Monday, 30 July 2012

Is It You I’m Looking For?

Alison Bruce is the author of two non-fiction novels and four novels in her DC Goodhew series.  She has had a great love of music since her teens and this is reflected in her books.

When I first read a Harlan Coben book I knew I’d have to read more, I soon caught up with his backlist and for several years, I’ve been buying each new hardback on release.  Despite this obvious enthusiasm for his writing, I’d managed to miss seeing him at an event until this year’s Harrogate.

I have seen YouTube recordings of him being interviewed, and liked him, but there’s always that slight niggle that your favourite writer, musician or actor might not quite live up to expectations when you see them in the flesh.  Since I have no desire to clear the entire shelf that I have filled with copies of his books, I really was hoping for the best.  As it turned out I had absolutely nothing to worry about, Harlan Coben’s interview was moving in places, amusing in others and full of honest observations on his journey as an author. 

I could tell from the response of people nearby in the audience that there were anecdotes and experiences that struck a chord with many of them.  Other authors I spoke to later echoed this.  Harlan joked about needing a shrink at times, but since I identified with virtually all the emotions he spoke of I can only conclude that there’s a whole bunch of us with a similar strain of authoritus.  This was a hugely uplifting moment.  Of course I’m not looking to be cured, none of us are, but isn’t it fantastic when someone turns on the light and proves you’re not alone in the ward?

With all of this in mind I’ve decided to share one of my writing habits just to console any other writer out there who is doing the same thing and wondering whether they’ve strayed a few mouse clicks beyond balanced.

I have a habit of having quite a few characters in my books, real life’s like that and it’s the way I develop a story but I realised when I wrote the second Goodhew novel that I needed to be able to create characters that were distinctive fairly quickly.  On one handwriting about a character is the best way to make that character more rounded, on the other hand a character that is well developed before I begin is less likely to manoeuvre me into dead ends.  Therefore, for every character that is more than a cameo I write his or her back-story, detailing physical attributes, motivations, personality traits etc. 

Nothing weird so far.

But then, when I have a feeling that I know them well enough to be able to recognise them I go on the internet and look for a photo of them.  I often start by Googling their character name, amazing how many times the right name throws up the right kind of pictures.  A Ben for example is very often a relatively young man, often the gentle giant type, quirky, humorous and bright.  Likes a pint.

Of course, there are plenty of Bens not like this, and sometimes I find my perfect Ben amongst Ben’s mates, or his sister’s auntie’s colleague’s mates.  Google images and Facebook are top hunting grounds.  Nowadays I rarely go through friend’s pictures; instead, I scoot through the profile pages of complete strangers and grab anyone who has just what it takes to make it onto the casting couch.

When I have my selection, usually a passport sized photo of each character, I print out organisation charts.  They can be family trees, or in the case of The Silence, the relationships between inhabitants of a student house, or in The Calling pictures of the victims.  I Blu-tac them to the wall above my desk and cross them out with a Sharpie if they do not make it to the end of the current chapter I am writing. 

Sometimes it will take me several hours to find the right Ben; I want to be able to see hints of all the facets I have identified in that one picture.  I no longer need to refer back to my notes on hair colour and style or set of the jaw, angle of the nose and so on.  Or worst still be tempted to trust my memory.  One glance at my wall and they are pinned down, just the way a character needs to be.

Mostly it works brilliantly, although my stepdaughter came home from uni to see one of her flat mates crossed out.  That was when I decided it might be healthier to stick to strangers.

If you haven’t tried this method I recommend it, for me it helps my characters come alive… apart from the ones that end up dead.

Who else does it like this…?  Or is it just me?

More information about Alison and her books can be found here.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Murder, Marple and Me!

"The only truth in what you're about to see is that our protagonist, Miss Margaret Rutherford to most, Peggy to others, didn't want anybody to know the truth"

Margaret Rutherford was terrified of taking on the role of Miss Marple. Margaret Rutherford never even wanted to take on the role of Miss Marple.  Agatha Christie believed Marple was entirely wrong for the silver screen and especially not by the Rutherford who was best known for her comic talent.  But when the actress and the writer came together, Marple became a legend.

For most people if you ask them who is the definitive Miss Marple they will of course say Joan Hickson. However, when Margaret Rutherford was approached to play Miss Marple  it nearly did not happen for so many reasons.

In Murder, Marple and Me, Rutherford and Christie are united to unearth the poignant tragedy behind Margaret Rutherford's horror .... of horror.

I went to see a preview show of this play at The Hob in Forest Hill before it transfers to the Edinburgh Festival.  It is a superb show with a great and witty script by Philip Meeks, outstanding acting by Janet Prince and brilliant directing by Stella Duffy.

This is a one-man show (or should one say this is a one lady show?) Nevertheless, I am not going to give the plot away but will say that Janet Prince who plays Rutherford, Christie and the spinster is a delight.  She takes on the various roles not only with aplomb but spritely and with a twinkle in her eye that I would find it difficult to appreciate anyone else in the role.  She came out with some one liners that had the audience laughing out loud with sheer joy. A number of Christie books were referenced in the play as well as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.  There were times when the play was a bit melancholy but be assured the occasions were few and were totally appropriate with what was being said.  It is a shame that I am not going to the Edinburgh Festival because Murder Marple and Me would be on the top of my list of shows that I would have to see.  Please do go and see it.

