Thursday, 20 February 2020

How to grow a story; the inspiration behind Little Friends

A doctor and mother of five isn’t supposed to write dark tales about ordinary families; what is she drawing on as she fractures the smooth and glassy surface of every day domesticity? Where on earth does the story come from?

The seed that grows a book is nourished in a complex mulch and that is very true for Little Friends, a story about three different families in London who are thrown together when one of the mothers offers home - based lessons for dyslexic kids; the adults become fascinated by each other and forget to watch their children. They have no idea what the kids get up to in the woods or upstairs in the attic, and of course, none at all of the tragedies that will ensue.

I used to watch my brood all the time; in the garden, at the beach and distractedly while shopping. I was there as mothers are, to pick them up when they fell or call them back if they went too far in the sea. As they grew up, I stopped knowing everything about them, the things they said and where those bruises came from. I lost my power. Children have to separate from parents but that boundary between childhood innocence and adult capability can be fraught with danger.

When I was a GP I saw families all the time: mothers bringing in their kids with worries that ranged from sore throats to mysterious abdominal pains. An infected ear is straightforward to diagnose; a silent child is another matter. I was always glad to see those families because it’s perilously easy to ignore a child who doesn’t complain, I’ve done it myself, often. As a doctor you hope that with time and trust, complex little knots of family or school life can be undone and that you’ll have long enough to hear the whole story but there is only so far you can probe.

One of the best things about being a full time writer of psychological suspense is that 
I can take a different stance; I can probe as far as I want into the hearts and minds of my protagonists, adult and children alike. I can let my imagination off the leash and go where I never could as a mother and a doctor; I can delve right into the jungle of childhood. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, has always seemed to me to be a devastatingly honest portrayal of childhood. Parents tend to think that children have happy times together, it’s one of those convenient myths that we tell ourselves when we pack our children off to school or sleepovers; as long as they are with their friends it's alright, we say. If only. Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eyes, Stephen King’s Carrie and even Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte attest in their different ways to the horror that children can visit on each other and the lasting damage that inflicts.

Little Friends was also a response to John Updike’s Couples in which the adulterous parents use their children as an excuse to get together for barbecues and birthday celebrations, only to send the kids out of the way into the further reaches of the garden; we never do find out what happens to the children but in my book, the voices of the children interject to give the reader an insight that the parents don’t have until it’s almost too late

Story grows from place as well as out of the past. We brought up three of our children near the pretty and privileged little village of Dulwich; like so many areas of London, if you turn a corner you can find yourself somewhere completely different. Tremendous wealth coexists with its opposite; the potential for new friendships as well as conflicts can arise. 

I travelled to the Peloponnese in Greece to research another story; the Mani is an unspoilt area of rugged beauty; we stayed in an old tower house surrounded by olive trees and I realised this would be a perfect place to take my characters and see how they behaved. It’s refreshing for your readers to go somewhere different, I always think it's a little like treating them to a holiday. It is also true that dark stories glow with a particularly vivid light against a beautiful backdrop.

Family life, work, reading, imagination, place and travel; the mulch is rich and it needs to be, that seed has to work hard to grow a book that readers will enjoy. I’d love to hear what you think about Little Friends.

Little Friends  by Jane Shemilt (Penguin £7.99) is out on 20 February 2020
Their children are friends first. They hit it off immediately, as kids do. And so the parents are forced to get to know each other. Three wildly different couples. Three marriages, floundering.  There are barbecues, dinner parties, a holiday in Greece. An affair begins, resentments flare, and despite it all the three women become closer.  Unnoticed, their children run wild. The couples are so busy watching each other that they forget to watch their children.   Until tragedy strikes.  Because while they have been looking the other way, evil has crept into their safe little world and every parent's biggest nightmare is about to come true...

Saturday, 15 February 2020

NOIRELAND Returns in 2020 with a One-Day Festival

Belfast’s NOIRELAND International Crime Festival is returning on 28 March 2020. This year’s one-day festival showcases some of Ireland’s greatest crime novelists, lends a helping hand to aspiring writers, and highlights Belfast significant impact on the world of crime fiction, on page and on screen. 

