Saturday 30 July 2011

Ngaio Marsh Award finalists announced

THE FINALISTS for the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, which will be presented as part of the upcoming Christchurch Arts Festival, have now been announced.

The award, now in its second year, is made annually for the best crime, mystery, or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident. Its namesake, Dame Ngaio Marsh, is renowned worldwide as one of the four iconic “Queens of Crime” of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

The award was established last year with the blessing of Dame Ngaio’s closest living relatives.

Over the past two months an expert panel consisting of seven local and international judges has been considering the best examples of locally written crime and thriller fiction published in New Zealand during 2010. The judges are now pleased to announce that the finalists are:

  • BLOOD MEN by Paul Cleave (Random House);
  • CAPTURED by Neil Cross (Simon & Schuster);
  • HUNTING BLIND by Paddy Richardson (Penguin); and
  • SLAUGHTER FALLS by Alix Bosco (Penguin).

The judges praised BLOOD MEN as “a gruesomely gripping story” told “in clean, sharp prose, with authentically laconic dialogue and flashes of very dark humour”; said CAPTURED was “fascinating”, with “amazing twists and turns” and a “main character who was drawn so well”; rated HUNTING BLIND highly for its “sense of downright creepiness” and “some fascinatingly complex characters”; and were impressed by “the depth and complexity” and “well-executed plot unfolding at a good pace” in SLAUGHTER FALLS.

This year’s winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel will be announced at a ceremony at the conclusion of the “Setting the Stage for Murder” event at the TelstraClear Club in North Hagley Park on the afternoon of Sunday 21 August 2011. New York Times bestselling international crime writers Tess Gerritsen and John Hart will also be appearing at the event. The winner will receive a distinctive handcrafted trophy designed and created by New Zealand sculptor and Unitec art lecturer Gina Ferguson, a set of Ngaio Marsh novels courtesy of HarperCollins, and a cheque for $1,000 provided by the Christchurch Writers Festival Trust.

“The four finalists are a great representation of both the quality and depth of contemporary Kiwi-written crime fiction,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It was a particularly tough decision for the panel this year, as judges were impressed by each of the books on the longlist, and there was a real diversity of storytelling, settings, and styles. There were some very good local crime novels published in 2010 that haven’t become finalists, but that’s a good sign of the growing strength of our own indigenous interpretation of a genre that’s popular around the world.”

Like Dame Ngaio in her heyday, local crime writers are now showing that they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder, quality-wise, with their more well-known international contemporaries, said Sisterson. “We should be proud of our best crime writers, and support and celebrate their success, just like we are justifiably proud of other New Zealanders who achieve great things in their chosen field.”

For more information, please contact:

Craig Sisterson, Judging Convenor or (021) 184 1206

Thursday 28 July 2011

Mapping the unfashionable city

Nick Quantrill is our guest blogger. He talks about his hometown Hull where his books are set and his series character Joe Geraghty. In 2006 he won the HarperCollins “Crime Tour” Short Story Competition. As states on his website when not writing fiction, Nick contributes reviews and essays to a variety of football and music websites. He lives in Hull with his wife, cat and the constant fear his favourite sports teams will let him down.

My home city of Hull stands in isolation on the River Humber in East Yorkshire. At best, you’d politely refer to it as unfashionable and possibly point to its regular appearance propping up national social and educational league tables. I certainly haven’t been dealt the hand of Rankin’s Edinburgh or Billingham’s London. Hull has always been an industrial city and its thriving fishing industry once provided the city’s wealth and purpose. But the Cod Wars of the 1970s, which saw Iceland’s setting of quotas in their fishing waters, decimated the industry, and along with it, the city.

My debut novel, “Broken Dreams”, attempts to capture some of this within the structure of a crime novel and explain the city. The star of the story, Joe Geraghty, is a small-time PI who operates from the historic old town of Hull. Asked by a dying woman to find her estranged daughter, the story behind her disappearance points to the girl’s deceased father, Ron Platt. As a former trawler-man left high and dry with no work and no financial compensation, his world was radically different, leaving him unable to understand the choices his daughter made. Hull had to be more than a map on the page. Hull had to bleed into the soul of characters such as Ron. The city had to impact on their lives, and for many, the lack of alternative employment has been a reality.

