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A Soundtrack for Red Right Hand

Red Right Hand by Chris Holm

When people ask about my writing process, I usually describe it as “blind panic.” The fact is, my approach differs wildly from book to book. Sometimes I outline. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the story pours out of me, and sometimes getting words down is like pulling teeth. But there’s been one constant throughout: I can’t listen to music while I write.

That tends to make any book soundtrack I cook up something of an afterthought—but not this time. Though I still wrote in silence, music played a huge role in the genesis of Red Right Hand.

Obviously, I borrowed my title from the Nick Cave song of the same name. He was kind enough to grant me permission to use a quote from it as an epigraph; it appears alongside the Milton quote that, in turn, inspired him.

The Freewheelin' Bob DylanRed Right Hand’s opening chapter features a man attempting to recreate a photo taken of his parents on their honeymoon. That photo was based on the iconic cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, on which “Masters of War” appears. (My first draft even name-checked the album.) I chose that song in particular because the book grapples with the privatization—and monetization—of global security.

Dylan sneaks into the soundtrack a second time as the songwriter behind Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man.” It, too, appeared in an early version of the book, as the song Chet Yancey whistles at the end of chapter eighteen.

Neko Case’s “Knock Loud” is a cheeky homage to the weirdest meet-cute I’m ever likely to write, in which a retired gangster attempts to break into a wealthy ex-professor’s home.

Said retired gangster needed a distinguishing characteristic to tie his physical appearance to that of his younger self in the prologue. I was stumped as to what it should be until I took a walk and The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” popped up on shuffle.

As for the other tracks, each is resonant in its own way. A mood, an image, a phrase. But to tell you much more would be to dip into spoiler territory, so instead I’m gonna shut up and let you listen in peace.

Oh, one last thing: in an ideal world, this playlist would include Morphine’s “Take Me With You,” but Spotify failed me. Feel free to find it elsewhere and give it a spin.

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015. Hendricks returns in Red Right Hand, now in bookstores. For more about Chris, including links to his Twitter profile and Facebook page, visit www.chrisholmbooks.com.

Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2016

Bouchercon 2016I love going to Bouchercon, the annual mystery reader conference. But this year, enthusiasm is at fever pitch, because Bouchercon will be held in New Orleans! Authors are turning out in record numbers, because who doesn’t love The Big Easy? And the same goes for your friends at Mulholland Books, who will be celebrating five years as a publisher of page-turning thrillers, brilliant mysteries, and genre-bending suspense.

Here’s where to find our authors this year—and by extension, where you’ll find us. You know, in case you have an extra birthday cake you want to unload.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

12:00-12:50 One More Time: Novels and characters taking on another life on screen with David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (LaGalleries 6)

1:30-2:20 Something To Talk About: Open Topic with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me, and Joe Lansdale, author of Honky Tonk Samurai (Mardi Gras E)

6:30-9:00 Opening Ceremonies. We’ve got our fingers crossed for Life or Death by Michael Robotham and The Killing Kind by Chris Holm to win the Barry Award for Best Novel. These same novels are also up for Macavity Awards: Life or Death is in the running for Best Mystery, and The Killing Kind is up for Best First Mystery. Congratulations, gentlemen! (Carondelet/Bissonet Ballrooms)

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

7:30-9 New Author Breakfast with David Swinson, author of The Second Girl in (Bissonet)

10:10-10:40 Lawrence Block signs books at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room.

11:00-11:30 Get a free galley of Joe Lansdale‘s next Hap and Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, in the book room. Lansdale will be signing ’em, too!

11:40-12:30 Join us at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room for a MEGA-SIGNING with Chris Holm, Duane Swierczynski, David Morrell, David Swinson, Matthew Quirk, Joe Lansdale, and William Shaw. BYOB—and yes, that means Bring Your Own Book. Mystery Mike will have some for sale, too.

2:00-2:50 We Don’t Need Another Hero: Thunderdome competition with Duane Swierczynski, author of Revolver, and Chris Holm, author of Red Right Hand (Mardi Gras D)

3:30-4:00 William Shaw, author of the Breen and Tozer trilogy, is joining us for his first Bouchercon! Meet us in the book room to pick up a free copy of his forthcoming mystery, The Birdwatcher.

