Thursday, 26 February 2009

Death Comes by Amphora by Roger Hudson

I have always been an avid reader of historical crime fiction especially those set in Rome, Greece and Egypt and I have being trying to find time to read Death comes by Amphora by Roger Hudson for quite some time now and have only recently managed to get round to doing so much to my dismay. This sub-genre has a big and loyal fan base and those books set in Athens and Rome appear to be amongst the most popular. Into this group has come Roger Hudson with his excellent debut novel Death Comes by Amphora.

Death Comes by Amphora is set in ancient Athens during 461 BC. It takes place at a time when the might of the Persian Empire has been driven back by the aristocratic General Kimon and a brand new Empire has been created by him for Athens. All is not well despite this as General Kimon soon finds himself battling for his political life and future against the extremist democratic reforms of the demagogue Ephialtes and his pushy ally Perikles. Into this mix comes naïve 18 year old Lysanias. Lysanias has been recalled back to Athens after receiving a mysterious message from his wealthy uncle. However on his arrival to his dismay he learns that not only has his uncle died rather mysteriously but that as his heir he is expected to marry his uncle’s widow who is a teenager. He suspicions are aroused and he believes that his uncle did not die as a result of an accident but was in fact murdered. Lysanias along with his elderly slave Sindron decide to get to investigate and find out how his uncle really died. As the two of them dig away trying to get to the truth they soon find themselves mixed up in the torrid world of Athenian politics, finance and religion and also the numerous enemies that his uncle made during his life time. Along with this he has to come to a decision as to what his political future is going to be.

There is a rather overwhelming cast of characters but the author has done the sensible thing and included a cast list. Furthermore despite the rather slow start and at times the overwhelming political information it soon moves at a fast clip and becomes quite absorbing. The dynamics between Lysanias and Sindron makes one think of the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Death Comes by Amphora is a classic murder mystery that is well worth reading and told from the different point of view of the various characters. You don’t have to be a classics student to enjoy this novel but if you are then you will certainly enjoy even more the amount of research that has gone into this book. It is clear from the way in which Death Comes by Amphora has been written that the author has a genuine love for classics, Athens and the socio-political situation that was taking place during the time. The scholarly research is certainly an asset to the storyline. Death Comes by Amphora is not only a pleasurable, atmospheric and illuminating read, but it is captivates a period of Athenian history amidst a historical political thriller and a tale of revenge. Be prepared for intrigue, political infighting and a fascinating look at Athenian life.

It will be interesting to see what Fraud Under the Akropolis is like. I certainly hope that it is as good as Death Comes by Amphora. Roger Hudson is certainly an author to keep your eye on.

Malice Domestic: 2008 Agatha Award nominations

Malice Domestic XXI which is due to take place from 1-3 May in Arlington, Virginia have announced the nominations for the 2008 Agatha Awards and are as follows:-

Best Novel:
Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Penguin Group)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry (Random House)
I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel:
Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell (Berkley Trade)
The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis (Penguin Group)
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris (Minotaur Books)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan (Midnight Ink)

Best Non-fiction:
African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland & Co.)
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Anthony Boucher, A Bibliography by Jeff Marks (McFarland & Co.)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Metro Books)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whitcher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Co.)

Best Short Story:
"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (Penguin Group)
"Killing Time" by Jane Cleland, Alfred Hitchock Mystery Magazine - November 2008
"Dangerous Crossing" by Carla Coupe, Chesapeake Crimes 3 (Wildside Press)
"Skull & Cross Examination" by Toni Kelner, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - February 2008
"A Nice Old Guy" by Nancy Pickard, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2008

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Into the Dark by Peter Abrahams (Harper Collins)
A Thief in the Theater (A Kit Mystery) by Sarah Masters Buckey (American Girl Publishers)
The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Children's Books)
The Great Circus Train Robbery by Nancy Means Wright (Hilliard & Harris)

The Agatha Awards honor the "traditional mystery." That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others. The winners will be announced at the Malice Domestic banquet on Saturday, May 2.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

WORLD HORROR CONVENTION 2010 : Brighton Shocks!

I was fortunate to bump into Stephen Jones last week at the Orion Author Party and got chatting with him and Novelist Paul McAuley about the World Horror Convention. Stephen kindly sent me an update for Shots Readers [Pictured above with Stephen Jones on Left] about the first Guest-of-Honour.

