Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: South Africa

Opening Lines: Counterfeit! by Elizabeth Ducie

‘Opening Lines’ time is upon us! This week I’m delighted to welcome the multi-talented Elizabeth Ducie to my blog to share the first 500 words from her thriller, Counterfeit!

Over to you Elizabeth…


Before I started writing fiction, I spent more than thirty years in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. I visited more than fifty countries, many of them in less-developed parts of the world. Much of my fiction starts with a location and expands to characters and their stories.

Counterfeit!, which was published in 2016, began life as a 6K word short story assignment during my MA at Exeter University. Later, I expanded it into a thriller featuring three storng female protagonists (having been influenced by The Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson). I thought it was going to be a standalone novel, but as soon as I wrote the closing line, I knew it was just the start of a series. The follow-ow, Deception!, came out in 2017 and the final part of the series, Corruption!, is due out this September.  Although the storyline is fictional, some of the events, espeically in Counterfeit! are based on real situations and conversations.


Fake medicine kills. No-one is safe.Regulator Suzanne Jones’ mission to stop counterfeiting in Africa becomes personal when a colleague buys a bottle of fake cough syrup with tragic consequences. But her investigations bring danger ever closer. In Uganda a factory burns; Suzanne’s friend goes missing; and in Swaziland and Zambia, children die.
Who is supplying the fake drugs? What is the Eastern European connection? Can Suzanne stop the counterfeiters before more people die? 


First 500 words of Counterfeit!

Zambia; December 2003

Kabwe Mazoka walks up the hill, scuffing his feet in the rutted and baked red earth. It’s been dry for months, but today thick clouds mask the sun and when the rains come, this will be a water course, pouring mud and stinking filth into the main street below. He turns through a broken-down gate and walks across the yard. A mangy dog, tied with rope to a ring on the fence, jumps to its feet yelping before sinking back on its haunches, eyeing him warily.

The building was painted white once. Pale flakes cluster around rusty lines where the reinforcing bars are breaking through the pitted concrete. In the single row of windows running below the flat roof, most of the panes of glass are missing.

A line of women sit in the dirt against the wall, taking advantage of the shade from the over-hanging roof. As Kabwe unlocks the shiny new padlock on the door, they rise and slowly follow him into the building. The first raindrops splash into the dust.

The downpour hits the corrugated iron roof like stones from an angry crowd. Kabwe uses a metal pole to stir the thick, creamy liquid in the cleaned-out oil drum.

The men were coming back today, bringing brightly coloured labels and delivery instructions. They would be cross if the bottles weren’t filled ready for labelling and packing. He didn’t want them to be cross again.

They’d been cross when he suggested testing the ingredients before making the medicine. They showed him pieces of paper with green stickers and words in another language. They told him to ‘just get on with it.’ So he did.

When Kabwe ran out of the glycerol used to sweeten the cough medicines, they brought him drums in a battered lorry and told him to ‘get them unloaded and stored in the lock-up.’ The drums were different from the ones he’d had previously. These were red. Last time they were blue. The name was different too, longer. They told him it was just the chemical name for the same material. He pointed to the place where warning symbols and storage conditions were usually printed. The labels had been scratched and scraped; none of the words were legible. The men laughed at him and told him to ‘just get on with it.’ So he did.

Today, the men arrive just as the last of the brown bottles is being filled. They’d been pleased with Kabwe when he managed to source these from the local glass plant. For eleven months each year, the plant makes beer bottles, then the mechanics switch the moulds and they make medicine bottles, a year’s supply in just four weeks. They need a lot more beer bottles than medicine bottles in Africa.

These bottles are rejects, slightly misshapen, no good for an automated bottling line. But Kabwe’s filling team holds bottles under a tap, one at a time, operating the pump with a foot-pedal. He was able to….


Buy Link:

Elizabeth’s Bio

Elizabeth has been writing for more than thirty years; initially producing audit reports, text books, articles and training modules for the international pharmacuetical industry. In 2012 she gave up the day job to concentrate on fiction. She has so far published three novels and three collections of short stories. She is due to publish her fourth novel in September.

She also writes The Business of Writing series to provide a toolbox of skills, allowing writers to spend minimal time getting their business systems right and releasing them for the creative work they love. She regularly lectures at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and elsewhere.

