Writing Dark Fiction, Research, Travel And Books I Love. Interview With J.F.Penn On Scenes And Sequels

This interview transcript is from the Scenes and Sequels Podcast with Dave Kearney, recorded in May 2014. We talk about my research process, obsession with travel and what inspires my stories, as well as discussing my darker side! I also read an excerpt from the Prologue of Desecration which you can listen to below.

Dave: Welcome to the Scenes and Sequels podcast for readers and writers of genre fiction. I’m your host, Dave Kearney, and on today’s show, I chat with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, J.F. Penn about her new book, “Desecration,” the first in her new London Mystery series.

Dave: Hi, all, it’s Episode Seven of the Scenes podcast, and that was the opening passages from “Desecration,” read by the author, and my guest on today’s show, J.F. Penn. Now, it’s just brilliant to be able to chat with Joanna today, because she shares some just amazing insights into her writing process, and in particular, we talk a bit about theme and just the level of research that Joanna does when she’s writing her stories. And I really think it shows in a story like “Desecration,” because as a reader, it really sort of forces you to ask the question of where fact ends and fiction begins, and that’s really cool, because it gives that story a level of believability, which I think is really important.

And, with that in mind, we also talk a little bit about Joanna’s views on challenging readers. And Joanna believes that writers have the responsibility to tackle difficult themes and to examine difficult issues from a character’s perspective, and by doing so, it challenges readers to be thinking about the story long after they’ve finished reading it. And I think that’s really cool as well. Perhaps it doesn’t hold true for every story; it’s definitely something to think about, because, certainly from my perspective, after reading “Desecration,” it definitely had me thinking for some time afterwards, certainly about some of the themes underpinning the story, and that definitely comes through in our conversation today.

Just quickly, one other thing that we chat about today is some of the challenges for writers in switching between genres, and anyone who’s familiar with Joanna’s work would know that she also writes the ARKANE thriller series, and so we chat a little bit about the different approach that she’s taken to writing her ARKANE thrillers, and the London Mystery stories.

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The Darker Side Of The Dreaming Spires With Dan Holloway

I recently read No Exit by Dan Holloway, a dark novella. There are a lot of books that feature the dreaming spires of Oxford, but this one offers a no exitvery dark and different viewpoint.

Alice is drawn into Petrichor, a group of Parkour enthusiasts who portray decay as beauty, and death as just another choice. When her friend Cassie is bullied into suicide, Alice makes a choice that will change her life. The writing is poetic in places, shocking in others, and the length is just right for a short, twisted tale. Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, and my own Desecration, will enjoy.

Here’s an interview with Dan Holloway, based on my questions from the book.

So many people only see the tourist side of Oxford, tell us about some of the darker sides that you perceive, places that inspire darkness in your writing?

There are so many sides to Oxford. I started out as a student, and that’s the world I wrote about in The Company of Fellows. But even then I was more interested in the underbelly of ego and hidden perversions and desires that I sensed the tips of in my student days.

Since then I’ve come to know Oxford best through its rich cultural life, in particular the spoken word scene, which has very little to do with tourist Oxford. Oxford is home to Hammer and Tongue, one of the UK’s oldest poetry slams that’s been going for over a decade, and the best bookshop I’ve ever been in, The Albion Beatnik. These are worlds of political activism, from LGBT rights and Reclaim the Night through incredible projects with the homeless community like the Old Fire Station’s Crisis Skylight oxford doorCafé to guerrilla campaigns against climate change. It’s a world where the people you meet are as likely to live on a boat as in a cloister.

It’s not necessarily a dark world – though as recent news stories have shown, Oxford has that. But it is a world the tourists don’t see – and most of all it’s a world of passion and creativity that’s raw, flawed, and brilliant – everything tourist Oxford isn’t.

I love Petrichor and the theme of the beauty of decay – what drew you to that?

Oh that’s such a hard question and I need to tread so carefully because the answers come from the world around me as I grew up, and I don’t actually want to imply that Stroud is a rotting carcass of a town…

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Talking About Death And Morbid Anatomy With Joanna Ebenstein

When I tell people that I’m a taphophile, someone who likes graveyards, I often get funny looks. When I write books like Desecration, that open with a murder in a museum of medical specimens, and explore themes of corpse art, body modification and morbid anatomy anthologyteratology, people question my interest with such morbid things.

But if you understand these fascinations, if you are my kind of weird, then you will also love Morbid Anatomy, a fantastic blog that covers the themes I am passionate about and much more.

