Today I am delighted to be the next stop on the blog tour for Diane O’Tooles new book, Rings Of Smoke.
Diane O’Toole was born in Manchester into a large family of seven brothers and five sisters. As a child her playground was Belle Vue, one of the largest amusement parks in Europe. As a very young girl, I developed a voracious passion for books, and she read all of the classics: Dickens, Eliot, Trollope, and Hardy. During her teens it was Stephen King and James Herbert, and then Diane got a taste of the political thriller with Daniel Silva’s “Moscow Rules”. For “Rings of Smoke”, Diane drew on real life experiences, particularly in respect of the protagonist Erin Fallon. With stalkers, a runaway mother and abduction, she had the bones of what she believed was a good story.
Erin Fallon is the eldest daughter of an Irish immigrant who took his family to a small town on the Lancashire/Cumbria border for what he believed to be a better life. It was what her mother wanted, but once she got it, it wasn’t enough. She had to have more. Leonard Fitch is an eminent neurosurgeon. His mother was never satisfied either, and her constant demands led to his father being killed in a motor accident. Leonard loved his father; he was the only person to treat him with kindness and affection. He hated his mother but could never stand up to her. Tormented and ridiculed throughout his childhood, Leonard swore to exact revenge on womankind in general, but mothers in particular. At a secluded lodge in the depths of Bleazedale Forest, for four years he carries out the most abominable atrocities with impunity. He takes girls on their birthday and keeps them holed up for a full twelve months before killing them and sending their mothers a birthday card with a picture of their beloved little girl, dead and with their severed feet placed either side of their head.
Rings Of Smoke is an extremely dark and tense thriller.
The author weaves her story around the reader which en wraps them and draws them in.
I have to say there were quite a few parts of this story that was extremely uncomfortable to read. Leonard Fitch is one messed up psychopath. Obviously the reader is not supposed to like a serial killer but I hated this one and I mean really hated. The way he comes across in the story especially at the start I was flabbergasted! I just could not comprehend that someone could be so cruel and evil. He certainly is up in my top ten most hated literary characters of all time.
Erin, Fitch’s newest victim, is such a great character. The author really goes into Erin and her family’s life even before she is abducted. It really gives the reader an insight into who she is and what her life is like before the awful event. My heart really went out not just to Erin herself, but her dad and her siblings. I have to admit to even nearly being in tears a few times.
Rings Of Smoke certainly will not be one for the faint hearted but if, like me, you like a book that grips you and is dark and full of thrills and chills you will love it.
Many thanks to the author and Crime Book Club for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
An Interview with the author:
Rings Of Smoke is quite an intense thriller. Some parts I found quite uncomfortable to read. What goes through your head when you are writing the really gruesome parts?
For reasons I can’t explain, as I’m writing, scenes will play out in mind from absolutely nowhere. I have no idea how or why my imagination conjures up such gruesome thoughts and ideas. It may be because of some of the books I read when I was young, like The Exorcist and The Entity.
Leonard Fitch really is quite an evil character and I have to admit to really hating him. How easy/hard is it to create someone so horrible?
To a large or lesser degree, I believe that most writers draw from their own life experiences when they’re crafting a novel. As a sixteen-year-old girl, a very sinister looking middle-aged man, not unlike Leonard Fitch in appearance, stalked me over a period of several weeks. It finally got out of hand when he parked outside my house one morning, waiting for me to come out. The police were called and after playing a game of cat and mouse with my dad and the police, he was finally arrested and taken in for questioning. I saw nothing of him after that.
As with all serial killers it usually stems from events from their own childhood that have damaged them mentally. I thought it was quite refreshing that in this instance it was due to the mother not the father that Leonard grew up into the monster that he is. Is there any reason in particular you decided to use a female in this role and not a male?
My dad’s mum wasn’t the most maternal of women. She gave my dad a hard time throughout his childhood and would often subject him to physical abuse. His relationship with his mum (my grandmother) was virtually non-existent after he left home and married my mother. Strangely, though, she adored her grandchildren, particularly her granddaughters.
Erin I thought was a really lovely character. I really enjoyed how you went into so much detail and took your time in letting the reader get to know Erin and her circumstances. Again Erin’s mother is quite an awful character and I could have really cried for all that Erin’s poor father had to endure. Did you find yourself getting quite emotional when writing the parts with the father in?
Indeed I did. There were a number of scenes involving John and his children that reduced me to tears as I was writing them, and immediately after I’d finished the scene where John had received the news that Neive had been in a road traffic accident and had been fatally injured, I found I couldn’t stop crying whilst I finished writing that particular part of the story.
The ending left somewhat of an opening for a possible sequel or even a detective series. Will there be any more books or is that the last we see of certain characters?
Yes, most definitely. DC Mike Jones comes into his own in the sequel which is played out in the USA, mainly California, because what Fitch does next is going to be a shocker.
Writing books of this genre must be quite tense, what do you like to do to unwind and relax?
A glass of wine and a good thriller on TV, or a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking up a great meal for friends with a get-together around the table talking politics, travel or just plain nonsense – depending on how much wine we’ve had!
What would your dream writing space be like?
A glass fronted lodge over-looking north Lake Tahoe and the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra-Nevada. My idea of heaven!!
Lastly, what are you currently working on and are you able to tell us what it is about?
I’m currently more than halfway through writing the sequel to Rings of Smoke. I haven’t yet decided on the title, the working title is ‘Cold Blooded’, but I’d like to come up with something a little more sinister and original. The sequel is definitely my favourite of the two. I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this one.
For more information about the author and how to get hold of a copy of the book, please click here