Saturday, 15 June 2019

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction Finalists

The Finalists for the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction have been announced, and now readers will have a chance to weigh in. The books nominated for the ninth annual award are:

The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Class Action by Steven B. Frank
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Vote HERE: 

From The ABAJournal
This year’s Harper Lee Prize was particularly difficult to judge,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “We were evaluating so many gripping and compelling reads.”

The prize, which was authorized by the late Harper Lee, was established in 2011 by the University of Alabama Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

The finalists represent the diversity of this year’s submissions, from a novel about Sri Lankan refugees seeking a new start, to the story of a trailblazing woman lawyer fighting for her clients in 1920s India, and finally a charming middle school book featuring a spunky student who goes to court after he’s suspended for protesting homework,” said McDonough. “The characters are as inspiring as they are engaging.”

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction will be awarded at an August ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival. The winner will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee. The authors whose books have previously won the prize are John Grisham (in 2011 and 2014), Michael Connelly, Paul Goldstein, Deborah Johnson, Attica Locke, James Grippando and C. E. Tobisman.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, June 30.


Friday, 14 June 2019

Talking to the Nanny

We were enthused by an upcoming thriller, one that is a slippery narrative, a lucid dream of a novel - the latest from Gilly Macmillan and entitled THE NANNY, recently reviewed at Shots

It’s the characters and locations that make this dark novel so slippery and claustrophobic that the reader is compelled to read beyond the melodrama and enter into a nightmare world. This novel is set in a world of privilege and one of loss, where the dangers lurk in recollection, and hidden motives.

The intriguing premise belays a darker world from the one that little Jocelyn first experienced as a child - her first experience of loss. She was seven when Hannah Burgess, her nanny vanished from Lake Hall, the estate of Lord and Lady Holt. All traces of Hannah’s existence vanished with her, leaving only a mystery and a memory – neither which should be trusted.

As a psychological thriller, The Nanny is troubling, and the perfect read to pack for the summer. It provides distraction from the reality that surrounds us, again indicating that taking perceptions and recollections at face-value can be dangerous, so very deadly. Sometimes the truth requires uncovering, but what we find may well unsettle.

Read More HERE

The Nanny is released in hardcover
27th June 2019 in the UK / Ireland from Century Imprint of PenguinRandomHouse
10th September 2019 in the US / Canada from William Morrow of HarperCollins

However, it is currently on offer at Amazon as an eBook for 99p, and also as an audiobook from for £19.24 or for a monthly credit in their membership platform.

Gilly kindly took time to answer some questions about her work for Shots Readers as to what THE NANNY has in store.

Ali K   So tell us did The Nanny, in terms of narrative come from an idea that you “ran with” or had you plotted heavily before commencing telling the story?

Gilly M           I aspire to be a writer who plans, but my mind fills with grey mist when I try to. My usual method of working, which as how I wrote The Nanny, is to start with a premise I believe is exciting, and ideas for strong characters, and then run with it. It’s somewhat terrifying working in that way but I believe I get my best ideas when I’m in the thick of writing, so it works for me. The downside is that it can lead to significant edits at second draft stage.

AK      And I assume your own experience of both sides of the Atlantic gave Jocelyn her background?

GM      Absolutely. My family moved to Northern California when I was a teenager and the culture shock was tremendous and wonderful. I thought it was important to give Jocelyn, or Jo as she prefers to be called once she’s left home, a glimpse of life far from the influence of her parents.

AK      The Nanny has a fiendish plot, so tell us a little about the writing process?

GM      As I said above, I start with a concept and strong characters and then run with the idea. It makes the process nerve wracking, but I believe that benefits both my writing and plotting. At no point can I relax and just type out a scene according to a pre-existing plan. I know that is a very successful method for many brilliant writers, but it doesn’t suit me. What I like about how I work is that I am constantly inventing, and I believe I get my best ideas as I’m writing, and this process allows me to run with those ideas, adding twists as I go, and letting characters develop.