In the video below (or here on YouTube), I talk to Joanna Ebenstein, multidisciplinary artist, author and designer, as well as the founder of Morbid Anatomy blog and library and now the creative director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in New York which currently has a Kickstarter to get it started. You can read discussion notes below the video.

We discuss:

  • Joanna’s background in photography and graphic design, and how she got started with an exhibition on medical museums and anatomical art that led into a blog and then a global community of people interested in these darker topics
  • The themes of Morbid Anatomy include 19th century hysteria, the uncanny, art and anatomy, death and culture, collectors and collecting, sexology, freaks and monsters, baroque art, gothic literature, history of medicine, taxidermy and there are now artefacts as well as books.

Things that fall through the cracks and flicker on edges, delightful in ways to certain kinds of minds.

  • We discuss why some people find topics like death confronting, and about the lack of dignified discussion around death. There is an avoidance of great emotion in our society, but some of us are drawn to investigate these things that seem ‘wrong’ or taboo in some way.
  • On how two smiley, upbeat women can be into such dark things …
  • old operating theatreSome of the objects that Joanna is interested in, including Anatomical Venus figures (which I used in Desecration as a clue to the murder), as well as a small Korean funeral doll that would assist in the underworld.
  • The Morbid Anatomy Museum will be opening in New York this year, it is an extension of the Library that Joanna has been running privately and will contain lots of artifacts, books and exhibitions as well as community spaces. You can read about the plans and join the funding on Kickstarter here. I’m really excited about it!

You can find Joanna at the Morbid Anatomy blog here or @morbidanatomy on Twitter, as well as her gorgeous photos on Flickr.

Right image: Flickr Creative Commons Peter Pelisek

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Talking Psychological Thrillers And Crime With Rachel Abbott

Rachel Abbott is the Amazon UK #1 bestselling author of psychological crime thrillers, Only the Innocent, The Back Road, and her new release, Sleep Tight.

RachelAbbottBooksIn this interview, we discuss:

  • How Rachel’s own experience with stalking inspired the book
  • The themes that Rachel returns to in her books
  • On writing twists to keep the reader guessing
  • Rachel’s research process for the books, including interviews with the police
  • Island life as Rachel lives on Alderney in the Channel Islands and how it features in the book
  • On reading and writing different things

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube, and the full transcription is below the video.

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Talking Cults, Religion And Maine With Mystery Writer Jen Blood

My obsessions with religion, psychology and the supernatural are clear in the books I write, and I’m always thrilled to Jen Bloodmeet other authors who share the same interests.

Today I interview Jen Blood, the best-selling and award-winning author of the Erin Solomon mysteries. We talk about the Erin Solomon books, cult suicides, our obsession with religion and the supernatural as well was walking the line between belief and respect for people’s faith, plus how Jen does research and her love for Maine.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube, and the full transcription is below the video.

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A Life Of Research: An Interview About My Books

I love to talk about the inspiration for my books, so here’s a couple of excerpts from an interview on Russell Phillips blog.

Pentecost newYou can read the full interview here including who would play Morgan and Jake in the ARKANE movies, plus will there be more coming soon.

Morgan likes storms and enjoys research, as do you. How much of you is in Morgan?

Morgan is my alter-ego and when I want to blow stuff up or go travelling, she gets to do it. Her background is nothing like mine as she is half Israeli and has a Jewish ancestry and upbringing in the Israeli military. I wanted to bring Israel into the mix as Jerusalem is my favorite city in the world and one of my goals is to live there for a time one day, so that was a way to do it! I do have a Masters degree in Theology and another degree in Psychology, so those fascinations also run through Morgan, but I am certainly not a fighter, although I am extremely independent, and I have travelled to most of the places in the books.

How important do you think realism is in thrillers?

JFP: Personally, I think you should believe it could happen within the real world, so I do a lot of research to make the books as ‘real’ as possible and then take that further into fiction. I always have an Author’s Note at the end which explains what is real, for example, ‘One Day In Budapest’ is about a right-wing political party whose anti-Semitism spills into violence with echoes of WWII. It was sparked by being in Budapest in November 2012 as a real political party marched in black shirts around a Roma village, and called for a national registry of Jews. I’ve outlined more of the realities of that book in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5onR9-L5IbU

Read the full interview here

On Writing Horror And Thrillers With Award Winning And Bestselling Author Allan Leverone

Allan Leverone writes thriller and horror dark fiction.

