Welcome to Dave Sivers, author of In Ink.

Credit: Cliff Hide at BeaconLit

Thanks for having me over, Ruby, and for the challenge of choosing just ten books that have inspired me over the years – and a great time I’ve had thinking about it! I could have chosen so many, but these are the ones I finally decided on:

  1. Mr Twink and the Pirates by Freda Mary Hurt

I started primary school able to read and with a love of stories – two great debts I owe my lovely mum. As soon as I could write a bit, I started writing stories, and I wrote my first book – a crime novel! – at the age of six. The trouble is, I nicked the plot from this, my favourite in the Mr Twink series, about a black cat detective and his police dog sidekick, Sergeant Boffer. I’d never heard of plagiarism! No one else on the planet seems to have heard of the books (long out of print) or the author, but you can still find tatty copies on Amazon for really silly money.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Also at primary school, a teacher called Miss Jones read this book to us in daily chapters, and we were all entranced. Years later, I was to read Stephen King describing how a book can pull you through ‘the hole in the page’ and into another world – and I knew exactly what he meant, because this was the first book that really did that for me. It’s still a fantastic, magical story that I love.

  1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The third in my ‘primary school trilogy’. Everyone goes on about Toad and his misadventures, but give me the great friendship between Ratty and Moley any day. The modest, loyal Mole is a wonderful creation, and the chapter where he hears his old home calling to him and Ratty is too intent on getting back to River Bank and supper time moves the emotions in a beautifully understated way.

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Possibly the most predictable of my choices, but it’s the epic fantasy that others have followed on from. An absolute masterpiece of world-building. Yup, from a 2020 viewpoint, there’s a lot wrong with it, especially the dearth of strong female characters, but it’s a feat of imagination never quite bettered. And I can still read it and find something new.

  1. The Dream Merchants by Harold Robbins

I think Robbins is probably a bit out of favour these days, but he was a master story teller when he was on his game. This one, set in the movie industry, is still one of his finest. And it was the first – by no means the last time – I pulled a story apart to find out how it had been put together. A masterclass in story structure.

  1. The Stand by Stephen King

It could have been any Stephen King really, but this one, set in the aftermath of a deadly plague that has killed off most of the human race. As the few survivors set about rebuilding some sort of society, a demonic figure comes upon the scene, setting up one final apocalypse. It’s a great, compelling read and I’ve chosen it because I still remember where I was when I started reading it – on a beach in Israel, on my first holiday abroad, getting the mother and father of all sunburn on my back. Only a memorable book can evoke a memory like that, decades on.

  1. Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

I was trying to understand what made crime fiction tick when I got this in a goody bag at a book event. It’s the perfect modern, gritty whodunit and the first in Billingham’s Tom Thorne series. It didn’t answer all my questions, but at least I started to get it.

  1. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Another book I had to re-read to see how it worked. If Harold Robbins showed me structure, Connolly showed me how to put together a crime thriller with twists aplenty. Factor in the elements of woo-woo that could, with the faintest nudge, see it in the Horror shelves instead, and you’ve got something dark and memorable. I’m baffled that no one had ever wanted to make a movie of it.

  1. Black Dog by Stephen Booth

The third of three authors who inspired me in my journey into crime fiction. An early crime writing festival I attended had a panel on city v country settings and posited that city was for gritty and country was for cosy. In other words, if I wanted my beloved rural Buckinghamshire to be the backdrop to my crime novels, apparently they had to be about old ladies in hats with cats. Then I discovered Booth’s Fry and Cooper series, set in rural Derbyshire, but as dark and authentic as they come. They’re great reads, with characters you want to keep coming back to, and they gave me confidence to write what I wanted to in the setting I wanted.

  1. White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

I am co-founder of the BeaconLit book festival and, a couple of years ago, I chaired our ‘New Voices’ panel, which showcases some of the brightest new writers around. One of the authors on the panel was Mary Lynn Bracht, and I was blown away by this story of a young woman stolen from her Korean island and forced to work as a ‘comfort woman’ in a brothel for Japanese soldiers in the Second World War. The action switches between Hana’s ordeal in the past and the younger sister she left behind in the present. Hana’s fate was shared by tens of thousands of young women and girls, yet this shameful piece of history continues to be swept under the carpet in the region. Never before, nor since, has a book made me so angry, and it continues to do so. Everyone should read it.

In Ink by Dave Sivers was published on 13 May 2020.

A cruel death. A macabre calling card.
A killer on a mission.

A body is found outside a church in a small Hertfordshire town. Alastair Murdoch suffered before he died. But what really disturbs DI Nathan Quarrel is the Tarot card motif adorning the body: The Fool.

Just 24 hours later, another body turns up. A different card, but from the same pack.

Unless Quarrel can decipher the meaning behind the cards and the connection between the victims, more will follow in a twisted agenda of abduction, pain and death.


Dave Sivers grew up in West London and has been writing all his life. His books include the popular crime series featuring the Aylesbury Vale detectives, DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines. The Scars Beneath the Soul and Dead in Deep Water were both top three bestsellers in the Amazon Kindle Serial Killers chart. His latest novel, In Ink, introduces DI Nathan Quarrel. Dave lives in Buckinghamshire and is a founder of the annual BeaconLit festival of books and writing.