Wednesday Windback with David Mark @davidmarkwriter

Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with David Mark which was first posted in Oct 2018. It’s been brought up to date to reflect David’s latest publications.

I first discovered David’s books when I heard that they were set in Hull (my hometown). Having read the first, I was hooked, not only on the storytelling but also on the brilliant characters, especially Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy himself.

David has been pretty busy since this feature was first published so for those yet to meet either Aector or his other creations there’s plenty to sink your teeth into.

David spent more than fifteen years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with the Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels. He has written 10 novels in the McAvoy series as well as two McAvoy novellas and a prequel.

Dark Winter was selected for the Harrogate New Blood panel (where he was Reader in Residence) and was a Richard & Judy pick and a Sunday Times bestseller. Dead Pretty was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger in 2016, as was Cold Bones in 2019.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the competent and incompetent investigators; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

His first historical thriller, The Zealot’s Bones, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. With publishers Severn House, he has also written a number of critically-acclaimed thrillers.

His first work of non-fiction, a mental health memoir detailing his battle with depression and addiction, was released last year. Piece of Mind has been described as ‘lyrical, raw, brutal and very funny’.

David’s Radio 4 drama, A Marriage of Inconvenience, aired in 2017. His first novel has been adapted for the stage and was a sell-out smash in Hull. He has also written for the theatre and has contributed articles and reviews to several national and international publications. He is a regular performer at literary festivals and is a sought-after public speaker. He also teaches creative writing.

Over to David:

Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

You do realise that a question like that could drive a person to insanity, don’t you?! Five? My life has been almost as much about music as it has been about writing so the idea of whittling it down… Ooh, you’re a terrible person. Righto.

We’ll need a trad-jazz number because my beloved Grandad Billy was a jazz musician who played the saxophone and clarinet and was very well known in the North as a real talent, and most of my childhood seemed to resound to the sound of brushes on a snare, double bass and cool brass.  He was a big inspiration to me, and I wish I was half as good at the saxophone as he was. Shall we say Basin Street Blues?


We’ll need something classical, for balance, as I can only really listen to classical or Romantic music while I write, as otherwise I get distracted by the words. The Well Tempered Clavier by J S Bach is musical perfection though I will admit to being considerably more stirred by later composers in general.


We’ll need something by U2, because they’re the greatest band in history and I want to be Bono and I don’t care what that says about me. Maybe The Unforgettable Fire.


We need something indicative of my era as well. I’m 40, so came of age at Britpop time. I’m no stranger to a tracksuit top and a pair of Adidas Gazelles. I was more Oasis than Blur but on balance I liked Pulp best of all. Saying that, my tastes were never very mainstream, so we’ll go with Fun for Me by Moloko, because they were always trying new sounds and experimenting and the lead singer was so damn cool. She was also called Roisin, and I honour her in the McAvoy books. She’s Aector’s delightful partner.


Fifth tune in my life soundtrack would have to be something to play over the montage of rejections and failures that make up the life of the writer. In the move I picture myself sinking deeper into a whisky glass and slowly being devoured by a chesterfield armchair. So for that we need something soulful and bleak and written on the black keys. Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor could persuade a clown to kill themselves and always feels like the beginning of an Inspector More episode. So, that.


What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

This one is easier. I’m not that sentimental, although if you saw the amount of stuff we brought with us in a recent house move, you’d find that statement hard to swallow.

I’d be devastated to lose my Grandad Joe’s poems. He was a gruff Northerner and worked as a plumber for the council but in his spare time he wrote lovely, gentle, lyrical verse about the family and people he met. He had a great imagination but he was of a generation that kept that stuff to themselves.

I wouldn’t want to lose my Grandad Billy’s old instruments either.

I’d struggle to live without my sturdy old computer because I am a technical Luddite and wouldn’t know how to get the information off this one onto another one, and when people talk about stuff being stored in the clouds I presume they’re just being ridiculous.

