Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Rob Ashman which was first posted in September 2018. Rob writes dark, gritty, serial thrillers and the book list has brought up to date to reflect Rob’s latest titles.
Rob is married to Karen with two grown up daughters. He is originally from South Wales and after moving around with work settled in North Lincolnshire.
Like all good welsh valley boys Rob worked for the National Coal Board after leaving school at sixteen and went to University at the tender age of twenty-three when the pit closures began to bite. Since then he’s worked in a variety of manufacturing and consulting roles both in the UK and abroad.
It took Rob twenty-four years to write his first book. He only became serious about writing it when his dad got cancer. It was an aggressive illness and Rob gave up work for three months to look after him and his mum. Writing Those That Remain became his coping mechanism. After he wrote the book his family encouraged him to continue, so not being one for half measures, Rob got himself made redundant, went self-employed so he could devote more time to writing and four years later the Mechanic Trilogy was the result.
When he is not writing, Rob is a frustrated chef with a liking for beer and prosecco, and is known for occasional outbreaks of dancing.
Over to Rob:
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
This is really tough because I like all kinds of music. But here goes with five songs that have a special resonance for me.
Brown sugar by The Rolling stones. This was my dad’s favourite band and his favourite song. It was released in 1971 and I can remember when it came on the radio we would dance around the living room with him doing his Mick Jagger impression. It’s a great memory and a fabulous piece of music.
Mustang Sally and Sweet Home Alabama. I’ve grouped these two together for a specific reason: My wife, Karen, and I like to dance when we’ve had a few glasses of wine – the problem is we only have one dance. It’s a kind of rock and roll, jive type of dance and I drive her around the bend because I try to make it fit all types of music. Two songs it does suit is Mustang Sally and Sweet Home Alabama, and whenever they come on we can be found up dancing even when there is no dance floor. There is a restaurant in Vegas which would bear testimony to that – apparently, we had some funny looks.
I love musical theatre and Les Miserable is my favourite. I’ve seen it three times now and the last time was at the Millennium Theatre in Cardiff which is a beautiful venue. We bought the tickets for my mum and dad as part of their Christmas present and went along with them to see the show. I was expecting, having seen it twice, for the shine to have gone off it – how wrong I was. The artist playing Jean Valjean was John Owen-Jones who comes from Bury Port where Karen grew up. When he sung Bring Him Home the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. It was stunning.
The final piece would have to be Bread of Heaven. As a proud Welshman I love Six Nations Rugby and we often have a house full of people when the games are on. I can remember going to Cardiff Arms Park as a youngster to watch Wales play and hearing Bread of Heaven reverberating around the stadium – it was an emotional experience. Not sure how we will do in the next six nations, it depends on which Welsh side turns up on the day – welcome to being a Welsh supporter.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Okay so I am presuming from the way the question is written that I have my family and friends. That being the case:
Parties, parties and more parties! We do have a tendency towards being party-monsters. A regular get-together with my family and friends would be tough to live without. We have a very active social calendar and are always at each other’s houses for a ‘bit of a do’ or are away with friends for weekends. I can’t imagine not having that.
Curry! Not many people appreciate that curry is an entire food group all on its own … joke. I would eat curry for every meal of the day if I could get away with it. When I visited New Delhi with work it was absolute bliss. We went to restaurants and I didn’t recognise a single meal on the menu. It was amazing!
I am a frustrated chef and would find it hard to live without cooking. On occasions when I’ve been away in hotels I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up in the kitchen, surround myself with my chef’s knives and chopping boards, and get stuck in. I love to cook with a beer, or three, in my hand and there have been occasions when I’ve cooked up a fabulous meal only to then forget how I did it.
I’ve been a fulltime crime writer now for a couple of years and I would find it difficult not to write. The voices in my head are seldom silent and they need a route out. If I switched that off I’m not sure what they would do.
Coupled with the previous answer – my apple laptop. It goes everywhere with me. I used to have other laptops but they seemed to self-destruct after a couple of years. I have a MacBook Air and it is a fabulous piece of kit.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
I found this one really hard to answer, so I consulted, Karen, who very quickly provided me with a long list of advice – none of which I have included as most of it seemed to apply to now.
I could think of three:
Be more tolerant of others. I had a terrible tendency, when I was younger, to be critical of other people’s choices and decisions. It was not a very attractive quality. Nowadays I am much more relaxed. Note: I read this answer out to my wife and she rolled her eyes and said ‘Really?’. I suppose, everything is relative.