6:30-7:30 How special is this: as part of the Anthony Award festivities, Lee Child will be interviewing David Morrell, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor! (Orpheum Theater)

8:00-10:00 Stick around for the rest of the Anthony Awards—which Mulholland Books is proud to sponsor. We’ll be rooting for Chris Holm, whose first Hendricks thriller, The Killing Kind, is up for Best Novel!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

9:00-9:50 All Tensed Up: Spy Thrillers with Matthew Quirk, author of Cold Barrel Zero (Mardi Gras FG)

10:30-11:20 Yesterday: Historical with Kathleen Kent, author of The Dime (Mardi Gras FG)

12:00-12:50 Bad to the Bone: Anti-Heros with Chris Holm, author of Red Right Hand, and David Swinson, author of The Second Girl (Mardi Gras ABC)

2:30-3:00 Get on board Kathleen Kent‘s new crime series with a free copy of The Dime signed by the author in the book room.

3:30-4:00 David Morrell‘s bestselling Victorian thriller series comes to a close with Ruler of the Night. Get a free advance copy signed by the author in the book room.

3:40-4:10 Rev your engines: C.J. Box, James Sallis, Wallace Stroby, Gary Phillips, and Ace Atkins all sign at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room, and the first 25 readers to arrive will receive a free galley of The Highway Kind, the car-themed short story collection to which these authors all contributed.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

9:00-10:00 Another Town, Another Train: Setting with William Shaw, author of A Song for the Brokenhearted (LaGalleries 6)

12:00-12:50 Guest of Honor panel with David Morrell (Carondelet)

 

Ruler of the Night: Magnificent Euston Station

David Morrell’s Ruler of the Night is set on the harrowing, fogbound streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations.

The railway era began in 1830 with the first train between Liverpool and Manchester. Ten years later, almost two thousand miles of tracks crisscrossed Britain. By 1855, a mere twenty-five years later, six thousand miles of tracks united every corner of the nation, with more being planned. Materials, products, and coal could now be transported with such speed and profit that Britain became the first nation to take full advantage of the Industrial Revolution, achieving unprecedented world dominance.

Euston1

London’s first railway stations were monuments of power and prosperity, but none equaled the grandeur of Euston Station, one of the principal locales in Ruler of the Night. Euston Station was graced with an impressive entrance courtyard and a huge arch that rose 70 feet high and was 44 feet wide, the largest of its kind in the world. Massive ornate bronze gates added to its spectacle.

Euston2

There was further grandeur. Beyond the arch, to the right, travelers entered the Great Hall, with its twin staircases, numerous columns, and eight statues. It was 64 feet high, 126 feet long, and 61 feet wide.

Euston3

Euston4

But while the arch and the Great Hall evoked the wonder of classical antiquity, the actual railway platform represented the industrial age. Composed of iron and glass, it now seems more bleak than awesome. The original station with its arch and Great Hall was destroyed in 1961 to make room for a larger but less impressive one.

Euston5

Ruler of the Night is based on an actual incident: the first murder on an English train and the terrifying consequences.

Laird Hunt and Christopher Charles in Conversation

The Exiled by Christopher Charles The Exiled is Christopher Charles’s debut thriller, featuring a detective named Wes Raney who seeks refuge from his ignominious past in NYC in the brutal and beautiful New Mexican desert. Of Charles’s novel, Shelf Awareness writes “The Exiled is a fine piece of crime fiction with a keen sense of timing and character.” Here to talk about timing and character is Christopher Charles in conversation with his former writing instructor, Laird Hunt, author of the critically acclaimed novel Neverhome.

Laird Hunt: Which came first: Raney in New York or Raney in the New Mexican desert? When did you know you were going to give both Raneys more or less equal portions of the novel?

Christopher Charles: Raney in the desert came first, largely because the desert came first. I started with the crime, or an image of the crime: three bodies in a Cold-War style bunker in the New Mexico desert. The detective grew from the case. The murders felt urban to me—out of place in the southwestern landscape. The detective had to be urban and out of place, too.

