Eva Jordan reviews… Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong: The adventures of Constable Mavis Upton (Mavis Upton Book 1) by Gina Kirkham @GinaGeeJay

 

Eva reviews... Handcuffs, Truncheon

This is the story of Mavis Upton, mother, daughter, friend to many, and of course, as the title suggests, police officer. And what a jolly, sometimes sensitive, but for the most part, politically incorrect, hilarious rollercoaster ride of a read it is.

The story begins in 2008 and opens with main protagonist, Mavis, in hot pursuit of burglar Billy ‘The Mog’ Benson, so called because of his renowned catlike agility. Having followed him up onto the somewhat decrepit rooftop of the local scrapyard, Mavis finds herself perilously swinging from a rusty old girder after the roof has given way. Dangling from the rafters with nothing between her and the jagged scrapheap of metal 35 feet below, the breeze whistling through her combat pants making her wish she’d worn thermal knickers instead of a polyester thong, and her life hanging in the balance, Mavis introduces herself.

“I am Mavis Upton. Constable 1261 Mavis Upton to be precise. Ace police driver and apprehender of naughty people; lover of crisps (any flavour); hater of big knickers, which if I survive this I’ll tell you about later; daughter to Mrs Josie Upton, sister to Connie and Michael and Mum to a rather headstrong young lady called Ella…”

Surviving her somewhat precarious predicament, Mavis then takes us back in time – to 1988 to be exact, where it all begins. Mavis, a thirty-something single mother of young daughter Ella, has an epiphany and decides to follow a lifelong ambition to join the police. Narrated in the first person throughout, the reader is then taken on a riveting, laugh out loud journey of the highs and lows of constable Mavis Upton, from basic training, to rookie, and eventually to somewhat older and wiser veteran.

Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong is a light-hearted, easy to read comedy about life. There are some sad, very poignant moments weaved among the high jinks and hilarity, which the author writes with great pathos and sensitivity (I dare anyone not to be moved by the scene that awaits Mavis after a desperate call from a 5 year old, or indeed the ending of the book), but on the whole this is a humorous observation of this thing called life and the many characters that shape it. Mavis comes across as a very real, very warm, if somewhat accident-prone individual; her courage and kindness often reflected in the deeds and actions of those closest to her. I loved the endearing, maternal devotion between Mavis and her daughter, and Mavis and her mother, which simply oozed mother-daughter love, and although some of the jokes and one-liners of her biscuit dunking male work colleagues might raise a few eyebrows these days, it very much reflects the humour of the era the book is set in. A jolly, feel-good read and one I highly recommend.

 

Publisher: Urbane Publications Limited (18 May 2017)

Print Length: 320 pages

Available to purchase from Amazon

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Anne Hamilton

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A Q&A with Anne Hamilton
Editor & Writer

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 With the recent publication of my third novel, Time Will Tell, I can definitely say it’s been a journey. I’ve learned a lot, sometimes by trial and error, but one thing I have discovered, if you want to write novels and write them well, you need a good editor. I know for some writers, especially those just starting out, hiring an editor is an expense they can do without. There are other options of course. For instance, having a team of great Beta readers can help point out the gaps, errors and pitfalls in your manuscript, however, where possible I’d always recommend using a professional editor, plus the Beta readers. Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Anne Hamilton, the brilliant editor who worked with me on Time Will Tell.

  1. Hi Anne, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, it’s a pleasure to be here! And can I just say how much I enjoyed Time Will Tell – the perfect ending to the trilogy.

I am, indeed, lucky to be a writer and an editor, and since I’m a bit of a nomad, too, it’s great that both of those can be done from more or less anywhere. I’m never exactly sure whether I come from the Fens or the West of Ireland…so I’ve ‘compromised’ by settling in Edinburgh, where I live with my eight-year-old son. We enjoy the odd jaunt to Bangladesh, where I’m a trustee of Bhola’s Children, a charity set up on foot of my first book, a travel memoir called A Blonde Bengali Wife.

I originally started out in social work, sidestepped to epidemiology, and finally found myself doing a postgraduate course in Creative Writing, which has led to my freelance work as a writing tutor. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m invariably baking or helping construct LEGO creations – often at the same time!

  1. You are a writer as well as an editor, which do you prefer doing and why?

I’ve often been asked if editing is second-best because I haven’t (yet!) made it as a best-selling author. But honestly? I love editing. I love the creativity of structural or development editing (looking at a story as a whole) and the nitty-gritty precision of line or content editing (checking and polishing the finished article). Whether it’s my own work or someone else’s, having words to play with, working out the best way to communicate a story is like an enormous, satisfying jigsaw puzzle.