Don’t wait until you are climbing the walls with frustration before changing jobs. Even though I have had a very varied career there were times when I knew I should leave a role but convinced myself to stay. This inevitably led to driving Karen up the wall because when I eventually wanted to hit the eject button, it would take months before I found a new job.
Don’t be so hard on yourself – give yourself a break. It’s okay not to get things right first time, sometimes screwing up is all part of the learning process.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
Karen and I were caught up in the Warrington bombing in 1993. The IRA detonated two bombs hidden in litter bins on Bridge Street. I was waiting for Karen to collect her contact lenses from Boots and was stood ten feet away from the first litter bin. After waiting for a while, Karen arrived and we walked to our car – minutes later it went off. All I can say is, it wasn’t our time.
It took me 24 years to write my first book and I only got serious about writing it when my dad developed cancer. It was a particularly aggressive illness and I gave up work for three months to look after him and my mum. Writing Those That Remain was my coping strategy for what was happening in the real world.
I play the guitar and have five to choose from. I would like to say that having played for thirty-five years I was pretty good – unfortunately the opposite is true. One year my daughters bought me a set of headphones to plug into my amplifier … which says it all. I brought them up better than that, I blame Karen.
I designed and built the electrical and control system for a revolutionary new style of iced lolly while working at Unilever’s research and development labs. I then worked and lived in Madrid while we installed the plant in a new factory. By the end of the secondment I could swear better in Spanish than I could in English.
I started my working life when I left school at the age of sixteen and took an apprenticeship with the National Coal Board. Arthur Scargill was head of the NUM while Ian McGregor headed up the NCB; we had three strike calls in eighteen months and the writing was on the wall. I left and went to university at the tender age of twenty-three to read an honours degree in electrical and electronic engineering. In my second year of university the place where I worked closed down. It was a very sad day.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
I don’t have a bucket list, I tend to think if I want to do something … I’d do it.
Having said that, there are a few countries I would like to visit.
I would love to travel around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and around India (Karen is not too keen on any of these). I also want to go to Australia and New Zealand to visit friends who have emigrated there.
Not sure if this is a true bucket list item but I have always wanted to spot someone reading one of my books while lounging by the pool on holiday. What a buzz that would be.
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DI Roz Kray Series
Faceless (Book 1)
The English seaside town of Blackpool has a dangerous side, as Detective Inspector Rosalind Kray knows all too well. After surviving a vicious knife attack which left her husband dead, Kray is now returning to work—only to be handed a serial killer investigation. But this killer doesn’t just want to take the lives of his victims, he wants to obliterate their very existence. The murders appear random, but each quarry is selected with meticulous care.Kray has always had a unique asset in investigations like these: the ability to think like a killer. Between fighting her superiors and struggling with her own demons, Kray makes a series of horrifying discoveries that turn the case on its head. But just when she thinks she’s closing in on the killer, her world comes crashing down in ways she could never have imagined.
This Little Piggy (Book 2)
Kevin Palmer is a regular sort of guy until his life suddenly shatters before his eyes. His wife, his business, and his reputation are all taken from him in one fell swoop. Trying to fight back only lands himself in prison. But he’s not done fighting yet.
In the confines of his cell, Kevin concocts elaborate fantasies to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him. When he is sent to work in an abattoir, the final piece of the jigsaw falls into place with chilling consequences. Then a cruel twist of fate changes everything. Meanwhile, Det. Inspector Rosalind Kray of Blackpool, England, is just returning to work after a brutal attack. She is soon on the case of a sadistic serial killer.
When she cracks the macabre pattern of murders, Kray has Palmer squarely in her sights. But can she stop him before he takes revenge on his final victim?
Suspended Retribution (Book 3)
After a flesh-eating parasite destroys his face, war veteran Alex Jarrod returns from Afghanistan with a head full of nightmares. His world crumbles around him until he realizes he has another war to fight. Meanwhile, Det. Inspector Rosalind Kray has her hopes pinned on a promotion after tracking down a serial killer in the coastal town of Blackpool, England. But now she has another troubling case to deal with.
After a small-time crook is killed in a hit and run and a serial burglar is brutally murdered, Kray suspects a vigilante is at work. But her bosses disregard her theory—until they discover a third victim. Once again Kray finds herself on the trail of a serial killer, and Kray has her work cut out for her as the body count keeps rising.
Jaded (Book 4)
A body washes up on a Blackpool beach, tortured and shot through the head.
A man is found in an alleyway, his throat ripped open.
A woman murdered in a hospital bed.
What connects them?
DI Roz Kray’s private life is a mess as she struggles to unravel a baffling case and DCI Dan Bagley is hell-bent on making her working life a misery.