World Horror Convention 2010 is delighted to announce that our first Guest of Honour is acclaimed fantasy, horror, science fiction and young adult author, TANITH LEE. Since the publication of THE BIRTHGRAVE by DAW Books in 1975, she has published around ninety novels and collections, and almost 300 short stories. Although well-known for her fantasy novels, Tanith got her start in the legendary PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES, had a huge retrospective collection published by Arkham House, DREAMS OF DARK AND LIGHT, and is a regular contributor to WEIRD TALES and numerous horror anthologies. A Nebula Award and Guardian Children's Fiction Award nominee, and winner of the British Fantasy Award, two World Fantasy Awards, and two Spanish Gilgames Awards, we are delighted to welcome her as our first Author Guestof Honour. For more information about Tanith Lee, please go to the convention website.
Other writers, artists, editors and publishers already registered as attending World Horror Convention 2010 include Pat Cadigan, RamseyCampbell, Centipede Press (USA), Peter Crowther, Ellen Datlow, ChristopherFowler, Jemma Press (Greece), Stephen Jones, Allen Koszowski, Tim Lebbon, Brian Lumley, L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims, Gary McMahon, Mark Morris, LisaMorton, Yvonne Navarro, Kim Newman, Reggie Oliver, OXY Publishing (Greece), Sarah Pinborough, David Pirie, PS Publishing (UK), David A. Riley, Robert Shearman, Michael Marshall Smith, Snowbooks (UK), Alexandra Sokoloff, Tartarus Press (UK), Telos Publishing (UK), Conrad Williams, and F.Paul Wilson, amongst many others.

Celebrating its 20th Anniversary, The World Horror Convention will be held over March 25-28, 2010, in the historic Victorian seaside city of Brighton, on the picturesque south coast of England. This is the first time that the event will have been held off the North American continent. The theme is "Brighton Shock! - A Celebration of the European HorrorTradition from Victorian Times to the Present Day", and the convention will host numerous panels, talks, presentations, readings, workshops and displays devoted to horror, macabre, mystery and thriller fiction and art in all its varied and fearsome forms. The venue will be the historic Royal Albion Hotel, which dates back more than 180 years and is situated directly opposite Brighton's iconic Palace Pier and a stone's throw from the beach. There are plenty of alternative hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in the immediate surroundings, catering for all budgets, and Brighton is filled with restaurants, wine bars and clubs. Antiquarian shopping precinct The Lanes, the Sea Life Centre and the world-famous Royal Pavilion are also within easy walking distance.

Brighton has direct transport links from Gatwick International Airport and the centre of London, and is easily accessible for overseas visitors, especially those from mainland Europe. And if you want to extend your stay, then Britain's annual National Science Fiction Convention, Odyssey 2010, is being organised near to Heathrow airport the following weekend. Come for World Horror and stay for Eastercon!

The World Horror Convention's prestigious Grand Master Award will also bepresented at a sit-down Banquet during the weekend. Past recipients have included Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Anne Rice, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Brian Lumley and Ramsey Campbell. All information about the convention, hotel and location is available onour website including an easy to use PayPal Registration Form (which will automatically convert your payment at the current exchange rate). Or you can print off the form and send it with a cheque (sterling only) to: -

World Horror Convention, PO Box 64317, London NW6 9LL, England. With numerous writers, artists, editors, publishers and booksellers expected to attend from all over the world, this is the one event that the dedicated horror fan, professional, collector or dealer cannot afford to miss!

Wish you were here? . . . Well, now you can be.WORLD HORROR CONVENTION. MARCH 25-28, 2010. BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - full details here

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Launch of Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura

17 February 2009 saw the launch of Havana Fever (La neblina de ayer –The mists of yesterday - its original title) the latest book from Cuban author Leonardo Padura. The launch organised by publishers Bitter Lemon Press took place at the Instituto Cervantes in London. Francois von Hurter from Bitter Lemon Press introduced Leonardo Padura along with his translator Peter Bush.
Padura is best known for his quartet of detective novels featuring lieutenant Mario Conde. The books are:- Havana Red (Mascaras), which won the Café de Gijón Prize, and the Novela Negra Prize, Havana Black (Paisaje de otoño), (Havana Blue) (Pasado perfecto) and Havana Gold (Vientos de cuaresma) and all have been published by Bitter Lemon Press between 2005 and 2008. The quartet have won the Premio Hammett the Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos (International Association of Crime Writers). Mario Conde also features in Adios Hemingway

