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Coffee – Cake and Crime Event With Ferguson Shaw

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Some secrets are better left buried…

Keir Harper never could say no to a woman in trouble. Even the woman who tore out his heart and walked all over it.

So when Nicole Dunbar’s father disappears after being blackmailed she knows exactly who to turn to.

Nicole is convinced her father is innocent, but Harper knows everyone has secrets. And when he finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun with a body at his feet, Harper knows someone is lying to him.

For Harper isn’t the only one looking for Gordon Dunbar. He may, however, be the only one who doesn’t want him dead.

With a client he can’t trust, a police officer seemingly torn between arresting Harper and seducing him, and a friend still haunted by her brush with a killer, the only person Harper can rely on is his volatile partner, Mack; a man driven to violence by the ghosts of his own troubled past.

Harper won’t walk away from a case, but he’s about to discover that forgetting the dead may be the only way to avoid joining them.

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Finding her is only the beginning…

Keir Harper finds people. He knows how they think and he knows where they run to.

So when Janet Bell goes into hiding to escape her violent ex-boyfriend, her father hires Harper to track her down before her ex does.

It looks like an easy payday, but Harper’s hunt for the missing girl uncovers a terrifying secret that has been stalking the streets of Glasgow for months. A secret even the police have kept hidden. A secret that awakens painful memories of another missing girl: one who never made it home.

Harper soon discovers that finding Janet is only the beginning of a journey into the very depths of evil.

As he gets closer to the truth Harper finds himself trapped between warring criminal gangs, a cold-blooded hitman waiting for him to step out of line, and a police officer determined to put him behind bars at any cost.

But someone else is watching Harper too. Someone far worse…

1. How did you get started writing

Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. I remember writing and illustrating a very short book, when I was just a kid, about a couple of accident prone dinosaurs who managed to escape being eaten by bigger dinosaurs purely through their Olympic level clumsiness. I was a bit of a walking disaster when I was young so I might have been resolving some issues in that storyline: telling myself that my clumsiness would save the day in the end.

2. What drew you to crime fiction

I’ve always loved reading crime and thrillers. When I was young I read all the Famous Five and Secret Seven, then moved on to my Mum’s Agatha Christie’s, and John Buchan’s, and anything else I could get my hands on, including more humorous fare like P.G. Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe. My poor Mum was probably facing bankruptcy trying to keep me in books. But books with a criminal element were always the ones that particularly stayed with me. When I began writing seriously I never even considered what genre to write in. This is what I read and this is what comes out when I put pen to paper.

3. Which crime writers past or present have influenced your style of writing

I’m sure I’ve been influenced by any writer with more than a couple of books on my bookshelves, but there are some I think of as benchmarks in particular areas: Jeffrey Deaver is fantastic at twisting the story several times in the last few pages, and never so that it feels forced; Joe Lansdale writes tremendous dialogue; John Connolly writes so eloquently and lyrically, and creates some of the greatest villains; Dennis Lehane is another with a great ear for dialogue, and uses his books to ask some tough questions of the reader and society in general; Robert Crais and Jack Kerley really know how to tell a fast-paced story; Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter books have a wonderful line in sly, dark humour… I’ve been influenced by them all in the sense that theirs are the standards I hold myself to.

4. What was the inspiration behind the Keir Harper books

At the time I began writing the series it seemed to me there were a lot of Scottish and UK crime novels that featured police officers as the main characters and I wanted to write something different. I also wanted to write a series in order to develop a character over time, and I knew there had to be a valid reason for the protagonist to be continually investigating crimes. A private detective was the obvious choice given my background. But he had to be someone who was driven and willing to put himself in harm’s way, rather than just picking up a paycheque, and that’s where Harper’s back story came in, which in itself was inspired by two real life cases.

5. Did you find it hard to get publisher interest for the first book The Worst of Evils

Publishing is an extremely difficult industry to break into. A book needs to land in front of the right person at the right time, and so far that hasn’t happened. An agent in London was interested in representing me, but changed her mind before it came to anything. So I decided to publish The Worst of Evils myself and see what happened. The response has been fantastic.

6. Did you find the experience of writing your second novel in the series The Forgotten Dead an easy task or a quite daunting one compared to The Worst of Evils

Finishing The Worst of Evils was a hugely liberating experience for me. I’m very critical of myself, so for me to be happy with the finished work, was a real accomplishment. I’m very proud of the story. In that respect starting to write The Forgotten Dead felt easier because I knew I could do it. But by the same token I had set a benchmark for myself. And I now had characters that I was responsible for; characters that I had to be true to and yet continue to develop, which brought a new set of challenges.

