5WH Interview with: Rob McCarthy

5WH Interview with: Rob McCarthy

This month, author and soon-to-be-doctor Rob McCarthy, scribe of the Harry Kent novels, attended the police station to answer bail for some jumped-up charge we’ve brought against him his 5WH interview, enticed over the threshold by the promise of a few mugs of lukewarm tea and whatever’s left of the CID biscuit tub.

A person-check via Ops Room threw up some interesting tidbits…

Rob McCarthy is a final-year medical student based in Bermondsey, South London.

As a diehard fan of both medical and crime fiction, he decided to combine the two in a British setting after struggling to find a contemporary UK-set medical thriller. He began writing The Hollow Men after moving to London in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, inspired by the boarded-up shops and the sirens keeping him awake outside his halls of residence. The book was shortlisted for the Society of Authors Betty Trask Award this very month.

The Hollow Men was published by Mulholland-Hodder in 2016, followed by A Handful of Ashes in 2017. Rob has also written for the Guardian about issues facing young students in the NHS and the junior doctors’ strikes. He is currently working on the last instalment in the Dr Harry Kent trilogy.

In his spare time, Rob enjoys cycling, hiking, travelling, mountaineering, and a good beer.

This time we adopted Tony Blair’s ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ approach, and threw Rob – roughly – into a cell on Friday night then all went home for the weekend. That’ll learn him, we thought, as we tucked into our doughnuts and supermarket lager. And so it did. The following Wednesday we remembered we had some random dude in the pokey who hadn’t been fed for five days, so opened the door to find Rob more than amenable. The old ways really are the best, it seems. After making him feel a bit more chipper with a microwave prisoner meal – All Day Breakfast, the lucky dabber – we shoved him in the interview room and shone lights into his face. Really bright ones, too.

Who would you want to come to your rescue if you were held hostage in a South London fried chicken shop, and for what reason?

The consultant who supervised my psychiatry rotation was notorious for handling the most challenging outpatients in South London, and as he was nearing retirement was both full of anecdotes and trying to find anyone who would take on his most difficult customers. Highlights included the paranoid schizophrenic who was so convinced MI5 were following him he’d bought himself a revolver which he proceeded to lay on the table in outpatients. Or the time a lorry driver having a panic attack was rampaging around a Welsh motorway, so he was recruited by the police to broadside the lorry and talk him down, which ended with him punching the lorry driver in the face.
So yes, a man who seemed able to talk reason into even the most psychotic individuals would probably be a safe bet, especially given his soothing valleys accent would certainly de-escalate the tension. Whilst he was a brilliant psychiatrist, I’m not sure how much use he would be if I actually got shot or stabbed, but hey – prevention’s better than cure, right?

What John Sandford protagonist – Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers – do you prefer, and why?

Fantastic question. I think Sandford manages to do something different with both of them – the Davenport books are a bit more political, a bit darker sometimes, and the character is far more grey in terms of morality, particularly in the earlier books. Broken Prey still gives me chills. The Flowers books – particularly Bad Blood – can be dark, too, but they have a little more wry escapism and gallows humour, and since Davenport’s got a wife and children now, Flowers has the space to have a bit more fun.
Davenport’s a great character, and Sandford has done some imaginative things with his arc to ensure every book has a fresh story, but in the end I think I’d have to go for Flowers – I love the small-town feel of it, the way he floats around Minnesota uncovering Hot Fuzz-esque conspiracies in small towns. I’m also a fan of his son-of-a-preacher-man moral absolutism, too, as it gives him a different kind of moral conflict than the more commonly-seen maverick cop.

When do you write? When you’re not working twelve hour shifts as a ‘nearly-doctor’, studying for exams and occasionally sleeping, that is?

Fortunately the twelve-hour shifts are only occasional at the moment, though that’ll all change after I (hopefully) qualify in July! I’m certainly not someone who plans their writing schedule or has a daily word target – I can go through bursts of four or five thousand words a day and then not write anything for a month… I tend to write quite late at night, somewhere between eleven and two a.m. I’m a bit of a night owl, so I’m often more inclined to sleep in in the morning and go into the hospital for the evening shift. We get placed at district general hospitals, which are often near motorway junctions in the middle of nowhere, and writing’s a good way to while away the evenings stuck in the accommodation there!
And I know it’s a cliché, but I’m also partial to a long train journey or a nice cafe on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Why do you think Jeremy Hunt is still in his job?

