Today I’m delighted to feature crime writer Alex Walters. Alex has published seventeen crime novels, including series set in contemporary Mongolia, Manchester, the Scottish Highlands and the Peak District. His latest books are Lost Hours published by Canelo and For Their Sins published by Bloodhound Books.
Alex has worked in the oil industry, broadcasting and banking and has run a consultancy working mainly in the criminal justice sector including police, prisons and probation. Alex now lives in the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands where he runs the Solus Or Writing Retreat with his wife, occasional sons and frequent cats.
Over to Alex :
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Music’s always been a huge part of my life and picking only five pieces of music seemed almost impossible. In the end, I’ve focused on music which had particular significance at various points in my life.
Pete Atkin – The Faded Mansion on the Hill
The songs that Pete Atkin wrote with the much more famous Clive James are too little known. This is an exquisite example – a piece of Australian noir with a lyric that Chandler might have written.
Nic Jones – Clyde Water
Folk music’s always been a particular passion, and Nic Jones is a hugely influential figure whose career was tragically cut short by a serious car accident in the 1980s. I was fortunate enough to see him live several times both in his heyday and during his brief comeback with his son a few years ago. This is a wonderful piece of traditional story-telling, demonstrating Nic’s skills as singer and guitarist.
Bob Dylan – High Water (Blues for Charlie Patten)
There had to be Dylan, and my choice could have been any one of dozens of his songs. I picked this mainly because the album Love and Theft, which marked the start of Dylan’s majestic late period, came out just a few months after I’d seen him live on a wonderful night at Stirling Castle. This apocalyptic song was, extraordinarily, released on Sept 11, 2001.
Richard Thompson – Galway to Graceland
Thompson’s also been a constant favourite, and again I could have picked any one of countless songs. I chose this because it’s a favourite of my wife, Helen, and it’s a wonderfully concise piece of storytelling.
The Mekons – Where Were You?
I was 16 in 1976 so the arrival of punk meant a lot to me, though I didn’t discover the Mekons properly till their string of excellent albums in the 1980s. They’re one of those rare bands who combine raucous energy with real intelligence. My son bought me tickets to see their reformed 1977 line-up a couple of years back, and I was delighted to see a bunch of middle-aged men performing this with the same energy and enthusiasm as they did back in the late 1970s.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Books – I already have far more than I’m likely to read in the rest of my life, but that doesn’t stop me buying them, especially if I’m let loose in a good secondhand bookshop (of which we have several in the vicinity).
Music – but you probably already guessed that.
The view from the room where I write – we’re lucky enough to live in a house with a spectacular view over the Cromarty Firth and Ben Wyvis, and I spend far too long staring out of the window.
Good food – not necessarily fancy restaurant stuff, but just good home cooking. I love cooking myself and cook from scratch pretty much every night. Now we run the writing retreat I even get to inflict my cooking on paying guests.
Writing – obvious, I suppose, but I write mainly because I have to. I normally write every day, and if I have to miss a day for any reason I start to become very twitchy and restless.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Be bolder and trust your instincts – I played safe with my career and my life far too long.
Be persistent, and don’t be put off if things don’t go your way immediately.
Don’t worry what other people think of you (though I’m still not sure I’ve entirely learned that one).
In the long run, almost everything is unimportant.
To quote John Lennon, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
In a previous working life, I appeared on both the Today programme and on Janet Street-Porter’s ‘yoof’ show, Network 7.
I’ve written several books on human resources management. I wouldn’t recommend them for an exciting read.
I have on my wall a poster from the first democratic elections in Mongolia (I was there).
I’ve given a presentation in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament (though to parliamentary staff rather than MSPs).
I’ve cooked dinner alongside the great Angela Carter (on an Arvon programme far more years ago than I care to remember).
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
Like all writers, I’d like to see one of my books/series filmed one day. There’ve been a few sniffs of interest over the years but nothing that’s gone anywhere. Yet.
I’ve got ideas for books that I’d like to write that are different from my current series. I’m hoping that one day I’ll find/make space to write them.
I’d also like to do a sequel to my historical crime novel, Winterman. It’s one of the books I’m most proud of, and I’ve been toying with a follow-up for years.
