Friday, 19 July 2019

CfP - Caribbean Noir (2)

The  Centre Aixois d’Etudes Romanes (Aix-Marseille University) calls for papers for its 2nd conference on  Caribbean Crime Fiction in Spanish, French and English.  The conference will take place on May 28 & 29, 2020, in  Aix-en-Provence.

All submissions must be received by 30 September 2019.

Learn more, including how to submit your paper here , or contact the organisers :

Nelly Rajaonarivelo : nelly.rajaonarivelo@univ-amu.fr
Dante Barrientos TecĂșn : dante.barrientos-tecun@univ-amu.fr
To see the full call (and some impressive art), click here

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Flame Tree to publish Crime Writers’ Association anthology

Flame Tree Publishing have agreed a deal with the Crime Writers’ Association to publish the latest anthology of stories by CWA members, to be edited by Martin Edwards. Vintage Crimes will be a CWA anthology with a difference, celebrating members’ work over the years. The book will gather stories which members have contributed to CWA anthologies from the mid-1950s until the twenty-first century. Publication is scheduled for summer 2020.

There are many gems of crime writing in the CWA archives,” Martin Edwards commented. “This book will contain stories by great names of the past, great names of the present together with a few hidden treasures by less familiar writers.”

Nick Wells, Publisher at Flame Tree Publishing said "We're absolutely thrilled to work with the CWA and Martin Edwards, setting out a path to bring back the best writing by the best writers in crime from the past 70 years at the CWA. We aim to restore the glory of the short story and inspire the next generation of mystery writers, readers, reviewers and bloggers."

The first CWA anthology, Butcher’s Dozen, appeared in 1956, and was co-edited by Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert, and Josephine Bell. The anthology has been edited by Martin Edwards since 1996, and has yielded many award-winning and nominated stories in the UK and overseas.

St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend

Dear Aiders and Abettors,

The 5 August deadline for this year's Crime Fiction Weekend (held over 16/17/18 August) is fast approaching.

And have you heard the latest?
STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS   
It's become traditional to celebrate the PD James Dinner with a specially written celebrity "whodunnit" featuring a cast of your favourite authors. This year not only will Natasha Cooper pen the mystery, but Blackwell's Oxford will award the winner a year's subscription to their Crime Fiction Club, sending the super sleuth a new crime fiction title every month!

It's going to be another golden year of enthralling authors and thought-provoking content. But, don't take my word for it, ask Val!

Further details and booking info here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Rules For Eight Perfect Murders



With the 2019 Theakstons Crime Writing Festival, almost upon us I started to think about the allure of crime and thriller fiction, becoming the biggest selling genre in UK fiction publishing. Crime and thriller narratives deal with the darkest areas of the human experience – namely murder, so why the appeal?

While enjoying an early preview of Peter Swanson’s 2020 novel, thanks to John Grindrod writer and marketeer at iconic British Publisher Faber and Faber - we got into discussion about Murder, and its appeal to readers as well as film viewers. Some would consider it amoral to read about the killing of others, so why do so many read about these fictions? Surely the world is filled with enough real-life horror and murder without writers [and their publishing entourage] having to conjure up killings for the amusement of others?

One reason for the appeal of reading about fictional murder, is just that – it is a fiction; an escape from the reality of the human situation, where murders actually happen around us, viewed on our flat screens and in our palms, via our Television sets, our phones and in our newsprint. The novels that fictionalise murder can be an escape, a comfort from the harsh reality that surrounds us; as well as helping us understand the motivations and situations that can arise, leading to a killing.

So, with this in mind, as John Grindrod knew of my love of crime novels, especially those that feature murder and amorality as themes - here’s my eight favourite classic crime novelists and their work, that feature murders that could be considered, perfect.


PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

Of course we could discuss the perfect murder at the centre of Highsmith’s debut STRANGERS ON A TRAIN or the antics of Tom Ripley in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY [and the further ‘adventures’ of this interesting character] but instead I’ll pick 1964’s THE GLASS CELL, a tough little novel that details the murder of a lawyer, by an educated and cultured man - wrongly imprisoned for fraud. Incarceration and torture in a penitentiary changes Philip Carter. The Glass Cell shares themes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, but is not judgmental as to the actions of its protagonist; so typical of Patricia Highsmith’s work, she once proclaimed “I don’t think my books should be in prison libraries.”