Leonardo Padura's prize-winning series of novels about Cuban detective Inspector Mario Conde has changed the face of Latin American crime writing. At the launch through his interpreter Padura spoke animatedly about Havana Fever and his reason for going back to his series character Mario Conde. In Havana Fever Mario Conde has retired from the police force and makes a living trading in antique books. Havana is now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. In the library of a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950s who disappeared mysteriously and it is through her Padura tells the story of Batista, the revolution, the mob-owned nightclubs, and the liveliness as well as the misery of the Cuban 1950s. A murder soon follows. It also covers the crisis of the early 90s and the way in which people looked at alternative ways of surviving. This resulted in families who had libraries selling the contents so that they could live. Havana Fever is a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to the literature and music of Padura’s beloved, ravaged island. The novel also covers the period of the bloody dictatorship of Batista. In fact Havana Fever tells the colonial history of Cuba. As seen in the earlier Conde novels, the now-former detective and his expanded circle of friends are a collective device through which the history of post-revolutionary, post-Soviet, and contemporary Cuban history are told.

Padura further explained that in the novel he is trying to portray not only the music of the time (the 1950s) but also the reality of what life was at the time and how Cubans coped with what was taking place. Padura stressed that he felt that his work gave a very realistic view of what was happening in Cuban society but some felt that his books are not politically correct as they show a view of Cuba that the Government were not happy about being shown to the outside world. He stated that he felt that writers had a responsibility to leave an accurate record of Cuban society otherwise later when books were being read there would be confusion as to what actually was truth as compared to what was being put out by Granma. (which is the paper of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Government). Padura indicated that he was not the only writer writing in this critical way and that there were other dramatists, playwrights, artists that were also doing so. For example Fernando Pérez ‘s 2003 film Suite Habana. This is a film without words but follows the daily lives of a number of Cuban families and how they cope with the restrictions placed on them.

It was standing room only at the launch and after talking about his book Padura also took questions from the audience. One of the questions he was asked was that bearing in mind the fact that his books are so well received all over the world how well were they received in Cuba He stated that Cubans were in fact big readers and that his readership had expanded with each book. He further explained that he had received a large number of reviews all over the world for Havana Fever but had only received one review in Cuba despite the fact that it had won the National Literary Criticism Award for best novel. He made it clear fact that it was not that his books were not being read but that the critics were unwilling to take a stance. One of the other questions he was asked was about the state of detective fiction in Cuba. Padura revealed that he had contributed to the short story collection Cuban Noir which had 18 stories from Latin American and Spanish authors. There were various investigators and protagonists in the stories, but only one story contained a police officer. Leonardo Padura explained that in Latin America there were many reasons for this. He said for example that if you went down to Mexico the advice you would be given would be to avoid the police. The reason for this would be because they are corrupt and criminal as opposed to the police in Europe. Therefore many writers did not want to use the police as protagonists. However, when he (i.e. Padura) started writing the only way he could make his protagonist realistic was by making him a police officer, as there were no P.I’s in Mexico. Though he went on to explain that after the first novel had been written the character had in its own way told him that he did not want to be a police officer and that he did not like the police. He made him remain a police officer for 4 books before relenting in Havana Black. He went on to say that Havana Fever gives Mario Conde’s views on being a police officer. Conde was a good police officer and kept society on an even keel. He said that in Cuba they did not solely see detective fiction as entertainment but also as discussing social implications. At the end of the launch Padura signed books and chatted to everyone whilst drinks were served as well.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Larsson in Washington

In today’s Washington Post is a lengthy feature on the Stieg Larsson Phenomena which now has infected the US. Thanks to Knopf Publishing –

"He takes you to a darker side of Sweden," says Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Knopf. "A lot of Americans, when they think of Sweden they think of Saab and Volvo and Absolut. There are much darker undertones to Swedish society that Larsson hints at in all his novels."

Bogaards says the "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has sold 200,000 paperback copies in the United States and orders are already coming in for the sequel, set for release in July. The third installment is currently being translated into English. A movie based on Larsson's books, featuring a tattooed computer hacker and a disgraced journalist, will hit screens in Sweden later this year.
Larsson never got to experience the success.

"He would have been overwhelmed, just like us, and proud and happy," says Eva Gedin, head of publishing at Swedish publisher Norstedts.

Gedin, who worked closely with Larsson, recalls how the author delivered the manuscripts of the first two books in a plastic bag as he was about to finish the third. Norstedts signed a three-book contract right away ¿ an unusual deal for a debuting fiction writer.