I don’t know. I’ve never forgiven the BBC for, on the day of Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle, announcing that Jeremy Hunt had been sacked before rescinding it an hour later. It was the day after our end-of-year exams, so we all went to the pub to celebrate before becoming incredibly depressed. And being drunk at lunchtime for no reason.
At the end of the day, Jeremy Hunt is still in his job because the British people voted the government he worked for back in. If the NHS – which is the most comprehensive healthcare system in the developed world whilst costing one the smallest percentages of GDP – disintegrates, we only have ourselves to blame.

Where do you see your character, Dr Harry Kent, in ten years?

Alive, if he’s lucky… And I make no promises about that! From the start, I’ve envisioned Harry’s story as a trilogy. The third book starts about four months after the end of A Handful of Ashes, and Harry’s in a pretty difficult place, and it follows his efforts to discover once and for all what happened to Zara, and who put her in the minimally conscious state she’s imprisoned in.
I think by the end of A Handful of Ashes Harry’s beginning to realise that he can’t do everything he wants to at once – have a life as a doctor, work for the police and have a personal life. In the past he’s neglected the last one, so I think in his head, solving what happened to Zara will put that chapter of his life – working for the Met, working with Frankie Noble – behind him, and let him move on. Of course, what Harry plans and what Harry does in terms of getting involved don’t always correlate, but I’ll let you wait and see how it all turns out…

How much time have you spent working with ‘the filth’ a la Harry, or is it all research-research-research?

One of the most fascinating things about being in a hospital is that you get a window onto all sorts of situations you never otherwise would – I spent a lot of my time as a student in A&E, which tends to be full of police officers, who are often bored out of their wits guarding a drunken or mentally unwell patient and happy to strike up a chat over a coffee or a cigarette. I don’t identify myself as a writer, I just ask curious questions. Most people react well if you show an interest in their job, which doctors don’t always do.
I’ve spent some time shadowing paramedics responding to 999 calls, which is a brilliant experience. It showed me every side of London, and I’ve been into places I never otherwise would have, from luxury apartments to crack houses. Again, we end up working with the Met regularly, either them calling us or us calling them, and it’s a good place to pick up police procedure and jargon. Once, a patient – a young woman -became violent and the paramedic had to hit her panic button. I’ve never been more glad to see a police car…

 

 

A huge thanks to a very busy Rob for taking part.
Good luck in July!

 

 

 

Rob’s novels The Hollow Men and A Handful of Ashes follow Dr. Harry Kent, forensic medical consultant to the Metropolitan Police, as he becomes embroiled in a few scrapes of his own. Here be the blurb for the excellent The Hollow Men…

Usually the police work means minor injuries and mental health assessments. But teenager Solomon Idris’s case is different. Idris has taken eight people hostage in a fast-food restaurant, and is demanding to see a lawyer and a BBC reporter. Harry is sent in to treat the clearly-ill teenager . . . before the siege goes horribly wrong.
When Solomon’s life is put in danger again at a critical care ward, it becomes clear he knows something people will kill to protect. Determined to uncover the secret that drove the boy to such desperate action, Harry soon realizes that someone in the medical world, someone he may even know, has broken the doctors’ commandment to “do no harm” many times over . . .
To find out more about Rob, his website is here, and his Twitter here.

 

Next month it’s Scotland’s own Alan Jones being wrestled to the ground, lobbed into a prisoner van, then questioned about some spurious offence we’ll cobble together when back at the nick. It’s all about teamwork, after all.

If you’re an author or blogger and fancy joining me for your own 5WH, get in touch

5WH Interview with: Stav Sherez

5WH Interview with: Stav Sherez

Today, acclaimed wordsmith Stav Sherez, author of the Carrigan and Miller novels – and a raft of other books, articles and thought-provoking pieces – joins us for his brutal beating in the police station car park 5WH interview over tea and buns.

A quick check of his antecedents on the Police National Computer shows that, as well as owning the best hair in the business, Stav doesn’t half keep himself busy…

Born in 1970, Stav Sherez attended Latymer Upper School and the University of Leeds.

Stav’s first novel, The Devil’s Playground, was published in 2004 by Penguin Books and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger.

Stav’s second novel, The Black Monastery, was published by Faber & Faber in April 2009.

His third novel, A Dark Redemption, the first in a London-based police procedural series, was published by Faber and Faber in February 2012.
It deals with Joseph Kony and the legacy of LRA child soldiers now living in London. A Dark Redemption was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2013.

The second in the Carrigan and Miller series, Eleven Days, was published by Faber in May 2013.

