Review / New Release: Running on Emptiness (Time, Blood and Karma #4) by John Dolan

28757271Running on Emptiness (Time, Blood and Karma #4)
by John Dolan

I was over-joyed when I stumbled upon the fourth book in the Time, Blood and Karma series. Dolan is one of my favourite mystery / thriller writers and this book lived up to the high standard of the previous ones.
Once again we follow private detective David Braddock through an adventure in Thailand, this time with a lot of political intrigue as a military coup is in the offing.
His latest mission comes to him at the wedding of his daughter, of all places. Personal and professional issues get mixed up quickly, as always in this series, and make for some very rewarding reading pleasure.
The book shines with its engaging narrative: one minute distant and detached from the happening, the next you’re drawn in with the characters in the turnmoil and chaos that prevails in their lives.
This book benefits from the work that Dolan put in in previous instalments. The plot can build on previous books but you don’t need to have read them to appreciate it. There is a lot going on in this thriller. The narrative is captivating and shines through the humorous and eloquent use of language.
This is hugely enjoyable and a real treat.

Official blurb: 
It is the summer of 2006. In Thailand, the army makes preparations to overthrow the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Against this backdrop of political turmoil, destinies are shaped as events ensnare a corrupt Police Chief and his dying wife, two warring drug lords, an embittered widow, and a vengeful gangster.
While dreams and obsessions play out on the streets of Bangkok, private detective David Braddock finds himself mired in guilt. The ghosts of his past misdeeds are coming home, and they are bringing devastation in their wake.

‘Running on Emptiness’ is the fourth volume in the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ series.

Find the Book on Amazon Uk and Amazon US

‘Hungry Ghosts’ , book two in the series, is currently‪ #‎FREE‬ on Amazon Kindle until 15th February

Link to my interview with John and an interview with John and his co-author Fiona Quinn about their book Chaos is Come Again

6550683About John:
“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

John is the author of the Time, Blood and Karma series.

23 FEB Pub Quizz for One Human Race #gofundme #humansasone

A charity quiz kicking off at The Bridge!!

Van ready to go to Berlin with just over 1000kgs of donated clothing! Thanks for all your help Raz Hussain! Safe journey and see you there on Thursday!

Rando Wagner has been doing some pretty amazing work helping refugees in Europe, and he needs your help. So why not do it with a pint in your hand? As well as the normal prizes, there’ll be some great raffle prizes up for grabs!!

Tuesday, February 23at 8 PM

The Bridge Clapham
The Bridge Bar 8 Voltaire Road, SW4 6DH London, United Kingdom

SOME of the prizes we will be raffling off at this event:

1936973_213954368949794_4346639846817873369_n2 x Tickets to an NFL game at Wembley Stadium
Meal for two at a Brixton VIllage Restaurant
Magnum of Champagne
2 x Men’s ‘Whistles’ shirts
£100 worth of Botox
Painting by local artist Jo Gibbs
100 minutes of Sunbed sessions
1 Litre of Absolute Black Label Vodka
Flight/Hotel/Travel Voucher

And there’s more not mentioned, and more still to come!! So be sure to get yourself down on the 23rd and support this great cause!!!

Here is a bit about his cause:

12208626_10153176198846641_7816030940353918374_nWell documented fighting in the Middle East has displaced 11m human beings in Syria alone, many more in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rando’s GoFundMeCampaign was founded to support these fellow humans in need in their legitimate yearning for peace and shelter.
Rando has begun his campaign by collecting over a ton of winter clothes and delivering them to a refugee camp in a derelict Airport building in Berlin.12510243_10153225553606035_6647490167915554275_n

He has also sourced 4,500 socks and shoe supplies for the camp – all urgently needed in the freezing temperatures in Germany and on the Balkan.


The ‘Berlin Airlift’ part of his operation has found flight crew and other volunteers who take them to the camp in Berlin.
Rando also spends about a week each month helping the refugees hands-on in Lesvos and other hot-spots on their journey to Europe.

After their arrival on rubber boats from Turkey the refugees have often nothing more than the bare necessities on them and need dry clothes, shelter, food and information. They also need transport from their landing point to the arrival camps. This help is being provided almost exclusively by volunteers like Rando who donate their spare time and own money to help our fellow human beings.Europe-migrant-Greece-media-040_m
Rando supports Moria, one of the refugee camps on Lesvos, with direct cash injections.