Read More HERE

IRA LEVIN

With an interesting body of work, it is Levin’s thought-provoking debut 1953’s A KISS BEFORE DYING, awarded the Edgar from the Mystery Writer’s of America [MWA] that is my selection. It details the ruthless pursuit of ambition that powers Bud Corliss to commit murder. Filmed twice in America, its plot was reworked later in Bollywood. Levin’s debut is a disturbing look at what naked (and unrestrained) ambition can do, and how it can overcome all things, including taking the life of another person in the ruthless pursuit of a goal.


THOMAS HARRIS

It would be the escape of Dr Hannibal Lecter from his holding cell in Baltimore that would give the 1988 novel THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS a perfect murder, a bloody locked-room mystery that claimed the life of two prison guards [filmed with panache in 1991].
Many literary commentators have remarked that Thomas Harris’ Dr Hannibal Lecter’s precursor was Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, an amoral murderer but also a man of culture and taste.

Read more HERE


JOHN DICKSON CARR

A writer that is credited as the master of the Locked-Room Mystery, though he also crafted narratives under pennames, such as Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn. Though it would be his character Dr Gideon Fell, that brought great appeal. In the novel The Three Coffins, Dr Fell speaks of a "locked room lecture", in which he delineates many of the methods by which apparently locked-room [or impossible-crime] murders might be committed. In the course of his discourse, he states, off-handily, that he and his listeners are, of course, characters in a book, participants, witnesses in a Perfect Murder.
The British Library’s publishing wing are reissuing golden-age classics including J D Carr, and well worth adding to your shelves.

It would be Thomas Harris paying a homage to John Dickson Carr, that would see Harris’ own singular creation Dr Hannibal Lecter deploying the identity of Dr Fell in 1999’s Hannibal.

Read More Here

DAME AGATHA CHRISTIE

With a vast canon of work, it would be the 1934 novel MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS that I select as a perfect murder. Though at the time of publication, the US title Murder in the Calais Coach was used to avoid confusion with the 1932 Graham Greene novel Stamboul Train which had been published in America as Orient Express.

A perfect murder occurs onboard the eponymous train when it becomes snowbound during Hercule Poirot's return to London from the Middle East.
Filmed twice, it also features a locked room mystery.


SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

Arguably the most renowned outing for Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is my selection. I can add little to the extensive commentary to this tale of a perfect murder, which was first serialised by Strand Magazine in 1901.

Often filmed, it is the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce adaptation from the 1940s that remains a firm favourite of many of us, and it can be viewed HERE


JIM THOMPSON

A writer who elegantly exposed the darker desires inherent in flawed people. It would be the Texan deputy sheriff Lou Ford in Thompson’s 1952 THE KILLER INSIDE ME that I would select for this listing of perfect murders. It details sexual sadism as an undercurrent to the horrors Thompson exposes. Even decades on, it packs a powerful reading experience. Filmed initially in 1976 with Stacy Keach; it would be the 2010 adaptation directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba that would court controversy, with many [myself included] feeling nauseous over the notorious ‘punching’ scene. 

Read more HERE


JAMES M CAIN

Between James M Cain’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY, I pick the latter for this selection of tales of perfect murders.  Published in 1943, it details an insurance man Walter Huff falling in love with married Phyllis Nirdlinger who wants to kill her husband - in an insurance scam; complete with a bleakness that is hard to match, it was adapted for screen in 1944 by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler [who also worked on the script for Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train for Alfred Hitchcock].


But I could go on, and on about these books and several others, but with packing for the upcoming Theakstons’ Crime Writing Festival 2019 which commences tomorrow; let me leave you with an anecdote from the festival, a few years ago, an anecdote that features murder.


