I am always invigorated when I get a chance to read a narrative by writer Russell James, who Ian Rankin refers to as ‘The Godfather of British Noir’. I first met Russell when he was Chair of The Crime Writers Association [CWA] at the Dead-on-Deansgate Crime Convention in 2001. Many of us recall those events fondly, hosted by Waterstones Bookstore in Manchester; which were the precursor to the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. I recall the friendship that resulted with Ed and Cathy Wright following the Saturday Dinner following Russell James presenting the CWA Debut Dagger to the former Naval Man from Arkansas, turned Crime Writer, Ed Wright.
I was asked by the NY Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America [MWA] to write about my memories of Ed Wright, as well as the importance of organisations such as CWA and MWA for writers and readers alike.
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Though based in California, Ed’s award winning crime fiction was first spotted by the British, thanks to the CWA Debut Dagger Competition; in fact many American and Canadian writers have made it big first in Great Britain, before breaking out on their their native shores, such as Meg Gardiner, Linwood Barclay, Gillian Flynn and many others.
Over the years, it has been good to bump into Russell James at various events when our diaries cross, and I am always keen to see what he’s been up to in his writing, as well as his reviewing for Shots.
In time for Christmas, I see Russell has a new work entitled Mother Naked.
For Ruth’s 100th birthday the family gathers in a remote hotel. They deplore her scandalous past – but might they have worse secrets of their own?
Ruth worked at the Windmill in her youth and behind her back is criticised by the family as an ex-stripper notorious for her complicated love-life. They say that in the war she drove her first husband to kill himself, and that she married her second husband only to provide a father for her young son.
Her four children now range in age from 60 to 75 and their working lives are virtually over. The eldest, Freddie, born to Ruth’s first husband, has in the last ten years put on a lot of weight. His son and daughter are there, but he no longer talks to his son. His sister Lucy stands aloof, nursing her drinks, while Charles, five years younger and the richest in the room, has come with his new wife, a Lithuanian half his age – much the same age as his two sons. Noticeably missing is Ruth’s even more successful youngest son, Jack, now Lord Jack, considered an outsider by the others and assumed not to be their father’s son.
As the rain teems down outside and the hotel staff keep serving drinks it seems the guest of honour may never arrive, during which time her children and their own children reveal family secrets. Well plied with drink they do not hold back and are more garrulous than they ought to be. By the time Ruth does arrive we have learnt that their true histories are not as they would have us believe. They are not always as they believe themselves to be. So can we believe what they say about Ruth?
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Russell James is an innovator when it comes to literary foils and tools, so Click Here to read behind the scenes of Mother Naked, and can be downloaded to Kindle Here or purchased on Papyrus Here
Read more about the world of Russell James Here