The second Joe Geraghty novel, “The Late Greats”, is also set in Hull. The challenge this time was to move away from one of the defining aspects of the city to capturing something of its character. “The Late Greats” is more inward looking and attempts to portray this through the story of reformed 1990s band, New Holland. When singer, Greg Tasker, is reported missing, Geraghty finds himself going deeper into the city and into Tasker’s life, forcing him to explore relationships between groups of very different people and how they make sense of themselves in the wider context of the place. Hull’s good and bad points surface in the story. The city can be often be cynical and wary of outsiders. But my Hull is also unpretentious and self-sustaining, as evidenced by the way the city, with little fanfare, dusted itself down after being the second most bombed city in the UK during World War Two, and more recently, after the 2007 floods.

The third, as yet untitled, Geraghty novel once again tries to examine the city from a different viewpoint. Instead of looking inwards, this time the issue of renewal and finding a new purpose in a changing world forms the backdrop to the story. The answer might lie in leading the way with renewable energy, with Siemens in the process of agreeing to build a major offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant, creating a significant number of local jobs. As a resident of the city, I hope the plan comes to fruition. As a crime writer, I can’t really lose either way. The future is very much open and there for the taking.

My Hull is a contradiction. Its isolation can make it a harsh and difficult place. You don’t pass through Hull. You have to have a purpose to visit. But the city also a distinct character and feel. For better or worse, it lives and breathes. Rankin and Billingham have the iconic buildings and the romance of Edinburgh and London, but I know I’m equally lucky. Every city is unique and fascinating, whatever the outside perception of it is, and through the eyes of Joe Geraghty, I’ll continue to discover and map my isolated city on the River Humber in East Yorkshire.


Broken Dreams” is published by Caffeine Nights. “The Late Greats” follows autumn 2011. Joe Geraghty stories feature in “The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime” Volumes Eight and Nine.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate day 3 & 4

The third day of the festival started with an interview of the best-selling author Tess Gerritsen. The interviewer was broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray. Once again a phenomenal success it was clear that she is still a firm favourite. One just had to look at the massive queue of people who waited patiently to get their books signed. The queue was so long that I wisely waited until the end before getting my copy of her latest book signed.

Under the able hands of Andrew Taylor the panel The Outer Limits took a look at the phenomena that is the growing popularity of novels, which blend paranormal elements with crime fiction.

One of the most anticipated panels was the New Blood panel. Once again introduced by Val McDermid who is well known for championing debut novelists, the members of New Blood panel this year were SJ Watson whose novel Before I go to Sleep has been receiving rave reviews since it was published earlier this year. Julia Crouch whose first novel Cuckoo delivers a psychological chill, Gordon Ferris whose novel The Hanging Shed was a major success initially as an eBook before being published in print form. The final member of the panel was Melanie McGrath whose novel White Heat is set in Alaska. As interesting as the panel was and it was extremely good, in my opinion the most fascinating thing was watching Val McDermid dancing to Madonna’s Like a Virgin on stage!

Some of the other panels that took place in the afternoon included Legal Eagles, which featured MR Hall, Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards and Helen Black. The panel were accused of bringing their profession into the world of the fictional courtroom. It was up to Peter McCormick whose is the senior partner at McCormick Solicitors to act as judge. One of the most intriguing panels off the afternoon was Vice Society. Authors James McCreet, Val McDermid and Adam Creed were joined by Jackie Malton (the real life inspiration Jane Tennyson) panel as they discussed the depiction of sex and vice in crime fiction. The panel as moderated by S J Parrish.

The early evening panel saw David Baldacci in conversation with Joseph Finder.

One of the highlights of the conference saw MC Beaton celebrate her 75th Birthday. The celebration was done in conjunction with the Criminal Consequences Dinner. Tables were hosted by crime writers which included Helen Black, C J Box, Alison Bruce, Charles Cumming, Christa Faust, James Forrester, James McCreet and Danny Miller to name a few. With the help of the crime writer on the table the other guests on each table played a game of Criminal Consequences.

Prior to the quiz taking place late on Saturday night special guest Lee Child braved Room 101 to declare what his crime writing pet hates were. So what went into Room 101? For starters bad reviews. Lee particularly mentioned Persuader (book 7) in the series, which had received a number of bad reviews. It was not that Lee had a problem with bad reviews it was more along the lines of the fact that the bad reviews did not make sense and were more akin to someone not willing to write a constructive review.

