Thursday, 6 August 2020

2020 CWA Daggers - Shortlists Announced

The 2020 shortlists for the prestigious CWA Dagger awards, which honour the very best in the crime writing genre, have been announced.

The world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers are the oldest awards in the genre and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.
Mick Herron’s Joe Country, Claire Askew’s What You Pay For and Lou Berney’s November Road are all in contention for the CWA Gold Dagger, awarded to the best crime novel. November Road is also on the shortlist for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller, up against One Way Out by AA Dhand, Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan and the Richard and Judy pick The Whisper Man by Alex North.

Linda Stratmann, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “As the CWA Daggers are unmatched for their reputation and longevity, these shortlists offer a showcase of the finest writing in crime fiction and non-fiction. They reveal the remarkable variety and huge relevance of the genre, which continues to dominate book sales and to shape our cultural landscape.

The much-anticipated John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger highlights the best debut novels. Among the six shortlisted debuts are Little White Lies by Philippa East, acclaimed as ‘unputdownable’, and Trevor Wood, who served in the Royal Navy for 16 years, makes the list with The Man on the Street, featuring a homeless veteran grappling with PTSD, dubbed by Lee Child as ‘an instant classic’.

Abir Mukherjee’s Death in the East is not only shortlisted for the Gold Dagger but also the Sapere Books Historical Dagger. He contends with Metropolis, completed just before Philip Kerr’s untimely death and SG Maclean, who won the Dagger last year for Destroying Angel; she returns with The Bear Pit.

The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger shortlist features Finland’s acclaimed and award-winning writer, Antti Tuomainen, with Little Siberia translated by David Hackston. The king of Helsinki noir is up against Marion Brunet, the winner of the prestigious Grand Prix de Littérature policière in 2018, whose novel Summer of Reckoning is translated by Katherine Gregor.

The CWA Daggers are one of the few high-profile awards that honour the short story.
Syd Moore, who was shortlisted in the category in 2019, returns with her short story “Easily Made” in 12 Strange Days of Christmas. Paul Finch, a former cop and journalist turned bestselling crime writer, sees his short story “The New Lad” (published in the anthology Exit Wounds) make the shortlist. They are up against established authors including Christopher Fowler, author of over fifty novels and short-story collections, and the blockbuster American mystery writer Jeffery Deaver, who won the Short Story Dagger in 2004.

The shortlist for the ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction includes Casey Cep, a staff writer at the New York Times whose first book Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, has received acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Also on the shortlist is Caroline Goode for Honour: Achieving Justice for Banaz Mahmod. It’s the heart-breaking true story of Banaz Mahmod, the young Londoner murdered by her own family for falling in love with the wrong man, adapted for TV starring Keeley Hawes as Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode.

The Dagger in the Library is voted on exclusively by librarians, chosen for the author’s body of work and support of libraries. This year’s shortlisted nominees are Christopher Brookmyre, Jane Casey, Alex Gray and Quintin Jardine.

One of the anticipated highlights of the awards is the Debut Dagger competition, open to unknown and uncontracted writers. Settings for the shortlisted novels are varied and range from modern-day America, rural Australia, an organic farm near Bern, 2011 Cuba, a contemporary offshore oil platform and sixteenth century Orkney.

This year also features the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year Dagger, launched in 2019, which celebrates publishers and imprints demonstrating excellence and diversity in crime writing.

The winners of the 2020 Daggers will be announced at an awards ceremony, due to take place on 22 October.