It was late and we found ourselves in conversation with crime writer, biographer and journalist Andrew Wilson. There was a group of us huddled in a circle, drinking Gin (well I was) - so I asked everyone 'if you had to, and I mean really HAD TO murder another person, knowing your own nature, what would be your chosen motive for a perfect murder?'
So, we went in the circle; we had Revenge, we had Hate, we had Money, Blackmail we had Love, we had Random event, we had Self-Defence, you get the drift. I was last, and had posed the question - I grew nervous, as all the usual motives were taken, so I attempted to change the subject; however Andrew Wilson, Crime Writer, Journalist and Biographer of Patricia Highsmith in his definitive BEAUTIFUL SHADOW - had other ideas and asked 'so enough with the excuses Ali, what would be your Motive for a perfect Murder?'
I had to answer. I had to reveal, so I did.

'Boredom. If I met someone sufficiently boring, I think I could commit murder' and we laughed, and we talked talked about Tom Ripley and the attraction of the amoral.

Coming full circle, anticipation awaits readers for Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders / Rules for Perfect Murders, so let’s look back at his earlier work and also a little background to those yet to experience his narratives, tales of fractured lives and flawed characters.

Here’s a little tease of what to expect from Rules for Perfect Murders / Eight Perfect Murders, the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the centre of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders.

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne's Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox's Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald's The Drowner, and Donna Tartt's A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. There is killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.
To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

Peter Swanson’s debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart (2014), was described by Dennis Lehane as ‘a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride’ and was nominated for the LA Times book award. His second novel The Kind Worth Killing (2015), a Richard and Judy pick, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and named the iBooks Store’s Thriller of the Year, and was followed by three more critical and commercial hits, Her Every Fear (2017), All the Beautiful Lies (2018) and Before She Knew Him (2019). He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.

And here’s a recording of Peter from Portland talking about his work.


Peter Swanson’s new work is tentatively titled EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS coming March 2020 from Faber and Faber in the UK and Ireland and tentatively titled RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS for US and Canada from the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins in March 2020.

Whatever the title, it is available for pre-order, and rumour has it that those wonderful people at Faber and Faber will have a limited number of Proof / Review copies to issue at this years’ Theakstons’ Crime-Writing Festival in Harrogate.

Now time to pack, and see you in Yorkshire.


 Images used are copyrighted to the publishers and film companies as appropriate 


London: Capital Crime 2019



Excitement is gathering in the lead up to CAPITAL CRIME 2019

With the programme now confirmed and the line-up of over 100 guests announced, we are pleased to announce the launch of the inaugural Capital Crime festival which is taking place this September at the Connaught Rooms in London. Guests include Mark Billingham, Martina Cole, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Don Winslow, Robert Glenister, Leye Adenle, Denise Mina, Anthony Horowitz, Catherine Steadman and Abir Mukherjee.

The first international crime and thriller festival in London, Capital Crime offers fans unprecedented access to their favourite crime and thriller creatives. Capital Crime is a celebration of books, films and TV and the line-up is an unrivalled mix of world class talent, rising stars and newcomers. Capital Crime is a must for fans of all things crime and thriller.

Panels of note include:

The Interrogation of Mark Billingham: The bestselling author is put through his paces by Graham Bartlett, an experienced police interrogator

Ian Rankin discusses The Human Cost of Crime with Don Winslow.

Also there is a quiz panel Whose Crime is it Anyway? pitting debut crime and thriller authors against each other

Paul Clayton hosting; The Forensic Mind: Denise Mina and Ann Cleeves discuss what makes a great detective, moderated by Chris Ewan

Plus Are We Living in An Espionage Thriller: Tom Bradby, Charles Cumming, Frank Gardner and Stella Rimington offer their unique insights into events that concern us all.

The crime and thriller community is excited about Capital Crime.

Martina Cole (No Mercy – Headline – Autumn) said: ‘We have all been waiting for a London based festival like Capital Crime.  It’s fantastic to see such a diverse line up of crime and thriller writers taking part.  David Headley and Adam Hamdy have put together an amazing programme of events for the first crime festival in London and I’m thrilled to be part of it.’
Ann Cleeves (The Long Call – Pan Macmillan – September) ‘I’m delighted to be taking part in the very first Capital Crime and can’t wait to meet readers and writers in London in September.’ 

