Sunday, 7 August 2022

The Inspiration for Guilt by Heather Burnside


It is interesting how the idea for a novel can lead to others until you end up with a whole series. Sometimes you can find other ideas occurring even when you think the series is complete. This happened with The Working Girls, which began as a single novel called The Mark. That initial novel gradually grew into five, and my latest release, Guilt, is a spin off from The Working Girls

When I wrote The Mark, I intended it to be a standalone having already written two trilogies. However, it was through research for The Mark that I felt compelled to write further books around the world of working girls. The Mark features journalist, Maddy, who goes to interview sex workers in a seedy pub for an exposé about their lives. She is spotted by ruthless pimp, Gilly, who takes an unhealthy interest in her, which soon turns into obsession, placing Maddy in grave danger.

As part of my research, I wanted to find out more about sex workers. As well as reading autobiographies of former working girls and watching videos about their lives, I visited two charities in Manchester where I interviewed staff. MASH provides support to sex workers and Lifeshare offers help to young homeless adults. There are big overlaps between homelessness in young women and sex work. Many of them offer sexual favours in return for a bed for the night, a meal, or drugs, which can eventually become a regular pattern. 

A particular series of videos grabbed my interest. They showed interviews with working girls who were candid about their lives. Many of them had similar backgrounds including homelessness, broken homes, the care system and dysfunctional families with alcoholic or addict parents. 

Despite their shared experiences, each girl had her own distinct personality. The more I watched the videos, the more I wanted to write about their lives. Therefore, each subsequent book after The Mark tells the story of a different girl. My spin off novel, Guilt, continues the story of Laura and her daughter, Candice, which began in book three, Crystal.

As the series progressed, I became aware that Candice would have become an adult by the time in which Guilt is set so I wanted to do something that would link her to Laura’s past. At first, I decided to make her a police officer but, at the age of twenty, I realised that she would not be old enough for a senior role within the force, which was where I would have placed her.

Then another idea came to me, connected to something Laura had done years previously: 

At the time in which Guilt is set, Laura has moved on with her life. No longer a working girl and drug addict, she now runs a successful chain of fashion boutiques. She has worked hard to overcome her addictions and provide a better life for herself and for Candice who is now at university. 

Unfortunately, in the past Laura took some drastic action to beat her addictions and it is this action that comes back to bite her in a devastating and dramatic way. Somebody knows what she did, and they won’t stop until they see her destroyed. Not content with ruining her businesses, they want to destroy everything she holds dear including her relationship with her daughter. 

In Guilt Candice is living the student life, meeting new friends through university and summer jobs. She also has a loving boyfriend, Thomas. Laura dotes on Candice and does her best to make up for past mistakes. Everything is going well until somebody starts targeting Laura’s businesses and then her staff. The stress affects Laura so badly that she is in danger of slipping back into old habits and this causes conflict between mother and daughter.

Guilt works well as a continuation of the series, and I have brought in some characters from previous books including Trina, the feisty but fair madam of a brothel who is also Laura’s supportive best friend. Although Guilt continues the story which began in Crystal, it can be read as a standalone novel. The same applies to all the books in The Working Girls series, which are linked through their characters and setting although each one tells a separate story.

Early reviewers have said that they loved finding out what happened to the working girls later in life and they liked seeing the re-emergence of earlier characters. I hope my readers will enjoy Guilt as much as they have enjoyed the rest of the series.

Guilt’ by Heather Burnside is just published by Head of Zeus as a paperback original at £9.99

Someone knows what she did... Businesswoman Laura Sharples owns a fashionable chain of clothing shops, but not so long ago she called herself Crystal and worked the streets of Manchester. Although she's moved on, she's never forgotten how far she had to go to beat her addictions and raise her daughter, Candice. But when Laura's business is repeatedly vandalised, she begins to fall back into old habits to cope with the stress. As the attacks escalate, the police have no leads. But Laura is terrified: someone must know the truth about who she used to be... And they won't stop until she loses everything.

More inormation about Heather Burnside and her work can be found on her website. You can also find her Twitter @heatherbwrites

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Shamus Award Winners 2022


The 2022 Shamus Award Winners from the Private Eye Writers of America have just been announced. The Shamus Awards are for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2021.

Best P.I. Hardcover:

Family Business, by S.J. Rozan (Pegasus)

Best Original P.I. Paperback:

Every City Is Every Other City, by John McFetridge (ECW Press)

Best First P.I. Novel

Lost Little Girl, by Gregory Stout (Level Best)

Best P.I. Short Story

Sweeps Week,” by Richard Helms (EQMM, July/August)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Friday, 5 August 2022

In The St Hilda's Spotlight - Anna Bailey


Name:- Anna Bailey

Job:- Author

Twitter:- @annafbailey


Tall Bones is Anna Bailey's debut novel which was inspired by her experience of small town America. It has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award. Tall Bones was published in the US under the title Where he Truth Lies. Anna Bailey was a Theakston's New Blood author in 2021. It was also longlisted for the Theakston Crime novel of the Year Award in 2021. it was also a Sunday Time's Bestseller.

