It’s a real pleasure to welcome author N.M. Brown to the blog today to talk about what inspired him to write his latest book, Toys in the Dust! I’ll also be sharing a teaser but first, let’s see what his new book is all about.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Two seven-year-old girls, Tina and Suzy, are playing in a dusty creek when a stranger appears and strikes up a conversation. He is sad that he doesn’t have a doll to play with like the girls do, so Suzy hurries home to fetch one. When she returns, Suzy discovers both Tina and the stranger have vanished.
A short while later, traffic officer Leighton Jones, who is fighting his own demons, is driving home from the scene of a near-fatal accident. When Leighton sees a young girl race out in front of his car and vanish into the countryside, he reports the sighting. Unfortunately, his superiors, who are increasingly concerned about Leighton’s mental health, doubt the child exists.
But after Tina’s mother confirms her daughter’s disappearance, Leighton risks his job by pursuing his own investigation of the case.
Meanwhile, in the Californian countryside, a child killer is relentlessly searching for the one who got away.
Leighton has his work cut out. But can he prove his sanity and find Tina before the stranger does?
| EXTRACT |
The loss had broken him; as a man and a husband he had failed. His wife had drifted out of existence, and he felt that he had allowed it to happen. This left his daughter without a mother, and stuck with a dysfunctional father. And yet this single fact – his sole responsibility – made it necessary for him to somehow make things okay for Annie. If it had been his fault that things were bad, it was also his duty to put things right. That was his only means of redemption. Now, in the absence of anyone else to share the roles, Leighton stared through his windshield and figured he would have to commit to learning how to braid hair and paint nails, and make it through.
It was then, when Leighton was caught up in his critique of his inadequate parenting that it happened.
The figure of what appeared to be a child, if that was what the apparition was, burst suddenly out of the tall grass at the side of the road and ran blindly across the road in front of his car. In that instant, Leighton saw nothing more than a momentary orange blur in the shape of a child – there for a moment, then gone. In instinctive response, he slammed on the brakes of his car. It skidded to a squealing halt on the hot road surface. The momentum threw him forward, his seatbelt digging painfully into one shoulder. Leighton let out a deep sigh, and his hands, still fastened on the wheel, began to tremble.
‘Jesus,’ he muttered.
Having managed to coax one hand off the wheel, Leighton switched on his hazard lights, and unclipped his seatbelt. He then opened the door and climbed out. The road and the surrounding area were so quiet he could hear the faint hushing sound of the restless surf, punctuated by the chirrup of bugs in the grass. Wandering around the car, Leighton peered into the long grass, door handle-high, at the side of his car. It had been less than a minute since the child had slipped into the grass, yet the area appeared undisturbed. Leighton took a cautious step into the dusty wilderness and called out across the parched landscape.
‘Hey, kid, are you okay? Is someone with you?’ Leighton’s deep voice carried on the warm air.
He waited for a moment, standing on the road, listening intently and staring out into the panorama of grass and trees stretching toward the rocky distant hills.
‘Can you hear me, kid?’ he yelled, and held his hand up to shield his eyes from the low afternoon sun.
There was no answer other than the slow ripple of the needle grass and the relentless creak and whirr of the hidden oblivious insects. Staring into the wilderness, Leighton wondered for a moment if he had somehow imagined the child.
| GUEST POST |
Toys in the Dust – inspiration
Whilst researching the other Leighton Jones novels – both of which involve people disappearing, I spent much of my time listening to true crime podcasts. These programmes covered every situation from recent abductions to historical cold cases, many of which were utterly captivating.
Listening to programmes such as Crawlspace or Generation Why, pulls me into a rabbit hole of theories, suspects and secrets. It is perhaps the greatest possible stimulus for Crime writers.
Occasionally, I would encounter cases that were hard to shake off. There were a couple that were particularly haunting for me. The first involved one of the most famous cold case in the United States, involving a young girl who was abducted from outside her home on a snowy afternoon.
The second case involved a group of three children who vanished from an Australian beach in the late 1960s. At the time of the disappearance kids could wander freely around, but this case shocked the nation and changed the way in which people now parent.
Both these cases seemed to stay with me until I knew that I had to write about a child being abducted, but somehow escaping and turning the tables on her abductor. So partly, the story was driven by my own personal need to make things right – at least in the fictional world.
I also wanted to write a paired down story, which revealed a less experienced cop stumbling through things personally and professionally.
Finally, much as my first novel The Girl on the Bus is full of hidden references to serial killers (Eddie G’s diner at the start is named after Ed Gein – the real life Norman Bates, etc) in Toys in the Dust there are numerous fairytale elements, but I’ll let the reader discover them, hopefully.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Norman! I think Leighton is the perfect person to (hopefully) find Tina.
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Norman has enjoyed writing for more than two decades. He has always considered a combination of decent fiction and good coffee as providing the best way to unwind and slip out of ordinary life for a while.
Having grown up Central Scotland, he studied English at Stirling University, where he began penning poetry, drama scripts and short stories. However, his real commitment to writing resulted from spending a snowy winter attending a series of fireside writing workshops in Perth.
More recently, Norman’s love of crime fiction led him to create the weary detective Leighton Jones. Having based his debut novel around this character, Norman felt so intrigued by him that he decided to give Jones at least two more outings.
Aside from his family, Norman’s other passion is cooking, which may explain why culinary elements always seem to creep out of his kitchen and into his stories.
Get in touch with Norman via Twitter