‘Kiss and Tell’ Review

Thanks to ‘Crimethrillergirl’ for her review of Kiss and Tell, posted below:

A legal thriller with a heart – 

Now, I must admit, legal thrillers aren’t usually my thing. However what I especially liked about this story, and which makes this book stand out, is the main character, and heroine of the story, Jill Shadow.

Jill’s a single parent who started in the company as a secretary and worked her way up the career ladder – juggling work, childcare and study – to become a qualified lawyer. Determined and courageous (aside from when dealing with spiders) she tackles the challenges that come her way in a direct and bold fashion, even if she might be trembling inside.

But Jill’s got a secret. When the unthinkable happens, and her life, and that of her child, are put in danger, Jill sets out to determine the truth behind the case of drugs-mule Bella Kiss who claims to be an informant to local detectives, and the seemingly unlinked release from prison of Jimmy – her ex-boyfriend and father to her daughter Hannah. She discovers corruption and criminal activities that stretch far further than she had ever imagined.

The story is told in chapters which alternate between real-time (Jill in a police safe-house, desperate to find her missing daughter) and the past (her relationship with her ex – Jimmy – and the Bella Kiss case) that has led to her current predicament. It’s an interesting structure, and one that keeps you trying to piece together the clues and solve the puzzle along with Jill. It starts at a steady pace which rises significantly in the second half.

Kiss and Tell is an innovative, quirky take on the legal thriller sub-genre.


Author and screenwriter, Tim Cooke, a former legal executive, was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me.

Where did you get your inspiration for Kiss and Tell?

Kiss and Tell is an amalgam of two story strands, the journey of Jill Shadow, from a naive teenage secretary to an industrious and committed criminal lawyer… and her involvement in the case of Bella Kiss, which exposes a fresh and disturbing angle to the current ‘drug debate’.

Both character and story are based on research over recent years. I wanted a character who broke the traditional lawyer stereotype… she’s someone who always wants to get to the heart of the matter and has no other agenda than to find out the truth. I always find a character, particularly a professional, more intriguing when they’ve had to struggle to beat the odds.

As for the narrative, I have seen at first hand how our drug laws have failed society, and how they might be exacerbating rather than controlling the problem. Research then threw up the possibility that some of those who argue for the status quo in the current drug debate [ie against decriminalisation] might be doing so not to ‘protect our children’s future’ as they claim, but to further their own continued profit, via a labyrinthine network of laundered money.


So now that Kiss and Tell is published, what are your plans for Jill Shadow? I’m hoping there’ll be a follow-up book, am I in luck?

My second novel ‘Defending Elton is out soon. This will introduce us to Jim Harwood, a lawyer who doesn’t share Jill’s strong ethical code, and whose dysfunctional past is exposed after a fateful lapse of judgment… which results in one of the most extraordinary murder trials in the Old Bailey’s history.

This will be followed by a return to Jill Shadow, who gets embroiled in a complex and dangerous ‘cold case’ murder. A case where the victim seems to be providing clues ‘from the grave’.


Kiss and Tell is available now on Amazon Kindle.  http://amzn.to/WZbNPp 





The Underdogs


Well it’s been quite a weekend for the ‘little uns’. Sometimes professional sport can be very predictable, but every now and again something comes along which genuinely shocks and surprises. Unlikely victories in this season’s FACup competition came for Oldham, against Liverpool, Leeds against Tottenham and MK Dons, against QPR… but one victory, that of non-league Luton Town, away at Premiership Norwich City, really warmed the shackles.

I’ve been a Luton Town supporter for far longer than I care to remember, through thick and [mostly] thin.  Their amazing FACup victory must rate as one of the greatest ever cup shocks. It was the first time a Premiership team had ever lost to a ‘non-league’ side. Their reward for victory, if that’s the right phrase, is a home tie against Millwall in round 5. A fixture that any Luton Town fan will have mixed feelings about, albeit that surely things have moved on since the dark days of yesteryear.