AK      And could you tell us why BURNT PAPER SKY was retitled WHAT SHE KNEW?

GM      WHAT SHE KNEW is the title that the book had in the US market from the outset. They felt that BURNT PAPER SKY wouldn’t work for them and came up with a new title and a very successful package. Sometime later my UK publisher decided to adopt it here, too.

AK      What is it that intrigues you about family and dysfunction that is evident in your writing, especially in your latest, THE NANNY

GM      Family is something that we all have, in some way, shape or form, and I’m interested in exploring common experiences. Family friction is inevitable, though hopefully not often to the dysfunctional extent that a thriller plot requires, and how we deal with that speaks to both our weaknesses and strengths as people. It intrigues me. I guess you could say my starting point is the famous line from Philip Larkin (“They f*** you up, your mum and dad”), though I love exploring how family relationships mould us for both good and bad. Ultimately it comes back to a nature/nuture question.  
AK      So did you come from a Bookish family?

GM      Yes! My mum was an English teacher and has always been an avid reader of fiction and my dad read tons of non-fiction. Our house was full of books and we visited the library regularly. Bookshops were a very special treat. For as long as I can remember I’ve made time to read every day.

AK      And the novels you read, that perhaps made you consider entering the precarious world of creative writing?

GM      Absolutely. Though writing wasn’t something I considered doing seriously until late in life and I am self-taught. I didn’t have the money or opportunity to take a creative writing course, so I figured it out by rereading and analysing books I admired. I made a lot of mistakes along the way as a result, but I think it’s important that people know you can become a writer without taking a course.

AK      Your work is very popular in America, so what is it about your novels that you consider appeals to the US Reader?

GM      That’s a very good question and one that my US editor and I have discussed in the past, though we haven’t come up with any definite answers. I will say that I had both the UK and North American markets in mind when I began writing, because I have always been a huge fan of fiction from across the pond. Maybe it helped that my family lived in California for a few years when I was a teenager, though that was a long time ago! Our best guess was that the writing style and strong character focus has a broad appeal. THE NANNY is probably my most ‘British’ book, so it’ll be interesting to see what reception it gets in North America.

AK      And why do we appear to enjoy examining the lives of others, the ones with dysfunction such as work by Alafair Burke, Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman to name authors who have much in common to your own style?

GM      I believe we’re all inherently nosy! It’s part of the human condition. We love to know about other people’s lives and are hungry for gossipy details. Fiction can give us insight into the lives of others like nothing else. We can live in the mind of another person, witness the intimate details of their lives and thought processes and this is particularly interesting when dysfunction comes into play. These stories thrill and fascinate us without putting us in actual danger and let us question how we might react if we were in the shoes of the characters. What’s not to love?!

AK      And who do you read and what appeals to you about their work

GM      I love so many writers! James Lee Burke was a big influence on me when I was starting out. I love how his books combine thrilling plots, intense characterisation, locations that come alive off the page and writing that can be poetic at times. I recently discovered a literary crime novel by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk called Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. It was shortlisted for the International Man Booker prize. I loved it. The main character is stunning, and the writing is stunning. I can’t stop thinking about it. Other crime writers I love to read include Mary Kubica, Rene Denfeld, Shari Lapena, Linwood Barclay.

AK      And finally, what are you working on currently?

GM      It’s early days, but I’m working on a novel that could be described as a journey into psychological horror. It’s narrated by a writer, so it’s very fun to write, though also creepy. I might soon be sleeping with my eyes open.

AK      Thank you for your time

GM      Thank you for having me back

Shots Magazine pass out thanks to Katie Sheldrake of PenguinRandomHouse for kindly organising this interview.

More information about the work of Gilly MacMillan >

The Nanny is released in hardcover
27th June 2019 in the UK / Ireland from Century Imprint of PenguinRandomHouse
10th September 2019 in the US / Canada from William Morrow of HarperCollins

And a reminder, THE NANNY is on offer at Amazon as an eBook for 99p, and also as an audiobook from for £19.24 or for a monthly credit in their membership platform.