This year the festival falls into three parts:’ The Writers’ Morning’, ‘A Noirish Afternoon in Belfast’ and ‘A Noirish Night of Stars’. Special guests include bestselling crime writers from the UK - #1 bestseller Mark Billingham, multi-award-winning novelist Abir Mukherjee, and Ann Cleeves creator of the Vera and Shetland series. The programme is packed to the brim with Ireland’s own international bestsellers: Liz Nugent, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Jane Casey and Steve Cavanagh – with exclusive previews of their latest novels.


A keystone of NOIRELAND is the nurturing of new and emerging local talent. ‘The Writers’ Morning’provides an accessible and affordable introduction to creative writing, followed by a session with publishing professionals offering insights and practical advice on getting into print. Prices for these sessions have been kept deliberately low to encourage anyone with an interest in writing to join in. More information can be found on the NOIRELAND website. 

While in previously NOIRELAND has taken place over the course of a weekend, this year it is a one day only event. When planning the festival in autumn 2019, concerns over Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland convinced the programme committee that a digested version of the festival would be more appropriate in uncertain times. Plans are already being put into place for a return to the full-scale weekend event for 2021. 

NOIRELAND takes place 28 March 2020 at Belfast’s Clayton Hotel. The full programme can be found below. 

Our beginner’s guide to writing is the perfect introduction to the creative process, and a great kick start to following your dreams of being a novelist. Our experts will provide an overview of a book’s lifecycle, from writing your book to then getting it published. 

TICKETS: £20/£15
Have you always fancied the idea of writing a novel but didn’t know where to start?
 Gerard Brennan, an acclaimed crime novelist and tutor, provides an introduction to the world of creative writing, to help get you started. Over the morning Gerard, will be discussing the importance of structure, plotting and how to create characters. A great taster for all aspiring authors. (Includes a break at 11am). 

TICKETS: £8/£6
So, you’ve got your idea for a novel, you might even have a manuscript, but what’s the next step to getting published? NOIRELAND has brought together a panel of publishing experts – Katherine Armstrong, Editorial Director at Bonnier Zaffre, Angela McMahon, Director of Flow Communications and crime PR specialist, and Lisa Moylett, an experienced literary agent at the CMM Agency in London. 

Explore the city’s dark side on Saturday afternoon with a choice of tours and a special screening of Odd Man Out, Belfast’s very own Film Noir. 

TICKETS: £10.  

We’re partnering with Belfast Hidden Tours for a very special NOIRELAND tour of the city. Simon Maltman, a crime writer and expert on the city’s ‘noirist’ corners, will take you on a special NOIRELAND walking tour. The walk, which lasts roughly 75 mins, visits locations from award-winning crime novels, iconic sites from television’s most popular dramas and explores the landmarks, pubs and alleyways featured in Odd Man Out, one of the best Film Noir movies of all time. 

ODD MAN OUT at the Movie House, Dublin Road


TICKETS: £6/£5
We have teamed up with Belfast’s Movie House for a special screening of Odd Man Out(1947), Carol Reed’s masterpiece set in Belfast. It is one of the earliest examples of film noir to be made outside of the US and has been a major influence on some of cinema’s greatest filmmakers, including Roman Polanski who cites it as his favourite movie. The event includes a special introduction to our noir matinee, providing insight into its production, the crime novel that inspired it and how Odd Man Out has influenced film makers and writers since. 


TICKETS: £10/£8.  

Three pals – and crime writing greats – get together for a bit of craic, to chat about where they come from, their writing and their latest novels. Last year three award-winning women crime writers had us rolling in the aisles, so this year Mark Billingham, Steve Cavanagh and Abir Mukherjee will be bringing their wit, wisdom and one-liners to NOIRELAND. No pressure lads, but your counterparts from last year were hysterical! 