Being a freelance editor means my hours are very flexible so I can fit in mum-time or writing-time – often quite chaotically, it must be said – and for me, these three things go hand in hand. There’s many a dreich Scottish Monday morning when I look out of my kitchen window at the commuting traffic and remember how lucky I am that I get to stay at home and make up stories for a living.

  1. What does it take to become a professional editor and, if anyone reading this is considering it as an occupation, how would they go about it?

I’ve been a reader and writer since childhood (my first ‘book’ was called The Little Blue Elephant and was kept in pride of place in Deeping St James County Primary School library for years!) and I’d say enjoying both of these is essential. In fact, all the Ps come to mind: being persistent, pedantic and patient. Editing is painstaking work and, like writing itself, the only way to build up the skill is to practise, practise, practise.

I never set out to become a professional editor, it was whilst doing my PhD, I realised I had something of a flair for it. It really goes hand in hand with mentoring, so I started by tutoring students, teaching online, and gradually building a (small) business from there.

I’ve met people who have been journalists, teachers, completed English degrees, worked as interns at publishing houses…so there are many roads to becoming an editor.

  1. And finally, what one piece of advice would you offer to newbie writers and editors?

Very few people get rich or famous from writing or editing, so you really need to enjoy the process for its own sake. For writers, I’d add, don’t compare yourself to others – your unique voice is your greatest asset – and for editors, edit the book the author wants, not what you think s/he should have. For some authors I’m a hard taskmaster, for others, a cheerleader, others still, I play devil’s advocate…

…And how could this answer be edited succinctly? Read, read, read, and write, write, write!

Thanks for being a guest on my blog today Anne, and for your brilliant, informative replies to my questions. 

Anne Hamilton

If you want to contact Anne or find out a little bit more about her, you can find her here:
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Eva Jordan in conversation with… Liza Perrat – The Story behind The Swooping Magpie

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On my blog today, I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Liza Perrat who has written a guest post about her current novel, The Swooping Magpie.

Hi Liza, it’s an honour to have you here today. I haven’t read it yet but The Swooping Magpie sounds like an amazing but heartbreaking read. Can you tell us a little bit more about it, the story behind it?

The Story Behind The Swooping Magpie

We’ve all heard the terrible stories of the Magdalene Laundries, 18th to late 20th century-institutions housing “fallen women”, term implicating sexual promiscuity or prostitution work. In practice, most of these “laundries” were operated as gruelling work-houses. However, many people are unaware that similar institutions operated in Australia and, inspired by a true-life scandal, this the story behind The Swooping Magpie.

It is difficult for any Australian born after the feminist movement to understand what it was like to be sixteen, pregnant and unmarried in 1970. Marriage was still the vital cornerstone of Australian society and it was impossible to imagine having a child outside of this union blessed by church and state.

So, rather than rejoicing at the new life growing inside her, these girls were hidden away in shame –– at their parents’ house or sent to homes for unmarried mothers.

While The Swooping Magpie demonstrates a society that refused to support mothers battling to raise an infant alone, it also exposes the brutal adoption industry practices that targeted healthy newborn babies for childless couples.

Until the mid-70s it was common practice to adopt out the babies of unwed mothers. In the 1960s, Sydney’s Crown Street Women’s Hospital was one of the largest sources of Australia’s adopted babies. Patient documents from there, and other maternity hospitals show that from the moment most unmarried girls arrived, their records were marked “for adoption”.

They were given three days after the birth to sign the adoption consent, and then thirty days to change their minds. These laws were meant to give legal certainty to adoptive parents while protecting relinquishing mothers’ rights. But in practice, those rights were either denied or the women had no idea they existed.

During this time, approximately 250,000 girls had their newborns taken, many claiming they were pressured into signing consent whilst under the effects of postpartum sedation. Forced to pay this terrible price for pregnancy outside marriage, thousands of women harboured their grief, in silence, for decades.

The Swooping Magpie Book Description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Excerpt From Chapter 1

I wrinkle my nostrils against the caustic smell of cat piss as we pick our way across the filthy footpath to the black gate.

My mother steps aside as the high gate creaks open, nods at me to go through. I scowl, don’t move.

‘You heard what your father said, Lindsay.’

With a sigh, I push past her.

The storm flushed away, the humidity has seeped back into the air at this tail-end of another scalding Australian summer. There’s no warmth in me though, only ice-blocks freezing my insides so that I become so cold I can’t stop shivering.

It’s not just the fear that sets me quaking, but the helplessness too. Like when I was a kid about to launch myself down the slippery dip. I’d hesitate, knowing that once I slid off there was no turning back, even if the metal burned my bum raw, or that once I reached the bottom I’d tumble forwards and scrape my knees.