Allan LeveroneHe is the bestselling and award-winning author of 12 books and many short stories, including the Paskagankee series and his latest book Mr Midnight. Allan is also one of The Twelve, thriller and suspense authors collaborating on some exciting new books.

In the video interview below, Allan and I talk about his writing life and his books. You can read show notes under the video.

In the interview we discuss:

  • Allan’s background as an avid reader and fascination by the ability of authors to immerse the reader in their worlds. He wanted to do the same thing, so intended to be a writer – but it took him many years to actually get into writing novels because ‘real life’ happened first. Once he got started though …
  • Some of Allan’s favorite authors include Stephen King, who we both love, and who transformed the genre of dark fiction. He also mentions Dean Koontz, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, who are all inspirations for an author who is still growing an audience.
  • On the distinction and blurred lines between thriller and horror, as I also walk the line in ‘Desecration.’ However the book works out, it all comes down to the reader relating to the characters. Allan wants you to stay up all night reading his books, because you’re hooked into the character and their journey.
  • How different cultures share commonalities in myth and legend and how it’s natural to weave these supernatural elements into our stories, because all humans resonate with aspects of it.
  • How Allan’s ‘day job’ as an air traffic controller works with his writing life, and how much of his own character is in his books.
  • On being ‘nice people’ and writing violence and horror
  • The Paskagankee series is based around a fictional town in Maine, isolated and a perfect location for supernatural things to happen. The latest book is Wellspring, based around the myth of the fountain of youth.
  • Mr Midnight is based on the bond between twins, even when they were raised separately and whether evil can ever truly rule a person.

allan leverone booksYou can find Allan at AllanLeverone.com and his books on Amazon and all online bookstores.

His latest book is Mr Midnight. Find Allan on twitter @allanleverone

 

Legal Thrillers And Finding Jack Reacher. Interview With Diane Capri

Diane Capri is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of the ‘Hunting Jack Reacher’ series, as well Diane Caprias legal thrillers, featuring victims’ rights advocate Jess Kimball and judge Willa Carson. Diane is also one of The Twelve, award-winning and bestselling authors collaborating on some exciting fiction projects.

Joanna: Welcome Diane, please start off by telling us a bit more about you and your writing background.

“I think that life is a mystery”

Diane: Well, I write legal thrillers, primarily, with a heavy element of mystery, because I think life is a mystery, and that’s one of the reasons that I read and one of the reasons I write, and why I’m still here, you know, to find out what happens. So, we’re heavy on the mystery and thriller and suspense in my series.

Most recently I’ve been writing some stuff on the hunt for Jack Reacher. It’s a frightening project, because Jack Reacher has tons and tons of fans, and some of them are happy with me, and some are not. But it’s a lot of fun: I really enjoy it.

And then I write a series set in Florida, involving Judge Willa Carson, and that’s really lots of fun. If you like, say, Travis McGee and those kinds of stories where you’ve got an unusual, idyllic lifestyle and also a little mystery thrown in, you’ll like that.

And then I have started a new series: my protagonist is Jess Kimball and her mission in life is to hunt down the guy who stole her child.

So you were a lawyer. How much of that is woven into all of your books?

Diane: Oh – well, a lot. All of my books have lawyers in them, they all come from me, because I draw on my fatal distractionpersonal experiences and my thoughts in the characters, and it’s what I know. And readers find it really fascinating. What I try to do is highlight things about the law that they don’t necessarily know: I try to find some gaps, try to make some mystery out of it where a lot of it’s just kind of dull. So it’s fun to write something that’s not quite so dull!

You’re obviously very focused on justice, but what are some of the other themes that come up in your writing over and over again?

Diane: Well, I think – and it’s kind of related to justice in the broader sense, not the legal sense – but I write a lot about trust and betrayal. And that really is what justice is, in society. You know, when we trust someone and they betray us, and you feel unjustly treated, and you want justice.

And then the other thing is, I just like to kind of write things. And it’s really fun for me to do research for these books, and I like to share what I’ve learnt. It’s one of the reasons why I was attracted to the Lee Child Reacher books initially: they’re just full of little arcane facts that you would never know, like the perfect shape of a button cuff, for example. And I think that’s fun, and that’s the stuff that attracts me. If it’s unusual or clever or different and I didn’t know about it, it’s like “Wow, hey, did you know that?” and that’s how I usually end up with it.

Joanna: I’m the same: I love finding out little things. And if I don’t learn something from someone else’s book, I get very annoyed! Coming back to the Jack Reacher series, obviously Jack Reacher books are kind of archetypal masculine hardness, and you obviously write kick-ass female protagonists.