To be honest, I’m not sure the decision to give them equal portions of the novel was ever really a conscious one—the past just seemed to be catching up with the present as I wrote, and I went where the story took me.

Hunt: The later Raney obviously contains the earlier. In what ways does the earlier Raney contain the later?

Charles: They’re both motivated in ways they don’t necessarily understand. They’re driven, but their drive is like a foreign entity. Raney at any age would likely launch full-throttle into anything you put in front of him. Both Raneys have an idyllic vision of who they’d like to be, but they can’t stop themselves from chasing after whatever seems urgent in the present. Older Raney realizes that he can only control himself by controlling his environment. But how long can you sustain that? How long can you remain isolated in the desert—even if the desert itself has become your passion—before civilization calls you back? Continue reading “Laird Hunt and Christopher Charles in Conversation”

How We Got to Underground Airlines

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Ben Winter’s novel Underground Airlines opens in an America almost like our own, with the same smartphones, social networks, and Happy Meals. There’s just one crucial difference: in this novel, slavery is still legal in four states. How did this happen? Winters outlines the crucial events in this alternate timeline of American history.

Feb. 12, 1861: President-elect Abraham Lincoln is shot and killed on a hotel balcony in Indianapolis, en route from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC to be inaugurated.

May 9, 1861: Congress passes the “Crittenden Compromise,” a package of resolutions and amendments narrowly avoiding a war between the states and permanently enshrining slavery in the American political system.

1898: Maryland passes legislation allowing for a periodic referendum on slavery, a model that will be adopted by several other states and territories.

March 4, 1934: President Franklin Roosevelt (over the objections of the remaining slave states), signs the federal Clean Hands bill, prohibiting the “possession, sale, or consumption” of slave-produced goods in any non-slave state or territory.

Autumn of 1942: In a successful effort to head off a ballot-box land rush like the one that turned Texas free, conservative lawmakers and power brokers in the states of North and South Carolina perform a set of legislative and electoral maneuvers, merging into one state, known simply as Carolina.

1944: President Truman claims a huge victory for the abolitionist movement, convincing Georgia and Kentucky to abolish slavery in exchange for lucrative wartime munitions contracts.

June 1964: The “Freedom Summer” brings busloads of abolitionist activists, black and white, into the heart of the slave-holding south to bear witness to conditions inside the new mega-plantations.

1964-1975: After Texas declares that it is seceding from the union, and President Johnson pronounces this illegal under the Constitution, the Gulf War erupts. Fought primarily in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Texas coast, the conflict claims hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides, ending not in surrender but an uneasy detente.

Summer of 1972: The “Starman Revolt” in and around Asheville, Carolina is the largest slave uprising in modern history. The bloody revolt and its suppression, along with the lengthy manhunts that follow, lead to a raft of new “citizen protection enforcement” measures in the Southern states, and contribute to protracted, often bitter soul-searching among northern abolition movements, over the appropriateness of encouraging disobedience.

September 27, 1984: The latest reauthorization of the Fugitive Persons Law includes the Moore Amendment, exempting African American law-enforcement officers from its enforcement.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters will be available in bookstores July 5, 2016. Preorder it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or your local independent bookstore.

Ralph Pezzullo Explains Why the New Thomas Crocker Thriller Is Set in North Korea

SEAL Team Six: Hunt the DragonLike other SEAL Team Six thrillers, Hunt the Dragon started with a comment by my co-author Don Mann about a top-secret mission he went on to North Korea as a member of SEAL Team Six. The real mission took place years ago. But as Don talked about it, I started to imagine what would happen if members of SEAL Team Six were called upon to deploy to North Korea today, and if so, what might be a likely cause.

Don and I try to keep our books as believable and up-to-date as possible, so my first task was to read everything I could find about North Korea. I learned that the totalitarian regime that has ruled the country of twenty-five million people since the 1950s is a self-described revolutionary and socialist state. Political power is highly centralized in one party and thirty-three-year-old Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of the Kim family heads all major governing structures—as did his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung before him.

