Monday, 1 August 2022

Yet More Look-In Cover Art

In 2016 I wrote a Nostalgic post about Look-In (which you can read here), a much loved magazine (‘the junior TV Times’) of my childhood.  Designed and written for kids, it featured the major film stars, pop acts, sports people and TV stars of the day with comic strips, posters (most of the Six Million Dollar Man ones ended up on my bedroom wall) and behind the scenes articles.  It also had, through the late 70s and into the early 80s, painted covers by Arnaldo Putzu, an Italian artist working in London who made his name creating cinema posters in the 1960’s for the likes of Morecombe & Wise, Hammer (Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires), the Carry On series and Get Carter (which I wrote about here).  Though other artists sometimes contributed artwork (including Arthur Ranson), his cover reign from 1973 through to 1981 still looks glorious today.

I’ve posted about the covers before (you can read previous posts here, here and here) and so, with a focus on those from 1981 (all of forty one years ago), here’s another small selection of that wonderful artwork.

It was clearly a big deal for Bond to be on TV then (Dr No was released in 1962, 13 years prior to this edition.  As of today, we're 47 years after this edition, which doesn't feel right at all...)
Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, a major hero of my childhood
I didn't realise Just William was this old, to be honest - my sister-in-law still jokes about 'scweaming until she maketh herself sick...'
At the time I didn't realise The Latchkey Children was based on the novel by Eric Allen, but I discovered and read it in 2013 (and blogged about it here)
My favourite film of 1981, I blogged about Raiders Of The Lost Ark here

for more, there's a great Look-In archive on Facebook here

Monday, 18 July 2022

The Hunter's Quarry, by Mark West

 I'm pleased to announce that The Hunter's Quarry, my third mainstream thriller published by The Book Folks, is now available.

Has a professional killer got the right target in his sights?

A woman is being hunted by a ruthless assassin. She has no idea why. Surely he must have confused her with someone else…

But you can’t exactly go up to someone who is trying to kill you and ask why. You can call the cops, but will they believe you? And can you trust them?

Single mum, Rachel, must use all of her wits and ingenuity to escape this threat. Maybe she can even turn the tables on her pursuers. But first she’ll have to find out what they want...

THE HUNTER’S QUARRY is the third gripping thriller novel by Mark West. Look out for his other standalone titles, the psychological thrillers DON’T GO BACK and ONLY WATCHING YOU.

If you enjoy fast-paced crime fiction full of suspense, you’ll absolutely love this book!

* * *

“You have something he’s willing to kill to get back.  You just don’t realise it yet…”
When Rachel Turner inadvertently comes into possession of a mysterious package, dropped into her handbag by a woman later killed for the item, she finds herself the target of a deadly pursuit from a ruthless gang of criminals.  As the net draws in ever tighter, Rachel needs to use her wits to stay alive.

THE HUNTER’S QUARRY is set in and around Hadlington, the same town as my second novel, Only Watching You and takes place over the course of one suspense filled night. Again, it was written during the lockdowns and plotted out with my good friend David Roberts on our Friday Night Walks. 

THE HUNTER’S QUARRY is a relentless novel of suspense, with plenty of twists and turns.

Tell all your friends!

Monday, 4 July 2022

Nostalgic For My Childhood - Some More Summer Specials

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with Dude where he expressed amusement over what I had to put up with when I was his age, namely (but not limited to) very few video games, cameras that were only cameras and phones that were wired to the walls in your house.  This led to me blogging about one terrific thing I had that he didn't, the Summer Special!
As I explained then (you can read the 2018 entry here, the 2020 one here and the 2021 one here), children’s comics now aren’t a patch on what they were back in the 70s and 80s (and before that, even).  Modern titles, sealed in plastic bags and littered with free gifts, have very little in the way of comic strips or stories (in fact, most seem to consist of quizzes) but back in the day the likes of IPC and DC Thomson produced a raft of weeklies that catered for most tastes (published on newsprint with a splash of colour).

Those weeklies, in turn, gave us the Summer Special to look forward to.  A one-off edition of our favourite title, it was thicker and more colourful and the perfect reading accompaniment to a long car journey or a lazy afternoon in the back garden.

Comics historian Lew Stringer suggests (on his blog) that “today’s retailers dislike them because they occupy valuable shelf space for too many months” which didn’t bother newsagents in the 70s - Summer Specials were especially popular at seaside towns because they were pretty much guaranteed sellers, with a new batch of kids every week who’d need entertaining.

