Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mask of the Verdoy by Phil Lecomber Excerpt, Giveaway & Interview

Mask of the Verdoy
by Phil Lecomber



LONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. GEORGE HARLEY’S London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.

And then, one smoggy night …

The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.

Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.

God save the King! eh, George?

THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.

In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.

With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.

But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.

Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.


Excerpt One:

JUST THEN HARLEY heard a shriek from the direction of the fire escape.

He dashed back across the roof and lowered himself carefully onto the ironwork, shuffling as quickly as he dared back to the open window.

‘George … George!’

It was Vi. But her shouting wasn’t coming from Miss Perkin’s room, it was coming from further along the fire escape—from his own house. He made the extra few yards and then yanked up the sash window and threw himself awkwardly into the room.

Harley took in the scene with a professional’s eye: the dark puddle congealing on the floorboards; the mother-of-pearl-handled razor gripped loosely in the grubby, nail-bitten fingers; the leaden pallor on the boyish cheek.

There was a call from the floor below.

‘Police! Anyone there?’

‘Up here, Burnsey! Top floor!’ shouted Harley, already at Aubrey’s throat, searching for a pulse.

A thump of heavy footsteps announced PC Burns’ arrival.

‘Oh, Jesus Christ!’ said the policeman, removing his helmet and rushing over to crouch down beside the bed. ‘Any luck?’

But as Harley drew back the only sign of life Burns could see in the boy’s face came from the two tiny facsimiles of the guttering gas mantle, dancing in the dull pupils.



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Phil Lecomber was born in 1965 in Slade Green, on the outskirts of South East London—just a few hundred yards from the muddy swirl of the Thames.

Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.

All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.

Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.

So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …

Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.


Where are you from?

I was born on the outskirts of South East London in a place called Slade Green, in the London Borough of Bexley. ‘Slade’ comes from an old Germanic word and one of the definitions for it is a flat piece of low, moist ground. Moist it certainly is, hugging a large bend of old Father Thames with part of it still given over to marshes; I remember practising emergency flood drills when we were at primary school, with a big warning siren standing sentinel in the playground.

It’s an unusual place, bleak in parts – and, because of the marshland, I always thought it had something of the air of Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ about. There’s evidence that there’s been habitation in the area since prehistoric times and there’s also a designated Ancient Monument in the form of Howbury Moat, an old manor house mentioned in the Domesday book and dating from circa 900. But the main urban development occurred at the very end of the 19th century with the completion of a rail depot designed to service steam engines. By 1910 a small village of 158 houses for railway workers had developed. By 1965 Slade Green had been swallowed up by the ever-expanding metropolis of Greater London.

Growing up there in the 1970s this particular stretch of the Thames was lined with scrap yards and factories, and at night it had that sense of industrial desolation that seems so suited to that era.

Tell us your latest news?

Well, currently I’m mainly focussed on the marketing for “Mask of the Verdoy” – I’m taking a layered approach comprising sponsored ads, social media campaigns, press releases to printed media, book reviewers, approaching London based celebs for endorsements – plus, of course, the virtual book tour. I can tell you, along with maintaining the website ( and also running my fine art security business, my every waking hour is fully occupied at the moment!

And then there’s the second book in the series to finish. “The Grimaldi Vaults” sees Harley embroiled in another sinister mystery set in 1930s London: child abduction, a dismembered body in a suitcase, Occultist rituals, Nazis, and scary clowns … it’s all plotted, I just need to find the time to get stuck into the first draft.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing back in the 1990s; short stories at first—a medium that I’ve always been a big fan of. I think it’s a great format to start writing in, and also to enjoy as a reader. Graham Greene, V.S Pritchett, Walter de la Mare, Ray Bradbury … there are some real masters of the short story out there if you search for them; and when executed properly it’s a great vehicle for plot and character.

As far as why I started to write, well … I think at first it was as a natural continuation of my song-writing (I‘d been performing and recording music since the early 1980s) – I always felt my most successful songs had a narrative quality to them. But also it’s a great outlet for creativity; and not just a means to an end—the very act of writing fiction can be extremely rewarding in itself.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

To be honest with you, although I’ve been writing fiction since the 1990s, I don’t think I really considered myself a “writer” until I opened that carton and held the first hard copy of “Mask of the Verdoy” in my sweaty little hands. I’d written a handful of short stories and two unpublished novels before that; but here was something that I was extremely proud of; but more to the point, something that I felt had a certain creative independence—fully formed enough that I could regard it with an amount of objectivity. It was tangibly a “real” book (and not just because it had been printed); and as my name was on the cover, well—that made me a writer, didn’t it?

What inspired you to write your first book?

I think at the outset, the inspiration for writing fiction is to achieve an extension of the fulfilment that reading fiction gives us. And what is that fulfilment? Well, the rewards of reading a story (and it is all about the story) are many and diverse; but on a fundamental level it can be likened to a process that begins very early on in life. When a young child begins to play he’ll often adopt a role (or multiple roles) within a narrative—acting out the part of a grown-up with a recognizable position in life (parent, teacher, doctor, pop star, say). In this way the child not only begins to learn about interacting with the world, but more importantly he learns to have empathy with other individuals, to understand that they too have needs, emotions, hopes and fears which may differ from his own. Once that child has become an adult and this empathy has been transferred to the characters in a novel, then more complex lessons can be learnt about inner conflict and hidden desires. He can also then be stimulated by the risk-taking and dramatic adventures of the story’s cast—experiencing even that “awfully big adventure” of their death—all without ever leaving the comfort of his sitting room. And so the inspiration for reading (and writing) fiction is surely the thirst to learn more about the world of other people, and subsequently, more about ourselves.

What would you like my readers to know?

I’d like them to know about the fascinating world of 1930s London from a viewpoint other than that of the upper-class drawing rooms, and aristocratic stately homes of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot; a smoggy metropolis caught in the tight grip of the Great Depression and threatened by the lowering shadow of European Fascism. And I’d like them to know that they can learn about such a world by reading “Mask of the Verdoy” which is available now from Amazon!


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  1. Good morning! Thanks for hosting today.

  2. I liked the interview with the author best.

  3. enjoyed the interview, thank you!

  4. I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. I loved the excerpt! Looks really intriguing!! :)

  6. I always love knowing more about the author through the interviews.

  7. I liked the excerpt - can't wait to read the book

  8. I liked the excerpt best and then the interview. This book sounds like such an interesting and intriguing read. I will definitely be adding this book to my "to-read" list.