Best-selling author Abir Mukherjee (Smoke and Ashes – Vintage - June) said: ‘London is one of the world’s great cities, the setting, and often the inspiration, for some most infamous true crimes and some of the world’s best loved fictional detectives. It’s the home of Scotland Yard, Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes and a natural location for a festival bringing together international fans and authors in a celebration of the very best and latest that crime fiction has to offer. It’s long overdue and I hope Capital Crime becomes a regular fixture in the crime fiction calendar.’

Capital Crime is a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible festival, running initiatives including social outreach to support students exploring a literary career, an innovative digital festival and the launch of their Writers Award. The festival is the brainchild of British screenwriter Adam Hamdy and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, David Headley.

Adam Hamdy said: 

‘We’re thrilled to be launching Capital Crime and are excited about our amazing guest line-up. We look forward to welcoming crime and thriller fans from all over the world to London for what is sure to be a fun and entertaining festival experience.’

Tickets for the festival are now on sale at > www.capitalcrime.org

And watch David Headley discuss the event at London Live HERE



Monday, 15 July 2019

CfP for Captivating Criminality 7: Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation

CfP for Captivating Criminality 7

7th Annual Conference of the International Crime Fiction Association, in association with Bath Spa University

Captivating Criminality 7: Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation
2-4th July 2020

Newton Park campus, Bath Spa University, Bath UK.

Call for Papers

The Captivating Criminality Network is delighted to announce its seventh conference, which will be held in Bath, UK. Building upon and developing ideas and themes from the previous six successful conferences, Memory, History and Revaluation, will examine the ways in which Crime Fiction as a genre necessarily incorporates elements of the past – the past in general and its own past, both in terms of its own generic developments and also in respect of true crime and historical events. The CfP will thus offer opportunities for delegates to engage in discussions that are relevant to both past and present crime writing.

As Tzvetan Todorov argued in “The Typology of Detective Fiction,” crime fiction in many of its various sub-forms has a special relationship with the past. In classic forms of detective fiction, the central event around which the narrative is organized – the murder – occurs in pre-narrated time, and the actual narrative of the investigation is little more than a form of narrative archaeology, an excavation of a mysterious past event than is only accessible through reconstruction in the present. But this relationship between crime fiction and the past goes beyond narrative structure. The central characters of crime writing – its investigative figures – and frequently represented as haunted by their memories, living out their lives in the shadow of past traumas. More broadly, crime writing is frequently described as exhibiting a nostalgic orientation towards the past, and this longing for the restoration of an imagined prelapsarian Golden Age is part of the reason it has been association with social and political conservatism. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of radical crime fiction that looks to the past not for comfort and stability, but in order to challenge historical myths and collective memories of unity, order, and security. Val McDermid argues that ‘…crime is a good vehicle for looking at society in general because the nature of the crime novel means that you draw on a wide group of social possibilities.’ Thus, crime fiction has been used to challenge, subvert and interrogate the legal and cultural status quo. Crime fiction’s relationship with the past is thus inherently complex, and represents a fascinating, and underexplored, focus for critical work.

Papers presented at Captivating Criminality 7 will thus examine changing notions of criminality, punishment, deviance and policing, drawing on the multiple threads that have fed into the genre since its inception. Speakers are invited to embrace interdisciplinarity, exploring the crossing of forms and themes, and to investigate and challenge claims that Crime Fiction is a fixed genre. Abstracts dealing with crime fiction past and present, true crime narratives, television and film studies, and other forms of new media such as blogs, computer games, websites and podcasts are welcome, as are papers adopting a range of theoretical, sociological and historical approaches.

Topics may include but are not restricted to:

• True Crime
• Gender and the Past
• Crime Fiction in the age of #me too
• Crime Fiction from traumatised nations
• Crime Fiction and Landscape
• Revisionist Crime Fiction
• Crime Fiction and contemporary debates
• Crime Reports and the Press
• Real and Imagined Deviance 
• Adaptation and Interpretation
• Crime Fiction and Form
• Generic Crossings
• Crime and Gothic 
• The Detective, Then and Now
• The Anti-Hero
• Geographies of Crime 
• Real and Symbolic Boundaries
• Ethnicity and Cultural Diversity
• The Ideology of Law and Order: Tradition and Innovation 
• Gender and Crime
• Women and Crime: Victims and Perpetrators
• Crime and Queer Theory
• Film Adaptations
• TV series
• Technology
• The Media and Detection
• Sociology of Crime
• The Psychological
• Early Forms of Crime Writing
• Victorian Crime Fiction
• The Golden Age
• Hardboiled Fiction
• Contemporary Crime Fiction
• Postcolonial Crime and Detection

Please send 200 word proposals to Professor Fiona Peters, Dr Ruth Heholt and Dr Eric Sandberg, to captivatingcriminality7@gmail.com by 15th February 2020. 