How do you balance the gender issues between the Reacher series and your own writing?

Diane: Well, you know, there’s no question that the Hunting Reacher series of books are, like you say, harder than my Justice series, and I guess the Jess Kimball books are kind of in the middle of that. And it is a different perspective for me: you’re absolutely right.

get back jackI’m enjoying the Hunt for Reacher series: I hope someday there’ll be a showdown between my character, Kim Otto, and Jack Reacher. I discussed this with Lee Child, and I’m not really sure that Reacher’s going to win this one. I mean, I think, she’s tough, and she’s clever, you know.

The way Reacher is, it’s part cerebral and it’s part that he’s just so huge. So he can just roll in there and wipe the floor with the bad guys, and he’s done, you know. My girl, she obviously can’t do that! So she has to be more clever, and it would be interesting to think one day they could eventually square up what happened there. Now, fans tell me all the time there would be no contest between them, but just let’s wait and see.

Joanna: Yeah! I’m keen to see that, too, actually.

Tell us a bit more about Get Back Jack, and what people can expect in that book.

Diane: Get Back Jack is my newest book in the Hunt for Reacher series. It’s the second novel. There was a novel called Don’t Know Jack, and then two shorter books, and there’s now the second novel. So, now we have our FBI agents, Otto and Gaspar, still hunting for Reacher, and by the way, this is the Hunt for Reacher series. Some people think Reacher’s going to be the main character, and he isn’t. They’re looking for him. So we’re kind of going where he’s already been.

We always have a launch book, and the Lee Child book that we’re launching from this time is his book called ‘Bad Luck and Trouble‘. And that was a story where Reacher got involved with his old army buddies, and they got into a whole bunch of trouble, and Reacher made some mistakes. I know we think Reacher never makes any mistakes, but I’m telling you he does. And so Kim and Gaspar go behind that, and they also get into a whole lot of trouble, because Jack didn’t take care of business first time round.

Joanna: Obviously, I’m a Reacher fan, and I really like this idea. Just coming back to your research process: when you’re researching these books, is it primarily delving into the source book, as such.

Do you do any other research on scene, or do you go visit places?

Diane: Sure. You know, I really never write about somewhere that I’ve never been physically, because I bring my own inner perspective to it. Everybody, I’m sure, has had this experience, it’s different to go to a concert and watching it on TV. Or even going to one of those movie theaters where they show the concert on the screen: that’s still different in feel from being in a place. So I never write about a place I haven’t been.

jack in a boxSo far, in the Reacher books, I have been all the places that we are covering. I think it may end up one of these days that that’s not the case, and then I’m in a lot of trouble. I mean, we have to sacrifice for our art, right?

Joanna: Yes, it’s important to do a lot of sacrificial travel!

Diane: But as far as research goes, it’s very challenging to stay true to the Reacher world, and yet add something new to the mix. So that’s where the intersection is, for me, and that’s where I have to spend the most time. So, I need to be true to what happened before, but I am writing a new story, so it has to flow from that, but it has to add a new element as well.

So, you know, Kim sees the world differently than Reacher does. I mean, they’re both cops in a way. He’s sort of gone over to the dark side, and she’s tried not to, so they see the world differently, and that is a challenge. It’s fun, I like it.

Joanna: Talking about writing and a sense of place, you write a lot about Florida.

What does Florida mean to you, personally?

Diane: To me, Florida’s a state of mind, really. I mean, I love it here, and right now, I especially love it, because it is freezing cold everywhere north of me! Right now, it’s really perfect here. I like to live where it’s perpetually summer. So that’s what Florida is to me: it’s all the summers in my mind, and I try to be there as much as I can.

Joanna: And you bring that kind of feeling into the books?

Diane: I really try to. You know, a lot of people, people who live here, even, will say, “Wow, I didn’t think about that”, or “That sounds like fun”. You know, if you live in a place, you sort of don’t see it anymore. It just becomes home; you’re not really noticing the things that strangers will notice.

Joanna: I haven’t been to Florida. I’ve been to other places in the States, but not Florida. Maybe one day!

Diane: Well, you should come here, and I can buy you some café con lecce, which is fabulous, and you will enjoy it, it’s very fun. I mean, it gets a bit chilly where you are, sometimes.

Joanna: It is. I’m freezing in London right now. Just a question, and I ask this of all the people I talk to on this thriller series: we write these exciting characters who have fights, and explode things, and shoot. How exciting are you in comparison?