All three leaders followed a strategic policy known as Songun (or military first), which explains why a country with per capita GNP of $1,800, according to the CIA World Factbook, maintains the world’s fourth largest standing army.

A friend in the intelligence community explained that Songun is derived from the Maoist idea that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” It is the primary reason that North Korea funds a very aggressive nuclear arms program, whose stated aim is to develop nuclear missiles capable of striking the mainland United States. In international terms, said one State Department expert I spoke to, Songun is a threatening posture towards the rest of the world so that other countries have to take impoverished North Korea seriously. Internally, it assures the Kim family will maintain political control over the government by passing on the title of Supreme Leader of the Korean Peoples’ Army.

I also learned that economically, North Korea is classified as a low-income country. A three-year famine that began in 1995 resulted in an estimated two million deaths. According to Human Rights Watch, North Koreans are “some of the most brutalized people in the world.” Amnesty International estimates that thousands of people are executed annually for political crimes and as many as 200,000 people are housed in six large political prisoner camps where they’re forced to do slave labor.

Armed with this basic understanding, I tried to imagine a credible contemporary scenario that would cause the president of the United States to authorize a top-secret SEAL Team Six mission into North Korea. Since the Kim Jong-un regime runs a criminal unit called Office 39 that specializes in counterfeiting money, stealing nuclear and missile technology, and even kidnapping scientific experts, I devised a plot that involves the kidnapping of a U.S. missile guidance system specialist in Switzerland, coupled with escalating threats to the U.S. from North Korea.

Now that we had a threat and a ticking clock, Don and I talked through the technical logistics of how a SEAL mission to North Korea might work—specifically, what would go into the planning, how the SEALs could deploy into North Korea undetected, and the kinds of weapons and equipment they would use. Then, because the unexpected usually happens on missions of this kind, I threw a big wrench in the works to see how Crocker and his men would react.

We hope you like it.

How To Write A Thriller

Aspiring writers, here it is: lessons on writing a thriller, delivered to us by Matthew Quirk, the bestselling author of The 500 and Cold Barrel Zero. How many of you know where your heroes and villains begin and end before writing? Do any of you dive right in to let the conflicts and twists emerge as you write? Let us know how Quirk’s advice resonates with you in the comments.

Here are a few writing lessons that have helped me over the years. They might not work for everyone, and I’m still learning every day, but it’s what I can offer to those who come to me for help. This is practical, in the trenches, writer-to-writer talk. Please don’t take any bluntness as a lack of reverence for craft and language and literature. I’ve found, however, that romanticism about the writing process can really throw you off when you’re starting out. Writing is work, and here’s how my work gets done.

Figure out your story before you start writing. Genre is the critical consideration here. Genres have certain broad conventions. They’re conventions for a reason—your story probably won’t work without them.

For thrillers, here are the basic elements you need to figure out: There’s a good guy, and a bad guy. Bad guy is doing something horrible. Good guy gets involved and needs to stop bad guy at great personal expense. You should figure out who they are and what they both want, and what sort of conflict they find themselves in, inevitably, because of what they want. Determine an incident at the beginning that puts them, inevitably, on a collision course, and have a good idea of how they will face off at the end.

Alternate successes and setbacks for your hero, raising the stakes of each encounter, and then, as you approach the climax, take the hero all the way down, as hurt, hopeless, and desperate as possible, and then have him somehow overcome. Invert that for tragedies.

It sounds simple but it takes an extraordinary amount time and brain-breaking thought to get down to the heart of your novel. Often a fascinating concept (“what if…”), scene, or character gives the initial notion for a thriller, but a concept isn’t a story until all of the above has been thought through. I constantly remind myself of these points to stay disciplined and build a strong, clean spine for a book. It took years to learn to keep it simple, or try, when it comes to the fundamental through-line.

This is how a good thriller works. It’s also not too far off from Aristotle’s advice in Poetics. Give it a try. Having a solid arc from the beginning to end of your book doesn’t dumb it down or make it formulaic. It makes it an incredibly strong, compelling structure upon which you can build complex characters, or subplots, twists, or beautiful writing. But get that bad guy vs. good guy collision course down first.