From 1999 to 2004 Stav was a main contributor to the music magazine Comes with a Smile. He has also written for various other publications including The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, Zembla and the Catholic Herald

His new novel, and the latest featuring the brilliant Carrigan and Miller, The Intrusions, was published in January 2017.

 

On this occasion we decided to dispense with our typically barbaric handcuffing-to-a-very-hot-radiator technique – this isn’t the seventies anymore, people – and went straight for the more touchy-feely ‘falling down the stairs until you tell us the truth’ method. After the fourth time Stav, understandably, became remarkably compliant and chatty so we scooped him up, hosed down the blood, and got the interview tapes running:

Who out of your characters, DI Carrigan and DS Miller, do you enjoy writing about the most?

Wow, that’s a great question! Partly because I only recently realised that each of the three books in the series is slanted towards one or other of the protagonists and it’s not something I was at all conscious of as I wrote the books. A Dark Redemption was more Carrigan while Eleven Days is more of a Geneva book. My latest, The Intrusions, is perhaps the most evenly balanced of the series. I think I prefer writing Geneva – partly because she’s not a DI and so she can get away with much more unorthodox investigative stuff. Carrigan, as boss, has to stay within certain parameters. Geneva also feels a lot more like me but then, often Carrigan does too. I suppose we split and refract ourselves through multiple personalities as novelists. When I began the series, I purposefully wanted to have two lead characters as it’s the switching between two timelines that interests me most narratively while also, I believe, creating maximum tension for the reader.

What was the spark for the plot of A Dark Redemption, with its backstory of illegal immigrants and East African rebel groups?

Ha! That’s a funny one because A Dark Redemption came almost by chance. I was on my way to see my agent. I had three ideas written down for my next novel. They were all very dark and I knew she would say no – so, I thought if I added another idea, even darker, it would make the previous three seem more palatable. I said to her: how about three students going to Africa, bad shit happens to them and then 20 years later one is a cop and has to deal with the decisions he made in the past? And she said: that’s the one!
Admittedly, I was quite obsessed by the civil wars and bizarre cults coming out of Africa in the mid-1990s; the Lord’s Resistance Army in particular. I’m always interested in states where law and order has broken down, where chaos and disarray reign. These are great landscapes for a crime novel. But novels also develop as they’re written – and it was the fate of the child soldiers that began to interest me the most. Is there a way back after such acts? How does one resolve one’s past? These were interesting questions to me, as was the plight of immigrants, how it feels to be torn from your homeland, the yearning and constant worry.

When writing, music? And if so what do you listen to, or is it, as per your Twitter bio, ‘silence’ all the way?

It totally depends on which part of the writing process we’re talking about. For actual writing, silence is the only way I can work. If I have music on, even if it’s instrumental, it stops me hearing the rhythm of the sentences. But, in the evenings, when I’m plotting the next day’s chapter, I can only do it with music in the background. In silence, my brain wanders off, but the faint hum of jazz keeps me grounded and helps ideas develop.

Why do you think crime writing continues to be so popular with readers?

I think, of all the modern types of novel, crime fiction perhaps deals most with the pressing social and personal issues of our time. That’s one reason. Another is people like working out the puzzle of well-constructed murder. Crime fiction is always a dialogue between writer and reader, a game of show and hide. Also, it’s such a wide and broad genre that it can encompass nearly every other kind of book, from paranormal to romance to metafiction. And, finally, we like to be scared. Our lives revolve around personal hassles but we rarely feel that adrenaline jolt of reality (and thank god we don’t). Crime fiction (like horror movies) can provide a vicarious simulacrum of that.

Where in a work in progress do you hit what lots of authors refer to as ‘the writing wall’? 30 thousand words? 40?

Maybe 10 words in? No, I’m joking. Normally, for me, it’s about 60,000 words, though this has been different with each book. My first drafts are awful, an utter mess, with several different plotlines crashing over each other, characters dropping in and out and no ending. These days I try to be a little less hard on myself, knowing I have ten or so drafts to correct anything that needs it.

How many words a day? And the novel: plan it or blag it as you write?

I wish I could plan. It’s my biggest regret in being a writer. I’ve tried it with every book and it never works for me. I normally only know the initial situation – in The Intrusions, it revolves around backpackers going missing from a central London hostel – and then I start writing. The plot unfolds, partly as it must due to the logic of a police investigation. There are certain steps that have to be followed and others that would totally break the suspension of disbelief. And, once the Zero draft is done, I go back to beginning and redraft, maybe ten times over the course of 18 months. So it’s hard for me to say how many words a day as maybe 85% of the time I’m not writing but re-writing. When I am writing the first draft, it tends to be 3000-4000 words a day, but, you know, they’re terrible words and normally only about 10% of this draft survives into the finished book.