Here are a few more from my golden-era of reading them (the late 70s into the early 80s) - what were your favourites?
1979 - a team-up between Spidey & The Punisher sees people disintegrate in a poisonous gas.  Even read now, the imagery is cheerfully gruesome!
1979 - a real favourite of mine, I wrote a retrospective of Look-In which you can read here

Thanks to Lew Stringer for the history and comicvine for some of the scans.  See also David Barnett’s excellent blog piece at The Guardian.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Phoenix, by Steve Byrne - Redux Reviews 1

Welcome to the start of a new thread where I'll revisit reviews of books by friends and writers I admire, to highlight the works for readers who might have missed them the first time they appeared.

We'll begin with Phoenix, a novel by Steve Byrne I originally reviewed in 2013.

Vietnam 1967.
Something monstrous has risen from the ashes of war…
When the US marines enter the hidden village of Mau Giang, they unleash an ancient darkness from within its temple walls. A fearful secret kept for generations by the native Montagnard tribespeople. 
Abraham Curtis travels to Vietnam to visit his sister Jenny, an aid worker in Saigon. Together they join a humanitarian convoy into the Central Highlands, where Jenny is to adopt a child orphaned by the conflict.

But the influence of the breached temple is spreading its contagion across the combat zones of Vietnam like gangrene through flesh, and soon it will destroy Bram’s world. Pursued by a bloodthirsty cult, he must search for his missing sister through the war-torn wastelands, his only companions deserters, rebel soldiers and a woman who may not be quite human.
Across the world, protestors line the streets. The battle lines are drawn - war and peace, hawk or dove. Is this the apocalyptic coming of the Man of Blood, prophesised by Nostradamus, or a delusion brought about by Post-traumatic Stress? On panic filled streets, during the Fall of Saigon, Bram will find his answer.
Forget truth. Forget innocence. There are only casualties.

Bram Curtis is in Saigon in 1967, to visit his sister Jenny who works in an orphanage.  He’s left England, disillusioned and wants to try and find himself in this new country - listen to Hendrix, smoke pot and see what life has to offer.  When he discovers Jenny is planning to adopt a young girl called Lai, he gets roped into the aid convoy to go and reach her, headed by the urbane General Hoan.  After things take a decided turn for the worse (like Hoan himself) and Bram becomes embroiled in the Tet Offensive, the narrative jumps to May 1970 as he searches for his now-missing sister.  His pursuit leads him further in-country and into the orbit of the mysterious - and potentially dangerous - Qui, taking us up to 1975 (there’s a much later coda too), when he must finally confront the Man Of Blood, a supernatural entity that is teased throughout the novel.  
Since my entire knowledge of Vietnam is limited to memories of lessons at school and movies from the 80s and 90s, this isn’t the kind of novel that I would have picked up generally but I’m glad I did in this case.  Starting with a bang and never really letting go of the pace - and it’s a long novel - Byrne relays the story of Bram, a drifter who discovers a cause that consumes his life, with real style.  Vietnam is almost a character in herself, with Saigon painted in rich and detailed depth, from the heat and humidity, the texture of skin and sweat and the hundreds of things that are happening in the streets at once, creating a riot of tactile, broiling humanity.  Later, moving in-country, you get a real sense of both the claustrophobia and humidity of the jungle, of the architecture of the churches and the battered and bruised earth, making it occasionally hard to read it’s so well done.  
The book is filled with vivid characters - and this extends to the most minor of roles, not just Bram, Jen, Hoan or Qui - and yet none of them are guaranteed safe passage to the end of the novel, with some of the deaths (as quick and dirty as you’d expect in a war situation) being quite shocking.  Combine this with a dispassionate eye towards the brutality of war - what is seen and what is perpetrated - and you have a narrative that demands attention.  The supernatural elements are used sparingly but are well written and blended easily into the narrative, so you’re as unaware as the character if you’ve witnessed them or not.  Byrne doesn’t skimp on the set pieces either and there are plenty of them, all superbly constructed and choreographed, never overlong and intense enough to make you feel part of them.  The same is true of the last act, a gruelling journey Bram must take into his own heart of darkness that you can’t tear your eyes from, even down to the gut-punch final few lines.
Steve has clearly done his research in all areas - the locations, the equipment, the theatres of war, the culture and the language - and it shines through perfectly, with nothing coming across as heavy handed or expositional.  Everything the reader learns  - about Vietnam or the horrors - comes through the character, with no obvious info-dumps.
This is a wonderfully constructed novel, tightly edited and with a cracking pace and it deserves a big readership.  Highly recommended.

