here, Presidente. You have seen the intelligence reports, but I thought that it was best for you to hear the information from the horse’s mouth.” He nodded to the intelligence officer, who turned towards the prisoner.

“Tell the President what you told us earlier today.”

Aguilar hesitated for a moment. Then, as the nearest guard began to crack his knuckles, an expression of resigned weariness came over the prisoner’s face and he finally began to speak.

“There is a faction within the Freedom and Democracy Party which has ceased to believe that change can be achieved in our country by peaceful means. I myself have been a member of this faction. For some years now, some of those who hold this view have been making approaches to various agencies of the United States government, and to known counter-revolutionaries in exile, in particular those who were loyal to General Salgado prior to his death, with a view to securing support for…” He began to cough, spraying droplets of pink saliva into the air.

“Give him some water,” said the intelligence officer. One of the guards poured some water from a plastic bottle into a small cup, which he raised to the prisoner’s mouth. This seemed to calm him, and he resumed in a clearer voice.

“With a view to securing material and financial support for an uprising.”