This is where people are held during the slow registration process, often under harrowing, life-threatening harsh conditions. Moria’s monthly running costs are over 40,000 Euro and they are struggling to keep everyone warm, clean and fed.

So far, Rando’s GoFundMeCampaign has raised close to £ 10,000, all of which has gone directly to benefit the refugees: No unnecessary overhead costs or fancy expenses. But much more is needed to provide the victims of war and terror with the bare necessities for survival and save the loss of more life, wherever this person was born.”

So if you find yourself at a loss on a Tuesday evening, come down and get your quiz on!!!1526573_10153170793231035_946839829281332454_n

Tuesday, February 23at 8 PM

The Bridge Clapham
The Bridge Bar 8 Voltaire Road, SW4 6DH London, United Kingdom

Welsh Wednesdays: Youth Short Story Writing Competition @Llandeilo Book Fair



Do you enjoy writing? Are you 15 years old or younger?
Would you like to win a Kindle Fire, a cake from Heavenly Chocolate or a Book Voucher?

Ydych chi’n mwynhau Ysgrifennu? Ydych chi o dan 15?

Hoffech chi ennill Tân Chyneua,
siocled cacen o Heavenly, Dalebau Llyfrau?


If so, write a short story of about 500 words and send it to

Os felly,ysgrifennu stori fer o ua 500 o eiriau a’i hanfon at:

Gurrey Manor
Gurrey Banc, Llandeilo
Carmarthenshire SA19 6AJ

by April 15th.
erbyn Ebrill 15

The winning ceremony will be held at the Llandeilo Book Fair at the Civic Hall in Llandeilo on Saturday April 30th at 12:30

Bydd y seremoni yn cael ei chynnal buddugol yn Ffair Lyfrau Llandeilo yn y Neuadd Ddinesig yn Llandeilo ar ddydd Sadwrn 30 Ebrill 12 30

Lessons from the Old Country

An interesting post about a visit to Poland
Might be of interest to some who have read my novel Ludwika

Wish I Were Here


A village in the Carpathian foothills of Southern Poland – June 2007

The mountain that towers over the villages of my maternal grandmother’s family is called Babia Góra. Witch Mountain. Wide, billowing skirts. A plump, round face obscured by murky wisps of cloud. She is a moody, unpredictable massif.

“If it doesn’t rain this weekend, we can walk up there,” my cousin Łukasz says. He takes my sister Penelope and I on a tour of the village. The log cabin in the front yard of his parents’ house was our great-grandfather’s. It is boarded up. The roof has begun to cave in.


We visit one cemetery and then another. While Łukasz shows us around, his father, Ignac, putters around the garden and barn. A shaggy beast named Rexo is chained up next to the barn. He is twenty-two years old. Ignac’s wife, Maria, works as a cleaning lady in Vienna…

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Calling All Children’s Books Authors – Special Needs Children Need Your Books!

Calling All Children’s Books Authors – Special Needs Children Need Your Books! (Reblog from jemsbooks)


Bird from Twin Lakes Civitan

Hi fellow authors!

I recently received a message from a lady, Angie Smith, who is looking for books up to grade six level for special needs children. She is the secretary of Twin Lakes Civitan, a non-profit organization that helps people of all ages who are in need of assistance. Above is their adorable snake reading a book and below their logo!

Twin Lakes Civitan

Angie asked me if I could spread the word about this organization and help in some way to obtain the much needed books for their special needs children to get them up to their reading levels. I told her I would be happy to send some of my books to her. All most authors want in return is a review. This she said she would make sure is done for anyone who donates a book or books.