The Shortlists in Full:
What You Pay For by Claire Askew (Hodder & Stoughton)
November Road by Lou Berney(Harper Fiction)
Forced Confessions by John Fairfax (Little, Brown)
Joe Country by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (Sphere)
November Road by Lou Berney (Harper Fiction)
This is Gomorrah by Tom Chatfield (Hodder & Stoughton)
One Way Out by AA Dhand (Bantam Press)
Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (Raven Books)
Cold Storage by David Koepp(HQ)
The Whisper Man by Alex North:(Michael Joseph)
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (Faber & Faber)
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing (Michael Joseph)
Little White Lies by Philippa East (HQ)
The Wreckage by Robin Morgan-Bentley (Trapeze)
The Man on the Street by Trevor Wood(Quercus Fiction)
In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins (The Dome Press)
Metropolis by Philip Kerr(Quercus Fiction)
The Bear Pit by SG MacLean (Quercus Fiction)
Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve (Raven Books)
The Paper Bark Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu (Constable)
Summer of Reckoning by Marion Brunet, translated by Katherine Gregor (Bitter Lemon Press)
The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre, translated by Stephanie Smee (Old Street Publishing)
Like Flies from Afar by K Ferrari, translated by Adrian Nathan West (Canongate Books)
November by Jorge Galán, translated by Jason Wilson (Constable)
The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguín, translated by Miranda France (Bitter Lemon Press)
Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen, translated by David Hackston (Orenda Books)
The Bully by Jeffery Deaver in Exit Wounds, edited by Paul B Kane and Marie O’Regan (Titan Books)
The New Lad by Paul Finch in Exit Wounds, edited by Paul B Kane and Marie O’Regan (Titan Books)
The Washing by Christopher Fowler in Invisible Blood, edited by Maxim Jakubowski (Titan Books)
#Me Too by Lauren Henderson in Invisible Blood, edited by Maxim Jakubowski (Titan Books)
The Recipe by Louise Jensen in Exit Wounds, edited by Paul B Kane and Marie O’Regan (Titan Books)
Easily Made by Syd Moore in 12 Strange Days of Christmas (Point Blank Press)
Furious Hours by Casey Cep (William Heinemann)
Corrupt Bodies by Peter Everett (Icon Books)
Honour: Achieving Justice for Banaz Mahmod by Caroline Goode (Oneworld Publications)
The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury by Sean O’Connor (Simon & Schuster)
The Professor and the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit and Defrocking by Adam Sisman (Profile Books)
The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton (Picador)
Christopher Brookmyre
Jane Casey
Alex Gray
Quintin Jardine
The Spae-Wife by Anna Caig
Whipstick by Leanne Fry
Pesticide by Kim Hays
Emergency Drill by Nicholas Morrish
Revolution Never Lies by Josephine Moulds
Bitter Lake by Michael Munro
Bitter Lemon Press
Harvill Secker
Head of Zeus
Michael Joseph
Raven Books
Severn House

Julia Haeberlin talks about We Are All The Same in The Dark

My thrillers always begin the same way—with a tiny visual in my head that won’t go away. In the case of BLACK-EYED SUSANS, it was the bird’s-eye view of a young woman lying in a field of yellow and black flowers with a bunch of scattered old bones.

A younger, wispier girl began to haunt me for WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK. She was wishing on dandelions on the side of a Texas road that yawned with desperate emptiness. I couldn’t see her face. But I knew two things for sure: She only had one eye. And she was lost.

The gritty atmosphere of this cold case thriller overwhelmed me, even sneaking into my dreams. An ominous Texas town had taken an ugly shape down the road, with a mystery of its own. I had already decided not to give it a name to enhance its creepiness and myth.

Even before I wrote the first word, I was warning my one-eyed girl not to go there. 

She didn’t reply. No matter how much I tugged her arm, she stayed in the shadows behind a barbed wire fence. 

This was a big problem for a novelist who is not an outliner. My characters always drive the plot on a twisted road where I can never see around the curve. Every day of writing, I want to be surprised as much as the reader.

I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who struggles with writer’s block, but when I’m typing cliches and blather, I know that I need to do one of two things. Go read poetry. Or research. 

Both open up my brain. As a writer, I need to fly with poetry’s bird of freedom when my words are too straightforward. And as a tactile journalist, I want all of my underlying themes—the Texas death penalty, mitochondrial DNA, or, in this case, prosthetics—to be based on solid ground, on the advice of experts.

I realized that for my character to reveal herself, she wanted my respect. I needed to understand as much as I could what it felt like physically and emotionally to be missing an eye. 

I began with Randy Trawnik, a legendary ocularist in Dallas, Texas, who can create a prosthetic eye so beautiful, so much a perfect twin to a natural eye, that women and men are able to keep them a secret. 

And they do. Beauty queens, actresses, professional athletes, models. Kids trying to navigate through the tribal phase of childhood. The thousands of other people who don’t want to be defined first by what they are missing. What did Shakespeare say? The eyes are the windows of the soul, and by extension the soul itself? Well, he was wrong.

I began to meet some of Randy Trawnik’s patients. An Instagram model whose eye was blown apart by a firecracker set off by a family member on her grandmother’s Oklahoma ranch when she was nine.

A teenager who could not remember a time she did not wear a prosthetic eye—almost since birth—and still only told her closest friends. 

A woman accidentally hit with a ping-pong ball by a boy she had a crush on, who started her freshman year of high school with a crude prosthesis she called her “teddy-bear eye.” 

And Lauren Scruggs, a popular athletic U.S. influencer, whose arm and eye were destroyed by a small plane’s propeller but who can do almost every single thing she did before the accident. 

She posed this question to me: “What do ‘disabled’ and ‘differently abled’ even mean?” 
When I hung up the phone with her, I decided to avoid using those labels for the rest of my life.

I broadened my scope, to a veteran and ex-cop who lost a leg but still trains SWAT teams, and a college student who lost a hand and almost her life when she slammed into the back of a car parked with its lights off on a dark highway. Now she works in the prosthetics industry herself.
Two ferocious female heroines began to take shape instead of one.