Murder, Marple and Me can be seen at the Gilded Balloon, Wee Room from 1st to 26th August 2012.  Tickets can be purchased here

I do hope that they bring it back to London after the Edinburgh Festival even if it is only for a short run.  This is certainly a play that should not only be seen by all lovers of crime fiction but also and especially those who  enjoy Agatha Christie and would like to know what really happened  between her and Margaret Rutherford along with the relationship that developed.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Final Day of Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and Reflections.

Sunday at Harrogate was rather quiet for not only me but also other members of the Shots Team.  Part of the reasoning for this was because most of us (i.e. Ali Karim, Mike Stotter and I) did not get back to where we were staying until 3:00am on Sunday morning!  As enjoyable as it is staying up late and chatting to people, it does throw a spanner in the works for later on in the day.

The result of getting to bed in the early hours of the morning meant that I missed 50 Different Words For Murder which was moderated by Barry Forshaw and featured authors Antonio Hill, Camilla Lackberg, Deon Meyer and Liza Markland.  The authors were discussing what, if anything is lost in translation, how much of their work is filtered or coloured by their translator and how much involvement do they have in their translations?  Having met Antonio Hill the night before at dinner and spending time talking to him I found myself very intrigued by his protagonist Inspector Hector Salgado, a detective with a complicated past, a tendency to violence, and a penchant for cinema.  The first book of his that has been translated is The Summer of Dead Toys.  Mike Stotter got to talk to Liza Markland at the same dinner but they (and I am sure that Mike will not mind me revealing this) hardly talked about books but instead talked about cooking and knitting!

The big event and the last panel on Sunday was special guest Jo Nesbø in conversation with BBC Radio 4 Front Row’s Mark Lawson.  Earlier this year the film Headhunters, which is based on the book of the same name by Jo Nesbø, was released in cinemas.  It was expertly transformed into a cool, brutal, deeply
Scandinavian thriller.  Sadly, but unsurprisingly I did not manage to get into the room for this.  This is not for lack of trying.  It was a testament to his success and how much the audience were looking forward to this that the event was packed and it was standing room only.  The queue to get into the room was out the door.  By all account, it was an absolutely brilliant interview and Nesbø spoke movingly about the Anders Behring Breivik mass killing event that took place last year and how it has affected everyone including writers.
© Ayo Onatade

So what did I do since I could not get into the Nesbø panel?  I used the opportunity to say goodbye to various people.  That was a long process indeed!  At Festivals like this, one does not just say goodbye!  I kept on getting stopped by various people who wanted to chat, make arrangements to meet up.  Actually, before I forget I have to say a big thank you to Ryan David Jahn who gave me a lovely bottle of wine just as I was leaving!


Harrogate was a blast!  The hard work that was put into it by the programming committee and Sharon Canavar along with Erica Morris was evident by the way in which it all ran smoothly.  Mark Billingham was an excellent Chair and the huge number of authors present (even those not on a panel) shows why this Festival constantly gets rave reviews.
I think that this year the most abiding memory for most people will of course be the eBook panel.  I am not really going to say much more about it because a lot has been said already online.  Most importantly, I managed to miss the panel.  I do however have some strong views about eBooks.  For the record, I don’t have anything against them.  They are not however my first choice when I am reading.  I am old fashioned to a certain extent when it comes to reading.  I prefer to hold a book in my hand.  I spend too many hours at the day job in front of a screen so I would rather not read a book on an e-reader and I also like the tactility of a book and turning over a page.  .  That said I can certainly appreciate the need for eBooks.  Whether or not it is true that Mark Billingham asked Stephen Leather to be controversial is a moot point.  What I have found galling is the fact that Mr Leather does not seem to want to appreciate other points of view.  He is also patronising and rude and in my opinion especially to females.  This is based not on what has been posted on blogs or tweeted by other people but sadly from the unfortunate but luckily, rather brief twitter conversation that I had with him as a result of me re-tweeting his response to the blog post at We Love This Book and saying and I quote “Hmm, Stephen leather has responded to the eBook talk at Harrogate.  Seems to be all about the money for him”.  His response should not have surprised me but luckily, for me someone specifically took him to task about his response.  More information about what actually happened at Harrogate can be found at The Left Room and in order not to appear to be, biased Stephen Leather’s own interpretation can be found here

The shortlist for the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year was fantastic, but I was really pleased that Denise Mina won.  It was well deserved.

For me personally, getting the chance to hang out with friends and catching up with lots of people was bliss.

Aside from the above, Harrogate gave readers, fans and indeed other authors the opportunity to hang out and chat, catch up with what each other and generally let ones hair down. 

So what next for Harrogate in 2013?  It looks as if 2013 will be equally as good if not better.  It will have been a decade since the first festival and Val McDermid will be returning as Programming Chair. Next year the Festival will take place between 18-21 July 2013.  Some of the amazing treats that are already in place include Ruth Rendell being interviewed by Jeanette Winterson, Charlaine Harris, Kate Atkinson and Susan Hill. 