Tell us some thrilling things about you, Diane!

raw justiceDiane: Oh, my gosh: I am really very boring. All of the exciting things that I’ve done in my life just sort of happened, you know?

Like a lot of writers, I’m very much an observer. I’m a little bit adventurous, but I don’t love danger. I’m not afraid of things, people say that when you write thrillers or noir, you’re really exploring what you’re frightened of. So it’s kind of a challenge for me, because I’m not afraid of a lot of things, like I’m not afraid of heights, and I go up in hot air balloons, and helicopters and things like that. But my life in general, I try to keep it quiet.

Joanna: Keep the drama on the page! That’s great. And then what about your writing life?

Do you have a special writing space?

Diane: Oh, I do, and we’re there right now. I guess it’s like a den. For me, it’s an office in my home, and I have a desk and a computer, and that’s about it. I have a couple of photographs on the wall that were taken – not by me – in Venice during the Carnival. And what I like about them is that they’re very inspiring for a writer, because they give you the impression that there are a lot of people out there, and they all have shadows, you know: there’s all kinds of things you can’t see, stuff going on that you don’t know, and that’s where I like to put my books. When I read, I like that, I like there to be something behind the words that I didn’t catch. So, you look up and you see these pictures and you think, “OK, there’s something that you can’t see: what is that thing?” and that’s what I like.

Joanna: I’m a very visual person as well: I love images. Do you get a lot of ideas from physical images or seeing things, or do you read stuff?

How do you get those ideas?

Diane: You know, I think that’s magic, don’t you? I mean, I don’t really know the answer to that. What I have a tendency to do is to take in a lot of stuff in a variety of ways. I think writers are like sponges. You know, think of a sponge, and then maybe you spill some milk, and then maybe spill some red wine, and you’re wiping it up with the sponge, and then when you squeeze the sponge out, it’s going to be totally different, right?

Joanna: And much nicer in a book than in that metaphor!

Diane: Right! So, I travel a lot, I read a lot, I watch a lot of films. I meet people and talk to people about their lives. I think people are pretty fascinating – you know, there’s that catchphrase on one of the TV shows, I think it’s called Biography, where they say, “Every life tells a story”. Well, I think everyone tells a million stories, and if you talk to people about different experiences they’ve had, even though they’ll say, “Oh, I’m not interesting”, you know, if you chat for five minutes, you find out a whole lot of things.

Joanna: Yes. And you mentioned reading different books there.

Who are your favorite thriller authors to read?

Diane: I have a list that’s endless.

Joanna: You can just pick a couple!

Diane: I read everybody. And do that, obviously because I like it, but also because I want to see what’s out there in the world. I don’t want to do something that everybody else is doing: I want my stuff to be different. So you have to stay aware of what’s going on in your genre. And I also read writing outside the genre.

But out of writing by others, my favorites are Lee Child, and Michael Connolly is a favorite. I like James Rollins. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with John Grisham, sometimes I like him, except when he’s beating me on the bestseller list, then I don’t! I enjoy some of James Patterson’s work, some of them are not for me, some are in other genres. I love Jeffrey Deaver. They all do really, really well, and they all write books that are really exciting.

jack and killI like Robert Crais, and I’m so excited that he’s been made the Grand Master this year. I love Sue Grafton. That’s some of my favorites. It’s a long list.

Joanna: Yes, a long list! I’m interested, then, because a couple of the names on your list could be considered more crime authors. I feel that I write thriller/crime/horror.

Do you feel that there’s any real distinction between genres, or are we blurring the lines now?

Diane: Well, I think we are blurring the lines. I think the lines have been blurred for a while. You know, for a long time I resisted the idea that I would write thrillers, because to me that was wrong, and I wasn’t sort of in that box. I don’t like that. Or supernatural, or whatever they call it – paranormal. It’s not that I don’t like that stuff, but I don’t write any of that. So, to me, that’s where the thrillers go. And crime fiction was something else. And when it started out, it was called Mystery, regardless of what it was, and then they broadened it to crime fiction.

So I think it’s really all blended together. I think it’s very hard to kind of draw those distinctions now. So I don’t know – that’s a very interesting question.

Joanna: It is interesting. Following on from that, and with your legal background, one of the biggest kind of attacks that we get, I think, as thriller writers, and  particularly as women, is,

“You’re writing too much violence: why don’t you write something more edifying for humanity?” What do you say to that?

Diane: Well, you know, we do hear that. I think the kind of work that I do, and I enjoy reading, is sort of a modern morality play.

