Saturday, 16 October 2021

Flying Solo? Mike Ripley on writing his latest ‘Albert Campion’ mystery.

When I was first tempted to continue the adventures of Margery Allingham’s famous detective Albert Campion, almost ten years ago now, I had at least the starting point of a couple of introductory chapters written by her first ‘continuation author’, her husband, Pip Youngman Carter, who died in 1969, three years after Margery.

Asked to continue the series, placing an ageing, quintessentially ‘Golden Age’ sleuth in the Swinging Sixties (or thereabouts), I started Mr Campion’s Fox from scratch, saying that I hoped ‘to fly solo with, and do justice to, a great fictional character.’

With the publication of my ninth ‘Campion’ this month, which contains several flying scenes, it struck me that I have never really flown ‘solo’ with these stories.

For a start, thanks to Margery Allingham, I had wonderful, ready-made, resident cast of characters, notably Campion himself; Amanda, his wife of thirty years (in my timeframe); that solid and dependable policeman Charles Luke; the retired spymaster L.C. Corkran; and, of course, Magersfontein Lugg, that most magnificent of indestructible sidekicks. There was also Rupert, Campion’s son, who was coming of age and available to do some of the heavy lifting - or the ‘running, jumping and shooting’ (as Margery put it) which may be now beyond an elderly gentleman detective. And in one of his continuations, Youngman Carter had given Rupert a girlfriend, Perdita Browning, whom I made his wife, which opened the possibility of a ‘next generation’ of Campions.

Given such a repertory company, I could hardly be said to be flying solo when it came to creating characters. All I had to do was come up with a few plots, research the period I was writing about and stay on track with those much-loved characters, and none of that was done ‘solo’.

To keep faith with Margery’s characters, I had fabulous sources I could call on, the most important being Margery’s own Campion novels and short stories, and to avoid mistakes or fill in any gaps, I had the members of the Margery Allingham Society, who were far more versed in the Campion canon than I was. In addition, I had access to the Allingham archives now lodged in the Albert Sloman Library at Essex University, which gave me a fund of ideas and plot points, including, cheekily, allocating Margery’s passport number to an East German spy!

At work in the Allingham archive at Essex University

In an attempt to recreate the flavour of the original books, I decided to have, as often as possible, maps of the locations - mostly found (roughly) in Margery’s beloved East Anglia - mentioned in the story. There I was supremely fortunate in tapping in to the skills of Roger Johnson, an Allingham Society stalwart and a noted Sherlockian scholar, who has done fantastic work illustrating the topography in eight of the nine novels so far. Between us we have tried to capture the geography of Margery’s fictional world, though we might have invented extra parts of Suffolk..

Roger Johnson’s map for Mr Campion’s Fox.

And when it comes to basic plot ideas, especially on Mr Campions Wings, I had, literally, a flying lesson from my long time ‘technical advisor’ (i.e. on anything which remotely involves anything mechanical), research scientist and inventor, Tim Coles. Actually, more than just a flying lesson. 

Tim and I go back a long way, having met in Cambridge in 1971 whilst both of us worked vacation jobs in Joshua Taylor, the city’s poshest department store. (I think Tim was in ‘Electricals’ and I was in ‘Pots, Pans and Glassware’). His family home was on Barton Road - and the house features in the book - and he had a private pilot’s licence, hence the flying lessons. He had even, in a previous life when I was writing my ‘Angel’ series, taught me how to con my way into a local flying club and hotwire a light aircraft; purely for literary purposes, of course.

On one of our regular hook-ups, Tim said he had come up with a method of murder in an engineering workshop, though he was not sure how to get away with it. He was also keen on a Cambridge setting and, being a city of bicycles, had also thought up a bizarre form of velocipede (it’s in the book) which would have certainly appealed to Margery Allingham’s sense of the ridiculous. Given that Margery had decided, back in the 1930s, to give Amanda Campion (née Fitton) a career in aeronautical engineering and that Cambridge had been a kindergarten for spies, I was sure I could cook up something from these ingredients and the year 1965, for various reasons, virtually chose itself and fitted my Campion timeline perfectly.

But I still wasn’t quite ready to fly solo. There was one particular aspect of aircraft design and development in the 1960s I needed help understanding - an aspect which would be of interest to spies and worth murdering for.

Naturally I turned to another old pal, one who knew about both aircraft and spying, Len Deighton.

Now this wasn’t the first time I had picked the encyclopaedic brain of Mr Deighton. Some years ago, over lunch, our conversation had somehow ranged from the economic history of Florence under the Medicis to a currency scam in Vichy France during World War II and the basic plot of Mr Campion’s War began to take shape.

Ripley and Deighton plotting over lunch.

When I explained to Len what I was after, and the help I needed on (very) technical aspects of jet engines and aircraft design, he politely demurred, saying he was not up to speed on such things - however, he knew a man who was, his son Antoni, an aeronautical engineer in America. Antoni turned out to be an enthusiastic and incredibly patient teacher, answering my idiotic questions about hi-bypass engines and teaching me more about air-flow and wing design than I ever thought possible. 

I have made sure that Tim Coles and Antoni Deighton received advance copies of Mr Campion’s Wings (Severn House, 28th October), to give them plenty of time to discover all the mistakes I made despite their expert advice.

All of which goes to prove that when writing a novel, no-one ever flies solo and in my case, especially not with Margery Allingham looking over my shoulder.

