Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DANIELLE RAMSAY says: Write What You Know

I had always wanted to write. However, I was not decided on which medium I wanted to write in. I then made a choice to be a filmmaker and so, at the age of fourteen I wrote to the National Film and Television School in London who kindly advised that if I was not Steven Spielberg, then I would have to undertake a degree. So, I followed their advice and graduated with a 1st Class Honours Bachelor Degree in scriptwriting and media production.

I then completed a Masters with Distinction and while undertaking a PhD won a place on the reserve list for the Frank Knox scholarship for a fully funded post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University in African American Studies. My academic interest in racial identity was borne out of the fact that my grandfather was Algerian and raised in Dundee and so, my mother was black-skinned, as were my four uncles. However, my aunt was white-skinned; as was I. I had grown up hearing the “N” word used in reference to my own mother and so, this insight into racism despite being white-skinned, had led me to want to study slavery and the concept of “passing” from one race to another.
However, after getting a top New York literary agency’s support for a psychological thriller I was writing set in New England where I had once worked, which encompassed racial, sexual and religious politics, I gave up my ambition of Harvard, choosing to write creatively rather than academically. The debut novel set in the States was never published and if it had been it would have been over 1000 pages long and too complicated to be commercially viable. So, on the advice of a fellow academic and author who told me to “write what you know” I filed my debut novel away and wrote the DI Jack Brady series set in Whitley Bay in the North East of England where I currently reside.
Ironically, Brady should have been a woman, but I could not write the character from a female perspective. I was an ardent feminist (I still am) and found myself politically bound up to the point that my protagonist was too perfect. She had no flaws. How could she? After all, I had created her to be so resilient, so strong…so very boring. So much my heroine but so very far removed from reality – my reality.
Michel Foucault’s words: “Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. More than one person, doubtless like me, writes in order to have no face” hit me hard. My personal life was a sham and to survive it, I had found myself masquerading. I could not write what I knew, because it was too shaming. Too humiliating and ultimately, too painful. Feminist that I was, I had found myself suffering from domestic abusive for the duration of the five years I had been writing my DI Brady books. Whilst in academia I had arrogantly struggled to understand the intricate reasons why victims do not/cannot leave their abuser. Ironically, I came to acknowledge first-hand what it was to live in fear of one’s life. I suffered in silence, too embarrassed to speak out, and ultimately, feeling as if somehow I was to blame. So, I held onto that dark secret. Until now.
I was one of the fortunate ones – I survived to write my tale. After five years of abuse my ex was arrested, charged and convicted of beating me up. He has now disappeared – his last attempt at controlling me – but it is not his being convicted of domestic violence that has liberated me, it is my decision to break the silence. Do I still live in fear? Sometimes. I would be lying if I did not admit that. The police believed he would have killed me that night. I know I could have become nothing more than a statistic. Two years on and I am not ashamed anymore. I accept that domestic violence transcends gender, race, class and age; that the word ‘victim’ has no type. I am the antithesis of a victim, which is why I am speaking out. Which is the reason I am now writing about what I know through a new female protagonist. It is a psychological thriller that twists and turns with the usual expected and not so expected thrills. But I wrote it from a place of authenticity, for I knew what it was to live in fear of one’s life. But I also know what it is to survive and metamorphose from a victim into a victorious warrior. Last Cut features DS Harri Jacobs – a female cop who herself has been a victim and makes the choice to become a survivor; someone who does not need to be saved, for she saves herself. For in this novel the hunter becomes the hunted. Simply put, she takes back control. Crucially, Harri’s namesakes are three inspirational female writers (Harriet E. Wilson, Harriet Ann Jacobs and Harriet Beecher Stowe) who used their work to battle against racial and gender oppression. According to legend, Abraham Lincoln credited Harriet Beecher Stowe when he met her in 1862 as being “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Whether true or not, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was still hugely influential and it was her brave portrayal of the horrific ills of slavery that shocked a nation.
I am now a patron for the charity Someone Cares which counsels survivors of childhood abuse, rape and domestic violence and if I can dispel the myth about victimhood through my writing, then I know what I endured was worth it. 
'A really cracking read!' Martina Cole

Purchase from SHOTS A-Store
The Last Cut, £8.99 pbk June 01, 2017 Hodder & Stoughton

You can follow the author on Twitter @DanielleRamsay2.  Also  on


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

PAUL PURNELL on The Source of The Kazak Contract

 A trip to Kazakhstan triggered the idea of this book. I was approached as a barrister by the lawyers for the Kazakhstan Embassy to help invite an English High Court Judge to a grand Opening Event at the New Financial Centre, which was to be held in Kazakhstan. The Centre intended to apply English Law as its commercial arbitrator.

