Tag Archives: thrillers

Alana Woods interviews PAUL V WALTERS, author of Looking for Lionel

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I first interviewed Paul V Walters back in January 2013 after reading the first two books in his Jonathan Savage thriller series. Since then he’s finished the series and published a short story collection that I’ve just read and reviewed—which was the impetus for this catch-up interview. That, and wanting to find out more about his never-endingly interesting life.

Alana: Hi Paul, it’s terrific to catch up with you again and I’m not letting you go until you’ve told us everything about life as you know it nowadays. A move to Bali, freelance article writing around the world, plus two more books since we last spoke. Let’s start with the move from Queensland to Bali. How and when did that come about?

Paul: My life has always seemed to revolve around making impulsive decisions, and I guess this was another to add to the mix. After I sold my advertising agency I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. Fortunately I’m married to an extremely clever and talented woman whose skills are needed in the education field in developing countries. When we were wondering what we should do (or should I say, what I should do) the phone rang with an offer of an exciting project for Elisabeth in Bali. After debating for all of 3 seconds we both looked at each other and said…”Hell, let’s go!”

Alana: Do you retain a foothold in Australia?

Paul: Less, less and less these days. We have our youngest daughter there who is finishing a degree at Queensland University but apart from that not much really. Recently we sold the family home, the investment properties, cars, appliances and everything else that filled our lives. It was a liberating experience!!!!

Alana: Wow! A brave move, but how exciting! I believe you started out using Bali as your base when you wrote the first two books in the series: FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK. Was that still your modus operandi for the third and final book COUNTERPOINT?

Paul: I finished the third book while ‘on the road’ so to speak. Elisabeth and I travel a lot and I would use the evenings when we stopped for the day to type out a chapter. My journals, filled with notes along the way, were a great help. I ended up finishing the book in Bali although the island doesn’t feature at all.

1--Final diagnosis cover 2--blowback cover new 3--Counterpoint cover

Alana: My admiration has just gone up in leaps and bounds that you had the energy and willpower to do that! Did you have an association with the island before you began to write?

Paul: I visited Bali on a few occasions and at one point attended the Ubud Writers Festival. At the time I had a manuscript in my bag, which was the first novel I had ever written. I had no idea what to do with it and was hoping for some guidance from somebody at the festival. Fate intervened when I shared a table with an Indian stranger in a crowded café. He was a charismatic diplomat and the current Indian Ambassador to Japan. After chatting for a while I discovered that I was sitting with Vikas Swarup who told me his book Q & A had recently been turned into, as he put it, “ a small film that they named Slum dog Millionaire”. He was incredibly generous in sharing with me the methods he used in getting published and I took his advice (and shamelessly, his contacts) and viola!

Alana: I take the view that he wouldn’t have shared if he wasn’t okay with that. And there’s no point in letting information go to waste!

Paul: The first publisher I approached took the novel … a fluke one might say!!

Alana: Well done! And well deserved. Getting back to Bali, give us an insight into your typical day. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you see?

Paul: It always intrigues me that 99% of visitors to this place spend all of their time confined to .5% of the island and never venture beyond the confines of their resorts. To me Bali is a treasure trove and one I will never get tired of exploring. There are over 70,000 temples here, a culture that stretches back 5000 years, and impossibly beautiful places that will take your breath away. And then there are the people. The Balinese I do believe are infused with the ‘nice’ gene at birth as they are some of the most wonderful, loving and warm people on this planet. They also smile pretty much all the time. So when S & P (sloth and procrastination) doesn’t envelope me I get out and about. I write for several magazines here and around the world and Bali is always a topic they want covered and so off I toddle to get the story and the photographs … it’s a fun job!!

Alana: It certainly sounds like it. You travel to some very far-flung and interesting places in search of topics for articles. How did this side to writing come about? Are the articles commissioned or do you write them and then find a market? Where are some of the places you’ve been and what topics have you written about?

Paul: I feel a little blessed most of the time. A couple of years ago I ran into an editor who runs a high circulating English Language magazine and she asked if I would consider writing a piece for her on a well known artist from Bali. I did and suddenly I was swamped with requests from other Vox Pop publications wanting material. I then branched out and began to scribble for in-flight journals for several of the major international carriers. Most of the pieces are commissioned; however, I will often fire off a story to a magazine covering a place I have recently travelled to. I travelled by road right across the north of the Indian sub-continent in December and January of this year and gathered a wealth of material. After that trip a 5 week stint in Africa followed which has given me more than enough material to last for a few more months. Next month I’m off to Borneo to take a river cruise into the heart of Kalimantan. So as I said, I feel blessed to be able to get to go to wonderful places, stay in fabulous hotels and then get paid for the privilege!

Alana: You finished the Jonathan Savage series a while back and then made a genre move to short stories with the just-published LOOKING FOR LIONEL collection. What inspired that?

