Thursday, 27 August 2015

At The End of the Hallway with Lori Roy

Lori Roy's debut novel, Bent Road, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book.  Her second novel, Until She Comes Home was a finalist for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel and was named a New York Times Editors' Choice. 
I’m often asked to describe the novels I write. Some reviewers have called my work literary suspense. Others have called it noir or Southern gothic.  No matter how it’s labeled, my novels, and much of all crime fiction, are about ordinary people who find themselves fearful of something or someone, and as a result, must make decisions that could save them or destroy them. 

I was twenty-one years old and sitting in the lobby of a corporate building in Miami Beach when I first experience a real fear that could have destroyed me. I was due to graduate soon from Kansas State University and had flown to Miami for a job interview.  As was standard for the corporate world in the eighties, I wore a blue jacket and skirt, a white silk blouse and chunky pearl earrings.  My interviewer was already an hour late, and the receptionist who sat behind a mahogany desk twice apologised for the delay.  I was afraid to tell her I would have to leave soon or risk missing my flight home. Instead, I sat quietly, hands resting in my lap and watched the clock.

If there had been windows in the lobby, I would have heard the Atlantic Ocean. But there were none.  Dark wood paneling covered the walls, and every few feet, a brass sconce threw a spot of light on the red carpeting underfoot. Somewhere down a long hallway, a door opened and a man appeared in the lobby.  He’ll see you now,” the woman said.  I picked up my briefcase, which was empty except for a pad of paper and two blue pens, and followed the man.  Like the lobby, the hallway we walked down was lined with dark paneling and light only by a few sconces.  The man dipped his head toward a set of heavy, double doors at the end of the narrow passageway.  That’s his office,” the man said.  

Once inside the man’s office, which had only a single door, he was polite enough to mute the television, but he left it on so he could watch the stock prices that rolled across the screen.  We work six and a half days a week,” he said, scanning my resume. “We take off Sunday afternoons to do laundry.” I nodded. I was from the Midwest and knew about hard work.  Then he told me about those who had come before me.  They had graduate degrees, and yet they didn’t last.  He wasn’t sure I would last either.  He figured this by the look of me.  I would have figured the same.  Besides,” he said, and again dipped his head off in the direction of those double doors.  He’ll worry about your ticking clock.” I was only twenty-one but I knew what he meant.  This probably isn’t for you,” he said.  I caught a cab and made my flight home in plenty of time.

Once back in Kansas, I graduated and eventually accepted a different job. I was relieved to have not been offered the position on Miami Beach. Though I was young and had only been on a handful of interviews, I had sensed trouble was lurking inside those dark rooms and behind those double doors at the end of the hallway. Maybe it was the absence of light in a place that should have been flooded with sunshine that frightened me. Or maybe it was the blood red carpets, or the brass sconces, or maybe it was the woman who poked at her typewriter with long, white fingernails. Something had triggered my instinct to flee that day, and that something had been right.  Some years later, a book would be published. A wildly successful book called DEN OF THIEVES.  Along with countless others, I read the tales of insider trading and scandals that defined a decade of greed. There among the pages, I found the name of the man who had been behind the double doors at the end of the hall.  Regardless of how my work is labeled, this is the fear—the subtle, lingering, all-too-relatable fear—I hope to conjure. 

More information about Lori Roy and her books can be found on her website.  You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @LORIROYauthor

Let Me Die in His Footsteps

Everyone knows Hollerans don't go near Baines. Aunt Juna was the start of all the hatred between the families, and even though she's been gone a good many years, the hatred has stayed put.  On a dark Kentucky night in 1952, exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses over into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, it’s been that way since Joseph Carl Baine was hanged in 1936. But local superstition says that tonight Annie can see her future in the Baines’ well. Armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well and at the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water. What she sees instead, there in the moonlight, is a dead woman.  Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for. Suddenly the events of 1936, events that have twisted and shaped the lives of Annie and all her kin, are brought back into the present. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into her eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. And if Annie is to save herself, her family and this small Kentucky town, she must face the terrible reality of what happened all those years ago.  Let Me Die in His Footsteps is inspired by the true story of the last lawful public hanging in the United States.

Let Me Die in HIs Footsteps by Lori Roy is published on 27th August by Text Publishing (£10.99)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

2015 Ned Kelly Award Winners

The 20th anniversary of The Ned Kelly Awards was celebrated in Melbourne at a star-studded gathering of past winners and international crime-writing guests of honour, including S.J. Watson whose thriller ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ became an international phenomenon both as a book and film.

Best Australian Crime Fiction – Eden by Candice Fox
Best First Fiction – Quota by Jock Serong
Best True Crime – This House of Grief – The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes for crime fiction and true crime writing. First established in 1995, the list of previous winners includes, Peter Temple, Shane Maloney, Gabrielle Lord, Garry Disher and Kerry Greenwood.