Please visit their website and you will see the good things that they do to help…

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Interview with Annie Whitehead #reblog #histfic #interview

Source: Here is my interview with Annie Whitehead | authorsinterviews

Interview with Annie Whitehead

Name Annie Whitehead

Age 52

Where are you from  Nowhere, having moved all over the world, but settled now in the English Lake District. My father was in the armed forces and I was born in Germany on British soil, so I have the rare distinction of having two birth certificates. Early life was a series of house and school moves, from the Far East to the Netherlands. I went to four different secondary schools and took a year out before I studied History in London and gained my BA (Hons) in 1985. I’ve been married for nearly 26 years and have three grown-up ‘kids’.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

My second published novel “Alvar the Kingmaker” has just been released. It’s the story of a 10th century nobleman and the challenges he faces when too many people demand his loyalty and protection.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always ‘scribbled’, but it was when I was a final year student that I realised all I wanted to do for a living was write.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I’d finished the first draft of my first novel. It wasn’t great, but I knew I had something I could build on.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My love of history, and of reading historical novels.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

I think I do. I tend to write in third person, but I keep the point of view to just a few characters, so that you’ll only see inside the heads of a select number of the ‘cast’. I always like to show the reader what I can see, so I’m careful to set each scene.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

I find titles really difficult. For my first novel (To Be a Queen) I played around for ages with the words, but I knew I wanted to convey the fact that the heroine knew what it took, sacrifices and all, to be a Queen. With Alvar it was harder – the working title was Might and the Mitre, to convey his struggles with the Church establishment, but then I realised it was more about his role, and that was most definitely that of Kingmaker.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Interesting question. Maybe that it’s worth bearing in mind just what desperate lengths people will go to in order to achieve their ambitions or desires. And that hypocrisy gives off a pungent whiff. I know from my work with school pupils and as a parent, that even very young children can smell a hypocrite.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?

I’d like to think that it’s very realistic. Only one of my main characters is fictional. I researched the history, although I’d had a good head start having studied the period for my degree, but I did extensive research into how people actually lived – what they wore, what they ate, and how they viewed the world.

Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not directly, because it’s a work of historical fiction. But I was able to identify with some of the choices and dilemmas faced by the women, particularly their progression into motherhood and the change in perspective that comes with that.

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

I’m not sure that any particular book has influenced me, but I would say my mentor has to be my tutor when I was a student. Ann Williams is an eminent Dark Ages historian, highly respected and incredibly generous of her time. She brought that period to life for me and we are still in regular contact over 3o years later
Fiona: What book are you reading now?

I have several books on the go at any given time. I’m currently reading and scoring books entered in a novel competition, so I’m probably not at liberty to say!

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Through my writing I’ve been lucky to discover lots of new writers. One who stands out as having an exquisite turn of phrase is Prue Batten; I’ve just finished her ‘Tobias’. My favourite read of last year was ML Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, again because of the phrasing. With both of these books, there were moments when I just looked up and thought – I wish I could write like that.

Fiona: What are your current projects?

My plan is to release my third book about Anglo-Saxon Mercia early next year. It’s already written, but I need to find a cover and have it proofread etc. I’m currently working on a non-historical novel, which was a prize-winner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing Competition a year or two ago. I’d been a winner the previous year and when I turned up again, judge Fay Weldon remembered me and said, “My dear, you really must finish this novel.” So that’s what I’m trying to do
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

When I first began writing, it was just me and a notebook. I live a long way from family members too, so it was very much a solo project. Since the release of my first novel I’ve been embraced by a lovely ‘family’ of fellow authors, too many to name individually.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I might focus slightly more on the ‘supporting actress’. I wrote ‘Alvar’ before ‘Queen’ and if I’d written them the other way round I might have followed ‘Queen’ with another leading female protagonist. But in the re-writes I expanded her role considerably.

Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I remember writing stories in my bedroom when I was quite a young child. At around the age of eight I wrote a series of tales about Ferdinand the Hedgehog.

Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

“Alfreda sang quietly while she worked with the batches of wool. The rhythmic movement of the carding combs moving back and forth in her hands was familiar from childhood and now, as then, she was soothed by the pulsing regularity of the action. She sat slightly apart from the other women. She was still unsure how much they knew or guessed and she wished neither to insult them by pretending, nor to reveal the truth if they were not already aware. Thus rendered dumb, she worked alone, speaking only when she needed some more wool to work on. She had almost finished the latest lot when she heard the shouting. She was always frightened by the yelling, but now her hand went quickly to her belly in an instinctively protective gesture.”

Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

With each new piece, I find it harder to get started. Knowing that the first draft will be, essentially, rubbish, it’s hard to just type it out anyway, knowing that most of it will get edited/deleted.

Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I’m not sure that I have a favourite author. I have favourite books, and they are usually favourites because the characters within the pages have become real people to me. Any author who can do this, gets my vote.

Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No. The landscape and buildings have changed so much since the 10thc that there’s precious little to see. I have visited a few, though. On holiday in North Wales many years ago I was really moved to discover that, quite by chance, the guest house we had picked purely on the basis that it could accommodate our family of five plus my parents, was located just across the road from the monastery at Clynnog Fawr, a place where Alvar is recorded to have been in AD978. It was magical to know that I was walking in the same place, even though the church building that stands there now is more modern.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?

The illustration for To Be a Queen was supplied by the publisher. I designed the Alvar cover myself, using an image for which I’d purchased the rights.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Initially, it was the realisation that I didn’t know much about how the people lived. Later, it was the exhaustion that comes at the end, when you are scrolling through your completed manuscript looking for typos and inconsistencies. Somewhere between the first and final draft is a happy place where I can dawdle, sometimes for years!
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Begin the story in the right place, and find inventive ways of dropping in any necessary exposition.

Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

When you are despondent and feel like giving up, ask yourself what you would rather be doing instead. If the answer is nothing, don’t give up – you are a writer.

Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

The Anglo-Saxons weren’t mystical, mythical, magical beings who dwelt with elves and monsters. They were medieval, with systems of government as sophisticated as anything the Normans introduced. Their period spanned more than half a millennium; to lump them all together is akin to saying that we live like the Tudors did.



Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

I don’t. But it was probably a Janet and John book.




Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

The Monty Python Fish Slap Dance makes me laugh every time I see it. Seeing other people upset, and missing my kids are two things guaranteed to make me cry.



Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?

I would like to meet someone from the 10th Century, just to see how accurate my portrayals are.

Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?

“She was kind, and she was a good mother.” I think if one can be kind, it’s a good way to live.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?

I really enjoy ‘working out’ and I do pilates, yoga, weight-training, kick-boxing, walking and cycling. Lately I’ve become rather addicted to the new generation of colouring books.

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Any good film or TV drama, comedy shows. I’m not a huge fan of crime dramas, although I did enjoy Lewis and Happy Valley.

Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music

I don’t really have a favourite food or colour. I’m a massive fan of music though – I love The Who and have done since I was 11, but I also like folk music, classical, 70s rock, 80s synth and some newer Indie bands that my kids have introduced me to.

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

I would love to have been a professional singer and did have a taste of that life, but nerves/stage fright got the better of me.

Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

Yes, I blog here:




Amazon Authors Page

Book links:


Smorgasbord Open House – Meet author Christoph Fischer

I’m getting the royal treatment over at Smorgasbord – the amazing blog by Sally Cronin – Thanks for the shout-out about my book Ludwika and the Llandeilo Book Fair. Much appreciated!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Smorgasbord Open House

Welcome to the Open House and I am sure that many of you will already be familiar with my guest today, author and blogger Christoph Fischer


I will of course be showcasing Christoph’s latest book Ludwika – A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany, but first a brief overview of Christoph’s life, his books and his blog here on WordPress.

Christoph Fischer is the best-selling author of many books that have received outstanding reviews. These include The Luck of the Weissensteiners, The Healer, Conditions and the sequel Conditioned.

Christoph relocated to Wales last year and has taken to the culture and his new surroundings like a duck to water.. Well it is Wales and if I remember rightly from my years there… It has quite a bit of rain. This year sees the start of a brand new project for Christoph and one I am sure will be…

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My Review of Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub #Tuesdaybookblog | Barrow Blogs:

Source: My Review of Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub #Tuesdaybookblog | Barrow Blogs:

My Review of Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub #Tuesdaybookblog



Wordpress header


Do n ot wash hands


I gave Do Not Wash Hands In Plates 5* out of 5*

To use an adjective favoured by the author, this is a “honking” good read

The Book Blurb (much condensed!)

“Once upon the Land Before Time (or at least before mobile phones), my two best friends and I decided to leave the US from separate locations and meet up in Europe. To everyone’s shock, Janine, Jaya and I pulled it off—mostly because we went to Luxembourg, a country so small the odds in favor of chance street encounters were almost 100%, but also because Jaya was carrying the BS, a blue suitcase so enormous it took up approximately a third of the country’s square footage and was visible on satellite images. We couldn’t possibly miss…

It took over thirty-five years before—in a combination of optimism and failing memories— we recklessly decided to repeat this feat. Hey, we reasoned, now we’ve got smartphones, better credit ratings, wheeled suitcases, medical insurance, and the ability to drink legally. Just to make it more interesting, this time we chose to meet in India, where the odds against the three of us actually linking up were approximately a bazillion to bupkis…

This is the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, the perfect paratha…and the kindness of Indian strangers.”