Photos / Imagery © 2019 PenguinRandomHouse, William Morrow, Various European publishers, Audible & A Karim

Thursday, 13 June 2019

My Name is ..............

My name is Gary Bell and I’m a barrister. I haven’t always been a barrister. My life has gone through many phases. I started off as a coal miner, following in the footsteps of my father. Next I did a succession of jobs – apprentice mechanic, fork lift truck driver; bricklayer; pork pie production line worker and fireman, before getting in trouble with the police for fraud and going to prison for a spell. I was pretty useless and feral. A petty criminal and football hooligan incapable of holding down a job. My father had abandoned the family years before. My mother had sadly died of cancer. I was estranged from my siblings, sleeping rough during the last year of my teens. Into my twenties it all changed. I'd tried to be like Frank Sinatra and do it my way, but I came up short. I realised that to make anything of myself in life I needed an education. 
I went to college to do my O and A levels, then onto University to read law. After that it was bar school, pupillage, tenancy and thirty years at the bar. There are several types of barrister. My type isn’t the most lucrative, but it’s the most exciting, crime. They’ve yet to make a TV series about ‘Rumpole of the Chancery Courts’ or ‘Kavanagh Tax QC’. That’s another important bit. Only around 14% of barristers become QC’s. In crime that means you get to deal with the most serious cases, the most gruesome murders or serious frauds. I was fortunate enough to be appointed a QC in 2012. I’ve always had itchy feet. Always wanted to squeeze every last drop from this short time we spend on earth. During my life as a barrister I’ve also become a qualified pilot, was an award-winning stand-up comedian, have written for several newspapers and have a column in the Spectator, presented my own TV show on BBC 1 and now I’ve turned my hand to crime writing. 
After the success of my autobiography, ‘Animal QC’ (Animal being my football hooligan nickname and QC my current title) I was approached by a film producer friend, Pete Czernin, who put me in touch with a literary agent Eugenie Furniss. She introduced me to another agent, Rory Scarfe. Rory had a brilliant young  writer on his books, Scott Kershaw, and he suggested that Scott and I collaborate to write a crime thriller. We met and got on famously and the net result is our first book, Beyond Reasonable Doubt. The second book, County Lines, is currently being written. 
The principle character, Elliott Rook, is loosely based on me. I had wanted him to be dashing and thin, but Scott kept me grounded insisting he was shambling and fat. After thirty years at the criminal bar, being involved in cases incorporating just about every crime from shoplifting to mass murder, I’ve a wealth of material to weave into the Rook stories based on real cases. Most of the anecdotes and scenarios in the books actually happened. Only the names have changed. 
The Bar is a fantastic profession. You very rarely work in the same court from case to case and it’s brilliant walking into a random robing room and encountering old friends you’ve known and worked with for decades. It’s not like the public perception, an ancient, stuffy profession. In my life I’ve been sacked as a fireman, a bricklayer and a fork lift truck driver at Asda for having a criminal conviction and therefore being too dishonest to put out fires, lay bricks or load pallets onto lorries, but when I applied to become a barrister, having declared my conviction, the message from my Inn, the Inner Temple, was that everyone was entitled to a second chance in life. 
But there is still much to be done. The Bar is working hard on diversity, ensuring we have more BAME and socially deprived barristers. Rook’s sidekick, Zara, illustrates the struggles to become a barrister. She is a gay, dual heritage (Pakistani and English) woman from a working class Midlands’ family struggling to make her way at the bar. 
It is a struggle to become a barrister. Not only is it a struggle it’s an unequal one, particularly for those without money or connections. I had to sleep rough in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for a while in my early days as an unpaid pupil barrister. But the greater the struggle the more the sense of achievement when you overcome barriers to success. My message to anyone with a dream is simple. If it’s an uneven playing field (which it will be) and therefore much harder for you than for others, don’t moan about it, try harder. If you have the ability and determination you’ll succeed, and that success will taste much sweeter than if it was given to you on a plate. 
Beyond Reasonable Doubtby Gary Bell is published by Raven Books on 13 June.
Elliot Rook QC is one of the greatest barristers of his generation. He is also a complete fraud. Elliot Rook is the epitome of a highly successful, old Etonian QC. Or so everyone believes. In fact, he is an ex-petty criminal with a past that he has spent decades keeping secret. Until now... An unidentified young woman of Middle Eastern origin has been found murdered on the outskirts of Rook's home town. Billy Barber - a violent football hooligan and white-supremacist - is accused of her murder. Barber insists that Rook must defend him. If Rook refuses, Barber will expose him, bringing crashing to the ground the life and career that Rook has spent his life building. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