This is a Festival that should not be missed and I can’t wait to find out what else will be happening. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Day Three

The god's must have decided that we could do with some sunshine on Saturday because instead of the rather wet and windy day, we had loads of sunshine!  It did make one feel extra pleased to be at Harrogate.

Saturday brought an assortment of panels.  The first being Peter James (who is the current Chairman of the Crime Writers Association) being interviewed by Paul Blezard.  Unfortunately I did not manage to get to this panel as I spent the time writing of the blog for day two.  Fellow Shots member Ali Karim however did attend and I am reliably informed that not only was the room full (as all of the panels have been) by that the interview was extremely interesting.

I did attend the following panel which was The Golden Age. On the one side there was David Roberts and Nicola Upson who were standing up for the Golden Age of British crime fiction between the 1920s and 1930s and on the other side was Stuart Neville and Robert Wilson who were championing the view that we are currently in the Golden Age of British crime fiction with the vast array of authors and types of novels currently available.  The panel was moderated by Martyn Waites who got the ball rolling by asking "was it then or is it now".  This was an interesting panel which was in my opinion slightly spoilt by David Roberts being a tad over disparaging and making a number of comments which did him a dis-service.  He could have been trying to make the panel a lot more interesting but I don't think it worked.  However, that aside what did we gather from the panel.  Nicola Upson felt that the 1920s and 30s was the Golden Age of crime writing.  As she explained it was a period of new talents and new writers.  The  Golden Age established  a genre.  It was a period when certain conventions  were established - a springboard!

For David Roberts as far as he was concerned the first Golden Age author was Agatha Christie. He also felt that Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie were superb novelists. He also considered Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil day Lewis) and Josephine Tey to be better than today's writers. Golden Age writers set the world to right.  He also stated that he felt that there was too much violence in current contemporary crime novels.  There is also moral ambiguity. He was upset about the fact that people loved violence.   He felt that we are now in an age where we are not asked to make moral judgments. David Roberts also wondered who would want to read a thriller twice as since you have read it once you already know the killer, therefore what would be the point.

From Robert Wilson's and Stuart Neville's point of view moral ambiguity is essential. They liked to read about damaged people. They also wondered how many people re-read Golden Age books. Contemporary  crime novels are far more able to deal with  social commentary. Also books are supposed to be firstly entertainment and Martyn Waites commented by saying that good books should make you laugh , cry and think.  Surprisingly, Neville Stuart revealed the fact that he is squeamish about injuries. 

It was felt that there have been two periods of Golden Age.  The first period was predominately English and Female whilst the second was due to the influence of America. David Roberts extremely reluctantly agreed that Chandler was a great writer.

One of the questions that was also pondered was who was the driving force behind the change in crime fiction?  Was it authors, readers or publishers?  It was felt to be a collective.  David Roberts stated that one should just suck it and see - you write and see whether or not it will sell.

To end the panel Martyn Waites took a vote on which was the Golden Age period.  Golden Age then lost out to Golden Age now on a show of hands.

One of the most anticipated panels which I did manage to attend and which again was standing room only was New Blood which was moderated by Val McDermid.  The New Blood  panel gives us attendees a chance to hear from new authors that have had at least one book published. Val McDermid has always chaired this panel and she does a very good job of it.  She is always able to draw out the best from the authors.  This year the authors tat made the panel were David Marks whose book is set in Hull and is entitled The Dark Winter, Oli Harris with his novel Hollow Man which is about the blurring  the lines of those on the right and wrong side of the law. Kate Rhodes with Crossbones Yard.  Her main character is essentially a good person in a difficult world. The final author was Elizabeth Haynes with Into The Darkest Corner which looks at relationships and what happens when things go badly wrong.  It is told in two parts 2003 and then 2007.

Amongst the questions they were asked was what drove them to write about crime.  For Oli Harris is was due to the fact that he had read widely and loved the crime structure.  He felt that if one got it write when writing then it could take you places.  Elizabeth on the other hand started by reading romances but had always been a fan of crime fiction.  It was the reason that she joined the police as she felt that it would be a way for her to write a novel.  David Mark explained that he had become a trainee reporter at 17 on the crime beat but that after 15 years he got fed up.  He decided that he wanted a conversation with readers. For Kate Rhodes Val McDermid's Tony Hill was certainly an influence.

The next books that we can expect from them are Deep Shelter by Oli Harris that is due out next spring, Revenge of the Tide by Elizabeth Haynes which is out now.  Elizabeth is currently working on her third novel Human Remains. The title of Kate Rhodes next novel is A Killing of Angels whilst David Mark's is Original Skin.

They were all also asked what helped them write.  For Oli it was with a lot of caffeine and moving towards quiet places. Elizabeth explained that for her it was urgent deadlines. David  stated that it was when people stopped asking about his day job and for Kate it was being in a quiet seaside cottage.

The final panel that I managed to attend on Saturday was A Donkey in The Grand National.  This panel was moderated by Henry Sutton and consisted of John Harvey, Laura Lippman, Simon Lelic and Val McDermid. The panel was all about whether or not crime fiction deserve proper literary recognition.  There was a very lively discussion about this and it was clear that all the participant's had strong views on the topic. One of the points that came out of the discussion was the fact that decisions as to how books were designated were made for publishing reasons.