“Despite blizzards, cancelled flights, de-icing delays, and an adjacent passenger who had made unfortunate food choices resulting in alarming gastrointestinal events, I arrived in India. The theory was that I would fly in from my home in Scotland, Janine would come from Washington DC, and Jaya would meet up with us at the airport. Nobody who knows any of us thought for a second that this could really occur.

Actual conversation at Passport Control, Mumbai:

Janine: “Well no, I don’t have my friend’s address or phone number. But she’s going to pick me up at the airport. She lives in Gujarat. That’s in India.”

Passport Control: [SO not impressed

I arrived before Janine. As far as I could tell, the Ahmedabad Airport was staffed by the entire Indian army, each soldier carrying a honking huge gun. I grabbed my suitcase and exited baggage control into India. Noise. Chaos. People, dogs, honking horns, more people. More soldiers. More guns. Dozens of sincere men who called me “Sister” and suggested they could take me anywhere on the planet I might want to go.

No Janine. No Jaya. And, apparently, no way to get back into the airport. After several failed attempts at international texts, I realized I could (at heart-stopping expense) send email to Jaya, who soon confirmed that she was on her way and that it was 3:00AM so I should go back inside. Except there were signs everywhere saying you couldn’t go back in.

“No problem.” Jaya explained that rules in India are more like guidelines. “People in India are very kind. Just ask.”

I’ve been living in the UK where rules are inviolate and graven in stone, so I didn’t believe a word of it. But the soldier at the door listened to my plea and waved his AK-Humongo to usher me back inside. There I found Janine attempting to send email or text. I reminded her neither option was likely for two technologically-challenged, jet-lagged, middle-aged ladies in a foreign country at 3:00AM.

In the end, we wandered over to the door and to our mutual amazement found Jaya waiting for us along with a hired driver and a van. Apparently lightning does strike again, because just like thirty-five years earlier, the three of us actually managed to meet up in another continent.

What could possibly go wrong from here?”

Warning: Do not read this book in public.

In true Barb Taub style we are taken along with these three friends to sample the richness of India. We share in the travelling, the people – and the food. Described in such detail that each journey, each experience, each shopping expedition, each meal, instantly conjures up an image. And it is delivered with witty humour, so much so that I was unable to stop cracking up into loud laughter. (hence the above warning!)



Did I mention mention the food? Barb does … a lot!! Seems wherever the three friends went, their hosts were determined to fatten them up!

This short book is also greatly enhanced by the photographs, courtesy of Jayalakshmi Ayyer and Janine Smith,,we see beautiful buildings, stunning views, indigenous animals and birds, the lovely Indian people – and mealtimes.


In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humour column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American. ]

I’ve been a follower of Barb Taub’s blog and she is one of the funniest writers I’ve come across in a long time. I fully expected the book to be written in the same style and I wasn’t disappointed. I can’t recommend Do Not Wash Hands In Plates highly enough. If you don’t rush off and buy this book, you’re missing out on a great read.

Find copies here:

#Read ‘At Odds with Destiny’ FREE from now until the end of February 2016…

Source: #Read ‘At Odds with Destiny’ FREE from 3rd to 29th February 2016… | Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

A reminder that my historical novel THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS is part of this amazing ten book bargain box set, which includes a few more historicals novels within an otherwise multi-genre collection.

AOwD 01     AOwD 02

Author Name: Uvi Poznansky

Sale dates: 02/03/2016-02/29/20161st

Regular price of book: $1.99

Sale price of book: $0.00

Category: Thrillers, Historical Fiction, boxed set

Review quotes:
★ The variety here is phenomenal, from intrigue and mystery, to gut wrenching, to fantasy, one thing is consistent, the quality -Dennis Waller, Top 500 Reviewer

Each one of the novels in this boxed set is outside the box. Together, they have nearly 1000 five star reviews! Open this box at your own risk!

