Thursday, 30 June 2016


I went to Bloody Scotland and I was just knocked out.... I’ve been at literary events where a lot of people have knives sticking out their back that they don’t know are there and this event was so friendly, so supportive I was honestly overwhelmed’
William McIlvanney speaking on BBC Scotland 2012

This year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing festival is the first since the death of the great William McIlvanney, the man who, more than anyone, established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction. Bloody Scotland 2016 is dedicated in his honour and the winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will now be awarded The McIlvanney Prize at an awards ceremony on the opening evening, Friday 9 September, in Stirling. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

The longlist which has been chosen by an independent panel of readers and features 6 male and 4 female writers, established authors and debut writers, small Scottish publishers and large London conglomerates, is released today.

Even Dogs in the Wild (Orion) Ian Rankin
Open Wounds (Luath) Douglas Skelton
The Damage Done (Michael Joseph) James Oswald
The Special Dead (Macmillan) Lin Anderson
In the Cold Dark Ground (Harper Collins) Stuart MacBride
Black Widow (Little, Brown) Chris Brookmyre
The Jump (Faber) Doug Johnstone
Splinter the Silence (Little, Brown) Val McDermid
Beloved Poison (Little, Brown) E. S. Thomson
A Fine House in Trinity (Sandstone) Lesley Kelly

The judges will be journalist, Lee Randall, award-winning librarian, Stewart Bain and former editor of The Scotsman and The Times Scotland, Magnus Linklater. Hugh McIlvanney OBE, brother of Willie, will travel from London to present the award.

Previous winners are Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

For further information or to request press tickets please contact

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


The Bouchercon Board of Directors is proud to announce that Otto Penzler is the recipient of its 2016 David Thompson Special Service Award for "extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the crime fiction field."

Founded in 1970, and named after distinguished mystery critic, editor, and author, Anthony Boucher, Bouchercon is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that each year brings together fans, authors, publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers from around the world in a different location for a four-day celebration of their shared love of the crime genre. This year's convention, "Blood on the Bayou-Bouchercon 2016," takes place in New Orleans, September 15-18, 2016.

The David Thompson Special Service Award was created by the Bouchercon Board to honour the memory and contributions to the crime fiction community by David Thompson, a much beloved Houston bookseller who passed away in 2010. Past recipients of the award are Ali Karim, Len & June Moffatt, Judy Bobalik, and Bill and Toby Gottfried.

This year's honoree, Otto Penzler, is the proprietor of New York City's The Mysterious Bookshop and founder of The Mysterious Press (1975). A publisher of original works and classic crime fiction in the U.S. and abroad, Mr. Penzler also published The Armchair Detective, a quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, and created the publishing firms of Otto Penzler books and the Armchair Detective Library. He is a prolific editor, and his most recent anthologies include The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, The Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries, The Best American Short Stories of the 19th Century and The Best American Noir of the Century. Since 1997, he's also been the Series Editor of The Best American Mystery Stories of the Year.

The Mystery Writers of America has bestowed on Mr. Penzler two Edgar Awards, its 1994 Ellery Queen Award, and the 2003 Raven Award. He's also received Lifetime Achievement awards from Noircon and The Strand Magazine. In addition, Mr. Penzler co-chaired two Bouchercon Conventions (1977 and 1983) and served on Bouchercon's Board for ten years. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

History in the Court

It's very nearly time for the extremely well attended History in the Court that is hosted annually by Goldsboro Books.

The event will take place on June 30th from 6-9pm and you can purchase tickets here and they have some serious entertainment in store for you.
Already confirmed as attending on the evening they have an incredible list of authors.

It includes, but is not limited to:

Robyn Young, Antonia Hodgson, Emily Hauser, Hallie Rubenhold, Harry Sidebottom, Simon Tolkien, Barbara Erskine, SJ Parris, Andrew Taylor, Nick Brown, Elizabeth Buchan, S D Sykes, William Ryan, Paul Fraser Collard, Anna Mazzola, Anthony Riches, Michael Arnold, Elizabeth Fremantle, L C Tyler, David Gilman, Linda Porter, Robin Blake, Andrew Swanston, Imogen Robertson, Angus Donald, Sarah Dunant. Paul M.M. Cooper, Natasha Pulley, Giles Kristian, Tom Harper, Elizabeth Chadwick, Kate Riordan, Michael Ridpath.
There are more to be confirmed

Tickets cost £5 but this is redeemable on the night against any purchases of books so really you're just getting yourself some credit. Don't miss out on the opportunity to come and meet these wonderful authors in person and get your books signed.
That's not all...
There will be treats for those who join us in the form of goodie bags and we will also see the announcement of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown shortlist. Join us and see who is on the shortlist and meet many of the authors!
For those of you not already aware of these events, they are celebrations of their respective genres and an opportunity for fans to come and meet some of the best names being published today. They always get a wonderful crowd and you can see the brilliant line up of attending authors.
Come, join us, and celebrate historical fiction in one of London's most beautiful streets. It's an evening not to be missed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

First Monday Crime - July!