"He had a great deal of positive responses from us at the publishing house and ... by key people in the book store industry who said that this was brilliant," Gedin says. Larsson is the latest of many Swedish crime writers to win international acclaim, from the team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo in the 1960s to the more recent Henning Mankell, creator of the gloomy detective Kurt Wallander in such books as "Faceless Killers," "Sidetracked," "Firewall" and "Before the Frost."
The Scandinavian crime writing tradition also includes Denmark's Peter Hoeg, whose "Smilla's Sense of Snow" became an international best seller in the 1990s and a movie starring Julia Ormond, Vanessa Redgrave and Gabriel Byrne.
Set in a scenic Nordic landscape of serene lakes and lonely red cabins, Larsson's trilogy follows computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomqvist as they get entangled in a series of murder mysteries. Like Mankell, Larsson weaves in social commentary, with democracy and women's rights as prominent themes.

That, the exotic setting and an introspective streak are what set apart Swedish crime writing in a genre dominated by U.S. and British novelists, says Maxine Clarke, a critic at the Britain-based Web site Euro Crime, which specializes in European crime literature.

In Swedish crime novels, Clarke says, "one gets to know the characters' domestic lives and concerns as background to the plots ¿ one feels they are real people rather than, in some other thriller genres, characters who only seem to exist to take part in the novel's main story."

Swedish crime literature has become a phenomenon in Europe, so much so that the Germans have invented a new word for it: "Schwedenkrimi." And the southern town of Ystad offers popular "Wallander" tours, showing visitors the neighborhoods where Mankell's sullen detective solves one grisly crime after another.

Still, Mankell dislikes talking about a Swedish crime fiction genre, saying that above all he has been inspired by Sherlock Holmes and classical Greek drama.
"Of course, I also read Sjowall-Wahloo but one must not forget that they in turn were very influenced by Ed McBain, and who influenced Ed McBain? He was absolutely influenced by Sherlock Holmes," Mankell says.

As for Larsson, he primarily drew inspiration from British and American authors such as Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid and Elizabeth George. Salander's character, however, was inspired by the strong-willed redhead Pippi Longstocking in the children's books by the late Astrid Lindgren.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Mark Lawson Reads "Between The Lines"

All last week, I enjoyed listening to a crime play that was serialized [in five parts] on BBC radio 4’s Woman’ Hour. It was written by broadcaster, novelist, crime-fiction enthusiast and last years winning team-captain of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival’s annual quiz – Mark Lawson. As Lawson is an advocate of crime fiction as well as a regular attendee at Harrogate – there is a knowingness about the proceedings; with the Harrogate event providing a backdrop in key scenes.

The serial was broadcast last week [Monday 9 - Friday 13 February] but can be listened to online here for one week only, but you should not tarry.

Reading Between the Lines By Mark Lawson

When a celebrated writer, RP Beckford-Jones, leaves clues in his final novel implying that his recently deceased wife was murdered, DCI Kate Duncan is forced to look more carefully at the incriminating text.

Director Eoin O’Callaghan.

Friday, 13 February 2009

The return of DI Jack Caffery

The last book to feature DI Jack Caffery and also introduced Police Diver Flea Marley was Ritual and was the first of what Mo Hayder is calling The Walking Man series. The latest book to feature these two characters is Skin and is due to be published on 26 March 2009.

When the decomposed body of a young woman is found by near railway tracks just outside Bristol one hot May morning, all indications are that she's committed suicide. That's how the police want it too; all neatly squared and tidied away. But DI Jack Caffery is not so sure. He is on the trail of someone predatory, someone who hides in the shadows and can slip into houses unseen. And for the first time in a very long time, he feels scared. Police Diver Flea Marley is working alongside Caffery. Having come to terms with the loss of her parents, and with the traumas of her past safely behind her, she's beginning to wonder whether their relationship could go beyond the professional. And then she finds something that changes everything. Not only is it far too close to home for comfort - but it's so horrifying that she knows that nothing will ever be the same again. And that this time, no one - not even Caffery - can help her.Mo Hayder is due to go on a publicity schedule to promote Skin. The schedule is as follows:-

Thursday 19 March - Q & A session Topping & Company Booksellers Bath at 7:00pm
Monday 23 March - Evening event – Waterstone’s Basingstoke.
Tuesday 24 March – Lunchtime event and talk – Watford Library - 12:00pm – 13:30pm
Tuesday 24 March – Evening event talk and signing - Waterstone’s Milton Keynes 6:30pm
Wednesday 25 March – Lunchtime event and talk (to be confirmed) – Peteborough Library
Wednesday 25 March – Evening event talk and signing - Waterstone’s Manchester 7:00pm
Thursday 26 March – Lunchtime event and talk (to be confirmed) St Helen’s Library
Thursday 26 March - Evening event talk and signing Waterstone’s Liverpool One – 6:00pm
Thursday 2 April - Lunchtime event and talk (to be confirmed) The Mitchell Library, Glasgow
Thursday 2 April - Evening event talk and signing Blackwells Edinburgh – 6:30pm

Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerristen at Borders

What do you get when you have two well-knowAmerican crime writers in the same room together? The answer is a well-attended event at Borders along Charing Cross Road.
Borders hosted an evening with Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerristen on Thursday 12 February 2009, where they were interviewed by Selina Walker, Publicity Director at Transworld. In the presence of an extremely large and appreciative audience Dennis and Tess answered a variety of questions on their books, their writing, (including how and why they became writers) research and on Dennis writing involvement with The Wire. Dennis spoke at some length about writing. The Given Day and how far he decided to go back. He also talked about having the opportunity to include real life characters in his book such as Babe Ruth and Calvin Coolidge (the 30th President of the United States) to name a few. The Given Day is written from the perspective of two different men and centres on the Boston Police Strike of 1919 at a time when fiercely held convictions about work and freedom underwent enormous change at great cost to human life and relationships. It is also a story about fathers and their sons, love and disloyalty, optimism and unfairness. It's also a dream of salvation and victory of the human spirit. The Given Day contains considerable moral gravity. Dennis confirmed when asked whether or not he would be writing again about the period in The Given Day explained that he would but that he wasn’t certain where he would start from. Nevertheless, he commented that it might be set in the 1920s and he explained – “who wouldn’t want to write about Tommy Guns?

Tess also spoke about her latest novel Keeping the Dead (US: The Keepsake) and her interest in archaeology which drew her to writing the story. In Keeping the Dead, when medical examiner Isles studies an X-ray scan of Madame X, which everyone assumes is a newly discovered Egyptian mummy, at Boston's Crispin Museum, she realizes the mummy isn't a priceless artefact but a recent murder victim, gruesomely preserved. Rizzoli focuses the police investigation on Dr. Josephine Pulcillo, a young archaeologist recently hired by the museum who may have something to hide. More victims soon turn up, including a tsantsa (shrunken head) in a hidden museum chamber and a corpse resembling a well-preserved bog body in Pulcillo's car. After Pulcillo disappears, Rizzoli and Isles must scramble to find her before she becomes another trophy in the killer's growing collection. She also spoke about mummies and shrunken heads and produced to the amazement of everyone “Fred” her shrunken head.

Tess spoke about her book The Bone Garden a standalone historical novel and what prompted her to write the book. The Bone Garden, is a tale of gruesome murders takes place primarily in 1830’s Boston and includes a character based upon Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Like Dennis she is also character driven in her writing. As Dennis explained, if the characters don’t speak to him then he can’t write about them. Tess Gerristen also explained when asked about the character Jane Rizzoli (who is not really a nice person) in the first book The Surgeon that at the start she did not intend to write a series but grew to love the character Jane Rizzoli. Initially Tess intended to kill her off in her first book.

Both authors also found time to give advice to would be writers. One comment that Dennis made which I felt was particularly relevant to prospective writers is when he said, “if you don’t read then don’t write”

Both Tess and Dennis also answered questions from the audience. One question that Dennis was when asked was about Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Fans of the series will be pleased to learn that Dennis confirmed that he was writing a new book featuring the two of them. He was asked why he stopped writing about them and he explained that they (i.e. the characters) stopped talking to him just about the same time President Clinton left the White House and only recently whilst he was driving and when it seemed that Barack Obama was just about to become President that they started to talk to him again. Dennis Lehane also spoke about the luck he had had with his books (Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone) which had been made into extremely well received films. He explained that he had a lot of involvement with Mystic River but in contrast when it came to Gone Baby Gone he had had very little involvement with it. He had been amazed by what director Clint Eastwood had done as well as what Ben Affleck had done with Gone Baby Gone despite the fact that it had been Ben’s first directed film.
Both authors also when asked acknowledged the influence of Stephen King. As they explained he was very very supportive towards writers and used to before he got to be very busy read and write blurbs for many of them.

At the end of all the questions both authors spent time signing books for the audience. It was an incredibly well attended event which was thoroughly enjoyed by all of those in attendance.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dennis Lehane

Fellow blogger Michael Carlson has done an excellent interview with Dennis Lehane over at his blog irresistibletargets. I see the interview as marking time in anticipation of the Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerristen event that is due to take place tomorrow 12 February 2009 at Borders Charing Cross Road.
The interview took place the day after the Superbowl where Michael (with his other hat on) had just finished covering the event for BBC. Needless to say they did discuss the Superbowl as well!!

Newsy Stuff

John Nettles to leave Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders is looking for a new police chief after John Nettles announced his plans to retire from the long-running ITV show. ITV has commissioned the series until at least 2012 and has vowed to continue without Nettles in the lead role of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby. Nettles has already clocked up 65 episodes featuring 200 murders since the show began in 1996.
He is set to appear in two more series, each likely to run to eight episodes, before leaving the show at the end of next year. His swansong will air in 2011. ITV1 also has one episode in the can from last year's eleventh series.
He said: "It's the end of an era for me, and while I'm very sad to be handing in Barnaby's police badge, he has solved nearly 200 murders, which I think meets the targets of modern policing. I wish my successor, whoever he or she is, the very best."
ITV drama commissioning director Laura Mackie said: "John has been instrumental in creating a much loved character and a hugely successful long running series for ITV.
"He will missed by us all and Barnaby will be fondly remembered as we move forward with the show, but we hope to work with John on other projects for the channel."
Producer Brian True-May added: "The brand of Midsomer is so strong that I am confident of its continuing success with a new actor."

* * * * * *

Deryn Lake, known to lovers of history-mystery as the creator of the John Rawlings series, had a broad grin on her face when we ran into her the other day. She had just signed a contract with Severn House who are not only going to continue the Rawlings books but are also baking Deryn’s new series which is modern and set in a small Sussex village where murder lurks behind every door. Well, not quite but almost. The hero is to be a trendy young vicar who will work with the police and sometimes get in their way, of course. Apparently these kind of books do very well in America so Severn House have very high hopes. Also perhaps a new vehicle for John Nettles?

Deryn was on her way to meet someone who could be of great interest to her in another field entirely. She wouldn’t say more than that except his name was Zebedee. But she did just mention that we must watch this space!

* * * *
Hot on the heels of Tom Clancy's foray into the digital world it was announced that best-selling novelist John Grisham, one of the few major authors whose books aren't sold in electronic form, is close to wrapping up an agreement with Bertelsmann AG's Random House publishing arm that will make all 22 Grisham titles available in all e-book formats, including for Inc.'s Kindle reader.
* * * *
WH Smith is poised to corner the airport market as it enters into a contract with BAA that will see all the airport operator's book stores operated by the retailer. There will be a phased programme of store hand-overs to WH Smith, beginning on March 1 in Terminals 2 and 4 at Heathrow. I wonder what the impact this will have on book sales by having one giant retailer in charge, especially in today's publishing climate?
* * * *
On the Crime & Investigation Digital Channel: Killer Couples, internationally best-selling crime novelist Mark Billingham explores this horrific but fascinating phenomenon, looking at the crimes and motivations of four very different killer couples.
THE BUTLER AND HIS APPRENTICE:The case of Hall and Kitto is perhaps the most incredible crime story. It includes elaborate cons, daring jewel thefts and five brutal murders, all committed by flambouyant fake butler Roy Hall and his accomplice Michael Kitto. Mark goes in seach of some sense amongst the madness. This will be transmitted on Sunday 15th Feb 2009 9.00 pm
THE WANNABE BONNIE & CLYDE: Lee Whiteley and Debbie Taylor, real-life natural born killers. Alone they were just two young petty criminals but together in December 2001 they began a three-week orgy of crime and sadomasochistic sex, ending with the fatal stabbing of a stranger on New Years Eve. Mark explores whether the temporary insanity criminologists know as folie a deux (the madness of two) can explain their behaviour. Sunday 22 Feb 9.00PM
THE RAILWAY KILLERS: In the 1980s John Duffy and David Mulcahy became two of the most prolific rapists in British criminal history before ultimately turning to murder. Mark learns how this terrible bond was forged in the school playground a decade before and how John Duffy’s loyalty kept his friend out of prison for more than ten years.
THE MOORS MURDERS: Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are possibly the most infamous murderers of twentieth century Britain. Yet the question remains: how did this young couple go from first date to the abduction, rape and murder of children in just two years?
You can find the programmes on Sky 553 / Sky HD 555 / Virgin 237

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wire in the Blood

In her latest newsletter Val McDermid has revealed the sad news that ITV will not be commissioning a seventh television series of Wire in the Blood . As she states in her Winter newsletter and I quote

