I hope you'll excuse me a bit of shameless self promotion, but my third Vinyl Detective novel comes out this week. Official publication day is Tuesday the 8th of May — although copies are getting into people's hands already and at least one bookstore (naughty Waterstones Leamington Spa) started selling them on the 4th.
Now, I'm not going to do a big, arm-twisting hard sell on why you should buy this book. Essentially, if you've read and enjoyed the previous instalments (Written in Dead Wax and The Run-Out Groove) then I think you'll like this one, too...
What I will say is that a lot of your (or at least my) favourite characters are back in this novel, including Erik Make Loud, Clean Head, Stinky and the whole gang. Plus of course the cats Fanny and Turk. (Closely modelled on my own cats Molly and Jade, and included in these books at the instigation and insistence of Ben Aaronovitch. Thank you, Ben!)
There are two aspects of the new story I would like to mention, though. Firstly, it deals with a crime from the past which still has resonances today. Nothing shudderingly original there. This is fertile territory for a detective novel and Ross MacDonald, for one, used it in all his later Lew Archer books.
But in this case "the past" is World War Two. Indeed the victory discs alluded to in the title of my novel were a unique product of that conflict.
Popular artists did special recording sessions free of charge, and the resulting discs were distributed to service personnel all over the world as a morale booster.
In particular, my plot concerns the British bombing of Europe during that war. My knowledge of — and interest in — this grim chapter of history is entirely the result of two extraordinary books I was lucky enough to read. A factual study entitled Bomber Command by Max Hasting and a novel called Bomber by Len Deighton.
Both are magnificent books and I recommend them to you regardless of whether you have any interest in World War Two or not. They are both masterpieces of their kind, and they will not leave you unchanged. The extraordinary facts I gleaned from them provide a powerful underpinning for the backstory of my novel.
The other aspect I wanted to discuss is the influence of Cornell Woolrich.
I've always regarded my Vinyl Detective novels as part of a lineage of crime fiction which stretches back to Agatha Christie and, beyond that, to Conan Doyle.
Cornell Woolrich was a crime writer of the Golden Age, doing his most prolific work in the pulp magazines of the1930s and 40s, though he was still writing into the 1960s. He is best known today for his short story which was the basis of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Rear Window.
But there is a lot more to Woolrich than that. Specifically, he was as much a master of suspense as Hitchcock ever was.
Cornell Woolrich had a particular knack for propelling his poor characters into the most hellish of situations. Their suffering becomes the suffering of the reader and his best stories will make you end up in a cold sweat with your heart racing.
I was reading a lot of Woolrich around the time I wrote Victory Disc and I decided to try my hand at contriving the sort of nightmare situations of suspense he specialised in. To tell you any more would be to give away too much about this book.
But I do hope you read it, and enjoy it.
(Okay, now here's the hard sell: British readers can find the book here, with an out of date and wrongly coloured cover. My American friends can find it here, with an equally out of date and wrongly coloured cover.)
(Image credits: The lovely, correctly coloured, green front cover and green front-and-back cover are courtesy of me. I'd like to thank the splendid Martin Stiff for his beautiful design work on this and also my dear friend Matt West of Miwk Publishing who served as a kind of informal colour consultant for this cover. The wrong, wrong, wrong orangey-yellow cover, which you will still find on Amazon, is also courtesy of me.
And the cover of Max Hastings's Bomber Command is courtesy of me, me, me too. The image of the V-Disc (Victory Disc) is from a little known site quaintly called Wikipedia. The cover of Len Deighton's Bomber is from Books & Boots. The cover of Woolrich's The Bride Wore Black, with stupendous cover art by H. Lawrence Hoffman, is from ipernity. The striking alternative cover design for Victory Disc, featuring the record, the swastika and the slightly bloody Union Jack is the work of the supremely talented James King. Back in the dark days when I didn't think I would find a publisher for these books I commissioned James to design covers for potential editions to be self-published by me. The fact that it never came to that is thanks to Guy Adams and Miranda Jewess. Blessings be upon you both.)