This may be awful advice for people whose books are too schematic, but I have the opposite habit of overcomplicating things, so this has been a lifesaver.

The best part of working this all out is bringing in friends and family. If you can’t explain the central arc of your story in a few lines, and describe all these points in ten minutes or so, it’s too complicated and you haven’t worked it enough. There are some ideas that are genius in your head, and preposterous out loud. It’s far better to hear about it now than after you’ve spent two years writing the book. Trust me on that one.

That’s the beauty of it. People love stories. Bring them in. Have coffee. Walk through the mall having an animated discussion about your favorite ways to get rid of a body. It’s so much more fun than staring at a blank page or writing and rewriting without making any real progress.

There’s a lot more advice where that came from. Read Matthew Quirk’s full list of writing tips on The Story Grid.

Christopher Charles on How Places Tell Stories

The Exiled by Christopher CharlesThis week we published The Exiled by Christopher Charles, the beginning of a new series featuring Detective Wes Raney. When we meet Wes Raney, he’s investigating a gruesome triple homicide in New Mexico—but it quickly becomes clear that Detective Raney is hiding some skeletons of his own. Author Christopher Charles explains how Raney’s story developed.

The Exiled began with a simple image: a dead body lying face up on the floor of an underground bunker. I didn’t know who’d been killed or how they’d been murdered, but I did know, almost immediately, that the bunker would be located somewhere in the New Mexico desert; I wanted a stark contrast between the claustrophobic crime scene and the expansive world above.

The murder escalated into a drug-related triple homicide, and the bunker found a home on a barely-operative cattle ranch before I began to think seriously about who would catch the case. Wes Raney, then, grew out of the desert, or maybe he grew in opposition to it. As Raney himself later observes, “What happened in that bunker belonged to another place. It was urban…something that would have made sense in the basement of a Lower East Side tenement but here was out of joint.” The detective had to belong to the world inside the bunker, not the sprawling desert above; like the crime itself, he had to appear out of his element in the desert.

So Raney became an exile from New York, a former NYPD undercover detective who developed an addiction on the job and dug himself into trouble he could only get out of by leaving. Through an unlikely connection, he secures work as a homicide detective in New Mexico. Once I decided to narrate the back story, the two places—the New Mexican desert and New York City—quickly translated into two distinct but related genres: a whodunit (the desert), and a Scorsese-esque gangland crime drama (the city). This happened naturally, without my having to think about it. In the desert, there is room to discover and reflect; in a city like New York, you’re constantly reacting to a barrage of stimulus. In the desert, Raney is truly “detecting,” working to solve crimes that have already been committed. As an undercover cop in New York, Raney is there while crimes are being committed, and he is often the one committing them.

Over the course of his eighteen-year exile, Raney has managed to make a home for himself in New Mexico. Hiking through the mountains behind his property, photographing the flora and fauna, has become his way of staying sober. As he understands it, “City life had been an accident of birth, one [he’d] corrected with a brutality that he could only put behind him by thinking of his life as part 1 and part 2.” But this notion is challenged when he finds himself investigating a case that seems right of his past life. Old instincts kick in, and he’s left wondering if what he took for a transformation was just an extended pause: has he reinvented himself in the desert, or has he simply been hiding from himself?

Early readers have talked about how quickly the book moves, and I think this, too, is largely a product of the dual setting. On the page, you can achieve something that’s impossible in real life: you can step directly from an adobe hut surrounded by piñon trees into a penthouse overlooking Central Park. Of course, the pacing accelerates a bit if there’s a murderer lurking in those trees, and a corpse lying on that penthouse floor.

Purchase The Exiled: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound

Hap and Leonard Return!

Honky Tonk SamuraiIt gives us great joy to welcome back Hap and Leonard, the crime-solving odd couple who anchor many of Joe Lansdale’s most beloved novels. In Honky Tonk Samurai, the pair are tasked with a missing persons case that leads them to a prostitution ring operating in East Texas. Hap and Leonard don’t always play by the book, but when it come to injustice, there are no two more fearsome opponents. Read the opening chapter below, and click here for Lansdale’s book tour dates.

Chapter 1

I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh.

I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.

Continue reading “Hap and Leonard Return!”

How to Write a Historical Crime Novel

Historical Crime NovelWilliam Shaw is the author of the Breen and Tozer series, mysteries set in London in the late 1960s. He has been praised for his ability to evoke the period by Publishers Weekly (“Shaw perfectly captures the end of an uneasy era”), The Guardian (“A compelling and accurate portrait of a changing society”), and many others. It’s no surprise, then, that he has some advice about how to write a historical crime novel.

1. Research. Obviously. It wouldn’t be a historical novel if you didn’t. Inevitably, though, you will find you do two chunks of research. You can’t begin to write a word without immersing yourself in your era. But be prepared to start the research over once you’ve finished. After 100,000 words or so, you’ll have more questions than you started with. However, unlike at the start, when you’re just wallowing in piles of history books, now your questions will be ultra-specific. Like, how long would it take to drive across London in 1968? What coins did London phone boxes take? Once you have specific questions, you can call up real experts, and you know what? They won’t mind at all; in fact, that’s where the real fun starts. For A Song for the Brokenhearted, I had found a naturalist who could tell me about British wildlife in 1964. And when I found my expert, it was like they had waited for years for someone to come up with that topic.

2. Embrace the known unknowns. The juiciest bits are the bits between the facts. History leaves holes; this is where you play. There’s not much in the way of a record of Thomas Cromwell’s childhood, so Hilary Mantel was free to make it up in Wolf Hall. Whatever your era, the language of the common person is probably only sketchily recorded, so you’ll have to imagine what they said and how they said it.

3. … but beware the unknown unknowns. Some of the assumptions you thoughtlessly make will turn out to be plain wrong. When I wrote my first draft of She’s Leaving Home, I had Constable Helen Tozer driving a police car all the way through the book. Luckily, my recent historical past features people who are still alive. I met a couple of women who had served in Tozer’s police division in London in 1968; when I ran the plot back to them they were fine, until I reached the bit about the driving. They looked at me like I was insane. “Oh no. Policewomen didn’t drive cars, then.” Really? Ok. Major redraft. You might have your characters in a 12th-century European novel sitting down to breakfast before going to work in the fields, as Ken Follett does in Pillars of the Earth. Most people won’t notice, but all it takes is one person who knows that wouldn’t have happened… (Confession: I only know this is wrong because a disappointed historian pointed it out in a review).

4. Wear your knowledge lightly. Just because you have spent days researching the Victorian sewer system doesn’t mean you have to inflict everything you know on your reader. It is enough for them to get a sense of what Victorian London smelled like. As in any fiction, the only detail that is relevant is the stuff that enhances theme, characterization and plot. Everything else is showing off. George MacDonald Fraser, writer of the brilliant Flashman books, tucked his knowledge into footnotes that were so well-written, they were as entertaining as the text itself. And then there’s the language. Yes, it’s good to use words and phrases that remind you of a period, but verily, don’t over egg ye puddinge.

5. Finally, the single most important thing is… you must have a time traveler in your cast list. Let me explain. If crime fiction is a type of morality play—as I think it always is—then historical crime exists in a really, really weird moral universe. How do you begin to reconcile the wacky beliefs of the age you are writing about with our liberal modern present? How are you going to cope with a world in which your even your best characters must presumably think that, say, slavery is perfectly normal, that women should have no rights of their own, and that homosexuality is utter depravity? The trick is that somebody in your book—usually a narrator figure—is not really from that time at all. This is a hell of a thing to pull off. C.J. Sansom manages it brilliantly with his narrator Shardlake. Shardlake shares our revulsion with the cruelty and religious zealotry of his time, because he is like us. Shardlake is disabled and his outsider status has, over the years, forced him to see the world differently. In my Breen and Tozer series, it’s not the narrator, but the sidekick who is out of her own time. Breen is more or less of his age. It’s his loud, rock music-loving Tozer who represents our point of view, challenging his post-war preconceptions of how the world ought to be. The trick is to find that character, and if you can, you’re halfway there.