Current book? (This can either be the current book that you are reading or writing)

I’m currently reading Dalva by American author Jim Harrison, which follows a woman returning home to rural Nebraska in search of the son she once gave up for adoption. I only recently discovered his work, but he’s already become a favourite – there’s so much passion and fondness in the way he writes about the wild landscapes of the US.

Favourite book?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been one of my firm favourites ever since I reread it as an adult several years ago. I don’t have anything very clever to say about it, except that I think it’s the loveliest book I’ve ever read. But in terms of books I can just jump back into and reread bits and pieces of over and over again, Annie Proulx’s collection of short stories, Close Range, is one I’m always returning to. Her writing is just astounding, her sense of humour brutal and brilliant, and much like Jim Harrison, I love the way she writes about landscapes.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 

Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice and Dorian Gray. I’d like to see them eviscerate each other.

How do you relax?

I watch the most awful, low budget 2000s-era horror films and drink cheap prosecco.

Which book do you wish you had written and why? 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s like a perfect crisp autumn day condensed into a novella, and I love it when female characters get to be genuinely, delightfully unhinged.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.

Stock up on toilet paper, there’s going to be a global pandemic next year.” I don’t know actually, I feel very disconnected from myself in the past – I think I’d just tell them to keep going, and that the feeling of holding their completed novel in their hands is absolutely worth all the blood, sweat and tears they poured into it.

How would you describe your latest published book?

When a teenage girl disappears from a small town deep in the Rocky Mountains, the ensuing investigation unearths terrible secrets about her very religious, very isolated community.

With Town and Country: Green Lanes to Mean Streets being the theme at St Hilda's this year, Where is your favourite town and where is your favourite country? Why have you chosen these?

There’s a little town called Mont Dore in the mountains of central France which I want to say is my favourite. My partner is French and for the past three years we’ve taken our vacation there every summer – we hike and read and write and eat well, it’s so relaxing, and the surrounding country is my favourite kind: great forests of pine trees and waterfalls and rugged mountains, on one of which my partner proposed to me, so it has a very special place in my heart.

What are you looking forward to at St Hilda's?

It’s a genuine honour to have been invited to St Hilda’s and I’m really looking forward to meeting the other brilliant speakers, as well as getting to spend time in Oxford, which I haven’t visited post-lockdown, so it’ll be lovely to be back.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey (Transworld) Out Now

When Emma leaves her friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, beneath the stark beauty of the stars, but Emma will never see her friend again. But what happens next in Whistling Ridge is so much more than the story of a missing girl. It's a spellbinding story that will keep you guessing, a story of surprises and secrets, regrets and rage, love and lies. Abi's disappearance cracks open the façade of this small town, peeling away the layers of its past. Even within Abi's own family there are questions to be asked - of the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of the shining younger sibling who hides his wounds, of her mother and her father - both in thrall to the fiery preacher who has an unsettling grasp on the whole town. And then there is Rat, the outsider, whose exciting presence is a catalyst for change. Anything could happen in a tinder-box like Whistling Ridge. All it will take is just one spark...the truth of what happened that night at the Tall Bones.

Information about 2022 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Fatal Shore Festival of Crime Writing – All Day Event

As part of Shoreham Wordfest Festival that is taking place between 3rd and 16th October 2022 a one-day crime writing event is being curated and hosted by William Shaw and Elly Griffiths on Saturday 15t October 2022.


Details of the programme for the day can be found here. Further information about buying tickets can be found here.

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys - Exclusive Book Trail


The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys by Jack Jewers (Moonflower Publishing) Out Now 

It is the summer of 1669 and England is in dire straits. The treasury's coffers are bare and tensions with the powerful Dutch Republic are boiling over. And now, an investigator sent by the King to look into corruption at the Royal Navy has been brutally murdered. Loathe to leave the pleasures of London, Samuel Pepys is sent dragging his feet to Portsmouth to find the truth about what happened. Aided by his faithful assistant, Will Hewer, he soon exposes the killer. But has he got the right man? The truth may be much more sinister. And if the real plot isn't uncovered in time, England could be thrown into a war that would have devastating consequences ...

There is a really cool trailer to celebrate the launch of the book.

Samuel Pepys Diary has enthralled readers for centuries with its audacious wit, gripping detail, and indecent assignations. Pepys stopped writing at the age of 36. Or did he? The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys picks up a week after Pepys’ last diary entry, and follows Pepys on a mission to investigate the death of a Crown agent in Portsmouth – the home of the Royal Navy. Events spiral out of control, embroiling Pepys in a deadly plot that reaches higher than he ever could have imagined. And along the way he is forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about who he is and what he really believes…

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Shortlist for 2022 Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction Announced


Five authors have been nominated and the winner will receive a cash prize to support the completion of their work.

