The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard #2)
Published by Orenda Books
ebook (18 February) | paperback (18 April 2019)
About the Book
Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand
Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…
Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…
Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things for the tour invitation and to Karen of Orenda and Vanda for providing the guest post.
When life imitates art…
As a writer I spend way too much time in my own head, inventing scenarios, imagining weird and wonderful ways to knock people off, finding intriguing places to dump bodies, doing nasty things to my characters. These imaginings bounce around in my skull until they coalesce into something that resembles a story that I can then hone and craft until that moment where I think yes, I’m as happy as I can be with that, I’ve told the tale I wanted to tell, and I get brave and send it off to my publisher.
Sometimes these ideas are entirely dredged from my imagination, sometimes they are triggered by an event in real life, but all in all, they are fiction – and that is the way it is supposed to be…
But then sometimes, later, the fiction starts to get a bit real, and it all gets a bit weird.
Of all of my books The Ringmaster has provided a number of moments where life imitated art – uncomfortably so.
The Ringmaster, surprise, surprise, involves a circus, and among the many animals in the circus was Cassie, the elephant. When I wrote the novel, I thought, wow – it would be great to have animal rights activists protesting about the animals and their conditions in the circus, it would create a lot of tension and some interesting potential scenarios. Soooo, imagine my surprise shortly after when The Loritz Circus visited Dunedin, set up at The Oval, and animal rights activists protested Jumbo the elephant being on Council grounds. Consequently Jumbo was banned from The Oval, and after some negotiating, was moved to the neighbouring pub’s carpark – hardly an improvement in conditions.
In The Ringmaster there is a scene where Sam looks at the front page of the Otago Daily Times newspaper and there is a great big photo of Cassie the elephant. I was rather disconcerted when one day I went out to the letterbox one to collect the newspaper, and there on the front page of the ODT was a bloddy great big photo of Jumbo the elephant. Hmmmm.
The most upsetting example of all though, involved murder. In The Ringmaster a young female student at the University of Otago was murdered. The Ringmaster was in the galleys stage of publication and was shortly going to go to print when in Dunedin, University of Otago student Sophie Elliott was murdered. It was a murder that utterly rocked the city. As you can imagine, it also caused a lot of anxiety from my perspective, and also for my publisher, Penguin. In fact, they had a meeting to discuss whether they pull the book altogether. In the end they decided there was enough difference for them to feel comfortable going ahead. That didn’t stop me worrying that readers would think that I had written the story after the murder and had been, for want of a better word, inspired by it. Those fears were not allayed by a relative who rang me and asked exactly that! Fortunately, I have never had any negative feedback from readers about the timing.
There have been other examples with later books too. In my third novel Containment, shipping containers wash up onto Aramoana beach near Dunedin. Shortly after it was published I had a rash of email and phone calls from friends excitedly telling me that some containers had fallen off a ship in Otago harbour, just like in Containment!
So when I recently drove past the Oval, only weeks after The Ringmaster had come out in ebook in Britain with Orenda Books, I was only mildly surprised to see this circus tent set up, looking exactly like the circus tent on the gorgeous cover of the new edition…
About the Author
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.