**Blog Tour** The Lighterman by Simon Michael #AuthorInterview @simonmichaeluk @urbanebooks #Giveaway

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I’m delighted to have been invited to take part in Simon Michael’s blog tour to celebrate the launch of The Lighterman, the third in his series of 1960s London thrillers featuring barrister antihero Charles Holborne. The Lighterman is published by Urbane Books and was released on the 8th June 2017. 

Matthew over at Urbane Books has kindly given me a paperback copy of The Lighterman as a giveaway, you will find the details on how to enter at the bottom of this post.

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imageThe first two novels in your series, The Brief and An Honest Man, both take place over the space of a few weeks in the early 1960s, but in The Lighterman you go back in time even further, to the 1940s. Why did you do that? Did you always intend to write historical thrillers?

As the series has progressed I have come to know Charles much better. Although when I wrote The Brief I knew he was an East End boy made good and he had been in a bit of trouble with the law in his past, as the series progressed what was a line drawing filled out to become a more three-dimensional portrait in my head. I began to understand his family dynamics better, his psychology, his hang-ups. There’s a major reveal coming in Book 4, and I wanted my readers to understand and believe in it. That entails revealing some of what happened to Charles as a teenager, which takes us back to 1940 and the Blitz. I also have a deeper understanding of how plot and character grow out of the fertile soil of place and history. People have commented that London has become an integral part of the stories; I would go further: I think London is a character in the series in its own right.
So, to answer your question simply, in one sense all stories are “historical” in that all characters have a background and past which dictate how they act in the present. If you want to create real characters, they can’t just arrive on the page in the present moment.

For someone who has his own particular moral code, Charles does a lot of lawbreaking in The Lighterman! Aren’t you worried that some of your readers will dislike him?

The reviews seem to suggest that the aspect of the series which appeals most to readers is Charles’s personality. My favourite, from one woman reviewer, is that she thinks she is “a little bit in love with Charles Holborne”. So I realise it’s very important not to make Charles dislikeable. At the same time, it’s his flaws that make him interesting. He went through the War, lived rough on the Blitzed streets, and grew up in an era when women with careers were oddities, men were expected to be the breadwinners and they weren’t supposed to speak about “feelings”. On top of that Charles has been damaged, and he carries that damage into his relationships with women. But as long as the reader sees that he is trying to overcome his deficiencies, that he’s essentially “a good guy” – even one who makes mistakes – I think (hope!) readers will see him as a complete person. As for his lawbreaking, he does it to save lives and to protect the innocent from the machinations of corrupt and venal men with power. I think most readers will forgive that.

You have mentioned Book 4. How many more are there to be in the series?

Charles is involved in a long-running battle with the Kray twins. They didn’t go to prison until 1968 and left a legacy that lasted some years after that. So I have at least a further five years to cover, and the undermining of The Establishment which occurred during the late 60s is a fascinating period in its own right. Books 4 and 5 are part-written. My guess is that there are at least another four books to come, but we shall see.

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About the author

Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: he was a barrister for 37 years and worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy during what was often considered the “Wild West” of British justice. The 1960s was a time when the Krays and the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted the evidence and took their share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers genuine court documents from cases on which he worked and the big stories of the 1960s.

Simon was a successful author in the 1980s, published here and in the USA, and returned to writing when he retired from the Bar in 2016. The first two books in the Charles Holborne series, THE BRIEF published in September 2015 and AN HONEST MAN published in July 2016, have both garnered rave reviews for their authenticity and excitement. The theme of Simon’s books is alienation; Holborne, who dabbled in crime and in serious violence before becoming a barrister, is an outsider both in the East End where he grew up and in the Temples of the law where he now practices, where he faces daily class and religious prejudice. He has been compared to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, honourable men surrounded by corruption and violence, trying to steer an honest course.

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Links: Website   Blog     Facebook     Twitter    Goodreads    Amazon Author Page

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Book description

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne. Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne.