The one panel that I was disappointed to miss was the one that saw Harlan Coben being interviewed by Laura Lippman.  The only excuse I can give was that I not only had a drinks reception to attend but I also had a dinner to go to.

Like most people, I took part in the Late Night Quiz.  It was not my intention to do so but Ali Karim my fellow Shots colleague organised a team so I found myself taking part.  It was actually a lot of fun.  We did not win, but we  did not do too badly either.  We came sixth!

Saturday evening was in fact a lot of fun. Despite the fact that I did not have the intention of staying up late, I finally rolled into bed at 3:00am on Sunday morning.  Do I regret it? Of course not.  One of the best things about events such as Harrogate is the ability to stay up late catching up with people and drinking!.

My last post will be about the final day of harrogate and also my reflections on the event as a whole.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Day Two

So what did day two of Harrogate bring?  

Day two started off with a brief introduction by Programme Chair Mark Billingham.  The first event of the day started at 9:00am and was an interview  with John Connolly (who is one of the special guest's) by Programme Chair Mark Billingham. John was talking about his work.   Despite the fact that the event started at 9:00am it was standing room only.

The interview started by Mark asking John about his Every Dead Thing the first book in the Charlie Parker series. John informed the audience that it had taken him 5 years to write and that he had done so whilst still working as a journalist.  He also said that he never told his colleagues that his was writing a book and he also felt that you (at least with your first book) should not tell anyone that you are writing a book.  He said, "there are something that you keep to yourself". John also indicated that he had felt some pressure as his advance had been the biggest for an Irish debut and therefore a lot had been riding on his work.  He had been convinced that things might fall apart.  He had not expected his Charlie Parker book to be published. He felt that it was good being a freelance journalist but that the downside was that there was no fall back.  John also stated that if he had not finished the first Charlie Parker book then he did not believe that he would have been published.

The issue of experimentation was also discussed and John stated that you can experiment within a series.  His spoke about his standalone novel Bad Men as well and stated that he believes that one needs to get away from a series at times but that he also realised that readers were loyal to characters. 

John was also asked about his reading and whether or not he read any crime fiction himself.  He explained that he was a late bloomer.  Two authors had a major effect on him and that they were James Lee Burke (specifically his novel Black Cherry Blues) whose use of language and landscape is amazing and also Ross McDonald the author of the Lew Archer series.  The Lew Archer series is due to be republished by Penguin.  He also stated that whilst he felt that Raymond Chandler was a good writer he did not think that he was a good novelist.

John was also asked why had he decided to set his Parker series in the United States?  He explained that there had been a lack of tradition in Ireland and that he had also not wanted to write about Ireland. At the time he started writing Ireland was still mired in the troubles and that it had been impossible to write about it. He agreed that there was a resurgence in Irish crime fiction.  The problem was however that the Irish are not used to seeing their lives played out within crime fiction. 

He was asked to describe his work and he felt that they were "Detective Gothic or Supernatural Thrillers

John said that he enjoyed the radio a lot and that listening to the radio was very big in Ireland. He has written a number of ghost stories for the radio.  The first series was actually transmitted on the radio in the afternoon (therefore defeating the object) the second series was actually transmitted late at night.

John also told the audience that one of the stories The New Daughter had been made into a film staring Kevin Costner.  Unfortunately it was not widely promoted and had a limited release.

John was also asked about The Book of Lost Things and he admitted that David the young boy in the book was based on him.

The interview between John and Mark was far ranging and they also covered other topics such as the fact that he enjoyed writing "evil" characters.  One of the first books that he read was Ian Fleming's Thunderball.  The cover of the version of Thunderball that he had was the one that had two bullet holes on the front. Inkwell Monkey (from his short story collection Noctunes)was the first short story that he wrote for the BBC.  The characteristics that Charlie Parker took from him were his sense of humour (good) and  being introspective (worse) which is part of being a writer.  His favourite death that he has written can be found in Bad Men and was as a result of an incident in a coffee shop and a mobile phone.  In Bad Men a character gets beaten to a pulp because of his mobile phone and how distracting it was. 

A number of other panels took place which I managed to miss due to the fact that I kept on getting waylaid! These were Crime in Another Place which was moderated by Stuart McBride, Drawing The Line moderated by NJ Cooper, Writing for Your Life that was moderated by Tony Thompson. The panel which I believe will go down as "panel of the Festival" was Wanted for Murder: The E-Book. Which was chaired by Mark Lawson.  Sadly I was not at the panel.  However, We Love This Book has an interesting take on what happened. You can read Stacey Bartlett's article here.  I did manage to speak to one of the participant's later on who confirmed what had taken place and said that one of the things that he had been upset about with fellow author Stephen Leather was the fact that he created "sock accounts" and used them to promote his work. I am sorry that I was not there as it is clear that it was a rather passionate panel.

One of the best things about the Festival has been the opportunity (for me) to meet and talk to Ben Aaronvitch whose books I have been devouring this year. Orion organised a lovely lunch for bloggers and reviewers along with some of their authors who were, Harry Bingham, AJ Cross, Mark Peterson and Ben Aaronvitch. The Shots Team were invited and I got to chat to Ben and ask him about his series which is a cross-genre mix of fantasy and a police procedural.  The latest book in the series is Whispers Underground.      