                                                                                      Margery Allingham 1904-1966

Mr Campion's Wings by Mike Ripley (Severn House) Published 28 October 2021 £20.99

A gruesome discovery at an aircraft hanger leads Albert Campion into a turbulent mystery set in Cambridge in the middle of the Cold War. "I have often said that my wife is a constant surprise to me." Cambridge, 1965. The honorary doctorate ceremony for Albert Campion's wife takes a dramatic turn when Lady Amanda is arrested by Special Branch for breaking the Official Secrets Act. Never before having taken much interest in his wife's work in cutting-edge aircraft design, Mr Campion sets out to discover more about the top-secret Goshawk Project in which Amanda is involved. He quickly realizes he is not the only one keen to learn the secrets of the project. When a badly mutilated body is discovered at the Goshawk Project's hangar - the result, it would appear, of a bizarre accident - Campion is drawn into a turbulent mix of industrial espionage and matters of national security. And as he attempts to get to the bottom of the deadly goings-on, it seems that the bicycles and punts are almost as dangerous as the aircraft . . .

Friday, 15 October 2021

Sights and Sounds of Storytelling by Onyeka Nwelue


I wrote The Strangers of Braamfontein, because of my fascination of telling the human story, whether through cinema or book.

The Strangers of Braamfontein is a novel set in present day Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg.

It tells the story of Osas, a young and impressionable Nigerian painter, who escapes poverty and hardship in Benin City, and through the help of a travel agent, finds his way to Johannesburg. To survive, Osas must, out of necessity, live rough and spontaneously. In Braamfontein he encounters the Nigerian Janus-faced Chike, the Zimbabwean Machiavellian Chamai, the pawky Don Papi, the duplicitous Ruth, the savvy April and the fiendish Detectives Jiba and Booysen. Each encounter presents a never-ending string of adventures that lead him further into the dark and twisty underbelly of Johannesburg.

Aside portraying young characters who are both original and energetic, The Strangers of Braamfontein boldly grapples with issues that we don’t always get to tell, even though they pervade the larger part of our society. I am talking about violence, sex, drugs, murder, prostitution, bribery, religion and betrayal. These are the major themes this story seeks to explore through the lives of immigrants: the Nigerian drug-dealers, assassins, prostitutes, scammers, cultists, the Ethiopian human traffickers, the Congolese kidnappers, down to the Zimbabwean homosexual prostitutes and drunks; there are also the Malawian forgers, Angolan and Francophone syndicates, down to the South African blackmailers and gangs. These issues are quite urgent, and that is why I used a 19-year old Osas to set the path that I beat in the story.

A certain US publisher, who read the manuscript of The Strangers of Braamfontein after a mutual friend sent it to him, said: “It has taken me until now to read his novel – I have been struggling to keep my publishing house going during the economic downturn, and it has been hard! Can you offer me any advice? This is a new world for me, but I do very much want to publish African literature if I can. The dialogue in the book is in Nigerian Pidgin English. I completely understand that this lends realism to the book – and I grant that a reader of standard English has some obligation to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone in trying to comprehend this sort of dialect, but it does make a portion of the book unintelligible.”

He also went on to say, “The narration is generally speaking OK but even the English prose needs a lot of work.”

I lived in Mexico and Italy and find their literature quite alluring. Somehow, I thought there is no way I would write a work of fiction like a British author, because I am not British. In what way can I communicate as an African? As a Nigerian? Why would I write a story about Nigerians and not use Nigerian expressions? It was when I realized that all those revisions suggested by the editors were a way of rejecting the book, that I thought it is important to have this story out there. As a result, I set up Abibiman publishing to publish the book, as well as other works of literature, particularly from African voices, that choose to write in an authentic style and expression.

The Strangers of Braamfontein is my way of encouraging people to be authentic, to live the way they would and should, culturally. The idea of setting the dialogue in different languages is to discover and mine the originality in mimicking people: as an anthropologist, I spend my time, sitting at airports and parks, listening to people speak. This, I thought, would be the beauty of the book. It can only spark people to go find the meanings of words, to learn a new language and to learn about people.

The Strangers of Braamfontein by Onyeka Nweleue (published by Abibiman Publishing) Out Now

Osas is a young and impressionable Nigerian painter, who escapes poverty and hardship in Benin City, into the chaotic and crime-ridden belly of Johannesburg, through the help of a travel agent. But to survive, he must live a life of adventure and spontaneity and criminality. As Osas walks through the corners of Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg, he encounters the Nigerian Janus-faced Chike, the Zimbabwean Machiavellian Chamai, the pawky Papi, the duplicitous Ruth, the saavy April and the fiendish Detectives Jiba and Booysen, leading to a bolt from the blue. 

A review of The Strangers of Braamfontein can be found here.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Olly Jarvis on Using His Expertise


How thriller writer Olly Jarvis drew on his expertise as a criminal barrister to write his latest thriller

Like most people, I knew something about the famous characters in history and their accomplishments – from Boudica to Napoleon, Plato to Isaac Newton. All from different places in the world, and in time. What if there was a link, a common denominator that could explain their exploits? 

In my other life as a criminal defence barrister, my job is to persuade juries. To give them an interpretation of the facts that fits with my client’s case. It’s not easy, particularly when the evidence is stacked against the defendant. And of course, there is always prosecution counsel, presenting his or her own spin on the evidence. It’s not a perfect system, but the jury, in my opinion, gets it right 99.9% of the time.