I decided to visit the country as a first step in the task. It was important to ensure I was not enlisting a distinguished judge for a cheap-jack ceremony. The experience left an indelible impression on me.

Astana was created when Kazakhstan became a stand-alone Republic after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is a country larger than Northern Europe with a population the size of Holland. In winter, the average temperature is below 20 degrees and in the short summer about 30 degrees above. The indigenous people are cattle and horse traders living on the Steppes but Soviet industries brought some commercial business to the region.

The magic ingredient of the country is Mineral Wealth. It has almost incalculable deposits of oil and gas plus substantial iron and other basic materials. As a dictatorship, it has been possible to concentrate the wealth of the country into massive development projects at vast expense.

The city of Astana has been created out of nothing, yet it is filled with the latest building designs and immense public spaces. Richard Rogers and Norman Foster have been given carte blanche to put their imagination to work in creating a city like a vision of an eccentric filmmaker brought to life. Within this setting, the life of these people has altered, as you would expect. The luxury of International Hotels and services is available to those who can create wealth or who have dominated the industries, which provide the resources of the country. There was an undercurrent of concealed power in every facet of city life.

It was in that context that the Opening Meeting of Bankers and Commercial Leaders was organised, more than thirty of the world’s most influential personalities were invited. Yet, a fortnight before the date, the Meeting was abandoned without explanation. It seemed to be a sign of the impetuous or imperious manner of behaviour, which I had detected during my visit.

From this catalyst, the actions of James Ballantyne were born and his struggle to protect a hunted man began. It led him through violence and treachery as he fought his way out.
During that journey, he found the love that he had ignored in his hectic life. His escape and exploits in adjoining countries led him into a labyrinth of double cross and sinister contacts.

This is the first of a series of his rash exploits published following his career.

The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell (Clink Street Publishing)
James Ballantyne travels to Kazakhstan on a minor diplomatic assignment. A simple task, but he falls for the glamorous aide Ocksana Petrova, sent to guide him through the process. Fate leads him to the rescue of a US special agent who is the target of assassination by the Kazak authorities.

What should Ballantyne do? Should he be led by duty or compassion?

Events force his hand and he recruits smugglers to get the agent away from Kazakhstan. The escape route is dangerous and it becomes clear they are being monitored every inch of the way. Is his new love, Ocksana, behind the surveillance? Or has his own team been infiltrated?

Getting out of Kazakhstan alive will draw upon all of James’s military skills, and a lot of luck. With ambush and deception along the way, will he make it to the border and safety? How can he protect his lover? This journey through a wild country stretches every nerve.

Purchase The Kazak Contract from Amazon.

Based in London, Paul Purnell has worked for over forty-years as a Criminal Law barrister. After serving five years stationed in Germany with the British Army, Purnell began his career as a trial lawyer prosecuting and defending in serious criminal cases across the country. Later he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a role which has seen him engaged in court cases both across the country and to far flung destinations including the Cayman Islands and Kazakhstan. His extensive experience and understanding of the criminal world has provided the inspiration for his short stories and his latest Jack Ballantyne series. When not writing, or in court, he enjoys racing around the country on his motorbike and spending time with his three children and grandchildren.

Previous titles include a series of well-received short stories; The Hireling (2015), Scaramouche (2015) and The Storm (2016). 

More information about the author can be found on his website and you can also follow him on Twitter @purnell14

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Mike Ripley’s KISS KISS, BANG BANG launches in Gerry’s Club London

Not long after Mike Ripley and Barry Forshaw battled it out at Crimefest with Peter Guttridge [from NATO] keeping the peace; many of London’s literary community headed to the West End, to Gerry’s club to celebrate the launch of Mike Ripley’s KISS KISS, BANG BANG.

It was a remarkable gathering of writers, journalists, publishers, editors, reviewers and agents from British Intelligence - all congregated to celebrate the launch of the remarkable KISS KISS, BANG BANG by Mike Ripley; a reflection upon the Golden Age of the British Thriller. This new work from HarperCollins is a labour of love from literary critic, writer, Shots’ columnist, Deadly Pleasures commentator, book reviewer, raconteur, archaeologist and butterfly collector Mike Ripley.