And we really are sort of demonstrating – hopefully in an entertaining and exciting way, because if we’re not entertaining and exciting you might as well watch the news on TV – how to behave and how not to behave.

So, one way you don’t behave in life is you don’t betray people who trust you. You don’t take advantage of people who are weaker than you are. You don’t hurt others intentionally. And in most of our books, unless they have, I guess, a Jack Reacher, in most of our books, what we do is to highlight that, and to say, you know, “OK, if you do those things, you’re the bad guys, and if you’re trying to bring those people to justice” – because my books are always about justice – “then you’re on the good side”.

And I think that kind of moral instruction, if done well, in an entertaining environment, is really kind of what we’re doing here. I think in an earlier age, this same role was played by Dickens, for example. That’s what he wrote: all the misery out there, you know, don’t be Scrooge, try to be Tim Cratchit instead. In general, I think that’s what we write.

Joanna: I agree, and I think as long as we come down on the side of the angels, and our books have that message, and good always wins, which, let’s face it, with most thriller writers, good always wins, then that’s cool.

Diane: Well, unless it’s in the middle of a series and you’ve got to come back to the next book!

secret justiceJoanna: So, on that, you’ve got a book that’s just come out, Get Back Jack, but what’s next?

What are you working on next?

Diane: Oh, my gosh! See, this is always a secret, because I’ve promised my readers that I will tell them first. So, what I can say right now is that I’ve got a novella and two novels in the pipeline that I’m working on. I’m a slow writer. I know lots of people are faster than me, but I’m just not. I try to be faster, but really I’m just not. So it takes me a while.

Coming soon, I hope, in early 2014, is a German translation. Lots of German readers enjoy their crime fiction, so that’ll be good fun.

Joanna: Thanks ever so much for your time, Diane, that was great.

Diane: Thank you, Joanna, I really enjoyed it.

You can find Diane and her books at DianeCapri.com and on twitter @dianecapri

Her latest book is ‘Get Back Jack,’ available now.

26 Thrillers For A Winter’s Night

I live in London, and winter has definitely arrived. The trees are almost bare and I’ve dug out my woolly jumpers and mittens. The pubs are serving mulled wine, and Brits are certainly drinking it!

It’s time to curl up by the fire with a good book, so here are some of my recommendations for winter themed thrillers. Please do leave your recommendations in the comments!

the shiningThe Shining – Stephen King

As the harsh winter weather sets in at the Overlook Hotel, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old. Click here to sample or buy.

Wolves of ParisThe Wolves of Paris – Michael Wallace

It’s the winter of 1450 and Paris is in a panic. A pack of ravenous wolves is loose in the city, feasting on human flesh … These are no ordinary wolves. And if they are not defeated, the city’s filthy alleys will be awash in blood. Click here to sample or buy.

white fireWhite Fire – Preston & Child

Colorado, 1876: At a remote mining camp high in the Rocky Mountains, eleven gold miners are killed, their bodies horribly mutilated, flesh devoured.

136 years later … As the winter snows fall, Corrie’s life depends on unravelling a dark secret… the key to which may just lie in a lost Sherlock Holmes story, a tale allegedly so horrifying that its author never dared publish it. Click here to sample or buy.

kill zoneKILL ZONE: A Lucy Guardino FBI Thriller – CJ Lyons

Four days before Christmas, visions of sugar plums and sleeping through the Nutcracker with her husband at her side are dashed when FBI Special Agent Lucy Guardino becomes trapped behind enemy lines as a vicious drug cartel declares war on Pittsburgh.  Click here to sample or buy.

james rollins subterraneanSubterranean – James Rollins

Beneath the ice at the bottom of the Earth is a magnificent subterranean labyrinth, a place of breathtaking wonders – and terrors beyond imagining. A team of specialists led by archaeologist Ashley Carter has been hand-picked to explore this secret place and to uncover the riches it holds.

But they are not the first to venture here – and those they follow did not return. There are mysteries here older than time, and revelations that could change the world. But there are also things that should not be disturbed – and a devastating truth that could doom Ashley and the expedition: they are not alone. Click here to sample or buy.

One Day In BudapestOne Day In Budapest – J.F.Penn

A relic, stolen from the heart of an ancient city. An echo of nationalist violence not seen since the dark days of the Second World War.
As the snow falls on the city and the Danube begins to freeze, Morgan Sierra must race against time to find the Holy Right and expose the conspiracy, before blood is spilled again on the streets of Budapest.

miss smilllaMiss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – Peter Hoeg

A little boy falls off a roof in Copenhagen and is killed. Smilla, his neighbour, suspects it is not an accident: she has seen his footsteps in the snow, and, having been brought up by her mother, a Greenlander, she has a feeling for snow.