Bestselling, critically acclaimed, and notoriously creative authors from across the book continuum join forces to bring you At Odds with Destiny, everything you’ve wanted in a boxed set but thought you’d never find: full-length novels brimming with myth, fantasy, mystery, history, romance, drama, originality, heroism, and suspense. Finding themselves at odds with destiny, the characters in these stories fight to shape their future and define who they are. Come follow them in their amazing journeys.

Let in the dog and let out the cat, for this box holds dangers of the most rarefied kind!

Three ways to describe this book:

Thrillers, Historical Fiction, boxed set

Barnes & NobleiTunesKOBOSmashwords



Christoph 3

Saturday Historical Novelist Interview with Bill Douglas

MadworldscoverToday I have the pleasure of introducing Bill Douglas, whose book “Mad Worlds” I had the fortune to review for the Historical Novel Society

“Mad Worlds: A Tale of Despair and Hope in 1950s England” by Bill Douglas is a very memorable and emotional read about mental health care in Britain during the 1950ies. It tackles an important and difficult subject and handles it very well with believable characters and excellently researched details.
We witness teacher John Chisholm and his life in the Springwell Mental Institution while his wife Heather has to continue life on the outside, with many problems and tough choices to make of her own. Love, loyalty, prejudice, soul searching, frustration and hope feature in this moving and eye-opening book. It is a very powerful read that not only provides historical insights but also an interesting story beyond the mental health issue. Although set in the past, the themes touched upon are still relevant to our time, which made this book particularly rewarding.
Reviewed for the Historical Novel Society, Indie Awards.

Welcome Bill, please tell us a little about yourself, as writer and as person:

Born in St. Andrews Scotland in 1935, I published last year my debut novel ‘Mad Worlds: A Tale of Despair and Hope in 1950s England’. From an early age, I’d enjoyed short stories and on retiring from full-time work started writing them. Thoughts of tackling a novel came only in recent

Paid full-time jobs were in mental health social work through the 1960s, then in public sector academia (mainly on social work education) into the 1990s. After retiring I re-trained as a counsellor, to work part-time in a bereavement centre and an NHS locality service for folk with mental health issues referred by GPs. I volunteer for Samaritans and my local church.

I’m married to Elisabeth – a talented fellow writer and brilliant listener – with children & grandchildren. We’ve a similar sense of humour and share many current interests – voluntary work, social issues, meeting with our family, writing, golf, board games & puzzles, church, holidaying…

Why historical fiction?

I’ve always loved to hear tales of the past, to relive these in my imagination. I want readers of this novel to relive likewise.

Also I see history helps us to understand better our heritage and to infer some lessons for policy and practice.

What in particular fascinates you about the era you write about?

The mid-20th century was a fascinating era to live through – one of challenge, threat excitement and suffering. Of particular interest to me is how those afflicted by mental ill-health – and their relatives – were seen in society and the different approaches to dealing with and treating them. Talks with an aunt suffering bouts of depression, in the late ‘40s and well into the ‘50s, inspired me to seek work in mental health.

What’s the concept behind the book and how did you get the idea?

I’ve retained my interest in mental health. When I saw a ‘Starting your Novel’ module advertised, I had the idea of maybe writing something set in a historic mental health context. On that module an exercise – to write for a few minutes about a guy in a confined situation – got me scribbling about him sitting around on a locked ward. I came away bent on writing about a man compulsorily admitted to a harsh mental institution – just before England’s 1959 Mental Health Act, when some places were like that.

I want to give readers a realistic view of life within and outside a harsh mental hospital via dramatized scenarios. I want the tale to inspire. Madworldscover

What song would you choose to go with your book?

Possibly La Marseillaise, with its strong anti-tyranny message. In my penultimate draft, my character John whistles this as he walks from the now-rapidly-transforming institution. In my final version John whistles Elgar’s tune which starts ‘All Men must be Free’ as this relates directly to his situation. Both songs are contenders. I’d welcome any views.

Are you like any of the characters – and if so, how?

Of the point-of-view characters, I’m quite like John Chisholm, in terms of humanitarian values and (an ‘only child’) a tendency to indulge in reverie. Likewise I’d share Jamie Macdonald’s idealism – and I resemble both characters in brooding over, but dealing with, loss. My similarity to Sam Newman extends only to the tackling of mental health emergencies – emotionally-charged situations that will keep presenting in any era.

