red-ribbons-coverIt’s a pleasure to have as my Crime Cafe guest blogger today an awesome author that I actually know through blogging! Very cool!

Her name is Louise Phillips and, while up until now, her books haven’t been published in my country (the US of A), I’ve still managed to get my hands on them.

I’m here to tell you that her writing is awesome! And I’m so glad I ran across her blog.

In any case, Louise now has a publisher in my country, and her books will now be published all over the place!

Personally, I was very excited to hear from Louise that her next novel will feature an American defense attorney. My lawyer protagonist, Sam McRae would totally approve! 🙂

Be that as it may, if you’d like to enter the contest for a free copy of Louise’s first novel, Red Ribbons, just go to Louise Phillips’ website and find the titles of all four books in the Kate Pearson series. Then, send them in the contact page on her site.

And so … let’s hear from Louise Phillips about her research trip to the States!


Going Stateside

As a writer of psychological crime thrillers, I find myself in any number of unique situations for my research, chatting to off-duty hostage negotiators over a chicken burger in a fast food restaurant, talking psychosis with a psychologist, or eavesdropping on suspicious characters at a bus stop.

Meeting new people who do unusual things is one of the most exciting aspects of my writing research, and having the right conversation with the right people can cause bullets of inspiration to ricochet – story twists, plot points and character insights unravelling at breakneck speed.

It’s the same with locations. A place is always about more than the sum of the parts. As writers and observers, we think about how a place is at a particular time, late at night, a spring morning, in rush-hour traffic, or the people who inhabit it—a homeless woman on a park bench, a well-dressed man, a group of neighbours chatting. You ask yourself why are they there? How do they fit? What is different about where you are?

Until recently most of my research has been in Ireland, with the odd forays to Paris and Rome. This November, my first novel, RED RIBBONS, will be published in the U.S. with Polis Books. In the strange coincidences that life can fire up, the novel I’m working on at the moment, TRUST NO ONE, is the first story I’ve based in America—Massachusetts to be exact, and a short while ago I found myself on a flight to Boston.

I had informally lined up a number of interviews with key people. Practically all of them said, “Give me a buzz when you arrive Stateside,” almost as if my potential visit was in doubt, but nothing short of volcanic ash was going to stop me going. You see, I’d never been to the US before. I couldn’t believe that at long last I would be going visit America, and the word ‘excited’ didn’t nearly cover it.

I started my research in Boston, with the second leg of the trip scheduled for the South Shore. I took in the sights and sounds of the city—professionals with smart suits talking on cell phones, women with finely manicured nails eagerly walking their dogs in Boston Common, the numerous joggers around every street corner, the lone man silent at the 9/11 Memorial, children going to school, the Boston Globe, the Italian restaurant I had breakfast in most mornings. I took in other parts of the city too, when I moved further out from the centre, and the elegant stone-stepped houses with small ornate front gardens changed to a mix of New England style homes, some worst for the wear. At times, poverty and lower socio-economic conditions screamed through the battered woodwork, whilst others gleamed with their bright pastel colours.

The first person I met for research was an undercover cop. I got his contact details from a detective I worked with in Ireland, and within seconds of talking over cranberry iced-tea, he took a call from an informant. Instantly, I was pulled into remembering all the American films and dramas I had soaked in over the years. We spoke for over an hour. I got to learn about him, his family, why he chose to be a police officer, how the most important thing about being an undercover cop was being able to hide your eyes, and not let people know what’s really going on inside your head. He had a way about him that made me want to write a whole book on him, and maybe someday I will.

The following morning, I found myself at a courthouse with another contact I’d been given by a mutual friend. I swallowed up everything I could about how the Grand Jury system worked, how they say you can indict a ham sandwich when the reality is very different. I heard about D.A.’s, Police Investigative reports, politics, and how the judicial system works. Over the course of the next few days, I met senior crime officers, many involved with one of the Major Crime Units in the city. I found myself in a cell, voluntarily of course. I sat in, albeit empty interview rooms, with emergency exit buttons, and mirrors behind which cops studied their subjects. I spoke to a black female officer, back in the station after she’d been injured when a junkie shot her in the knee. If they want to kill you, one of my cop contacts said, they aim for the head.

Narcotics, is the big problem in the city, despite lowering crime rates. It filters through the lives of the community like an evil plague, and as I stood in the police station looking at the security cameras focused on the then empty cells, I heard how crime rises with the heat. When it’s hot, those without air-conditioning, those without money for air-conditioning, become like a grenade about to explode, with tempers frayed and where anything can happen.

I hadn’t even reached the South Shore and I already knew the decision to make this trip was one of the best choices I had ever made!


Bestselling Irish author, Louise Phillips, has won numerous literary awards, including the Jonathan Swift Award, the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform and Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year. She has been shortlisted for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK and the Penguin/RTE Short Story Award. Her work has formed part of many literary journals and anthologies, as well as being the recipient of both literary bursaries and residencies. A judge on the Irish panel for the European Literary Award, this year she has been awarded a literary bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland. She has also been longlisted in the prestigious CWA Dagger in the Library Award. RED RIBBONS, is the first novel in her award-winning crime series featuring criminal psychologist, Kate Pearson.

Follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseMPhillips

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