 

 

Thanks for taking part, Stav!
We’ll release you on conditional bail in the morning. Honest.

 

 

 

The Intrusions, Stav’s excellent return to the lives and investigations of DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller – dubbed by Ian Rankin as ‘A Silence of the Lambs for the internet age’ – is out now in paperback and eBook. Take a look:

‘Utterly riveting and truly terrifying.’ Laura Wilson, Guardian

When a distressed young woman arrives at their station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and ‘claim her next’, Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession.

Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez’s work has been so acclaimed for.

Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities re-surfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two women have been subjected to?

Want to find out even more about Stav? He’s over here – and great fun – on Twitter. And please, please take the time to read his wonderful, moving piece titled ‘Why I Write Crime Fiction‘, just to give you a flavour of how talented the man is…

 

Next month it’s Rob McCarthy being hauled in for questioning about his writing, his character Dr Harry Kent, and his novels The Hollow Men and A Handful of Ashes.

If you’re an author or blogger and fancy joining me for your own 5WH, get in touch

5WH Interview with: Graham Minett

5WH Interview with: Graham Minett

Today, Graham Minett, award-winning writer and author of The Hidden Legacy voluntarily attends the police station for his 5WH interview to mark the paperback launch of his gripping crime thriller Lie In Wait.

A PNC person check reveals that Graham has been a busy boy…

Graham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

The Hidden Legacy” was published as an eBook in November 2015 and the paperback version was published in August 2016. The second book in the deal, entitled “Lie in Wait“, was published as an eBook in August 2016 and the paperback version hits the shelves in bookshops around the country today, the 9th March 2017.

Graham lives with his wife and children in West Sussex but retains close links with the rest of his family in Cheltenham.

So, deep in the bowels of the custody suite, with the interview room door locked, the tapes running and Graham handcuffed to his chair just because we can for safety reasons, the 5WH interview begins…

Who would be your four ideal companions on a Caribbean holiday (family excluded)?

• Maggie O’Farrell – she can read her entire collection of novels to me as the sun goes down
• Joni Mitchell – she can provide the music and the poetry
• Justin Trudeau – the man has to have a fault but I haven’t found it yet
• Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks – just to clean the drains and buy the drinks
With my luck, I’d probably get off with Whitaker. Such is life.

What has surprised you most about being a published author?

• The amazing support from bloggers and reviewers who read over 200 books a year but still find time to champion the novels of those writers they likeGJ Minett - Hidden Legacy cover• The friendship of other writers, even from other publishing houses but especially from Bonnier Zaffre who give the lie to the idea that writing is a solitary business and that all novelists are essentially selfish and difficult to deal with
• The fact that when you get your two-book deal you struggle to find time to write the damned thing – why does no one ever tell you that?

When did you meet with success as a writer for the first time?

At Naunton Park Junior School way back in the Paleolithic era. We were given a homework exercise that required us to write a short story. I wrote five pages and everyone was amazed until Robert Williams came into the playground and announced he’d done seven. I went home that night and handed in eleven pages the following morning and everyone was talking about ME again, not Robert Williams.
When I hear authors answering the question ‘Why do you write?’ and they come out with answers such as ‘Because it defines me, because it’s who I am, because otherwise I cannot conceive of anything else I would do’ I remember Robert Williams and my deep-seated, desperately sad need for approval.

Why GJ rather than Graham?

If it was to disguise the fact that I’m male, as some have suggested, it was a dismal failure as every form of social media has a photo of the least feminine-looking person imaginable. Part of it was because Graham is an old-fashioned name nowadays – I’m not sure I’ve taught a Graham in the past 30 years. There was also an element of marketing though and I’ve been thrilled to read in some reviews that the reader assumed it was written by a woman. I regard that as quite a compliment.

Where is your next book set?

Lie In Wait – ahem! out already as an eBook and to appear as a paperback on March 9th – is set almost entirely in the Bognor Regis and Chichester area which was very handy as it reduced to a minimum the amount of geographical research I needed to do.GJ Minett - Lie in Wait coverI’m currently about 50,000 words into book 3 which has a working title I’m not even going to bother telling you because past experience suggests it will be changed before long. That is set in the Rye, Camber Sands, Winchelsea area and also on Peaks Island, just off the coast of Maine. I’m thinking of writing a novel set in Turks & Caicos if I can ever get away with claiming it against expenses. I’m guessing I’d probably need to be there for about 6 months.