The abstract should include your name, email address, and affiliation, as well as the title of your paper. Please feel free to submit abstracts presenting work in progress as well as completed projects. Postgraduate students are welcome. Papers will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Proposals for suggested panels are also welcome.



Sunday, 14 July 2019

2019 ITW Thriller Awards

Best Hardcover Novel
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel 
The Chalkman by C J Tudor (Crown)

Best Paperback Original Novel
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan Australia)     

Best Short Story
Nana” by Helen Smith in Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2 (Killer Women Ltd.)

Best Young Adult Novel 
Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black (Tor)

Best E-Book Original Novel
Pray for the Innocent by Alan Orloff (Kindle Press)

The Winners were announced at ThrillerFest XIV at the Grand Hyatt, New York City (during the Blackout). Congratulations to all!

Hat Tip Mystery Fanfare

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Q & A with A.A. Chaudhuri and Awais Khan

 A.A. Chaudhuri and Awais Khan
The 8 July saw the launch of The Scribe by AA Chaudhuri and In the Company of Strangers by Awais Khan at Foyles Bookshop. As part of the launch both authors kindly allowed me to have a chat with them about their writing and being published.    It was a fantastic launch and it was great to see so many members of their families in attendance along with friends. As a follow up Alex and Awais agreed to interview each other.  Here is the result!

AC: Hi Awais, I’m absolutely thrilled that we’ve been asked to interview one another for the Shotsblog/Magazine today. 

AK: Likewise, Alex. Thanks so much to Shots for having us, such perfect timing in light of our joint book launch event last week at Foyles, Charing Cross Road. I’m going to kick off by asking you how it feels to finally be published?

AC: It sounds clichĂ©, but it’s a dream come true, a feeling like no other. Being a highly subjective industry, with so many variables, getting a publishing deal is akin to winning the lottery! Despite having a fantastic agent, Annette Crossland, and working my socks off for nine years, I’ve faced a lot of rejection and shed numerous tears during that time, but I guess in a way, that’s what makes finally being published taste that much sweeter. And, of course, my love of writing kept me going and ensured I never gave up!

AC: Now, it’s my turn to ask you how it feels to be published?

AK: I echo your thoughts, Alex. It feels like I’m somewhere in the clouds. When we were getting photographed outside Foyles during the launch, I genuinely couldn’t believe it was happening, and that everything had come together so nicely. Being published is amazing, but getting to launch at Foyles was the icing on the cake. I’m still in a state of disbelief. 

AK: Did you always aspire to be an author?

AC: Although I was a tennis player and a lawyer before I started writing, I’d always dreamt of becoming an author. I was an avid reader as a child. I played competitive tennis for 13 years, and so books were an escape from the rigorous physical and mental demands that imposed on me. Away from the tennis court, I’d get lost in the fast-moving legal world of John Grisham, one of my biggest influences in terms of my writing style, rooting for his feisty, moralistic lawyers against the mean, corrupt corporate giants they faced. I started writing ten years ago and published a couple of women’s fiction novels under a different name, but it was always my ambition to write crime thrillers. For me, there is nothing better than escaping real life with a good thriller. I love the intrigue, the suspense, the twists and turns which keep readers guessing and wanting for more, the challenge of identifying and yet not wanting to identify the culprit because that’s what keeps you reading. More than anything, I love the page-turning nature of this genre, a feature that leaves you breathless and crying out for more when you close the back cover. And it’s because I love all these facets that comprise a cracking thriller, I was itching to write my own.