First Monday is going all out for its July 4th event, sponsored by Killer Reads, with triple CWA Historical Dagger winner Andrew Taylor (author of The American Boy and superb new novel The Ashes of London), Stephen Booth (Multiple award winning writer  of the Cooper and Fry series and respected goat breeder (honest – we looked it up)), Anna Mazzola (winner of the Brixton Bookjam Debut Novel competition for her stunning debut novel The Unseeing) and Beth Lewis (London-based editor and former circus performer – whose wonderful debut novel The Wolf Road is taking the publishing world by storm).  The evening will be chaired by Claire McGowan, bestselling author of the Paula Maguire series and senior lecturer on the City University Crime Writing MA course. Are they excited to have five phenomenal authors talking to us about their books? Yes. Yes, they are.


A mix between a social evening and a festival-style panel, First Mondays offers the crime fiction community – whether readers, writers or industry professionals – a place to meet, enjoy each other’s company and hear about the latest and most intriguing crime fiction around.

First Mondays begin at 6.30pm on the first Monday of each month with a panel discussion chaired by, amongst others, Barry Forshaw (Brit Noir etc), Jake Kerridge (Daily Telegraph) and James Kidd (Independent). Upcoming authors include Sophie Hannah, Mark Billingham and Belinda Bauer, as well as a host of established and debut authors from all over the world. After the panels, the conversation spills over to The Peasant pub.

First Monday is grateful to City University’s Crime Thriller MA Programme and Goldsboro Books for their generous support in staging our events. The July event will be held in the College Building of City University on St John Street (close to Angel Tube station).

Tickets may be purchased here.



First Monday


July 4


(+44) 0207 836 7376



6:30 pm - 7:30 pm



City University London
Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB United Kingdom

Monday, 20 June 2016

On the Banks of the Moskva with Jack Grimwood

Earlier this year, the Shots Team were invited with our colleagues from the crime/thriller reviewing community to the Penguin Annual Crime Fiction Party. One of the questions on my mind as I walked to the venue in Soho was “who the heck is Jack Grimwood?”

As book reviewers, we are always on the lookout for new and interesting work, and the name Jack Grimwood was unfamiliar, but I soon started to laugh when Publisher Rowland White mentioned it was actually Jon Courtenay Grimwood, using a pen name. Firstly I kicked myself, as it was an obvious variation on the name of the renowned journalist and award-winning writer, but one more closely associated with the Science Fiction / Fantasy [or Speculative] subgenre [under his real name]. Incidentally Jon is married to fellow Writer and Journalist Sam Baker.

It had been a while since I met-up with Jon Courtenay Grimwood, but recalled with vivid clarity his moderation of a panel entitled Future Noir, at the Dead-On-Deansgate Convention[s] in Manchester. If memory serves, it was at that panel that fellow SF/Dark Fantasy writers Michael Marshall Smith, and Richard Morgan first indicated their interest in Crime and Thriller Fiction with work such as The Straw Men and Altered Carbon.

So armed with a review copy of MOSKVA by Jack Grimwood, I was most intrigued to read Jon’s first foray into Thriller writing; so what were my thoughts?

Grimwood layers on subplots and observations, many as bleak as the austere days of living in the repressive regime that is Russia, as well as the hidden secrets of that era that dates back in time, revisiting the horrors of the past. There is convolution, detailed introspection with the Russian backdrop becoming a character amongst the machinations of corruption and fear. We have glimpses to the siege of Stalingrad, the Russian assault on 1945 Berlin, the shadow of Stalin right up to the corruption and infiltration of criminals clothed in the uniforms of the elite, all leading Major Tom to traverse an alien land, a Fox among wolves with no one to trust.

Moskva is peppered with memorable characters, carved with precision, as well as an exciting and scary landscape, where the past and present may affect Tom Fox’s future and that of others.

