Book Review: Marshall’s Law, by Ben Sanders

cv_marshalls_lawAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

This is Ben Sanders’ second book with Marshall Grade as its central character.

Marshall Grade is a former undercover NYPD officer hiding out in California, when he hears that federal agent Lucas Cohen has been kidnapped. Cohen’s abductors only want to know one thing – where is Marshall and how can they find him? Cohen manages to escape, outsmarting his captors and warning Marshall to lay low while they figure out why his captors are so interested in Marshall and his whereabouts.

Marshall can only think of one person who would want him dead – an old flame Chloe Asaro, whom he made the mistake of shooting. So is this revenge or something else? Marshall comes out of hiding to find out who wants him dead.

Dexter Vine a small time crim is leading the hunt for Marshall and is hoping to use the $5 million bounty to pay off Chinese mobsters. Who has put up the $5 million bounty?

This is a classical whodunit of the Jack Reacher era with lots of gun fights, the usual pile of dead cops, and criminals running and fighting it out for a piece of the action or a body – whatever comes first. I hung on every word, and it kept me wanting more.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Marshall’s Law
by Ben Sanders
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760294892

WORD: Making it Overseas, with Ben Sanders, Tania Roxborogh and Helen Lowe

Event_Making-it-OverseasAll New Zealand authors dream of making it overseas – these three have. Tania Roxborogh has her historical novel (set in the time of Macbeth) Banquo’s Son in the UK, USA and Asia. Ben Sanders is Auckland-based, and his fourth novel, American Blood, is in the Australian, NZ, US and European markets. Helen Lowe is Christchurch-based, and all of her fantasy books have been published overseas, rather than in New Zealand. They are in the USA, UK, Australia and NZ and European markets.

Lowe was told straight out of the gates, that nobody in New Zealand would publish a fantasy series. After trying to sell her series to publishers in Australia and the USA herself, she gave up (she stopped counting rejections after 15) and realised a full series from an unknown author was too much of a gamble for any publisher to take at that point. She needed to write a stand-alone book. An Australian editor she had spoken to with her series advised her that she should try the US market, and find an agent. In response to a later question about how she found her agent she said – I looked at who the writers who wrote in my genre used: this triangulated at The Writer’s House, so that’s where I started and lucked out. Her new agent sold Thornspell in just three weeks, and the series sold after that, after about 4-5 months. Being published in the US opened up the world.

I had seen Ben Sanders’ rise over the past couple of years and thought he must have just been plucked from obscurity when Warner Brothers saw the unpublished manuscript of American Blood and optioned it. Oh no, it was a bit deeper than that! He had an agent offer to represent him after his first three books were published through HarperCollins NZ, and checked them out before accepting (note to readers: if somebody is offering to sell your book, always check them out first). His agent is through Wordlink. It took three years to get a book accepted, and happened mainly because he met an editor at Pan Macmillan personally while on holiday in New York. He had to set this book in America – hence American Blood, which was published last year in the US.

It took Tania Roxborogh seven years to be an overnight success. Her super-enthusiastic agent came on board in May 2009. It took until October 2014 to have any luck placing the novel with a publisher: by 10 January in 2015 she had a contract, with an advance of $10,000 US. It took a lot of persistence, and a lot of trust on both her agent’s and her part; but she got there!

Things she has learned: the Australian market is more accepting if NZ writers come via the UK publishing houses. And the sales are so much bigger than the NZ market: by the end of its run in 2015, Banquo’s Son had sold 5,600 copies. Internationally within 2 months in the UK market, 9,500 copies had sold. Vanda quipped, “You have finally harnessed the machine.”

All three of our guests have found having an agent essential, though none have experienced the ‘dream agent’ experience. The most helpful things with agents is they know what is being pitched, and they know what is being published by whom. Sanders said his agent was essential to get him contacts in New York. “Having an agent is like any business relationship, you have to go into it with your eyes open”, says Helen Lowe.

Vanda then asked whether being an author from a small country was an impediment to being published overseas. Not really, was the general agreement. Sanders’ Auckland crime novels weren’t picked up internationally until he agreed to ‘Americanise’ them. He is currently doing this, changing ‘petrol stations’ for ‘gas stations’, and the bonus of this is that he can change any errors he finds along the way. Sanders adds, “It’s not just a matter of if the editor says ‘yep I like it’ – that person needs to talk to the Editorial Director, and so on all the way up the commissioning chain.”

For Helen Lowe, she never had to worry about where they are set: she writes Fantasy, set in different worlds. And Thornspell was set in Middle-ish Europe. The US doesn’t even change the language in her books, they just change the spelling. Her UK publisher simply publishes it, US spelling and all, knowing their market doesn’t mind.

Lowe also addressed the idea of self-publication in the Fantasy genre. She thinks this only really works if you already famous: the main thing traditional publishing has over self-publishing is distribution. “And if you are doing it yourself, you will be locked into Amazon’s rights model, possibly not in favourable circumstances.”

This was a fascinating discussion, about something I’d long been curious about. In my day job at Booksellers NZ, I frequently post up announcements about the sales of US / UK rights: now I understand exactly why this is such a fantastic achievement for those hard-working authors that it happens to. Well done to Helen Lowe, Ben Sanders and Tania Roxborogh for being Olympic-class writers!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Making it Overseas – Ben Sanders, Helen Lowe and Tania Roxborogh

Daughter of Blood
by Helen Lowe
Published by Orbit
ISBN 9780356500058

Thornspell
by Helen Lowe
Published by Random House
ISBN 9780375844799

American Blood
by Ben Sanders
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760291570

Banquo’s Son
by Tania Roxborogh
Published by Thomas & Mercer
ISBN 9781503945821

Book Review: American Blood, by Ben Sanders

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_american_bloodBen Sanders is a New Zealand author. The film rights for this book have been sold to Warner Bros, and translation rights bought by publishers in Germany, Russia and Japan.

Marshall Grade is a former NYPD officer now in witness protection as a result of a botched undercover operation. He is now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marshall infiltrated one of the biggest drug mobs but was outed with no idea of how it happened. All he knows is that he is a wanted man and there is a contract out on his life. The contract killer goes by the name of the Dallas Man. With no idea of who the Dallas Man really is, Marshall decides to track him down and at the same time, try to atone for past wrongs by investigating the disappearance of a woman by the name of Alyce Ray.

The local drug ring holds the clue to Alyce Ray’s disappearance. As Marshall digs more and more into her disappearance he gets tangled up even more in the seedier part of the drug world and old enemies come out of the woodwork to hunt him down.

This is a book full of action and intrigue with the story taking more twists and turns as each page and chapter gallops towards the finish line. As a thriller this book will not disappoint. I found myself wanting to put the boot into some of the villains myself.

If this book reaches the big screen I will be first off the rank to book my ticket.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

American Blood
by Ben Sanders
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN  9781760291570