My perceptions of physical beauty, so muddled by stereotypes that persist on social media and beyond, were transformed into something deeper, more transcendant. 

I didn’t know what I needed to know. 

I find that I ask myself that a lot these days, as the world explodes in shocking ways around us, as we sort out the kind of humans we want to be.

I hope you will love the thrill ride of this novel but mostly I hope that it makes you think twice—about how we are either all missing pieces, or none of us are.

The two heroines, one without a leg, one without an eye, are no different than any of my other characters.

They are defined by their guts, maneuvering a path to redemption.

And isn’t that how we all want to be defined?

We Are All the Same in The Dark by Julia Haeberlin (Published by Michael Joseph on 6 August 2020)
It's been a decade since the town's sweetheart Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Since her disappearance, Tru's brother, Wyatt, has lived as an outcast, desperate to know what happened to his sister. So when Wyatt finds a lost girl, he believes she is a sign. But for new cop, Odette Tucker, this girl's appearance reopens old wounds. Determined to solve both cases, Odette fights to save a lost girl in the present and in doing so digs up a shocking truth about that fateful night in the past . . . the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town's dark, violent mythology.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

An Audio Exclusive that didn’t fall ‘Far from the Tree’

As big fans of audio thrillers, Shots Magazine were excited to read that crime writer Rob Parker is penning an intriguing trilogy commissioned by Audible Studios.

The first title, Far from the Tree, will be released exclusively in audio on 2nd July 2020. Publication dates for the next two titles will follow in due course. 

Set in Warrington, Far from the Tree follows DI Foley, who finds himself in charge of one of the largest murder cases the country has ever seen. Twenty-seven bodies are found buried in a woodland trench, as the discoveries unfold, DI Foley must decide whether to solve the crime if it risks his family.

Parker commented: "To be able to write a crime trilogy set in the area I grew up in — an area which doesn’t receive much limelight or exposure — is a real delight, and I’m supremely thankful to Audible for giving me this opportunity. I’m taking this chance with both hands and aim to repay their faith in spades and I’m determined to show you ain’t seen nothing yet."

Read More from the Bookseller HERE

Audible UK are to be applauded for the support they provide the crime and thriller fiction genre, especially as the importance of audiobooks increases within publishing. They commission new work such as the pseudonymous Alex Callister’s thrillers and supporting the genre, including sponsoring one of Crimefest’s annual awards.

After listening to the start of this trilogy by Rob Parker, it came as no surprise to discover that Far from the Tree is July’s Audible thriller of the month.

So, what’s in store?

Brendan Foley has worked to balance the responsibilities of a demanding job and a troublesome family. He’s managed to keep these two worlds separate, until the discovery of a mass grave sends them into a headlong collision. When one of the dead turns out to be a familiar face, he’s taken off the case.

Iona Madison keeps everything under control. She works hard as a detective sergeant and trains harder as a boxer. But when her superior, DI Foley, is removed from the case, her certainties are tested like never before.

With stories of the Warrington 27 plastered over the news, they set out to solve the crime before anyone else. The local constabulary is small and under-funded – Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, and he’s not letting a rival force take over. Not with the secrets he fears are lurking. Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases.

But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why? Foley might not like the answer....

Not to be confused with the legendary creator of the Boston based Spenser and Hawk series, penned by the legendary Robert B Parker; the British Robert Parker, better known as “Rob” to his growing band of readers [and now listeners] hails from the British North West, where his acclaimed Ben Bracken thrillers are set - A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black, Till Morning Is Nigh and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow. A member of the Northern Crime Syndicate and a co-host of the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, Rob is also a regular voice on the Blood Brothers Crime Podcast. A champion of encouraging literacy and creative writing, Rob spends a lot of time travelling to schools giving talks across the country. Rob Parker lives in Warrington with his family.

Far from the Tree is the first in a trilogy, and narrated by actor Warren Brown. Currently he can be seen as 'Sergeant Thomas 'Mac' McAllister' in the highly anticipated reboot of the Emmy-nominated action series, Strike Back, for Sky/HBO Cinemax. Other television credits include Doctor Who, Liar, X Company and RTS Best Drama winning, Good Cop. Film credits include Cargo, Captain Webb and The Dark Knight Rises. Audio drama for Big Finish include multiple series of Doctor Who, U.N.I.T. and the standalone Audible series Transference. Through this former Thai-Boxer, is probably best known for his role of “DS Ripley”, in the BBC series Luther, co-starring with Idris Elba who plays the eponymous [and troubled] detective.