How do you go about writing – do you plan or wing it?

Plan – every time. For Lie In Wait, before I’d written a single word, I knew there would be 83 scenes and I also knew how each scene would move the story forward and what it would reveal about a character, usually Owen Hall. I can know the character inside out but unless I manage to include in the book all those little details that go to make her/him real to me, the reader is never going to know that character the way I do. Works for me – others will have their own way of going about it.

Just a quick word to finish – my thanks go to Mike Thomas for a fantastic idea here. Writing blogs can be a bit samey (such a wordsmith!) but the set up for 5WH is fresh, original and fun. Thoroughly enjoyed it – hope you did too.

 

Don’t think that’ll get you out of those handcuffs, Minett!
Oh sorry, we mean thanks to you too, Graham!

Lie In Wait, Graham’s new paperback is out now. What’s it about? Read on…

 

 

A man is dead. A woman is missing. And the police have already found their prime suspect…

Owen Hall drives into a petrol station to let his passenger use the facilities. She never comes back – and what’s more, it seems she never even made it inside.

When Owen raises a fuss, the police are called – and soon identify Owen himself as a possible culprit – not least because they already have him in the frame for another more sinister crime.

Owen’s always been a little different, and before long others in the community are baying for his blood. But this is a case where nothing is as it seems – least of all Owen Hall…

A dark, addictive thriller, ingeniously plotted with a twist that will make you gasp, LIE IN WAIT is perfect for readers of Angela Marsons or Rachel Abbott.

Want to find out even more about Graham? Check his website or follow him on Twitter.

Next month we’re delighted to have Stav Sherez being dragged into the cells and hosed down with water, before questioning him and maybe giving him a prisoner’s microwave meal if he behaves. Come back in April!

If you’re an author or blogger and fancy joining me for your own 5WH, get in touch

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury – Reviewed by Linda’s Book Bag

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury – Reviewed by Linda’s Book Bag

Linda's Book Bag

abbatoir-of-dreams

I’m delighted to be helping to celebrate the launch of The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury.

The Abattoir of Dreams was published by Bloodhound on 28th February 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Abattoir of Dreams

abbatoir-of-dreams

The past is never far away.

Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael was sent to Woodside Children’s Home.

Now an adult, Michael wakes up in hospital from a coma suffering from amnesia and paralysis. Confused and terrified, he is charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also learns he attempted to end his own life.

Detective Inspector John Carver is determined that Michael is sent to prison. With no way of defending himself, Michael is left in his hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand.

But then strange things begin to happen and his childhood comes…

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Reblog: Flesh of Innocents by Lee Cockburn – Reviewed by BOOKS FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

Reblog: Flesh of Innocents by Lee Cockburn – Reviewed by BOOKS FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

BOOKS FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

I WISH TO THANK RACHEL OF AUTHORIGHT FOR INVITING ME ON THIS BLOG TOUR FOR PORCELAIN : FLESH OF INNOCENTS BY LEE COCKBURN.

Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents by [Cockburn, Lee]

BOOK DESCRIPTION

High-powered businessmen are turning up tortured around the city of Edinburgh with one specific thing in common — a sinister double life involving pedophilia. Leaving his ‘victims’ in a disturbing state, the individual responsible calls the police and lays bare the evidence of their targets’ twisted misdemeanours to discover, along with a special memento of their own troubled past — a chilling calling card. Once again heading the investigation team is Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks, along with her partner Detective Constable Marcus Black, who are tasked not only with tracking the perpetrator down but also dealing with the unusual scenario of having to arrest the victims for their own barbarous crimes. But with the wounded piling up the predator’s thirst for revenge intensifies and soon Nicks…

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Reblog: Cursed by Thomas Enger – Reviewed by Novel Gossip

Reblog: Cursed by Thomas Enger – Reviewed by Novel Gossip

Novelgossip


Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK
Release date: February 15, 2017

Publisher: Orenda Books

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to…

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Reblog: Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick – Reviewed by THE WRITING GARNET

Reblog: Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick – Reviewed by THE WRITING GARNET

The Writing Garnet

fv

There really should be some sort of club for Bookouture addicts as they produce some FAB books from FAB authors, and I am hooked on their books! Can you tell that this book was published by Bookouture? Thrilled to be one of the two blogs that Frances Vick is stopping at today, especially as the other blogger is super lovely! For my stop, I will sharing my review of Frances Vick’s new release, Bad Little Girl.

fv1‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’

Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.

As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees…

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