America's Got Talent was a brilliantly panel moderated by John Connolly.  The participating authors were Edgar winning author Megan Abbott (whom I had last seen last year at St Louis when she was on the panel that I had moderated.  Chris Mooney (who has also been on a panel that I have moderated and whom I had dinner with on Wednesday evening) and  CWA Dagger winning author's Gillian Flynn and Ryan David Jahn. The panel was lively and interesting with John being his usual charming and funny self.  All the authors spoke about their books and their writing amongst the topics discussed.  Gillian explained that like John she had been working for an entertainment magazine when her first book was published.  Megan Abbot explained that the crime that takes place in her latest book is accidental.  Both Megan and Gillian confirmed that they enjoyed True Crime. Chris Mooney confirmed that his latest book was a change in the course in his writing as in his previous books he had a female character at centre stage but this was not the case in the current book. David explained that whilst he had been in the army, he was not interested in war.  What he was interested in was violence and the nature of violence.  David is also a former screenwriter.  He stated that he enjoyed being a screen writer but what he did not enjoy was having to deal with producers.  He said that he did not like receiving notes from people  who did not know what they were doing and only wanted changes to suit themselves.  David also said that he had worked on a reality television programme but that he had got fired from this. 

So what else did we find out from the authors? - The author that influenced David is the late Jim Thompson. He does not want to pull his punches when it comes to his writing. Megan was the editor of her school newspaper and films influence her books.  She has been a movie lover from a young age.  Gillian Flynn's father if a professor and teaches film.  Her introduction to the genre was on father-daughter dates where they would watch films. She has always liked the "dark stuff" along with stories and writing.  She also likes endings that are not happy.  Her first story was entitled "To The Outhouse".  With Chris Mooney he is fascinated with dynamics especially women who can hold themselves in a man's world. That there is a company in America called My Holy Smoke where you can transform the ashes of your loved one into a gun cartridge. His parents were very liberal when it came to reading. Silence of the Lambs was and still a big influence.

One of the best things about events such as Harrogate is also the opportunity to socialise not  only with authors but fellow bloggers and friends.  So far the Shots team have been generously invited to a number of drinks receptions and lunches/dinners.  On Friday it was the brilliant lunch organised by Orion and the drinks reception that Hodder and Stoughton had for their authors. However, I have to admit that so far the best party has to go to Little, Brown who held theirs in a Spiegeltent.  It was brilliant.  It was like being in a circus tent.  Guests were supplied with lots to drink and eat along with some brilliant music. There was even dancing!!!!!  

The final panel of the night was Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson in conversation.  Again, and as it has been all along the room was packed.  It was standing room only and they had to bring in more chairs to accommodate the large number of people who had bought tickets for the event. I found myself perched on a windowsill. It  is rather difficult to describe the Ian  Rankin and Peter Robinson event.  It was more like the two of them were sitting down in a bar with a couple of pints of beer and using the opportunity to catch up with one another.  They did in fact have some pints of beer which they sipped as they talked about their work, writing and anything else that caught their fancy. They certainly sparked off one another and there was not a lull in the conversation.  They both spoke about the television version of their books and whether or not they should watch them. The fact that they would never get an actor who played the lead that would suit everyone. Peter confirmed that his current book is not a Banks book but a standalone.  Ian confirmed that he was bringing Rebus back and that it is going to be interesting to see how Rebus and Fox dealt with each other.  Malcolm Fox does not want Rebus back.  Peter also confirmed that whilst he lives in Toronto and Richmond he has found himself spending more time of late in Richmond. One of the questions Peter got asked was which of his books he would suggest that a first time reader should pick up.  Peter stated that he would suggest either In a Dry Season or Aftermath.  Ian Rankin confirmed that he wrote Resurrection Men as a bet as he had been asked why he had not set any of the Rebus books in the Met Training College.  He managed to get in there undercover for two weeks and the result was Resurrection Men.  Ian also confirmed that his favourite book was Black and Blue.

I have also got to say that I finally met and spoke with the delightful Erin Faye!!!! Really cool and a really lovely lady!    

So what other ad hoc things happened? Caught up with Chris Ewan the author of the brilliant Good Thief series. Sadly it does not appear that there will be any more of them.  Chris has written the Berlin book but after that one will have to wait and see.  The good news of course is that he has written a  standalone novel Safe House.    I also managed to have a quick chat with Robert Wilson who informed me that they have finished filming the Javier Falcon novel in Seville but he was unsure when it was going to be shown on Sky Atlantic.    

So. That's that for day two of Harrogate!  I'm off to see what day three will bring!  One panel that I am really looking forward to is the New Blood panel that is due to be moderated by val McDermid.    

Friday, 20 July 2012

Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Day One

This is the first blog post about this year's Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.  I hope to blog continuously throughout the festival.

My trip down to Harrogate started around 11:00am when I met up with Shots editor Mike Stotter and fellow Shots reviewer Kirstie Long.  Mike had suggested that we drive down to Harrogate together.  It was good suggestion and so after a 4 hour trip (with a pit stop for around 40 minutes) we arrived at Harrogate.  The journey down was unmemorable to the extent that we had no trouble with traffic whatsoever.