All of us involved with the show have been in a state of shock since we got the news. It’s inexplicable to me. In spite of the fact that ITV have never given us a regular slot – the show has gone out at varying times of the year, on different nights and in at least three formats in terms of length – we have consistently delivered some of the highest audiences for any ITV drama. We have consistently been the most-watched show on any channel. According to official ratings figures, well over 90% of our viewers regard the show as an ‘appointment’ with the TV – ie, they don’t just watch because there’s nothing else on. The show is seen on 120 channels world-wide. It’s won awards – it’s just been shortlisted for an Edgar by the Mystery Writers of America. Year after year, Coastal have produced fantastic quality on a shoestring budget that has diminished in real terms. They’ve brought millions of pounds into the economy of the North East of England and because they’re the only company in the region producing network drama, this axing means a loss of skills and a loss of voice that goes way beyond our personal interests.”

This is extremely sad news for all of us who has enjoyed the series. More information about the demise of this series can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Moving is Murder

As we reported on the sad closure of MurderOne bookstore in Charing Cross Road in London; I was pleased to see that the mail-order side of the business will continue under new management

Above : The Old MurderOne on Charing Cross Road London (c) 2009 Ali Karim

I left my email details with the Murder One team and they sent me this press release -


New address:
Unit 12,
The Lux Building
2-4 Hoxton Square
London N1 6US

(Come and collect your books at our office every Friday and Saturday from noon to 7pm to avoid shipping charges!)

New telephone : 0207.739.7796
Same email:

New catalogue (update): The new paper catalogue will be out at the end of February!
If you would rather have a PDF, please let us know.

Email newsletters (update):We'll be continuing our weekly email newsletters from Monday Feb. 11th. Each newsletter will feature upcoming, not-yet-published titles (two to three weeks in advance, to make ordering easy) in both crime and romance.

New website (update):OK, it's going to take a little time, but we are updating the website to make it more user friendly and easier to browse for books (with full-color readable front and back covers, book blurbs, reviews, etc.). We're also including a PayPal option on the site.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.

Happy reading, Tanya and Trisha (& Sherlock) --

Murder One UK
Unit 12,
The Lux Building
2-4 Hoxton Square
London N1 6US
United Kingdom

Business Hours
Monday to Saturday 10:30am – 7:00pm
Closed on Sundays
Open House Collection Hours 12pm to 7pm Friday & Saturday (Please press buzzer 12)

Everyone at Shots wishes the New Murder One Team great success in this new venture

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Larsson 'Down-Under'

The first review from Australia for Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ is out and is an insightful reflection on the novel as well as the state of thrillers –

It's fashionable at the moment -- maybe the influence of best-selling authors such as Lee Child and especially James Patterson -- to have everything in motion, hurtling towards the climax and resolution with carefully calculated cliff-hangers. Too many new authors seemed to have taken notice of Elmore Leonard's famous remark that he leaves out the bits that he knows readers will skip.

But Larsson is interested in more than the answers to the riddles his novels create. It's the process of solution that is the point. And his stories articulate a moral interpretation of the suffering and conflict he presents in what are really social crime novels.

On this level, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a police procedural in the tradition of newly resurgent Scandinavian crime fiction, especially the books of Henning Mankell, creator of Sweden's Inspector Wallander. That cop, carrying a Strinbergian weight of gloom, has been a mouthpiece for growing insecurity, anger and healthy insights about the relationship between the Swedish welfare state and democracy.

Read More from The Australian and the Shots Review of ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ here