Read the full Shots Review HERE

I was delighted to bump into Jon again, this time at the Crimefest Convention held last month in Bristol, where he was on a panel entitled “Power, Paranoia and Political Machinations” with fellow writers, Caroline C.J. Carver, Ruth Downie, William Ryan and moderated by Luke McCallum. As I’d just finished reading the dark tale MOSKVA by Jack Grimwood, I had a few questions related to this change in literary direction. Jon [aka Jack] kindly obliged telling Shots Readers a little about Moskva’s origins, the research in Russia, the future for Grimwood as well as a little about his work that others unfamiliar with his earlier work might find of interest.

Moskva is highly recommended, but a warning; it is indeed a very dark tale, and one that will see you reading late into the night.

Ali       So the most pressing question first; how did Jon Courtenay Grimwood turn to writing such a dark, historical thriller?

Jack    Moskva came out of an image that came into my head. A naked boy lying, as if asleep, in the snow in Red Square. And a second image of a train carrying missiles coming off the rails a thousand miles away, and the local Soviet authorities scrambling to cover up the disaster. I wanted to write the novel that linked them. I'd just finished a literary novel set in the run up to the French Revolution, and a trilogy of alternate history novels set in Renaissance Venice before that, I read a lot of crime anyway, and thought, 'Right, who solves this…?'

The book was called “Wax Angel” first, and was briefly “Resurrection Gate”, before Penguin's Rowland White bought it and its sequel, and we settled on “Moskva”.

Ali       And I know you’ve used nom-de-plumes in the past, so can you tell us where the name Jack Grimwood originated?

Jack    In an ideal world, you'd write a book, get it published if you were lucky, and write another and they might be similar or they might not. It doesn't work like that though and publishers are, understandably enough, keen on branding. Luckily I'm represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown, who basically said, you write what you need and we'll decide who wrote it. I'd already written a number of slightly strange speculative novels as Jon Courtenay Grimwood.  So we decided that The Last Banquet (for Canongate) should be written by Jonathan Grimwood. And if I really wanted to write thrillers, and I really did, we'd needed another me.

So Jack Grimwood was born.

I liked Jack as a name. It's short, sharp, louche and sounds drunken and slightly dangerous. It was also the name my father used in the last war. He was christened John but his family knew him as Ivan. I'm not sure how he got from Ivan to Jack... Maybe Ivan was too complicated if you're dealing with Russians. I asked my father if he'd mind and he said no.

Ali       Though you’re better known for your Science Fiction / Fantasy work, which has won or been cited in numerous awards, as well as your journalism, tell me about when you sat down to turn your hand to Thriller Writing?

Jack    I've been a fan of crime novels forever.

There are a handful of writers I buy in hardback that I've been buying in hardback from long before I could afford hardbacks. The main one is James Lee Burke, who I consider one of the American greats and I'm always shocked he's not better known in the UK. I bought all of Dibden's Aurelio Zen novels in hardback when they came out, then transferred my loyalty to Donna Leon's Brunetti. We have a complete collection of John Connolly's Charlie Parker novels. A complete set of Ian Rankin, obviously. Ditto Andrea Camilleri. Also Carol O'Connell. Not to mention Carl Hiaasen. And a fair few of Lindsey Davis' Falco novels. There are others, in paperback, many in translation.

   Jack Grimwood [centre] at Crimefest Bristol 

It's not hard, reading Moskva, to identify my thriller influences. I bought Gorky Park when it came out. (I bought the follow ups too.) There's an obvious debt to Le Carré's spy novels, and a less obvious but deeper one to Troy Kennedy Martin's utterly brilliant 1980s BBC TV series Edge of Darkness, which changed my ideas about what was possible from fiction. The novel that began it all for me though, was Desmond Bagley's Running Blind. I read it at an impressionable age and long before I'd begun thinking about plotting or thriller templates. So the idea of an ex-spy, innocent but mistrusted, alone in a strange country, betrayed by his betters, seemed revolutionary!

Ali       So did you have a detailed plot in mind, with characters or just a sketch, and allow your imagination [with the muse] to do the work?

Jack    I was in Moscow briefly in 1986, and in New York a few months later. The contrast between Gorbachev's USSR and Reagan's America was so striking it stayed with me and influenced everything in this book.

I had the boy in the snow, the teenage girl in a dinner jacket at the embassy party, the Soviet veteran who'd lost his leg in Afghanistan, and the beggar woman who carved figures from candles, but I had no idea how they fitted together. The first draft was discovering what happened and the second told me how what happened fitted together. The third changed my ending to something slightly less weird, which in retrospect was a necessary decision. Rowland White at Penguin kept hammering at my instinct to spin off into side alleys. And I hammered hard at myself to keep my tendency to make things ever weirder in check.