I’d like to explore the northern Highlands and Scottish islands more. One of our objectives when we moved here was to find time to explore in more depth a region I’ve always loved. That was supposed to start last year, once we’d got the retreat up and running and – well, we all know what happened.
On that note, I want to be able to reopen the retreat. We’re getting towards that point, I hope, but we don’t want to reopen until we can provide the level of hospitality and community we aspire to. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming guests again!
Thanks so much for joining me today Alex, great to hear some folk music this week, I’m quite partial myself. I did see Fairport Convention back in the day, but it was after Richard Thompson had left. Bob Dylan at Stirling Castle is a magical combination, so not surprised it was wonderful. Welcome to the “more books than time left to read them club” you’re in good company here. Having such a diverting view can’t help! Great advice to yourself, if only we ever listened when we were younger, and Mr Lennon certainly got it right. What most of us probably need to know after this is what ‘dinner’ did you cook with Angela Carter and how did it go? Glad to hear you’ve still got plenty of plot ideas to keep you going, hopefully you will one day see them on the screen. As things are gradually opening up, hopefully it won’t be long before the retreat is back on track along with the opportunity to do a bit of exploring yourself.
DI Alec McKay series
Candles and Roses (Book 1)
Who will live and who will die?
DI Alec McKay is a man haunted by the loss of his daughter. As he obsesses over a missing person case that is going nowhere, McKay’s investigation is interrupted when bodies start appearing on the Scottish Black Isle. Soon McKay and his team start to identify a disturbing pattern behind the killings.
Why are candles and roses placed around the bodies?
What is this twisted murderer trying to achieve?
While the police follow their own leads, a young woman who discovered the first victim begins an investigation of her own.
As the case unfolds McKay will be forced to face his own demons.
To catch the killer McKay must discover the true motive and untangle the web of truth and lies.
Death Parts Us (Book 2)
Twenty years ago, Jackie Galloway was a senior cop with a bad reputation. Then he ended up on the wrong side of the wrong people, and his career was ruined. Sacked and with no pension, he ends up eking out his last days on Scotland’s Black Isle, his mind lost to dementia, supported only by his long-suffering wife, Bridie.
Then Galloway is found dead. The police assume the death to be accidental until Bridie Galloway reveals that her husband has been receiving threatening letters containing only the phrase: ‘NOT FORGOTTEN. NOT FORGIVEN.’
DI Alec McKay is struggling to come to terms with life without his estranged wife Chrissie, and is living in isolation on the Black Isle. As a junior officer, McKay had been allocated to Galloway’s team and has bad memories of the man and his methods. Now he finds himself investigating Galloway’s death.
But when suspicion falls on him and more police officers are murdered, the pressure is on for McKay to solve the case.
Why would the killer seek revenge twenty years after Galloway left the force?
As McKay fights to link the events of past and present, he realizes that time is rapidly running out…
Their Final Act (Book 3)
immy McGuire, a washed-up comic, is found dead on the streets of Inverness, his body garroted. Back in the 1990s, McGuire had been half of a promising double-act until his partner, Jack Dingwall, was convicted of rape.
Soon after, a second corpse is found in an abandoned industrial site on the edge of the Moray Firth. The body has been there for some days and has also been garroted. The victim turns out to be a former musician turned record producer, who had also been the subject of rape allegations.
Meanwhile, DI Alec McKay and DCI Helena Grant are still wrestling with the fallout from one of their recent cases following an acquittal.
As the body count rises, the police think they have the killer in their sights. But McKay is concerned that the evidence is too neat so when he realises there will be a final victim, he fears that time is running out
Expiry Date (Book 4)
Some secrets lie close to home…
A family day out turns sour for DI McKay when he stumbles across an unidentified corpse. The day becomes darker still when his brother-in-law goes missing and is eventually found dead, the result of a seemingly accidental fall.
Meanwhile, DCI Helena Grant has a disastrous on-line date with a pompous senior manager of a local hotel chain. Her initial amusement turns to unease at his disturbing behaviour. And, as she arrives home, she receives a threatening text from someone who has clearly been watching her.