TICKETS: £8/£6
May you live in interesting times’ and we certainly do! Crime fiction is one of the best mediums to explore issues of the day, while still entertaining readers along the way.
  Paul Waters, the Belfast-born broadcaster, will be exploring the hottest topics around, talking to Jane Casey about the dark world of elite gentlemen’s clubs post #MeToo, Alan Judd on his latest thriller about spies at the heart of the Brexit negotiations, Gary Donnelly on how we deal with our past in his cop thriller set in contemporary Belfast, and Liz Nugent on her new novel exploring the cult of celebrity and its inherent dangers. 

TICKETS: £10/£8
One of the highlights of NOIRELAND 2019 was Brian McGilloway’s interview with bestselling crime novelist Ann Cleeves. The old friends are back again, but this time Ann will be interviewing Brian about his new novel The Last Crossing, described as ‘the peak of what crime fiction can do’ (Steve Cavanagh) and an ‘extraordinary novel’ (Adrian McKinty).
 A must-see event for fans of Brian McGilloway, Ann Cleeves and anyone who loves truly great crime writing. 

The Detective Up Late 
TICKETS: £10/£8.  

NOIRELAND 2020 ends on Saturday night with Jack-a-noir-y, our bedtime story for grown-ups. So grab a drink, settle down and listen to an exclusive extract from a very hotly anticipated novel. This year our bedtime story will be from The Detective Up Late, a new Sean Duffy novel from Adrian McKinty, which won’t be hitting the shops until 2021! Adrian will be introducing the book in person and talking a little about his award-winning 
Sean Duffy series. 

Tickets are available at the NOIRELAND box office:, or at the venue on the day (28 March). 
People in receipt of Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, or Job Seekers allowance, Students, Children (12–18 years) and disabled people are entitled to a concession discount. 

A pass to all events at NOIRELAND is available to purchase: £75/£50 conc. A ‘Writers’ Morning Pass’ is available to purchase: £25/£18 conc.
A ‘A Noirish Night of Stars’ is available to purchase: £32/£22 conc. 
Terms & Conditions apply. See our website for more details: 

NOIRELAND takes place at the Clayton Hotel, 
22-26 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast BT2 8HS 
The venue is just 5 minutes from the train and bus centre on Great Victoria Street, with its links to Belfast International and Belfast City airports.
Visit to plan your journey. 

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Q & A with Sam Lloyd author of The Memory Wood

Q:- What is the Memory Wood about?

Sam:- It’s about two incredibly gifted kids engaged in a life-or-death game of deception. Elissa, a thirteen-year-old chess prodigy, is competing at a world-ranking event when she’s snatched from the venue and sedated. She wakes in darkness, tethered to a metal post. When her abductor arrives, it’s clear he has no plans to release her. Elissa’s situation looks hopeless. Then, a chance event: twelve-year-old Elijah, playing in his local woods, stumbles across her underground cell. Elissa thinks she’s saved, and urges Elijah to get help. But Elijah thinks he’s found his first true friend, and knows that if he calls the police he’ll lose her. Elissa concludes that her survival depends on deceiving the boy into helping her. But he’s far, far sharper than he seems. As the stakes rise, their mind games grow increasingly twisted and sophisticated.

Q:- When did the idea for The Memory Wood formulate?

Sam:- It was actually the smashing together of two separate thoughts. Elijah had been holed up in my head for years, without a story to release him. Then, when my son turned eight, he reached the regional finals of a national chess tournament. One Saturday morning, I drove him to the venue. It was pretty chaotic – hundreds of people rushing about. Parents had to wait outside during the matches, and it struck me how easily a determined stranger might snatch away a kid. By the time we drove home, I had the bones of a story. 

Q:- Tell us a little bit about your two central characters – Elissa & Elijah.

Sam:- Elissa is scary-smart – a mentally strong teenager who refuses to play the victim. Reducing her circumstances to the abstraction of a chess game, she plans her moves several steps ahead of everyone else. Elijah is home-schooled, introverted and cripplingly lonely. He has no TV, no internet, little contact with the outside world.  By day, he roams the Memory Wood on the country estate where his parents work. He’s delighted to discover Elissa, even though he’s fairly certain how events will play out. 

