Friday, 18 April 2014

Barry Award Nominations

The Barry Award nominations have been announced by George Easter.  The Barry Awards are given out by Deadly Pleasures Magazine.

Best Novel 
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook
Suspect by Robert Crais
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by  Ian Rankin

Best First Novel
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Japantown by Barry Lancet
The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

Best Paperback Original
Joe Victim by Paul Cleave
Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton
The Rage by Gene Kerrigan
I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
Fixing to Die by Elaine Viets

Best Thriller 
Dead Lions by Mick Herron
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry
Ratlines by Stuart Neville
The Doll by Taylor Stevens

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mick Scully on being a bouncer and The Norway Room!

Today’s guest blog post is by Mick Scully who lives in Birmingham his debut novel The Norway Room was published earlier this year.  He had his first story in his Little Moscow series published in the anthology Birmingham Noir.  His story collection Little Moscow was highly praised.  He has been a bouncer, teacher, acupuncturist and now works as a humanist funeral minister.

There is a moment described in the biographies of many actors when they get away with it.  Auditioning for a role for which they don’t totally fit the bill they take a chance, either falling flat on their faces – literally, sometimes – or succeeding with possibly career-changing consequences.
Can you ride a horse?  Of course I can.
 Deep-sea dive?  I’m a natural.

Swing from a helicopter above the English Channel?  I was fifteen the first time I tried that.

Invariably in the accounts we read the blag convinces, the actor secures the part and, with maybe a hiccup or two, a star is born.
In real life it isn’t quite like that.  No, not quite, but maybe sometimes close.  In the seventies, in my twenties and desperately needing to supplement my teaching income, I applied for a bar job in a Birmingham nightclub.  ‘We only employ girls,’ one of the middle-aged Spanish brothers who owned the club told me.  Curiously he spoke only out of the right side of his mouth.  ‘Pretty-ones,’ his brother added, from the left side of his.  As a six-foot twenty-five-year-old bloke there was no way I was going to blag my way through that one.  I had to admit defeat.

But wait.  It seemed I had something that was of interest to them.  The very thing, it turned out, that so definitely disqualified me from the position for which I was applying.  ‘You seem a big, strong lad,’ left-mouth brother said.  ‘You look as if you can handle yourself.’  I suppose that phrase is open to interpretation, but I was pretty sure I knew what they were suggesting.  In the seventies, of course, before security checks and training courses, being able to handle yourself was pretty much the only qualification required for door-work.

This was my swinging from a helicopter, of course I can ride a horse, walk a tightrope moment, and I knew what was required.  I nodded.  ‘Did a bit of boxing at school,’ I lied.  And, referencing the Bruce Lee craze of the time, ‘little bit of Kung Fu. No expert though.’  And it was enough.

I certainly looked the part.  The black suit.  The dickie-bow.  The stance – legs just a little further apart than is comfortable – was easy.  The swagger – almost naturally acquired.  But I knew that sooner or later there would come a moment when I was going to have to get on that horse, put on that diving suit.  And I tried to put it off for as long as possible.  The way I did this was to talk to people: be reasonable; be nice.  Prevention is better than cure as my old mum used to say.  Look, I’m really sorry about this, but it’s obvious that you’ve had a few.  Another time we’ll be glad to welcome you.  But tonight … There’s a taxi rank over there. I’d have a word with a drunk’s mates, persuade them to see him home, get girls to help me to talk their blokes out of a potential punch-up.  I developed quite a technique, as much chat as a vacuum-cleaner salesman as one of my colleagues observed – well it was the seventies!

But of course luck always runs out eventually.  And when the place did take off one night, I fell off the horse, dropped from the helicopter.  Even the diving bell couldn’t save me. 

I thought the job was finished.  But the twins came round to see me when I came out of hospital.  I was sussed, yes: not a fighter.  But I was a talker and that, they decided, was what they wanted.  When undesirables – for whatever reason – were trying to gain entry, it was my job to talk to them – be nice – get them to change their mind, go somewhere else.  Go home.  If that failed, a specially choreographed little manoeuvre took place: sadly admitting that all attempts at reasonable persuasion had failed, I moved back towards the ticket kiosk so that my heavier colleagues could move in to – in the words of the brothers – do the business.

And so for three years I was part of the Birmingham nightclub scene, working the door, patrolling the dance floors, pretending to be hard – but the friendly one.  Memories from those times came back to me when I started writing crime stories ten years ago.  All the dodges that can be part of that world.  And the more sinister aspects.  The shock I felt when someone told me that a gun was kept in the safe – the brothers keep one in their draw too – deeply shocking in the seventies, and probably not true, but all grist to the mill of a writer.

And I certainly drew upon those days when developing the characters of Craig Carrow and Shuko for my novel, The Norway Room.  Both work in Birmingham’s club land.  Carrow, an e-ex cop, is part of the security team of The Norway Room, the city’s premier nightclub.  Shuko, a fixer for the Triad gang the Ninth Dragon, that is active in the city. Both men who really can handle themselves.

It is interesting the things from one’s past that you draw upon when writing fiction.  After my nightclub and then teaching days, I trained in Chinese medicine and had for a number of years an acupuncture practice in Birmingham.  In training one learns a lot about the structures of Chinese society, the importance of hierarchy, the mythologies.  And I was able to use some of the sensibility of these things in creating the Ninth Dragon.

