Books that inspired the Jo Howe series by Graham Bartlett

By Allison and Busby

Books that inspired the Jo Howe series by Graham Bartlett

By Allison and Busby

Graham Bartlett, author of the Jo Howe series, shares the books that inspired him ... 

Not Dead Yet

Peter James


In Not Dead Yet by Peter James, D/Supt Roy Grace tackles both the terrifying threat to a Hollywood star visiting Brighton and Hove and the city itself which, for commercial reasons, needs the occasion to bathe the seaside resort in the brightest of spotlights. Enter Chief Superintendent Graham Barrington (spotted anything there?) whose job it is to fight the politics allowing Roy to get on with catching the would-be killers. That was my world, so I knew the battles against power and self-interest were every bit as dramatic as hunting killers. So why was no one writing about it?

The Children Act

Ian McEwan

£9.99 £9.49

I read Ian MacEwan’s, The Children Act while musing whether to venture from non-fiction to novel writing. Its powerful story of a strong independent woman, in this case judge Fiona Maye, drawing on every ounce of her knowledge, experience and humanity to make an inevitably divisive decision, lodged in my heart. For a man to write such a complete female character seemed something only someone of MacEwan’s calibre could achieve. But, I thought, why not? I knew many women like Judge Maye, and their depth and complexity far exceeded men in similar positions. So the idea of Jo Howe took root and now she feels like a real, slightly frustrating, friend.

The Nowhere Man

Gregg Hurwitz

£9.99 £9.49

The Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz, particularly the Nowhere Man, might strike you as an unlikely inspiration for my books. Afterall, Evan Smoake’s motives for annihilation are infinitely more noble than my antagonists’. However, like Evan, my bad guys rely on their conviction that the ends justify the means. More than that though, Hurwitz writing style was a huge influence on how I wanted to tell a story. I met him at a festival once and said I was in awe of how he wasted not a single syllable in any of his books, making them both pacy and dramatic. He smiled and said, ‘that’s the point.’

The Beekeeper of Aleppo: The heartbreaking tale that everyone's talking about

Christy Lefteri

£9.99 £9.49

I don’t often have time to read books twice, but one exception was Christi Lefteri’s, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I’ve always been ashamed by how we, in the relatively privileged and safe countries, treat refugees. We have no idea of the horrors they are fleeing. This book is the most beautifully layered and contrasting story of a world the vast majority of us – thank goodness – could never contemplate. The imagery, characterisation, metaphors and polarity are spellbinding. The seed of Ajee’s story in Force of Hate started with this book then blossomed with shocking accounts from my nephew who worked in an Athens refugee reception centre.

A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

Melissa Fleming

£10.99 £10.44

It was a natural progression from reading Lefteri’s fiction to turn to the brutal true story, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, by Melissa Fleming. Nineteen-year-old Doaa Al Zamel’s inhuman treatment at the hands of Syrian soldiers, Egyptian police and people traffickers forcing her to try, time and again, to flee across the treacherous Mediterranean to the relative safety of Europe will live with me forever. She was just a girl, not much younger than my own daughter, forced to draw on every last fibre of her reserves to survive. I could not have written Force of Hate’s Ajee and Farah without learning Doaa’s story. Its truth only shames me more about how we treat people who come to the UK in hope.

Bad for Good: The top ten bestseller

Graham Bartlett

£8.99 £8.54

Force of Hate: From the top ten bestselling author

Graham Bartlett

£16.99 £16.14

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