Blog Tour/Book Review/Guest Post: Smart Moves by Adrian Magson

Smart Moves Blog Tour

My grateful thanks to Emily at The Dome Press for my advance review copy and for inviting me to join the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Adrian Magson’s latest book, Smart Moves.  I have a two-for-one deal for you today – a guest post from Adrian all about why he decided to write a standalone book, and my review of Smart Moves.

If you want to make your own ‘smart move’ – and why wouldn’t you? – you can find purchase links below.


Smart MovesAbout the Book

International troubleshooter Jake Foreman loses his job, house and wife all in one day. And when an impulsive move lands him in even deeper water – the kind that could lose him his life – he decides it’s time to make some smart decisions.

The trouble is, knowing the right moves and making them is a whole different game. And Jake, who has been happily rubbing along things he always suspected were just a shade away from being dodgy, finds it all too easy to go with the flow.

Now he’s got to start learning new tricks. If he doesn’t, he could end up dead.

Format: Paperback, ebook (288 pp.)    Publisher: The Dome Press
Published: 16th August 2018         Genre: Thriller, adventure, crime

Purchase Links*
Publisher (buy direct for 30% off & free postage) | Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Smart Moves on Goodreads


Guest Post by Adrian Magson: Why A Standalone?

After 22 books and being asked, ‘Is this a series?’, I finally got the urge to say, ‘No – it’s a standalone. And it’s going to be light-hearted.’

At the time I had five series behind me, with lead characters like Riley Gavin, a tough female crime reporter; Harry Tate, a former MI5 officer; Marc Portman, a spy’s best friend in tight situations; Ruth Gonzales, a private security company investigator; and Inspector Lucas Rocco, a French detective in 1960s rural Picardie. Every one serious in tone, albeit with hints of humour here and there. But light-hearted? No.

Was I biting off more than I could chew?

Writing a series was what I liked doing; after each book I could switch to one of the other series or write the next in line. It was familiar writing territory. It didn’t necessarily make the physical task any easier, but I knew what I was dealing with. All I had to do was switch character hats.

But a standalone?  Write a story where there wasn’t going to be a sequel? Moreover, could I write one which was more humorous than my other books?

What the heck, of course I could. It’s what I do. And Smart Moves was what I had in mind.

Most of my main characters are in tough professions – fighting crime or in the spying game – where knowing what they’re doing is essential for survival. Cops and reporters have to tread a fine path between good and bad, while spies and their helpers can’t relax for a moment because there’s always someone watching, and danger is never far away.

But how about a character who wasn’t so controlled, whose job as an international corporate trouble-shooter, rather than the gun-carrying kind, had allowed things to slip out of his grasp, until he suddenly had nothing – no wife, no house, no job… and not much of a glimmer about how it had happened?

Jake Foreman isn’t inept or uncaring; he’s just become so focussed on work that essential things like life, love and smelling the coffee have eased into the background, leaving him adrift.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Jake’s story. No need to think about a follow-on; tying up ends loosely or otherwise; and having a laugh along the way, instead of keeping it serious.

I hope readers like the change. If they do, who knows, I might try another one someday.
© Adrian Magson


My Review

The title of the book, Smart Moves, is ironic, intentionally so, as initially Jake seems to make nothing but unsmart moves that put him in the bad books of some pretty nasty characters.  His self-confessed ‘three wise monkeys’ approach of asking no questions has, up until now, seen him successfully through a career as a troubleshooter in some distinctly unsavoury situations.  But is it quite so wise in the position in which he finds himself now?

When he finds himself thrown out of his house by his wife, he turns to brother, Marcus, and old friend, Hugo.  Unfortunately, their best-intentioned advice and introductions only land Jake in more hot water.  And soon it’s getting hotter by the minute.    Luckily, he finally encounters someone made of ‘sterner stuff’, someone able – and willing – to help him out.  Together, it turns out they might make a great partnership.

Smart Moves is a lot of fun, largely because Jake is a thoroughly likeable and engaging character with a nice line in self-deprecating humour.  In fact, sardonic humour is a key feature of the book.  A couple of my favourites:

[Jake, encountering his nosy neighbour, Mrs Tree, outside his now empty house] ‘Seeing her reminded me of driving across a patch of the Namib desert and spotting vultures circling over the remains of a dead zebra.  I knew how the zebra must have felt.’

[Jake, on his wife, Susan] ‘One thing I’d learned very early in our relationship was that Susan didn’t do rough. Her idea of an adventure holiday was having to switch on the air con herself.’

The author is clearly a skilled writer because he keeps the story moving along nicely, increasing the pace in the final third of the book to keep the reader turning the pages. He also has a deft touch when it comes to great opening and closing lines of chapters.

Smart Moves has all the characteristics of a great crime caper movie: likeable hero, witty dialogue, well-paced story, a few narrow escapes from the bad guys, a bit of fisticuffs and the occasional romantic encounter for our leading man.   I thoroughly enjoyed it. Given the ending of the book and, despite the declarations to the contrary by Adrian in his guest post above, he has cleverly left things sufficiently open so there could be another outing for Jake Foreman if he so desired…  I think there may be many readers of Smart Moves who will positively demand it.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, The Dome Press, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Pacy, witty, adventure

Try something similar…Poor Boy Road by James L. Weaver (read my review here)


Adrian MagsonAbout the Author

Adrian Magson – ‘a classic crime star in the making’ (Daily Mail) – is the author of 22 crime and spy thrillers, a ghost novel and Write On! – a writers’ help book. His latest novels are Rocco and the Nightingale (Oct 2017), the fifth in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series set in 1960s France, and Smart Moves (Aug 2018), a standalone novel. Both are published by The Dome Press. When not writing books, he’s a reviewer for Shots Magazine and writes the ‘Beginners’ and ‘New Author’ pages for Writing Magazine (UK).

Adrian lives in the Forest of Dean and rumours that he is building a nuclear bunker are unfounded. It’s a bird’s table.

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Guest Post: ‘1215 and all that’ by Nicky Moxey, author of Sheriff and Priest

I’m delighted to welcome Nicky Moxey to What Cathy Read Next today.  A review copy of Nicky’s historical novel, Sheriff and Priest, is sitting in my author review pile.  Unfortunately, it may be there for some time so, in the meantime, I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from Nicky about the turbulent events of King John’s reign.  It’s also an insight into her research for the sequel to Sheriff and Priest, due out in 2019.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00032]About the Book

Wimer could have become a monk. Instead, his decision to become a Chaplain – to make his way in the wider world of men – has put his soul in mortal danger.

In 12th Century East Anglia, poor Saxon boys stay poor. It takes an exceptional one to win Henry II’s friendship, and to rise to the job of High Sheriff of all Norfolk and Suffolk. Falling foul of the stormy relationship between Henry and his Archbishop, he is excommunicated three times, twice by Thomas a’Becket, and once by the Pope.

He also falls in love with the King’s Ward, Ida. Before he plucks up the courage to do anything about it, the King takes her as his mistress, and Ida needs Wimer’s support to survive that dangerous liaison.

Although he is eventually reinstated in the Church, his problems with his religious superiors, and his love for Ida, will guarantee him a place in Hell, unless he can find land and resources to do something spectacular in the way of penance…

Format: Paperback, ebook (362 pp.)    Publisher: Dodnash Books
Published: 15th October 2017                Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Etsy (signed copies)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Sheriff and Priest on Goodreads


Guest Post: ‘1215 and all that’ by Nicky Moxey, author of Sheriff and Priest

Historical fiction makes me happy. Not so much the reading of it (although I read it voraciously), nor the writing of it (though I’ve had some modest success). No; what I really enjoy is the research.

I write about the little people – I have no huge interest in royalty per se; they tend to be crusted around with other people’s perceptions. Instead, I want to know how the actions of the great and good impact on the people around them.

Of course, this is the writerly equivalent of trying to push water uphill – we know so much about the top of society because they controlled the information flows, or at the very least they were what the historians of the day wanted to write about. So this is where historical fiction wins over historical fact; it’s possible to take a gleam of certainty there, a book illumination here, and meld them together into something that casts light into people’s lives whilst retaining something of the truth.

I’m currently writing about the event-filled years of John’s reign on the people in my favourite setting – Dodnash Priory in Suffolk; one of many hundreds of small religious houses scattered across the UK. This one follows the Augustinian rule, so is not a closed order; the monks serve travellers and the local community, healing, teaching, and spreading the word of God. It was an enormously turbulent period for the country as a whole, but the surviving Dodnash Priory charters tell of local challenges too.

Nicky Moxey Guest Post King JohnKing John was crowned on 2nd May 1199. It took him a while to decide to stop using his father’s coinage – big brother Richard had never taken this step; it was an expensive one. Usually the job was done by issuing a mix of old coins and new silver to the moneyers; but John was perpetually cash-strapped, fighting losing battles to maintain the Plantagenet lands in France. So John decreed that it was going to be against the law to own silver coinage between November 1204 and mid-January 1205; all silver coinage was to be handed in so that it could be melted down and re-issued. The farthing, or four-thing – a silver penny cut into 4 pieces – was the lowest denomination of coinage; there was no copper coinage. A skilled carpenter might earn 4 pence a day, and very few of the common people would have owned gold. A gallon of ale or a couple of dozen eggs would have cost around a penny.

