Mandy Morton in conversation with Book Hoots Podcast

Humorous Mystery and Crime
20/08/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

Book Hoots – the all things books and authors podcast from Cambridgeshire Libraries – talk to Mandy Morton about The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series, her background in broadcasting and, of course, cats and food….

Give it a listen on Spotify. 

Give it a listen on Anchor.fm.

Buy the ebook series from Farrago

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Pest Control ‘The Musical’

Humorous Mystery and Crime
17/08/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

Bill Fitzhugh, you may not have known, is a big music fan. Perhaps you have noticed the subtle hints within his satirical thrillers – you will if you look closely enough. Therefore, when Pest Control, Book 1 of the Assassin Bugs series, was commissioned for Hollywood theatre, you could say that Bill was buzzing, had checked off a big tick on his ‘to-do’ list, had butterflies in his stomach, didn’t let it fly over his head, [insert more terrible bug-related puns here…]


In Pest Control, all Bob Dillon, a down-on-his-luck pest exterminator, wants is success with his radical new, environmentally friendly pest-killing technique. When his advertisement is answered he thinks his luck has changed, but it turns out his new client is from a dangerous world of assassins.

Now imagine this on stage….

Oh wait! You don’t have to. You can check out some highlights and songs from the show right from your very own screen:

Look Me in the Eye

Pest Control

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The Story of My Life

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

I Was Made in America

I’d Kill For You

Why Can’t I Get Over You

Why Should I Believe a Thing You Say?

Worse Than Dyin’

The Pest is in Control

Chantelle’s Attack

Bug on Top

Undercover

The Bugman Says

She’s There

Legend of the Vanished Killer

The End is Coming

Back Then

All I Need is a Name

So Alive Again

What Doesn’t Kill Us

Eye on the Target

Exterminator Blues

Pheromone Thing

Check out Bill Fizhugh’s YouTube page to see them all in one place.


Buy the ebook Assassin Bugs series bundlePest Control (Book 1) and The Exterminators (Book 2) – from Farrago.

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The Absolute Spit

Guest posts
12/08/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Beth Miller reveals the inspiration behind her life-swap novel, Starstruck


From the back you’d really think he was Bowie. My friends and I nudged each other excitedly, though we knew it wasn’t really him. Tiny venue, cheap tickets, session musicians on bass and drums, no way was it him. But on the other hand, it really looked like him: his frame, the stance, the way the jacket hung down.

The band tore into the opening bars of Jean Genie, and the main man finally turned round to face us. From the front the resemblance was less uncanny. He was rather fuller in the waist than the Thin White Duke, and his cheekbones wouldn’t cut you like a knife. Plus, his outfit was anachronistic, my pedantic mate Johnno pointed out: he was styled as Bowie from the Young Americans era, not as Aladdin Sane. Oh, do shut up Johnno, and listen! Because by god, the voice! He’d got the exact same voice! The absolute spit! Just thirty seconds and everyone was joining in with the chorus, knowing this wasn’t Bowie, and yet it also sort of was… all you had to do was close your eyes, or squint.

This wasn’t my first tribute act. As a student I saw Voulez Vous – very good – and the Bootleg Beatles, the granddaddy of tributes. The Bootlegs have toured for decades longer than the real Beatles and played thousands more gigs. I enjoyed their relaxed approach to time and space, with ‘John’ saying he couldn’t see the audience ‘because I didn’t wear glasses on stage till 1965’. Even with such fourth wall breaking, you could still think, on and off, and sometimes in a sustained way in the middle of an inspired riff, that this was The Beatles, even as you also knew it wasn’t. But the Bowie tribute was the first time I realised how much I loved the very notion of being a tribute. The doublethink, the whole sort of is/sort of isn’t vibe; the joy of hearing classic songs done live and accurate; the respectful homage of the entire thing.

Not to mention the puns. I love a good pun, and tribute act names are a goldmine. By Jovi might be my favourite, though I have a soft spot for rival tributes Noasis, No Way Sis, and Oasish. Ah, there’s so many: Proxy Music, Nearvana, Fake That, Stereophonies, Pink Fraud…

When I saw the BBC Arena documentary, Into the Limelight, my love for tributes crystallised into something rarer: the germ of an idea. The documentary (still on iPlayer) featured the Limelight Club in Crewe, now sadly defunct, but then home to all the tribute acts. There were several stand-out stars, including John Campbell, interviewed sitting on the sofa and chatting with his mum about how he channelled the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. But my favourite was Wayne Ellis of Limehouse Lizzy, whose thoughtful and melancholy reflections on a career pretending to be someone else stayed with me for years.

