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Ben Creed Books In Order

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Publication Order of City of Ghosts Books

City of Ghosts (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Traitor's Heart (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Ben Creed is the pseudonym for authors Barney Thompson and Chris Rickaby that made their debut with the gripping novel “City of Ghosts.” Chris Rickaby spent more than two decades in copywriting and advertising before he started “Everything Different” his marketing agency that he would later on leave so that he could spend more time writing. He has also been a producer and writer of many FIVE and ITV programmes and is the creator of “Shuffle,” a cross platform novel. He is a native of Newcastle upon Tyne where he still lives. Barney Thompson trained as a classical musician under Ilya Musin, the legendary conducting professor. During this time, he spent much of his time at the St Petersburg Conservatory. He is an experienced journalist working on world affairs and financial news and is fluent in Russian. He now lives in London and holds a day job as an editor.

On how they came to collaborate on their first novel, Ben Creed says that Chris usually comes up with the ideas. He is usually the person that comes up with the plots and characters and the connections through a writer’s prism. The idea for “City of Ghosts” was from Chris even though he knows less about Russia and music as compared to Barney. Rickaby had messaged Thompson asking if he would be interested in collaboration since he was some kind of expert on the ideas. Since he loved the premise, he jumped at the chance to collaborate. The authors met in London where they wrote biographies, thrashed out story lines while living at the National Theater or the Royal Festival Hall. They would then allocate chunks of the synopsis before giving each other manuscripts for edit. They would also help each other out when stuck.

Chris Rickaby believes “City of Ghosts” is a novel he could not have written on his own. Even though he immediately realized he had a good premise for a thriller, he did not have the expertise to do it and initially just filed the idea. However, the concept kept nagging at him until he remembered that his friend Thompson that had once trained to be a conductor and had lived in Russia once told him that he liked the idea of writing thriller fiction. So he got in touch but expecting a rejection and was surprised when his friend agreed to collaborate with him. He came from an advertising background where creatives such as copywriter and art director usually work in pairs. As such for him collaborating on a novel was not such a radical step as compared to other people. Chris believes it is all about taking the ego out of the dynamic and focusing on producing an excellent product. While overwriting is something he does, he is thankful for the subediting work of Barney who makes their storytelling clear and simple. As such, much of the novels is closer to the prose style of Barney rather than Chris’s.

As for Ben Creed’s influences, they are as varied and as different as the two author’s personalities and backgrounds. Barney Thompson was significantly influenced by Martin Cruz Smith. He also loves the atmosphere and style of John Grisham and how he includes procedure and rules but still writes some very gripping stories. Other authors that have been a huge influence include Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and Jo Nesbo. He is also a huge fan of James Patterson online lectures and even though he would never attempt his writing style, he has learned a lot about how to play cat and mouse with readers and planning. The fact that Patterson has sold more than 350 million copies of his works is also nothing to sneer at. He is also influence by other genre fiction and includes among his favorite reads the likes of “Any Human Heart,” “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” and “A Fine Balance” from which he learned a lot about characterization. Chris Rickaby also loves the Bernie Gunther series by Phillip Kerr for the dialogue and characterization. The “Aurelio Zen” mysteries by Michael Dibdin is also something that he really loves for their fantastic atmosphere and mood. He has also been influenced by page turning exciting thrillers such as “The Name of the Rose” which he believes has rich themes, interesting philosophical ideas and great characters. He also watches a lot of TV and draws some of his inspiration from the dialogue, characterization and plotting of TV series. On TV, he loves “Boardwalk Empire” as he believes the writers create form behind the eyes and inside the skin of the characters.

Ben Creed’s “City of Ghosts” is a macabre and unrelenting crime mystery novel set in 1951 Stalinist Russia. It starts with the discovery of five bodies that were found neatly laid out between two sets of rail tracks. Revol Rossel is the militia police lieutenant charged with resolving the mystery of the gruesome murders. While working on the case, he has to deal with Lavrentiy Beria (who then Stalin’s henchman) in addition to the Soviet Union’s secret police arm the MGB. His investigation forces him to revisit his past when as a young musician he had been tortured and denounced following an unfair arrest. He can no longer play the violin as the torture under the MGB had damaged his playing fingers. He now uses his musical talents to track down killers. His investigations take him from Moscow to Leningrad and involve the highest offices in Russia to victims of the gulags. With the unfolding of the story, you can almost taste the fear of the population that has to live with memories of the Great Patriotic War, a paranoid Stalin and memories of the Siege of Leningrad. To make matter worse, there is a cold freezing Russian winter brewing and it seems it is going to last a long time. The gripping but grim read is a mesmerizing, addictive and intricate work of art as Ben Creed writes an incredible historical fiction novel in a thrilling backdrop whose bleakness will chill its readers to the core.

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