The book can be found on Amazon here as a paperback and here as an ebook whilst Steve Byrne's website can be found here.

Steve Harris (the man behind Mr Byrne) & I go back a long way, first corresponding in the late 90s when he produced a newsheet called The Inner Circle.  I didn't actually meet him for several years, finally plucking up the courage at one FantasyCon to introduce myself with "are you the Steve Harris who did The Inner Circle?”

Since then we've developed a great friendship, which often involves us talking for hours at Cons about all things horror.  At FantasyCon 2012 (in Brighton, which I wrote about here), he told me about Phoenix, which he was publishing through his own imprint PunkLit and I jumped at the chance to read it.

The first Crusty Exterior gathering - London, April 2015
from left to right - James Everington, Phil Sloman, Steve and me

Monday, 6 June 2022

Planning & Editing: A guest post by Richard Farren Barber

My fine friend Richard Farren Barber has a new novella out from Crystal Lake Publishing called Twenty Years Dead (it's very good) and to help celebrate it, he's contributed the following guest post.

After twenty years in the ground, the dead briefly rise. At his father’s grave, this is Dave’s last opportunity to discover why a man would abandon his wife and young son. Against the protests of his mother and his girlfriend, Dave is determined to learn what happened all those years ago. Sometimes you have to risk everything, but the dead don’t give up their secrets so easily.

Twenty Years Dead is a novella of quiet horror, which explores families and their secrets.

Come listen when the Dead speak...

* * *
You'd have thought after thirty plus years (gulp) I'd have a handle on this writing malarkey. Write. Edit. Publish.


And sometimes that's exactly how it works. My most recently published novella is Twenty Years Dead and that was a straightforward delivery. The first draft was written in 4 weeks and then it took a few more weeks for editing before it was ready to go out.

Not so much the current novella. It's not hideously complex but I've already had to pull it apart and restructure it, shifting around scenes, deleting chapters and adding new material. And still it’s very, very wrong.

It’s not necessarily the chronology of the story which creates complications – in both cases the story follows a conventional storyline, but sometimes it’s clear from reading the first draft that something has gone awry. For me it’s often about character motivation, or development. It’s often the case that something just doesn’t feel right.

There's a part of me which loves the dissection: it’s very satisfying taking something apart, figuring out how it actually works and how it should work. But here's the thing; once you start messing with the order of your first draft it quickly unravels. It reminds me of times as a child when I took apart a toy only to discover I couldn't put it back together again. After a few hours of focussed play you find yourself with a handful of plastic pieces and a knot of wires and rubber bands.

(Quick aside for those brought up in the seventies: The Casdon tabletop football game used a *lot* of strings to make those players move. Who knew?)

You put your story together in what you think is the right order and suddenly characters gain knowledge they can't possess, or reference events which have not happened. It's amazing how complicated simple things can become.

When I'm sitting there staring at my disembowelled story there is a temptation to shove all the guts back in and just hope no-one notices. Even when the major structural work is done and all the scenes are in the right order the details continue to trip me up. It can be something as miniscule as realising you’ve referenced a building which no longer exists, or by introducing characters in a different order they need to change their view on events.

I often find myself wondering whether any reader would spot the inconsistencies or whether I'm self-flagellating. I suspect someone would, but in truth I don't know. But I’d know, and I think that’s the only thing I can offer as a writer: integrity.

Every time I am editing a story I wish I planned my tales better and I promise myself next time I'll write a proper outline. Outlining seems like the Holy Grail as a writer. When I begin writing a new story I usually have a very clear vision of the beginning and an understanding of the end but the middle tends to be hazy. Some of the characters in Twenty Years Dead were known to me from the outset while others bloomed into existence as the pages racked up. For me, that discovery during the first draft is one of the real joys of writing; I just need to find a way to do it before I start page one.

* * *
Me & Richard in Nottingham during a Crusty Exterior
meet-up in April 2019 I wrote about here
Richard Farren Barber was born in Nottingham in July 1970. After studying in London he returned to the East Midlands. He lives with his wife and son and works as a manager for a local university.