I couldn’t live without tea, that’s for certain, though I used to think I couldn’t live without whisky, only to successfully give it up on the advice of doctors, family, friends, publishers, and the lovely Icelandic writer Yrsa Siggursdottir, with whom my fiancée and I spent a drunken New Year. I dropped her elderly pug while in drink and we all took that as a symbol from the cosmos that my drinking days were over.

I’m not sure after that. My spectacles? Medication? Heinz canned goods? It wouldn’t be my mobile phone – I hate the damned things.

Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?

I could, but I know full well that the arrogant prick wouldn’t listen to me. He’d be too busy wallowing in bile and resentment and whingeing on about the cards he has been dealt in life, rather than rolling his sleeves up and getting on with it. Damn him, with his good skin and his lovely hair and his absence of gastro-oesophigal discomfort.

But, deaf ears notwithstanding, I’d tell him not to focus too much on changing the system, but to get better at succeeding within it.

I’d tell him to have a stab at acting and stand-up comedy before he got round and wrinkly.

I’d tell him not to be too deferential to those London types in the silk ties and the skinny chai lattes who act like they know it all but are all just scrabbling about in the dark like the rest of us.

And I’d probably tell him to pop to America and garrote Trump before he can become a problem.

I wouldn’t tell him to relax, or calm down. Fire and brimstone has got us where we are.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you

Oh God. Erm,

I play saxophone.

I was a dreadful journalist for a long time and a good one for about three days in total.

I am rarely happier than browsing shelves in charity shops looking for obscure books that might spark off an idea.

I like really random sandwich fillings, like cold sausages and jam.

I once punched a horse.

Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.

Travel is a major part of it. I want to see everywhere, but the trouble with holidays is that wherever one goes, one is encumbered by the fact that one’s own personality has come along for the journey. And I find myself very tiresome company.

But, nevertheless, I want to get ridiculously stoned in a cabin in the woods where they filmed On Golden Pond.

I’d like to throw a hatchet into a dart board.

I want to walk naked through a car wash.

I’d like to punch Michael Gove in the face.

And marry my enchanting fiancée, obviously, though I want to do so while wearing a suit of armour with a hinged codpiece. Just the normal stuff, really.

David’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

DS McAvoy series

Dark Winter (Book 1)

DS Aector McAvoy is a man with a troubled past. His unwavering belief in justice has made him an outsider in the police force he serves, a good man among the lazy and corrupt.

Then on a cold day in December he is the first cop on the scene when a young girl is killed in Hull’s historic church – and the only one to see the murderer. A masked man, with tears in his eyes…

When two more seemingly unconnected people die, the police must work quickly. Only McAvoy can see the connection between the victims. A killer is playing God – and McAvoy must find a way to stop the deadly game.

Original Skin (Book 2)

Suzie Devlin lived for pleasure – until her best friend Simon was murdered. Now Suzie seems to be in the killer’s sights…

Who wants her dead? And why? She’s done nothing wrong… except, perhaps, get involved with the wrong person.

DS Aector McAvoy has been a marked man all his life. He knows how one misstep can put you in harm’s way. He’s determined to protect Suzie, even if it means inviting danger to come to him…

In a dark world of sin and retribution, he will stand against a killer to save a life.

Sorrow Bound (Book 3)

Philippa Longman did what we all aim to do. She did the right thing.

She’s about to pay for it with her life…

DS McAvoy has spent his career playing by the rules. He has the scars to show for it.

And his latest case will take him into a world in which good intentions make no difference to those with a thirst for revenge… Where ruthless killers go to any lengths to get their way… And where the most powerful thing anyone can do is stand firm against the darkness.

Taking Pity (Book 4)

DS Aector McAvoy’s family is in hiding. He has lost his way.

His boss Trish Pharaoh gives him a distraction in the form of an old case. The Winn family was killed forty years ago: were the police right about who pulled the trigger?

But McAvoy’s enemies – the ruthless criminal organisation known as the Headhunters – are pitiless. They plan to take everything from those that stand in their way.

And his cold case is strangely linked with the fire that’s about to rain down on Hull…

When McAvoy confronts the worst of killers and sinners, not everyone will escape unscathed.