There are similarities between the court process and writing a novel – can the writer persuade the reader to come on a journey through 100,000 words? When defending a trial, the case can be lost with one ill-judged question in cross-examination. With a novel, one illogical action by a character, or a clunky piece of dialogue and the author can lose the reader. This challenge goes to the heart of what I have tried to say with The Genesis Inquiry – not to persuade a jury, but the reader, of something extraordinary in our history. A whole new way of looking at the world. Something that I found more staggering, the deeper my research went. 

There are some remarkable patterns in the history of humanity, inevitably culminating in invasions and clashes of cultures, all based on some perceived difference between peoples. We still see it today.

When I was at school, I learnt about various religions, but not from the perspective of their similarities. It seems to be a human characteristic that we spend so much time focusing on the differences between us. Populations so often obsess over what they see as crucial distinctions between cultures and creeds. As I looked more deeply at ancient manuscripts and books, I learnt of so many forgotten links that join us together. The threads of history began to intertwine the further back I went. I had to unlearn what I had been taught and look at the evidence afresh, just as I would approach a new brief. 

A picture began to emerge that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I had the premise for an international thriller. Could there really be one undiscovered truth that links everything in our past, and provides the key to our future? Is there one critical place in time that set the tone for our epoch? A starting point. To my astonishment, I found such a place. I will leave it to the reader to decide if I’m right.

Who is Ella Blake?

The central characters in The Genesis Inquiry go on a life or death journey to uncover the truth about our past and ultimately, who we are and where we came from. 

The heroine, Ella Blake, is a top barrister with a PhD in history, but not the typical high-flyer one might expect. She’s battered and bruised from a long career of fighting trials. I wanted a modern-day protagonist that I recognised from my own experience of courts and robing rooms. Many criminal lawyers’ mental health is hanging by a thread. It’s only recently that the legal profession, like many other sectors, began to recognise and address issue of wellbeing. It’s not easy to manage the daily stresses and challenges of life in the courtroom.

Ella is a great lawyer who has given her life to her job, but at a cost - mental health, family relationships and more. Deeply flawed, but a good person with an innate sense of right and wrong. The dysfunctional relationship with her daughter, Lizzie, a headstrong student is another layer of conflict in the novel. 

The Genesis Inquiry is crime/mystery thriller but it’s also a story of redemption, of second chances, not just for Ella, but for all of us.

I hope you enjoy the ride…

The Genesis Inquiry by Olly Jarvis published by Hobeck Books (Out Now)

Is there one last undiscovered, great truth? A moment zero, a place in time that links all cultures and creeds? A revelation that will unite us all and change the way we see history forever. Brilliant but burnt-out barrister Ella Blake accepts an apparently simple brief: investigate the mysterious disappearance of an African American polymath from his rooms at Cambridge University. The Inquiry quickly becomes the greatest challenge of her life – solving the mystery of Genesis. Facing danger at every turn, can Ella find the answers to the riddles and clues left by the missing genius? Reunited with her estranged daughter, the Inquiry sends them on a quest across the world and through ancient texts. What is the secret that binds us all? Who is behind the dark forces that will stop at nothing to prevent the world from knowing the truth?

Olly Jarvis is a novelist and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now based in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the English criminal courtroom. His debut novel, Death By Dangerous was longlisted for the CWA 2016 Debut Dagger. He went on to write the acclaimed Jack Kowalski series, set in Manchester. Cut-throat Defence and Unconvicted. For more information about his books visit his website.

Olly is also the creator of The Crime Hub, a website that brings together the different mediums of crime fiction, true crime and the realities of the Criminal Justice System. Contributors include Ann Cleaves, Stephen Fry, Alfred Molina and many more. 

Friday, 8 October 2021

For The thrillers That Will Mess With Your Head by Liz Lawler


Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith was the first psychological thriller I ever read. The plot was utterly brilliant. Two men meet on a train, and by the end of their journey they have formed a twisted plan to swap murders. They can’t possibly get caught for their actions, because they are complete strangers to their intended victims. There is only one problem with their plan. Only one of them is a psychopath. This was not a whodunit, but about motivations in the mind of a killer.

It was probably ten years later before I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s take on the story. My dad didn’t read at all, he left school when he was ten and a half, and he wanted me to see this great film. I remember telling him I’d read the book, and him replying, ‘I bet you wish you’d known there was a film.’ Like it was a hardship for me to have read it when I could have just watched it.

Patricia Highsmith put me on the road to reading every other type of thriller story thereafter. My interest never waned. I think it’s the satisfaction of seeing all the clues comes together that keeps me glued this genre. After the thrill of chasing for the conclusion in my mind. I think I would have enjoyed being a detective. And in fact wanted to join the police when I was 18. My mum said I was too short. That I had to be five foot four. But even if I were half an inch taller, becoming a police officer was never on the cards. My mum had other plans for me. I was to be a nurse.

She was right, of course. I was a natural from day one. I found it easy to communicate with patients and put them at their ease. Nursing is a very hands on job and the last thing a patient needs is to feel self-conscious. As one minute you’re looking at their face, the next you’re inspecting their bottom. As that then causes problems. You don’t want someone with a broken hip, or worse, trying to cover up their privates or refusing to use a bedpan. 

So nursing was then my career and for many years it’s what I did.

Until one day after working a night shift, I came home intending only to take the children to school and myself then to bed, I picked up a pen and notebook and began writing a story. I don’t know what triggered it. Nothing in particular stands out from that night. It was a normal night for accident and emergency. I just remember feeling edgy, and having this need to write. Once started it then became impossible to stop. I was drawn in by characters I was creating and feeling an excitement building from where this plot was going. Weeks passed and every notepad I possessed had been filled in. Until one day it was finally finished. When I knew there was nothing more to be said. There was only one thing then left to do, and that was to read it.

