Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Coin for the Hangman by Ralph Spurrier, 2016

"Hello Ralph. You still mucking about with books?"

This is only an introduction to A Coin for the Hangman, the debut novel of Ralph Spurrier. I read about it online.

The 68-year-old new crime fiction writer is elated. He told Wiltshire Times, "It is an incredible feeling but also slightly frightening, to have a book published. It will be a surreal moment seeing something you have spent seven years on, from writing the first word of it to it being published, make it onto a bookshelf. It is a great feeling."

The book, published by Hookline Books and released on April 5, is set in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, England, during World War II. The narrative is in first person.

"I was looking for a typical West Country town and I thought Bradford on Avon was a perfect fit, particularly the lock-up on the bridge. I should have done this 40 years ago but it is never too late," Spurrier said of his 268-page novel.

The novel has an intriguing premise. The protagonist is a secondhand book dealer whose name is also Ralph. According to one synopsis, "When he finds the tools of England's last hangman, along with the diary of a condemned man he executed, he knows he has a mystery to solve. Was there a miscarriage of justice? Did the wrong man die at the noose?"

A more detailed plot outline reveals, "A secondhand book dealer...buys a job lot of books and artefacts found in a non-descript Sussex bungalow. He realises that he has in his hands a series of diaries and documents owned by Reginald Manning, who became the official hangman in the brief period after the UK’s last Chief Executioner Albert Pierrpoint retired but just before the abolition of capital punishment. What he finds is both chilling and fascinating. Is he reading about a miscarriage of justice on an epic scale? Is there anyone still alive who can verify the events described in the diaries?"

The Kindle editions are available on Amazon for $5.02 and Amazon UK for £3.79. You may read an extract on the publisher's website, here.

22 comments:

  1. It's great that he is getting into publishing now - there is hope for us all!

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    1. There sure is, Sergio. It's never too late to do anything, even write your first novel, however intimidating the task looks.

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  2. Oh, this does sound intriguing, Prashant!! I really like the premise (what's not to like about a bookshop?). And the mystery sounds really interesting, too. And it is encouraging to know that the author didn't come to this until a bit later in life. I love that example of personal growth!

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    1. Margot, the plot is what prompted me to write about this book. A mystery set in and around books does catch your attention. The writer is an inspiration, no doubt.

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  3. I like fiction written about this time period, Prashant. Sounds very interesting.

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    1. Tracy, like you, I enjoy reading WWII fiction, particularly about events on the periphery of the war. The premise is certainly intriguing.

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  4. I imagine the War has something to do with it, too. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Oscar, you are welcome. I think it has though I should read the book to learn more about it.

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  5. Always cool to hear about someone getting into it even in later years

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    1. Charles, that's what I thought too. As Ralph Spurrier says, it'd be a "great feeling," indeed.

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  6. I've bought many books from this guy! He owns Post Mortem Books. Added to my buy list. Thanks for the review and the news.

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    1. John, you are welcome. I'd like to review the book someday. I read that he gave up a paid job to set up his secondhand book business.

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  7. I've always liked the common man mysteries, and this one sounds interesting.

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    1. Ben, I guess if you're surrounded by books for a little over three decades, at some point they are bound to inspire you to write.

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  8. Interesting, but I have to ask: how was it? Writing, style, plot, twists, ending, characters?

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    1. Richard, I read about the book online and liked the fact that Spurrier made his debut so late in his life, and thought I should highlight it. I do hope to read novel.

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  9. Prashant: The book made me think of the Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning. The sleuth sells more antiquarian than secondhand books but the concept is comparable.

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    1. Bill, thanks for writing about John Dunning's Cliff Janeway series. I can't say I have heard of the author or his series. I think antiques go well with books.

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  10. The book sounds interesting, and kudos to him for getting it written and published in his 60s.

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    1. Absolutely, Moira. One is never too old to achieve something. It gives me hope.

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