Today’s post is going to have a bit of everything in it along with a huge possibility of spoilers!
In my life update post, I stated that I was going to a book launch. It was for Chris Parker’s new book Belief and took place on 14th June in Nottingham, somewhere I have never been and as a redhead who had just come from about 9C and landed in what felt like the firey pits of Dante’s Inferno needless to say I struggled to deal with the heat! My very eyeshadow was running into my eyes and messing with my lenses….
The book launch was fantastic and I pulled a complete blogger fail, I did not photograph the goings on. This is because I was so drawn in listening to Chris reading from Belief, then again the wine might have contributed to my oversight! In all honestly, though I did keep going to lift my camera and felt the wrecking in my back and the clicking of the camera would ruin the ambience. After the reading, we went for a bit of grub and a demonstration of hypnosis. This was the first that I had seen it not being used to comic value and it was very interesting indeed.
Anyhow, let’s get a move on with this post! I am going to review both Influence and Belief (Book 1 & 2 in the Marcus Kline series). Like I said at the start there may be spoilers. After the review, we will have a little interview between Chris Parker and myself!
Influence kills…Influence is the greatest force on earth. Influence equals power, the power to affect people and events. The most powerful people alive have the greatest influence. And they can use it for good or bad. Marcus Kline is the world’s leading authority on communication and influence. He can tell what you are thinking. He can see inside you. He can step inside your mind. Yet when a series of murder victims bear the horrific hallmarks of an intelligent and remorseless serial killer, Detective Inspector Peter Jones turns to Marcus for help – and everything changes. As the killer sets a deadly pace, the invisible, irresistible and terrifying power of influence threatens friendships, reputations, and lives. When events appear to implicate the great Marcus Kline himself, everyone learns that the worst pain isn’t physical…
- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Urbane Publications Limited; First edition (1 Mar. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1909273066
- ISBN-13: 978-1909273061
I actually bought this book back in April on Kindle and I honestly thought it was going to be exceptionally dark, however, it was not. It was grim I will give it that! We have Marcus Kline who is a consultant and master at using words to influence others and he is exceptionally arrogant. I detested him. I kept thinking ‘Don’t read on’ but I wanted to see if he was going to get killed, I really wanted him either dead or seriously maimed!!
Around him, people are being killed in the most awful way. They are having the top of their heads removed and at one point there is a very descriptive scene depicting this. I have a strong stomach until it comes to blood, which is hilarious as if this had been a gore film it wouldn’t have bothered me but blood in real life and now apparently in written form makes me want to hurl! When we discover who the Killer is it is quite a shock. There is a scene just before the killer is uncovered that made me think it was someone very close to Marcus, it was someone close but just not who I thought!
While all this is going on Marcus’ wife, a photographer (my soul sister!), has discovered she has ovarian cancer and has taken some time to herself to try work things out. She returns home to discuss things with Marcus and finds him being attacked by the killer. The story ends shortly thereafter.
This story is very slow at the start, up until 50% in but worth keeping up with so you see how it all turns out!
‘I’m going to say a few words.’ That’s the promise made by Ethan Hall, the serial killer and master hypnotist, when he recovers from his gunshot wounds and escapes from hospital. It’s a promise that causes havoc, loss and unending pain. Using language to bend people to his will, influencing others to carry out the most destructive acts, Ethan Hall extracts his revenge on Marcus Kline and those closest to him in the most personal and savage ways. Six months have passed since a series of horrific murders forced Marcus Kline, the world’s leading authority on communication and influence, into a unique confrontation with Ethan – a battle of words like no other. Now Marcus is trying desperately to save his cancer-stricken wife and rebuild his life, his reputation and his shattered self-confidence. Only Ethan Hall has other plans. Now, with Marcus Kline’s self-belief at an all time low, the struggle for survival, sanity and salvation teaches everyone involved that things can always get worse.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Urbane Publications (16 Jun. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1909273236
- ISBN-13: 978-1909273238
We are now at book 2 in the Marcus Kline series and it is very different. In the last book, the killer was uncovered as Ethan Hall, the gardener’s son. He suffers from synesthesia and believed he could see the unconscious minds of people by removing the tops of their heads. As a suffer of this condition, he sees everything in colour. He is also very adept at hypnosis. Previously Marcus asked him what he saw when he looked at himself in the mirror, he couldn’t bring himself to do this. He was shot and ended up in the hospital, however, in Belief, he has escaped from the hospital and has a new agenda.
Again, he is going after Marcus and his loved ones. During all of this Marcus is trying to find a cure for his wife’s cancer. After the events that happened 6 months prior, Marcus has lost his arrogance and is more vulnerable. Much as I did dislike him it was terrible to see him so forlorn.