It was after doing this when writing truly began for me. I enjoyed the story. It was bizarre, because even knowing what was to happen, I was feeling a tension and was wanting to get to the end to see everything turn out all right.

So I look back and ask myself how did it ever begin? Was it my love of reading that started it? Or was it something deeper that scratched at the surface? Repressed feelings? Or from a study of human nature? Nursing exposes you to traumatic events. Severe injuries, death, suicide and suffering. To characters with psychological complexities. Why does that woman stay with him? Why keep letting him beat her up? Why is that teenager self-harming? Why won’t that child sit with her mummy? Why did that lad kick another lad’s head?

With every patient you end up taking a little bit of their story away with you. Because you care and you feel and because what happened is real. I think one possibility, is that having stored away lots of memories, my mind decided to have a sort out. To free up some space in the hard drive. To save it from a crash.

The Silent Mother by Liz Lawler (Bookoutre) Out Now

I’m so very sorry. But your son is dead.’ As I hear the words every mother dreads my pulse races and I go cold. But even as my world turns upside down I know the things I’m being told just don’t add up. I have to find out what really happened the night my beautiful boy died… The police tell me it was a tragedy no one could have prevented. But then they reveal the terrible things Tom was keeping from me. The person they describe is nothing like the decent, honest man I raised. Newly qualified as a doctor, Tom had such a bright future ahead of him. A mother knows her own child. And I’m determined to prove my son’s innocence. It’s the last thing I will ever be able to do for him. So I have come to the city where he lived and moved into his empty flat under a different name. When I discover his diary, it becomes clear his death wasn’t an accident. And as I get to know Tom’s friends and neighbours I realise they’re all keeping secrets. But as I get closer to the truth, I realise my life is in danger too…

You can find follow her on Twitter @AuthorLizLawler

Author Bio-

Liz Lawler grew up sharing pants, socks, occasionally a toothbrush, sleeping four to a bed. Born in Chatham and partly raised in Dublin, she is one of fourteen children. She spent over twenty years as a nurse and has since fitted in working as a flight attendant, a general manager of a five star hotel, and is now working with trains. She became an author in 2017 when her debut novel Don’t Wake Up was published by Twenty7. 

Thursday, 7 October 2021

CALL FOR PAPERS: Essays on Police and Policing in 21st Century Film and Television


The Black Lives Matter movement, the trial and conviction of Derek Chauvin calls to defund the police, and the prominence in the media of killer police such as Joseph James DeAngelo are recent manifestations of intense and even unprecedented levels of media attention on policing at interlocking points of race, inequality, social justice and political agendas. Equally, exciting cross-disciplinary engagement between fields of justice studies, criminology, cultural studies and popular culture are increasingly opening up.

Police have been the inspiration for and focus of countless film and television stories, a long-standing dramatic strain that is a fictional backdrop to the intense recent public scrutiny, and at times rejection of policing. Perceptions of the police are shaped by these long standing narrative forms of film and television that can also convey other shapers of perception, from bodycam footage to mobile phone recordings.

At this point of exceptional pressure on police conduct and the uncertain paths that policing will take in the 21st century, this collection is intended to be a topical opportunity to examine the themes of how police and policing are perceived and portrayed and these points are intended as the focal point for each contribution.

We are assembling a special collection of essays that consider addressing the intersection of police and policing with film and television in the 21st century. Possible areas include:

Genre studies and the procedural

Representations of race

Real and fictional police

Reality television

Televising trials

Police in pornographic films

Representations of police both historical and modern

Policing in dystopias

Moral and political authority

Contributions related to the United States are especially welcomed.

Advice for contributors

This edited collection is under contract.

If you are interested in contributing to this collection, we ask that you submit an abstract of up to 250 words explaining the focus and approach your proposed essay. The proposed volume is intended to be scholarly and will be peer reviewed but accessible in tone and approach. Each final contribution should be around 6000 words.

Abstracts should be emailed to

Abstract submission deadline: October 15, 2021

Full paper submission deadline: March 1, 2022

About the editors

Associate Professor Marcus K Harmes has published extensively in the field of popular culture. His most recent publications include Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master (Fantom Publishing 2017) and Doctor Who and the Art of Adaptation (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). He is the author of numerous studies on the church in modern popular culture, including book chapters in the collection Doctor Who and Race, and articles in journals including Science Fiction Film and Television, and Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. In 2018 he edited the Handbook for Springer on Postgraduate Education in Higher Education.

Meredith A Harmes teaches communication in the enabling programs at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. Her research interests include modern British and Australian politics and popular culture in Britain and America. Her most recent publication in the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture was on race and cultural studies on American television. She holds an honours degree from the University of Queensland in political science and a Graduate Diploma of Journalism and a Masters of Public Relations from the University of Southern Queensland. She is co-editor of Postgraduate Education in Higher Education(Springer, 2018).