He has over 80 short stories published, seven novellas: “The Power of Nothing”, “The Sleeping Dead”, “Odette”, “Perfect Darkness, Perfect Silence”, “Closer Still”, “All Hell.” , and “Twenty Years Dead.” His two novels are: “The Living and the Lost” and “The Screaming Dead” (Co-authored with Peter Mark May).

Richard can be found online at the following links:

Monday, 23 May 2022

Frenzy, at 50

Frenzy, Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s 52nd film as director, opened in the UK on 25th May 1972.  It was produced by William Hill, written by Anthony Shaffer (from the novel by Arthur La Bern) and the director of photography was Gil Taylor.  Syd Cain was the production designer, Albert Whitlock supervised the visual effects and John Jympson was the editor.

After the brutal murder of his ex-wife, down-on-his luck former RAF pilot Richard Blaney is suspected of being the ‘Neck Tie Murderer’, a vicious serial killer terrorising London. With the help of his friends, Blaney goes on the run, determined to prove his innocence.

In 1970, looking for a new project after Topaz (1969), Sir Alfred Hitchcock was given a copy of Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern and he later told journalist Rebecca Morehouse “I was attracted by the market [scenes] and by the central figure, an Air Force man who is always a loser. Today is the day of the non-hero, isn't it?”  Excited by the novel and its location, he pitched it to Lew Wasserman and Edd Henry at Universal over a lunchtime meeting and they agreed to make it, on a $2.8m budget.

Hitchcock decided it would be best to make the film in London with an all-British cast and rang playwright Anthony Shaffer, whose Sleuth was then a hit on Broadway, to ask him to adapt the novel.  After Shaffer (who originally thought the call was from friends playing a joke) agreed, the two men met in New York in January 1971 to discuss the adaption, before going to London to scout locations, looking over Hyde Park, Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, Bayswater, Hammersmith and Covent Garden Market.

The script meetings continued throughout February and several parts of the novel were cut back, such as the court scenes, or excised altogether, such as Blaney's escape to France.  In addition, Hitchcock insisted on using phrases from his childhood (spent in London), as Shaffer explained to Donald Spoto, “[he] was intractable about not modernising the dialogue of the picture, and he kept inserting antique phrases I knew would cause the British public a hearty laugh or even some annoyance.”

The downbeat ending of the book was changed to a more satisfying conclusion and Hitchcock and Shaffer added a recurring theme of food, along with biblical references to the Garden of Eden and Original Sin. The part of Chief Inspector Oxford was also enhanced and light relief added during mealtime scenes with his haute cuisine interested wife who was busy carrying out culinary experiments.  Although Shaffer wrote the screenplay on his own, which was completed well before filming began, Hitchcock had a firm idea of where he wanted the story to go and co-wrote the 55-page treatment the 160-page script was based on.
Mrs Oxford (Vivien Merchant) serves up another delight for Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen)
Casting for actors and crew began in May and Hitchcock renewed some old professional acquaintances.  Cinematographer Gil Taylor had been clapper-boy on Number Seventeen (1932), sound mixer Peter Handford worked on Under Capricorn (1949) and Elsie Randolph (who plays Gladys the hotel clerk) had appeared in East Of Shanghai (1931).

Hitchcock cast seasoned British actors for the other roles, recognised in the UK but relatively unknown in Hollywood at the time.  Alec McCowen (Chief Inspector Oxford), Barry Foster (Bob Rusk), Billie Whitelaw (Hetty Porter), Anna Massey (Barbara Milligan), Vivien Merchant (Mrs Oxford) and Barbara Leigh-Hunt (as Brenda Blaney) from the stage were joined by TV stars Bernard Cribbens (Felix Forsythe), Michael Bates (Sergeant Spearman), Clive Swift (Johnny Porter) and Jean Marsh (Monica Barling).  As he had with Psycho (1960), where Norman Bates is much older than Anthony Perkins, Hitchcock cast the much younger Jon Finch as the anti-hero Richard Blaney (who, named Blarney, is nearly fifty in the novel) though when he later openly criticised the script to journalists, Hitchcock was close to recasting - he'd wanted Michael Caine for the Rusk role but the actor turned it down (“I don’t want to be associated with the part”). Hitchcock had seen both Foster and Billie Whitelaw in Twisted Nerve (1968).
Bob Rusk (Barry Foster, on the right) helps out his old friend Richard Blaney (Jon Finch)
With regard to the look, Hitchcock told Gil Taylor he wanted “a realistic nightmare, rather than a ‘Hammer Horror’” with Covent Garden as the backdrop, referring back to a selection of Vermeer paintings.  The son of a Covent Garden merchant, Hitchcock was keen to film at the market and, perhaps aware its working days were numbered (it remains a thriving tourist part of London today), to document it too.

Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, had flown to London intending to spend a few weeks in England before embarking on a European tour with their daughter Patricia and granddaughter Mary.  After a weekend break to Scotland, Alma suffered a serious stroke and was treated at Claridge’s Hotel by Hitchcock’s personal physician.  She recovered enough to watch dailies with her husband and Barry Foster said later that Hitchcock awaited her reaction “like a schoolboy, showing his homework to the teacher.” Alma flew home to Los Angeles in October to receive further treatment.
Hitchcock on the Thames
Filming began in the last week of July 1971 with assistant director Colin Brewer heading the second unit, as well as handling many of the first unit set-ups for Hitchcock, who was suffering badly with arthritis.
Hitchcock in Covent Garden with Gil Taylor (centre) and Colin Brewer
Filming progressed smoothly and though a lot of the exteriors were filmed around Covent Garden, plenty of other London locations were utilised including Tower Bridge and County Hall (for the opening sequence), the Coburg Hotel on Bayswater Road, Hyde Park and the London Hilton on Park Lane.  Brenda Blaney’s flat is in Ennismore Gardens Mews and her matrimonial agency is at Dryden Chambers (since demolished), just off Oxford Street.  Filming also took place at New Scotland Yard, Wormwood Scrubs and St Mary Abbot’s hospital and the production was granted permission to film inside the Old Bailey the first full weekend in August.  The interiors were filmed at Pinewood Studios, with sets often on stand-by to serve as ‘weather cover’.
Hitchcock with Anna Massey

Hitchcock puts in his traditional cameo appearance during the opening scene at County Hall, where he’s in the middle of the crowd wearing a bowler hat.  Teaser trailers showed his dummy floating in the River Thames.

The final three weeks of filming were taken up with the complex sequence on the potato truck and principal photography ended after thirteen weeks on 14th October, though the second-unit worked for another week.

The celebrated tracking shot out of Rusk's flat, which is as stunning now as it was then, was filmed using a camera dolly since the steadicam wouldn’t be invented for a couple of years.  The interior was filmed at Pinewood Studios, the exterior (the edit masked by a passing porter) at 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
During the shoot, Hitchcock was reportedly happiest when filming around Covent Garden, a place he hadn’t visited in decades but where he’d spent time with his father.  Anna Massey later said, “It’s a brutal film, but full of things Hitchcock loved - like food, and London - and it’s a very loving portrayal of Covent Garden market.”

In interview, Anthony Shaffer said, “An old chap made his way up to Hitchcock at the market...and said, ‘I remember your father here, in all this mud.’ Hitchcock was delighted, took the man for an expensive lunch and had a long talk to him about his dad.”
Hitchcock, at Pinewood Studios, works with Barry Foster (left) and Alex McCowen
The film also included this incredible Albert Whitlock matte painting of Covent Garden - the only 'live' section is the space between the green door and the truck.

Hitchcock returned to Los Angeles on 26th October and he and John Jympson created the rough cut of the film during November.  The editor then flew back to London to supervise post-synching of the dialogue and Henry Mancini began work on the score.

Best known for Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) and the Pink Panther series, Mancini had also scored The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and Touch of Evil (1958).  He told Catherine Scott of The Guardian, “‘Frenzy’ is very low-key picture about a neck-tie murderer, and what I have done is to just cut off the orchestra round middle C. There is none of the screeching, high, intense sounds that would be thought a little melodramatic today. It is very sparse... there's not a lot going on, but what there is will, I trust, sound pretty spooky.”

Hitchcock attended the London recording sessions in mid-December and then rejected the completed score outright.  Mancini later said, “he decided that it didn’t work, [he felt] the score was macabre, which puzzled me because it was a film with many macabre things it in. It wasn't an easy decision to accept, and it was crushing when it happened...”  Unlike his acrimonious split with Bernard Hermann over the rejected score for Torn Curtain (1966), relations remained amicable and Mancini mentions in his autobiography that Hitchcock sent him a case of Château Haut-Brion magnums.