This volume is an essential part of any reader of Thriller Fiction’s bookcase, as Harper Collins point out –

An entertaining history of British thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed, in which award-winning crime writer Mike Ripley reveals that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world. With a foreword by Lee Child.
When Ian Fleming dismissed his books in a 1956 letter to Raymond Chandler as straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety’ he was being typically immodest. In three short years, his James Bond novels were already spearheading a boom in thriller fiction that would dominate the bestseller lists, not just in Britain, but internationally.

The decade following World War II had seen Britain lose an Empire, demoted in terms of global power and status and economically crippled by debt; yet its fictional spies, secret agents, soldiers, sailors and even (occasionally) journalists were now saving the world on a regular basis.

From Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean in the 1950s through Desmond Bagley, Dick Francis, Len Deighton and John Le Carr in the 1960s, to Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins in the 1970s.

Many have been labelled boys’ books’ written by men who probably never grew up but, as award-winning writer and critic Mike Ripley recounts, the thrillers of this period provided the reader with thrills, adventure and escapism, usually in exotic settings, or as today’s leading thriller writer Lee Child puts it in his Foreword: the thrill of immersion in a fast and gaudy world.’

In Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ripley examines the rise of the thriller from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s, examining some 150 British authors (plus a few notable South Africans). Drawing upon conversations with many of the authors mentioned in the book, he shows how British writers, working very much in the shadow of World War II, came to dominate the field of adventure thrillers and the two types of spy story spy fantasy (as epitomised by Ian Fleming’s James Bond) and the more realistic spy fiction created by Deighton, Le Carr and Ted Allbeury, plus the many variations (and imitators) in between.

The launch party was a delight, as Mike’s son Guy who is a qualified chef provided the buffet, while Gerry provided the venue and Harper Collins copies of KISS KISS BANG BANG.

So after we all quaffed some Gin, Chris Smith - Mike’s editor at Harper Collins said a few words, followed by Mike Ripley who took a balcony position and welcomed us all. Mike indicated that the surprise appearance by Len Deighton had been cancelled as Len was in hospital but well on the way to recovery; so we all raised our glasses to Len Deighton. Incidentally it was thanks to Mike Ripley that Andrew Gulli secured a rare interview for Strand Magazine – which is still available Here

Despite the lighting in Gerry’s Club, we managed to record the welcome and introduction for our readers from Chris Smith of Harper Collins and Mike’s Balcony speech –

To list all the guests would be too much of a task; instead we feature photos of the event of many of the guests. Images of Agents of Her Majesty’s Secret Service have been redacted.
More information about Mike Ripley’s KISS KISS, BANG BANG is available from HarperCollins Here and Shots Magazine Here

We would urge you to grab a copy of this most amusing as well as interesting book KISS KISS, BANG BANG and remember Shots Magazine have discounted copies available from our bookstore HERE

The Special Relationship: American Noir vs the British Golden Age Thriller

The end of a Crime Fiction convention is always a melancholic affair; following a few intense days, the lack of sleep and over indulgence in Gin takes its toll coupled to saying farewell to friends and colleagues. The Crimefest organisers Adrian Muller, Myles Allfrey and Programming Chair Donna Moore always ensure the last event is one that lifts the spirits. In 2016, we all left after much laughter thanks to Mike Ripley and Peter Guttridge’s SORRY I HAVEN’T A CLUEDO which is archived Here.

Crimefest 2017 was no exception with the amusing American Noir vs the British Golden Age Thriller with writer / critics Barry Forshaw representing the US and Mike Ripley representing the UK and Peter Guttridge representing NATO and keeping the peace.

I predict that Ripley’s KISS KISS BANG BANG and Forshaw’s American Noir will feature heavily in competition in the Non-Fiction categories of all major international awards for Crime, Mystery and Thriller Fiction next year. 

During Crimefest 2014 Barry Forshaw, Mike Ripley and Peter Guttridge presented an enlightening and amusing overview of the British Golden Age thriller, which we recorded and archived HERE and is well worth a view, with a few chuckles.

Shots were delighted to be given permission by the Crimefest Organisers as well as Mike Ripley, Peter Guttridge and Barry Forshaw to film the closing panel American Noir vs the British Golden Age Thriller – in our usual ‘gonzo’ style.