Q:- Were these characters difficult to write?

Sam:- They became more difficult to write as the book progressed. I grew very attached to each character in different ways, and their later chapters are harrowing. Writing the last few pages was an emotional experience. 

Q:- Do you plan your novels out, or are you more of a pantser? Why?

Sam:- A reluctant pantser. I’d love to have a detailed road map, but there’s a point when I just lose patience and dive in. With the Memory Wood, I wrote the first page with little inkling of where it was going, or how it would end. And although Elijah had been knocking around inside my head for years, Elissa appeared on the page fully-formed, with very little forethought. Weird, how that happens. It’s why writing’s so bloody addictive.

Q:- How hard is it to write twists into books?

Sam:- It’s a tightrope over broken glass. The only thing worse than a twist that feels shoehorned is one so glaringly obvious you guess it from the blurb. While great twists knock you sideways and are a boatload of fun, they should always take second stage to the characters. As a reader, I’ll take a memorable cast over a shocking plot twist every day of the week. What I really want, of course, is both. 

Q:- What are you reading at the moment?

Sam:- Wuthering Heights, and loving every word of it, even though it’s lightyears away from what I usually read. My in-laws bought me cloth-bound editions of all the Brontë novels for Christmas. Last year, they got me a Joe Hill graphic novel and the Preacher series, so they like to mix it up.

Q:- Who are your favourite authors in the crime/thriller genre?

Long-time favourites: Thomas Harris, Gillian Flynn, Rosamund Lupton. Writers I’ve just discovered: Will Dean, Shari Lapena, Alex North. Books I’m most looking forward to in 2020: Three Hours, American Dirt, My Dark Vanessa.  

The Memory Wood is by Sam Lloyd is published by Transworld Publishers Limited.
Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It's the only home he's ever known.  Elissa has only just arrived. And she'll do everything she can to escape.  When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn't want Elissa to leave. Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn't the first girl he's found inside the Memory Wood.  As her abductor's behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood ...

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Joanna Schaffhausen, on the Myths of Serial Killer

Serial Killer Myths

Serial killers have been dramatized in books, television and movies hundreds of times. The portrait of the “Hollywood” serial killer as a brilliant man stalking you with a knife from the bushes outside is a familiar one. But how realistic is it? The FBI has spent several decades studying serial offenders, and their results don’t always match up with the fictionalized portrayals. Here are a few serial killer tropes that have been busted by law enforcement research. 

Serial Killers Are Compelled to Take Trophies from the Scene

In fiction, serial killers always take a memento, usually something personal from the victim, to remember the murder. Often, these items are used to link him to the victims when he is finally caught. In real life, only around half of serial killers take any kind of trophy from the scene. When they do take trophies, the objects can sometimes sustain them between attacks. Dennis Rader, who nicknamed himself “BTK,” went years between murders, during which 

They Are Smarter Than Average Humans

Serial killers can be difficult to catch for many reasons, but the one that shows up most often in film and TV is that they are brilliant. Individual serial killers have been highly intelligent—Ted Bundy is one example. However, the truth is that serial killers as a group are no smarter than the rest of us. Their average IQ is about 100, the same as the general population.

They Only Kill Strangers

Targeting strangers is another reason that Hollywood serial killers—and some real-life ones as well—are hard to catch. Police investigations rely on the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator to narrow the search field, and if there is no previous relationship, the killer can be nearly impossible to track down. However, in reality, the most common relationship between a serial killer and the victim is a business one (prostitution accounting for a good share of the ‘business’). But plenty of serial offenders target people close to them as well. Women, in particular, are most likely to kill a series of husbands or children. Sometimes, serial killers will murder both kinds of victims. Edmund Kemper killed hitch-hiking young women who were unknown to him but also family members, including his mother.