Billy Ellwood is a chameleon. What forced him to disappear eighteen years ago? And what was the promise?
When Kray makes a shattering discovery, it rocks her world to the core. The stakes could not be higher. She’s left with no choice.
This time … it’s all or nothing.
The DI Rosalind Kray Series Books One to Three: Faceless, This Little Piggy, and Suspended Retribution
DS Malice Series
Killing Pretties (Book 1)
Detective Sergeant Khenan Malice is a rubbish ex-husband, a crap father but a damned good detective. It’s a shame he spoils his only redeeming quality by being a bent copper.
Detective Kelly Pietersen joins the team to help find a missing woman. But Kelly has a secret…
Damien Kaplan is a leading criminal barrister and a keen amateur potter. He also happens to be a serial killer with a chilling approach to creating his art. He’s married to Elsa, though she considers him more of a possession than a husband. She controls those around her using sex and procures men and women for her husband to play with but only after she’s finished with them first.
Killing Pretties is his passion, having sex with them is hers. It is difficult to say which one is worse.
The missing woman brings all four crashing together – an incendiary mix that doesn’t end well.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Lies (Book 2)
Twinkle twinkle, little lies,
How I see them in your eyes …
DS Khenan Malice believes his troubles are behind him. But it’s never that simple. This time … it’s personal.
Detective Kelly Pietersen has decided anti-corruption is not for her. But her previous life hunts her down, sending her world spiralling out of control.
Twinkle is a pillar of the community and an ambassador for the church. She is also a woman for whom lying is a way of life, wrapping those around her in a complex web of deceit. To her it’s a deadly game.
Their paths cross when a decomposed body is discovered.
The past and the present collide with shattering consequences, leaving the three of them fighting for survival.
Heads or Tails (Book 3)
Valerie Riggs lets the coin rule her life. Every decision is based upon a game of chance, even the decision to kill. She trusts the coin to keep her safe … it’s never let her down.
DS Khenan Malice is called to attend a clear case of suicide. But all is not what it seems. Then his world is turned upside down by a casual remark. The worst thing is … the remark comes from his seven-year-old daughter.
DC Kelly Pietersen is close to breaking point. The ghosts of recent events won’t leave her alone. She’s about to snap and someone is going to get hurt.
Valerie is always one step ahead … the coin knows best.
When Stars Will Shine : Charity Anthology
When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist. Includes Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman.
With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.
When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!
The Mechanic Series
Those That Remain (Book 1)
Lucas is coasting towards retirement in a mundane Florida police precinct when a brutal serial killer, codenamed Mechanic, lands on his patch.
Three years ago they thought Mechanic was dead. But Mechanic is very much alive and no family is safe from the savage, ritualistic murders that the sadistic killer is compelled to commit.
Mechanic is always one step ahead and Lucas is forced to operate outside of the law.
But who can he trust and who is Mechanic?
Soon Lucas will learn that the truth is more terrifying than he could ever imagine and in order to find the answers he needs, he might have to put his life on the line…
In Your Name (Book 2)
Police detective Lucas has become consumed with tracking down the deranged killer, known as Mechanic, and bringing the murderer to justice. Nothing else matters, not even his wife. His marriage is falling apart.
Mechanic has not killed for eight months and the trail has gone cold, then Lucas receives a terrifying letter. In a desperate bid to reignite the case, he tries to convince his boss to mount an operation in Baton Rouge where the letter was posted.
But was the letter really sent by Mechanic?
Not knowing where to turn, with his marriage in turmoil and his career on the rocks, Lucas begins to spiral out of control and when Mechanic meets the head of a drug smuggling cartel the situation takes a grave turn.
Meanwhile, a bizarre set of murders are taking place in Vegas and Detective Rebecca Moran is put on the case. She will stop at nothing to make a name for herself.
Is there a link between the murders and Mechanic?
Can Lucas apprehend the killer this time or will Mechanic remain one step ahead?
Pay the Penance (Book 3)
Murder. Corruption. Revenge.
Lucas has been tracking a killer, known as Mechanic, when his world is shattered. Unable to continue his hunt for the murderer he is forced to rely on his friend and colleague Dick Harper. But Harper has a knack for not playing by the rules. And he doesn’t disappoint.
Meanwhile Detective Moran is trying to piece her life back together. The police stumble upon new evidence without grasping its significance and she must divert the investigation if she is to survive.
The police are closer to Mechanic than they realise which puts Moran right in the firing line.
Mechanic, as usual, has other plans and the consequences for Lucas and Harper are terrifying…