That said, the end of the book was written on the fly once I reached a point where Major Fox was so deeply in the dirt I had less than no idea how I was going to get him out of it! He got himself out though, for which I was grateful.

Ali       I know you’ve travelled a great deal, so please let us know what appealed about Cold War Russia as the backdrop for your first thriller and how much research was required as there is much fascinating detail and observation in Moskva?

Jack    The line between “Them and Us” is less clear cut these days. The cold war was a simple and brutal thing. We were good and they were bad. And for them, it was the other way round.

It was never that simple, of course. (I remember someone who'd know telling me he had more in common with his Soviet counterparts than he'd ever have with the civil servants in Whitehall.) But for a while it looked as if the world was in an uneasy and dangerous balance. Things are more complicated now.

This year's ally in the Middle East is next year's enemy, and vice versa. No one's really got a grip on the global power shift towards China, except perhaps Beijing and they're not saying. The last war was fought with rifles, the current ones are being fought by kids in call-centre barns piloting drones, and the next one will probably involve seeing how much of a country's infrastructure you can turn off from five thousand miles away using son of suxnet and a computer screen.

As said, I was in Moscow briefly in 1986 and had friends working there. I had family based in Helsinki, had lived myself in Norway in the 70s, and in the early 80s drove to Nordkap in Finmark (1017 km by road from the Arctic Circle. Less if you're a crow). So, when I started writing Moskva, I had a fairly clear idea of what Moscow was like at that time and the levels of Politburo watching and paranoia in the countries bordering the USSR. What I wanted to do was look at the rise of Gorbachev, the hope that was Perestroika and the tipping point for the fall of the Soviet Union. We know the USSR is going to be gone within ten years. The characters in the book don't.

The research was fairly basic. I bought a number of 1980s guide books to the Soviet Union and read them avidly, I talked to people who'd been there and spent a lot of time pouring over the biographies of Soviet leaders, Soviet timelines and histories of Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin and World War Two in general. I also watched Soviet films, listened to Soviet music and bought a Soviet cook book.

    L-R Mike Stotter, Jon Coates [The Express] and Jack Grimwood

Ali       Tom Fox is a very interesting protagonist, and I’m interested in his genesis in your mind; but specific mention should also be made of the array of secondary characters such as bar owner Dennisov and many others, so tell us about the task of creating Fox and the secondary characters inhabiting the bleak world of your Moskva?

Jack    One strand of Tom Fox's life is based on a couple of people I knew who did stints in Northern Ireland. Mostly, though, he's made up. I like him but don't, as yet, really know him any more than he knows himself, which swings between altogether too well and nothing like well enough.

Dennisov kicked his way into the book drunk, unshaven and fully formed. He's a bit of a marmite character. At the first draft stage I had men ask me why he was in there and a woman say don't you dare remove him. Wax Angel was also born fully formed and I knew, and know, more about her than any of the other characters. For me she is a manifestation of the spirit of Moscow. I'd disagree that Moskva is bleak, or at least entirely bleak, I think it has a certain graveyard humour and those who need redemption are sometimes offered it; which, I suspect, is all that most of us can hope for.

Ali       There are some very exciting action set-pieces, as well as much brutality in Moskva. Many years ago when speaking with Dennis Lehane about his work, he mentioned how much he enjoyed writing the actions scenes, and the cathartic feeling he had when he approached the gunfire; so tell us how you approach writing action scenes, and violence?

Jack    I try to be as cold as possible writing violence and as humane as possible in describing its after effects. Violence is a jagged stone thrown into a pond, the ripples spread and keep spreading until they reach the edge. The hardest scene to write, and the only one I really had to make myself write, was the autopsy. I took photographs from an autopsy, and a walk-through of a typical autopsy on a known crime victim, locked down in a small room in Paris and told myself I couldn't go home until it was done. When it was, I went for a very long walk indeed. Right the way up one bank of the Seine and then back on the other. Writing the murders and assorted nastiness in Moscow and Stalingrad wasn't nearly as hard.

Ali       Though published over a decade ago, I still recall the Arabesk trilogy with fondness, so are you still writing Fantasy / SF work, and also what about your journalism?