The shortlist for a prestigious North East literary prize has been announced. The Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction celebrates outstanding crime and thriller storytelling of those who are from or whose work celebrates the North East of England. Five authors have been nominated for this year's prize which was won in 2021 by Whitley Bay writer and former pizza deliverer Robert Scragg with his novel Helix.

He is returning as a judge this year alongside Northumberland author and founder of the prize LJ Ross, crime writer Nicky Black, and Newcastle Noir crime fiction festival founder Dr Jacky Collins. The winner will be announced on August 31 and will receive a cash prize to support the completion of their work, alongside funding for membership of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

LJ Ross said: "It’s always a real privilege to read the Lindisfarne Prize shortlist, and each year to see how the North East of England continues to inspire such creativity. I admire anyone with the courage to write, so I applaud all this year’s entries, and congratulate those who’ve been shortlisted from amongst such an outstanding selection. I can hardly believe the Prize is now in its fourth year - I hope it can continue to inspire and support the arts in our region for many more years to come."

The Shortlist

Can't Hide by Clare Sewell

Sharp Focus by Duncan Robb

Salted Earth by Katherine Graham

The Children of Gaia by Jacqueline Auld

The Taste of Iron by Ramona Slusarczyk

Congratulations all the shortlisted authors.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

How Monsters Hide in Plain Sight By Alexandrea Weis

©Vesuvian Media Group

Many who have watched documentaries on serial killers, rapists, and con artists often wonder how victims didn’t see them coming until it was too late. After all, the perpetrator’s abhorrent behavior is evident to everyone sitting at home safely tucked behind computer screens and televisions.

Unfortunately, countless people have had the misfortune of encountering psychopaths. They are narcissistic, manipulative, impulsive, and lack empathy. Psychopaths are usually charismatic and skilled at playing a role to get what they want. Like Bernie Madoff, who conned investors out of millions, they have no conscience, show no remorse for their actions, and are callous, unemotional, and morally depraved. These criminals pretend to care when it suits their needs and can present as adjusted, well-rounded individuals to hide their cruel or deviant behavior. Remember Ted Bundy and how he charmed his trial judge? Bundy and others like him are not considered legally insane because they know right from wrong. They just don’t think the law applies to them.

Rapists can also have psychopathic traits. I experienced this firsthand in high school. A friend, Lady L, was raped by a young man. He was handsome, popular, the son of wealthy parents, but known for his ego, love of flirting, and ability to worm his way out of trouble. When she was asked out by the boy who made every girl’s heart flutter, rumors began to swirl about his penchant for rape. After her date, everyone noticed a change in her. A girl who had once dressed well and took pride in her social calendar was seen in baggy clothes and withdrew from all activities. I remember noticing, but I never put the signs together because no one taught us what they meant. Thirty-five years later, Lady L finally told her family and friends what had happened. She’d lost her virginity to a man who drugged and raped her. He never paid for his crime, and his wife and children do not know what he did.

Through fiction, a reader can safely delve into the mind of such twisted people. River of Ashes is a cautionary tale about a guy who is perfect—until he isn’t. Sometimes evil hides behind a handsome face and killer smile. Beau Devereaux, the golden boy of St. Benedict, Louisiana, is the catch of the town. But behind his Prince Charming persona hides a monster. Beau’s victims never saw him coming, either. And even after he commits heinous acts, people keep quiet for the same reasons most young women do today—fear of reprisals, humiliation, peer pressure, and lack of trust in “the system.” Part of me wanted to write River of Ashes for my Lady L, to help open readers’ eyes to what can happen. People are rarely who they seem, which is even more evident with psychopaths. We all judge a book by its cover. We admire the packaging and, from that, develop a sense of trust. But until we urge people to question every Prince Charming that comes along, the suffering of women in our society will continue to be the focus of movies and novels.

Some readers wonder why Beau Devereaux is the way he is, but there is no clear explanation. The abuse excuse made famous in the Menendez brothers’ trial does not apply to most psychopaths. A few came from loving homes such as Dennis Radner, the BTK killer. And though there isn’t a psychopath gene, studies show psychopathy does run in families. Even if a parent doesn’t exhibit any traits, they may carry a genetic variant that increases their child’s chance of psychopathy. Troubling behaviours usually emerge during childhood and worsen over time. Puberty is when most develop dark fantasies they act out later in life. Such was the case with Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. No one expects to come face to face with a psychopath, but some of us already have. So, look beneath the shiny veneer if anyone appears too good to be true. Educating young people today could spare many from becoming victims in the future. Acknowledging such horrific subjects isn’t easy, but it is necessary. We have an opportunity to raise awareness, even if we must tackle such an unsettling subject one book at a time.  

