Joe McCoubrey: Someone Has to Pay Sunday, Jul 8 2012 

While Auntie M has been having stormy electric issues on the East Coast, writer Joe McCoubrey stepped up all the way from Ireland to guest blog this week. Thanks, Joe!

Irish author Joe McCoubrey explains why he chose the subject for his first novel and outlines some of the challenges he faced in mixing fact with fiction

                                      How I came to write my current novel

When you’ve lived in troubled times and you’re a writer, it’s probably inevitable those troubled times will feature heavily in your first novel. In my case, as a young reporter caught up in the midst of the worst of Northern Ireland’s conflict in the seventies and eighties, I had an urge to tell a story that went behind the headlines, a story of hard-hitting fiction that sailed uncomfortably close to the truth.

And so it was that Someone Has To Pay was born. It was more than two decades in the making and became subjected to endless rewrites and updates to keep pace with the frantic events unfolding around it. Fiction it might well be, but it had to be set against the stark realities and historical milestones that would lead eventually to peace in a troubled land.

It’s a story as cruel and uncompromising as the events which drove it. That was the times we lived in. There was no shortage of factual material from which to draw inspiration; indeed there were almost too many real occurrences that could have been used to over-glamorise or over-sensationalise what lies between the covers of my book.

But all conflicts have their victims. Hardly a family in Northern Ireland was untouched by the ‘troubles’ which beset our little corner of the globe, with the result that too many are still living today with the pain and memories of the past. The last thing they need is for some fictional jockey to come riding over the hill with gung-ho recounts of episodes that touch deeply into the hearts and minds of individuals.

I made a conscious decision to avoid these at all costs. My story simply didn’t need them. Instead I stuck with what I knew, and what I believed could have happened, as international pressure to end the conflict gathered an inexorable momentum.

I made sure too that the story was told from a balanced viewpoint, choosing no political or religious ascendancy for any side. That’s how it was, and that’s how it should be.

My bottom line for writing Someone Has To Pay was to produce an exciting and entertaining action thriller. Certainly I wanted its backcloth to be one that I knew and experienced, but it’s just that – a platform for telling what I believe is a cracking good yarn.

It will be for readers to judge whether or not I succeeded.

Joe McCoubrey is a former journalist turned author. His first novel Someone Has To Pay is being released shortly by Tri Destiny Publishing, with number two already in the bag and number three halfway there.

In between he has written a short story which was published last month in an Action Anthology. To find out more about Joe check out the following links:

Blogsite: http://joemccoubrey.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/joe.mccoubrey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeMcCoubrey1

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Sunday, Mar 14 2010 

Melissa told me I’d enjoy this book, and boy, did I ever!

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Set in the immediate Post WWII era of 1946, we are introduced through a series of letters to writer Juliet Ashton, searching for the subject for her next book.  The epistolary form works well here, as the letters fly between Juliet, her publisher and friends, and the people she comes to know and adore on the British Island of Guernsey.

The book club title was a spur-of-the-moment idea to protect the inhabitants during the Nazi occupation.  As unimaginable as the war has been to Juliet, she realizes she has not faced the challenges of a forced enemy occupation and its resultant hardships to her new friends. Their love of literature, and hers, forms the bond that will transform her life.

Juliet eventually travels to Guernsey, where she is captivated by the people and their differing stories and personalities.  This was a charming story, with quiet heroes and silent heroines. And yes, Juliet does find her next book on Guernsey.

Death Qualified Friday, Jul 31 2009 

Kate Wilhelm is an accomplished author with over thirty novels and a dozen collections of short fiction on her resume’.

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But this was my first read of hers, and a friend passed me her Northwest mystery, Death Qualified.  More than a legal thriller, and not a traditional mystery at all, but a read that has more twists and turns than an Alps switchback road.

Barbara Holloway has literally run away from practicing law in her father’s practice.  When he summons her home to help him defend a neighbor accused of killing her husband, Barbara must examine her past, and come to terms with her future.  Barbara is “death qualified” –legally able to defend clinets who face the death penalty if convicted.

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And what a case Frank Holloway has given his daughter–Nell Kendricks is accused of shooting the husband who abandoned her and his two children.  In order to save Nell, Barbara and Frank launch into finding out where Lucas Kendricks has been for the past seven years, and the answers turn up an extraordinary sequence of events.

Wilhelm must have done exhaustive research to complete this book.  I won’t give away any of the details, but here is a quote from the New York Times Book Review: “A book not about ideas but about the impact of ideas . . . The ending, which I found both surprising and believable makes good on all her promises.”

I’ll be looking for more from Wilhelm.

White Nights Friday, Jul 17 2009 

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Yorkshire writer Ann Cleeves was shortlisted twice for the CWA Gold Dagger Award before winning it for Raven Black, her first Shetland Islands mystery.  Now she returns with the second of a planned quartet,White Nights.

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Cleeves is the author of the Inspector Ramsey novels and well as the Vera Stanhope books.  The latter has been optioned for television.  She is also reader-in-residence for the Harrowgate Crime Writing Festival.  All of her novels have in common a taut, atmospheric quality with interesting and realistic characters and cunningly crafted plots.

In White Nights, Detective Jimmie Perez is once again on the case of an Englishman found hanging from a rafter the day after he arrives in the middle of an art gallery show and dissolves in tears, claiming amnesia.  It complicates things that the woman Perez wants is drawn to is one of the two artists showing at the gallery.

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It’s midsummer in the Shetland Islands, the time of white nights when the birds sing at midnight sun never sets, just dims.  Cleeves set her plot in motion and we watch Perez and Fran Hunter as they delicately merge their relationship with the chilling murder investigation.  The setting is unusual, the plot intriguing, and I found myself caught up in and staying awake to finish it.

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