For the crime-fiction geeks a little digression –

Luther is written by Neil Cross, and when I interviewed him several years ago [for Jeff Peirce’s THE RAP SHEET] about his own writing, I indicated that I felt he had read the works of Patricia Highsmith..………

AK: I’m guessing you must have read Patricia Highsmith, then.

NC: I’m obsessed by Patricia Highsmith.

AK: [Laughing] So am I. I am totally obsessed with her Tom Ripley books. In fact, I have what my wife terms my white “Tom Ripley suit.” Coincidentally, a number of critics have described your first novel, Burial, as being distinctly Hitchcockian. And it was Hitchcock, of course, who made a movie from Highsmith’s 1950 debut novel, Strangers on a Train.

NC: Yes, there’s a psychological marriage between Hitchcock and Highsmith; they suit each other very well.

AK: So, going back to Highsmith, is it just her Tom Ripley novels that you enjoy, or do you find pleasure in her other amoral tales?

NC: I’ve read many of her books and short stories, though not all of her canon, and of course there are a few that are just not up to her best work. But one non-Ripley novel that sticks to my mind is Cry of the Owl [1962], which features a woman who falls in love with her own stalker. It would barely be publishable today, but in Highsmith’s world it makes perfect sense.

AK: The weird thing about Patricia Highsmith was that she was highly acclaimed in Europe, but rather less so in her native America; in fact, she lived for many years in the UK before making Switzerland her home. Maybe Tom Ripley was the precursor to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the amoral, but charming psychopath/sociopath--the sort of figure who doesn’t settle as well in the American psyche as he does in the European one.

NC: That links to my theme of “free will exercised as sin,” [something that] must be punished. And Highsmith just doesn’t punish, she observes; in fact, she was known to sign books as Tom Ripley from time to time.

Read the full interview at THE RAP SHEET, from Theakstons Crime Writing Festival 2010 HERE

Neil Cross told me that he named DS Ripley, Idris Elba / Luther’s sidekick as played by Warren Brown as a personal homage to Patricia Highsmith’s amoral character, The Talented Mr Ripley.

End of digression

So with Warren Brown narrating Rob Parker’s FAR FROM THE TREE, what’s not to like? If like me, you are an Audible Member [on the £7.99 / month deal, which allows you one audio credit per month], you can have the start of the trilogy for just one credit – or for non-members it’s £21.41 – More information CLICK HERE

We’ll leave the last word to the author and his peers –

‘Working with Audible has been both a joy and a game-changer. I’m honoured and thrilled to have their faith with this canvas on which to tell a much larger, more complete story than I could ever have dreamed previously. Not only this, but to be able to write a crime trilogy set in the area I grew up in - an area which doesn’t receive much limelight or exposure - is a real delight, and I’m supremely thankful to Audible for giving me this opportunity. I’m taking this chance with both hands, aim to repay their faith in spades and I’m determined to show you ain’t seen nothing yet. 

"...A big departure from Rob’s previous work, I hope he won’t mind when I say it exceeds his already sky high standards. A dark, powerful & utterly compelling tale of Northern gangsters tied together by blood, it just drips with real life."

"Rob Parker doesn’t mess around. Far from the Tree is a gritty, propulsive [listen]. Drawn in shades of grey, DI Brendan Foley is a complex, morally ambiguous character I couldn’t stop rooting for. A punchy, powerful tale well told."

For more information on the work of Rob Parker – CLICK HERE

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Secret Language of Rogues and Gangsters by Amanda Lees

I love a good slang word. So do thieves, rogues and gang members, not least because having a secret argot, or language, is one way of keeping the authorities at bay.

Possibly my favourite part of writing my Crime Dictionary involved tracing slang words from their origins in the Thieves’ Cant of the 16th century until today. 

Cant is a jargon belonging to and used by a particular group or sub-group. From the 16th to 19th centuries in England, thieves, hustlers and other marginal members of society had their own cant known as Thieves’ Cant, which they used to communicate without being rumbled by the authorities.

The Artful Dodger in Dickens’ Oliver Twist speaks almost entirely in cant, and Dickens helpfully included a thieves’ cant glossary at the back of the book. Thieves’ Cant was also known as Rogues' Cant, Thieves' Argot, Flash or Peddler’s French and existed across Europe in different forms.

It began to flourish in 16th Century England when there was less work available and, as a result, crime started to rise. The new burgeoning underclass of thieves and rogues met in public gathering places or ‘flash houses’ in order to share tips and information.

Much as people have an interest in true crime today to arm themselves with knowledge, so the general population became fascinated with this underclass and several thieves’ cant dictionaries were published as a result. Although many of the words in those dictionaries are now archaic or extinct, some filtered down the centuries, finding their way into our everyday vocabulary.