Paul: In addition to writing for magazines I also produce a weekly blog on all matters trivial. (www.paulvwalters.com) I was rather attracted to the concept of a bite-sized read as I thought it would be easy. How wrong I was when it came to the crafting of a short story. I take my hat off to the Alice Munroe’s of this world, as crafting a short story is no easy task! Many of the stories in the Lionel anthology have been ‘hanging around ‘ for years and the bottom drawer needed a clean out so this was a good way to get them out of the way. At my publisher’s urging I also included several published articles that have appeared over the years and these are 1000 words and sometimes a little less which appear at the back of the book.

lionel cover

Alana: Will Jonathan Savage make a return at some stage, do you think, or has his story been told?

Paul: He has moved on and his time with me has finished. However, I have retained D.I. John Moore as a character to fill the role of the hero. I kind of like his ribald, sarcastic sense of humor and I did miss him after I finished the trilogy.

Alana: I know you’ve just published LOOKING FOR LIONEL so this may be a bit premature, but do you have any more stories on the drawing board?

Paul: I have returned to my familiar genre, which is a thriller. I have another novel that is chugging along (slowly) and it has the working title, Scimitar. All going well and, if I am able to ward of the sloth and procrastination, it just might be ready for Christmas.

Alana: I look forward to reading it. Paul, thanks for being so patient and indulging my curiosity. Talk to you again soon.

Paul: Thanks Alana, always a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you at the next Ubud Writers festival. As they say, “if you never go, you’ll never know.“

Alana: How right you are! ☺ Cheers.

PAUL V WALTERS’ links:   website  |  Amazon  |  FaceBook

Take this link to my review of LOOKING FOR LIONEL


Alana Woods’ book reviews: DEAD CHARMING by Ian Jackson

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Dead charming

This is the debut novel by English author Ian Jackson, and it’s a cracker of a contemporary psychological thriller.

If you’re a squeamish reader I give you warning now: there are some disturbing scenes that you may want to skim. You won’t lose the plot by doing so.

Set in Manchester UK it tells the story of newly-qualified criminal profiler Jenny Foster as she starts work with the Manchester Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Squad and is dropped in the deep end of a serial killer case on her first day.

Among other things it’s a story of degradation, torture, manipulation and deception.

Told from multiple points of view—the victims, the killer, Jenny—it takes you intimately into their lives and their minds.

The story is well told and doesn’t lose its way at any point. Jackson keeps the anticipation mounting as the police close in on their quarry and Jenny has to contend with problems at home while hoping her observations about the killer are accurate.

And then there’s the ending! I’m not going to spoil it by saying anything about it.

If you like taut psychological thrillers you might want to give this one a go.

DEAD CHARMING is available at Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and all good book stores.
Go to Ian’s website and follow the buy links.

Take this link to my interview with IAN JACKSON

Alana Woods interviews: LAURENCE O’BRYAN, author of The Manhattan puzzle

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My books on Amazon    Imbroglio | Automaton | Tapestries  | 25 Writing Tips


This is not my usual author interview. When I contacted Laurence O’Bryan to ask if he would be interested in participating in one he sent me back an already-prepared Q&A. Rather than delving into the author as well as all of his works, this focuses mainly on the novel I reviewed, THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE. So, for those of you who would have liked to get to know the author a little better, you will be disappointed. But if you’d like to know the story behind the story, and isn’t that all of us, here it is—Laurence talking about Manhattan.

Laurence O'Bryan 1

Q: Laurence, describe your connection to Manhattan?

Laurence: I have been to Manhattan, the site of my latest novel, THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE, only four times. Each time it was different and so was I. Manhattan became part of my dream of prosperity. If I had enough money, in my fantasy, I would leave Ireland, visit Manhattan and enjoy all the interesting things that the city could offer. Later, after 9/11 and the financial crash, my impressions of the city changed. They became darker. There were forces battling over the island and innocent lives were being lost.

Q: What things about this place make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?

Laurence: I imagine the whole of Manhattan as a museum. It exists as an entirely man-made object, a piece of intricate jewellery or a giant snow globe with dollar bills cascading. Every street in Manhattan seems imbued with style, either gritty, trashy or glitzy, but there is nothing boring about it. I know of no other place like it.

Q: Did you consciously set out to use your location as a ‘character’ in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?

Manhattan, the mid-town section around Grand Central Terminal, is a character in THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE. It exists in the streets around the terminal and in the imaginary BXH Bank headquarters, a 1920s era skyscraper with a secret underneath. I couldn’t write a story about Manhattan without that presence coming through strongly, like Marilyn or Frank Sinatra swaggering past you as they head towards a limousine.

Q: How do you incorporate location in your fiction? Do you pay overt attention to it in certain scenes, or is it a background inspiration for you? In other words, similar to the last question, are you conscious of referring to your specific city or locale as you write?