My mother nudges me ahead of her. I don’t realise it yet, and I won’t speak of the whole sorry tale for years to come, since every time I thought about it, the memories would leave me frustrated, sad and angry, but I would recall walking through those black iron gates as crossing the threshold into the darkest hell.

Liza Bio

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the historical The Bone Angel series. The first, Spirit of Lost Angels, is set in 18th century revolutionary France. The second, Wolfsangel, is set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and the French Resistance, and the third novel Blood Rose Angel –– is set during the 14th century Black Plague years.

The first book in Liza’s new series, The Silent Kookaburra, published in November 2016, is a psychological suspense set in 1970s Australia.

Liza is a co-founder and member of the writers’ collective Triskele Books and also reviews books for Bookmuse. liza perrat

Connect with Liza Perrat:
Website
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Triskele Books

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Sign up for her new book releases and receive a FREE copy of Ill-Fated Rose, the short story that inspired The Bone Angel French historical series.

The Swooping Magpie is available in both ebook and paperback at all the usual retailers.

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Eva Jordan reviews… Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister‏

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Cleverly written, Anything You Do Say is the first Gillian McAllister book I’ve read, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Described as a Sliding Doors psychological thriller, the story starts with Joanna, the main protagonist, committing a criminal offense, albeit accidentally, at which point the story splits into two; one called Reveal, the other, Conceal.

Set during the present day, both stories, told in the first person, centre on Joanna Oliva, a young woman living in London with her husband, Reuben. The story begins with Joanna on a night out with best friend Laura. They are in a bar and leave when a man, who has been harassing Joanna, unsettles them. Once outside, and away from the bar, Joanna and Laura call it a night, say their respective goodbyes and head home in different directions. Joanna hears someone walking behind her. Too afraid to look she is convinced she is being followed. She spots a flash of red at the top of a set of stairs on a towpath, which confirms her suspicions. Her pursuer is wearing the same red trainers worn by the man who earlier, in the bar, had been harassing her. In her panic, Joanna spins round and pushes “his body, firmly, squarely, the hardest I’ve ever pushed anything in my life” down the concrete stairs, and this is where the story splits.

We then follow Joanna’s journey where in one story she reveals what has happened, and in the other, she conceals what she has done. As expected, both choices have huge ramifications, which impact on both her life and that of friends and loved ones. Joanna is one of life’s procrastinators, who, unlike her husband Reuben, prefers to avoid her problems—“He’s (Reuben) never done denial. Not like I have… He confronts issues head on… Calmly, not hysterically, not the way I eventually tackle things I’ve been avoiding for years.” However, due to her actions, Joanne is forced to face up to herself and what she has done—in both stories.

Gripping, pacy, and well written, Anything You Do Say glides easily between the two parallel timeframes with no awkward repetition. I was totally invested in the characters and particularly enjoyed the exploration of the ‘what ifs ’ in each story, as well as the diverse responses and differing attitudes to Joanna’s behaviour by those closest to her. Well worth a read, and one I really recommend.  

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Betsy Reavley

Eva Jordan in conversation with Betsy Reavley

On my blog I’ve been lucky enough to host some great interviews with some amazing local authors, and just recently that extended to a wonderful and informative Q&A session with prolific book blogger, Linda Hill, which you can read here. However, this month I’m really honoured to bring you an interview with someone who is both a successful author and one half of a successful husband and wife team behind the publishers Bloodhound Books and Bombshell Books, Betsy Freeman Reavley. 

  1. Hi Betsy, can you tell everyone a bit about yourself? 

I began my career as a writer and started my first novel when I was twenty-two years old. After having my first daughter and then getting married, I finally got round to finishing it and I was thrilled when an indie publisher offered me a contract and went on to publish the book.

The birth of eBooks and Amazon changed how people could publish and gave me, and my husband, an opportunity to start our own business, which we did in 2014. Bloodhound Books was born and we’ve never looked back. 

  1. What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a publisher? 

The publishing world has changed since the birth of eBooks. Many authors still think of publishing in traditional terms and some authors struggle with the idea that our focus is on eBook sales, despite the fact we also produce paperbacks.

  1. As we all know, life can be difficult at times. Do you have a quote (either your own or someone else’s) or a motto that you try and live by, not just during the tough times but the good ones too? 

I listen to music to encourage me to focus my mind. Anything from BB King to Eminem will help me concentrate on what I want to achieve and keep going. The lyrics are all important to me and I take strength from them. I also love poetry, which inspires me to never give up.

  1. Truthfully, which do you prefer, writing or publishing?

They are both fulfilling but require very different skill sets. I couldn’t say. The pressure from publishing can be stressful but keeps life interesting. Writing is a lonely pursuit but one that I love.