Think ‘referring to blood as ‘claret’ is the preserve of Cockney detectives and East End villains? Think again. Highwaymen and footpads were using it way back when, along with ‘canary bird,’ thieves’ cant for a prison inmate which has evolved into the modern phrase ‘doing bird,’ or serving time in prison. When you say ‘filch,’ meaning to steal or talk about a ‘fence’ handling stolen goods, you are again echoing your 16th century ancestors. 

Of the archaic words and phrases we no longer use, my particular favourites include ‘buttock and file’ for a pickpocket, a ‘bulldog with six teeth,’ meaning a gun in Victorian slang, ‘dollymop’ to refer to a part-time sex worker or prostitute and the aforementioned ‘footpad’ to refer to a highwayman or thief who stole on foot from pedestrians.

Contemporary gang slang works on the same principle as thieves’ cant, acting as a form of ever evolving code that keeps the cops on their toes, if not scratching their heads. Drill music and its attendant culture has given rise to some particularly rich gang slang, including a ‘hand ting’ to refer to a pistol or hand gun, a ‘mop’ to mean a larger gun and the short and not too sweet ‘K’ meaning to kill or to signify at least one kill if added to the end of a name.

Naturally, that same gang slang finds its way into prisons both in the UK and the US where rival factions continue the bitter feuds they maintain on the outside. Once inside, every prisoner has to learn the prison code or slang that peppers life behind bars. So a warder or ‘screw’ becomes a ‘kanga,’ derived from Cockney rhyming slang, a ‘rub down’ or ‘spin’ happens when your cell is searched and if you are ‘ghosted’ it means you’ve been moved to another prison without warning rather than being dumped on social media.

In the US, gang slang is arguably even richer, with Mafiosi rivalling Hispanic and Jamaican street gangs for linguistic jewels. When a street gangster ‘serves’ you in the States it’s not with a nice side of fries but a swift and merciless beating. CC does not refer to the designer label Chanel but is a warning that there are cops on the corner while to ‘ride with’ a gang or other inmate in prison has nothing to do with jumping in a car and everything to do with providing favours in return for protection.

When a Mafiosi refers to a ‘G’ that’s a thousand dollars, or a grand, which is often ‘kicked up’ or passed up the chain of command to reach the fat cat capo dei capi. A Jamaican gang member yelling ‘fire’ is not an order but a warning that the cops are coming. While a ‘farmero’ might conjure up an image of a rustic type leaning on a pitchfork, in reality this is a member of a notorious Hispanic prison gang known as Nuestra Familia. The US also has its share of historical slang, including such charmers as moll buzzers, bum steers and cheap thieves. I put them all, and much more, in the dictionary.

For someone who relishes words as I do, writing this book was as much a romp through some of the finest to ever roll off a tongue as a deep dive into etymology. Of course, slang only makes up a small part of it but what an enjoyable part, with police acronyms, spy lingo and Danish swear words adding to the fun. As I casually speak of swindlers, corn or cooking the books, I know that there is a whole history and other meaning behind what I am saying. It is a constant delight and education, one that I carry on as I collect yet more words to add to future editions of the dictionary.

Aconite to the Zodiac Killer: The Dictionary of Crime by Amanda Lees (Published by Little, Brown) Out Now
This is an indispensable guide for fans of true crime and crime fiction, whether in books, film or on TV, who want to look behind the crime, to understand the mechanics of an investigation, to walk in their favourite detectives' shoes and, most importantly, to solve the clues. To do that, one needs to be fluent in the language of the world of crime. We need to know what that world-weary DI is talking about when she refers to another MISPER. We have to immediately grasp the significance of the presence of paraquat, and precisely why it is still a poison of choice. If you want to know how many murders it takes for a killer to be defined as a serial killer, what Philip Marlowe means when he talks about being 'on a confidential lay' and why the 'fruit of a poisonous tree' is a legal term rather than something you should avoid on a country walk, this is the reference book you've been waiting for. It covers police and procedural terms and jargon of many different countries; acronyms; murder methods; criminal definitions, including different types of killers; infamous killers and famous detectives; notorious cases often referred to in crime fiction and true crime; gangster slang, including that of the Eastern European mafia; definitions of illegal drugs; weapons; forensic terminology; types of poisons; words and phrases used in major crime genres, including detective fiction, legal thrillers, courtroom dramas, hardboiled crime, Scandi and Tartan Noir, cosy crime and psychological thrillers; criminology terms; and the language of the courts and the legal systems of British, American, French, Nordic and other countries. From Aconite to the Zodiac Killer is an essential, go-to resource for readers and even for writers of crime fiction. More than simply a glossary, this is a guide that provides a doorway into a supergenre, and one that is not just for readers, but also for the many fans of film and TV dramas, of podcasts, and crime blogs. It is also an indispensable resource for writers or would-be writers of crime fiction.