Click here to sample or buy.

icefallIcefall – David Wood

When the bones of the Magi are stolen from their resting place in a German cathedral, the whispered words of a dying priest catapult Dane Maddock and Bones Bonebrake into the midst of a deadly race to solve a centuries-old conspiracy. Click here to sample or buy.

macbethMacbeth, a novel – A.J.Hartley and David Hewson

As winter draws near in Scotland, Macbeth meets a trio of witches and the frustrated hero begins to think that perhaps Scotland needs a new king—him. But what begins as a plan fueled by the best of intentions soon spirals into murder, treachery, and personal collapse. A superb, modern rendition of the classic. Click here to sample or buy.

lockdown sean blackLockdown – Sean Black

It may be Christmas Eve in New York, but for ex-military bodyguard Ryan Lock it’s business as usual. His task: to protect the CEO of the world’s largest bio-technology company from a group of radical, and highly determined, activists. Click here to sample or buy.

cold earthCold Earth – Sarah Moss

A team of six archaeologists from the United States, England, and Scotland assembles at the beginning of the Arctic summer to unearth traces of the lost Viking settlements in Greenland. But as they sink into uneasy domesticity, there is news of an epidemic back home, and their communications with the outside world fall away. Click here to sample or buy.

drop by dropDrop By Drop – Keith Raffel

Professor Sam Rockman’s search for his wife’s killer takes him from conspiracy amidst winter snows in Washington D.C. to an abandoned underground center for nuclear weapons in frozen Russia. Click here to sample or buy now. 

ice station matthew reillyIce Station – Matthew Reilly

At a remote US ice station in Antarctica, a team of scientists has made an amazing discovery. They found something unbelievable buried deep below the surface – trapped inside a layer of ice 400 million years old. Something made of metal…something which shouldn’t be there…it’s the discovery of a lifetime, a discovery of immeasurable value. And a discovery men will kill for. Click here to sample or buy now.

get back jackGet Back Jack – Diane Capri

As ice shards pelt her skin on the streets of DC, New York, and Chicago, Kim Otto slips around the edges of Jack Reacher’s lethal enemies, only one shot from death, until she faces an enemy with nothing to lose. Click here to sample or buy now.

antarktos risingAntarktos Rising – Jeremy Robinson

Antarctica, freshly thawed and blooming, has emerged as a new hope. Rather than wage a world war no nation can endure, the leading nations devise a competition, a race to the center of Antarctica, with the three victors dividing the continent … But the dangers awaiting the team are far worse than feared.

Click here to sample or buy now.

second shotSecond Shot – Zoe Sharp

After a bloody shoot-out in a frozen forest, Charlie Fox is left fighting for her life. As she battles to recover from her injuries, she’s still fiercely protective of the girl she’s trying to protect, even though her actions will catapult them both back into the firing line. And this time, Charlie’s in no fit state to protect anyone, least of all herself … Click here to sample or buy now.

defector daniel silvaThe Defector – Daniel Silva

Grigori Bulganov once saved Gabriel Allon’s life in Moscow-and Allon always repays his debts. So when the former Russian intelligence officer vanishes, Allon gathers his team of operatives to go after those responsible. But, in a running battle that rages across the globe, Allon soon realizes that his enemy may already hold the key to victory. And that if he continues, it will cost him more than he can bear… Click here to sample or buy now.

freezing pointFreezing Point – Karen Dionne

In a drowning, desperate world, the Soldyne Corporation sees an opportunity: Melt Antarctic icebergs into drinking water using their microwave satellite array, ship the water to thirsty nations around the globe, and make a fortune. But deep within the ice waits an enemy more deadly than anyone could imagine–and an apocalyptic horror Earth may not survive. Click here to sample or buy now.

the terrorThe Terror – Dan Simmons

The ships have now been trapped in the Arctic ice for nearly two years. Coal and provisions are running low. Yet the real threat isn’t the constantly shifting landscape of white or the flesh-numbing temperatures, dwindling supplies or the vessels being slowly crushed by the unyielding grip of the frozen ocean.