The next one that did not actually make it into Room 101 was author’s who lie about themselves. The others included authors who describe their characters who are looking at their reflection in a mirror and those who actually say, “there is a murder”. Listening to Lee Child was extremely good fun and interesting. He regaled us about the time that he met President Obama who bummed a cigarette off him and also enlightened us all as to why Reacher is rootless! As he explained, it is an alternative to a rooted series and he wanted to be different from everyone else. As can be expected there was a massive queue of people wanting to get their books signed by Lee Child.

Val McDermid and Mark Billingham hosted the late night quiz. Sadly, the Shots team that was made up of myself, Ali Karim and his wife Muriel, his son Alex and daughter Miriam and author Joseph Finder did not win. We did however have a fantastic time.

As usual after the quiz everyone congregated either in the bar or outside (the weather was so good) and stayed up talking to the small hours.

The Final Day

Surprisingly, I did not have too late a night on Saturday thus I was able to get up bright and early for the final two events. The first event saw authors CJ Box whose books are set in Wyoming, Anne Zouroudi (Greece); Urban Waites (Seattle) & Elly Griffiths (Norfolk) discuss under the title No Place Like Home their different series. All the authors set their books in different locations and they have each managed to stake their own claim on their specific area. The panel was moderated by author Laura Wilson who also sets her books in London.

Of course the one event that I am sure that everyone was looking forward to was special guest Dennis Lehane being interviewed by 2012 programming Chair Mark Billingham. It was standing room only for this event. Dennis Lehane who is known for being the author of such novels as Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island and Mystic River spoke in a wide ranging interview about his work. He talked about his background, what drew him to writing, the reason why he stopped writing the Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro series and what made him decide to go back to them after a 10 year break and write Moonlight Mile. He also spoke about his work on the acclaimed HBO television series The Wire. The interview was extremely well received and one could tell not solely because it was packed but also due to the way in which he received an ovation.

So what were the highlights! I am not going to say because I think it will be unfair. The whole festival was a brilliant well run affair. What I can say is that it was lovely to catch up with the delightful Christa Faust and if you have not read her novel Money Shot then you should do so. Katy Wild the Editorial Director of Hard Case Crime and the large number of reviewers and bloggers that were also in attendance.

The one thing I will admit to is losing my voice late on Sunday. It was a shame because it was not due to excess alcohol but rather me laughing and talking so much!

If the way in which the festival was run this year is anything to go by then 2012 will be smashing! Mark Billingham will be the Chair and a number of the special guests have already been announced. These are Harlan Coben, John Connolly and Charlaine Harris. The festival is due to take place between 19 & 22 July 2012. So book the date in your diary.

One must not of course forget to say a big thank you to Sharon Canavar and Erica Morris along with the rest of the team for putting on such a fabulous event.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate Day 2

Friday 22 July was the second day of Theakstons Old Peculair and it certainly started with a bang. The first event was Martina Cole being interviewed by the 2011 Programming Chair Dreda Say Mitchell. They could not have started the full day off with a better event. Martina Cole was a brilliant interviewee. Via some interesting questioning Dreda Say Mitchell managed to illicit some very interesting bits of information from Martina. She talked about her books (she was 21 when she wrote her first book), her television work (she has done programmes on girl gangs and female serial killers), her television production country, her work in prisons and the adaptation of her books for television. Her interview certainly went down a storm with those attendees that turned up for the 9am start.

The Old Blood panel that took place was a look back on what had happened to some authors that had taken part in the festival’s renowned “New Blood” panel. The authors who took part were Nick Stone whose third book Voodoo Eyes has just been published, Mark Mills, Allan Guthrie and Cathi Unsworth. With Martyn Waites as the moderator it was a freewheeling event that saw the authors discussing topics such as self-publication, what had changed for them, eBooks and writing in general.

A CWA/ Thriller Award event also took place on Friday where a number of awards were given out and long-lists announced.

CWA Chair Peter James said: “Crime fiction is today more popular throughout the western world than any other form of fiction writing. This is because through this medium the authors write in depth and with the greatest intelligence about human life, the human condition, and issues that affect the lives of each and every one of us. That is what great writing always has been about and always will be.”

The winners, presented here with the judges’ comments, are as follows:


For crime, thriller, suspense or spy fiction novels which have been translated into English from their original language, for UK publication between June 1 2010 and May 31 2011. Prize money £1000 for the author and £500 for the translator.


Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström, Tr. Kari Dickson (Quercus)

Judges’ comments: The Swedish duo’s usual maverick cop takes a back seat to a riveting exploration of a deniable operation involving an undercover agent deep inside a criminal organisation. Their new character, doomed to betrayal by political manoeuvring, fights for his life with great intelligence and courage.


The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, Tr. Stephen Sartarelli, (Mantle)

Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, Tr. Jethro Soutar (Bitter Lemon Press)

The Saint-Florentin Murders by Jean-François Parot, Tr. Howard Curtis (Gallic)

River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi, Tr. Joseph Farrell (Maclehose)

Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, Tr. Sonia Soto (Abacus)


Any non-fiction work on a real-life crime theme or a closely-related subject by an author of any nationality, as long as the book was first published in the UK in English between between 1st June 2010 and 31st May 2011. Prize money £1000.


The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr (Simon & Schuster)

Judges’ comments

The judges were this year very impressed with the quality of the seventeen submissions for the Non-Fiction Gold Dagger. The subjects were particularly notable for their international coverage; not only the United States and Britain, but also France, Japan, Mexico, Spain and Bali. The winner of this year’s dagger is commended for its excellent style and its appeal to the general reader. The judges would like to give a honourable mention to In The Place of Justice by Wilbert Rideau (Profile).



In The Place of Justice by Wilbert Rideau (Profile)

The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders (HarperPress)

Slaughter on a Snowy Morn by Colin Evans (Icon Books)

The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo (Michael Joseph)

Mr Briggs Hat by Kate Colquhoun (Little, Brown)


Any crime short story first published in the UK in English in a publication that pays for contributions, or broadcast in the UK in return for payment, between 1st June, 2010 and 31st May, 2011. Prize money £500.


Homework by Phil Lovesey - The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Vol 8 - Ed Maxim Jakubowski (Constable and Robinson)

Judges’ comments – A cleverly structured piece with clever narration allying character situations to Hamlet. A neat and original study of relationships and revenge taking the form of a girl’s school project that gradually reveals to us the devious game that she was up to.

Commended (second place)

East Of Suez, West Of Charing Cross Road by John Lawton (Corvus) from Agents Of Treachery edited by Otto Penzler.

Judges’ comments – Funny and enjoyable tale with a sense of mischief that is set against the solid historical background of the Cold War and the slow crumbling of the Empire

Third place

The Dead Club by Michael Palmer and Daniel Palmer (Corvus) from First Thrills edited by Lee Child.

Judges’ comments – An inventive game of chance with a medical background, which is not as it seems and proving that what goes on in Las Vegas does not always stay in Las Vegas.


The Princess of Felony Flats - by Bill Cameron - First Thrills - Ed. Lee Child - (Atlantic Books)
Wednesday’s Child by Ken Bruen - First Thrills - Ed. Lee Child (Atlantic Books)


Sponsored by The Random House Group.

Nominated and judged by librarians and awarded to an author for a body of work, not one single title. Prize money £1,500 plus £300 to a participating library readers group.


Mo Hayder

Judges’ comments

Twisting, hard-hitting crime novels with a haunting emotional pull on the reader. Damaged detective Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley are one of the best pairings in current crime writing with each story leaving fans clamouring for more.


SJ Bolton

RJ Ellory

Jason Goodwin

Susan Hill

Philip Kerr


Sponsored by Orion

The Debut Dagger is a new-writing competition open to anyone writing in the English language who has not yet had a novel published commercially. First prize is £700 plus two free tickets to the prestigious CWA Dagger Awards. All shortlisted entrants receive a generous selection of crime novels and professional assessments of their entries, and have also been invited to the Dagger Awards presentations.


What Hidden Lies – Michele Rowe (South Africa)

A tense psychological mystery set on the spectacular Cape Town coast.

Michele is a scriptwriter for television and film. Projects she has researched, originated, written or directed have been nominated for, or won, various International awards. This is her first novel.

Judges comments: Fluid and descriptive writing with an attractive setting.

Highly commended

The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves – Graham Brack (UK)

Sunderland born Graham Brack works as a pharmacist. He has produced plenty of technical writing but this is his first work of fiction (unless you count the answer to question 4 in his final paper in pharmacology)

Judges comments: Appealing lead character and a fresh and interesting setting.