Shuko, the fixer, looks to the histories of the Chinese Emperors for guidance when planning the Dragon’s strategy in a turf war over the Norway Room.  He uses the brutal outcomes of some of the traditional stories as a warning to opponents.

So in writing The Norway Room, almost inadvertently it now seems, elements of my past working lives were excavated as I constructed the narrative.  Night Clubs.  Chinese medicine.  And the years spent teaching?  Well, there is Ashley; the thirteen-year-old lad at the centre of the novel, attempting to survive on his own in the city while his father serves a prison sentence.  

The Shots review of The Norway Room can be read here.

The Norway Room is out now (£11.99, Tindal Street Press)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Observations of a corporate counsel…

Today's guest blog is by Duncan Jepson, he is a writer, filmmaker and lawyer.  Emperors Once More is the first in a new crime series set in Hong Kong.

I have been a regional corporate lawyer across Asia for over a decade and have been involved in a number of investigations relating to fraud, insider dealing and market manipulation. These often begin dramatically but develop slowly.  Here I describe how a dawn raid on a suspect might take place.

The day has barely begun, the lift opens and out stride ten or so law enforcement officers. A dawn raid. The unsuspecting individual at the reception desk is shocked and confused at the sudden appearance of a number of uniformed and plain clothed officers with empty boxes. Too anxious to check the search warrant as they’re innocently laying out the morning papers for what should have been yet another long day directing suits to meeting rooms?

After being allowed to enter, the officers take computers, files and suspects. The first reactions for colleagues sitting at the nearby cubicles as the officers appear, the rough intimacy of open-plan offices, is surprise, then quickly caution and soon solidarity.

Within a few minutes, corporate counsel is alerted and for them there is an immediate problem. They are paid to ensure the company follows the law and the law in this situation is, as everyone knows, innocent until proven guilty. The suspect, suddenly taken away for interview downtown, should be presumed innocent. And yet what if he or she isn’t? What if they are guilty and because let’s face it, it’s what’shisor hername who was always playing it fast and loose, talking cheap, cutting it close, so then perhaps it’s not that surprising. Maybe it’s actually surprising it took so long for the officers to come. But personal observations and perspectives aside, the counsel knows the law, and that as an innocent employee, they must be represented. For the moment anyway.

Yet, there’s a problem, while Mr X or Ms Y are now sitting uncomfortably and being asked all sorts of inconvenient questions, the corporate counsel is also paid to protect the company and must act accordingly. An internal investigation must begin. The computer has gone but everything, emails, text messages, documents, spreadsheets, rubbish cartoons and dodgy photos are all stored in the corporate cloud. The enforcement agency will want some of these in time. So a law firm is hired to go downtown to represent the company and, perhaps temporarily, the employee. The charges are identified and investigation begins – people misuse their company phone and computer.

Mr X or Ms Y, bright and shiny at their desk the day before, exits the interviews and is understandably quite unnerved. They go home, still under contract – a holiday or perhaps for “much needed rest” – but must still be available for internal interviews which start soon afterward. Friends and colleagues become irate, covering for the suspect’s work and responsibilities, but also increasingly concerned they might be involved – even though they know aren’t. Self-doubt sets in, despite reality. And colleagues want to know what has happened but also in disbelief they defend their companion, after all he or she has been with them everyday of the week, at least eight hours a day for years. Weeks pass, the individual is still missing but less missed as colleagues, also the counsel’s colleagues, feel betrayed for some of them too must be now interviewed.

You can find out more about Duncan Jepson and his work on his website.  He can also be found on Facebook and you can also follow him on Twitter @DuncanJepson. 

 Emperors Once More is out now (£16.99, Quercus). 

Friday, 11 April 2014

2014 ITW Thriller Award nominees

The 2014 ITW Thriller Award Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest IX, July 12, 2014, at the Grand Hyatt (New York City.)

Her Last Breathe by Linda Castillo (Minotaur Books) Never Go Back by Lee Child (Delacorte Press) Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner (Dutton Adult) Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner) Criminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen (Putnam Adult) White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central Publishing)
The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster)

Montana by Gwen Florio (Permanent Press) Resolve by J.J. Hensley (Permanent Press) Rage against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Scribner)
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton (Minotaur Books)
Out of Range by Hank Steinberg (William Morrow)
The Intercept by Dick Wolf (Harper)

Cold Snap by Allison Brennan (Minotaur Books)
Buried by Kendra Elliot (Montlake Romance) His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus (Pan Macmillan/Minotaur)
Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley (Harper Paperbacks)

Baggage of Eternal Night” by Eric Guignard (JournalStone)
Waco 1982” by Laura Lippman (Grand Central)
The Gallows Bird” by Kevin Mims (Ellery Queen)
Footprints in the Water” by Twist Phelan (Ellery Queen)
Doloroso” by Stephen Vessels (Ellery Queen)
The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston (Disney-Hyperion)
Scorched by Mari Mancusi (Sourcebooks Fire) Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader (Merit Press) All our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (Disney-Hyperion)
I am the Weapon – The Unknown Assassin Book 1 by Allen Zadoff (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

The World Beneath by Rebecca Cantrell (Rebecca Cantrell)
The Burning Time by J.G. Faherty (JournalStone)
Terminus by Joshua Graham (Redhaven Books) No Dawn for Men by James Lepore and Carlos Davis (The Story Plant)
Out of Exile by Luke Preston (Momentum)

Congratulations to all the finalists!