It is split into five sections, though we will leave Part One till the end as the camera picture for some reason was not as sharp as the other sections, but is watchable.
So pour yourself a generous measure of Bombay Gin, and view the American Noir vs the British Golden Age Thriller

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part One

More information about Mike Ripley’s KISS KISS, BANG BANG available from HarperCollins Here and Shots Magazine Here

More information about Barry Forshaw’s AMERICAN NOIR available from Pocket Essentials Here and Shots Magazine Here

If you’ve enjoyed this presentation, then we’d urge you to explore the work of these key writer/literary [and film] critics.

Their body of work can be purchased [with discounts] from the Shots Bookstore –

Barry Forshaw’s work is available here

Mike Ripley’s work is available here

Peter Guttridge’s work is available here

Diamond Geezers : Martin Edwards in conversation with Peter Lovesey

One the many highlights of the Crimfest 2017 weekend in Bristol was the Peter Lovesey interview by the current chair of the Crime Writers Association [CWA], Martin Edwards.

Apart from both authors being celebrated writers within the Crime and Mystery Community [as both are award-winning writers], they are also the nicest guys in the business. Many years ago when I was a CWA judge for the Short Story Dagger Award, Peter was our Chair. I was a bit of fan-boy at the judging meetings during that time as I was somewhat in awe of being in the same room as this legendary writer.

I’ve known Martin Edwards even longer, though we first met in person during the Las Vegas Bouchercon 2003. I soon discovered that Martin and I live about 20 minutes apart in the North West of England. In another curious twist of fate I would later learn that his legal practise represented me when I had some legal issues that need resolving.

Shots were delighted to have been granted permission by Myles and Adrian of Crimefest as well as Peter and Martin to record this interview, which we carried out in our traditional ‘gonzo’ style, split into five sections.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

And remember Peter Lovesey will be a Guest of Honour at Bouchercon, The World Crime and Mystery Convention hosted in Dallas TX [2019]

Peter Lovesey was one of Crimefest 2017’s Guest of Honour and here’s his amusing speech from the Gala Dinner

2017 Arthur Ellis Award Winners

Crime Writers of Canada announced the winners for the 2017 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing on 25th May 2017

Best Novel:  
The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey (Viking Canada)

Best First Novel sponsored by Kobo: 
Strange Things Done by Elle Wild (Dundurn Press)

Best Novella: The Lou Allin Memorial Award: 
Rundown by Rick Blechta (Orca Book Publishers)

Best Short Story: 
A Death at the Parsonage by Susan Daly in The Whole She-Bang 3, (Toronto Sisters in Crime)

Best Book in French:
Red Light: Adieu by Marie-Eve Bourassa (Mignonne, Groupe Ville-Marie Littérature, vlb editions)

Best Juvenile/YA Book:
Masterminds: Criminal Destiny by Gordon Korman (HarperCollins Publishers)

Best Nonfiction Book: 
A Daughter's Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story by Jeremy Grimaldi (Dundurn Press)

Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel sponsored by Dundurn Press: 

The Golkonda Project
 by S.J. Jennings,
CWC also announced the 2017 Derrick Murdoch Award recipient being Christina Jennings. 

The Derrick Murdoch Award is a special achievement award for contributions to the crime genre. This year's recipient is Christina Jennings, founder, Chairman and CEO of Shaftesbury Films. She has won a number of awards, including Genies, Geminis and Canadian Screen Awards, among several other nominations and accolades throughout her career. Christina founded Shaftesbury Films in 1987 as a feature film company. She has produced movies and television series based upon the work of several Arthur Ellis Award-winning Canadian crime writers including the late novelist and playwright Timothy Findlay (External Affairs), novelists Gail Bowen (the Joanna Kilbourn TV movies) and Maureen Jennings (Murdoch Mysteries), as well as historian Marjorie Freeman Campbell (Torso).