Jack    The Ashraf Bey novels remain some of my favourites. They're standalone crime novels featuring a half-Berber detective set in an Ottoman Empire that survives because the First World War never happens. I had huge fun writing them. And I really want to go back and write another three at some point. At the moment, as well as writing the next Tom Fox novel, I'm revisiting a sprawling fantasy I wrote a few years ago set in Heaven, Hell and Mexico City.

Ali       And recently what books passed your reading table that you found had merit?

Jack    Too be honest there are far too many to mention. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama had a slow burn quality that dragged me in. I know a lot of reviews felt it too dense but I thought that was one of its many virtues. Karim Miské's Arab Jazz I adored. Maybe it helped that it was set in Paris and I know the areas but it was also emotionally complex, neatly plotted and politically honest. `For me, Ian Rankin's Even Dogs in the Wild, and Donna Leon's Waters of Eternal Youth were their best books in a while. (And that’s from a bloody tough benchmark already.) I have the new John Connolly stashed for holiday reading as a treat. So I can tell you what I think when I get back!

I don't get much chance to go to the cinema these days but I loved Trapped, and thought it the most interesting TV crime series I'd seen in ages. Happy Valley was grimly watchable; and obviously enough, having lived in Scandinavia, I'm a complete sucker for The Bridge, The Killing, and pretty much anything else shot in half light with sub titles.

Ali       We hear rumours of a follow-up Jack Grimwood novel “Nightfall Berlin”, would you care to tell us a little about what might be in store for your readers?

Jack    Nightfall Berlin opens about six months after Moskva ends. Tom Fox is on holiday in the West Indies with his family when he's told that a famous British traitor, who defected to the Soviet Bloc, has written to The Times to say he wants to be allowed to return to the UK and is prepared to stand trial for his crimes.

Tom's been chosen to bring him back. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned.

Ali       Thank you for your time and the scary ride that is Moskva

Jack    Pleasures all mine

Shots Ezine would like to thank Jack Grimwood and Penguin-Random House for their help in organising this interview.

More Information about the work of Jon Courtenay Grimwood as well as Jack Grimwood is available here and Shots Ezine have discounted copies of MOSKVA available from our online bookstore here

Photos © 2016 A S Karim

Friday, 17 June 2016

THE SINKING ADMIRAL Book Launch 15 June 2016

The Floating Admiral was the first of the Detection Club’s collaborative novels, and now, eighty-five years later, fourteen members of the club have once again joined forces to launch (hmm, pardon the pun) The Sinking Admiral.
‘The Admiral’ is a pub in the Suffolk seaside village of Crabwell, The Admiral Byng. ‘The Admiral’ is also the nickname of its landlord, Geoffrey Horatio Fitzsimmons, as well as the name of the landlord’s dinghy. None of them are as buoyant as they should be, for the pub is threatened with closure due to falling takings.

Tempers are already frayed due to the arrival of a television documentary team when Fitzsimmons is found dead in his tethered boat. The villagers assume a simple case of suicide and fear that their debt-ridden pub will now sink without trace. The journalists seem determined to finish the job by raking up old skeletons, but they weren’t banking on the fact that this story has been written by 14 extremely competitive crime writers – arch bamboozlers who will stop at nothing to save a good pub.

The Sinking Admiral, edited by the Detection Club’s outgoing President – author and broadcaster Simon Brett, OBE – continues a tradition established by the Detection Club’s founders in 1931 when Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Crofts and eleven other esteemed authors wrote The Floating Admiral, a ‘collaborative novel’ to challenge themselves, fox their readers and help to pay for the Club’s running costs. 14 of today’s leading crime writers have repeated this unique game of literary consequences, producing an original, ebullient and archetypal whodunit that will keep readers guessing right up to what crime lovers insist on calling the dénouement…

The contributors  are:
all members of The Detection Club.

Collins Crime Club  Hbk £14.99 Purchase it here
Goldsboro Books played the genial host to the book’s launch. And here’s the photographic evidence, m’lud.

David Stuart Davies, Mike Jecks & Geoff (CADS) Bradley

Janet Laurence

Len Tyler, Michael Ridpath and Aline Templeton

"I've got all these to sign," says Martin Edwards

Old Chums - Geoff Bradley and Peter Lovesey
Harper Collins Editor

Just for a laugh - Geoff, Peter and Simon Brett


Cover Reveal of Alex Caan's CUT TO THE BONE

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life. Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Superintendent Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself? Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares. And the videos keep coming . .

Out in ebook on 14th July (£4.99, Twenty7) and release in paperback in November.

Follow him on Twitter @alexcaanwriter