Laurence: I believe place is a vital part of any novel. I went deep under Grand Central to feel it and to smell what it is like. There is a cinnamon-like smell on the lower tracks. I do pay specific attention to details like that, the feel of the stones under your feet as you race along the tracks, the smell, the noise of a train on a distant track.

Q: How does your protagonist interact with his/her surroundings? Is she a native, a blow-in, a reluctant or enthusiastic inhabitant, cynical about it, a booster? And conversely, how does the setting affect your protagonist?

Laurence: My main characters are blow-ins, like me. They are there to solve a puzzle. They don’t make much of their surroundings, they are too busy surviving, but the city is there, behind it all.

Q: Has there been any local reaction to your works? What do local (ie those who actually live in your novels’ settings) reviewers think, for example. If published in a non-English speaking country are your books in translation in that country and, if so, what reaction have they gotten from reviewers?

Laurence: I have had great responses from readers in New York. Not one has given me a negative comment yet. This is a good thing for me. If I had dropped a few clangers I am sure they would have been noticed by sharp-eyed New Yorkers.

I’ve also written about Istanbul and Jerusalem. Both novels have been reviewed by people from those cities and the Istanbul novel has been translated into Turkish. Aside from a few minor points, such as below, there has been no negative comment about my use of these locations.

Q: Have you ever made any goofs in depicting your location or time period? Please share—the more humorous the better (we all have).

Laurence: A tricky one this. I wrote a novel set in Istanbul. In it I placed a sea bus to the Princess Islands in one location on the Bosphorus shore of the city only to find when it was being translated that the location was wrong. I also misnamed a tower, allocating its creation to the Venetians, not the Genoese!

Q: Of the novels you have written set in this location, do you have a favourite book or scene that focuses on the place? Could you quote a short passage or give an example of how the location figures in your novels?

Laurence: In THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE the tracks under Grand Central and a secret platform form an important part of the middle section of the book. That part of Manhattan, deep under Grand Central, is a location I love. It’s not a long section in the book but it links the modern part of Manhattan to an imaginary older part, which I have created. It is a factual place that is hidden, which I have used to link to an imaginary place.

Q: If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

Laurence: I would live in Manhattan, in the Village, for the vitality, the energy all around, the great bookshops and the constant flow of people and stories.

Q: Who are your favourite writers, and do you feel that other writers influenced you in your use of the spirit of place in your novels?

Laurence: The writers I have enjoyed most include Robert Graves, whose series set in Rome and beyond was definitely inspired by place. Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes series was also greatly involved with place, from the smoke-filled streets of London to the mists of Devon. In the modern era I enjoy Wilbur Smith’s adventure series and Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. All these novels feature place as a key element. I also enjoy Michael Connelly’s novels. He brings LA to life for me.

Q: What’s next for your protagonist?

Laurence: Sean and Isabel Ryan are off to Nuremberg. I am writing the novel at the moment. It’s about modern fascism and betrayal. It also takes the puzzle at the heart of the series one more step forward.

Laurence O’Bryan’s first novel, THE ISTANBUL PUZZLE, was short listed for Irish Crime Novel of the year in 2012. He still lives in Ireland. You can find out more about him and the series at www.lpobryan.com.

Laurence’s thrillers have been translated into ten languages. THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE was published by Harper Collins in the US on 26 August 2014.

The Istanbul puzzle The Jerusalem puzzle The Manhattan puzzle

LAURENCE O’BRYAN’S links:   website   |   Amazon page
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Take this link to my review of THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE

Alana Woods’ book reviews: THE MANHATTAN PUZZLE by Laurence O’Bryan

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The Manhattan puzzle

I very nearly didn’t read on from the opening of this book because it is confronting. However, I dislike giving up on a book so quickly and persevered. Glad I did, it’s a good one.

Throughout the story there were back story glimpses which I realised after a while were references to earlier books in the series. Yes, this is a series, so be warned. If you prefer to read your series in order then you’ll need the preceding two before you bury your nose in this one: THE ISTANBUL PUZZLE and THE JERUSALEM PUZZLE. But I have to say I didn’t feel disadvantaged as this one stands on its own.

The story follows Sean and Isabel Ryan, husband and wife, as they become involved in an international religious conspiracy that, if successful, will turn the world on its head.

The story/plot is terrific, as is characterisation. I believed in these people. My heart was in my mouth as to where O’Bryan was taking me in relation to one character later in the book. Was he going to die, and would it be horribly? You’re going to have to read it to find out.

The author’s use of language, description and dialogue kept my adrenalin levels elevated for pretty well the entire 400+ pages. And unlike other series I’ve read where the reader is left hanging at the end as though the next chapter is missing, this book is complete in itself. A definite plus.


Take this link to an interview with Laurence O’Bryan