They Start with Lesser Violent Crimes and “Graduate” to Murder

In Hollywood serial killer tales, you will often see the profiler recommend that police check records for earlier violent assaults or rapes in which the victims survived because serial killers work their way up to actual murder. This does sometimes occur. However, when arrested for murder, most serial killers do not have a previous record for violent behavior. If they are in the system at all, it tends to be for non-violent offenses like peeping in windows or arson.

Once They Start Killing, They Won’t Stop

It’s a popular conception that, once serial killers start murdering, their attacks grow closer together as each kill fails to satisfy that initial “high.” Indeed, the line about how “He won’t stop until we catch him” gets repeated on nearly every TV show about a serial killer, but it turns out not to be true at all. Serial murderers can go years, even a decade or more, between kills. Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Serial Killer, killed his last victim in 2003, but the previous one died in 1986, a gap of seventeen years. Sometimes, serial murderers stop entirely, possibly because they fear capture, are growing older and lack the physical strength for the crimes, or otherwise lose the biological/psychological “drive” to kill. Joseph D’Angelo, the accused Golden State Killer, ran a one-man crime spree up and down the state of California before going quiet in the late 1980s. Perhaps his recent arrest, decades after his crimes, will shed some light onto why certain offenders give up their murderous ways.

All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen published by Titan Books (Out Now)
 FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his
mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother's killer is uncomfortably close to home. Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer-one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn't about to give up now.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Killer Women Festival of Crime Writing & Drama

Now in its fourth year, Killer Women Festival of Crime Writing & Drama (15th March 2020) is the perfect way to stay up-to-date with all the latest crime fiction, TV dramas and cultural debates around justice, prisons, gangs, toxic masculinity, true crime and more.
London’s only friendliest and only author-led crime leads the way with festival firsts:

An exclusive competition in honour of CSI pioneer and mother of forensic science Frances Glessner Lee, who created the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death: 20 miniature crime scenes made for the purpose of training homicide detectives, many still in use today.

Learn what makes a good police dog, and why TV dramas always get canine policing wrong with Sniffer pup Bob, Riley, explosive detection, and master drug dog Stan.

Explore what the brain does when disaster strikes, and how we can best survive it, with former police and military psychologist Emma Kavanagh.

Britain's only black chief constable and Chief Inspector of the CPS Michael Fuller (Kill the Black One First); Alison Levitt QC, chief counsel to the CPS during the Savile Enquiry, and barrister Sarah Langford (In Your Defence) discuss whether the criminal justice system is fit for purpose.

ANN CLEEVES IN CONVERSATION WITH DAISY BUCHANAN FOR YOU’RE BOOKED LIVE. Ann Cleeves, acclaimed writer of Shetland and Vera, in conversation with Daisy Buchanan for a live YOU’RE BOOKED, the podcast for literary nosy parkers who would like the chance to snoop around their favourite authors’ bookshelves.

Discussion of the psychopathic mind with TV criminologist Professor David Wilson (My Life with Murderers), Dr Shubulade Smith, Head of Acute Forensic Psychiatry at the Maudsley, and Kerry Daynes, forensic psychologist (The Dark Side of the Mind.).

The full programme can be found here.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Barry Award Nominations 2020

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced the Barry Award Nominees. The winners of this year’s Barry Awards will be announced during the Opening Ceremonies at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Sacramento, California on October 15, 2020. The nominees were chosen by panels of experts in mystery/crime fiction.  

The readers/subscribers of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine will determine by vote who wins each category.

Best Mystery/Crime Novel
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
If She Wakes by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown)
Metropolis by Philip Kerr (Putnam)
The Border by Don Winslow (Harpercollins)
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (Ecco)
Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (Flatiron)

Best First Mystery/Crime Novel
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup (Harper)
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Celadon)
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House)
Save Me From Dangerous Men by S. A. Lelchuk (Flatiron)
Scrublands by Chris Hammer (Atria)
To The Lions by Holly Watt    (Dutton)

Best Paperback Original Mystery/Crime Novel
The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre (Ecw)
Winner Kills All by R. J. Bailey (Simon & Schuster Uk)
Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins (Hardcase Crime)
Fate by Ian Hamilton (Spiderline)
Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina (Mira)
No Good Deed by James Swain (Thomas & Mercer)