In the Spotlight - Nicci French

Name: Nicci French
Job: Author
Twitter: @FrenchNicci

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. There are the authors of 8 books in the Frieda Klein series as well as a number of standalone novels.  Their 2003 novel Secret Smile was the basis for the television series Secret Smile.  Their next book is The Lying Room and it is due to be published in October 2019.

Current book?
SF:The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
NG:  The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and the two latest thrillers by Elly Griffiths and Mark Billingham

Favourite book?
 SF:So many favourites, old ones, new discoveries. One new discovery is A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
NG:I have to say Jane Eyre– which I partly love so very much because I came to it as a young teenager and was bowled over by the anger and passion and romance

 Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why?
SF:Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse. It would be intriguing to see what they made of each other.
NG:I think I’m going to go for anarchy and have Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat(‘fun is good’ he says as he wreaks havoc) and the William Brown from Just William– though it would be a very messy dinner party

How do you relax?
SF:Running, reading, drinking, watching old movies.
NG:Wild swimming, baking, working in the garden, long bike rides, reading, dancing, drinking wine and every so often gin

What book do you wish you had written and why?
SF:I don’t wish I’d written other people’s books. I sometimes wish I’d thought of other people’s ideas.
NG:Any of the Moomintroll books – especially Moominland Midwinter

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.
SF:Just the usual stuff: 90 per cent of life is showing up. Your novel won’t be published if you don’t write it. 
NG:Read every day, write every day, live in faith and doubt, don’t collapse in a heap of distress if people don’t like what you do, make writing into an adventure

How would you describe your series character?
SF and NG: Frieda Klein, the protagonist of the series we’ve just completed, is a psychotherapist, an insomniac, a compulsive walker, a loner who attracts a strange group of friends who become her family.

The Lying Room by Nicci French (published by Simon & Schuster Ltd)
Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.  She doesn't call the police.   You know, it's funny,' Detective Inspector Hitching said. `Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she'll know. She's the one people talk to, she's the one people confide in.'  A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things. She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all. But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.  She can't tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?  And who does she really know? And who can she trust?  A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.  Could she be a murderer?

Information about 2019 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Young offenders, criminal histories: Ngaio Marsh Award long list revealed

An extraordinary literary tag-team is among several tales inspired by historic events to be named today on an eclectic long list for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel.

“It’s surreal and strangely fitting that in our tenth season of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, and almost forty years after Dame Ngaio’s passing, our judges are considering a story that she began writing herself during the Second World War,” says founder Craig Sisterson. 

The Dame faces plenty of stiff competition for this year’s prize, with several award-winning authors on the long list for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel.

Our international judging panel faces quite a challenge this year, that’s for sure,” says Sisterson. “Along with Stella Duffy’s brilliant resumption of Inspector Alleyn, we have superb fictional explorations of real-life crimes from another local Dame and a past Ngaios winner, exciting new tales from past finalists, and several hard-hitting stories about young people.”