Rivers of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor (Vesuvian Books) Out Now

Along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river. And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux. The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The 'prince” of St Benedict is the ultimate catch. He is also a psychopath. A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau's eveil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensires their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend's headstrong twin sister, Leslie who hates him. Everything he wants but canot have, she will be his ultimate prize. As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux. And that someone will pay with their life.

More information about Alexandrea Weis can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twtter @alexandreaweis and on Facebook and Instagram @alexandreaweis

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Q& A with Charlotte Carter

©Charlotte Carter


Charlotte Carter is the author of the jazz based trilogy novels featuring Nanette Hayes a young Black American jazz musician street busker. A former editor and teacher. The series was originally published in the 1990s and has recently been republished by Baskerville Publishing.

Ayo:- When I first read your Nanette Hayes series one of the things that drew me to the series aside from the fact that your love of jazz comes through on every single page is how spunky and sassy and sexually liberated Nanette is. Is there any part of you in Nanette and if so was this intentional?

Charlotte:- Spunk, sass, sexually liberated. I wish. Maybe the best answer is that my innate shrinking violet was always dueling with a bolder, more courageous persona, and to my surprise, sometimes the bold one won out over Miss Timid. Kind of depends on what’s at stake, I guess.

Of course there’s a bit of yourself in nearly every character. It occurs to me that one of the plusses of a first person narrative is that if you so choose, you can present yourself as a better you. Smarter, funnier, prettier, cooler, whatever. 

Ayo:- When the series was first published it was like a fresh of breath air and Nanette was a very unusual character. A strong black female. This impression has continued with how she has been received since the books have been re-issued. Were you surprised about this especially since she appears to be the head of the curve when it comes to dealing with social issues?

Charlotte:- It’s interesting how many times this thing about Nanette being “ahead of the curve” in dealing with social/racial issues has come up. “Strong black female” on the dust jacket is almost a yawn these days. I had no agenda, certainly I had no intention to use Nan as a way to preach or teach. In fact, perhaps people looked at her as a breath of fresh air because she isn’t out to sway opinion or shout the house down about this or that issue--but her take on race, colour, power dynamics, sexism, and so on, is still clear. 

Ayo:- It is evident that you have a great love of jazz, jazz history and film noir. Where did this come from?

Charlotte:- You know how you hear music that’s strange to your ears, you don’t know who’s playing or singing but you know you need to hear/learn more about it. A lot of the music I love came at me when I was young, and there were endless opportunities to learn more. I was living in a black community, and in a large multigenerational household, where some kind of music was playing all the time. So, one of my relatives was friendly with a guy who worked at a blues club, my mother and her girlhood friend were semiprofessional performers when they were young, my uncle with the drug problem was a Charlie Parker fanatic, an eighth grade teacher would try to instill black pride in us by playing Leontyne Price or some indigenous Ghanaian music, and so on. I guess once in a while I’d hear something and think, Nah, not feeling that, tune it out--but most of the time I could just go with it.

As for the film stuff, having a mother who didn’t make me go to bed at any particular time had a lot to do with how my interest in movies developed. It is amazing how many films you could see after prime time—and the variety was amazing. I’m talking about the early 60s. I’d see foreign movies dubbed into English, talk shows that originated in New York [guests from Richard Pryor to Oscar Levant to Lenny Bruce to Gwen Verdon; I even saw Jack Kerouac on tv], and an endless parade of noir films—a treasure trove. Before long I was taking note of the cinematographers and who wrote the scores and what novel the movie was taken from. The world view that life could be dark and short and often brutal was not a hard sell for me. There was a hell of a lot of grim stuff going on around me. To be honest, I’ve gotten way more out of living than I ever thought I would.

Ayo:- Is there anything you would have changed if you could since you initially wrote the books?

Charlotte:- Yeah. They’d be better. And I wouldn’t have stayed so silent. I more or less turned away from trying to write, which meant I blew the chance to be better.

©Charlotte Carter

Ayo:- Have you still got a love of jazz and for someone who wanted to read the books with music playing in the background which jazz artists or songs would you recommend? 

Charlotte:- Better for people to listen to anything they really like. I played Talking Heads the other day, to get myself up and moving. I play Coltrane a lot. But I haven’t been diligent about keeping up with newer artists. I’m pledging that when Covid is behind us [ha ha], I will start going out again [if there are any venues left] to hear some of the good musicians around today. There are probably a hundred of them just on this side of town.

Ayo:- How pleased were you when Baskerville decided to re-issue the Nanette Hayes trilogy?