Whitechapel hits the big time on ITV

Whilst most of England suffered the Artic-like snow and wind blowing in from Russia, many tuned into ITV1's new three-part thriller WHITECHAPEL. It made a cracking start last night at 9pm with a massive 8.1m viewers (29.8% share), in the face of strong competition from BBC1.
The hour-long drama, featuring an all-star cast inlcuding Phil Daniels, Steve Pemberton and Rupert Penry-Jones, began with 8.4m (30.4%) but slowly declined to 7.7m (28.9%) in the final quarter of an hour. Which I find very curious indeed. In my mind, if the show is coming up to that segments denouement, obviously you'd want to know how it was going to end, wouldn't you? It's like putting down a book you've spent hours reading, only not to read the last few chapters.The show was up by an impressive 72% compared with the channel's slot average for last year of 4.7m (19.9%).
Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle on giving a modern spin to a Victorian killer.
Where did the idea come from?
The writers, Ben Court and Caroline Ip, wondered whether – if Jack the Ripper came along now – a modern police force with all the technology available would be able to catch him. We wanted to work in the personal journey that DI Chandler goes on as the new boss trying to fit in.
How did you pitch it?It felt like the kind of thing that ITV should be thinking about. It is real ITV material – intelligent with high production values and a fantastic cast, and its core audience is very big on murder shows. This has a 21st-century feel, it definitely doesn't feel old-fashioned, even though you've got all those different layers of history.
How did it evolve from there?
I wanted someone who was going to be sympathetic to our ideas for a modern thriller, and director SJ Clarkson's thoughts chimed with our own. We walked around Whitechapel and she came up with a fantastic mood board with green and browns rather the normal blues, oranges and reds. We also focused on the two very different directions Chandler is pulled in – on the one side, there is Ed Buchan, the Ripperologist with the supernatural side asking Chandler to trust his gut, and then there is DS Ray Miles, who is saying: "Look at the evidence, pound the beat and do what you've got to do."
What were the challenges while filming?
Because so much was shot at night, we had to work with the -curfews of the different London corporations and boroughs. In some you are allowed to film until 11pm, and in others only until 10pm. We had to do several all-nighters and the challenge was getting all of those night shoots into a tight schedule. Working together was an -absolute joy – bloody cold though. One night, a weather warning went out across London that there was going to be a massive storm. Another time we had to film in the early morning and the city was covered in snow.
- Broadcastnews

Nominations sought for the Most Popular Crime Writer

Crime fiction is one of the most popular genres in Britain’s public libraries and authors like Ruth Rendell and Ian Rankin are household names. But beneath the top rank of bestsellers is a host of writers, some new and some who have built loyal followings over the years but who have never quite broken through. It is to give a boost to these authors that the Dagger in the Library Award exists. Awarded by the Crime Writers’ Association, and sponsored by the publishers Random House, the Dagger is awarded to a writer nominated by library users and chosen by a panel of librarians, all of whom work with the public. This year’s panel is chaired by Mark Benjamin, Team Librarian at Hexham Library, and includes librarians from England, Scotland and Wales and – for the first time – the librarian responsible for the RNIB’s library service.

Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for the author’s body of work. Previous winners have included Stuart McBride, Craig Russell and Alexander McCall Smith whilst Joolz Denby, Lesley Horton and C J Sansom have been Highly Recommended. Nominated authors must be alive, preferably working in Britain and cannot have won the award before. If you’d like to nominate your favourite crime writer, nomination forms can be downloaded from the CWA website or picked up from your local library and all entries must be submitted through a library. Each branch library or reading group can nominate up to three authors so any arguments can be left to the judging panel! Short supporting statements are welcome as they’ll help the judges come to their conclusion.

2008 saw 54 authors nominated and there is an added incentive this year. As before, all groups whose nominated authors are shortlisted are entered into a draw for 2 tickets to the prestigious Dagger Awards ceremony in London but, for the first time, those groups who nominate the winning author will enter a draw for £300 to be spent on books for their group. The closing date for entries is 11th April 2009 so let the arguments begin – just try to keep the murders to the printed page!

Tom Clancy Goes Digital

Digital downloads and e-readers are seemingly leading the way in publishing today. The latest heavyweight to join this consumer-led demand is the best-selling author Tom Clancy. Executives Laura Porco of and Chris Smith of Sony Reader have said that Clancy had been in great demand by customers. His blockbuster novel of 1984 and the first of the Jack Ryan franchise, The Hunt for the Red October will be the first to be made available as of 3rd Feb 2009 from Penguin Group publisher. His backlist will also be accessible in several e-format in due course. Penguin announced initiatives to move heavily into electronic formats late last year, including content that can be loaded on a mobile phone or iPhone.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Hammett Prize

The Hammett Prize for literary excellence in crime writing which is given to a work of fiction or nonfiction by a U.S. or Canadian author is awarded by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers. The list of nominees for the 2009 Hammett Prize was announced on Saturday 31 January 2009.

The nominations are as follows:-
Leading Lady, by Heywood Gould (Five Star)
The Finder, by Colin Harrison, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
City of the Sun, by David Levien, (Doubleday)
The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown)
South by South Bronx, by Abraham Rodriguez (Akashic)

The winner will be declared during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) Sales Conference, that is due to be held in Baltimore, October 4-5.
Congratulations to all the nominees.

Crimefest 2009

The latest newsletter about Crimefest 2009 is now available here. With the announcement that Andrew Taylor is to be awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger this year instead of doing the "two authors in conversation panel" they have now decided to interview him instead. More information will be given about this once the programme is published. It looks as if Crimefest is shaping up to be an excellent festival this year.