The complete shortlist can be found here.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Art of the Twist

Today’s guest blog is by Hester Young who holds a Master’s degree in English with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire. The Gates of Evangeline is the first book in the Charlie Cates trilogy.  More information about Hester Young and her books can be found on her website.

I knew, when I first began the novel that became The Gates of Evangeline, that I would walk a twisty path. Those are the books I most love reading, after all: the kind that string me along into the wee hours of the morning with the promise of answers and the possibility of surprise.

And yet as I began to write, I also knew that clever plot twists, no matter how artfully done, do not in themselves make a book great. If plot is the only thing that keeps a reader engaged, then that reader will lose interest the moment he or she works out where things are going.

All savvy readers of crime fiction have been there. You pick up a book with a jacket that boasts of a startling ending and, as you immerse yourself, you perform a series of mental calculations. When you’ve read enough genre fiction, you notice all the breadcrumbs an author is laying out. You work out all the possible paths and narrow it down.

Sometimes the twists aren’t all that surprising. Sometimes you’re disappointed.

I read many mysteries and thrillers, but when I consider my favourite works, it’s not the element of the unexpected that ultimately makes me fall in love with a book. Tana French, one of my favourite authors, typically reveals the villain about 3/4 of the way through, and yet that final quarter of her book remains the most riveting. Why? Because of her dynamic and thought-provoking characters.  Gone Girl, similarly, would not be a masterpiece without the mesmerising Amy at its core.

For me, the best suspense comes from my relationship with the book’s characters. The heart of a great mystery lies not in what a character does but in why she does it.

The Gates of Evangeline centers around the thirty-year-old mystery of a missing child, but it is Charlie’s struggle to move forward after a devastating loss that really drives the story. It is her relationships with the other characters that create suspense.

In short, I tried to write the kind of book I love to read: a book about people, with a twist.

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid
dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees—if she can make sense of them.  The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.

The Gates of Evangeline is out now (£16.99 HB, Macmillan)
You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @HesterAuthor

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Noirwich - Monday 14 September – Sunday 20th September

Kick off Noirwich in style on Thursday 17 September at 6.30pm with an entertaining evening with Lee Child as he tells us all about his latest book Make Me.  There will be an opportunity at the end of the evening for any books purchased at the event to be personally signed for you by Lee.
Tickets £5 available online or please call 01603 660661.

Norwich Castle Dungeon Tours
Mon 14 – Fri 18 Sept, 11.30am/ 1.30pm/ 2.30pm, Norwich Castle
Explore a maze of early medieval cellars deep beneath the castle and hear some extraordinary stories about the prisoners who were kept there, the history of crime and punishment, and see those all-important instruments of torture.
For more information: 01603 495897

Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind Audio Book Club
Mon 14th Sept, 1.30pm-3.00pm, Free, 2nd Air Division Memorial Library
NNAB’s regular reading group for the blind and partially sighted will be discussing a current crime novel audiobook this week.
Open to new members. Just come along, or email Mark Smith

Crime and Punishment; Castle Museum Dungeon Tour
Weds 16th Sept 11.00am-1.00pm, £5, payable on the door, Vernon Castle Room, 2nd Floor Millennium Library
Starting with a Norfolk-based crime themed talk from an archive specialist at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, you will then be led by a costumed guide from the library to the Castle Museum for a spine-chilling 30 minute guided tour of the dungeons.
For booking or more info: Email Sarah Salmon or call 01603 774707

Crime Fiction Reading Group
Weds 16th Sept. 6.00-7.30pm , Free, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, Ground Floor
Norwich’s very own reading group dedicated to crime fiction meets on the 2nd Wednesday of every month and reads all types of crime fiction. New members are always welcome.
To find out more about the group and what they are reading please email Crime Fiction Norwich

Crime and Punishment; Shirehall Courtroom Tour
Thurs 17th Sept 1.00-3.15pm, £5, payable on the door, Vernon Castle Room, 2nd Floor Millennium Library
Starting with a Norfolk-based crime themed talk from an archive specialist at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, you will then be led by a costumed guide from the library to the Shirehall Courtroom for a tour. (accessed via a steep spiral staircase and a dark tunnel).
For booking or more info: Email Sarah Salmon or call 01603 77470

Book signing with Andrew Lane 
Thurs 17 Sept, 5pm, Free, Waterstones, Castle St, Norwich
Meet author of the incredibly popular Young Sherlock series – Andrew Lane. The eighth book in the thrilling Young Sherlock Holmes series, Night Break, will be published in Sept 2015. The best-selling Lost Worlds series, a present-day Conan Doyle-inspired tech-adventure is inspired by another famous Conan Doyle novel, The Lost World.
For more info, contact Email Norwich Waterstones