Maybe I’d most resemble Browncoat Mac, in attitudes and values (and his approach to academic work!), as well as in both his institutional roles. A post-grad student in 1959-60, I worked over the first six months as a part-time ward orderly in the local mental hospital, and later worked as a P.S.W.

Were the plots and sub-plots completely planned, or did they change?

I developed a story-line, and in telling the tale changed both character and plot a bit. Having started with one main character (teacher John), I soon realised I needed Heather to be a second main character, to show the struggle and pain of his bereft loving partner. And I needed latterly Jamie Macdonald as another point-of-view character resolved to transform this punitive system. There changes led to shifts in the plot.

And I decided on different endings for some characters, e.g. ‘Sarge’ Parker, plus an additional sub-plot in Heather’s parents revealing their ‘terrible secret’ – which leads to her more truly understanding John.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you and your book?photo

My aim in writing it is to re-create a dramatic era and stimulate thinking on mental health issues. So I want very many people to read and talk about it.

My title: I intend ‘Mad Worlds’ to convey the craziness of places called ‘mental hospitals’ being about control and detention of patients. I see that readers may well assume my title refers to characters’ internal musings. I began with ‘A Mad World’, realised this could describe our planet, changed to ‘Mad World’,  saw this title for the Evelyn Waugh biography, and adding an ‘s’ then seemed okay – with a sub-title. Guess I should have stuck with the singular as that bit of the title refers to this institution (& others like it).

I’ve been lucky to retire on a decent pension, so currently don’t need mega bucks. (Just as well – the book’s very far from best-seller lists!). Money from sales is going mainly to causes I support – so far Samaritans, Imagine Mozambique (former charity), intend MIND, Vasculitis UK in future.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? Highs and Lows?

Overall good. My publisher has been excellent to work with. The promise was to publish within six months, and there it was in five. Main benefit is I’ve written the book I wanted to. Of course it costs and there’s no agent to promote. My publisher’s helped on social media, but I’m a slow learner!

What are you working on now?

Memoirs, from which I might be able to craft a mid-20th century semi-autobiographical novel.

Re-visiting and revising stories I’ve written, maybe for a collection.

What book are you reading currently, and in what form?

‘The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden’ by Jonas Jonasson. Paperback.

Find Mad Worlds on Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Connect with Bill:

Official Blurb:

This 80,000-word novel follows two main characters:

Young teacher John Chisholm, who is haunted by a past tragedy and believes his wife no longer loves him, is stressed to near-breakdown. He is forcibly removed to a harsh mental institution, Springwell, where he is certified and detained indefinitely. He endures and witnesses abuses – some in the name of treatment – and meets fascinating eccentric fellow inmates. Although suicidal at times, he resolves to survive and escape.His wife Heather Chisholm, who has recently battled a post-natal depression, is distraught. While pining for John, she sees her priority as ensuring their infant child is properly cared for, and tries to rally support from neighbours and her parents. Encountering John’s hostility on visiting, and horrified at the conditions in which John is hopelessly trapped, she becomes vulnerable to romantic overture.

Others through whom parts of the drama unfold, are: Sam Newman, the local authority Mental Health Officer responsible for tackling emergency situations, who is instrumental in John’s removal to Springwell, and who lusts after Heather; ‘Sarge’ Parker, an ambitious and sadistic Charge Nurse who sees patients as madmen to be coerced, targets John for abuse, and vows he’ll seduce Heather; Jamie Macdonald, who emerges latterly as the new Medical Superintendent, driven by personal experience and ideals to attempt reform in Springwell.

Will John ever escape the harsh threatening environment in which he is imprisoned? How can his relationship with Heather survive? Can grief-stricken Heather, further burdened by her parents’ ‘terrible’ secret, get the help she desperately needs for her and her beloved child? How will she respond to the advances of the helpful Newman, and of the ‘friendly’ Parker? And, critically for John, can Macdonald make any real impact on fortress Springwell?

‘Mad Worlds…’ is a novel set in an era when England still operated under harsh, stigmatising Victorian legislation in the field of mental health. Readers are invited to eavesdrop on realistic scenarios, both within and outside a mental asylum of the 1950s. With flashes of dark humour, this is an intriguing, sometimes horrifying tale suitable for fans of historical fiction and those who are interested in issues of mental health, relationships and loss.


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