I am thrilled to be a part of The Mayfly blog tour sharing not only my review but also a fabulous guest post from James Hazel, sharing with us his road to publication!
Published: 15th June 2017 (Zaffre)
A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .
When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two.
When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly – a secret society that people will kill for.
As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?
The Mayfly – the road to publication
It’s past midnight, again, and I’m pressing the keys on the laptop as softly and rhythmically as I can so as not to disturb my sleeping wife and unborn child. She used to joke that her and baby could only get off to sleep to the tap, tap, tapping noise, but I’m sure that, beautifully, she’s just being encouraging. The reality is that the monotonous tap is annoying and I can do nothing about the harsh glare of the screen.
It took me over two years of laborious nightwork. Write, delete, re-write, repeat until dawn. And then finally, two of the most glorious words in the English language: The End. The product was a lengthy supernatural thriller overflowing with gushing imagery and Lovecraftian weirdness entitled Church of Sin.
I was then left with a vexing quandary: what the hell to do next?
The internet was full of ideas: publisher’s open days, self-publishing portals, vanity publishing, and, of course, agents. It was all very confusing. And agents? Oh, the agents were all there with their gleaming websites and mind-boggling client lists. But they didn’t want anything that dared to resemble fantasy. The rules were vague: anything with dragons was definitely out but what about inter-dimensional super-beings that took humans as hosts for their own good / evil agendas? Was that fantasy or not? It just wasn’t clear.
Around this time, I was working my arse off as a lawyer in a High Street firm (maybe a few stories there for another time). It was through this that I had gotten to know two people who would later change my life forever, although none of us knew this at that stage: Claire Siemaszkiewicz and Nicki Richards of the Totally Entwined Group, a Lincoln based publisher.
So, I dropped in what I suspect were the usual hints at the end of business meetings and Claire and Nicki rolled their eyes because of course they’d heard it all before. You say you’re a publisher and bugger me if everyone you talk to wants to be a writer. To be fair, I positioned myself between them and door so they had to hear me out.
Nicki said she would take a look at Church of Sin and let me have a view. She had to, she needed the loo and I was still stood in front of the door. True to her word, a very thoughtful and constructive critique followed. The writing was good, in places, but the plot was bonkers and characters points of view were all over the place. Also, something about independent body parts. A re-write was needed following certain guidelines.
Encouraged, I ignored all of this. At least in part.
I took Nicki’s advice but threw Church of Sin on a to-do pile (one day, I will return to it). Write about what you know, that’s what she also said. Did I know much about inter-dimensional super-beings? No. But I did know about being a lawyer and there was something else that had been bothering me for a long time: fragments of a story about the second world war that had recently surfaced.
Another two years writing, mainly late at night and into the early hours. Slowly, sleep became a thing of the past. I swore if I ever got published I’d only write during the day.
I presented The Mayfly to Claire and Nicki in 2015. Ta-da! I’d listened (as best a man can listen) to their advice and written a new book, a crime fiction novel. With (sort of) correctly used points of view and everything.
What happened next was entirely unforeseen, again by all of us.
Totally Entwined was acquired by Bonnier Publishing later that year and The Mayfly was suddenly on the front cover of Bonnier Zaffre’s Frankfurt rights catalogue.
Cripes, thought I.
It’s a strange thing, fate. When I plot back all of the coincidences and chance-encounters that led to The Mayfly being published I feel queasy: how easy it would have been to have missed that boat, for someone else to have taken my place. But then, life is full of surprises and I find that I’m still writing late at night, with the laptop on my knee and my wife gently snoring next to me. It seems that old habits die hard.
I’ll admit I had high expectations for The Mayfly as I’d seen nothing but good things about this book from my fellow book bloggers. However, even then, this surpassed my expectations….this is an excellent, well-researched, complex plot that hooks the reader from the very first page.
The Mayfly opens with the discovery of a particularly gruesome murder scene which sets the tone for the rest of the book! We are then taken back to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945 – interestingly this is the second book I have read recently that touches upon the torture within this concentration camp. I don’t actively seek out books with the Holocaust as a subject but it’s fascinating how different authors use this, in very different ways, as a backdrop to their present day plots.
The Mayfly is an interesting take on a criminal investigation as Charlie Priest is no longer in the police force, he has turned his back on his dectective inspector days and is now a lawyer specialising in commercial law. However, Charlie becomes involved within the investigation when an entrepreneur hires him to investigate his son’s murder as he does not trust the policeman who is in charge.
This book is frankly stunning, I cannot believe that this is a debut as it is a chunky book with a complex plot that is based, in part, on fact therefore needed substantial research to ensure its credibility. The author’s background in corporate and criminal litigation shines through in Priest’s character.
This is one of those books whereby I slowed my reading down towards the end as I really did not want it to end, Hazel’s writing style is fantastic, keeping the reader engaged throughout with his fast-paced and gritty narrative. I enjoyed the time shift between the late 1940’s and the present day, this added an extra dimension to the investigation.
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from James Hazel.
Before turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.
He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.
He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.
James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.
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