AC: How difficult did you find the entire process of writing your book to getting published? When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

AK: Getting published is not only difficult, but backbreaking. The rejections can consume your spirit, hence the saying that you need to have a thick skin if you ever aspire to be a writer. I have always been a very avid reader, but it was when I was in college in Canada that I began to realize that I might want to write too. Canada was my first prolonged exposure to life outside Pakistan, and I found it so refreshing to see writers and books given their due importance. For the first time, I realized that this was in fact an industry. However, it wasn’t until some years later that I took the Faber courses and began writing my novel in earnest. But then, writing and editing are like the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge is to get noticed by an agent and then by a publisher. So, I think it is quite safe to say that getting published is very very hard these days. 

AK: Do you consider The Scribe your typical police procedural? How would you set it apart from other crime novels?

AC: No, it’s not your typical police procedural. This is a story which centres around a female lawyer who becomes embroiled in a police investigation because of her connection to some of the victims. What sets apart both The Scribe, and the sequel – The Abduction– due out at Christmas, is having a female London lawyer amateur sleuth as its central protagonist. Maddy Kramer is a bright, gutsy, go-getting lawyer who finds herself caught up in the investigations of the acerbic DCI Carver. She’s brave, she’s headstrong but, like Carver, she comes with baggage, and I hope that’s what makes her real and likeable, and them a good pairing.Although I realise no reader wants to be bogged down with tedious legal terminology and procedure, I’d like to think my novel strikes a balance between the fast-moving story bit and throwing in a bit of my legal knowledge here and there through Maddy to inform the reader about a subject they might not be too familiar with. For example, in the way Maddy helps Carver solve the killer’s riddles. Hopefully, the legal aspect is another feature which sets it apart and offers a fresh perspective on the classic crime story. That being said, the book is not just about murder in a legal setting. It’s about the uglier side of human nature - jealousy, neglect, infidelity, greed, vanity and betrayal – and the destructive impact it can have.

AC: What can you tell me about In the Company of Strangers? What made you want to write such a book?

AK: In the Company of Strangers revolves around the lives of the two main protagonists: Mona and Ali. It explores the secrets and lies of the Pakistani high society and how life goes on despite the threat of terrorism looming over everyone’s heads. Mona is a forty-something wife of a very successful businessman who spends her days gossiping and partying. In essence, she is just bored and looking for an adventure, anything to break the monotony of her life. Ali is an up and coming young man who is eager to make a mark in the world. The novel is about how the lives of these two people collide. I think that a lot of people in the West have this idea that Pakistan is a bunch of shantytowns with rampant poverty and lawlessness. I wanted to show that an alternate world full of glitter and glamour does exist in Pakistan. I think readers will be changing their perception of Pakistan after reading In the Company of Strangers.

AK: As a former lawyer, was The Scribeinspired by a case you worked on?

AC: You know, it would be a great talking point to say it was, but it wasn’t. I didn’t practise criminal law, I was a commercial litigator, meaning I mainly advised companies on civil disputes and nothing as gruesome as murder! Very boring I know! Having said that, the firm where Maddy works is based on the corporate firm where I trained in terms of its size and culture, and I hope I’m therefore able to give readers an insight into the ruthless environment City lawyers operate in. My biggest inspiration for the plot, however, came from my time at the London College of Law. I spent two years there after reading History at UCL, and in the first year did the law conversion course where I studied and took exams in seven legal subjects. Crime was one of them, and although I didn’t become a criminal lawyer (frankly, I didn’t have the stomach or the temperament for it!), crime was my favourite subject on the course, at the end of which I was able to quote reams of case law parrot-fashion. I don’t want to give too much away, but these seven legal subjects are pivotal to the plot in The Scribe, and so played a huge role in inspiring the novel. 

AC: To what extent are the events in In the Company of Strangersbased on real life events?

AK: In the Company of Strangers is a work of fiction. Having said that, some of what we write tends to stem from what we have observed or experienced first hand. There is a popular saying that a writer is first an observer. While, In the Company of Strangers may not be based on any real life events or people, you’ll certainly find the characters very believable and I hope that readers will be able to relate to them. 

AK: What research did you do for your novel?

AC: As a former historian and lawyer, the vital research that comes with writing a book is a discipline I’m both very comfortable with and enjoy. As well as researching police procedure on-line and in books, I visited the various murder locations (some of which I was already familiar with having lived in London for many years) armed with notepad and pen and literally ‘living’ the last movements of my victims in order to make the murder scenes as real and chilling as possible. Obviously, as an ex-lawyer, law is a subject I’m comfortable with, and it was just a case of brushing up on current aspects of legal case law and procedure.