  1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

I used to read every review, taking each to heart, whether those words were good or bad. I am grateful to anyone who takes the time to leave a review, be it good or bad, but I’ve grown a thicker skin and now worry much less. What I do care about are sales figures. I am not a literary writer who does it for the art of writing. I am a career woman and I want to make a good living.

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer or a publisher?

I don’t think you can advise someone how to become a writer. It’s either in you to do it or it isn’t. Writer’s write, it’s that simple. As for publishing, I never thought I’d end up being a publisher but I have discovered that I enjoy business and the opportunity to give talented writers a platform. The one thing I would always encourage people to remember is that publishing is based on opinions. Do I like this book? Can I sell it? What one publisher may think another may disagree with. Neither is wrong. It’s all just opinion. As long as you remember that, then you’ll keep your head screwed on properly.

 

 

Eva Jordan reviews… Over My Shoulder by Patricia Dixon

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This is the first book I’ve read by this particular author and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Over My Shoulder is no holds barred look at the physical, mental and emotional effects of a controlling, abusive relationship. A dark psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat racing through the final pages.

Set in Manchester, written in the first person, the story is narrated retrospectively through the voice of Freya, the main protagonist. Freya takes us back to where it all began, as a young woman in her twenties during the 1990s. I didn’t particularly warm to Freya, to begin with. It wasn’t that I disliked her as such, but first impressions painted a picture of someone shallow, materialistic, more concerned about her looks and labels, easily impressed by those who could afford the finer things in life.

However, I quickly realised my initial judgment was somewhat harsh. I also remembered what it was like to be a young woman at the start of my own adult life, all the angst, uncertainty and possibilities that lay ahead, the need to forge my own identity and yet at the same time the need to assimilate, to somehow fit in.

So in that sense, the author got Freya’s character bang on because she also demonstrated just how vulnerable young people are, how prone to manipulation they can be and therefore, despite coming from a loving and caring family, what a prime target for dangerous, and controlling individuals like Kane, they can be. Kane is the antagonist in this tale, a real anti-hero, the very epitome of evil, although, as with all good storytelling, the reader is not privy to the depths of Kane’s depravity until much further into the story.

Over My Shoulder is a dark tale of domestic abuse and the far-reaching, destructive effects such a relationship can have on the victim and their loved ones. Well written with a sympathetic understanding of a difficult subject matter, it is a rollercoaster of a read that also delves into the murky underworld of criminals and sexual predators. Gripping, hard-hitting, it is not a read for the faint hearted but it is one that will find you taking a sharp intake of breath towards the conclusion and will also, perhaps, at times, like me, find you looking over your shoulder.

You can purchase Over My Shoulder on Amazon

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Patricia Dixon on Social Media:
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Eva Jordan reviews… Before The Fall by Juliet West

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A great war.
A powerful love.
An impossible choice.

A tale of forbidden love, Before The Fall is beautiful, poignant and heartbreakingly sad. Set in London’s East End during the First World War, this is a fictional tale based on true events.

Hannah Loxwood is the struggling young mother of two children, namely 4-year-old Alice and 2-year-old Teddy. Her husband, George, one of many young men who has voluntarily enlisted to fight in the Great War, is across the channel, fighting. To help make ends meet, Hannah and her children move into the home of her older sister, Jen, and brother in law, Alec, and to help pay her way Hannah takes a job offer in a local café. There, she meets Mr Blake, Daniel, a welder. “This man, he’s not like your average docker. He’s well built all right, strong like you have to be, but there’s something unusual about him. A word comes to my mind – elegant – and I tell myself not to be so daft. It isn’t a word I’ve thought of before, let alone said.” Hannah quickly realises she is drawn to the quietly intriguing Daniel in a way she neither expected nor anticipated. The feeling, as it turns out, is mutual. “All the single girls in London and he has to fall for a soldiers wife … beautiful, odd, vulnerable.” Nonetheless, Hannah is a married woman; social norms must be observed at all times. Hence Hannah and Daniel must do their level best to suppress any thoughts or feelings that go beyond friendship. However, as the war rages on, Hannah finds herself wondering if her husband will ever return home again – and if indeed she actually wants him to.

Well researched, full of fascinating historical details, including police statements, newspaper reports and witness statements, Before The Fall is a brilliantly crafted, superbly written novel. The characters are well rounded and believable, especially Hannah, written in the first person – whom I became highly invested in – and Daniel, written in the third person. The author’s prose is wonderfully captivating and highly evocative – I could see the smog, smell the river, feel the hunger, and sense the desperation. However, although set amongst the fear and uncertainty of war-torn London, this is not a war story but rather a mesmerising, realistic, and haunting tale of love. It is also a story about the plight of women, their sad indictment and the difficulties they faced if caught challenging a ruthless wartime society. A sensitive, powerful, must-read.