After arriving at Harrogate and checking into our hotel (Mike at the Holiday Inn) and I at a lovely small Bed and Breakfast across the road  from him we made our way to the Old Swan. One of the first people that Mike and I bumped into as we were checking in was fellow ShotsMag contributor Ali Karim.

It was lovely to be back in Harrogate and amongst the first couple of people that we met were authors  Zoe Sharp and Greg Hurwitz.   As we sat talking to them both various other people stopped to say hello.  These included Steve Mosby (who recently won the CWA Dagger in the Library), Isabelle Grey, Mari Hannah, NJ Cooper, David Marks, Martyn Waites, Publicist Kerry Hood, Chris Simmons and Stuart McBride.  I also bumped into Val Mcdermid, Ann Cleeves.

The main event that took place on Thursday was Creative Thursday.  Creative Thursday is an opportunity for would be authors to pitch their work and receive feedback in front of a group of editors and agents. A daunting task!

The main event of the day was of course the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel & Festival Opening Party. Queuing up to get into the room where the event was being held I managed to catch up with the absolutely delightful Laura Lippman and Chris Mooney whom I was lucky to have met again on Wednesday evening (and have dinner with). The room was packed to the rafters at the opening ceremony which was compered by Mark Lawson.  Festival organiser Sharon Canavar opened the proceedings by welcoming everyone to the festival explaining that the festival first took place in 2003 and it was the following year that Theakston's came on board as a sponsor.  It is a relationship that has stood the test of time. Anne Cleeves was the first writer in residence for the Festival and the current one is Martyn Waites.  There are over 80 authors present at the Festival and people from all over the world.  12,000 are due to attend.

Simon Theakston  (Executive Director T&R Theakston’s) once again extolled the virtues of the event and the reasoning why they have continued to be involved and sponsor the Festival

This year is the 8th Crime Novel of the Year of the Award. After an introduction and brief chat with the shortlisted nominees (SJ Bolton, SJ Watson, Steve Mosby, Denise Mina, Christopher Brookmyre and John Connolly) each author was given a commemorative engraved glass tankard. SJ Watson confirmed that filming was due to start next year on Before I go to Sleep and that Nicole Kidman was due to be the lead female character.  
Mark Lawson spoke briefly about the Outstanding Contribution Award that was also being given. The award was being given to Colin Dexter and it was Programme Chair Mark Billingham who gave a lovely speech talking about his background and work and how much Colin Dexter and Inspector Morse has become not only synonymous with Oxford but with the lives of many crime writers and readers from the start with his first book Last Bus to Woodstock.  Colin Dexter accepted the award to a well-deserved ovation and as can be expected from him despite his rather frail appearance gave a very very witty acceptance speech.
©Photo Ali Karim

The winner of the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award went to Denise Mina and her novel The End of The Wasp Season.  It was a win that was clear that everyone was very happy with indeed.
After the "formal" Opening Party attendees moved on to the "informal" party where they were fed and watered with of course Theakston's Old Peculier and some rather gorgeous cakes.
After the Opening Ceremony, the Shots crew disappeared off to catch a quick bite to eat before returning to the Old Swan Hotel to join the throng in the bar and catch up with various people.  It was lovely to be able to snatch quick words with old friends and authors including Peter Robinson, Sam Eades, David Marks, Christopher Fowler, Thalia Procter to name a few.

Thursday being the first day of the Festival I did not stay up too late but wandered back to where I was staying just after 11:30pm.
Friday will be starting off with a bang as John Connolly will be interviewed.  Should be good fun.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Val McDermid and Jane Austen pair off!!!

Fans of Jane Austen and  Val McDermid   will be pleased to learn that in Spring 2014 HarperFiction will publish a contemporary re-working of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey by Crime Writer Val McDermid.

Shots were delighted to receive the press release below from HarperFiction!

HarperFiction announces the latest pairing in the Austen series: Val McDermid & Northanger Abbey 

Val McDermid is to write a contemporary re-working of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey – the latest author to be confirmed in this major series.

Louisa Joyner and Julia Wisdom have acquired World All Language rights from Jane Gregory in Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid as part of a series of six novels teaming up authors of global literary significance with Jane Austen’s six complete works. This, the latest book in the series, is planned for publication in Spring 2014. 

Louisa Joyner, Editorial Director, said: ‘There is so much scope for reinvention in this often misunderstood novel and the idea of Val McDermid breathing life into it by bringing her literary expertise as the pre-eminent crime writer to re-ignite the novel’s fear factor is incredibly exciting.  Our stated aim is to create a series where each novel is a publishing event in its own right, and Val McDermid firmly establishes these partnerships as a literary force to be reckoned with.’

Julia Wisdom, Publisher, Crime & Thriller, said: ‘What bliss – a novel that brings together two of my all-time favourite authors, Jane Austen and Val McDermid.   It’s a mouth-watering prospect, not least because we can expect the unexpected from Val, a genius at creating suspense, a plotter par excellence and a crime writer whose creative imagination and versatility are second to none.  I have no doubt that Northanger Abbey as re-imagined by Val McDermid is going to be wonderful, and we are all thrilled to be publishing it.’