A Bad Death (novella)

A Bad Death takes place between books 4 and 5 in the DS McAvoy series, Taking Pity and Dead Pretty.

Will Blaylock died while on day release from prison.

It was a bad death. But accidents will happen.

Detective Sergeant McAvoy isn’t convinced, though. And he owes a debt to Will’s cellmate Owen Swainson: a debt formed in blood and fear when they came together to catch a killer.

But their search for a murderer will rip open old wounds, and force old enemies out of hiding…

Dead Pretty (Book 5)

Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.

One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won’t let either of them go until justice can be done.

But some people have their own ideas of what justice means…

Cruel Mercy (Book 6)

DS Aector McAvoy’s brother-in-law Valentine is missing.

In New York City, half the world away.

And the two men he travelled with have just been found in an open grave upstate: one dead, one as good as.

McAvoy doesn’t believe Valentine killed them. He does believe he’s in trouble. And so he follows him to New York, determined to find out what happened.

But Valentine is in more danger than McAvoy could have imagined.

And McAvoy’s walking into it right after him: into the darkness of murder, revenge, and a forty-year-old crime…

Scorched Earth (Book 7)

The police think Crystal Heathers isn’t missing.

The trainee detective assigned to the case isn’t so sure.

McAvoy thinks someone was being held at the derelict building where they just found a body pinned to the wall…and that all the signs point to it being a little girl.

But why would anyone not report a kidnapping?

And how far would someone go to get revenge?

The case will test McAvoy to breaking point – as the crimes of the present lead him to a final violent confrontation with an enemy from his own past.

Cold Bones (Book 8)

It’s the coldest winter in Hull for years.

When McAvoy is told by a concerned stranger that an elderly woman hasn’t been seen for a few days, he goes to check on her – only to find her in the bath, encased in ice: the heating off; the windows open; the whole house frozen over.

It could be a macabre accident, but McAvoy senses murder. Someone watched her die.

As he starts to uncover the victim’s story and her connections to a lost fishing trawler, his boss Trish is half a world away, investigating a mysterious death in Iceland. Hull and Iceland have traditionally been united by fishing – in this case, they are linked by a secret concealed for half a century, and a series of brutal killings that have never been connected.

Until now – when the secrets of the dead have returned to prey on the living.

Past Life (Book 9)

DS Aector McAvoy must face the dark, disturbing secrets of his past if he’s to keep his family safe.

The clairvoyant is found with her tongue crudely carved out, a shard of blue crystal buried deep within her mangled ribcage.

The crime scene plunges DS Aector McAvoy back twelve years, to a case from when he was starting out. An investigation that proved a turning point in his life – but one he’s tried desperately to forget.

To catch the killer, he must face his past. Face the terrible thing he did. But doing so also means facing the truth about his beloved wife Roisin, and the dark secrets she’s keeping have the power to destroy them both completely.

Blind Justice (Book 10)

DS Aector McAvoy investigates his darkest, most brutal case yet

The call comes in before DS Aector McAvoy has had time for breakfast. The news is bad: A body. Found in the woods out at Brantingham.

The reality is even worse.

The young man’s mutilated corpse lies tangled in the roots of a newly fallen tree, two silver Roman coins nailed through his sightless eyes. Who would torture their victim in such a brutal manner – and why?

DS McAvoy makes the victim a promise: I will find answers. You will know justice. But justice always comes at a cost, and this time it may be McAvoy’s own family who pay the price.

Darkness Falls (Prequel)

A city united in grief.

A journalist ready to kill to keep his secrets.

A copper capable of darker deeds than murderers.

An unworldly detective fighting to save an innocent man.

Welcome to Hull

Newly appointed DS McAvoy is an outsider to his new force and must confront his darkest fears, while hunting a killer that nobody else believes in. In a landscape at once tender and brutal, McAvoy must tread the path between the darkness and the light, before facing an enemy who will brand him for life.