The Ngaio Marsh Awards have celebrated the best New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing since 2010, and this year’s long list runs the gamut of settings from rural New Zealand to New York City, time periods from the 1940s to modern day, and themes ranging from teen bullying to societal discrimination and the verisimilitude of memory.

The long list for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel is:
No One Can Hear You by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)
Cassie Clark: Outlaw by Brian Falkner (OneTree House)
This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Penguin)
Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy (HarperCollins)
The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)
Call me Evie by JP Pomare (Hachette)
The Stakes by Ben Sanders(Allen & Unwin)
Make a Hard Fist by Tina Shaw (OneTree House)
The Vanishing Act by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan Publishing)
Rain Fall by Ella West (Allen & Unwin)

The long list is currently being considered by a judging panel of crime, thriller, and suspense writing experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

An online video announcing the long listed awards can be seen below.

The finalists will be announced on 2 August, along with the finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel and Best Non-Fiction. All the finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special WORD Christchurch event on 14 September. 

For more information on this year’s long list, or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson,

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

PWA Shamus Award Nominees 2019

Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award nominees for 2019 for works published in 2018 have been announced.  The winners will be announced at the PWA Banquet at Bouchercon. 

Best Original Private Eye Paperback 
She Talks to Angels by James D. F. Hannah (Hannah)      
No Quarter by John Jantunen (ECW Press)   
Shark Bait by Paul Kemprecos (Suspense Publishing)     
Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg (Down & Out Books)    
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone (Redhook Books)

Best First Private Eye Novel
The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco (MCD Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould (Dutton)
What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Hogarth)

Best Private Eye Short Story 
"Fear of the Secular," by Mitch Alderman, AHMM
"Three-Star Sushi," by Barry Lancet, Down & Out
The Big Creep,” by Elizabeth McKenzie, Santa Cruz Noir
"Game," by Twist Phelan, EQMM
"Chin Yong-Yun Helps a Fool," by S.J. Rozan, EQMM

 Best Private Eye Novel 
Wrong Light by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho C rime)
Baby’s First Felony by John Straley (Soho Crime)
Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe (Quercus)

Congratulations to all the nominees.

Hat Tip - Mystery Fanfare

In the Spotlight - Graeme Macrae Burnet

Name: Graeme Macrae Burnet
Job: Author
Twitter: @GMacraeBurnet 

Graeme Macrae Burnet is a Scottish author. His first novel The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeauearned him the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2013, and his second novel His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.  His third novel, The Accident on the A35 is a sequel to The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau.  In 2017 he was named Author of the Year by the Sunday Herald Culture Awards.  He is currently writing his fourth book.
Current book
I’m re-reading Dracula, and a biography of Bram Stoker by Barbara Belford. I usually have a novel and a non-fiction book on the go at the same time.

Favourite book– 
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 
Raskolnikov, (Crime and Punishment) because all the best dinner parties are unpredictable, and Madame Maigret, because I think she could do with night off the cooking.

How do you relax? 
1. Cycling 2. Cooking 3. The pub

What book do you wish you had written and why?
I’m sometimes lost in admiration for other authors’ books, but I never wish I’d written them. A good book is stamped with its author’s DNA.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.
Stop torturing yourself. It’s what I still say to myself, but I never listen.

How would you describe your series character?
I’m not really writing a series, but Georges Gorski features in my two Saint-Louis books and will feature in one more. He’s modest, decent and not very tall. He should probably take holiday, but he wouldn’t know what to do with himself.

The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Published by Saraband) 
There does not appear to be anything remarkable about the fatal car crash on the A35. But one question dogs Inspector Georges Gorski: where has the victim, an outwardly austere lawyer, been on the night of his death?  The troubled Gorski finds himself drawn into a mystery that takes him behind the respectable veneer of the sleepy French backwater of Saint-Louis.

