My FRIDAY FEATURE today is Chris Collett, author of the brilliant DI Mariner series. The setting for this series is Birmingham. When people think of Birmingham the first thoughts are Bull Ring and airport. BUT Birmingham is so much more than that. Therefore, I am going to start with a piece that Chris wrote about the setting and the area. Then read on for information about the books in this brilliant series and we round off with her thoughts on her publisher: JOFFE BOOKS.
Location, location, location..
I’m often asked about the location for the Mariner books, Britain’s second city, Birmingham. It’s not my home turf, I grew up somewhere very different – a seaside town in Norfolk – and never envisaged that I would spend my adult life land-locked. My first impressions were formed when I went away to college and the regular train journey took me from the east to the west of the country, via the midlands. What I saw of Birmingham I didn’t much like; rows and rows of tower blocks, the vast concrete structures of Spaghetti Junction and the sprawling industrial hinterland of the Black Country. Added to which, I’d grown up in the 1970s, when the word Birmingham was usually followed by the phrase ‘pub bombings’.
But when I graduated in the early 1980s jobs were scarce, so when my first offer came from Birmingham I took it, confident that after a couple of years I would move on. But fate had other ideas and in a matter of weeks I met my husband-to-be, a Brummie born and bred, so here I have stayed. And now, having really got to know the city, my preconceptions have been well and truly overturned and I often find myself coming to its defence. Although founded on a rich heritage, Birmingham’s rapid evolution, especially in the last twenty years or so, and its diverse population means that it retains a brash, edgy and slightly dangerous feel. It’s the perfect setting for a crime series as it really does have everything, including some surprising and fascinating features. There’s far more to the city than the bull ring, spaghetti junction and the maligned Brummy accent!
So, how much of the real Birmingham is in the books? The suburb of Bournville – home to the fictional Granville Lane police station – and the nearby University of course, really do exist. Readers familiar with Birmingham will recognise the state of the art Queen Elizabeth Hospital, with its military facility. Brindley Place, the Jewellery Quarter and Chinatown all provide wonderful locations, and it is a short drive out from the suburbs into rural Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire and the Welsh borders. All of these and more feature in the Mariner novels. But there are also innumerable places that exist only in my head. Mariner’s own little corner of the city, Kings Mead and his canal side home are entirely fictional, although a number of readers have told me they know it!
DEADLY LIES (DI Tom Mariner #1) Amazon
Journalist Eddie Barham is found dead in his home. A syringe is in his arm and a note by his side reads, ‘No More.’
Open and shut case of suicide? Not for DI Mariner. Hours before, he saw Barham picking up a woman in a bar. And then Mariner discovers Barham’s younger brother, Jamie, hiding in a cupboard under the stairs.
Jamie is the only witness to his brother’s death, but his severe autism makes communication almost impossible. Mariner is determined to connect with Jamie and get to the truth. Is the journalist’s death related to his investigation of a local crime kingpin?
What other dark secrets does Jamie hold the key to and can Mariner keep his relationship professional with Barham’s attractive sister, Anna?
In a nail-biting conclusion, Mariner races against time to prevent more lives being lost.
INNOCENT LIES (DI Tom Mariner #2) Amazon
Two teenagers go missing on the same day. Just a coincidence?
They are from very different backgrounds: Yasmin is the talented, grammar-school-educated daughter of devout Muslim professionals. Ricky disappears after storming out of his council house after an argument with his mum’s latest boyfriend.
DI Mariner knows Ricky’s mother from his days in uniform. He is furious when his superiors take him off Ricky’s case and reassign him to the more politically sensitive investigation. The press — and his bosses — are convinced that Yasmin’s disappearance is a racially motivated abduction. Her family have been the target of a far right group.
But Mariner soon discovers that Yasmin is far from the innocent victim her parents think she is. Can he get to the bottom of a perplexing case where no one is what they seem?
Find out the answers in this crime mystery full of stunning twists and turns.
KILLER LIES (DI Tom Mariner #3) Amazon
First, a badly decomposed body of a young woman is found in a Birmingham sewer. The police can’t identify her and dub her “Madeleine.”
Then an important politician and his wife are shot on an isolated road. “Vengeance is mine” is scrawled in blood at the scene.
And finally, a bomb explosion in the busy city kills five people, causing chaos and panic.
Can Detective Mariner and his team get to the bottom of crimes that will come very close to home for him and his team?
Mariner will need to bend the rules and risk everything to get to the truth. And in a thrilling conclusion, his own life will be threatened.
BABY LIES (DI Tom Mariner #4) Amazon
Six-week-old baby Jessica is abducted from a local nursery. And Detective Tom Mariner realises he’s not going to get the time-off he was hoping for.
The police get a good description of the woman who took Jessica, but the appeal to the public doesn’t generate a single lead.
Then the kidnapper calls demanding money for Jessica’s safe return . . . and a terrible discovery is made in the woods.
Can Mariner get to bottom of a complex case which involves much more than child abduction?
Discover an absorbing crime mystery full of stunning twists and turns.
MARRIED LIES (Tom Mariner #5) Amazon
Do you love gripping mysteries with great characters?
Discover Detective Tom Mariner in this critically acclaimed series.
Lucy Jarrett is terrified. Someone is watching her every move, following her home from work and making threatening phone calls. But her husband doesn’t believe her and no one else is listening.
Lucy’s married life is proving anything but blissful. Her musician husband is perpetually away on tour and doesn’t want to start a family.
Lucy finally calls on DI Tom Mariner for help, and he takes her fears seriously because of the recent murder of another young woman by her ex-partner.
Mariner himself is already on the hunt for a sadistic killer. Nina Silvero, wife of an ex-police officer, was duped into sipping sulphuric acid disguised as celebratory wine. Grappling with her apparently motiveless killing, Mariner delegates Lucy’s case to Millie Khatoon. Is someone out for revenge against the police?
Can DI Tom Mariner track down the stalker and catch the killer before anyone else dies?
Discover an absorbing crime mystery full of stunning twists and turns.
CHRIS COLLETT – AUTHOR BIO
I was born and grew up in a Norfolk seaside town, almost as far east as it’s possible to go in England without falling into the North Sea. There I worked variously in a boarding house (now defunct) a local bakery (closed down) and a crisp factory (razed to the ground). I graduated in Liverpool, then for twenty-five years taught children and young people with learning disabilities, including autism, before going into higher education as a senior lecturer.
Mindful of its reputation, I moved somewhat reluctantly to Birmingham, where I met my husband, in 1981. But just a few years later DI Tom Mariner was created to police its mean streets, and these days I relish the vibrancy and rich social history of the city. After eight outings for Mariner, I still feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Recently retired from lecturing and I’m currently luxuriating in the time I now have to continue the Mariner series, alongside published short stories and academic works. In my spare time, among other things, I’m a manuscript assessor for the Crime Writers Association.
Some years ago, when I was first seeking a publisher, I received an offer from a major publishing house, but on the proviso that the books were rewritten with London as the setting. Turning down that offer was a big deal – it was the best I’d had at that point – but I’ve never had cause to regret that decision.
By Chris Collett
THE DI TOM MARINER SERIES
Birmingham is a city of stark contrasts with a rich cultural and historical heritage. Playing a key role in the industrial revolution, it helped shape the nation’s manufacturing industry
But with its many green spaces, Birmingham also borders on the beautiful countryside of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, is just a few miles from Stratford on Avon and a short drive from the wild country of mid-Wales.
Birmingham’s population is large and ethnically diverse, and while urban regeneration has forged a modern and culturally vibrant city, the decaying remnants of the industrial past and 1960s concrete jungle give it a unique and gritty character; the dark underbelly policed by DI Tom Mariner and his team.
Detective Inspector Tom Mariner is, on the surface, an average dedicated policeman, but his experiences as a younger man have given him an insight into life on the dark side, and a clear sense of right and wrong. Mariner has little interest in material things. He lives in a modest canal-side cottage, enjoys the occasional (real) beer and game of dominoes and drives an old car. He is most at home in the outdoors, with an OS map and a compass, and in times of crisis, will take off and walk for miles in any weather.
DI MARINER SERIES
Book 1: Deadly Lies
Book 2: Innocent Lies
Book 3: Killer Lies
Book 4: Baby Lies
Book 5: Married Lies
What Chris thinks of her publisher
My name’s Chris Collett and I’m a writer.
I have no idea what brought my books to the attention of Jasper Joffe early in 2017, but every day since June of the same year, I have marvelled at my good fortune that something, or someone, did.
The first in the DI Tom Mariner series (then called ‘Worm in the Bud’) was published back in 2004 by a small indie publisher, which has since been swallowed up by a much larger conglomerate. Before the ink on the contract was dry, the advice from my agent was: ‘Don’t give up the day job.’ Wise words indeed. But hey, I was published! Surely it was just a matter of time..? That first was very much a traditional publishing experience with a mostly DIY approach to publicity; an unknown author gets virtually no marketing budget or support. And guess what? After a brief, mild flurry of interest and handful of reviews – some, it must be said, from supportive friends and family – each book sank without trace.
I’d made a decision right from the start to leave the sales and royalties to my accountant other half. Conversations with other euphemistically-named ‘mid-list’ authors had indicated early on that to do otherwise was the road to certain madness. It meant I could respond to the question: ‘How are the books doing?’ with an airy vagueness, and people soon gave up asking. I told myself – truthfully, as it happens – that publication alone was far more than I had ever expected and contented myself with that. I would go on being a teacher who writes a bit.
It came as no surprise that when the small publisher was taken over, the contracts dried up. I was grateful then to be picked up by an even more ‘traditional’ publisher that catered largely for the shrinking library market. But frustrations around (exorbitant) pricing and (non-existent) marketing continued. Having reverted rights to the first three books, I dabbled in self-publication and began selling, if not in huge numbers, with greater regularity; one or two each week.
In January 2016 I retired from the day job to “spend more time with my laptop” and to at last have time to really focus on my writing career, such as it was. More than ever, I felt like a fraud. Until on Sunday 22nd January 2017 (6.52pm to be precise), when everything changed.
All it took was a simple, four-line email asking if I’d be interested in working with a new publisher – Joffe Books. It’s hard to believe now but alongside the inevitable curiosity, my first reaction was also one of deep suspicion. Who was this chancer, Jasper Joffe? Was he about to inveigle the rights to my books and then rip me off? How did he find out about me? Given what I knew about publishing, how could this possibly be kosher? A conversation followed in which the promises sounded too good to be true. I even contacted an established Joffe author (Joy Ellis) to find out what the catch might be. But the catch is, there is no catch.
Joffe has been a safe pair of hands right from the start and the publication process has felt, for the first time, like a genuinely shared effort. In particular, I love that edits (improvements) are encouraged at every stage and suggestions for jacket images are invited (the image for Deadly Lies is my own photograph). Joffe Books have shown faith, invested in the promotion of the DI Mariner series and suddenly the books are being read. By lots of people. I think it’s no coincidence that in the last six months I have begun to say something I’ve never admitted to before: My name is Chris Collett and I’m a writer.
By Chris Collett