Fire of Lies (novella)

Eight months ago, there was a body in the barrel. Now there’s just a mess.

DS Aector McAvoy’s latest case is proving a hard one to crack.

Back in November, Paul Rouse was shot, welded into a beer barrel and sent floating down the Humber.

The barrel’s been traced to riverside pub The Trawl. It’s the kind of place where the locals have plenty of secrets to keep. None of them are talking.

To anyone else, the case would be a dead end.

But McAvoy always finds a way…

Fire of Lies introduces gentle giant McAvoy, his fierce boss Trish, and characters you’d only ever meet in a David Mark novel. It’s Hullishly good.

A stand-alone ebook short story: a body in a barrel and a pub full of witnesses who won’t talk adds up to the perfect introduction to the DS McAvoy series.

Historical Novels

The Zealot’s Bones

Two men seeking the bones of a martyr stumble upon the crimes of a devil in the stunning historical crime novel by bestselling author David Mark.

Hull, 1849: a city in the grip of a cholera outbreak that sees its poorest citizens cut down by the cartload.

Into this world of flame and grief comes former soldier Meshach Stone. He’s been hired as bodyguard by an academic hunting for the bones of the apostle Simon the Zealot, rumoured to lie somewhere in Lincolnshire.

Stone can’t see why ancient bones are of interest in a world full of them. Then a woman he briefly loved is killed. As he investigates, he realizes that she is one of many… and that some deaths cry out for vengeance.

Anatomy of a Heretic

London, 1628. Nicolaes de Pelgrom, assassin and devoted servant of George Villiers, will do whatever his master asks of him – even if that means enduring the perilous voyage to the Indies to exact a grieving widow’s revenge.

Making that same journey is Jeronimus Cornelisz, a conniving apothecary determined to escape the backstreets of Amsterdam and become rich beyond imagination. Hired by a criminal mastermind to escort precious cargo to the Indies, he will kill anyone who stands in his way.

When these assassins clash, so too do their missions. One cannot succeed without killing the other. In this deadly game, who will triumph and who will die? And are they even the only players?

Standalones

Cages

A dark past. A terrifying secret. A deadly game is about to begin . . .

Washed-up author Rufus Orton needs money. It’s the main reason he takes the gig teaching creative writing to inmates at HMP Holderness. That, and the flattery of prison officer Annabeth Harris, who contacted him out of the blue and begged him to take the job.

Annabeth loves Rufus’ work. Genuinely. She loves being a prison officer too. But Annabeth is keeping a secret. Fifteen years ago she did something bad, and if it ever comes out, her new, perfect life will be destroyed.

HMP resident Griffin Cox has no black marks against his name. He claims he’s been wrongly convicted of the sex offence that put him in prison. He’s lying. He has a plan – and everything hinges on him securing a place in the classroom with Rufus and Annabeth. It’s only then that the game can begin . . .

The Guest House

How much would you pay to survive?

Mum-of-three Ronni Ashcroft had just pieced her life back together after her husband left. On a remote spur of the Scottish Highlands, she kept her successful guest house going and even met a new man, Bishop.

But it turned out that Bishop had secrets. He had shady connections and shadier plans to use the coastal town as a European gateway for drugs, guns – and something far worse. Now he’s disappeared, and Ronnie wants answers.

Is he in trouble or simply ignoring her? Was she just his play-thing from the start? And, most importantly, is he dragging them both into something that neither of them will survive?

Into the Woods

If you go into the woods, you’re in for a dark surprise.

Thirty years ago, three girls followed a stranger into the woods. Only two returned. The surviving pair have never been able to remember what happened or what the fate of the third girl was. Local rumours talk of hippies and drugs and mystic rituals, but no one has learned the truth.

This story is just what Rowan Blake needs. He’s in debt, his journalistic career is in tatters – as well as his damaged body – and he’s retreated to the Lake District to write. Yet even Rowan isn’t prepared for the evil he is about to unearth, for the secrets that have been buried in that wood for far too long…

The Burying Ground

Cumbria, 1967. Grieving the loss of her son, Cordelia Hemlock is in the village graveyard when lightning strikes a tomb, giving her a glimpse of a fresh corpse that doesn’t belong among the crumbling bones. But when the body vanishes, the authorities refuse to believe her, a relative newcomer to rural and ancient Upper Denton.