When Charles Holborne’s cousin, Izzy, is accused of murder, Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin…and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the Britcrime genre.

Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

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I have one paperback copy of The Lighterman by Simon Michael, unfortunately this is open to UK residents only. Winner will be notified within 24 hours of winning. To enter just leave a comment in the post telling me which era you would loved to have been part of?

All entries will be put into a hat and I will get the ever suffering Mr book review cafe to pick a winner.

You can follow the rest of the tour…..

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Author Interview with Simon Michael #Author of The Brief and An Honest Man

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Simon Michael the author of The Brief and An Honest Man. Unfortunately  my review pile is in danger of toppling over, it’s that big! So I haven’t had the chance to read either of them, but from the book descriptions they certainly sound like the type of books I would enjoy, so rest assured they will certainly be added to my ever growing TBR pile. In the meantime here’s my interview with Simon Michael, and if the interview piques your interest I’ve included the buying links further down the post

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Hi Simon and welcome to the book review café, there’s a lot of crime thrillers out there. Why should readers read your Charles Holborne series?

Wow – talk about getting right to the point! That’s a bit like a boxer landing a great punch as soon as the bell’s gone for the first round. I think I’ve discovered a new genre of crime writing – the barrister procedural. There are hundreds of authors writing police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but those elements have never been tackled from the point of view of further down the criminal justice line, in court. The search for the truth by the police is not the end of the story – in fact it’s only the beginning. The real search for truth occurs in court and, as for psychological thrills, anyone who’s ever been in a criminal court room – especially on serious cases like murder – knows it’s pure theatre – nail-biting, breath-holding drama. For a recent example, just look at Helen’s trial in the Archers.

Are the books courtroom dramas then?

Every book has scenes in court, but they take up a relatively small part of the action. The rules regarding evidence in the period I’m writing, the 1960s, were much more lax than they are today. The investigation process often continued after the accused was charged. I take the readers along for the ride, as the lawyers and the police put together the jigsaw of the case to present it to the jury. I use parts of real cases and sometimes real documents normally only seen by the police, the lawyers and the judges.

Is that why you date your books in the 1960s?

Partly. In many respects the 1960s were the “Wild West” in criminal justice, especially in the big cities like London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Huge swathes of the police force were completely corrupt; they took bribes, worked hand-in-hand with criminals, and suppressed and manufactured evidence. The Dirty Squad (the name by which the Obscene Publications Squad was known) was, to a man, in the pay of the Soho pornographers, right up to the detective chief superintendent at its head. They actually negotiated a licence fee from the pornographers, the very people they should have been shutting down, to allow them to keep operating. And some of my clients were beaten into confessions or threatened that their children would be taken into care, to keep the truth from coming out. On the other hand, big gangs like the Krays and Richardsons controlled the streets with terrifying violence. London was beginning to look like Chicago in the 1930s, with an unholy alliance between organised crime bosses and the police.
So placing my hero, Charles Holborne, in London in the 1960s presents him with challenges which don’t exist today. Make him morally ambivalent – he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in the East End, was a boxer and was himself in trouble with the law as a youngster – and the dynamic becomes even more interesting. Add in the racial, religious and class prejudice that existed in those days, the post-war liberalisation in social mores – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – and you have a perfect mix.

Does that give you problems with research? I know you were a barrister for a long time, but I don’t think you’re old enough to have been in practice in the 1960s.

No, you’re right, although I was alive at the time, I was still in short trousers! Things were beginning to change when I started at the Bar, but not by much. So some of the background comes easily. I know exactly what the cells of the Old Bailey smell like; I remember how shabby the court buildings were; I have personal experience of corrupt police officers manufacturing evidence against my clients; and I experienced prejudice myself in the early days of my career. But I do have to take great care to ensure that other facts are right. The series seems to appeal to a lot of younger readers but a good part of the readership are old police officers and lawyers like me! And they’re the first to send an email saying “I loved the book, but they didn’t build that court building till five years after that scene!”