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Curious Murder of Felix Francis by Anthony Horowitz

The five minute after-dinner speech by Anthony Horowitz that closed the 2017 Crimefest Gala Awards Dinner was remarkable.
I call the speech remarkable because Horowitz wrote this most amusing British Golden Age Murder Mystery while dinning, during the Gala Dinner.
I recorded it, and after dinner I spoke with Anthony Horowitz who gave me permission to share it with my FB friends before I use it in a planned feature at Shots.
Horowitz and I share a link to London's Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. Horowitz penned TRIGGER MORTIS the last James Bond novel for them; while I am one of Judges on the CWA Steel Dagger.
Horowitz explained to me that he had been told by Adrian Muller and Myles Alfrey of Crimefest to keep the speech to a maximum of five minutes. Crime writers require the bar and any more than five minutes could result in a stampede, for Gin.
Horowitz continued 'I had a speech planned, but Felix Francis' tie triggered some thoughts and as we all chatted over dinner, a sort of story came to me.'
I checked with Felix that he was OK with me releasing it, as Anthony Horowitz had enthusiastically agreed for me to release it. Felix Francis apart from being a great (and underrated) writer is a top bloke and he chuckled that I'd release it.
It is quintessentially English, with the 'Murder' as a puzzle, and jolly funny.
And remember Anthony Horowitz will be a Guest of Honour at Bouchercon, The World Crime and Mystery Convention hosted in Dallas TX [2019]
Pour a glass of Gin and enjoy 'The Curious Murder of Felix Francis' by Anthony Horowitz as performed at Crimefest Bristol 2017

Friday, 26 May 2017

Ottomania! by Barbara Nadel


When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s the idea of monarchy becoming a relevant political force seemed laughable. In 1973 the king of Greece, Constantine, was deposed in a military coup which constituted the last overthrow of monarchy in a Europe that had been gradually getting rid of its royals since the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1979 the Shah of Iran fell and royal families seemed to be on their way out.

Of course in the UK we had and still have our constitutional monarchy which has no political power. But then in 1978 something a bit strange happened in Spain when the Spanish monarchy was restored in the wake of the dictatorship of the fascist leader Francisco Franco. Suddenly Spain had a king and continues to have one to this day.

In the Turkey of my youth one didn't often talk about the sultans who had once ruled what had been, until 1923 (when the Turkish Republic was born) the Ottoman Empire. Occasionally you'd meet someone, someone else would tell you was a prince or princess, but in very hushed tones as if talking about violent death. Until this current century it was considered very backward-looking and  almost shameful to talk about a vanished empire and its archaic system of governance. To be one of 'them' was something that people kept dark.

And indeed when I started writing my Ikmen books back in the 1990s, this had not changed. Those who know my crime novels will recognise immediately that I referred to this phenomenon when I devised the character of Inspector Mehmet Suleyman. Back in the old days of the empire, he would have been a prince, but in the modern world of the Republic, he's just a man whose background is slightly 'exotic'.

However, as time has progressed, things have changed in Turkey. Now, rather than be ashamed of one's Ottoman heritage it is considered a badge of honour. Indeed, when the then head of the royal house of Osmanoglu died in 2009, he was given a state funeral which was attended by government ministers as well as thousands of members of the public.

I have reflected this in my books as Mehmet Suleyman's ancestry becomes more prominent in his life, even though he is not always happy about this. Not all of the vast Osmanoglu family are. Many of them don't even live in Turkey and some see what could be called the rehabilitation of the empire as a backward step.

But whatever the rights and wrongs, what has been called Ottomania, a yearning for the old days of empire, is a real force in Turkey these days. Allied to many of the beliefs and philosophies of the ruling party, love for all things Ottoman is very common and is becoming big business. I can remember a time when you couldn't give Ottoman furniture away. Not now.

In light of this development when I came to writing what is Ikmen book number 19, it was no surprise to me or anyone else that I turned to Ottomania for inspiration. The House of Four is the story of Ottoman relics, both architectural and human and is a study of what happens when families collude in hiding both themselves and their secrets from the world. It's also about how being 'royal' albeit with no power, can cause people to behave in ways that are not always adaptive. Indeed, I would say that on one level 'The House of Four', as well as being a murder mystery, is also an exploration of what it means to be exalted above others by virtue of one's status at birth. The more I dug into the subject the more I came to realise that it is a really unhealthy way to be. It certainly is for the royal characters in this book!

How Mehmet Suleyman will fare in this brave new world of Ottomania, I will leave the reader to discover. But life is changing for him in ways he never dreamed of back in the 1970s. I know how he feels. 

Read John Parker's review here.
Read Barbara's feature on mental illness here

The House of Four by Barbara Nadel, published by Headline 18th May 2017.