Posted in Australia, contest, fiction, Giveaway, mystery on September 7, 2010

John Howard Reid is a prize winning author and writing contests judge.  He has also worked as a publisher, editor, critic and bookseller.  As a fiction writer, Reid first achieved fame in England and Australia for a series of detective novels, all featuring a Miami police sergeant named Merryll Manning, who made his debut in “Merryll Manning: Trapped on Mystery Island” set in the Florida Keys.

John was once again kind enough to send me copies of this book to read and giveaway here on my blog.  Thank you John!

He also agreed to a mini interview.  John has quite the background so I wanted to know more about that part of his life.

SBR:  You seem to have done a myriad of jobs within the publishing world, was there any one that stood out (good or bad)?

JR: The lower you are on the publishing ladder, the more frustrating your job. You recommend manuscripts, you go to bat for authors, but all your recommendations seem to fall on deaf ears. So the higher your position, the more influence you have. Readers are on the bottom rung. Editors have more say. But when all’s said and done, the Publisher has the final word.

SBR: You have written a variety of books, is any one type your favorite?

JR: At heart, I’m a film buff. I like to write thrillers, but I enjoy watching movies more!

SBR: What made you choose Australia for the scene of this novel since Meryl is from Florida?

JR:  I started to write the Merryll Manning thrillers 30 years ago. At first the setting was one of my own invention. Under the influence of a certain TV show, I changed the locale to Miami. Yet still no-one showed any interest. Then I had a lucky break. I was working for an Australian company. They had signed a well-known British author for a series of thrillers. At the last moment, however, the author’s agent switched to a rival publisher. I told the Board, I would fill the breach myself. They accepted my offer, but insisted I change the setting. I couldn’t do it for the first novel, but I could make the change to Australia for “The Health Farm Murders”. In fact, it would be a big advantage, particularly if I researched the area thoroughly. So that’s what I did.

SBR: There are currently 3 Meryl Manning novels, do you have plans for more?

JR: Right now, I’m re-writing “Merryll Manning On the Rim of Heaven”. This is set in a small town called Tenterfield in the north of New South Wales. This will be followed by “Merryll Manning Has His Price”, set in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. Then we are back for good in the U.S.A. in “Merryll Manning’s Brush with Death”. There are actually 14 novels in the series, of which 13 were published in a wide variety of editions (hard cover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, Large Print) in England, Australia and other British Commonwealth countries. But not until now in the U.S.A. See this webpage for complete details.

SBR: What books are currently on your nightstand?  (or what are you currently reading?)

JR: My current nightstand books: “Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide”, “Fat Ollie’s Book” by Ed McBain, “Biblia de Jerusalen Latinoamericana”, “El Sobrino del Mago” (The Magician’s Nephew) by C.S. Lewis, my own “Mystery, Suspense, Film Noir and Detective Movies on DVD”, and the latest issue of “Scarlet: The Film Magazine”.

SBR: You sponsor a writing contest, do you see a lot of potential in these writers and have any gone on and continued writing/publishing?

JR: Many of our contest winners have gone on to carve out significant literary careers. I’d particularly mention Susan Keith, Debbie Camelin, Helen Bar-Lev, Johnmichael Simon, Elaine Winer, Guy Kettelhack, Judith Goldhaber, Marie Delgado Travis, Noble Collins, Ned Condini, Fred McGavran, Laurie Gough. Many others!


Merryll Manning has traveled to Australia for some R&R at a health farm in a small town.  There are only men there during this week and they start dropping like flies and only Merryll seems to be able to get to the bottom of the situation and reveal the murderer for who they really are before someone else loses their life.

The book review:

I had read the first Merryll Manning book so I knew that this one had to be similar, characters running around and many red herrings that led me down many wrong paths in trying to guess the killer.  Trust me when I say it was the last person I expected!  I am very glad to have the list of characters in the front because I couldn’t keep them straight…they were in and out of the storyline fairly quickly and the list is very helpful.

This was also interesting because the cast of characters was all men save the policeman’s daughter and the proprietress of the health farm.

While it is good to read the first Merryll Manning book, it isn’t necessary to enjoy this book and the twist and turns you will encounter.

The Giveaway:

I will be giving away 3 copies of this book.  To win, just leave a comment.  This is open to US & Canadian residents and the contest will end September 19th.