Dr Barbara Harmes lectures in communication at the University of Southern Queensland, with a particular focus on international students. Her doctoral research focussed on the discursive controls built around sexuality in late-nineteenth-century England. Her research interests include cultural studies, postgraduate education and religion. She has published in areas including modern Australian politics, postgraduate education, 1960s American television and her original field of Victorian literature.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Call For Papers - Global Histories of Crime Fiction: Redefining a Popular Genre


CFP: Global Histories of Crime Fiction: Redefining a Popular Genre

American Comparative Literature Association 2022 Annual Meeting, 15-18 June 

National Taiwan Normal University

Seminar organisers: Jesper Gulddal (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Stewart King (Monash University)

Crime fiction today is a uniquely global genre in the sense of being written, published, sold and read on a significant scale on all continents and in almost every country. It is also global in the sense that it serves across a wide range of locations as an important vehicle for investigating and interrogating relationships between law, crime and justice. This global orientation challenges the persistent notion that crime fiction is predominantly a UK and US phenomenon and that other crime fiction traditions are either peripheral or derivative. Publishers have already embraced the idea of world crime fiction, as evidenced by the large number of crime fiction translations, not only with English as the source or target language, but also between other languages. Similarly, readers around the world have few concerns about reading foreign crime novels, and the combination of familiar forms and unfamiliar, “exotic” content has become one of the major selling points of global crime writing. The scholarly literature has been slow in catching up with these developments, but the last few years have seen lively debate around the concept of crime fiction as world literature. Following on from these discussions, this seminar seeks to overcome one of the last bastions of conventional crime fiction scholarship, namely the tendency to write the history of crime fiction either as the succession of canonical Anglophone formats (classic, hardboiled, etc.) or as accounts of individual national traditions. We pose the question, how can we globalise the historical narratives around crime fiction and move towards an account of the genre that recognises its global diversity and transnational connections.

We welcome papers dealing with any aspects of world crime fiction and the historiographical challenges it presents. Suggested focal points include:

  • The historiographical challenges presented by world crime fiction

  • Autochthonous crime fiction traditions in China, Japan, India, the Arab world and elsewhere

  • Appropriations and localisations of canonical English-language formats around the world

  • Translation as a means of localising crime fiction

  • Lateral circulations of crime fiction that bypass the Anglosphere (such as between China, Japan and Korea, in the Mediterranean, and within the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War)

  • Comparative perspectives on world crime fiction

  • Formal innovation and hybridisation at the “periphery”

  • Indigenous and First Nations crime fiction

  • Reinterpreting British and American crime fiction from a transnational perspective

  • Digital and data-driven approaches to world crime fiction


Conference website:

Submit a paper proposal here:

Tuesday, 5 October 2021



Bloody Scotland hybrid festival which ran from 17-19 September 2021 and closed its virtual doors on 30 September outperformed targets and has prompted organisers to extend their run for next year. Bloody Scotland 2022 will now start in the historic city of Stirling on Thursday 15 September with the torchlight procession and awards presentation and run through to Sunday 18 September.

Online and in person attendance this year was 16,000 and included visitors from over 30 countries. While many audience members were delighted to return to Stirling in person, the digital offering (paid for this year) was also extremely popular. The festival also extended its reach with approximately 25% of physical and online visitors attending the festival for the first time.

All sponsors remained on board and publishers welcomed the digital programme as a means of advertising their authors beyond those who normally pick up a physical brochure.

As Bloody Scotland starts planning for the 10th Anniversary in 2022, founding chair, Jenny Brown is stepping down. She said

It’s been an honour to chair Bloody Scotland since the idea of a Scottish crime writing festival was just an ambitious twinkle in the eyes of co-founders Lin Anderson and Alex Gray, to the splendid internationally-renowned event we have today. The success of the festival is down to the creativity of its directors and whole team, the dedication and energy of the Board, the commitment from our partners, the enthusiasm of crime readers and, above all, the brilliant support from crime writers themselves. As we look forward to Bloody Scotland’s 10th Anniversary in 2022, it’s great to be handing over the chair to Jamie Crawford, with the festival in such good shape for its second decade'.

Incoming chair, publisher and TV presenter, James Crawford said:

Having been involved with Bloody Scotland as publisher of the Bloody Scotland book, and as judge for two years on the McIlvanney Prize, I am delighted to be joining as Chair. This is a festival that has a very strong identity and a clear and ambitious vision for the future, and I am very much looking forward to helping shape the plans for its 10th anniversary in 2022

Bob McDevitt will remain as Festival Director for 2022 supported by the marketing team Fiona Brownlee, Tim Donald and Jessica McGoff and the rest of the board, Abir Mukherjee, Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown, Catriona Reynolds and Muriel Robertson.

Sunday, 3 October 2021


Perfect Crime is Liverpool's first ever crime fiction festival. Based at the Radisson Blu hotel on the stunning Mersey waterfront, it will host some of the biggest names in the world of crime writing. Ann Cleeves, creator of Vera, Shetland, and now the Two Rivers books & TV series, will be appearing at the all-day event for crime fiction fans in Liverpool on Saturday 13th November. Ann, a one-time Merseyside resident herself, says: ‘I can't wait to catch up with readers and writers is one of my favourite cities.' Ann Cleeves and Elly Griffiths will talk about the marginal communities and settings of their books in conversation with Rhiannon Ward, and Ann will and later compare forensic notes with eminent pathologist Professor James Grieve. 

The star-studded line-up also features Sophie Hannah, Mel Sherratt and M W Craven. Author panels will discuss all things crime, from Agatha Christie through gritty psychological thrillers, to murder on the Mersey, and for budding writers, David Jackson will run a workshop on writing the killer pitch.

The day will open, appropriately, with Liverpool. A city steeped in culture and history but often marred by stark contrasts, over the years it has provided a rich seam of stories for writers from literary giants to saga writers. In ‘Murder on the Mersey’, four Merseyside authors will discuss the impact of their beautiful and often troubled hometown on their writing. For ‘Gritty and Gripping’, a panel which includes both serving and former probation officers will discuss just how they put the grit and grip into their thrillers. 