Best Thriller
Mission Critical by Mark Greaney (Berkley)
Backlash by Brad Thor (Atria/Emily Bester)
The Chain by Adrian Mckinty (Mulholland)
The Burglar by Thomas Perry (Mysterious Press)
True Believer by Jack Carr (Atria/Emily Bester)
White Hot Silence by Henry Porter (Mysterious Press)

Best Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Suspect by Robert Crais (Putnam)
The Dry by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
The Black House by Peter May (Quercus)
The Cartel by Don Winslow (Knopf)

Lynda La Plante, Laura Lippman and Robert Goddard to headline 2020 CrimeFest.

Headline authors for CrimeFest - one of Europe’s biggest crime fiction conventions - have been announced. 

The 2020 convention sponsored by Specsavers is hosted from 4 to 7 June at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel and will feature icon of the genre, Lynda La Plante, the award-winning author of more than 30 internationally bestselling novels. 

La Plante was a pioneer with her 1980’s series, Widows. The show received the Hollywood treatment with a movie adaptation by director Steve McQueen in 2018.

The BAFTA award winning screenwriter and former RADA trained actress went on to create one of television’s greatest characters, DI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. Played by Helen Mirren in a career-defining performance, the hugely influential character transformed the TV landscape.

She’ll be discussing her career in her debut appearance at CrimeFest alongside Buried - the first novel in her much-anticipated new series featuring DC Jack Warr.

Laura Lippman is one of America’s most admired crime writers. The New York Times bestselling author of acclaimed standalones and the award-winning Tess Monaghan series, is lauded by readers, critics and writers alike.

A reporter for twenty years, Laura worked with the Baltimore Sun before becoming a novelist, hailed by the Washington Post as, “one of the best novelists around, period.” Along with her fiction, Lippman will be discussing her latest book of essays, My Life As A Villainess.

Robert Goddard will also feature after the author was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association’s highest accolade in 2019, the Diamond Dagger, for a lifetime achievement in crime writing.
Goddard's first novel, Past Caring, was an instant bestseller and his books went on to captivate readers worldwide with their edge-of-the-seat pace and their labyrinthine plotting. His books have been translated into over thirty languages. His 28th novel, One False Move, was published last year.

Specsavers co-founder, Dame Mary Perkins, said: “As a personal fan of the crime genre and with my own personal connection to Bristol, it’s fantastic to be involved in this annual showcase of world-class crime fiction. It’s also great to see CrimeFest developing its community activity to help make reading accessible to everyone.”

CrimeFest, now in its 11th year, is a hotbed for readers who dip into the occasional crime novel alongside die-hard fans, as well as drawing top crime novelists, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world. It runs a series of educational and community outreach events alongside the convention.

Director and co-founder of CrimeFest, Adrian Muller, said: “CrimeFest is the most democratic of crime conventions as it’s open to all authors to take part. As such, it’s not just established names but offers an exciting and fertile ground for aspiring and new talent. There’s a friendly energy for readers and attendees, fitting the independent, vibrant spirit of our host town, Bristol.”

Up to 150 authors will descend on Bristol appearing in over 50 panels delving into diverse topics from politics to historical crime, the Golden Age of crime fiction to police procedurals, serial killers to cosy crime. There’ll also be a panel on crime fiction reviewers, honouring the late Marcel Berlins, and a ‘Ghost of Honour’ remembering Dick Francis.

Highlights include the coveted ‘Pitch an Agent’ for aspiring writers and the annual CrimeFest Awards featuring the inaugural Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award.

Other big names include award-winning bestselling crime writer and broadcaster Dreda Say Mitchell, and Sarah Pinborough, the New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes, adapted by Netflix for broadcast this year. 

The no. 1 bestselling Icelandic writer, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir also features with an appearance by the writer, broadcaster, dramatist and journalist Lynne Truss, famed for Eats, Shoots and Leaves alongside her comic crime novel, A Shot in the Dark.