More information about Amanda can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @amandalees.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

New CWA Anthology Celebrates Vintage Crime

A new short story anthology with a difference celebrates short stories from the archives of the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA).

Vintage Crime gathers gems from the mid-1950’s, when the CWA began, until the twenty-first century. The new compilation features an array of award-winning authors including Andrew Taylor, Kate Ellis, Simon Brett, Liza Cody, HRF Keating, Anthea Fraser and Mick Herron.

Published by Flame Tree Press, the anthology is edited by former Chair of the CWA and CWA archivist, author Martin Edwards.

Martin said: “This is a collection with a difference, celebrating the work of CWA members since the Association was founded in 1953. Entertaining in their own right, the stories also demonstrate the evolution of the crime short story during the CWA’s existence, from the Fifties until the early twenty-first century.

The CWA was established by John Creasey, the prolific author of over 500 novels with worldwide sales in the 1970’s of over 80 million copies in 28 different languages. The long-standing membership organisation is for authors at all stages of their career and works to promote, support and celebrate the diverse crime genre, from psychological thrillers, paranormal crossovers to police procedurals.

The first CWA anthology, Butcher’s Dozen, appeared in 1956, and was co-edited by Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert and Josephine Bell. Over the years, the anthology has yielded many award-winning and nominated stories in the UK and overseas by such luminaries as Ian Rankin, Lawrence Block and Reginald Hill. 

Martin added: “There are countless gems of crime writing in the CWA archives. I’ve picked the juiciest stories from some of the best and most well-known authors, but you’ll also find some hidden treasures by less familiar writers.

Edwards, author of The Golden Age of Murder, is also President and Archivist of the world-famous Detection Club and series consultant to the British Library’s series of crime classics.

The CWA has for over 50 years run the prestigious, world-famed CWA Dagger Awards, which celebrate the best writing in the genre. It’s also renowned for supporting aspiring and debut writers with its annual Debut Dagger competition and Margery Allingham Short Mystery competition.

To celebrate publication of Vintage Crimes, a special online panel Flame Tree Live: CWA and Vintage Crime will take be screened on Sunday 16 August at 6pm on Facebook. To watch, register in advance at 

The panel features authors Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Andrew Taylor and the secretary of the CWA, Dea Parkin, discussing the anthology and crime writing, writers, stories and themes.

A blog tour for the book will also take place. It starts on 10 August at Karen Reads and Recommends ending on 21 August at Bookish Jottings.

Vintage Crime, the new CWA Anthology is published in paperback and hardback by Flame Tree Press on 11 August 2020.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Heading South with John Connolly

This pestilence that has swept the globe, COVID-19 has disrupted so many activities that there seems little it can’t impact upon; including delaying the next instalment in the disturbing adventures of Charlie Parker – that singular creation from Irish literary crime / horror writer John Connolly.

At the risk of cliché, it seems only yesterday that John Connolly’s debut crime novel Every Dead Thing [1999], was awarded best debut Private Eye novel in 2000 by The Private Eye Writers of America [PWA]. This achievement made all the more poignant, that it was the first time a non-America writer received this accolade. Some would argue that the PI Genre was at the heart of the American Golden Age of Crime Fiction, so for an Irishman to be acclaimed by his American peers is remarkable.

And now we come full circle with August 20th 2020 release by Hodder and Stoughton of The Dirty South, the latest Charlie Parker adventure which goes back in time, to those early days of Connolly’s troubled protagonist, before the millennium, and well before the ubiquity of the Virus that is in the air around us -

It is 1997, and someone is slaughtering young women in Burdon County, Arkansas.
But no one in the Dirty South wants to admit it.
In an Arkansas jail cell sits a former NYPD detective, stricken by grief. He is mourning the death of his wife and child, and searching in vain for their killer. Obsessed with avenging his lost family, his life is about to take a shocking turn.
Witness the dawning of a conscience.
Witness the birth of a hunter.
Witness the becoming of Charlie Parker.

Available in the US from Emily Bestler Books / Atria October 20, 2020
Available in Ireland from Hodder & Stoughton August 20, 2020
Available in the UK and elsewhere from Hodder & Stoughton, August 20, 2020

An extract is available HERE

Shots Ezine’s Spanish Correspondent and book reviewer John Parker has been sitting on his hands, having read The Dirty South earlier this year, before COVID-19 delayed the release, and as John Parker had a few [socially distanced] questions for John Connolly, which Shots Ezine are happy to share with our readers -

From the pages of John Parker’s notebook -

John Parker: Hello John, it’s great to speak to you again. Congratulations on the publication of THE DIRTY SOUTH.

John Connolly: And great to talk again.