Why are we so obsessed with damaged psychologies and the criminal mind – and what is it like to get into the mind of a killer? Crime fiction and film expert Barry Forshaw will quiz three skilled, award-winning writers of psychological crime on these questions and much more in ‘Mind Games’. And if you like your murder framed in a more elegant era, Martin Edwards, winner of the Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity for his non-fiction book The Golden Age of Murder, will focus on this rich and ever-popular subgenre with Sophie Hannah, who broke the Christie family’s forty-year ban on ‘continuation’ novels, and has now penned four new Poirots, with the Christies’ full blessing.

There will plenty of opportunities for readers to question their favourite authors, who will be available to sign copies of their latest releases and the book room will be open all day for purchases and signings.

Perfect Crime is organised by local publisher Ian Skillicorn and Liverpool crime writers Margaret Murphy and Caz Finlay, who are also appearing at the festival. For Margaret, Perfect Crime fulfils a long-held ambition. She says: ‘In 2008, when Liverpool hosted the British Science Association festival, a discussion panel pitching crime writers against scientists sold out so fast that a second session had to be organised. It occurred to me then that Liverpool is a superb setting for a crime festival. It’s taken almost thirteen years, and is long overdue, but having put together a varied and exciting line-up of authors and experts we’re confident that crime fans will find it worth the wait. We look forward to welcoming writers and - most importantly - readers from far and near to a rewarding day of discussion and entertaining chat with some of the top names in British crime fiction and non-fiction.

Full author guest list:

Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths, Sophie Hannah, Mel Sherratt, Martin Edwards, Susanna Beard, Amanda Brooke, Heather Burnside, MW Craven, Caz Finlay, Barry Forshaw, Prof James Grieve (Senior Forensic Pathologist), Noelle Holten, David Jackson, Margaret Murphy, Rhiannon Ward 

Find the full programme and ticket links at

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Could You Commit a Murder? by Lauren North

For the vast majority of us the answer to this question is of course NO! And yet we never really know how we’re going to react when we find ourselves in the worst moments of our lives, do we?

Just for a minute, imagine the scenario – your boyfriend of seven years is going to propose. You’ve seen the ring hidden in his sock drawer. A big fat diamond you can’t wait for people to see on your finger. He’s been acting quiet and secretive for weeks. And so when he suggests you take a day off work and a walk along the remote cliff tops you both love so much, you know what’s coming. You’re so sure in fact that you let slip to your friends, revelling in the excited squeals over bottles of Prosecco on a Friday night. Your mum is already scrolling Google for suitable wedding venues and has a bottle of champagne hidden in the back of her fridge for when you stop by afterwards to show off the ring. 

The day arrives and it’s overcast, the path along the cliff top blustery and deserted, and when you reach the spot where you shared your very first kiss together, and your boyfriend stops and turns to take in the views of the steal-grey sea and distant ships, you know the moment has come at last. All those years of patience, all those times sat on hard wooden pews watching your friends say, ‘I do’ and pretending not to mind, and finally it’s here – your turn. 

You can’t stop the smile stretching across your face as he turns to you, eyes wide with emotion. But then it all goes wrong. The words that leave his mouth, aren’t, ‘will you marry me?’ they’re, ‘I’m sorry, it’s over.’ He’s in love with someone else. He’s going to propose to someone else. The big fat diamond you found in the sock drawer is for someone else. 

The rage is hot and quick, scorching through your blood. You feel the humiliation burn on your face. All the friends you’ll have to tell, your family too. All those looks of pity from your smug married friends. Oh how wrong you got it. He must see something in your face because he takes a step back, and suddenly he’s close to the edge of the cliff and there’s no one else for miles, and you see in that moment of blinding fury another story. Not the jilted girlfriend, but the grieving fiancée, an unspeakable tragedy after a proposal. Who would know? And all it would take is one shove, one burst of that anger pumping through you. 

Are you still sure you’re not capable of murder? 

Perhaps your answer is still no, and that’s fair enough. But maybe we all have a button somewhere deep inside us, a situation where we’ll find ourselves crossing that line. And let’s not forget that I haven’t even mentioned children yet – that fierce love we have for them, and how far we’d go to protect them. 

It really is impossible to know how anyone will react when their worst moment happens. And there lies the beauty of psychology and the enduring popularity of psychological thrillers. Authors who take the ordinary people, the loving girlfriend, the two point four, the relatable, and throw them into the unimaginable. 

As an author, I’m no different. In my latest novel Safe At Home, anxious mother, Anna, leaves her 11-year old child home alone. Why? Because at some point we have to take that step, we have to give that independence, and it’s only twenty minutes and the village really is very safe. But twenty minutes becomes five hours when a lorry turns over on the road ahead of Anna and she’s stuck. 

It’s all so easy to imagine, isn’t it? 

And now as the author I take it one step further and something terrible happens to Anna’s daughter in that time. There’s mud on the kitchen floor. Someone has been in the house. But Anna’s daughter won’t say a word. So just how far will Anna have to go to find the truth and keep her daughter safe? How far would you go?

Thankfully, those worst moments, that line we never want to cross, is a rare thing indeed, which is another reason why so many readers are drawn into the fictional worlds of psychological thrillers and their characters just like us. 

Safe At Home by Lauren North (Transworld Publishers) Out Now. 