Elizabeth believes self-publishing is an exciting opportunity and not merely the choice of last resort. In the past seven years, she has published fifteen titles under her own imprint, Chudleigh Phoenix Publications.

Elizabeth’s Links








Great opening lines! 

Make sure you come back next week for some opening lines from Zara Stonely.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx 

Interview with Simon Miller: Ebolowa

Today I’m delighted to welcome debut novelist, Simon Miller, to my blog to tell us a little about his book, Ebolowa.

Why not pop the kettle on, put your feet up for five minutes, and join us for a chat?

What inspired you to write your book?

I lived in Cameroon in the 1970s and heard about the rape and murder of a young American woman back in the mid-1950s.  I was never convinced by the official account of what happened (she’d been allegedly assaulted and strangled by her Cameroonian secretary) and years later I decided to write an alternative version.  EBOLOWA is the result.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

To make a convincing case I had to get the background right.  I had to research the history of Cameroon and the global picture of ‘the scramble for Africa’ for natural resources like titanium, palm oil and petroleum – – as well as the means governments used to secure them.  I knew about researching history from my work at university but I discovered (a painful lesson) that academic writing is no help at all in telling a thrilling story.

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?  

I write with the voices of my characters rather than as myself or with a strong narrative voice.  In EBOLOWA there are four points of view, two men and two women with different angles on the same events spread over two weeks in the spring of 1974.  Obviously the women, Candace and Eileen, were more difficult but the men, Harry and Gitan, are very different from me as well and I found creating all the personalities and their voices a real challenge.  The creation of characters with credible motives and actions is crucial to any story telling and nothing undermines a thriller more than the author taking liberties with the possible.   I will have failed if you stop reading with an exasperated cry of “oh no, that’s just ****** ridiculous!”

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

I’m a plotter.  I have to be in order to offer a credible alternative to EBOLOWA’S official version.  I have to blend fact with fiction and give you important background without clogging up the pace of the action.  A historical thriller must reflect the complex reality of real events, but at the same time the characters must be given the space to flourish. You need to care about them and identify with the thrills and jeopardy they experience; that’s what sets your heart racing and makes for a page-turner.  The plot gives me control over that balance and enables the all-important climax – – and, as you know, nothing spoils a thriller more than a dud ending.

What is your writing regime?

I don’t really have one.  I should have, but I’m weak willed – – there’s always another nugget of reality to research or a coffee to make or a dog to walk – – anything to delay the return to the coalface. On the other hand, once forced into action I get a real kick in writing and getting the story right, but I need to know somebody out there is enjoying it.  I enjoy having an audience and am trying to set up sessions in libraries, so maybe there’s a bit of the history lecturer left in me.

What excites you about book?

The challenge of taking on the official version was exciting, a sort of David and Goliath feeling.  I wanted to emerge from the research and writing with an alternative that grabbed your attention and made you question what really happened.  The cover design by Mark Ecob is brilliant and I hope your experience of reading the story lives up to it.

Writing is a solitary pursuit and any reaction from readers is great to have!  Meantime I am working on the next Harry Kaplan case, THE WRONG DOMINO, based on another true story from the 1970s but in Iran – – an early draft of which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger award.


Here’s the blurb-

The official verdict was accidental death.
In 1956 photojournalist Annie Fayol had drowned in a rip tide off the coast of Cameroon. They said she shouldn’t have gone skinny-dipping on her own.
Nearly twenty years later her sister Candace finds a cache of old photos and is convinced someone had been with her – someone Annie had fallen for. Candace hires Harry Kaplan to find out who he was and why he hadn’t come forward. Right away it’s obvious the man is no ordinary missing person; there’s a whiff of a cover-up in the air and it seems somebody powerful is trying to stop the past from seeping into the present.
Based on a true story of courage, complicity… and murder

Buy Links

Book/author links

http://historicalthrillers. com/this-new-thriller-plot-is- radioactive/

Simon Miller has a PhD from Durham and has taught history at universities
in the UK and USA (Manchester, Essex, Cambridge, Belfast
and UC Davis). He has published work on the Mexican Revolution
and the English culture of land and landscape, but was always drawn
to a more flexible genre of writing about the past. His first attempt,
The Wrong Domino, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association
Debut Dagger award.

Many thanks for dropping by Simon. Good luck with your novel.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny x



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