Where were the women tributes? I wondered. And lo, The Graham Norton Show answered. It presented an Adele tribute competition with a twist – the real Adele, unrecognizable in prosthetics, took part without the other competitors knowing. It’s an absolute masterpiece of television, which I watch once a month, I love it so. I well up every single time the real Adele steps on stage to sing, because it’s at that moment that it becomes completely obvious to all the other tributes that she is the real deal.

The plot of Starstruck was forming in my head. Adele pretended to be her own tribute act – but what if she swapped places with one of her impersonators? Would people be able to tell that the person playing the massive arenas wasn’t her? And what would it be like if she took the tribute act’s place, performing in little unglamorous venues…

Thus, Sally Marshall was born. Hardworking and gutsy, she’s been a tribute act for twelve years, performing as Epiphanie, the world’s biggest megastar. One ordinary day, she comes home to find Epiphanie – the real, actual Epiphanie – sitting in her kitchen. When Sally picks her jaw up off the floor, she discovers that Epiphanie wants to make her a life swap offer she can’t refuse…

Beth Miller


Buy the Starstruck eBook from Farrago today

Get it in paperback (UK only) from Amazon, Waterstones, or Bookshop.org

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FREE BOOK: The Darkwood Series, Book 1

Promotions
03/08/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Venture into the Darkwood in this modern fairy tale that will bewitch adults and younger readers alike.

Introducing your free book, Darkwood, Book 1 in The Darkwood Series.

Download my free book



Darkwood
by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

‘Gabby is one of the funniest writers I know.’ Sarah Millican

Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths.

This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.

There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.

With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.

Download my free book

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Death and Croissants – l’inspiration

Guest posts
19/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Death and Croissants has inspired many readers, including us. So, we turned it around and asked comedian and bestselling author Ian Moore…

“What inspired you?”


The germ of the idea for Death and Croissants lies in an uncomfortable truth. The main character, Richard, owns a chambre d’hôtes, a posh B&B and likes, though that may be too strong a word, what that life offers him. That for the most part he can be left to his own devices, without his job getting in the way. Well, I too own a posh B&B and I find the life of a small-time hotelier, and I say this with apologies to my guests, phenomenally dull.

In order to brighten my days of breakfasting, bed making and stopping small uncontrolled Parisien children from throwing stones at the goats, I started to invent stories around the guests. Why were those single businessmen in the area? Why did the family from Lyon behave like they didn’t know each other? And that attractive, exotic lady from Nice, why did she think she had a right to tell me that I had my kitchen-salon ordered ‘entirely the wrong way’?

Well, the lady from Nice became Valérie for the most part, but with elements of other French women we have known since my wife and I moved here. Above all, she had to be one hundred percent sure of herself at all times; Richard had to doubt himself to exactly the same degree. A modern-day Holmes and Watson was the plan, with Valérie as Holmes. And I wanted the dialogue snappy too, playful, even if my two main characters were rarely on the same wavelength. Think Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man or ‘screwball’ comedies of 1930s Hollywood where it’s usually the woman outsmarting the man but not always being aware of it, like Katherine Hepburn is ignorant of Cary Grant’s insecurity in Bringing Up Baby.

I also wanted the plot, and here again I apologise, to be slightly convoluted. I’ve always been intrigued that Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep and even he couldn’t properly explain the plot to it. Also, the wonderful TV series in the 1980s written by Alan Plater called The Beiderbecke Affair comes to mind. It has smart, back-and-forth dialogue performed brilliantly by James Bolam and Barbara Flynn and a plot I still don’t understand today.

Death and Croissants had to be all of these things but mostly, it had to be funny. I wanted those classic ingredients of crackling dialogue but with a physical, farcical element as well; funny enough to be a humorous book on its own while the plot had to have enough depth to be a crime book in its own right. In cricketing terms, it needed to be a top-class all-rounder.

But the main inspiration, the driving force and starting point was France itself. The characters, the countryside, the foibles, the pace of life… if you can’t get inspired by that in some way well, then it really would be time to stick to bed and breakfasting. So, I though of Richard, poured a nice glass of rosé, sat on the terrasse and let the story unfold.