What if you left your child alone, and something terrible happened? Anna James is an anxious mother. So when she has to leave eleven-year-old Harrie home alone one evening, she can't stop worrying about her daughter. But nothing bad ever happens in the sleepy village of Barton St Martin. Except something goes wrong that night, and Anna returns to find Harrie with bruises she won't explain. The next morning a local businessman is reported missing and the village is sparking with gossip. Anna is convinced there's a connection and that Harrie is in trouble. But how can she protect her daughter if she doesn't know where the danger is coming from?

You can find more information about her and her books on her website and you can also follow her on Twitter @Lauren_C_North

Petrona Award 2021 Shortlist is announced


Outstanding crime fiction from Iceland, Norway and Sweden shortlisted for the 2021 Petrona Award 

Six outstanding crime novels from Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been shortlisted for the 2021 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The shortlist is announced today, Thursday 30 September. 

A NECESSARY DEATH by Anne Holt, tr. Anne Bruce (Corvus; Norway)

DEATH DESERVED by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, tr. Anne Bruce (Orenda Books; Norway)

THE SECRET LIFE OF MR. ROOS by Håkan Nesser, tr. Sarah Death (Mantle; Sweden)

TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

THE SEVEN DOORS by Agnes Ravatn, tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway)

GALLOWS ROCK by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

The winning title, usually announced at the international crime fiction convention CrimeFest, will now be announced on Thursday 4 November 2021. The winning author and the translator of the winning title will both receive a cash prize, and the winning author will receive a full pass to and a guaranteed panel at CrimeFest 2022.

The Petrona Award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia, and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his continued generous support of the Petrona Award. We would also like to thank Jake Kerridge for being a guest judge last year. 

We are delighted to welcome new judge Ewa Sherman to the Petrona Team. Ewa is a translator and writer. She blogs at NORDIC LIGHTHOUSE, is a regular contributor to CRIME REVIEW, and volunteers at crime fiction festivals in Reykjavik, Bristol and Newcastle.

The judges’ comments on each of the shortlisted titles:

A NECESSARY DEATH by Anne Holt, tr. Anne Bruce (Corvus; Norway)

Anne Holt, according to Jo Nesbø, is the ‘godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction’. Best known for her ‘Hanne Wilhelmsen’ and ‘Vik/Stubø’ series (the inspiration for TV drama Modus), she also served as Norway’s Minister for Justice in the 1990s. A Necessary Death is the second in Holt’s ‘Selma Falck’ series, whose eponymous protagonist is a high-flying lawyer brought low by her gambling addiction. The novel shows Falck resisting an attempt to kill her: on waking in a burning cabin in a remote, sub-zero wilderness, she has to figure out how to survive, while desperately trying to remember how she got there. A pacy, absorbing thriller with a gutsy, complex main character.

DEATH DESERVED by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, tr. Anne Bruce (Orenda Books; Norway)

Death Deserved marks the beginning of an exciting collaboration between two of Norway’s most successful crime authors. Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst are both already well known for their long-running ‘Henning Juul’ and ‘William Wisting’ series. Death Deserved, in which a serial killer targets well-known personalities, mines each writer’s area of expertise: the portrayal of detective Alexander Blix draws on Horst’s former career as a policeman, while Enger brings his professional knowledge of the media to the depiction of journalist Emma Ramm. The novel expertly fuses the writers’ individual styles, while showcasing their joint talent for writing credible and engaging characters, and creating a fast-paced, exciting plot. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF MR. ROOS by Håkan Nesser, tr. Sarah Death (Mantle; Sweden)

Håkan Nesser, one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, is internationally known for his ‘Van Veeteren’ and ‘Inspector Barbarotti’ series. The Secret Life of Mr. Roos is the third in a quintet featuring Gunnar Barbarotti, a Swedish policeman of Italian descent, who is a complex yet ethically grounded figure. His relatively late appearance in the novel creates space for the portrayal of an unlikely friendship between Mr. Roos, a jaded, middle-aged man who has unexpectedly won the lottery, and Anna, a young, recovering drug addict of Polish origin, who is on the run. Slow-burning literary suspense is leavened with a dry sense of humour, philosophical musings, and compassion for individuals in difficult circumstances.

TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

Mikael Niemi grew up in the northernmost part of Sweden, and this forms the setting for his historical crime novel To Cook a Bear. It’s 1852: Revivalist preacher Lars Levi Læstadius and Jussi, a young Sami boy he has rescued from destitution, go on long botanical treks that hone their observational skills. When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear, but Læstadius and Jussi find clues using early forensic techniques that point to a far worse killer. Niemi’s eloquent depiction of this unforgiving but beautiful landscape, and the metaphysical musings of Læstadius on art, literature and education truly set this novel apart.

THE SEVEN DOORS by Agnes Ravatn, tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway)

Agnes Ravatn’s The Seven Doors has shades of Patricia Highsmith about it: a deliciously dark psychological thriller that lifts the lid on middle-class hypocrisy. When Ingeborg, the daughter of university professor Nina and hospital consultant Mads, insists on viewing a house that her parents rent out, she unwittingly sets off a grim chain of events. Within a few days, tenant Mari Nilson has gone missing, and when Nina starts to investigate her disappearance and past life as a musician, worrying truths begin to emerge. A novel about gender, power and self-deception, expertly spiced with Freud and Bluebeard, The Seven Doors delivers an ending that lingers in the mind.