Val McDermid’s comment: 'I was surprised and delighted to be asked to come up with a contemporary take on Northanger Abbey. Well, actually, I was gobsmacked, but that's obviously not the sort of word you'd find in the pages of Jane Austen. I've always enjoyed Austen's work, not least because it still feels relevant to our lives, and Northanger Abbey offers tantalizing possibilities to a modern writer. It's lively, satirical and holds out the opportunity for a genuine frisson of fear. I've always enjoyed challenging myself in my writing, and this will definitely make demands on my imagination and my craft. I can't wait to get started.' 

HarperFiction publishes Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility  in Autumn 2013 to launch the series. Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride & Prejudice will be published in Autumn 2014. Conversations are ongoing as to the other literary pairings and further announcements will follow.

For more information please contact Liz Dawson on / 0208 307 4412 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

CSI Postmouth 2012

Five internationally acclaimed best selling crime authors are booked to appear at this year's CSI Portsmouth in November as part of Portsmouth BookFest. Taking part in the third year of CSI Portsmouth are top crime authors Stephen Booth, Ann Cleeves, Roger Ellory, Matt Hilton and Pauline Rowson who will join experts from Hampshire Police and Portsmouth University to discuss crime fiction and fact in a lively panel debate at John Pounds Community Centre, Portsmouth on Saturday 3 November.

Stephen Booth is an award winning UK crime writer, the creator of DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have appeared in twelve novels set in the Peak District. He has been twice winner of a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. The Cooper & Fry series is published all around the world, and has been translated into fifteen languages. The latest Cooper & Fry novel, Dead and Buried, was published in June 2012.

Ann Cleeves is the author of the Vera series of crime novels which have been adapted into the popular ITV series starring Brenda Blethyn and David Leon. Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet has been adapted for radio in Germany and in the UK and an adaptation of Red Bones is currently in preparation for television. Her books have been translated into twenty languages.

RJ Ellory's fifth novel, A Quiet Belief In Angels won the Livre De Poche Award, Strand Magazine Novel 2010, Mystery Booksellers USA Award, and the Nouvel Observateur Prize. A Quiet Vendetta won the Quebec Laureat and the Villeneuve Readers' Prize. A Simple Act of Violence won the UK Crime Novel of the Year. Nominated for a further seven awards, his books have been translated into twenty-four languages.

In 2008 Matt Hilton secured a record-breaking five book deal for his Joe Hunter series. Since then he has had a five book deal in the USA, a further four book deal in the UK, as well as being translated into several languages. A high ranking Martial Artist he worked in the private security industry for eighteen years, followed by four as a police officer with Cumbria Constabulary. His latest Joe Hunter thriller, No Going Back, has just been published.

Pauline Rowson is the author of the marine mystery crime novels featuring DI Andy Horton set in the Solent area, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Her crime novels have been highly acclaimed both in the UK and the USA and have been translated into several languages with translation rights in the DI Horton series having recently been sold to China where her novels will be published in 2012 and 2013. The latest in the DI Horton series, Death Lies Beneath, is published in July 2012.

They will join crime experts from Hampshire Constabulary including Crime Scene Manager Co-ordinator Carolyn Lovell, DC Terry Fitzjohn of Hampshire Police Arson Task Force and Andy Earl of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services, Dr Bran Nicol of Portsmouth University, an expert on stalking, and other police and forensic experts.

There will be a chance for delegates to see how the fingerprinting bureau works and have their fingerprints taken, as well as talk to the crime authors to find out how they come up with their intricate plots and research their novels.

A mobile bookshop, provided by the Hayling Island Bookshop will be selling signed copies of the authors' books. Portsmouth BookFest is a festival of popular literature organised by The Hayling Island Bookshop and Portsmouth City Council and runs from October 22 to 3 November. Its aim is to promote reading for pleasure and enthusiasm for literature in the city of Portsmouth.

CSI Portsmouth 2012 is being held on Saturday 3 November at John Pounds Community Centre. Tickets go on sale on 24 September from the Box Office at 023 9268 8037 and cost £10 for the day with £3.00 redeemable against the purchase of a book bought at the event, and £1.00 discount for Portsmouth City Library members.

More details and a programme can be found here and here

You can also Follow CSI Portsmouth on Twitter and on Facebook.

For further information or to arrange author interviews please contact

Sunday, 15 July 2012

ITW Thriller Award Winners 2012

During a ceremony at this weekend’s ThrillerFest VII in New York City, winners of the 2012 Thriller Awards were announced.  The  winners are as follows:

Best Hardcover Novel: 
11/22/63, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Also nominated were
Buried Secrets, by Joseph Finder (St. Martin’s Press);
A Hard Death, by Jonathan Hayes (Harper); 
The Ridge, by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown);  
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, by Marcus Sakey (Dutton)

Best First Novel: 
Spiral, by Paul McEuen (The Dial Press)
Also nominated were -
The Genesis Key, by James Barney (Harper); 
She Can Run, by Melinda Leigh (Montlake Romance); 
The Fund, by H.T. Narea (Forge);
Midnight Caller, by Leslie Tentler (Mira)