Information about 2019 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Exclusive Bruno Short Story

A short story by Martin Walker
The prosperity of the small French town of St Denis in the Périgord had rested for seven
centuries upon its weekly market, the oldest and largest in the region. Its continued success and security were therefore a priority for the local policeman, Bruno Courrèges. He was usually to be seen patrolling the town’s two main squares and the long street that joined them shortly after seven each Tuesday morning when the stalls were being set out.

Bruno always enjoyed watching as the stalls were loaded with cheeses and salamis, fruits and vegetables, ducks and geese, fish, oysters, mushrooms and chickens. Between them were other stalls that measured the changes in French as well as tourist tastes. Only one still offered the traditional aprons and housecoats that once clad the farmers’ wives. But several sold comic T-shirts, miniskirts and the kind of metal-studded high-heeled boots that once were associated with particular tastes. More and more of them offered organic soaps and obscure teas that Bruno had never heard of, hand-carved wooden toys, used books and garish covers for mobile phones.

Bruno knew most of the stallholders well, and his patrol was punctuated by handshakes with the men, and the bise of greeting to women of all ages. And the stallholders usually bent down to stroke Bruno’s basset hound, Balzac, or offer the dog some tiny treat from their stalls. Sometimes in summer when the usual ranks of regulars were swollen by new merchants, there were arguments that Bruno had to manage over whose stall should go where, or challenges to the accuracy of Fat Jeanne’s tape measure. A woman of almost spherical shape with a booming laugh, she even referred to herself by the nickname by which everyone knew her.

Jeanne was la mère du marché, the town employee who collected five euros for each metre of frontage for every stall. She stashed the money in an ancient leather bag that she carried securely across her ample body. One centimetre over the metre was acceptable but anything over two centimetres was not and Jeanne would then demand payment for a second metre. Bruno recalled with a smile one salesman offering discount tools who used one of his own saws to carve off an excess sliver of wood no wider than his finger. Among Bruno’s various duties was to escort Jeanne to the bank just before it closed at noon and deposit the cash in the town’s account. On the busy days of the tourist season she would bank over a thousand euros. In the depths of winter, it fell to two or three hundred.

Bruno kept a watchful eye on Jeanne and her cash and on any strangers around the market. One morning in November he spotted an unfamiliar African youngster loading a trolley from a van he recognized. Bruno stopped, greeted the youth and shook hands.

‘Where’s Léopold?’ he asked.

‘He’s already at the stall,’ came the reply. ‘I’m his nephew, Cali, down here from Paris to learn the market trade.’

‘What are you selling?’

The square metal tins and boxes of small plastic cups were something new. Léopold usually sold cheap T-shirts and sunglasses, leather belts and bolts of African cloth.
‘African coffees and chocolate,’ Cali replied with a friendly smile. ‘It was my idea to try something new. Uncle Léo sells almost nothing this time of year.’

Bruno nodded. Léopold usually stayed until the last market before Christmas and then
flew home to Senegal for two or three months, visiting family and buying new stock for the next season. Bruno wished the young man luck and walked on to complete his circuit before seeking out Léopold’s stall, where an electric kettle was steaming behind the counter, plugged into one of the sockets that St Denis provided – for an extra fee.

Léopold was an old friend, a regular at the market years before Bruno’s arrival, and he’d once helped Bruno make an arrest during a brief period of trouble between Chinese vendors and the traditional Vietnamese food stalls they were trying to replace. The big Senegalese in his flowing robes opened his arms to hug Bruno and the two men brushed cheeks. Bruno could see that several tins of coffee plus three cafetières, plastic cups and sachets of sugar now took up a third of Léopold’s two-metre-wide stall. The tins carried labels to show the coffee inside came from all over Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana. Against each tin stood a block of dark chocolate from that country. A hand-lettered sign announced that the coffee was one euro a cup, which was cheaper than the one euro thirty cents most cafés now charged.

‘None of your coffee comes from Senegal,’ said Bruno.

‘People have just started growing it there and I hope we’ll have some next month,’ said Léopold. 

‘Try a cup of one of the other brands.’