When a further body is found at the edge of the Cromarty Firth, McKay and Grant finally begin to piece together a story that involves violence, people trafficking and the darkest family secrets. And the more McKay learns, the more he realises that some of those secrets lie very close to home…
For Their Sins (Book 5)
In the depths of a cold Scottish winter, an unidentified body is found in the heart of a solstice bonfire, apparently burned alive. Over a tense Christmas, a retired businessman goes missing, his body eventually found hanging from a tree in the coastal town. Another associate is found brutally murdered in his remote Highland home.
DCI Helena Grant wants to spend a romantic Christmas with her new partner, the crime writer Bill Emsworth. In her absence, DI Alec McKay and his team struggle to investigate the killings, their work hampered by staff shortages and hostile weather. As he tries to connect the murders, McKay discovers that the victims have links to a notorious investigation led by the late DI Jackie Galloway, the subject of a ‘true crime’ exposé written by Emsworth.
When another local businessman disappears, McKay fears that Emsworth, and even Helena herself, maybe in danger.
It seems the real answers lie deep in Grant’s own past, and, with the killer closing in, her future becomes increasingly perilous…
DCI Murrain series
Murrain’s Truth : short stories (Intro)
MURRAIN’S TRUTH offers a trio of short stories which introduce DCI Kenny Murrain, the remarkable hero of the novel LATE CHECKOUT, and his diverse team of colleagues.
Murrain is a man who sees, hears and feels things that others do not. For a detective, it’s a gift but also a curse. It allows him a unique insight into crimes and their perpetrators, but all too often tortures him with uncertainty and half-knowledge.
In ‘Murrain’s Truth’ we learn of a key moment in Murrain’s back-story and its consequences for Murrain’s future. In ‘Murrain’s Trouble’ Murrain is faced with making sense of a teenager’s unexpected discovery. And in ‘Murrain’s Task’ Murrain has to deal with the painful fall-out from the death of a young fellow officer.
MURRAIN’S TRUTH also includes the opening chapter of the DCI Murrain novel LATE CHECKOUT.
Late Checkout (Book 1)
DCI Kenny Murrain sees, hears and feels things that others do not. It’s a gift but also a curse.
When he wakes to the phantom sound of screaming he knows a murder has been committed but not where or why.
Then a woman’s body is found in a Stockport hotel room. It’s a murder that seems both frenzied and carefully planned, the scene expertly cleansed of any evidence.
Over the following days, more bodies are discovered, first in an upmarket spa on the Pennine moors, then in a run-down budget hotel on the outskirts of Manchester.
The same frenzied attacks, the same meticulous planning. The same killer.
The victims all have links to one man, a police colleague with a dark past. But Murrain discovers a more unexpected connection—with Marie Donovan, a former undercover officer now part of Murrain’s own team.
As the killer closes in on a fourth victim, Murrain knows that time is running out. But the outcome will be more unexpected and more terrifying than even he can imagine…
Dark Corners (Book 2)
The past is never dead…
A missing child’s body is found on the edge of the Peak District.
As DCI Kenny Murrain and his team investigate, more attempted child abductions are reported. Murrain’s instincts tell him this is a community with secrets, and those secrets have their roots deep in the past.
Unexpected connections surface as he uncovers mysteries long buried. A motorcycle accident in the nearby hills. The unexplained death of a local prison governor.
And a high-profile child killing two decades before.
Then another child goes missing, and Murrain and his team must race to identify the killer before the past catches up with them and it’s too late…
Snow Fallen (Book 3)
One winter’s night, a lone figure arrives on foot in a remote Pennine village.
The next morning, as the first heavy snow begins to fall, a man’s body is discovered in the village churchyard. Anne Tilston, one of three sisters living in a brooding run-down house in the shadow of the church, realises that the dead man is her father, a disgraced former senior police officer long estranged from his family.
As DCI Kenny Murrain’s team arrive in the village to investigate the unexplained death, a further body is discovered in a nearby field – a young man from the village with no apparent connection to Tilston or his daughters. Meanwhile Murrain and DI Joe Milton are investigating the disappearance of a young woman. The case appears to be part of a string of similar missing persons cases, although with no evidence to date of foul play.
With the snow continuing to fall, another body is discovered, and Murrain finds himself stranded with his team in the sisters’ house with a seemingly motiveless killer waiting outside in the night.
Desperately liaising with Milton, Murrain realises he has only hours to discover the truth and to prevent the murderer from killing again. And it seems the answer lies within Murrain’s own team…
Stilled Voices (Book 4)
When will the voices stop?
The murder of professional astrologer Andrew Gorman seems a straightforward case for DCI Kenny Murrain – a tragic death resulting from an interrupted burglary. But when Gareth Clayburn, assistant to stage medium Justin Bannerman, is found dead in identical circumstances, Murrain begins to suspect the murders are linked.
Meanwhile, Geoff Nolan, television personality and professor of psychology, is developing a new series exploring the psychology of the paranormal. Starting with Bannerman’s work as a supposed spiritualist.
When Murrain receives an unexpected approach from the security services, he realises that the links between the killings lie deep in Murrain’s own past and his own paranormal gifts.
After days of rain and with floodwaters rising. Murrain finds himself in a race against time to prevent further deaths.
In a shattering climax at Nolan’s riverside home, Murrain finally comes face to face with an adversary who shares his remarkable gifts, as the book races to its dramatic and potentially tragic climax.
Detective Annie Delamere series
Small Mercies (Book 1)
A killer is sending a message. But who is it for?
DI Annie Delamere and her colleague DS Zoe Everett are off duty and enjoying a walk on the Peak District’s vast moorlands when they stumble across a mutilated corpse. The victim is unclothed and his tattoos indicate an affinity with the occult.
While Annie is put in charge of the case her long-term partner, MP Sheena Pearson, is confronted by a group of far right extremists. Rather than back down Sheena chooses to stand her ground – and almost pays for it with her life.
As more bodies are found, Annie is under pressure to prove her worth. But with one eye on her personal affairs can she catch a murderer and still keep her loved ones safe? And are the killings the work of a deranged mind – or a cover for something even more chilling?
Lost Hours (Book 2)
A vicious murder is committed, but who has blood on their hands?
On a hot summer’s afternoon, Michelle Wentworth enjoys a rare few hours of relaxation. Sunning herself by her pool, she sends her lazy teenage son to fetch her a drink. But instead of a refreshment, Michelle is given a nasty shock when shortly after her child’s bludgeoned body is discovered on the doorstep.
DI Annie Delamere attends the scene, joined by DS Zoe Everett. There is nothing to suggest a motive or perpetrator. They dig into Michelle’s life and come to suspect she may have been the target. Her ruthless pursuit of profit has won her few friends, and relying on her lawyer’s questionable advice could mean she’s in over her head.
When another battered body is found, Annie realises that every clue leads back to a dispute at Michelle’s business. But with so many people with reason to seek revenge, will Annie and her team look in the right places – or will it be too late?
The Shadow Walker (Book 1)
Set in a country struggling to come to terms with the legacy of its past and the promise of its future, The Shadow Walker is a gripping thriller that introduces Inspector Nergui of the Mongolian Serious Crime squad. As winter’s first snow falls on Ulan Baatar, the mutilated body of a British geologist is found in the city’s most expensive hotel, apparently the fourth victim of a serial killer. With political pressure to solve the crimes mounting, Nergui, ex-head of the Serious Crime Squad, is ordered back to his former role, building an uneasy working relationship with his successor and protege, Doripalam, and with Drew McLeish, a senior British CID officer sent out to support the investigation. But the murders continue – leading the officers through the disused factories of the decaying city, out on to the steppes among nomadic herdsmen and illegal gold prospectors, and down into the barren landscapes of the Gobi. And then McLeish himself is kidnapped. With political tensions mounting and time draining away, Nergui and Doripalam piece together a case that encompasses both personal tragedy and shadowy commercial interests in Mongolia’s vast mineral and energy reserves. And, finally, in a long-abandoned warehouse amongst the decaying Soviet-era factories of Ulan Baatar, Nergui comes face to face with the only figure who can bring the story to its shattering conclusion.
The Adversary (Book 2)
For more than twenty years a hidden hand has ruled the backstreets of Ulan Baatar, but now Muunokhoi, the once untouchable head of Mongolia’s largest and most powerful criminal empire, has finally been caught.