Having read some of the reviews, people seem to like Charles Holborne’s character, but several female reviewers want to give him a proper slap!

Yes, he is a bit of a dinosaur, a man of his times. I’m aware of the risk that if Charles were to be portrayed as a typical man born in 1925 he’d probably be quite unlikeable. It was a time of casual prejudice, not least against women. I think the trick is to write strong other characters, like the women in Charles’s life, who can pull him up so he can learn and grow. I hope readers will see changes in his attitude as the books progress.

I note that you spend more time dealing with your characters’ private lives than some other crime thriller writers.

I think that’s true. I’m afraid I’m a little impatient with some of the protagonists in crime thrillers. Some writers think that by throwing in a problem with alcohol, a divorce, a prickly relationship with a superior officer, they create a real protagonist. I think people are very complex and even those trying to do their best make mistakes in their relationships. Everyone’s a mixture of good and bad, so I try to show that. I deliberately intertwine the main threads of the crime thriller with the investigation, the court case and the problems facing the people involved. They all have their private lives and they bring those into their daily work. I try to create extremely stressful and difficult circumstances impacting on real people, and then see what those people do.

Are there more to come in the Charles Holborne series?

Definitely. The third and fourth are already part-written, and I know where the series will end.
So there will be a finite number of Charles Holborne books?
I think so. That’s real life, isn’t it? People grow and change and I see a definite arc of development for Charles with a conclusion. I don’t want the stories or the characters to become repetitive.
And then?
Well, I do have some ideas. In particular I am roughing out a stand-alone thriller set in New Orleans. But that’s at least three further novels down the line!

You’ve had two books published in the last year, and you have two more part-written? What explains this sudden burst of creativity?

I’ve only been able to do what I really love for the last 18 months or so, and full-time since March. Practice at the Bar is all-consuming and I frequently worked 16 hour days, 7 days a week. I have finally taken the plunge, given up the law and started doing what I always wanted to do. It’s been bottled up a long time!

Thank you Simon for popping by the book review for a chat and I wish you all the best for both books 

About Simon Michael

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Simon practised as a barrister for over 35 years, many of them spent prosecuting and defending murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. He had several books published in the UK and the USA in the 1990s and his short story Split was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award.

In 2016 he retired completely from legal practice to devote himself to full- time writing. The Brief (September 2015) and An Honest Man (July 2016) published by Urbane Publications are the first two books in the Charles Holborne series, set on the gangland streets of 1960s London, and are based upon his experiences. Simon is a founder member and co-chair of the Ampthill Literary Festival. He lives with his wife, youngest daughter and many unfulfilled ambitions in Bedfordshire.

imageDescription of The Brief

In the 60s London of gangsters, prejudice and terrifying gang wars, Barrister Charles Holborne spends his life dealing with the worst examples of violent criminality. After successfully winning a number of high profile cases, he is building a reputation among Soho’s criminal classes as a man who gets the job done, a reputation that doesn’t endear him to his establishment colleagues.
Yet Charles is not all he seems, and is battling both personal demons and his own past. When his philandering wife Henrietta is found with her throat slashed, Charles finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in serious trouble of the murderous kind. Arrested for her murder, can Charles discover the truth of her brutal slaying and escape the hangman’s noose?

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Description of An Honest Man

Criminal barrister Charles Holborne may have just escaped the hangman by proving he was framed for murder, but his life is now in ruins. His wife is dead, his high-flying career has morphed into criminal notoriety, and bankruptcy threatens. When the biggest brief of Charles’s career unexpectedly lands on his desk, it looks as if he has been thrown a lifeline.
But far from keeping him afloat, it drags him ever deeper into the shadowy underworld of 1960s London. Now, not only is his practice at stake, but his very life. Can Charles extricate himself from a chess game played from the shadows by corrupt police officers and warring gangs without once again turning to crime himself?

Links: The Brief Amazon UK     An Honest Man Amazon UK

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Email author@simonmichael.uk