Joining them as the Toastrix at the Gala Dinner is Zoë Sharp, creator of the Charlie Fox series of crime thrillers.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Crime at the North London Story Festival

The theme for the event in 2020 is ‘Crime’. As a Story Festival – rather than the more traditional Literary Festival – we are hosting speakers and putting on a range of events that address the full spectrum of crime as a genre and entertainment format. Speakers include: Stephen Kelman, author of the Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English which provides a unique insight into the experience of young Londoners and gang violence; PD Viner, author of The Last Winter of Dani Lancing; Barbara Nadel, creator of the fictional Turkish detective Çetin İkmen; Paul Gilbert, Executive Producer for Sky on BulletproofTin Star, Strike Back and Sky One’s up-coming sci-fi show, Intergalactic; and Ceri Jackson, the Hendon and Finchley Times-trained journalist who created Shreds: Murder in the Docks, the hit BBC true crime podcast.

As well as these speakers the University campus will be transformed into an immersive crime scene through various interactive experiences, including a locative campus-wide sleuthing game; an escape room, ‘Heist’; Human Cluedo; a VR forensic crime scene; a true crime podcast station; and a workshop on reporting crime with Google News Lab.

Details here and the programme can be found here.

Or email James Graham

Friday, 31 January 2020

Alice Teale Is Missing – by Howard Linskey

Write what you know.’ Authors are always being advised to do that, as if anything else would be too difficult or come across as unauthentic. That’s a bit tricky when you are a crime writer. Unless you used to be a gangster or drug dealer and used your prison time to take a creative writing course, you are unlikely to be writing what you know. I’ve never been to prison and I’ve certainly never killed anyone. Honest, trust me on this, not even once, for research purposes. 
I suppose it might have helped if I’d been a detective or a forensic scientist but I am the kind of person who would become obsessed with detail and accuracy, rather than character and plot and the books would probably be less interesting as a result. So, instead, I do some research, to get the important details right but mostly I just use my imagination. 
Every one of my books has its origins in a single thought, an idea that kicks them off, a ‘what if?’ moment, if you like. That moment in ‘Alice Teale Is Missing’ comes at the beginning, when a seventeen-year-old girl walks out of her school building one evening, following after-school activities. I visualised her being seen by someone, a teacher, who would look out of the staff room at just the right moment and watch, as Alice walked away from the building and went down a path between two rows of old miner’s cottages. What if, at that point, she simply, inexplicably, vanished.
That was my starting point. Next, I introduced two new characters, Detectives Beth Winter and Lucas Black, who are given the task of investigating Alice’s disappearance. Beth is new and happy to take on the case, because she wants to make a difference. Surely, finding Alice is a worthwhile endeavour but then she learns that her new partner, DS Black, once killed someone. It’s an ominous start to her first major case.
They soon learn that Alice has secrets but then so do most of her friends and family. Almost all of them have something they want to hide. It’s up to Beth and Lucas to work out how any of this is linked to the disappearance of Alice. They begin to realise that her secret was the biggest of them all. 
So far, so fictitious but there is one area of ‘Alice Teale Is Missing’ that does border more on write-what-you-know territory than normal for me and that is Alice’s fictional hometown of Collemby. As I was writing the book, it started to look suspiciously like my own hometown. I don’t know why but, from the moment my two detectives, Winter and Black, took a left turn and drove up a hill into Collemby for the first time, I started to visualise it as the place I grew up in; Ferryhill in County Durham in the north east of England. The town hall, the market square, the pubs and shops that border it, are all very similar to the ones I knew. The lay out of my old school helped too. When the teacher watches Alice walk away, she has the exact same view you would get from its staff room and, helpfully, the miner’s cottages are there too. 
So why not just set the book in the real Ferryhill, instead of the fictional town of Collemby? I didn’t want to burden myself by having to be entirely accurate and receive complaints that I misspelled a street name or got a detail wrong. Also, I’m not entirely sure that the good people of Ferryhill would be too impressed with me if I made their town the factual location of fictional crimes. 
Keeping my town fictional means that Ferryhill and Collemby can be similar but different, when it suits me or my plot. Collemby is a darker, more oppressive place with narrower streets, taller, more Victorian-era buildings and subsequently darker shadows are cast upon its occupants, lending it an atmosphere more conducive to crime fiction. 
I also created a derelict railway station for plot purposes. Ferryhill used to have one but it is long gone now, even though the part of the town that used to house it is still known as Ferryhill Station, more than fifty years after its closure. I liked the idea of someone from the town, a moderately wealthy eccentric perhaps, taking over its platforms and buildings, hoping to preserve and restore them but ultimately lacking the funds to do so. When they give up, the location is left in a spooky form of limbo, its nooks and crannies used only by ‘courting’ couples or cheating ones.  Alice is seen down there but with whom? That question and others, surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the seventeen-year-old, are eventually answered in ‘Alice Teale Is Missing. I hope you enjoy it. 