No, the real threat is far more terrifying. There is something out there that haunts the frigid darkness, which stalks the ships, snatching one man at a time – mutilating, devouring. A nameless thing, at once nowhere and everywhere, this terror has become the expedition’s nemesis. Click here to sample or buy now.

 the world beneathThe World Beneath – Rebecca Cantrell

Software millionaire Joe Tesla can’t go outside, but he knows it’s getting on toward Christmas because New Yorkers are hurrying through Grand Central Station with snow-dusted coats and red-wrapped packages. He also knows that one fourth of them might die bloody Christmas deaths if he can’t contain a mysterious disease he’s discovered in his subterranean realm. Click here to sample or buy now.

blood and iceBlood and Ice – Robert Masello

Journalist Michael Wilde—his world recently shattered by tragedy—has come to the South Pole looking for solace and a new lease on life. But what he finds on a routine dive in the polar sea is something else entirely: the bodies of a young man and a young woman, bound with chains and sealed forever in a block of ice. Click here to sample or buy now.

the price sokoloffThe Price – Alexandra Sokoloff

In the dead of a Boston winter, a district attorney begins to suspect his wife has made a terrible bargain with a mysterious hospital counselor to save the life of their dying child. Click here to sample or buy now.

icebound Icebound by Dean Koontz

In an Arctic icefield, a special team of scientists has planted bombs that will detonate automatically at midnight to break away some of the ice. Before they withdraw to the safety of their base camp, a shattering tidal wave breaks loose the ice on which they are working. Now they are marooned on an iceberg during the worst winter storm of the decade. The bombs in the ice beneath them are buried irretrievably deep…and ticking. Click here to sample or buy now.

red king of helsinkiThe Red King of Helsinki – Helena Halme

A fast moving Nordic Noir spy story, set in the wintry streets of Helsinki. The year is 1979 and the Cold War is all but over in Helsinki, the playground of the Russian KGB, when a former British Navy officer Iain is asked to work undercover. He’s to investigate Vladislav Kovtun, a violent KGB spy, dubbed The Red King of Helsinki by the Finnish secret service. This is Iain’s first assignment, and when he discovers the bodies left in Kovtun’s wake, he quickly gets embroiled in danger. Click here to sample or buy now.

dark placesDark Places – Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow … Years later, Libby’s search for the truth takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer. Click here to sample or buy now.

Thousand Fiendish AngelsA Thousand Fiendish Angels – J.F.Penn

Three short stories inspired by Dante’s Inferno, linked by a book of human skin passed down through generations. On the edge of horror, thriller and the occult.

Sins of Treachery: On the death of their Grandfather, twin brothers Simon and Gestas are left a map covered in alchemical symbols that could lead them to great wealth and power. But they find more than they expected in the frozen wastes of the Arctic north … Click here to sample or buy now.

What’s your favorite thriller based in or around the snowy winter? Please do leave a comment below.

An Interview On Corpse Art, Genetic Science And Body Modification

My latest crime novel, Desecration, is definitely darker than my previous books, and it tackles themes of corpse art, body von hagens bodiesmodification and genetic science.

I was interviewed about some of my thoughts around these areas by author Dan Holloway, who is himself a connoisseur of the dark side.

Here’s an excerpt:

Dan Holloway: There’s a wonderful scene in Hannibal where Thomas Harris describes Dr Lecter standing amongst the exhibits of a collection called Atrocious Torture Instruments. The real horror, he says, is to be found not in the exhibits but in the gawping fascination on the faces of the crowds. I wonder if something similar could be said about the Hunterian Museum.

J.F.Penn: When I first visited the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, I felt physically sick as I studied the medical specimens in their jars, and I try to capture that revulsion in Desecration. The display of historical medical instruments could certainly be categorized alongside torture, used as they were before anesthetic and before antibiotics. It’s true that visitors stare into the cases with fascination, but I think it is more about looking within ourselves, than some kind of schadenfreude at someone else’s pain, as the Lecter example.

I felt the same way at the Von Hagens’ Bodies exhibition, where corpses are plastinated, partially dissected and posed in various tableaus to illustrate aspects of life. The descriptions of the corpse art within Rowan Day-Conti’s studio in Desecration are straight out of that exhibition. As I looked at the figures, examining the muscles and veins, the displayed organs, it was both obscene and fascinating. The most disturbing thing was a room full of foetuses, of all ages right up to full-term still-born with its eyes open. Those desecrationimages haunt me and that definitely comes through in the book.

You can read the rest here at Dan’s blog: Desecration: Twisting bodies out of shape.

You can read more or purchase Desecration here.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons Phossil