Sean Ingle wrote a piece in the Guardian last Friday, along the lines of how Luton hoped to emulate previous cup upsets. It reminded me of all the ups and downs the club has been through, and like he said, ‘there are those in football who think they’ve seen it all, and then there are Luton Town fans.’

There have been great highs, three FACup semi-finals in a relatively short period of time and victory in the League Cup final over Arsenal, plus being runners up the following year. European football was only denied because of the ban that was then in force after the Heysel disaster.

It’s the lows however that really make their journey a quite extraordinary one. To put it bluntly the club was run by a bunch of inept shysters who systematically destroyed it from within. Such was the scale of mismanagement that there were three administrations and 40 points worth of deductions in the leagues. Relegation after relegation was inevitable and the team who used to play the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool on a regular basis went all the way down to the Conference.

Much of the stability which has recently taken hold is largely down to a group of hard suffering supporters and the efforts of TV presenter Nick Owen.  But the scars weren’t just financial. The club have endured a bigoted and somewhat fascist chairman, an awful synthetic pitch, a ban on all away fans totally killing home fixture atmosphere, plus harebrained schemes like moving to Milton Keynes, renaming the club London Luton after the airport, and introducing a pop idol type vote to install a new manager!

So when this particular underdog howled in victory last Saturday, it did so with feeling.


Feb Issue Writing Magazine Article…

I know there have been a few gaps, and then two blogs come along at once…

…but I have to respond to the positive feedback I’ve had regarding the article in this month’s [Feb issue] Writing Magazine.

The article was written by journalist and author Tina Orr Munro and chronicled the remarkable journey I’ve had with my first two novels. Many fellow writers have expressed surprise that with a scriptwriting background and two of the country’s most respected literary agents supporting me I wasn’t offered a traditional book deal. I don’t think there are any easy answers to the recurring question I’ve in various emails, namely, ‘what can I do to avoid this myself?’

Liking someone’s work and recognising what might prove popular is always going to be subjective. Experienced literary agents are skilled at it, as indeed are the majority of commissioning editors.  However, although agents do take a risk, by investing their own time, and inevitably money in their charges, they don’t take quite the same risks that publishers do. Times are hard, and everyone is feeling the pinch, and as I’ve quoted in this blog before ‘woe betide those who back the wrong horse’. They have directors and shareholders to account to.

Despite the fact that unfortunate ‘financial’ timing might have played a part, as I expect did plain old fashioned bad luck, the most difficult thing of all to accept was that my two agents, Peter Straus and Broo Doherty, were once making those very decisions at major publishing houses themselves.

Had my books found their way to them some time earlier I’m sure things would have turned out differently… but sometimes that elusive cocktail of hitting the right person at the right time doesn’t always mix. From the feedback I’ve had I am clearly not alone in that experience! My writer friend who has had a fair few novels published was very candid about it, ‘I just got lucky’ she said, ‘in fact my publisher backed my first book for success far more than my agent did.’

Many writers, some now household names, have gone through severe setbacks, but they persevered, and I found some of their stories inspirational. What I learned is that it’s no good moping and bemoaning your bad luck. Sometimes you just have to accept it as part of the journey and think ahead. I could have tried other publishers but with so many new authors now finding success through the direct publishing route it seemed the best option.

As things worked out I’m very pleased with the response to ‘Kiss and Tell’ and having now jumped in at the deep end it’s good to be able to help others who find themselves in similar situations. I’m glad some fellow scribes have found my own journey helpful, and wish all the best to those who have been in touch to express their goodwill and share their own stories.


Keep Cold And Carry On…

Firstly, thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts. Kate is halfway through her first chemo treatment with two sessions to come. Anyone who’s been through this will know that the drugs they give you to fight lymphoma are powerful, with a number of unpleasant side effects. She has coped valiantly with all the headaches, stomach aches, and pains here, there and everywhere.  Not sure how I’d cope myself, probably be a ‘right mess’.

Today is freezing here in North Devon, inside and out, as our boiler has gone kaput and we have no heating. Writing this in several layers with frozen digits. It never rains it… snows.