Charlotte:- Very pleased. That came out of the blue. Can’t rewrite them at this stage, but I took the opportunity to do some minor surgery on the books, taking out stuff that was a bit over the top, adding a scene or two to each of the books. I haven’t done much writing the last ten years. Collaborated with my husband in the early 2000s on a film treatment, but we weren’t successful. Wow, was he prescient—he tried like hell for a good 15 years to sell this dystopic novel we were writing together, about the overturning of Roe v Wade and the criminalization of abortion in the States. They all laughed ….

Ayo:- Rhode Island Red is my favourite of the trilogy partly because it sems to be an ode to Dashiell Hammett and The Maltese Falcon which is one of my all time favourite crime novels and also because it is was my introduction to such a wonderful series. Was this intentional as there is a missing saxophone at the heart of the story?

Charlotte:- Yes. That, and many other crime things where the cast of characters are on a kind of quest for something elusive, something or someone. It’s enough of a recognized trope that it didn’t feel like stealing. The search almost never ends well.

Ayo:- Have we seen the end of this series? 

Charlotte:- To be brief, I don’t know. A couple of plots are bubbling, but I genuinely don’t know if anything will come of them.

Ayo:- What are you working on at the moment?

Charlotte:- A novel, due out next year. It’s not a Nanette, it’s full of grief and death but it’s not a murder mystery, and it is set in both the past and the present, often at the same time; it has a paranormal edge; almost a druggy edge; it’s… what?... inescapably erotic; and in this case, those racial and societal issues indeed are like a cloud overlaying the entire book.

My post about the series can be read here. There is also a Q & A with Charlotte Carter at Crime Time which can be read here.


Saturday, 30 July 2022

In The St Hilda's Spotlight - Peter May


Name:- Peter May

Job:- Author and former television dramatist

Twitter:- @authorpetermay



Peter May is a scottish author and a naturalised French citizen. He is the author of a number of different series and standalone novels. 

The Blackhouse the first in the Lewis Trilogy was first published in France under the title L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival in 2010 and won the Barry Award for Crime Novel of the Year and the Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE (Readers' prize for best novel by a European author, published in France) in 2011. It was also chosen as one of the Richard and Judy books for the autumn 2011 list. The second book The Lewis Man won the French daily newspaper Le Télégramme's 10,000-euro Grand Prix des Lecteurs, the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival, 2012 and the won the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival. The Chessman, the third book in the trilogy was published in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2014.

In 2014, Entry Island (a standalone novel) won both the Deanston's Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and the UK's ITV Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year Award. It also won the French Trophée 813 for the Best Foreign Crime Novel of the year 2015. In 2021 he was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library which recognises the popularity of an author's body of work with readers and users of libraries.

The Enzo Files are set in France featuring a half scottish, half Italian former forensic scientist, now working as a biology professor. His has written six books in his China thriller series and he is the only westerner to be honoured by the Beijing Chapter of the Chinese Crime Writers Association where he is an honorary member.

His most recent book is The Night Gate which is an Enzo File book. Peter May is currently writing A Winter Grave that is due out in January 2023.

Current book? (This can either be the current book that you are reading or writing)

I am in the production process with my latest book, which will be released next January. I have just gone through the copy-edit and should receive proofs within the next two weeks. “A Winter Grave” is a thriller set in 2051 (the year of my 100th birthday) in a world transformed by climate change. It is largely set in the West Highlands of my native Scotland and I feel that it might be one of my very best.

Favourite book?

The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B” by J.P. Donleavy. I first read this book when I was eighteen, and it profoundly influenced my writing style.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 

Inspector Jules Maigret to discuss the insights into the human condition that made him such a intelligent and compassionate investigator; Charles Latimer, Eric Ambler’s mystery writer in “The Mask if Dimitrious”. I’d love to ask him why he didn’t regard the extraordinary adventures he had just been through as inspirational material for his next book – rather than sitting down at the end of it to write yet another “golden age” murder mystery set in a country mansion.

How do you relax?

Writing and recording music. Music has been one of the great loves of my life, playing in bands from my early teens and into my twenties. Now that I have more time, and a little money, I have been able to install a home recording studio to indulge my passion fully. I will be bringing out an album of original songs later this year.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, because I would love to have lived that life, met those people, experienced those things.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.

Stick at it. No matter how many knockbacks you receive, just keep writing and believe in yourself, even when others don’t.

How would you describe your series characters? 

I have only once set out to write a series – the Enzo Files. My China Thrillers only became a series at the prompting of my publisher. Likewise the Lewis Trilogy. I loved the characters in both those series because through them I was able to explore emotions and experiences, and create the kind of long term relationships I had learned to craft as a writer of TV soap. But Enzo was a character with whom I wholly identified. My age, my cultural background. Scottish, now living in France, and toiling to repair the fractured relationship with his daughter from a previous marriage. We have grown old together, drunk great wine and eaten wonderful food together, entered semi-retirement together, and might one day sit down to discuss a future collaboration.