Ian Moore

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FREE BOOK: An Inspector Pel Mystery, Book 1

Promotions
13/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Moody, sharp-tongued and worrying constantly about his health, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel ensures that no case goes unsolved, in this mordantly witty French mystery.

Introducing your free book, Death Set to Music, Book 1 in the Inspector Pel Mystery series.

Download my free book



Death Set to Music
by Mark Hebden

‘Written with downbeat humour and some delightful dialogue.’ Financial Times

Deep in the Burgundy countryside, a murder case is perplexing Inspector Pel. The body was found in the salon, an elegant room with a grand piano and a Louis XIV escritoire. The shutters were still closed and the dead end of a record of Rigoletto was still turning.

There are some obvious suspects, yet the clothes of none of them show any signs of blood. And what were the tensions that must have torn at this family? It’s only when a second murder takes place that the method of the first becomes startlingly clear.

Download my free book

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Origins of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

Humorous Mystery and Crime
12/01/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

This March 2021, A Pocket Full of Pie will be published: the fourth book in my No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series. With the new year underway, I took time to reflect on the series’ origins.

 

Mandy Morton

Author of the wonderful No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

No.2-Feline-Detective-Agency-series


 

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series was never meant to be a series at all.
It was born out of boredom and an idea to raise money for my local cat rescue centre, but as soon as the first book was written, I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created; now, with The Ice Maid’s Tail as the latest book in the series and another one to be published in March, I’m amazed to be planning book ten for 2022.

 

“I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created”.

I had previously spent twenty six years as a BBC arts journalist, and the first winter of my retirement delivered me the inspiration to create a micro world inhabited only by cats. Crime was an obvious choice, as cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.

My two feline sleuths, Hettie Bagshot and Tilly Jenkins, are personal to me, as they were much loved rescue cats in real life; bringing them back in these books is a joyous thing for me to be able to do, and – in a strange way – their adventures channel bits of my own life.

Lovers of cats will, I hope, find much to enjoy in these books, but once the adventures begin, it’s easy to accept the characters as people, and I leave that decision entirely up to my readers.

 

“…their adventures channel bits of my own life.”

My characters wear cardigans, play guitars, drive motorbikes, smoke pipes of catnip and commit vicious murders on occasions. They have voracious appetites for anything wrapped in pastry, and go about their business in a high street somewhere in the 1970s that includes a post office, a bakery, hardware store, dry cleaners, a four floor department store, an undertakers and a fish and chip shop.

Just outside the town is a stately home, an aristocratic pile where The Ice Maid’s Tail is set amid a dark, atmospheric fairy tale. At this point you may question my sanity, but the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in.

 

“…cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.”

As a journalist, I was taught to become a magpie, a collector of many facts but master of none; researching for my radio shows has taken me into many areas that have become vital in telling these stories, projects on psychics, executioners, cooks and gardeners have proved invaluable, and the fact that my own life has included being a professional musician and a radio presenter offers even more scope for my characters.

My new book, A Pocket Full of Pie, soon to be published, lays bear the competitive world of broadcasting with tongue firmly in cheek, but the essence of all the books has to be to make my readers laugh and cry in equal measure, and there’s a puzzle to solve along the way. They’re playful, and – I hope – thought-provoking.

 

A-Pocket-Full-of-Pie

A Pocket Full of Pie

 

“…the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in”.

I love dolls houses, and have always enjoyed collecting tiny miniatures – and that’s exactly what I do when I write my books: I play with my characters, placing them in different rooms, surrounding them with the chattels of everyday life, and I wait to see how they will react.

I have been delighted that so many readers have chosen my series during lockdown, at a time when we would all like to live in a different world.

 

Mandy Morton

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The Stockwell Park Orchestra Interviews: One

Social comedy
06/01/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

This month, Continental Riff is published: the third novel in my Stockwell Park Orchestra series. Over the summer I had a chance to interview some characters from the series, before their tour.

 

Isabel Rogers

Author of the fabulous Stockwell Park Orchestra series

Stockwell-Park-series-banner-2


 

Interview One – Eliot Yarrow

 

Eliot opened the door of his Victorian terrace and led me to his first floor flat, then went to make coffee. Never leave an interviewer alone in a room if you don’t want prying. Is what I might have said to him.

It was a conductor’s room: upright piano, piles of music; gateleg table covered in scores, lots of pencils and empty mugs. I was pleased he didn’t put hot drinks on the piano, no matter how haphazard his tidying. Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony lay open, with one particular bar circled heavily in pencil.

Eliot returned, his hair boyishly tousled, just like his publicity pictures. Don’t flirt, I told myself. He grinned. He makes very good coffee, by the way. And has excellent chocolate biscuits.

I pressed record.

 

IR:    Tour preparations going OK?

 

EY:   Think so. David does the worrying. I stick to the music. Biscuit?

 

IR: Will Mrs Ford-Hughes be singing? She always livens things up.

 

EY:    [sound of coughing] Not singing, no. But I think she might fly out for a concert. As our sponsor, you know.

 

IR:    Ah, yes. Tell me about your programme. I saw the Bruckner score. What’s with that bar you circled?

 

EY:    Bruckner 7, yes. We’ll be joining Cologne’s Bruckner Festival, so we have to include some. Which is excellent. Some say he’s just. Mahler who goes on a bit, but they’re wrong.

 

IR:    And that particular bar?

 

EY:   Let’s just say there’s a percussion moment we are finessing our way round, logistically. I’m sure everything will be fine.

 

IR:    What’s the one thing you’re afraid might go wrong?

 

EY:    Just one? [laughs] This is Stockwell Park. As long as we play brilliantly I’ll be happy. Orchestral tours are a bit of a party. One day maybe Ann will spill the beans about the Trevi Fountain and that thong, but she’ll have to get more drunk than I’ve ever seen her. And I’ve seen her pretty drunk.

 

IR:   Do you prefer orchestras or choirs?

 

EY:  I can’t possibly … anyone could be reading this.

 

IR:   Such a diplomat. But you sing, yourself?

 

EY:  Did you come to my recent –? We did some lovely Baroque stuff. And Spem.

 

IR:   No, but I heard it went down well.

 

EY:  [inaudible snorting]

 

IR:    Sorry. Questions. Pianoforte or fortepiano?

 

EY:  Crikey. I do have a soft spot for a fortepiano. Is that pretentious? But then no modern stuff! This is hard.

 

IR:    Chips or salad?

 

EY:  Cold Friday after rehearsal? Chips. Sunny day by the sea? Well, maybe chips too. But I do eat salad, honest.

 

IR:   Mrs Ford-Hughes or Florence Foster Jenkins?

 

EY:   Mrs Ford-Hughes every time. She’s a trouper.

 

IR:   Which player do you wish would leave?

 

EY:  Let the tape note I’m drinking coffee very deliberately. Not avoiding the question.

 

IR:   Damn, you are good at this. Heard anything of Joshua since you nabbed his job?

 

EY:  Nabbed ..? No. He’s not conducted anything since. Maybe he’s emigrated. We can hope.

 

IR:    Ambitions?

 

EY:  Obviously to take Stockwell Park to the Albert Hall, land a recording deal with Gareth Malone and fund kids’ school music lessons. Dunno. I just love making music. Corny, but true.

 

IR:   Don’t apologise. I’m sure the orchestra would follow you anywhere.

 

EY:  Fools. Another biscuit?

 

So I drank coffee and ate more biscuits but, since I’d forgotten to charge my phone, the rest of our conversation has evaporated into myth and rumour.

_________________

 

If you have a question for any other Stockwell Park Orchestra musician, please send it to me and I’ll ask on your behalf. Find me on Twitter @Isabelwriter, or drop me a line using the contact page on my site isabelrogers.org.

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NEW: Your online Farrago shop!


10/12/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

2020. What a year. Unprecedented challenges, difficult moments, and lots of Zoom calls: everyone has had to adapt in one way or another, including us at Farrago…

 

It is therefore with a beaming smile (and a giggle of excited trepidation) that we introduce you to a new chapter in the Farrago story:

 

Your online Farrago shop!

Farrago-shop-logo

(CLICK TO EXPLORE)

 

Here you will be able to purchase our reads at exclusive offers found nowhere else. By buying with us directly, not only will you be saving but you will be supporting our mission to make the world a more smiley place.