Ethan uses his hypnosis in one of the vilest and sadistic ways that anyone can do to a woman, violating her without even laying a hand on her. I found this most horrific to read but it gives you more insight into the mind of the man that is Ethan Hall.
I have to add that, yes I do own a paperback copy of this book which I bought at the book launch, however, I also received an ebook from NetGalley for review purposes. My opinions are my own.
I am really happy that Chris agreed to take part in this interview and am glad to welcome him to Rambling Lisa’s Book Reviews today!!
How did you come to write the ‘Marcus Kline’ series and what was your inspiration?
Marcus Kline originally grew out of conversations I had with my publisher, the very lovely and talented Matthew Smith. He suggested that I return to writing fiction, which I hadn’t done for some time, and that I based it on something that I knew. Given that my work and life study centres on interpersonal and intrapersonal communication and the ways we influence ourselves and others, it seemed appropriate to create a character who had the same skill set – just on a much higher level. I also drew on my cousin, Alan Barnard’s, professional abilities, as he is genuinely one of the best influencers on the planet. So Marcus Kline, the business consultant and writer who believed himself to be the world’s greatest communicator and influencer, was born.
His character was developed over a period of months and during that period the important people in his life also came into being. I have set the Marcus Kline trilogy in my home city of Nottingham because I know both the geography and the character of the place and I very much wanted the setting to have its own personality, too.
Once the characters were clearly established, I simply created experiences and scenarios to put them in and watched how they responded. Then I made the writer’s decisions about which details to share with the readers.
Beyond this, I wanted to tell a story – because, although each book in the trilogy stands alone in its own right, the three combine to create one overarching narrative – about the power and importance of communication, of the words we choose to share and the ways we share them, in the human experience. On a personal level, I believe the most important things in life for most people are the relationships they share with themselves and others; and the quality of these relationships are determined by the quality of the shared communication. So I wanted to write a different type of crime thriller, in which the confrontations between opposing forces are played out through high-levels of communication and influence, rather than on the more normal physical level. I wanted battles using words and psychology not punches or guns.
Marcus is very arrogant, given you and Alan aren’t, what made you decide to add this to his character?
That’s back to Matthew. I was very fortunate that we were able to spend many meetings together – usually over lunch or dinner – discussing the character of Marcus Kline and the plotline and associated challenges. Whenever you write something that doesn’t fit into the usual genre stereotype you are taking a risk, and we were well aware of that. When Matthew then suggested that we push the boat out even further by making Marcus arrogant and, therefore, unlikeable to many readers, the risk grew even greater. We knew that, over the course of the trilogy, Marcus would change very considerably, but the challenge was ‘How do we keep readers on board long enough for them to see this change?’
However, I think writing is meant to be risky and challenging and by giving Marcus this particular edge we were once again marking the books as something different, so we agreed to push ahead.
You won’t be surprised to know that the feedback we received for ‘Influence’, the first book in the trilogy, reflected our thoughts. Whilst the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, many reviewers commented on the arrogance of Marcus and the influence that had on them as they engaged with the story. I’m comfortable with that, given that we planned for it and given the title of that book. I know you have read book two, ‘Belief’, so you have witnessed the ways Marcus is changing in response to the challenges he and those around him are facing. I am sure this will change the relationship readers have with him.
You said to me at the book launch that you didn’t know who The Killer was until near the end of writing the book. Tell us how you came to realise. I think it is a fabulous way to have it come to you and would love to share it with the readers.
Yes, that’s right. I was probably three-quarters of the way through ‘Influence’ and I still had no idea who the Killer was. To be honest with you, I was starting to get a little nervous. As I mentioned earlier, my approach to writing this work had been to develop the characters and settings and, with nothing more than a sense of the main plot, to start writing. I was sure the Killer would reveal him- or herself somewhere along the line. The problem was, I was starting to run out of line! However, given the importance of the subconscious in both the novel and in human communication, I was obliged to trust it and carry on regardless. I simply refused to give into my conscious mind’s desire to work it out logically and left the problem on the psychological ‘back-burner’, so to speak. And, as is so often the case, the subconscious threw up the answer. I was working away from home, sat in a hotel room late one night working on the manuscript, and I suddenly wrote the line ‘Fear has its own special colour.’ It stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a new voice and I didn’t recognise it. I realised then the Killer was stepping out of the shadows. It turned into one of those nights when you write a lot and don’t sleep much.
Marcus uses the power of suggestion in his work and Ethan Hall used hypnosis as his way to control his victims, you showed us some of this at the book launch so we could see how it worked. Could you explain how this works so the reader can better understand what they are seeing?