It should be the Serious Crime Team’s finest hour. But nothing is ever that simple in Mongolia.
When Muunokhoi’s trial starts to collapse, Nergui and Doripalam – the ex-head of the Team and his one-time protege – are forced to acknowledge that something rotten lies at the heart of the organization they have dedicated their lives to. With the crime lord’s acquittal impending, and his revenge a cold certainty, Nergui and Doripalam are not even sure they can trust each other.
The Ourcast (Book 3)
As Mongolia bakes in the sweltering summer heat, the country prepares to celebrate the anniversary of Genghis Khan’s rise to power. But the dramatic shooting of a suicide bomber in Suukbataar Square and the discovery of a body recreating a macabre historical scene jar events violently back to the present.
Struggling with the investigation and his personal life, Doripalam turns to Nergui, his one-time mentor and now a powerful figure in the Ministry of Security – but Nergui appears as baffled as he is.
As the heat intensifies, Nergui and Doripalam follow the trail to Genghis Khan’s birthplace. Beneath the beating sun, out in the vastness of the steppes, a chilling figure emerges – a figure from Nergui’s past, an outcast, who has returned to exact revenge, both on Nergui himself and on the nation that rejected him.
The War is Behind Him. But his battle has only just begun…
DI Ivan Winterman is a man with a troubled past. The Blitz has left his young son dead and his wife seriously injured. He has made enemies in high places and, with his career going nowhere, he returns to his home town in East Anglia, seeking to rebuild his life in a country gripped by post-war austerity and the coldest winter on record.
As the first snow begins to fall, a drunken ex-clergyman stumbles on the semi-mummified body of a small child concealed in a ruined cottage. Days later, a second similar child’s body is found in a Fenland dyke. Both bodies have been dead for several years, preserved in the Fens, the cause of death unknown.
Winterman, supported by a small team of assorted misfits, finds himself leading the investigation, uncovering a web of connections and secrets in the small rural community. When a further murder victim is discovered, Winterman discovers that the secrets are darker and the threat far more immediate than he’d ever envisaged.
And, as the snow finally begins to thaw over the Fens, Winterman realises that his worst nightmares are about to come true…
Trust No One
A timely and topical thriller which looks at the seedy back dealings of criminals and the police.
A terrifically fast-paced novel that has you hooked from the first chapter with a captivating central female lead who you can’t help rooting for. Join Marie Donovan as she races for the truth…
As a covert officer specialising in ‘deep cover’ operations, Marie Donovan works amongst the most dangerous criminals in Manchester. It’s a precarious life that puts Marie on the edge of the law.
When she begins an affair with Jake Morton, an informer due to give evidence against crime lord Jeff Kerridge, Marie knows she’s breaking a cardinal rule.
Yet just as she comes to her senses and puts an end to their relationship, Morton is murdered. Suddenly Marie’s undercover role is exposed and only one thing is certain – she can TRUST NO ONE.
Nowhere to Hide
They’re above the law and they’re watching her every move…
The lines between good and bad are indistinguishable…
On the North Wales coast two people traffickers are brutally murdered; a drug dealer is mown down in inner-city Stockport and in a remote Pennine cottage a police informant is shot dead. Seemingly random, these murders are the work of one professional hitman.
Reluctantly, Marie Donovan takes on another undercover role and finds herself working with DI Jack Brennan, a high-flying detective with a tarnished career. Soon, mistrustful of each other and their superiors, both begin to suspect that they are mere pawns in a complex game of criminal rivalry and police corruption.
As Marie struggles to uncover the truth, she realises that nothing is as it seems. With every move, she draws the threat ever closer until ultimately the killer is watching Marie herself. Out on her own, she finds herself with no friends, no-one to trust and nowhere to hide.
Dark Minds : A Charity Anthology
Do you think you know darkness? Think again.
Bloodhound Books presents Dark Minds – a collection of stories by authors who have come together to produce an anthology that will lure, tantalise and shock its readers.
What took place By the Water?
What goes on behind A Stranger’s Eyes?
And what is so special about Slow Roast Pork?
From master authors such as Lisa Hall, Steven Dunne, Louise Jensen and Anita Waller, readers can expect a one hell of a ride…
All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal.