"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Hard-core crime fiction writer, Heather Burnside is...around the Cauldron!

Heather Burnside is a UK based crime author who writes hard-core crime fiction based in the north of the country. 

Violent local bosses and their scheming, trashy molls, nihilistic urban tearaways, shadowy fixers, psychopathic hitmen, and a small army of hooded robbers, muggers and dealers populate the pages of her novels, and because of the immediacy and realism, the impression arises that the cast list of her novels can be found on a high street near you, wasting valuable mugjob time in the Billy Hills, or selling prescription jellies round the pool table in the Dog and Duck. 

I like that realism in writing and when the opportunity arose to interview Heather I took it with both hands. She  is just about to release her next book. I picked up the Wizphone and called her as she researched her newest endeavour. Here's what she had to say.

Follow Heather Burnside on Twitter for more information on @https://twitter.com/heatherbwriter

Tell us a bit about yourself, Heather

I’m a crime thriller author with my second novel, ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, due for release on 7th October. This is the second part in a trilogy. 

The first part, ‘Slur’, was released last year and the third part is due for release in summer 2016. 

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ fits into the crime sub-genre known as grit lit. The novel was inspired as a result of spending my teenage years in one of Manchester’s less salubrious areas, which later became the estate where a gang’s headquarters was situated. 

Estate in nearby Salford

In the 90s I was shocked to read constant news reports of shootings in the area where I used to live, and that stayed with me until it eventually became the basis for a novel. 

Thankfully, I escaped from the estate three decades ago and now live with my husband in a quieter area of Manchester. 

It’s actually a great city although my novels tend to feature the dark side of gang culture, drugs and violence. 

The lighter side of Manchester - Happy Mondays

We have two grown up children who are away at university. 
When I am not writing and promoting my novels I provide a range of copywriting and proofreading services for clients. 

In what genre do you write? And who are your big influences?

I write mainly crime thrillers but my short stories span a variety of genres. 

Nicci French
The second part of this question is a tricky one because my favourite crime thriller writers are Minette Walters, Nicci French, Val McDermid and Jeffrey Deaver

However, my books aren’t like any of theirs. I’ve actually been compared to writers like Martina Cole and Mandasue Heller although I’ve only read about three books by those authors. 

Billion selling gangs-and-Gucci crime author, Martina Cole

I think my writing style probably derives from a whole combination of influences because I also enjoy other genres apart from crime thrillers, particularly sagas and autobiographies. 

Does the incessant rain up there influence your work in the same way as say, Raymond Chandler was influenced by the endless sunshine of California?

Oh no! Not that Rainy Manchester tag again - the Beautiful South have a lot to answer for, and here’s an article that proves them wrong: 


Ha ha seriously, though, I like to be comfortable when I’m working so it’s useful to work in a cooler climate. Plus, my office is in the coolest part of my home where the sun doesn’t hit until late evening, and it’s shaded by trees. So, even if we do get the odd hot day (I’m sure we once did a few years ago), I’m rarely uncomfortably hot. 

Hahaha...point taken. So, tell us about your latest work.
‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is the second part in The Riverhill Trilogy

It features our feisty protagonist, Rita, who returns to Manchester after a few years away. She is horrified to discover that her sister, Jenny, is in a relationship with the local bad boy, Leroy, and is expecting his child. Rita takes an instant dislike to him, and soon finds out that he is a violent gang member and drug dealer. 

His various shady dealings place Jenny in danger, and Rita becomes determined to lure her away from him before it is too late.

Can we have an extract?