7. Why did you decide to set your books in Glasgow

I’ve lived in the West of Scotland my whole life so it seemed natural to set the books here. Choosing a setting that I knew allowed me to concentrate on characters and plot without having to worry about the minutiae of a location that was alien to me. Of course, Glasgow lends itself perfectly to crime writing. The city has such a rich history, so much brilliance and so much darkness. And the fact it’s a major city with extensive countryside only a very short distance away gives plenty of scope for various landscapes and types of setting.

8. At the moment there are numerous authors setting their books in Glasgow, what sets yours apart from the rest

For me it’s character. Keir Harper isn’t a grizzled, world-weary old veteran, and he isn’t superman. He’s a young man, with flaws and weaknesses, but with the desire and determination to do what’s right, even at a cost. Something I see time and again in reviews is that the reader finds Harper and the other characters intriguing, relatable and believable. Ultimately though, what sets any writing apart from any other is the voice of the writer. It’s something intangible, something you either like or you don’t. You can read a book that seems to have all the right ingredients – character, plot, setting – and yet there’s something missing, something that just doesn’t connect for the reader. Sometimes this can be the mark of a writer who’s aiming at what they perceive as a market, or writing what they think a reader wants to read, rather than writing the story they simply have to tell.

9. What kind of research did you have to undertake for your books

I worked for a time as a private investigator, so that gives me some background to draw on, and I’ve trained in Muay Thai boxing for a number of years, which I think lends some realism to the fight scenes. But I’ve never wanted my books to pile facts on the reader. There are plenty of books that go into great depth on technical details and do it well, but I wanted my books to focus on characters, and I wanted Keir Harper to be an almost old-fashioned PI: someone who doesn’t rely on technology or gadgets but gets results through walking the mean streets and dealing with real people.

10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life

No. There are certain characteristics that I’ve observed in people and have included here or there, only dramatised and exaggerated, but nobody is based on a real person. I have too much fun making up characters to use real people.

11. Since you have started writing crime novels have any known authors given you any advice

Not directly, though you don’t have to look too far on the internet to find all sorts of advice. The problem there, as with any advice, is deciding which has merit and which is best taken with a large bag of salt. Every author’s journey is individual -what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Everyone has to find their own path. I have a signed copy of The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deaver, which my Dad got him to sign for me a few years ago. As part of the inscription he wrote “Keep on writing”, and that’s about as good advice as you can get: just keep writing, keep practicing, keep refining your style and your skills.

12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa

Harper is, like any of us, a product of his life experiences and, thankfully, I’ve never had to endure the things he has. I don’t imagine I’d cope quite as well as he does. His sense of humour is probably the closest aspect of his personality to mine. That and his liking for Irn-Bru.

13. What do you see for the future of Keir Harper in your books

Harper is a good man trying to do the right thing, even if it’s not necessarily the legal thing. But he exists in a violent world. How much violence can one person be surrounded by, and directly involved in, before it takes its toll on him? As the series progresses I think we’ll see Harper facing that question. Not only in how it affects him but those he’s close to, his relationships with other people, and the way he is viewed by others. I don’t know the answers yet, but I know I’ll have a lot of fun unearthing them.

14. I’m many of your reviews on Amazon people have stated that your books are both dark and also light hearted do you find it hard to maintain this in your novels

I’ve got a pretty dark sense of humour, as do most of my family and friends, so it was natural for me to bring that to the books. The storylines are violent and bloody at times, which makes the odd well-placed humorous line that much more important in order to lighten the tone. In most cases the humour flows quite naturally in the course of writing the dialogue. I’ll refine the wording during editing, but I find that the actual timing of the lines tends to feel right.

15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share

As I mentioned earlier, everyone has to find their own path. However, some people see JK Rowling or EL James making mega bucks and think writing is a path to fame and fortune. If that’s why you’re writing, don’t bother. Writing is fun, but it’s hard work too, and you need to want to do it. If you’re writing for the enjoyment and because you have a story you just have to tell then, as Jeffrey Deaver wrote, “Keep on writing”. Read as much as you can; write as much as you can; go for it like someone’s going to take all your pens away at the end of the day. Grow a thick skin, settle in for the long haul, and write because you love it.

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http://www.fergusonshaw.com/

Amazon Author Page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ferguson-Shaw/e/B00C7D0SZU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

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