Features:

  • Ebooks for both Kindle and Non-Kindle readers
  • Exclusive offers and savings for Farrago titles and series, found nowhere else online
  • Farrago’s famous series are now available to buy as brand-new bundles, at greatly discounted prices
  • Weekly promotions, featuring unique, themed bundles and more
  • Easy checkout process, with short and clear instructions of how to upload your purchase to your specific reading device

The online shop is a new adventure for us too, and so there may be some snags here and there. If you come across any issues, please do let us know. We want to hear your honest feedback so we can make the shop as user-friendly as possible for you. You will certainly notice changes and enhancements throughout the next six months as we continue to optimise, improve and adapt.

Thank you for all your support this year. We hope we have brought you many smiles, and we aspire to bring you many more.

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“If it isn’t a coincidence, what is it?”

Guest posts
02/10/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

Author Lee Farnsworth about the strange coincidences that occurred while he was
writing his debut novel Odd Bird. Because it was all just coincidence… right?!

 

Over recent months, I’ve had several circular conversations with my Mum about coincidence. We always end up mutually baffled. For example, she recently told me she had tried to call my godmother, but she was engaged. Later she discovered my godmother was trying to call her.

‘You’re going to say that’s a coincidence aren’t you?’ she said.

And of course I say it is. And then Mum says but it’s too unlikely to be a coincidence. And then I say that if it wasn’t unlikely it wouldn’t be a coincidence. And so on.

I mean, if it isn’t a coincidence, what is it?

To set the record straight: I like coincidences. In fact, there were several joyous coincidences during the writing of Odd Bird.

 

Coincidence 1:

My working title for Odd Bird was The Birdman of Acton – yes Burt Lancaster, I was thinking of you. The opening chapter takes place in pub in Acton. I called the pub The Swan because ─ spoiler alert ─ Simon, my protagonist, loves birds. Next thing I knew I had invented the ‘Swan Song’ in order to show Simon and his friend Phil sparring.

I’d already written that opening chapter when I visited Acton for the first time. I walked around its streets and parks to decide where Simon would live and eat and shop. Finally that afternoon I walked the route that I knew Simon would run in Chapter 3. Ahead on Acton Road I could see a pub. As I neared, I could see a sign. The Swan.

What are the chances?

Swan is not a rare pub name. There are two-hundred and eighty-nine in the UK which means it pips White Horse to the number 7 most popular pub name slot. However, there are approximately forty-nine thousand ‘settlements’ in the UK. This means that for every Acton there are one-hundred and sixty-nine settlements that don’t have a Swan.

I had a beer in the Swan obviously and I garbled the premise of my novel to the lady behind the bar. Soon I will return, clutching Odd Bird.

 

Coincidence 2:

This is a good one.

I decided that Kim, Simon’s love interest, should live in an area which was more up market than Acton and yet it needed to be nearby and close to Empirical. I plumped for South Kensington.

I suspect I wasted a lot of time on little details that nobody would notice while writing. For example, I spent time on Rightmove finding accommodation for characters and I found their faces and clothes on the internet too. But I found Kim’s address in my little, battered London AZ.

I was writing a scene about Simon and Kim having a spat on the way to her flat from South Ken Tube. I needed her flat to be far enough away from the station to let the argument build. I got out my AZ, opened it to page 73, drew a red line around the boundary and then dropped the pen down onto a street. ‘That’s where she lives,’ I thought.

The pen landed on Selwood Terrace. Simon’s surname is Selwood.

What are the chances?

There are sixty thousand streets in London and just three that include Selwood. That’s quite a coincidence.

 

Coincidence 3:

The bullfinch has an important role to play in Odd Bird. It’s the second most important bird species in the book. I can’t explain why here, but it is.

My little house backs on to a small wood and I put out a lot of bird food and so I’ve seen a lot of birds in my garden since I began Odd Bird. I rarely see bullfinches though. I was putting the final touches to my Odd Bird submission when I saw my first. She was sitting on the grass beneath the apple tree. I picked up the binoculars and stood by my window and watched her.

What are the chances? I wondered.

The BTO say that there is only a 10% chance that a garden will receive at least one visit a week by a bullfinch. But I hadn’t seen a bullfinch in in four years…

 

Let’s agree that it was all a coincidence. Except, that by the time the bullfinch flew off, I was feeling more confident about my submission.

I must ask Mum what she thinks.

 

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth is publishing 15 October 2020.

Pre-order it from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Kobo,
Waterstones or Hive.

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