Best Paperback Original: 
The Last Minute, by Jeff Abbott (Sphere/Little, Brown UK)
Also nominated: 
Threat Warning, by John Gilstrap (Pinnacle); 
The Glass Demon, by Helen Grant (Delacorte Press); 
The Queen, by Steven James (Revell);
Already Gone, by John Rector (Thomas & Mercer)

Best Short Story: 
Half-Lives,” by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], March-April 2011)
Also nominated:
One More Lie,” by James Scott Bell (Compendium Press);
Anything to Win,” by Michael Z. Lewin (The Strand Magazine, June-September 2011);
Happine$$,” by Twist Phelan (from Mystery Writers of America Presents The Rich and the Dead, edited by Nelson DeMille; Grand Central);
A Hostage Situation,” by Dave Zeltserman (EQMM, September-October 2011)

True-crime writer Ann Rule was presented with the True Thriller Award.
Novelist Jack Higgins (aka Harry Patterson) acted as the convention’s ThrillerMaster.

Huge congratulations to everyone!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Forthcoming books to look forward to from Jonathan Cape, Vintage Origins, Chatto & Windus and Harvill Secker

At Toad Hall, lair of multibillionaire Baron Aristotle Krapaud, a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the violent overthrow of the French state by the intervention of horribly beweaponed automaton soldiers.  Meanwhile, the brutal murder of a famous Parisian artist, mysteriously stabbed to death in his locked and guarded studio, is subject to the investigations of the tenacious Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi, in pursuit of the mysterious masked assassin stalking the cutthroat commercial world of the Grandville art scene.  As the body count mounts and events spiral exponentially out of control, aided by his brilliant deductive abilities and innate ferocity, LeBrock battles against the outrageous odds in this funny, high-octane thriller, an adventure shot through with both high art and comic book references, a glorious illegitimate offspring of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming with animals.  Bête Noir signals the welcome return to anthropomorphic steampunk detective fiction of master storyteller and graphic novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. Bête Noir is due to be published in December 2012.

Lafferton is struggling through a bitter winter, with heavy snowfalls paralysing the town, though at least the police can be sure the ram raiders who have been targeting antique and jewellers' shops will be lying low.  The biggest worry the elderly have is how to keep warm, until 82-year-old Doris Upcott is found strangled in her home, followed by the deaths of two other residents of the same sheltered housing complex.  Each time, the murderer has left a unique signature at the crime scene, which should help DCS Simon Serrailler, desperate to identify him before he kills again.  When links are found between these and three similar murders elsewhere, Serrailler is obliged to cross deep into unfamiliar territory in his search for answers. A Question of Identity is by Susan Hill and is due to be published in October 2012.

Eva is walking by the river one afternoon when a body floats to the surface of the icy water.  She tells her daughter to wait patiently while she calls the police, but when she reaches the phone box Eva dials another number altogether.  The dead man, Egil, has been missing for months, and it doesn't take long for Inspector Sejer and his team to establish that he was the victim of a very violent killer.  However, the trail has gone cold.  It's as puzzling as another unsolved case on Sejer's desk: the murder of a prostitute who was found dead just before Egil went missing.  While Sejer is trying to piece together the fragments of a seemingly impossible case, Eva gets a phone call late one night.  A stranger speaks and then swiftly hangs up.  Eva looks out into the darkness and listens.  All is quiet.  Gripping and thought provoking, "In the Darkness" is Karin Fossum's first novel featuring the iconic Inspector Sejer and it is due to be published in July 2012.
Harry is out of his depth.  Detective Harry Hole is meant to keep out of trouble.  A young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney has been murdered, and Harry has been sent to Australia to assist in any way he can.  He's not supposed to get too involved.  When the team unearths a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, nothing will stop Harry from finding out the truth.  The hunt for a serial killer is on, but the murderer will talk only to Harry.  He might just be the next victim.  Appearing in English for the first time, "The Bat" is the legendary first novel from the worldwide phenomenon Jo Nesbo.  The Bat is due to be published in October 2012.
The first book in the critically acclaimed Intercrime series, "The Blinded Man" is an intelligent and gripping crime novel.  This title is first published in the United States under the title "Misterioso" and is due to be published in July 2012.  Two of Sweden's most powerful businessmen have been murdered.  In the face of mounting panic amongst the financial elite, a task force has been created to catch the culprit before he kills again.  To his surprise, Detective Paul Hjelm, currently under investigation for misconduct after shooting a man who took an immigration officer hostage, is summoned to join the team.  However, the killer has left no clues - even removing the bullets from the crime scenes - and Hjelm and his new teammates face a daunting challenge if they are to uncover the connection between the murdered men and identify any potential victims before he strikes again.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Gone Girl goes to the movies

According to in a whopping summer auction that reached seven figures, 20th Century Fox acquired Gone Girl the recently published Gillian Flynn novel.  The book will be produced by Pacific Standard’s Reese Witherspoon with the screenplay being written by Flynn herself. Reese Witherspoon is to direct the film.

Gone Girl follows a traumatic relationship and a disappearance. After years of fighting, cheating and being combative, a woman goes missing in a small town, and the police look to her husband to find the answers. He denies any involvement, but after his mistakes come to light, authorities find it difficult to believe him. The novel, which has been getting great reviews, is written in the first person, alternating between man and wife; so, it’ll be interesting to see what form the adaptation takes.