HELL IS EMPTY, that's because Conrad Williams is here instead, guest blogging...

Blog tours are great, aren't they, it's like a guest appearance on a TV show, say BBC's the one show, where inbetween stories about migrating bats, a sinkhole in peckham and a fun way of eating food via chopsticks they bring on a guest to talk about what they're upto, today we have the pleasure of Conrad Williams who is on one of these kind of Blog tours, guesting on people's blogs and he doesn't have to drive to a studio or pretend to chat to people he don't really like. WE LOVE IT...


Conrad Williams has written eight novels, four novellas and two short story collections. One won the August Derleth award for Best Novel in 2010, while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008. His work has also been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Crime Writers’ Association Daggers.

Conrad's topic on this particular leg of this particular blog tour is all about locations, why he chooses certain locations and so on, enjoy!!


When I teach creative writing at university (I’ve had a few gigs over the years at Manchester Metropolitan, Edge Hill and, in the new year, I’ll be at St John’s, York) I invariably include a class dealing with sense of place. In the strongest fiction, a location can possess as much impact as a character; can in fact almost become another character, real or especially imagined. Look at China Miéville’s Bas Lag novels, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Cormac McCarthy’s destroyed America in The Road, Iain Banks’ Scottish island in The Wasp Factory, William Golding’s island in Lord of the Flies. These are all fictional landscapes that provide a colourful, fertile background to their characters’ travails. These places are the novels, arguably. They are so exquisitely rendered that you feel you know them, that you could inhabit them.

In the crime novels I’ve written for Titan Books I very much wanted to make Joel Sorrell’s London a hyper-real city filled with shadows and light, texture and danger. Threat has to come from the antagonists, but it can also come from the urban surroundings. The city can feel alien even to those who spend their lives within it and Joel, as a loner, an outsider, is acutely aware of this. This loose sequence of novels is a missing girl trilogy, but also a trilogy of dereliction. Of duty, certainly, but more so where architecture is concerned. Each of the books end in crippled buildings because I wanted to have that sense of ruin and menace, as well as something positive rising from the dust: a worthy life, a father, a daughter, hope, love. 

What is now the Renaissance Hotel, a beautiful reimagining of the old Midland, serving St Pancras station, was for a long time a shattered shell used as railway offices after its closure in 1935. Tours were made of the building in the mid 2000s and I signed up for one, having decided the hotel – surrounded by piledrivers and cranes and diggers – would make a great scene for the climax of my novel. Inside it was dusty, rotting, thick with shadow and old forgotten rooms, some of which had been sub-divided and were windowless places of filing cabinets and filth. The stealthy pursuit of the Four Year Old in Dusta and Desire that draws Joel to a window leading out on to the roof of the train station was all mapped out as our group was taken along peeling corridors and that magisterial double staircase that, at the time, looked like some forgotten corner of Dracula’s castle.

Thinking about it, many of the set pieces that occur in this dereliction trilogy are found in and around buildings on the cusp of transformation or are ghosts of glory days long gone: the broken Liverpool docks and the sleeping giant of a hotel in Dust and Desire, a tired old tower block earmarked for refurbishment and a once bustling factory gone to seed in Sonata of the Dead, a squalid prison destroyed by fire in Hell is Empty. I guess they suggest the fragile, transitory nature of relationships. Everything gets demolished in the end. Everything is subject to decay.

In DUST AND DESIRE PI Joel Sorrell found himself on

the trail of The Four-Year-Old, an extraordinary killer
hell-bent on destruction.

In SONATA FOR THE DEAD a photograph at the murder
scene of a familiar face lead to an underground writers
group with heavily mounting body count.

But throughout the course of his investigations – and
hangovers – Sorrell has yet to find the one person he’s
truly looking for: his daughter Sarah…

Now an SOS from a childhood sweetheart sees him
spring into action once again, but nothing about her or
her problem seems to make any sense. Everything
points towards an old enemy of Joel’s, who has risen to
prominence while incarcerated. On the run and in fear
for his life, Joel finds himself tangled in a web affecting
both the present and the past, and most certainly the
people closest to him.

With Joel’s life and the remnants of his family at stake,
any chance of peace depends on the silencing of his
nemesis once and for all. But an unexpected obstacle

stands in his way…


“A gritty and compelling story crackling with dark energy and razor-sharp dialogue. Williams is an exciting new voice in crime fiction.”

“Compulsive reading. Dark and delicious.”

“Top quality crime writing from one of the best.”
PAUL FINCH, No. 1 bestselling author of Stalkers

“A beautifully written, pitch-black slice of London noir.”
STEVE MOSBY, author of The Nightmare Place

“Bittersweet and brutal – immensely satisfying.”
FERGUS MCNEILL, author of Eye Contact

“Twisted, pain-filled and compelling.”

“Grisly yet always beautifully described.”

“This is writing of real authority, and Williams is a genuine talent.”

“Fresh and satisfyingly gritty”

“He writes with such dry wit, such well-fleshed precision, that there can be no doubt this novel deserves to set him on high amongst the crime-writing literati”


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