Certainly. Whenever we communicate to another person we are influencing their brain. When I started doing the type of work I do, we couldn’t prove this scientifically we just knew what worked from trial and error – and the results were always plain to see. Now, because of the many wonderful developments in technology and their possible applications in neuroscience, we can actually observe how the brain responds. So, because words (and associated actions such as gestures and breathing patterns) affect brains. they affect emotions and bodies. Our brain is the Governor, controlling, influencing and interacting with the various systems that make up a human being; if you influence the Governor, you influence the rest. If you think about it, we all know this because we have all had the experience of words affecting us profoundly. Words have made us laugh. they have made us cry. They have made us nervous or confident. They have made us feel valued and loved, or misunderstood, unwanted or incompetent. Often, of course, words have had these effects even if the speaker didn’t mean them to! Sometimes, of course, we do this to ourselves through the nature of our intrapersonal communication. We have the potential to be our best friend, but, perhaps too often, many of us are our own worst enemy.
So, words and how they are delivered have great power. And it’s not just because they influence us consciously. Actually, it’s rather because they influence us subconsciously. And as I have already said, the subconscious is a hugely significant driver of our emotional states and physical behaviours. Much of the work that people like I do to influence others positively is done on the subconscious level – meaning the other person, or people, don’t consciously recognise everything that is happening; they just experience the results.
Hypnosis is a much mis-understood phenomena. On what we might regard as the therapeutic – rather than the entertainment – level it is the creation of an inward focus, sometimes seemingly to the exclusion of all else, through which subconscious resources can be brought into play that enable a reframing of experience, an emotional change and/or a shift in behaviour. In these situations the hypnotic state is created by the use of particular language patterns and delivery mechanisms – and, of course, the nature of the relationship between the client and the hypnotist.
You are right that, in the novels, hypnosis is a weapon used by the antagonist to devastating effect and I’m absolutely confident that everything that happens in the books can, or could, be achieved by hypnosis. Having said that, I need to stress that hypnosis is, in my experience, a positive and powerful tool for enhancing people’s life experiences.
I’m glad you mentioned that because, in Belief, Ethan’s method of torment is completely obscene. After reading I actually messaged you stating he was a sociopath and a sadist. What inspired you to drive the character in this direction?
In ‘Belief’ I wanted to write very specifically about the violence of language. To go back to my previous point, we have probably all been hurt by the way other people have spoken to us, or about us, or even by the way they may have just looked at us. We have also experienced the absolute loving and creative power of communication. We have also seen, heard and experienced in recent years the potentially devastating ways significant individuals and groups have used language to create hatred, distrust and separation – often for purely personal motives.
In ‘Belief’ I wanted to emphasise the negative effects for two reasons. Firstly, because by presenting what you rightly describe as ‘obscene’ abuse of others through the use of language, I hoped it would draw the reader’s attention to the power they have whenever they communicate with another – albeit, admittedly, in far less extreme ways (I hope!). And secondly, because I think it makes for a gripping, shocking and fast-paced read that is unusual in the ways Matthew and I originally planned for it to be.
I’d just like to add one point onto that – when I refer to ‘the violence of language’ I’m not just referring to interpersonal communication. Throughout ‘Belief’ we also see characters damaging themselves through their intrapersonal communication. I wanted to stress the damage we can cause through this, too.
Who is your favourite character in this series and why?
Oh boy…That’s a really tough one! I’m very much drawn to DCI Peter Jones’s relatively calm acceptance of the loss and solitude in his life caused by his absolute commitment to his job in the service of others. I have a secret love affair going on with Anne-Marie, Marcus’s wife, because of her introspective creativity and because I feel very protective of her. However, as you know full well, that doesn’t mean that, as the writer, I do protect her. Although all I’m going to say about that is that there were some scenes in ‘Belief’ that made me cry as I wrote them…I have always had a soft spot for Marcus, or at least an understanding of how easy it was for him to fall foul of his ego. In fact, thinking about it, there is much I like about all of the characters – with one very obvious exception.
When you are writing do you write using pen and paper or type and Is this the same regardless of what you are writing?
I use both. I’m an old-fashioned chap so I love using a really good fountain pen, and I only ever use black ink. I have no idea why. Whatever I’m doing and wherever I am, I always have a notebook and my pen available. I do also type – especially when at home. In answer to the second part of your question, I think every poem I have ever written was written first in black ink. There is something that feels absolutely right for me about putting pen to paper in the first instance when writing poetry. I’m sure Marcus could tell us why.