Bruno chose the Ivory Coast, since he’d been stationed there for several months while in the French army. He still remembered the taste of the coarse local coffee, the robusta version that he and most French people had grown up drinking before the finer arabica coffee began to take over the market.

‘On the house,’ said Cali, who had joined them.

Bruno grinned and shook his head, placing a single euro coin on one of the tins. ‘You know you have to give Jeanne an extra two euros if you’re using electricity,’ he said. ‘

‘And what do you do for water?’

Cali pointed to a large plastic bidon holding twenty litres that was stashed behind the stall. ‘And I’ll rinse out the cafetières at the public fountain. We have it all planned out.’

The complete Bruno and the Chocolate War story can be read here.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival Reveals 2019 Programme

Including David Baldacci, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Shari Lapena and debut author, straight from Pointless, Richard Osman


It's a dizzying weekend of pleasure.' Val McDermid, 2019
Bloody Scotland revealed its 2019 programme today followed by a one-off performance by Val McDermid who will be in New Zealand during the festival itself this year. The London launch will be in Scotland House at 6.30pm tomorrow evening, hosted by bestselling author and Bloody Scotland director Abir Mukherjee.

Bloody Scotland has been praised for going beyond the usual remit of a literary festival to create a fringe featuring football, a torchlit procession, a cabaret, a podcast, a quiz and this year will also include a ‘Killer Ceilidh’; a procession of Harley Davidson riders; a play at the Sheriff Court which will allow the audience to vote on the verdict of a real murder trial and a screening of classic crime films from The 39 Steps to Reichenbach Falls, introduced by Ian Rankin.  We hope it gives the authors a unique experience and makes the weekend more appealing to those who might not normally go to a book festival. There continues to be a discount for local residents, tickets for the unemployed and we continue to improve disabled access with a mini bus between venues for those that need it.

The gala opening on Friday 20 September will once again feature the announcement of the winner of the McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and will also reveal the first winner of the new prize for Scottish crime fiction debut.  The winners will join one of the world’s leading thriller writers, David Baldacci, at the head of the annual torchlight procession down to the Albert Halls.

Highlights include Ian Rankin; Alexander McCall Smith; Alex Gray and Lin Anderson, interviewed by the BBC’s Janice Forsyth; Denise Mina and Louise Welsh; two married couple writing partnerships, Nicci French and Ambrose Parry; Icelandic queen of crime Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Stuart MacBride; Mark Billingham and, straight from Pointless, Richard Osman who has just signed a much publicised seven-figure deal for his first crime novel The Thursday Murder Club to be published by Viking next year. No sooner had he signed the deal than we’d moved things around to get him in the programme.

Non-fiction highlights include Alice Vinten (police constable in the Met) appearing with Mim Skinner (insight into the experiences of women in prison); former prison governor Dr David Wilson (soon to be on TV) and forensic scientist Professor Angela Gallop (whose book details her high profile work on cases such as Damilola Taylor, Stephen Lawrence and Rachel Nickell).

Panels that are likely to spark some debate include Till Death Do Us Part talking about novels based around highly dysfunctional marriages and the festival holds up a Mirror to
Society with novels which address contemporary issues like online stalking and knife crime.

First time visitors to the festival this year include the Canadian best-seller Shari Lapena who will be appearing with Caroline Kepnes, author of the massive Netflix hit You; Lisa Jewell (well known for her contemporary fiction now getting rave reviews for her thrillers); Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland (writing under the pseudonym of Sam Bourne); Boston-based lawyer David Hosp (aka Jack Flynn); Charlotte Philby (the granddaughter of the infamous double-agent Kim Philby); Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves) and Catherine Steadman (Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey).

Bloody Scotland remains an open and welcoming international festival despite all the chaos at Westminster - this year welcoming authors from Spain, France, Iceland, Norway and Ireland as well as the US, Canada, Australia, India and Mexico.

The full programme can be found here.