With Town and Country: Green Lanes to Mean Streets being the theme at St Hilda's this year, Where is your favourite town and where is your favourite country? Why have you chosen these?

My favourite town is Toulouse – La Ville Rose. A wonderful old mediaeval town built of red brick, with a thriving student culture that makes it such a living, vibrant place, even for an oldie like me. My favourite country is the part of rural south-west France where I live. Rolling hills, majestic rivers, forested valleys, ancient stone villages, and a way of life that is laid back and life-affirming.

What are you looking forward to at St Hilda's?

My regret is that I won’t be there in person. Because of this damned pandemic, I’m not ready to travel yet. I love Oxford, and have done several book events there, and I am sad at missing the opportunity to visit a place of such historical importance in the pioneering of women’s rights in education. Happily, due to the wonders of the internet, I will be able to join the audience for a live interactive after my pre-recorded speech, and I’m looking forward to that very much.

The Night Gate by Peter May (Quercus Publishing) Out Now.

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart. Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train - one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown. And Enzo's investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders - the Mona Lisa. Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world's most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons - Hitler and Göring. What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades. Events that have led to both killings. The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020.

A Winter Grave (Quercus Publishing) Out January 2023

2051. The warnings of climate emergency have been ignored and vast areas of the planet are under water, famine and population displacement are now the norm. Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective who has been diagnosed with cancer has been given six months to live when he is ordered to investigate a suspicious finding of a body entombed in ice on a mountain near the village of Kinlochleven. After a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village he meets the pathologist assigned to the perform the autopsy, Sita, an immigrant originally from India. Sita's autopsy establishes that the body, that of a missing journalist George Younger was murdered. She has collected evidence that once put through the DNA database could identify the killer. But after a restless nights sleep Brodie wakes to a crime scene and must race against time to identify the faceless killer.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Golsboro Glass Bell Award Shortlist


Goldboro Books have announced the shortlist for the £2000 Goldsboro Glass Bell Award 

The shortlisted novels are:

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan, (Merky Books)

Sistersong by Lucy Holland (Pan)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, (Wildfire)

Mrs March by Virginia Feito, (Fourth Estate)

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper, (Head of Zeus)

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, (Pan).

Administered by independent bookshop Goldsboro Books, the Glass Bell Award rewards storytelling in all genres, and is awarded annually to ‘a compelling novel with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realised’.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Davitt Awards 2022 Shortlists Announced


Sisters in Crime Australia has announced the shortlists for the 2022 Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

The shortlisted titles in each category are:

Adult Crime Novel 

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie, (HQ Fiction)

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz, (A&U)

You Had It Coming by B M Carroll, (Profile Books)

All That I Remember About Dean Cola by Tania Chandler, (Scribe)

Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, (Text)

Shelter by Catherine Jinks, (Text)

The Beautiful Words by Vanessa McCausland, (HarperCollins)

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy, (Hamish Hamilton)

The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald, (A&U)

The Second Son by Loraine Peck, (Text)

The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart, (Viking)

Young Adult Crime Novel

The Gaps by Leanne Hall, (Text)

Dirt Circus League by Maree Kimberley, (Text)

Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn, (A&U Children’s)

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland, (Penguin)

Children’s Crime Novel

Night Ride into Danger by Jackie French, (HarperCollins)

The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel by Nicki Greenberg, (Affirm)

Ella at Eden #6: The London Thief by Laura Sieveking, (Scholastic)

Nonfiction Crime Book

Empowering Women: From Murder and Misogyny to High Court Victory by Susie Allanson with Lizzie O’Shea, (Wilkinson Publishing)

Larrimah: A Missing Man, an Eyeless Croc and an Outback Town of 11 People Who Mostly Hate Each Other by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson, (A&U)

The Winter Road: A Story of Legacy, Land and a Killing at Croppa Creek by Kate Holden, (Black Inc.)

Banquet: The Untold Story of Adelaide’s Family Murders by Debi Marshall, (Vintage)

Debut Crime Books

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz, (A&U)

Shadow Over Edmund Street by Suzanne Frankham, (Journey to Words)

Larrimah: A Missing Man, an Eyeless Croc and an Outback Town of 11 People Who Mostly Hate Each Other by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson, (A&U)

The Waterhole by Lily Malone, (Lily Malone Publishing)

Unsheltered by Clare Moleta, (Simon &Schuster)

The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald, (A&U)

The Second Son by Loraine Peck, (Text)

Shiver by Allie Reynolds, (Hachette)

Crime Writer by Dime Sheppard, (Ruby Books)

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland, (Penguin)

The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart, (Viking).

This year’s judging panel was made up of medical autopsy expert Philomena Horsley; YA expert and reviewer Joy Lawn; Sisters in Crime’s president Moraig Kisler; and authors Janice Simpson, Emily Webb and Jacquie Byron. The judges selected the 33 shortlisted titles from a longlist of 169 books.

The six category winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Melbourne on Saturday, 27 August. No prize money is attached to the Davitts; the winner of each category receives a trophy.

Last year’s winners included Sally Hepworth for The Good Sister (Macmillan) and Leah Swann’s Sheerwater (Fourth Estate).

For more information, see the Sisters in Crime website.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Capital Crime Returns in September 2022

 Capital Crime Returns in September With Richard Osman, 
Anthony Horowitz, Dorothy Koomson and Paula Hawkins to Headline. 

Richard Osman, Rev. Richard Coles, Kate Mosse, Robert Harris, Dorothy Koomson, Bella Mackie and Paula Hawkins are amongst the authors confirmed for Capital Crime, London’s only crime and thriller festival, which returns 29th September-1st October after its hugely successful inaugural event in 2019

Taking place in London’s stunning Battersea Park, Capital Crime will be hosting over 164 panellists, bringing together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site. With a Goldsboro Books pop-up bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, the first ever Fingerprint Awards ceremony, alongside an array of London’s tastiest local street food vendors and bar area, it promises to be a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

On the opening night (Thursday 29th September), Anthony Horowitz, Kim Sherwood and Charlie Higson will be discussing all things Bond, and the role the capital city has played in the fictional spy’s life, and the 007 car from Sherwood’s incredible new novel, ‘DOUBLE OR NOTHING’ will be on display at the heart of the festival, in association with Alpine and Ian Fleming Publications

Thursday’s programming will comprise of a series of events dedicated to Capital Crime’s social outreach programme, in which two sixth form students and their teachers from schools in and around the capital will be invited to meet with authors and publishing professionals to demystify the industry and attract new and diverse young voices into publishing.

Robert Harris will be in conversation with comedian and podcaster Andrew Hunter Murray, discussing dystopian fiction, and there will also be a very special opportunity for aspiring authors to pitch their novel idea to agents David Headley (DHH), Emily Glenister (DHH), Camilla Bolton (Darley Anderson) or Phillip Patterson (Marjacq). The first evening will close with the very first Fingerprint Award Ceremony. The winners, selected by readers across five categories Crime Novel of the Year; Thriller Novel of the Year; Historical Crime Novel of the Year; Debut Novel of the Year and Genre-Busting Novel of the Year, will be announced alongside a very special Lifetime Achievement Award and Industry Award of the Year.

Friday’s events include Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham interviewed on the theme of ‘Crime Across Continents’ by Victoria Selman, and Mark Edwards, Will Dean, Erin Young and Chris Whitaker speaking to Tariq Ashkanani about setting their thrillers in the US. In addition, Abir Mukherjee, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Anna Mazzola and Jessica Fellowes will be speaking to Suzy Edge about historical crime writing, and Dorothy Koomson and Kate Mosse will be in conversation about their work with the Women's Prize and the versatility of crime fiction. Claire McGowan, David Beckler, Catriona Ward, Chris Carter, Nicci French, W.C. Ryan, Stuart Neville and Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir will also be taking part in panels on the themes of courtroom dramas, ghost stories, crime set in Brighton and medicine in crime fiction, amongst other topics, throughout the day, and the first two rounds of Capital Crime’s quiz ‘Whose Crime Is It Anyway?’ will take place, featuring teams of debut authors.

Saturday will see Peter James interviewed on his writing career by clinical psychologist Chris Merritt; bestsellers Jeffrey Archer, Lucy Foley and Clare Mackintosh in conversation with Barry Forshaw and a Polari Panel hosted by Paul Burston. Other events include former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Baroness Hale in conversation with Harriet Tyce; bestselling Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson in conversation with the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir; Sarah Vaughan, Louise Candlish and Paula Hawkins discussing the experience of screen adaptations, before rounding off the festival with Richard Osman in conversation with Bella Mackie.

The final round of ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’ will also take place, as well as panels on the topics of spies, Grand Dames, detectives and comedy crime featuring Vaseem Khan, Robert Thorogood, Antti Tuomainen, Steve Cavanagh, Jane Casey, Catherine Ryan Howard and Steph Broadribb

As well as panels and events, there will be exciting public events throughout the weekend, including launch events for Elly Griffiths’ breath-taking new thriller Bleeding Heart Yard, The Perfect Crime Anthology, which brings twenty-two bestselling crime writers from across the world together in a razor sharp and deliciously sinister collection of crime stories, and an interactive treasure hunt inspired by Peter James’s latest blockbuster, Picture You Dead. There will also be entertainment, including a crime-themed comedy performance from The Noise Next Door on Thursday.