John Parker: So without further ado, tell us how difficult was it to go back and write about a character who has lived through as much as Charlie Parker? Were you worried about continuity or using language that was not prevalent 20 years ago, for example?

John Connolly: Actually, it was quite pleasant to write without the accumulated history of seventeen books!  As I grow older, the hard part is keeping track of everything that’s already happened, especially in a series which has a larger story arc progressing in the background. 

The hard part was the research, given that The Dirty South is effectively a historical novel.  It’s one thing going to Arkansas to walk the ground, as it were, but another to recreate it as it was decades earlier.  Thankfully, I had some help from longtime residents, but it’s a stressful business.  One turns into a version of Donald Rumsfeld, trying to distinguish between known unknowns and unknown unknowns. 

As for language, I decided to adopt a kind of heightened, stylized speech for all of the Arkansas characters. In a sense, it’s an echo of the approach to language in Every Dead Thing, although it’s more conscious and perhaps less in thrall to literary influences than in that first novel.

When I began writing Every Dead Thing in my twenties, I was very much in the shadow of a particular style of American mystery writing, and it’s taken me two decades even to begin to find my own voice.  Dipping into Every Dead Thing to check matters of consistency or continuity was very difficult for me, because my style has changed so much since then.  I hope it’s improved, although some might differ.

One issue that was problematical was the status of women and people of color during the period in which the book is set.  The setting is a society largely dominated by white males, and to some degree the novel has to reflect that, even as it tries to find a way to examine and interrogate it.  That’s a delicate, fraught exercise.

John Parker: There has been an unfortunate delay in publication due to the pandemic. But, perhaps, this makes the book more relevant than ever. Clearly black lives don’t matter to some people in Cargill. Would you care to comment?

John Connolly: The problem never seems to go away, does it?  In that sense, the book is still depressingly relevant.  One only had to witness the evidence of voter suppression during the recent Kentucky primary – and Donald Trump’s astonishing acknowledgement of the necessity of voter suppression if the Republican Party is to have any hope of remaining in power – to recognize the shadow that the subject of race continues to cast over American democracy.

But the book is as much about poverty as it is about racial inequality, and the compromises that a poor community has to make in order to have any prospect of improving its situation. The history of industrial development in the South over the last fifty or sixty years is quite fascinating, in that what revolutionized the South, New Deal liberalism and hefty tax breaks apart, was the invention of air-conditioning.  Before that, high-tech industries couldn’t really consider Southern states for investment because of the semi-tropical weather – not only the difficulty of keeping workers indoors in terrible heat, but the impossibility of manufacturing technologically demanding products in a humid environment.  
After all, you can’t just leave a window open.

But A/C changed all that, and suddenly big companies – including aerospace and defense contractors – have access to a low-cost, union-free labor force in states with a fairly lax approach to environmental standards.  The result is towns literally selling themselves to corporations for the promise of jobs, better schools, and an improved standard of living.  That’s the opportunity the town of Cargill is trying to secure in the book, and it’s only the chief of police who really understands the likely implications of this.

John Parker: Did you actually go down south to research the book? If so, how was the experience?

John Connolly: I did, because research is both a necessity and, thankfully, a pleasure for me.  I can’t write about a place I haven’t explored.  Arkansas was a part of the United States that was wholly unfamiliar to me, so I was able to start with a blank slate.  I received only the most generous of help throughout, particularly from a wonderful man named J.R. Howard, who is now retired but had worked right across Arkansas law enforcement during his career; and a young couple named the Webbs, who were fans of my books and reached out via Twitter when I posted about being in the state.  In the end, I think J.R. suggested only one correction to the text, which related to a model of gun.  Otherwise, he very kindly said that he felt he’d worked with a lot of the lawmen in the book, and the ones he hadn’t worked with, he knew. Most of that, though, was down to my listening quietly to him as he talked, and taking copious notes of everything he said.  As I grow older, I’ve learned how and when to keep my mouth shut, except to ask questions.

John Parker: When we met last summer in Avilés, Spain, you were in the middle of a book promotion tour. You said you hoped to be able to spend a little more time at home afterwards. Your wish came true. So, how did you cope with the lockdown?

John Connolly: I was okay with lockdown, the general stress of it apart.  My sons are both in their twenties and can largely take care of themselves, so I didn’t have the kind of distractions that come with younger kids.  It was, rather selfishly, nice not to have to find ways to say “no” to things.  I travelled too much last year, and it’s more tiring than it used to be.  Also, travelling so much means that I struggle to get as much writing done as I would like.  Lockdown presented an opportunity to work without interruption, and perhaps get a little bit ahead for the first time in twenty years. Routine suits me, I think.  I secretly struggle with disruption.

John Parker: Your legion of fans was lucky enough to be treated to more Parker in the online novella, The Sisters Strange. Was that a story you already had in the back of your mind or was it inspired by your wish to do something good for people under lockdown? Would you ever do it again? 