A Burial Place for Strangers – Sharon Hunt (Canada)

A Quiet Night in Entebbe – Peter Wynn Norris (UK)

A Vicious Indulgence – Annie Hauxwell (Australia)

Biographies of a Victim – Gunnar Lange-Nielsen (Norway)

Hide and Seek – Sarah Darby (UK)

Men of the Rose – Jessica Ramage (UK)

The Boy Who Loved Penguins – SWC Webb (UK)

The Greengrocers and Fruiterers’ Convention – Martin Ungless (UK)

The Temp – Luke Melia (UK)

Unveiled Threats – Stephanie Light (UK)

At the ceremony the Short list for the John Creasey Award was also announced. The shortlisted authors are –

The Dogs of Rome by Conor Fitzgerald

The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

Sister by Rosalind Lupton

Or The Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

Kiss Me Quick by Danny Miller

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

The Shortlist for the Steel Dagger was also announced and the nominated authors are –

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming (HarperCollins)

The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth (Bantam)

The Good Son by Michael Gruber (Atlantic Books)

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Orion)

An Agent of Deceit by Chris Morgan-Jones (Mantle)

Cold Rain by Craig Smith (Myrmidon)

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson (Transworld)

Savages by Don Winslow (Heinemann)

The nominated authors for the Gold Dagger

The Gold Dagger nominations are

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Thomas Franklin

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

Snowdrops by Andy Miller

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina

The Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder

Cypress House by Michael Koryta

The Lost Daughter by Lucretia Grindle

White Heat by MJ McGrath

Other panels took place and I rather sadly managed to miss Linwood Barclay in Conversation with Lisa Gardner as I ended up going out to dinner with the lovely people at Constable and Robinson. I did however get the opportunity to chat to debut author Danny Miller who has been shortlisted for the John Creasey Award. I also later on in the evening spoke to Conor FitzGerald who has also be shortlisted for the same award. Conor arrived on time to hear the announcement from his home in Rome where he has lived for 20 years.

The big draw for the evening was however Howard Marks. There was an extremely long queue of people who turned up to listen to the former drug dealer talk about his former life and his debut novel. His autobiography Mr Nice was recently adapted for film.

As can be expected lots of us stayed up until really late catching up and chatting. There were a lot of people who were there for the long haul and it was nearly 2am when I wandered back to my hotel. It was clearly evident and I am in no doubt that the mingling and drinking would be going on for quite some time.

Friday 22 July 2011

Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate Day 1

Kevin Wignall & Lee Child © Ayo Onatade (picture)

Harrogate Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival started on 21 July 2011. Back at the Old Swan Hotel, authors, readers and publishers are lining themselves up for 3½ days of scintillating conversation.

Thursday 21 July started off with Creative Thursday: Crime Fiction Working It was an opportunity of would be writers to hone their writing skills and short story writing skills with a day-long programme of workshops and seminars led by bestselling crime writers, publishing industry professionals and real-life crime experts.

I arrived mid-morning and initial ensconced myself in the corner of the lounge whilst I waited for others such to arrive. It was not long before they did and it was really good fun catching up with everyone. This is my first trip back to the festival after a four-year break. By mid-afternoon/early evening I had seen and said hello to a wide variety of authors and friends including the current Chair of the Festival Dreda Say Mitchell, past Chairs Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham and others including N J Cooper, Christa Faust, Martina Cole, Lee Child, Martyn Waites, Andrew Taylor, Martin Edwards, Laura Wilson, Val McDermid, Kirstie Long, Ali Karim and his wonderful family, Sue Lord, Allan Guthrie, William Ryan, Wayne Brookes, Thalia Proctor, Stav Sherez, Sam Eades, Selina Walker, Julia Wisdom, Jane Gregory, Steve Mosby, Chris Sims, Jamie Lee-Nardone and Nick Stone to name a few.

PD James © Ayo Onatade (picture)

The event however got off to a proper start in the evening with the Festival opening party. Hosted by Mark Lawson it got underway with a brief introduction by Sharon Cavanar followed by a speech by Simon Theakston (Executive Director T&R Theakston’s) who extolled the virtues of the event and the reasoning why they have continued to be involved and sponsor the Festival. After an introduction and brief chat with the shortlisted nominees (Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Andrew Taylor, William Ryan, S J Bolton and Lee Child) Mark Lawson spoke briefly about the Outstanding Contribution Award that was also being given. The award was being given to (Baroness) P D James and it was Val McDermid who gave a lovely speech talking about her background and her work. PD James accepted the award to a well-deserved standing ovation.

The winner of the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award went to Lee Child and his novel 61 Hours.

After the opening ceremony PD James signed books in the Waterstones bookshop that has been set up. It is a testament to how pleased people were that she was at the festival by the length of the queue of people lining up to get their books signed.

I ended up disappearing off to have a wonderful and relaxing dinner with Ali Karim and his family before returning to the hotel and spending the rest of the night (until 12:30am at least) catching up and chatting to a wide variety of people.

Monday 18 July 2011

Declan Burke is Absolute Zero Cool

Earlier this year Declan Burke edited the aclaimed "Down these Green Streets". Now with his author hat on as opposed to his editorial hat, Absolute Zero Cool his latest novel is due to be published and it will get its official launch at Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar Dublin on 10 August 2011.

Who in their right mind would want to blow up a hospital?

“Close it down, blow it up – what’s the difference?”

Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames.

Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

Absolute Zero Cool has already been receiving rave reviews from those who have managed to read an advanced copy.

“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” – John Banville, author of THE SEA

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN.

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill, author of SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S

“If you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go … Declan Burke [is] at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clichés and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works.” - Colin Bateman, author of NINE INCHES

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a surreal rollercoaster of a read, full of the blackest humour, and yet poignant. An outrageously funny novel ... The joy is in the writing itself, all sparky dialogue and wry observation, so smooth that when it cuts, it’s like finding razor blades in honey.” - Deborah Lawrenson, author of THE LANTERN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” - Adrian McKinty, author of FIFTY GRAND

So, if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Gutter Bookshop on 10 August 2011, wander on down and help Declan Burke celebrate the launch of Absolute Zero Cool that will no doubt be a wonderful addition to anyone's bookshelf even for the title alone!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Five Mysteries about Blood Ties

Tana French is our guest blogger, and she explores five of her favourties books about family ties. But first, a little something on Tana. Tana is an Irish novelist and theatrical actress. Her debut novel In the Woods (2007), a psychological mystery, won the Edgar Award, and the Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards. She is a liaison of the Purple Heart Theatre Company and lives in Dublin. She has dual citizenship of the United States and Ireland.

My third book, Faithful Place, is about home, community, and family – in all its facets. Twenty-two years ago, Frank Mackey and his first love, Rosie Daly, were teenager with big dreams. They were going to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, get away from all the poverty and problems of their inner-city Dublin neighbourhood. But on the night they were supposed to leave, Rosie never showed. Frank thought she had dumped him, probably because of his dysfunctional family. He never went home again. But now Rosie’s suitcase has shown up in an abandoned house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not…
As he tries to find out what happened to Rosie, Frank also has to discover whether he’s a detective undercover in his old neighbourhood, or a boy from Faithful Place undercover in the police force – what counts as his real home, and his real family. So here are five of my favourite mysteries about family ties, what they mean, and the devastation they can wreak when they go wrong.

1. Sleeping Murder, Agatha Christie. As far as she knows, Gwenda’s never been to this little house on the English coast – so why does she know what pattern she’ll find on the paper inside the cupboard, and where that blocked-up door used to be? And why does a terrifying wave of memory rush over her at a line from The Duchess of Malfi? This has always been my favourite Agatha Christie. It’s a wonderfully eerie story about what can happen when love goes wrong.

2. Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Chicago reporter Camille Preaker – sharp-tongued, beautiful, and breathtakingly damaged – has been assigned to cover the story of a possible child serial killer in her hometown. The assignment forces her to confront her manipulative mother, her dangerous thirteen-year-old half-sister, and the buried secrets that are rotting her town, her family and her own mind from within. This is one of the darkest, most disturbing and most powerful books about family relationships that I’ve read in a long time.

3. The Wrong Kind of Blood, by Declan Hughes. Private investigator Ed Loy has come back to Ireland, after twenty years away, to bury his mother and find out what happened to his missing father. But then his past starts to resurface – literally, at one point… This is a gritty, pacy noir that explores the many meanings of family, home, and blood.

4. P.D. James’s Innocent Blood. Philippa has always known she’s adopted, but when she turns eighteen and goes looking for her parents, the truth comes as a brutal shock. Her mother is a murderess, in jail for killing a child whom Philippa’s father had raped. And she’s about to be released… This isn’t a whodunit; the mysteries pulling Philippa into dark, dangerous places are much more subtle and crucial: the nature of identity, of intimacy, of redemption.