The full programme can be found here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Charlotte Carter - In a world of jazz with Nanette Hayes


New Yorker Nanette Hayes the main protagonist in Charlotte Carter's excellent noir jazz infused series is a young black jazz musician who not only has a lust for life but an aptitude for solving crimes. Set in streets of New York this acclaimed series has just been republished by Baskerville with some glorious covers by Bristol based artist Lucy Turner who was asked to redesign the covers. Originally published in the 1990s this underrated but brilliantly written series when first published pointed me in the direction of a character who was not only funny with a sense of humour that made the series stand out but also showed that there could be strong sexually confident women who knew what they wanted and be a dab hand at solving crimes as well. 

At a time when there were not (in my opinion) enough black female crime writers visible within the genre (we did have Eleanor Taylor Bland, Barbara Neely, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and Grace F. Edwards) coming across Charlotte Carter made me realise that one had to dig deeper to find these gems to read and also the fact that this series was and still is a delight, whether you are reading them for the first time or whether you are reacquainting yourself with them like I am. Any author who uses Theolonius Monk song titles as chapter headings is is certainly worth reading.

The first book in the series Rhode Island Red sees jazz loving Nanette offering a fellow street musician a bed for the night. Finding him dead the following morning Nanette is soon involved with a strange and sinister couple, a fellow jazz lover who just happens to be a gangster as well and who is someone that she could easily fall for as well as trying to solve what might be the mystery that the jazz world has been trying to solve for quite sometime. Rhode Island Red was clearly inspired by Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, which being one of my all time favourite crime novels is another reason to enjoy this book so much. Furthermore, Charlotte Carter's love of film noir also comes shining through in her prose.

The second book in the series is Coq Au Vin and this time it sees Nanette in the city of love that is Paris. Nanette is trying to find her aunt Vivian who has disappeared. As Nanette hooks up with André a self-taught violinist from Detroit (who is also in Paris) as she searches for her bohemian aunt she finds herself once again deep in the midst of danger, this time in the dark side of historic Paris and at the centre of attention of some extremely dangerous people. Once again Charlotte Carter has continued to share her love of jazz by giving the chapter titles the names of songs sung by some very impressive jazz artists including Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Billy Strayhorn and Clifford Brown to name a few. 

© Ayo Onatade

Like Rhode Island RedCoq Au Vin is an intensely jazz filled book. Jazz is certainly the main narrative that is seen via both Nanette and André and their interactions with each other. This time around one has the added love affair, that of the relationship between Paris and Black Americans. One cannot forget that some of the best jazz musicians for example Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Theolonius Monk and Charles Mingus all spent time in Paris during their lives. 

The third book in the series is Drumsticks and after a rather tragic sojourn to Paris, Nanette is back in New York drowning her sorrows metaphorically and figuratively and just about managing to make ends meet. Things start to look up when she receives a Voodoo doll as a present. Could her luck be changing after all? It falls to Nanette to investigate when the lady who sent her the doll is found dead. Who killed her and why? Liking up with some unlikely allies sees Nanette delving into the life of Ida the dead women who had rather a large number of dark skeletons in her cupboard.

Whilst it was great to see Nanette in Paris in the second book in the series seeing her back in her usual haunt of New York was a delight. There was slightly more grittiness in the dialogue (which I loved) which was not so evident in Coq Au Vin, but the descriptions of New York were just as vivid as those of Paris. Charlotte Carter certainly knows how to draw her readers into a city. Her descriptions are profound, lush and very much part and parcel of this trilogy. Again Charlotte Carter does not disappoint us when it comes to her chapter titles, with song titles from the Nat King Cole Trio, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Chet Baker and Dexter Gordon.

Nanette's ability to be ferocious in what she delights in whether it be falling in love with men (decent or not) fine wine and food and of course the best of jazz music and not forgetting her innate ability to solve mysteries is what makes this series amongst the best music inspired series to read. 

It is an utter shame that we readers only have a trilogy to read about Nanette Hayes. I certainly wish that there were more. Charlotte Carter not only managed to write a thrilling series with a strong, sexy female character but she also brought jazz to life and enthused this series with jazz music that would delight anyone whether or not the are a novice when it comes to their love of jazz or a longstanding lover of Jazz. 

One of the best things of this series which always makes these books worth rereading is the great sense of place, characterisation and the love of jazz and jazz history that flows through the pages. I love the fact that jazz songs are cited, it makes you want to go and seek out all of them, You don't have to be a fan of jazz to enjoy this series but it does help and its incredibly easy to immerse yourself in reading this series with jazz playing in the background.

If you haven't read this series before then do so. They may have been originally published in the 90s but that has not stopped them from being great reads today. Welcome to the world of sexy, sassy Nanette Hayes, who if anything will bring jazz to life as she solves a number of mysteries. Re-reading these have been a joy. 

Charlotte Carter's Nanette Hayes series has been re-issued by Baskerville a John Murray Press imprint. More information can be found here.