AC: A lot of new writers are coming out of Pakistan these days. Does Pakistan have a thriving publishing industry too?

AK: The publishing industry in Pakistan is almost non-existent. Most of the writers you see coming out of Pakistan do so out of frustration because there simply is no means to get their voices heard in Pakistan. Apart from a couple of small presses, there is nothing in Pakistan. Writers have to reach out to agents in India who can pitch their work to the Big 5 who all have offices in India. If writers are very lucky, they might get noticed by UK or US agents which opens up better opportunities and gets them noticed by a wider audience. 

AK: You write under a pseudonym. Can you tell me more about that decision?

AC: Chaudhuri is my maiden name and reflects my Indian heritage on my father’s side. I’m immensely proud of it. I owe so much to my father whose encouragement, love and enduring support has bolstered me over the years. 

AC: Tell me a bit about your typical day as a writer.

AK: I’m a very disorganised writer. You’d be surprised to know that I don’t really have a typical writing day. There may be weeks in which I don’t write a single word, but then inspiration hits me suddenly and you’ll find me locked up in my room punching away at my keyboard for days on end. These ideas come and grab me by the throat so that I am unable to rest easy until I have poured it all out. So, it’s very touch and go with me. 

AK: How do you write? Do you plunge right in or plan every detail?

AC: I always have a rough outline in my head, but I certainly don’t plan every detail. Often bigger and better ideas will occur to me as I write, for example a new twist or red herring and for me that’s part of the thrill of writing crime novels; that better and bigger idea coming to you which acts as complete curveball but takes the story up a notch. It’s a challenge, but an exciting one. I guess I’m the opposite to you in the way I write, OCD even! I tend to follow a routine I rarely stray from. I’ll get up, take my boys to school, do some form of exercise, then sit down at my desk and write for four or five hours straight when I’m in the throes of a novel, but at least an hour even if I’m not just to keep the muscle memory going. I’m definitely a day person and not someone who can write with the TV or radio on in the background. I like complete silence, which is why I fit several hours in before my boys come home from school and start shouting the place down! Obviously, I do work all kind of crazy hours if I’m working to a deadline and trying to get edits done. 

AC: So, what’s next for Awais Khan?

AK: I am working on an honour killing novel which is set in rural Pakistan. This might be my only project for which I’ve had to do a lot of research as I didn’t know much about rural Pakistan. Unfortunately, honour killing is rampant in Pakistan, and I felt I owed it to those silenced voices to write something about them. I am also working on a dystopian young adult trilogy under a different name. It’s all very hush hush at the moment. 

AK: What would be your elevator pitch for the novel?

AC: A feisty female lawyer becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer who gruesomely butchers female law students according to a pattern corresponding with the legal syllabus. 

AC: And yours?

AK: In the midst of a terror attack in Lahore, forty something Mona embarks on a love affair that would have devastating ramifications. 

The Scribe by A A Chaudhuri (Endeavour Media) Out Now.
Making it as a lawyer has always been a cutthroat business. But now that a sadistic serial killer is on the loose the consequences could prove deadly… A killer is targeting former students of The Bloomsbury Academy of Law. The victims – all female – are gruesomely butchered according to a pattern corresponding with the legal syllabus. Even more disconcerting are riddles sent by the killer to investigating officer, Chief Inspector Jake Carver, offering clues as to who is next and where they will die. Up-and-coming lawyer Madeline Kramer, a former classmate of a number of the slain, soon finds her life turned upside down by the savagery. And when she decides to help Carver track down the killer, she places herself in mortal danger. Can Maddy unscramble the complex riddles, and save her own life and those of others destined to die? 

In The Company of Strangers by Awais Khan (Book Guild Publishing Ltd) Out Now
Lahore - a city of secretive glamour, whispering elites, and sordid affairs. A city brought to its knees by terrorism. Forty one-year old Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status... everything except for freedom in the repressed Pakistani society. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging... of love. Desperate for emotional release, she turns to an indulgent friend who introduces her to an alternate world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her. Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear.