Fresh Blood

Name: Ann Bloxwich

Title of Book: What Goes Around

'Bloxwich is a new shining light in the crime arena!'

Vicky Wilson is dating Ray Diamond, legendary stripper and renowned bad boy. She goes backstage to see him during a show with friends and disappears.

When a womanís body is found behind the club, DI Alex Peachey and his team are called in to find out who killed Vicky. But with his home life in turmoil, delving into the adult entertainment industry is the last thing he needs, especially with a case as complex as a spider's web. But due to his colleagueís sudden illness he doesn't have a choice.

Ray Diamond claims heís being framed. His complete disregard for others means there are a lot of people who would love to see him fall from his pedestal. The question is, does anyone hate him enough to push him? And will DI Peachey be able to prove him culpable of murder before he strikes again?

As soon as I started reading ĎWhat Goes Aroundí, the pages flew by. Bloxwich gets struck straight in and her story flies. What I loved were the vast arrangement of characters, some you could cheer on and some boo, like Ray Diamond who has to be the most despicable and divisive human being who has no compunction about being under-hand to get his own way. But would he stoop low enough to murder? Bloxwich marvellously see-saws that question throughout her narrative whilst putting the spotlight on others involved in the drama. My favourite is the drag queen, Kitty McLane and I hope we havenít seen the last of her.

What Bloxwich does superbly is bring her characters alive. Her ear for dialogue for a debut is sublime and assured. With each character I could hear their voice and know who was talking as Bloxwich gave them definite individual voices. Not all writers can write dialogue fluidly, without it feeling forced, but Bloxwich does that here perfectly.

Another part of the book that stands out is how Bloxwich shows the personal lives of her cast. She bravely puts in her own experience of caring for a disabled child with Aspergerís which at times can be uncomfortable reading, but brings a depth to the lives of DI Alex Peachey and his wife, Jayne. You can tell this is writing from the heart and soul of the author. This adds another dimension to the central character.

ĎWhat Goes Aroundí is an outstanding debut with a standout cast, a plot that keeps you guessing and is as fast as a drag queenís on-stage patter! I look forward to the next book. Bloxwich is a new shining light in the crime arena!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) DI Alex Peachey is the main man in your book, along with his wife, Jayne. He is backed by a great team that appear to be quite cohesive. Will we find out more about Alex Peachey besides his dodgy knees? Will more of the team come to the fore with each book?
Although Alex is the focus in this book, I wanted each member of my team to have their own strengths, which will see them playing a bigger part in future books. The story revolving around Alex and Jayne will be ongoing across a few books. One character will be departing in book two, but I think their replacement is a worthy replacement.
2) There are some standout characters in your story, many quite extrovert. Do you feel characterisation is as important as plot?
For me, character is key. If they arenít engaging or interesting, then readers wonít care what happens to them. I wanted my characters to feel like real people, to act and react in the same way that real people would do if they were in the same situations. Quite often, Iíd ask myself what I would do in their shoes.
3) I really enjoyed the character of Kitty McLane and it sounds as though you have some experience of drag queens. Plus you seem very familiar with the world of strippers! Did you know this world before starting your book or did you have to do a lot of research??!! There is also quite a bit of humour to contrast the dark. Do you find that humour helps in times of great stress?
I loved writing Kitty, sheís one of my favourite characters!. My experience in her world came about after a friend pointed out one of the parents at our childrenís primary school, and said he was a well-known male stripper. Iíd never seen one before but didnít believe her because he looked so scruffy! She took me to see him do a show a few weeks later and I was impressed Ė and not just for that reason! I was also mesmerised by the drag queen who was hosting that night, so I hired the two of them for my 40th birthday party the following month. The stripperís face was a picture when he walked in and immediately recognised everyone in the audience as parents from the school! Afterwards, he asked if I would find a venue for a strip group he was in, so I hired a local function room and sold tickets. It went down a storm, so he started taking me to work with him, introducing me to other strippers and drag artistes, and I started doing promotions for his group. I helped backstage with costumes and so on and made some wonderful friends. From there I started my own promotions company, but it didnít do very well. Luckily, another stripper who was also an agent asked me to go into business with him, and we worked together for quite a few years. Iíd joked with one of the guys one night that maybe I should write a book about them all, and he said I should do it. Instead of research, I just used some of the experiences Iíd had. Only one of the strippers in the book is a real person, the others are a loose mix of several real ones, and Ray Diamond is completely fictional Ė Iím glad I never met anyone as nasty as him! Kitty is a blend of several drag artistes, all of whom are mistresses of their craft. Lavinia, on the other hand, is what I imagine a bad one to be like. Itís not just a case of sticking a wig and a dress on, there is a skill to it, and I take my hat off to them all.

As for the humour, I feel itís so important to get the balance right. Humour is often used in real life to break the tension in a situation, and I think itís necessary in crime fiction to bring light relief to your readers.
4) Alex and Jayne have a son, Joel who is disabled with Aspergerís. This is quite an emotional experience showing the highs and lows of having a child with severe needs. This is based on your own life. Why did you want to include it in your book and how difficult was it to write those particular parts of your story?
Joel is indeed based on my own son, who has cerebral palsy and Aspergerís, and my experiences with him. His disabilities were also caused by birth negligence. I wanted to show some of the frustrations that parents can feel when they find themselves in such a situation. Knowing my child was perfectly fine before his birth damaged him is a massive thing to deal with, and it had a huge impact on my whole family. I was pregnant with my daughter when we had his diagnosis confirmed, and it terrified me in case the same thing happened again. Luckily, her birth went smoothly and sheís fine. I had two more children after her, and was never able to relax during either pregnancy as I was too worried in case things went wrong.

It was difficult to write about my sonís violent behaviour, but I found it very therapeutic. No parent wants to admit that their child is being aggressive towards them, as itís seen as a sign of weakness. Tradition dictates that you show respect to your elders, especially your parents, and the notion of someone hitting their mother was new to me, until he started doing just that. Having talked to other special needs parents, I found it was not uncommon, so I wanted to bring it out in the open. I was at a book festival last week, and a lady stopped me, and thanked me for showing that Ďdisabled people can be arseholes, tooí Ė her words, not mine. She admitted that her aunt was in that same boat but was struggling to be believed. If writing about my experiences helps people talk about it, then Iím glad. If my able-bodied son hit me, he would be arrested, so why should my disabled son get away with it? Unfortunately, when I have called the police before, they take one look at the wheelchair and shake their heads. Itís infuriating and makes you feel very alone.
5) Are we to expect Alex Peachey and his team back for a second case? Can you give any hints of what we can expect?
Alex will be back, and for more than just one book. When he began to form on the page I found I really liked him, and Iíd love to see him have a long run like Tom Thorne, Tony Hill or John Rebus. I have plenty of stories to keep him going for a while yet.

The second book sees Alex dealing with an unusual kind of locked room mystery, whilst dealing with the fallout from book one. Paedophiles are being mutilated and murdered, with calling cards addressed to seven women, all of whom attended a group for survivors of childhood abuse. Each torture method sends a specific message to each individual member of the group. Is there a murderer within the group, or is a guardian angel ridding them of their demons? With only one paedophile left on the list, can Alex and his team save them before itís too late?

This book also draws on personal experiences. I was sexually abused from the age of eight to eighteen, so it was a good way to slay some of my own demons, too. Iím not allowed to exact revenge on my paedophile in real life, but I can hurt him very badly on paper!
6) What bit of advice would you give to anyone starting out writing their debut?
I would say write what you know, or what you enjoy reading. I saw my all-time author hero, Jeffery Deaver, at my first crime festival, and he said ĎIf youíve ever read a book and thought you could do better, then you can.í Donít worry about getting it word perfect, just write it first and correct it later.

Find a group of other writers that you feel comfortable with Ė peer support is invaluable. I went to a crime-writing workshop in Gretna Green, run by author and hotelier, Graham Smith. That course changed my life, the encouragement I got from other attendees was fantastic. I didnít have any writing groups or fellow writers nearby, so we moved to Scotland so I could get the support I needed. We were already looking at moving away from the West Midlands, so it wasnít as dramatic as it sounds. I still go to the crime writing workshop every year as there is always something new to learn, and I like being able to help other new writers. The course is proving very successful, in the eight years itís been running (apart from 2020), fourteen people are now published authors, and some are huge names now.
7) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I am a huge fan of crime fiction, and I have hundreds of books but still buy a couple every week. Picking just three is almost impossible, but here goes!

Firstly, The October List - Jeffery Deaver. Itís a classic Deaver masterpiece but the whole story is told backwards. There are rumours itís being made into a film, so I hope they do it justice because itís brilliant.

Secondly, I would pick The Hunter - Tom Wood. I met him at my very first crime festival, when he was still writing this book and weíve been firm friends ever since. I fell in love with his main character, Victor the assassin, and canít read Tomís books fast enough.

Last, but by no means least, Iíd have to go with Cold Granite - Stuart MacBride. His books are the perfect balance of light and dark, and his characters are all so believable. Every author has that one book they wished theyíd written, this was mine.