Certainly. The following scene takes place when Rita has persuaded her husband, Yansis, to accompany her to a rough pub where her sister’s boyfriend, Leroy, is known to hang out, because she wants to find out more about Leroy. She has just started chatting to some of the customers:

“It’s alright here, buzzin’ isn’t it? Is it your local?” asked Rita, playing the role of loquacious drunk.“Yeah, we come here all the time. We’ve not seen you in here before though.”Rita picked up on the air of suspicion but she was prepared. “No, we were supposed to come with my sister and her boyfriend, but she backed out at the last minute, so we thought, sod it, we might as well come anyway. It’ll make a change.” 
Alesha turned away, ready to resume her conversation with her friends. ‘Shit, I’ve lost her,’ thought Rita. She knew she had to think fast to keep the conversation going, so she leant over to the girl and whispered conspiratorially. “Actually, I think they’ve had a row; I’m not sure he’s good for her. I don’t wanna say too much in case you know him, ’cos he’s from round here, but people keep telling me he’s bad news and she should finish with him.”Rita knew she would have piqued the girls’ interest, and Alesha was quick to respond.
“What’s his name?”“Leroy Booth,” whispered Rita.There was a definite shift in the girls’ attitudes as soon as Rita spoke his name. She sensed it straightaway despite the double whisky she had drunk. She hoped they weren’t close to him; they might have been related for all she knew. But that was why she had been careful not to call him; instead she had implied that it was other people who were saying bad things, and had feigned ignorance. With that in mind, she carried on prodding.“Do you know him then? I don’t know much about him myself. We’ve just come back from Greece, so I wouldn’t mind finding out if all these rumours are true.”“Shshsh,” whispered Alesha, as she looked around her. Rita then understood that the reason for the change in the girls was down to fear. When Alesha was satisfied that no-one was listening to them, she continued quietly. “You wanna be careful, coming in here, asking things like that. It’s dangerous asking questions about Leroy Booth.”“Why?” Alesha nodded towards a young woman standing a few metres away from them, and said, “You see that girl over there, in the blue top?”Rita looked across the room and noticed a slim, pretty young woman in profile, with smooth, caramel coloured skin. “Yeah,” she replied.“She used to go out with Leroy, and she got too involved in what Leroy was up to. Do you wanna know what happened to her?”Rita looked at Alesha, unable to answer straightaway as a feeling of dread descended on her.“Laura!” Alesha called to the young woman.Laura turned around to look at them. She was a stunning young woman, with beautiful brown eyes and full lips, as well as the smooth caramel coloured skin. In fact, if it hadn’t been for that one imperfection she would have been flawless. Unfortunately, the ugly scar running down one side of her face ruined her flawlessness. “I didn’t know you were out tonight. How long you been in here?” asked Alesha.“About half an hour.”“Oh, I’ve only just seen you. Be over later for a chat.” 
The conversation was soon over. It was only a pretext to let Rita see Laura’s damaged face. Alesha lowered her voice again as she turned back to face Rita. “That’s what happens if you get too involved in Leroy’s business. You probably wish your sister could finish with him, but let me tell you; she can’t. The only way she’ll be finished with Leroy is when he’s finished with her. If you’ve got any sense, you’ll leave her in the mess she’s made for herself, and piss off out of it. I’d be off back to Greece if I was you.”
Is crime fiction one of those genres that inspires an endless appetite in the reading public?  Or will it end eventually.

I can’t see the popularity of crime fiction ending any time soon. I am a member of a couple of crime and thriller reader groups on Goodreads, and through the reader comments on the groups I get a feel for why readers find this type of fiction so appealing. 

Indie Crime Fictionist, Geoff West
 I think most people have a natural curiosity when it comes to anything gory. That’s why there are so many rubber-neckers when there is a road accident or other disaster. Then there’s the suspense element. I think it’s one of the best genres for cranking up tension and keeping readers guessing. Readers also like to be shocked, and crime fiction can definitely be shocking. 

Popular Indie crime thriller author, John Dolan
The other reason why it will continue to be popular is because there are so many sub-genres so there are always new crime authors and books to try.

Is there a big crime fiction scene in Indie?

If you group the crime and thriller genres together then I think it is a big scene in Indie. It’s perhaps not as big as the romance genre but it could just be that I have come across more romance writers on the Indie scene. 

Excellent True Crime Indie - Dina Di Mambro

Try #crime on Twitter for more
Indie Crime

Which do you prefer? TV, Cinema or Literary Crime Fiction

I much prefer reading to watching a film or TV crime series. It’s basically because my mind is so active that I have difficulty concentrating on films etc., and I drive my husband to distraction when I lose track of the story because I have been thinking about a million and one other things. With a book I find it easier to switch off for some reason, and I can always flick back a few pages to recap if my mind has wandered.  
"I think the other thing is because of the time factor. Film timings are too rigid for me. I feel as though I have to stick it out for two hours and that’s my whole evening gone whereas with a book I can dip in and out. "

I've never thought of films like that, Heather. It's true...

I’m also one of those people who has difficulty relaxing. I’m always running for a pen and paper to jot down ideas for novels or thinking about other things I need to do. If I watch TV I’ll be playing a game on my iPad at the same time or looking at social media so I tend to watch trash TV where I don’t have to concentrate. 

Pit Bull
I’ll watch a TV crime series if it’s in one hour slots but if it’s two hours I don’t tend to bother.  I do watch some true crime though and programmes about hazardous lifestyles. In fact, a programme about people who breed aggressive dogs gave me a few ideas for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’. Leroy is very fond of his savage pit bull terrier. 

Who is your favourite literary or cinematic detective? And why?

That would probably be Frank Burnside from The Bill, many years ago, hence the pen-name. I loved the way he was so unorthodox but nearly always got a result in the end. He was definitely gritty with a hard edge to him.

As you are new on the Cauldron, tell Wizardwatchers:

a) Your all time favourite film

Although I’m not a big film lover, I used to watch all the epics with my family when I was a kid so I like a few such as Spartacus, Zulu and The Great Escape. I also like Dirty Dancing and Flashdance. 

b) Your all time favourite CD

I don’t really have a current one. It’s changed many times over the years – Rose Royce Greatest Hits in my late teens/early twenties, then Bowie’s Changes One and Two, then Whitney by Whitney Houston, then Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and, more recently, Heaven by Rebecca Ferguson.

c) Your all time favourite book

‘Guests of the Emperor’ by Janice Young Brooks

closely followed by ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy.

And finally, what next for fans of Heather Burnside!

Next, I’ll be writing the third book in The Riverhill Trilogy, which moves on another five years when Rita is again forced to encounter the world of the Manchester gangs. 

Something unavoidable and traumatic happens and her only chance of finding a way through is to get involved in the gangster world once more, even though it’s the last thing she wants. 

My fourth book will be different to the trilogy. Although I’m flattered by the Martina Cole comparisons, I don’t want to be seen as just another Martina Cole impersonator so I want to try something different. 

I was working on a psychological thriller before I finished ‘Slur’, but I put it to one side as I decided to write a sequel to ‘Slur’, followed by a third book in the trilogy, while the setting was fresh in my mind. I may therefore return to the psychological thriller once I’ve finished the trilogy. 

Otherwise, I may write something with more of a mystery about it; one that leaves readers guessing as to the perpetrator’s identity. I haven’t quite decided yet. I’ve got a lot of outlines penned so it’s a matter of choosing the right one. 

The psychological thriller is quite disturbing and I would be taking a chance – I think it could be my Marmite moment so I’m not sure whether to go for it so soon in my writing career.

Thank you, Heather. Fascinating stuff. I hope you have a terrific 2016 and beyond that. It's been terrific to see you around the Cauldron.

Thank you, Wiz.

Website: www.heatherburnside.com 

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/GangstersGrip (currently available for preorder)

‘Slur’ Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/Slur 

‘Crime, Conflict & Consequences’ (short story book) Amazon link:http://viewbook.at/Slur  


Young gangster wannabe expresses his political preferences
somewhere in the North of England

Possibly the finest British TV crime series - "Out", with
Tom Bell as released bank robber, Frank Ross. Unjustly forgotten now,
it had everything a TV crime show should have.


  1. It never rains in the Beautiful South Diane, I can vouch for that ;-) Great interview guys, I'm hoping to get to AGG very soon and hope the launch goes well. I don't think I've read any Martina Cole so better check her work out at some point too!

    1. Thanks Georgia. That TBR list just gets bigger, doesn't it? :)

  2. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat around the cauldron Wiz. It was a pleasure and a privilege. :)

  3. Great interview. Best of luck with sales, Heather.


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