With all the planning for a little promo for ‘Kiss and Tell’ I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like on my second novel ‘Defending Elton’. It’s in edit stage and I hope to have it as a final draft sometime next month.  ‘Kiss and Tell’ by the way is doing well and I’m pleases that it has generated such positive feedback. It’s still exclusive to KDP Publishing via Amazon so I’m taking advantage of their free  promotion days, making it free this week on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th.

At first I couldn’t quite get my head around how giving away your work for nothing could be a helpful marketing tool. However, having tried it in late December I now know what an impact it can make. Many folks downloaded and the network which then follows of telling friends and recommending the read etc is worth its weight in gold.

From Sunday 27th onward you might find that the book gets a few mentions on some notable crime fiction blogs, and in advance I’d like to thank everyone who has helped. Surviving as an indie writer depends a fair bit on the willingness of the community.

I’m a relative novice myself and have found that most folks concerned are friendly and helpful. I hope to meet some newly found friends at this year’s Crimefest at the end of May.  It’s always reassuring to find that people are willing to share their experiences, particularly those who have been guinea pigs themselves in the new direct publishing revolution. I am now starting to share my own experience with others and remain happy to do so.

I have learned so much these last few months and realised just how out of touch with modern technology and social networking I had become. This month’s progress, with some helpful advice, has included Facebook and GoodReads, neither of which I have had previous involvement with. Twitter on the other hand I’ve been dallying with for several months and have found it useful and entertaining.  Live and learn…

Finally for now, my radio advertising company [www.soundssorted.com] entered the lovable but totally bonkers ‘Trolley’ in the ‘Britain’s Best Office Dog’ competition. She didn’t win, but then she was up against some mightily cute pooches who ‘work’ for much larger companies. It was a facebook and twitter vote so they had far more connections. Still, well done for entering…  and a large bone for trying…

‘Kiss and Tell’ –  http://amzn.to/WZbNPp


Keep calm – Carry on

Hello all,

Having promised not to leave such a large gap between blogs, I feel I ought to apologise. However, there are mitigating circumstances your honour…  as Jill Shadow might say.

It was the day after boxing day when my partner Kate was diagnosed with bcell lymphoma which as you can imagine came as a bit of a shock. The only silver lining to this is that all the medics seem to agree that it’s very treatable and by the time I blog again she will have undergone her first chemo session. Of course my priority has been to do what I can do make sure Kate gets the best treatment and that everything possible is set up to help her. Rather like me she is not one to dwell and we’re both determined to get on as best we can in the meantime.

I’d just like to thank all those kind people who have sent goodwill messages of support – all very much appreciated.

In doing my part to get on with life as practically as possible, I’ve tried to bury myself in work when I can but have found that concentration slips a little more than the norm. At the moment I am spending half my working time preparing to promote ‘Kiss and Tell’ and the other half trying to get a final draft of my second novel ‘Defending Elton’ completed. I hope to have this out around the end of Feb… with a following wind. I’m sure there will be more about the new book in due course.

As for ‘Kiss and Tell’, I’m happy with the way things are progressing. A big thanks to journalist Tina Orr Munro for the article about both the book and my journey as a writer in this month’s [February] Writing Magazine. Thanks too for all the support from the crime fiction blogosphere, notably Rhian@crimeficreader , Steph@crimethrillgirl , Lloyd @lloydpaige, Margot @margotkinberg and Kat @MrsP. I think you might be hearing something from them about ‘Kiss and Tell’ towards the end of the month.

Meanwhile congrats to another writing buddy Mel Sherratt on the release of her latest novel ‘Fighting For Survival’. I’m sure Mel is an inspiration to many a fellow scribe. We’ve had similar experiences with the publishing world and Mel has shown how a thick skin and steely determination to do things your own way can come up trumps. Her ‘estate’ series is proving popular with the ebook buying public. I can imagine that fans of Martina Cole and Jessie Keane would lap her books up. Well done Mel.