Bringing Back the Golden Age: How the British Library Turned to Crime!
Fri 18th Sept, 12.30-1.30pm, £2 on the door, Millennium Library, ground floor
Robert Davies and David Wilkerson from British Library Publishing take us on a journey of exploration, explaining how they find the long forgotten crime gems hidden in their collections and bring them back into print. For more info, or to reserve a ticket email Sarah Salmon or call 01603 774707

Crime and Punishment- The Shirehall Courtroom Drama
Fri 18 Sept, free with museum admission, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
A fascinating guided tour and re-enactment of the castle’s dark past as a prison. Follow the footsteps taken by prisoners along the deep spiral staircase, through the dank tunnel and into the Shirehall courtroom for an enactment of a prisoner’s woe.
Suitable for adults and older children (10+) For more information call: 01603 495897

Creating Light and Dark with James Runcie and Sharon Bolton – 6pm

How to be a Good Psychopath with Andy McNab and Prof Kevin Dutton – 8pm

Records for Writers: Crime
Sat 19th Sept, 10.30-12.00, £3, payable on the door, Vernon Castle Room, 2nd Floor Millennium Library Would you like to access real archives to inform or inspire your writing? Learn how to locate criminals from the Victorian era in this workshop at the Norfolk Heritage Centre. Explore records, and discover how to find out more about these criminals’ lives and make the most of your research.
Email Sarah Salmon or call 01603 774707 to reserve your place.

Criminally Good Children’s Stories and Activities
Sun 20th Sept, 2.30-3.45pm, Free, Millennium Library Children’s Library.
Norfolk; Norwich Millennium Library’s regular Sunday family session will have a criminal theme this week as they look at mystery and mayhem in children’s books.
Look out for a special competition too!

From Page to Screen: Ann Cleeves on her creation, Vera Stanhope -  11:00am

Ones to Watch – 2:00pm

The Killer Women discuss ‘killer twists’ with Paul Johnston -4:00pm

Peter Robinson and Nicci French in Conversation – 7:30pm

Sunday 20th September

Bloody Brunch – 11:30am

The newest, boldest and bloodiest event in the crime-writing calendar.



Friday 18th September, 11am – 1pm

Kate Rhodes’s ‘Starting To Write Crime Fiction’ masterclass covers all the bases for both novice and experienced writers who are keen to complete a crime novel. The session focuses on generating your concept, narrative voice, plot devices and setting, and includes a series of short, stimulating writing exercises aimed at confidence-building

Friday 18th September at 11am – 1pm
Dragon Hall
115-123 King Street
Price £45 (£35 conc)
(not included in season ticket)

Kate Rhodes is a crime novelist and award-winning poet. Kate’s first novel, Crossbones Yard, was published in June 2012. The novel is the first in a series featuring London-based psychologist, Alice Quentin. Kate studied English at university, and went on to teach in colleges and universities in the UK and the US. She combines her writing with work as an educational consultant. The second novel in the Alice Quentin series, A Killing of Angels, was published in 2013, followed by The Winter Foundlings in 2014. Her latest book, River of Souls, was published in June.


Friday 18th September, 2pm – 4pm

We all know about the importance of plot twists and surprise in crime fiction but no matter how skilfully it is done this is only convincing with credible characters. James Runcie, author of The Grantchester Mysteries, leads this workshop discussion on how to add texture, detail, humour and desperation in order to create believable characters and establish a secure and authoritative tone.

Friday 18th September at 2 – 4pm
Dragon Hall
115-123 King Street
Price £45 (£35 conc)
(not included in season ticket)

James Runcie is an award-winning film-maker and the author of seven novels. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death, the first in The Grantchester Mysteries series, was published in 2012, soon followed by Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night, and Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil. In October 2014, ITV launched Grantchester, a prime-time, six-part series starring James Norton as Sidney Chambers. A second series is currently being filmed and will be broadcast next spring. James Runcie lives in London and Edinburgh.


Friday 18th September, 2pm – 4pm

Laura Wilson and Colette McBeth’s ‘Last Orders: How to Create a Murderer’ workshop will show you, with the aid of a series of unusual photographic prompts based on the real last meals eaten by prisoners on death row, how to create memorable, psychologically complex villains with plausible motives.

Friday 18th September at 2pm – 4pm
Dragon Hall
115-123 King Street
Price £45 (£35 conc)
(not included in season ticket)

The first novel in Laura Wilson’s D.I. Stratton series won the CWA Ellis Peters Award for Best Historical Mystery, and her standalone novel The Lover won the Prix du Polar Europeen. Both The Lover and another standalone, A Thousand Lies, were shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Laura, who has written an eight-part Crime Fiction ‘Masterclass’ column for Mslexia magazine, is currently the crime fiction reviewer for The Guardian, and she teaches on the City University Crime Thriller Novel Creative Writing MA Course. Her latest novel, The Wrong Girl, was published in June.