John Connolly: I decided on the spur of the moment that I should try to produce something as a distraction for readers, and to make up for the postponement of publication of my books in a number of countries.  It wasn’t something I had in a bottom drawer. I simply came up with a title, and then wrote to that title as an experiment, albeit one conducted in public.  It was an odd experience, but not a million miles away from how I write anyway: I usually only know the opening of a book, and then discover the story and the characters by writing very slowly every day.  Only at the end of the (very painful) first draft do I go back and begin revising.  The process for The Sisters Strange was similar, except that it was all done in full view of readers, I had to live with every decision I made, and there was no possibility of going back and rerouting if I went in a seemingly unpromising direction.

Would I do it again?  Ha, probably not!  Apart from being quite stressful, and leaving my flaws exposed, it was also a pretty expensive exercise.  We ended up publishing the daily extracts in six languages, which meant that I was paying five translators as well as my son, Cameron, who took care of layout and publication. I was happy to put work the translators’ way, though, and they and Cam did a wonderful job under very difficult conditions.

John Parker: Can you tell us what is coming up next? What lies in the future for Parker?  

John Connolly: Well, the next novel is pretty much done, and I’m just polishing it for delivery.  It’s an Angel & Louis book, with a cameo or two from Parker, and picks up on an incident mentioned in A Book of Bones.  As with every novel I write, it’s a reaction to the one that preceded it.  The Dirty South is almost entirely set in one small Arkansas county, but the next book – The Nameless Ones – ranges across four continents.  After that, a revised and probably extended version of The Sisters Strange will appear in some form, either as one of two Parker novellas or as a separate publication. 

John Parker: I was mightily impressed by your talk at Celsius 232 last summer which you gave in Spanish. Are you still working on your Spanish or are you learning other languages?

John Connolly: I’m still practising my Spanish each day, although comprehension and vocabulary remain a problem.  I’m improving, I think, but I suspect my Spanish still causes native speakers to wince a bit.

I have some French, but I wanted to focus on Spanish because I probably do more promotion for my Spanish editions than for any others, English-language apart.  I was embarrassed by my inability to communicate with Spanish readers directly, or to conduct interviews and presentations in the language.  I’m always embarrassed by that when I go to a new country, but it’s just not possible to be fluent in every language, so I made the decision to concentrate on Spanish. I’d dabbled in conversational Spanish a few years ago, but I decided to try to get to the point where I could do an entire session in the language, however halting it might be.  Spanish readers have been very forgiving of my mangling of their native tongue, although I think they appreciate the effort. 

But doing a public interview or presentation in Spanish is nerve-racking, and quite exhausting, because I keep running into words or terms for which I don’t necessarily have the vocabulary, or not yet.  I’ll get there, though – I hope.  At the very least, they say that learning a language can help stave off dementia.

John Parker: Last question - I heard a rumour that you were going to come back to Celsius 232 this summer? Alas, it could not be! Will you be back in the future?

John Connolly: I’d love to return to that festival at some future date, and on a practical level I do need reasons to continue working on, and improving, my Spanish.  Everyone at Celcius in Avilés (and Gijón, which I attended during the same visit) was hugely kind and generous, and it’s a lovely town.  Also, I really appreciate the fact that so many Spanish festivals are free to attend, thanks to an enlightened view of the relationship between taxation and culture.  And the food and wine are great.  I’m not sure I’d go every year, though.  I think that might rather lead people to get a bit tired of me…

John Parker: Thank you for your time John, as ever

John Connolly: My pleasure, thank you for your questions and see you soon, stay well.

Additional Resources

A guide to the Charlie Parker series can be accessed HERE

John Parker’s review of THE DIRTY SOUTH is online HERE

John Parker’s conversation with John Connolly from last year’s Celsius Festival Click HERE

BBC audio ghost stories by John Connolly –

And a trailer for the Kevin Costner movie THE NEW DAUGHTER from 2009, based on the story by John Connolly and the directorial debut of Spanish screenwriter Luis Berdejo

And previous reviews and interview features with John Connolly from Shots can be accessed HERE

Shots Ezine would like to pass our thanks to Hodder and Stoughton and John Connolly for their help in arranging this interview and also to our Spanish Bureau’s John Parker.

John Parker is a Graduate-qualified English/Spanish Teacher, owner and director of CHAT ENGLISH, an English Language Centre in Avilés on the north coast of Spain. John is a voracious reader, and has loved horror fiction for many, many years. He is also an avid beekeeper.

Editor’s Note: One of the most engaging reading experiences from John Connolly’s body of work for me is “He” an extraordinary piece of literature and here’s why: CLICK HERE