GALLOWS ROCK by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

Gallows Rock is the fourth in Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s ‘Children’s House’ series, featuring child psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar as a reluctant investigative duo. Their relationship provides readers with some lighter moments and occasional black humour, along with a frisson of mutual attraction. The novel’s intricate plot focuses on skewed morals and revenge: what begins as a ritualistic murder at an ancient execution site in the lava fields – the Gallows Rock of the title – leads to the unearthing of a case of long-term abuse, whose devastating impact is sensitively explored. The author won the 2015 Petrona Award for The Silence of the Sea.

The judges

Jackie Farrant – Crime fiction expert and creator of RAVEN CRIME READS; bookseller for twenty years and a Regional Commercial Manager for a major book chain in the UK.

Dr. Kat Hall – Translator and editor; Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University; international crime fiction reviewer at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES. 

Ewa Sherman – Translator and writer; blogger at NORDIC LIGHTHOUSE; regular contributor to CRIME REVIEW; volunteer at crime fiction festivals in Reykjavik, Bristol and Newcastle. 

Award administrator

Karen Meek – owner of the EURO CRIME website; reviewer, former CWA judge for the International Dagger, and Library Assistant.

Further information can be found on the Petrona Award website:

Images of the Petrona Award logo and the shortlisted titles are available (from 8.00am) at:

(copy & paste link into browser)

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Books to look Forward to from Profile Books (Incl Viper Books)

 January 2022

A murder that no-one wants to solve... Dublin 1986. The murder of an off-duty officer in Phoenix Park should have brought down the full power of the Dublin police force. But Kieran Lynch was found in a notorious gay cruising ground, so even as the press revels in the scandal, some of the Murder Squad are reluctant to investigate. Only Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine are willing to search out the difficult truth, walking the streets of nighttime Dublin to find Kieran's lovers and friends. But Gina has her own secret that means she must withhold vital evidence. When a fire rips through Temple Bar and another man is killed, she must decide what price she is willing to pay to find a murderer. The Burning Boy is by Nicola White.

The Twyford Code is by Janice Hallett. It's time to solve the murder of the century... Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children's book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford's novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven's memory won't allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn't just a writer of forgotten children's stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn't the only one trying to solve it...

February 2022

Who will survive the night? A nightmare jolts Debs awake. She leaves the kids tucked up in their beds and goes downstairs. There's a man in her kitchen, holding a knife. But it's not an intruder. This is her husband Marc, the father of her children. A man she no longer recognises. Once their differences were what drew them together, what turned them on. Him, the ex-army officer from a good family. Her, the fitness instructor who grew up over a pub. But now these differences grate to the point of drawing blood. Marc screams in his sleep. And Debs hardly knows the person she's become, or why she lets him hurt her. Neither of them is completely innocent. Neither is totally guilty. Marc is taller, stronger, and more vicious, haunted by a war he can't forget. But he has no idea what Debs is capable of when her children's lives are at stake... A powerful exploration of a relationship built on passion, poisoned by secrets and violence. Nasty Little Cuts is by Tina Baker

March 2022

You can't escape the desert. You can't escape Sundial. Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because she fears what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice. Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive. Sundial is by Catriona Ward.

April 2022

Begars Abbey is by V L Valentine. A dark house filled with darker secrets. Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother's things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire. Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Sam's crippled grandmother, Lady Cooper, a housekeeper and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself. Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. For there are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily...

May 2022

Murder by the Seaside is by Cecily Gayford. It's the height of summer. As the heat shimmers on the streets and ice cream melts onto sticky fingers, tempers begin to rise and old grudges surface. From Cornish beaches to the French Riviera, it's not just a holiday that's on people's minds ... it's murder. In these ten classic stories from writers such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare and Margery Allingham, you'll find mayhem and mysteries aplenty. So grab the suncream and head down to the beach - if you dare.

To tell the truth? Or protect his family? Cornell is having a bad time. Kicked out of secondary school for a fight he didn't start, he finds himself in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here he makes friends with one of the Sinclair family. You don't mess with the Sinclairs, and when Ryan Sinclair demands Cornell comes with him to teach another student some respect, Ryan witnesses something that will change his life. Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make. Witness is by Alex Wheatle.

'There were good people in The Homes. But there were also some very, very bad ones...' A thousand unwanted children live in The Homes, a village of orphans in the Scottish Lowlands on the outskirts of Glasgow. Lesley was six before she learned that most children live with their parents. Now Lesley is twelve, and she and her best friend Jonesy live in Cottage 5, Jonesy the irrepressible spirit to Lesley's quiet thoughtfulness. Life is often cruel at The Homes, and suddenly it becomes much crueller. A child is found murdered. Then another. With the police unable to catch the killer, Lesley and Jonesy decides to take the matter into their own hands. But unwanted children are easy victims, and they are both in terrible danger... The Homes is by J B Mylet.

June 2022

Would you open The Box to save your daughter? Ed Truman's family is falling apart. His daughter Ally is being targeted by an alt-right incel organisation, Men Together. His house is being picketed, former clients are accusing him of sexual assault, his son won't speak to him. And then Ally disappears. Frantic, Ed suspects that Men Together have abducted her. But before he can go to the police, his DNA is found on the body of a young woman. Suddenly he's the subject of a nationwide manhunt, led by the tenacious DCI Jackie Rose. Ed finds himself on the run with Ally's friend, the enigmatic Phoenix, who claims to know where Ally is. But what is the truth? Is Ed a violent sexual predator? Or is he the victim of a ruthless conspiracy? The answers are in The Box. But not everyone who goes in, comes out alive... The Box is by Dan Malakin.