Hitchcock then hired British composer Ron Goodwin, providing him with thorough instructions and notes regarding the new score.  The recording sessions for this took a week, beginning Monday 31st January 1972.  By mid-February, Jympson had edited in Goodwin’s score and the film was sent back to Los Angeles where small adjustments were made before the end of the month.

Due to the content - it’s the first Hitchcock film to show nudity and the sex killing was very strong for the time (it still is, to be honest) - this was the first of the director’s films to receive an ‘R’ rating in the US and an ‘X’ in the UK.
Hitchcock in Cannes
Frenzy was shown, out of competition, at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1972 where it was hailed as a “late-career masterpiece”.  He’d been worried - as hard as it is to believe now, there were people at the time who believed Hitchcock was becoming irrelevant - but the critical praise buoyed him.  At a screening in Paris, Francois Truffaut (a great fan and terrific director in his own right) said the Hitchcock touch was much in evidence and that the old master was “still experimenting”.

Alma, with the dummy Hitchcock head 
The trailer also features Hitchcock, in amusing mood.  “This,” he says, “is the scene of a horrible murder - it’s the famous wholesale fruit and vegetable market, Covent Garden. Here, you may buy the fruits of evil and the horrors of vegetables.” At that point, a foot sticks up out of a potato sack.

The London premiere was held on 25th May 1972 and critical reception was generally very good though several complained it was distasteful.  One of these was Arthur La Bern who wrote, in a letter to the editor of The Times, “Sir, I wish I could share John Russell Taylor's enthusiasm for Hitchcock's distasteful film. The result on the screen is appalling.”  The issue of the films graphic nature was discussed widely and both the US and UK censors had required minor cuts to the murder sequence (though Hitchcock and Shaffer had toned down the violence from the novel).

By this time, Alma had recovered sufficiently well that she was able to accompany Hitchcock on the publicity tour which lasted well into the year.

Frenzy received four Golden Globe Award nominations - Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score - but didn’t win any.  It ended 1972 listed at number 33 in Variety’s “Top 50 Grossing Films of the Year” list, with a box-office take of $4.8m.  On a budget of $2.8m, to date it has earned over $21m.

Happy anniversary, Frenzy.  As Bob Rusk might say, “lovely...”

sources: Locations
About time magazine
Once Upon A Screen
Covent Garden: Frenzy

Monday, 16 May 2022

Summer at the French Café, by Sue Moorcroft

Regular blog readers will know I've been friends with Sue Moorcroft since we first met at the Kettering Writers Group in 1999 (we genre writers were consigned to the back of the room, where we had a great laugh).  Since then she's gone from strength to strength, hitting number one in the Kindle Bestseller charts (with The Christmas Promise) on her way to becoming a Sunday Times Best Seller, while her novel A Summer To Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020.  As well as featuring her a lot on blog (to see more, click this link), I'm also pleased to be one of her beta-readers and thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel, Summer At The French Cafe, which has just been published in paperback and e-book.

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…

As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home.

Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.

But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.

Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?

The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

Katerina ‘Kat’ Jenson manages the the bookshop Livres et Café at Parc Lemmel, on the edge of Muntsheim, in the Alsace region of France.  When it turns out her boyfriend is not only a family man but his wife is a computer whizz who’s perfectly happy to cause havoc, Kat swears off men.  But then she meets Noah - who comes with his own baggage - and finds herself falling for him.

Another winner from the ever consistent Sue Moorcroft, this is a quick and heartening read filled with the usual mixture of romance, raunch, good humour and grit that she does so well.  Sue is very good at creating instantly believable characters and Kat is exceptionally well realised (she reminded me a little of Cleo from the excellent All That Mullarkey. Kat's character never has a false step and she's equally matched by Noah, who's new to the area as he tracks down his mildly autistic daughter Clemence.  It turns out, his ex-wife Florine is being controlled by her new husband Yohan, who wants a new family in his own image and the little girl is caught up in the middle.  

With Kat’s family and the bookshop owners causing their own issues, the summer is a mixture of incidents and excitement and very soon, you’ll be rooting for this well developed couple to prosper.  

Told with a keen eye for detail, a wonderful grasp of location and a pace that is absolutely pitch-perfect, this is a fantastic read that I heartily recommend.

Sue Moorcroft is an international bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.