Now having no money would have been an irritation under any circumstance, but it turned out that the winter of 1204/5 was record-breakingly cold. It was one of the years that the Thames froze solid. 1204’s harvest froze and rotted, stores and seed alike; it wasn’t possible in any case to plough until the end of March. The price of oats rose ten times between December and March, and a handful of vegetables was worth a gold coin called a noble – that’s 6 shillings and 8 pence. There is no record of the number of people who starved to death.

The next crisis started in 1206, when Stephen Langdon was made the Archbishop of Canterbury, against John’s wishes. The King’s response was to confiscate all the Cathedral’s property and expel all the monks! On 23rd March 1208, with John refusing to accept Langdon or restore Church property, Pope Innocent put all of England under an interdict. For a mediaeval Roman Catholic population, who firmly believed in Hell, the Interdict must have been truly terrifying – the sentence meant no church services, no confession; no extreme unction; no burial in churchyards, even – people had to bury their dead in woods & ditches. No marriages or baptisms were allowed either. It lasted for 6 years! As an aside, John was personally excommunicated in 1209, but he didn’t seem to care much.

In the autumn of 1213 Archbishop Langdon is said to have described to the barons of England exactly what oath John swore when he was crowned, and which parts of that oath he had already broken. John was making a rod for his own back by increasing taxes by astonishing amounts, and demanding that the barons provide armies for the wars in France. He was also using court fines to increase his coffers, demanding huge fines for any misdemeanour, and charging extortionate amounts to confirm inheritances. The barons were becoming more than restless – and the ones in East Anglia, including the Bigods, Dodnash’s overlords, were leading the pack.

On the 21st April 1214 John got so desperate that he made the Pope the overlord of England and Ireland – an unbelievable step; it meant that the King of England was no longer the sovereign power. As a political move, though, it was a stroke of genius; all of a sudden John could do no wrong so far as the Pope was concerned. The Interdict was lifted, and the Pope started to side with John against the barons. John underlined his blue-eyed boy status by taking the crusader oath at the beginning of March 1215.

Nicky Moxey Guest Post Framlingham Castle
Framlingham Castle, built by Roger Bigod

John, and the barons, signed the Magna Carta on 15th of June 1215. Roger Bigod, and his son Hugh, were one of 25 barons who were appointed to be sure that John kept his side of the bargain. John kept his word for just long enough to appeal to his overlord the Pope – who annulled the Magna Carta on 24th August. John then fought his way across England, burning and looting the land of the barons who had opposed him. Roger Bigod surrendered Framlingham castle in early March 1216, and his baby grandson was taken as a hostage. John marched through Ipswich and laid siege to Colchester on the 14th March; his army of mercenaries must have passed through or very near Dodnash lands.

On 22nd May the French Dauphin, Prince Louis, invaded England, at the invitation of the barons. ANYONE would be better than John! Louis was successful enough that he was actually crowned King – and for several turbulent months reigned over East Anglia, with his own Sheriff in place hearing court cases – including one crucial to little Dodnash. Who knows what might have happened to the United Kingdom if John hadn’t died of dysentery in mid-October 2016, much to everyone’s relief. Sir William Marshall was persuaded to come out of retirement to be Regent and the country rallied behind John’s baby son, Richard lll. The Dauphin withdrew in short order.

There is a growing trend amongst historians at the moment to say that John wasn’t as bad as his reputation has it. From my point of view, he was truly terrible – because of the suffering he caused the common man, to both body and soul.

In the first book, Sheriff and Priest, Henry II’s reign feels like a comparative oasis of peace. Wimer the Chaplain has plenty of personal struggles, but he is able to take his part in building the stability of the realm, and retire to found Dodnash Priory, without too much interference from the Crown – Thomas a’Becket’s habit of excommunicating everyone in sight is really the only external crisis.  In the sequel – due out in early 2019 – the opposite is true. The people in the Priory are beset in almost every way by John’s actions, and must find a way to live, love, and thrive despite the challenges.

© Nicky Moxey, 2018


NickyMoxeyAbout the Author

Nicky Moxey is an amateur archaeologist and historian who lives in darkest Suffolk and is owned by a slinky black cat. She writes historical fiction, and also has a series of children’s stories about a boy called Henry who finds a magic pencil. She tends to write first drafts with pencil and paper, often out on a field somewhere…

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