Alice Teale is Missing by Howard Linskey (Published by Penguin Books)
Alice Teale walked out of school at the end of a bright spring day.  She's not been seen since.  Alice was popular and well-liked, and her boyfriend, friends and family are desperate to find her.  But soon it's clear that everyone in her life has something to hide.  Then the police receive a disturbing package.  Pages from Alice's precious diary.  Who could have sent them? And what have they done with Alice?

Thursday, 30 January 2020

An evening with Lynda La Plante - Ambassador for London Book & Screen Week

Lynda La Plante announced as Ambassador for London Book & Screen Week as festival unveils blockbuster 2020 line-up 

The sixth London Book & Screen Week (9- 15 March 2020) will celebrate 40 years of the iconic Yes Minister, the incredible career of Lynda La Plante, and national favourite Doctor Who, explore coming of age classics, poetry beyond the page, and serve up delicious meat free meals with ‘One Pound Chef’ Miguel Barclay. 

Produced by The London Book Fair, London Book & Screen Week is the capital’s biggest celebration of books and the films, TV programmes and virtual worlds they inspire, bringing together readers, writers, game, film and TV fans for events across the creative capital of the world. 

Heading up the 2020 programme as festival Ambassador, queen of crime drama Lynda La Plante will discuss her illustrious career across page, stage and screen. From early performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in The Sweeney and Bergerac, to writing scripts for BAFTA- winning shows including Prime Suspect and Widows, recently adapted for a second time by Steve McQueen. Lynda has also achieved international success as author of over 30 novels and, in this special event, will offer a preview of her forthcoming book Buried (Zaffre, April 2020), the first in an exciting new series. 


Venue: Groucho Club 
London Book & Screen Week are delighted to welcome you to an evening to celebrate one of the UK’s best-loved writers, queen of crime drama Lynda La Plante. 

Join Lynda for a gin cocktail at this special event as the writer discusses her illustrious career across page, stage and screen and offers a preview of her forthcoming book Buried (Zaffre, April 2020), the first in an exciting new series from the author. 

Born and raised in Liverpool, La Plante trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and worked with the National Theatre and RSC before becoming a television actress starring in notable productions including Z-Cars, The Sweeney, The Professionals and Bergerac

She then turned to writing and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful Widows, recently adapted for a second time by Steve McQueen. Her original script for the much-acclaimed Prime Suspect (starring Helen Mirren) won awards from BAFTA, Emmy, British Broadcasting and Royal Television society, as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Award. 

Lynda has produced over 170 hours of international television and is one of only three screenwriters to have been made an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute. She was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Best Writer Award in 2000. 

In addition to work as an actress and screenwriter, Lynda is the author of over 30 novels, all of which have been international bestsellers. In 2008 she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. 

Ticket includes a complimentary drink. Attendees will also receive an exclusive first extract from Lynda’s new novel and first in a brand new series, Buried, before it publishes in hardback, eBook & Audio on 2nd April 2020. 

Ticket: £20 | 6:30pm |