What is your writing process? (Have you a set word count per day, write as the inspiration comes, do you need to get yourself into a certain mindset and so on.)
There’s usually no set word count – unless I am on a very definite deadline and it’s tight! At home, if I’m working on a novel, or even a non-fiction book, I write first thing in the morning. Then I leave it alone for a few hours and return to it later in the day. The mindset varies in some regards. Usually, with a book, I end one day with the start of the next day’s writing already prepared or planned. Then the aim is to forget everything else in my life for the duration of the writing period. When I reach a point at which I’m not sure what to write next I either distract my conscious mind or just stop thinking altogether – back to trusting the subconscious to help out.
Writing poetry can be different. – At best, then, I have only a sense of a theme, or a topic or experience. The task is to uncover what I think of as ‘the dot at the centre of the circle’, by which I mean the very essence of what it is I’m feeling the need to write about. I find that silence – in my mind and the silence of a blank page – are the prerequisites for writing.
When reading, what is your preferred genre and would you rather an ebook or a physical book? If it is a physical book do you prefer a paperback or a hardback?
I have no preferred genre. For me books are like restaurants – what am I in the mood for today? And I would rather have a physical book every day of the week! Both paperback and hardback are fine, but if I can have a choice I’ll have the hardback please. And in an ideal world, I’ll have a signed copy. The books I own that have been signed by the authors are amongst my most prized possessions.
Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
In terms of novelists, I still struggle to get past those who inspired me many decades ago – Hemingway, Heller, Steinbeck and Kesey. I am moved in different ways by a wide range of poets; most probably though by Mary Oliver.
What drew you to becoming a writer?
I have no idea. I can make sense of it now, by saying that whilst I spend part of my professional life in front of audiences, I spend far more time alone. I’m the guy who likes to sit in the corner and write and then, maybe, observe what is going on and, maybe, find some inspiration or insight within it. So writing satisfies both needs, I suppose. It creates an audience and lets me keep quiet most of the time.
Finally, how do you spend your spare time?
Well, the most important thing is that I share as much time as possible with my wonderful wife, Mairi. And then I do all the usual social things with friends. However, my daily routine also includes martial arts practise and meditation. I began training in the martial arts in 1973 and practising meditation a few years later. They both remain an integral part of my life.
Thank you so much for your insight into your books and a bit of yourself also!
Chris Parker is a specialist in Communication and Influence. His fascination with the power of words and how they can be used to create intrapersonal and interpersonal change began in 1976. It became a lifelong study that has underpinned almost four decades of work in a variety of professional roles and contexts.
A Licensed Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Chris is a highly experienced management trainer, business consultant, lecturer and writer. He has provided Communication Skills and Influencing Performance training for a wide range of clients including blue-chip organisations, politicians, actors, sportsmen and women, LEAs, public and private leisure providers and healthcare professionals. He has taught on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes throughout the UK and Europe, and worked with many individuals to help create personal and/or professional change.
Chris is also an experienced martial artist. He began training in 1973 and is widely regarded as a leading practitioner and teacher of Pencak Silat, a Malaysian martial art. His particular interest is in the application of martial principles to improve corporate performance and enhance personal wellbeing.
Chaney’s Choice. Malvern Publishing. 1986.
Kyoki. 1987. Malvern Publishing.
Amok. 1996. Paris Books.
Influence. 2014. Urbane Publishing.
Insights: Along The Warrior’s Path. 1992. Kris Publishing.
Harry. 1995. Book and lyrics: Chris Parker. Music: Paul O’Leary. A stage musical funded by The Arts Council and Gedling Leisure Services, Nottingham.
Developing Management Skills for Leadership. 2003. With Brian Stone.
If I take the lead will you walk by my side? 101 Communication Tips for Managers. (2006) ILAM Publishing.
Five Essential Ingredients For Business Success. Stories & Lessons From Three Of The UK’s Greatest Restaurants. 2102. Ardra Press.
Campaign It! 2012. With Alan Barnard. Kogan Page.
Total Strategy. 1999. Sondhi, R. Airworthy Publications. Bury, Lancashire.
The Business of Sport Management. 2004. (2nd edition 2013) Beech J. Chadwick S. (Eds)Pearson Education, Harlow, Essex.
Columnist & features writer for ‘Terry O’Neill’s Fighting Arts International’ magazine
Columnist and features writer for ‘Martial Arts Illustrated’ magazine 2010 – to date and 2001 – 2004.
Columnist for ‘Leisure Manager’ magazine 2006-2007.
Born Fighter. 2007. John Blake Publishing.
(Ghostwriter for the autobiography of the legendary Shotokan karate expert, Dave Hazard.)