Cordelia persuades Felicity, her new friend from the village and the only other person to have seen the corpse, to join her unofficial investigation. But the other villagers don’t take kindly to their interference. There are those who believe the village’s secrets should remain buried . . . whatever the cost.

Borrowed Time

Adam Nunn’s search for his true identity has horrifying consequences in this compelling psychological thriller.

A badly mutilated body has been discovered in a remote woodland pond on the Essex borders – a location known to be the haunt of the ruthless crime gang that ruled London in the 70s. When one of the victim’s hands is found nearby, forensic tests reveal a number scrawled on the palm. It is quickly identified as the National Insurance number of struggling family man Adam Nunn.

As Adam is arrested in connection with the murder, it emerges that the dead man was a private investigator he had hired to find out the identity of his birth parents. Just what did Larry Paris discover that got him killed?

As Adam seeks the truth surrounding his origins and promises justice for the mother he never knew, he is drawn into a lurid criminal world of violence and violation, reprisal and merciless death. Torn between the man he wants to be and the man he fears becoming, Adam’s investigations will lead him ever deeper into darkness.

A Rush of Blood

Ten-year-old Hilda’s search for her missing friend has terrible consequences in this gripping psychological thriller.

When her friend Meda fails to turn up for dance class one evening, 10-year-old Hilda is convinced that something bad has happened to her, despite Meda’s family’s reassurances. Unable to shake off her concerns, Hilda turns to her mother, Molly, for help. Molly runs the Jolly Bonnet, a pub with links to the Whitechapel murders of a century before and a meeting place for an assortment of eccentrics drawn to its warm embrace. Among them is Lottie. Pathologist by day, vlogger by night, Lottie enlists the help of her army of online fans – and uncovers evidence that Meda isn’t the first young girl to go missing.

But Molly and Lottie’s investigations attract unwelcome attention. Two worlds are about to collide in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on the rain-lashed streets of London’s East End, a historic neighbourhood that has run red with the blood of innocents for centuries.

Memoir

Piece of Mind

Best-selling novelist David Mark’s first work of non-fiction is an excruciatingly honest account of living with acute mental illness.

This lyrical, raw and painfully funny memoir explores how it feels to house a monster inside your head: a slavering, seductive beast that whispers ‘kill yourself’ just when you start to think you’re happy. It’s the story of finding love and raising a family in the face of mania, depression, OCD, addiction, hallucinations, suicidal ideation, chronic anxiety and a genuine genius for self-sabotage.

Piece of Mind deals with the reality of waking every day and choosing not to die. It’s about keeping on keeping on. It’s about fighting for your life when death seems so much easier. It’s about becoming a best-selling novelist and fulfilling your dreams and then feeling so utterly empty inside that an ocean of whisky isn’t enough.

Sounds bleak? It’s damn funny too.

Children’s

Grave of the Goblins

It was supposed to be a relaxing family holiday in the Spanish countryside: a chance to enjoy the mountains, the lakes and to chill out in a luxury vacation home carved into the face of a cliff.

Now 12-year-old Willow Wrigglesworth is running for her life. She and her family have stumbled into a battle between the forces of darkness and light. There are angry goblins behind the bedroom wall. Her favourite stuffed animal has just turned into a real-life polar bear. Her brother is fighting off demonic warriors with a sword, Dad has been taken prisoner by a creature made of knives and Mum is splattering imps with a frying pan. As holidays go, it’s not quite the five-star break they’d been hoping for.

Before morning, Willow will have to navigate her way through an ancient underground realm of magical creatures and fearsome beasts. Rivers of lava, giant rats and a mysterious pulsing orb of pure power are just some of the obstacles Willow must overcome In this fun, funny and frightening adventure.

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