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Martina Cole's Books are my Bible

By Sheryl Browne,

author of The Edge of Sanity  and Death Sentence

As a writer, I swear by Stephen King’s view on writing and the best way to learn how to: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” And so, I read, even though time really is often somewhat elusive in today’s publishing climate. Obviously, I’ve read a fair few of King’s novels (who hasn’t?). Who could ever forget Misery? Unsuspecting, injured author held captive by a psychopathic and very angry fan? What a simple and truly fabulous premise.  


Martina Cole’s books are my bible, though, and the inspiration behind my desire to delve into the darker psyche of some of my characters. I suspect I identified with Martina Cole as a person initially, having a similar background. I too came from a large family, found myself a single parent, lost my parents young. I also possessed an inexplicable desire to write, which possibly stemmed from my voracious reading habits. My previous books have always had family dynamics at the core, looking at the fragility of life and relationships and the tenuous bonds that hold people together – or might often destroy them. I see love, which every human craves, as fundamental to survival. Love can inspire. Unrequited or lost love, can also drive us to passionate acts of despair or even madness: the killing of a spouse or obsessive stalking of someone you truly believe belongs to you, for instance. A psychopath’s chilling justification for cold-blooded murder might have its basis in love, being unloved, spurned, wronged…


Martina Cole’s books just resonate with me. I simply devour them. A book that stays with me is The Ladykiller. It’s with morbid fascination you glimpse into the mindset of sexually depraved killer, timid and insignificant, George. At no point could you ‘like’ him as we do, say, Dexter, but somehow Cole makes us see his distorted rationalisation for vicious sexual depravity and murder. Likewise, we see through the eyes of his victims, who all have a story within the story, and of course through the eyes of his domineering, yet longsuffering, wife. Why is she with him, is the first question you ask yourself. He obviously repulses her, so why does she stay? Why does George stay? She’s so awful to him, obvious from the very opening lines where, having asked George whether he’s thick, “she fights down an urge to slam her fist into his expressionless face”. Could there ever be a more dysfunctional marriage? All is revealed, of course, information dripped skilfully throughout the novel, providing backstory and most satisfactory answers.


Similarly we get the Detective Inspector’s family background. Divorced, single parent, Kate Burrows, is the DI on the case and we come to know her, to understand why she would be attracted to the vulnerable side of a known villain.


That, for me, is the magic of Martina Cole’s books: her fabulously unique way of leading us seamlessly into the heads of her characters, real flesh and blood people we can identify with and get to know – not that we would particularly want to know some of them. We want to understand what drives them, what makes the ‘bad guy’ bad, the good guy good, wonder whether they are not two sides of the same coin. Hardman Patrick Kelly is definitely no ‘good guy’, yet we root for him, because, through the loss of his daughter, Cole has given us a glimpse into his soul.


Amazing stuff. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted people to believe in the characters I’d created, to identify with them to a degree, to understand the bad guy’s skewed logic. I wanted to look at where good and bad meet and examine the circumstances that might push a person over the line.


Thus my previous thriller, which looks at a fractured family pushed to breaking point; a father pushed beyond endurance. The Edge of Sanity, tells the story of a psychological battle between everyman Daniel Conner, who is forced into becoming a hero, after being tortured and forcibly drugged, and drug addict Charlie Roberts, who has taken Daniel’s wife and daughter hostage. Without wanting to push it blatantly out there, the book has found its teetering feet and is doing reasonably well, earning a five star, Book of the Week, feature on Crime Thriller Hound and an excellent Five Star from Best Selling Thrillers, who said: “I want more!! This was a very powerful story with people who I could totally relate to. I felt their pain.” David Prestidge of Crime Fiction Lover said of this book, “The strengths are in the beautifully drawn characters of the Conner family”.


I’m delighted that my new thriller, Death Sentence, has invited similar comment in another fabulous review from Crime Fiction Lover: “The book’s great strength is in how clearly and perceptively the characters’ personalities are described and how they knit together, or strike sparks off one another”. Hopefully then, I am at least doing what I wanted to do most, creating believable characters. I’ve a long way to go before I reach the bar I set myself wanting to write as well as Martina Cole, but writers are renowned for their persistence, so as (according to one reader) I make a good psychopath, I’m keeping on keeping at it.


Death Sentence, the title of which was suggested by a Chief Constable no less, who also kindly helped me with information regarding forensics and police procedural, is available now.


About Sheryl Browne:

Sheryl Browne writes psychological thrillers and edgy, sexy, modern fiction. Shortlisted for the Innovation in Fiction Award, Sheryl, who has her Masters Degree in Creative writing, has seven books published with Safkhet Publishing. She also has two short stories published in Birmingham City University Anthologies and a further short written to script, was performed live at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Sheryl was recently signed by Choc Lit Publishing, who acquired a contemporary novel on recommendation of the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer. A contributing editor at Loveahappyending Lifestyle magazine, Sheryl lives in Worcestershire in the UK with her son, partner and an assortment of disabled dogs. According to readers of The Edge of Sanity, she apparently also makes a great psychopath. 


Sheryl Browne's CTH page

Buy The Edge of Sanity

Buy Death Sentence

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