5. A Field of Darkness, by Cornelia Read. Madeline Dare is a smart, caustic ex-debutante turned small-town reporter. Then a set of dog tags found in a field seem to implicate her favourite cousin in a long-ago double murder… The shifting relationship between Maddie and her cousin Lapthorne – and, by extension, between Maddie and her whole crazy blue-blooded family – is twisted, treacherous and fascinating.

Tana's latest book is FAITHFUL PLACE which you can read purchase from Amazon. Of it, Sophie Hannah says, "Even more gripping than her last two. A truly amazing novel - so brilliant on dysfunctional family dynamics, with characters so real that you can hardly believe someone's made them up."

Hodder Paperbacks £6.99 (7 July 2011)

Visit Tana's own website

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Peter Spiegelman in London

A few weeks ago Lucy Ramsey at Quercus Publishing advised me that they had just signed up Peter Spiegelman’s ‘Thick As Thieves’ for upcoming UK publication, and that Peter was coming to London, and would I like to come to the launch party?

We’ll I excitedly said, “yes damn yes!” being a huge fan of Peter’s three John March PI adventures, Black Maps [2003], Death’s Little Helpers [2005] and Red Cat [2007]. I have always wanted to talk to this former Wall Street Banker, as I find the John March PI Detective Series most insightful; as they peer into the dark motivations that reside in the dark heart of Manhattan. I regretted missing his launch of Akashic Books “Wall Street Noir” that he edited / published in 2007, in New York, during Thrillerfest; though Mike Stotter made the event at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookstore.

Spiegelman arrived onto the literary scene with ‘Black Maps’ which won the PWA Shamus Award in 2004 for best debut PI novel. That novel introduced his Detective John March, all set against Manhattan’s financial district. His next two books of the series ‘Death’s Little Helpers’ and ‘Red Cat’ further illustrated Spiegelman’s talent for penning white collar detective tales that explore the dark side of human nature.

So whilst chatting to Spiegelman, I was bemused why he had decided to pen a caper thriller ‘Thick As Thieves’ as opposed to continuing with his John March PI series. Spiegelman explained that he had not abandoned March, but had started a fourth novel in the series, but due to a personal tragedy, he was finding it difficult to proceed with the planned novel [at that time]; so he took a break. Being a fan of crime caper novels / films he came up with an idea that became the foil for ‘Thick as Thieves’ –

Carr—ex-CIA— is the reluctant leader of an elite crew planning a robbery of such extraordinary proportions that it will leave them set for life. Diamonds, money laundering, and extortion go into a timed-to-the-minute scheme that unfurls across South America, Miami, and Grand Cayman Island. Carr’s cohorts are seasoned pros, but they’re wound drum-tight—months before, the man who brought them together was killed in what Carr suspects was a setup. And there are other loose ends: some of the intel they’re paying for is badly inaccurate, and one of the gang—lately, Carr’s lover—may have an agenda of her own. But Carr’s biggest problems are yet to come, because few on his crew are what they seem to be, and even his own past is a lie.

In fact Spiegleman explains the genesis of ‘Thick as Thieves’ in this Q & A session –

Q: Was there a specific event or idea that gave rise to this new novel?

A: Thick as Thieves arose not so much from a specific event, but from my longstanding love of caper flicks—movies like The Thomas Crown Affair, The Anderson Tapes, The Italian Job, Topkapi, Heat, Ocean’s 11, Inside Man, Thief, The Getaway—the list goes on and on. For me, the pleasure of these stories resides in watching the crooks work—the exercise of technique, the grace under pressure—and in watching the often uneasy relationships between them as they work.

Q: Your previous novels have all been set mainly in New York City and featured detective John March. Thick as Thieves is your first departure from that series. What brought on the change?

A: I was actually in the midst of what would’ve been my fourth John March novel when I started thinking about Thick as Thieves. The March book was actually going pretty badly—progressing slowly, and not turning out to be the book I wanted it to be. I just couldn’t seem to find my way into the heart of the story, and the more I tried, the more this other idea, about a fractious crew of thieves and their reluctant leader, kept asserting itself. After a while it became hard to ignore this other tale, and I spent some time thinking about characters and settings, and making notes. It quickly became apparent that this story would be a bigger and more complicated undertaking than anything I’d tried with March—which of course made it irresistible!

Read More Here and a Sample is available Here

As the event attracted many from London’s literary community including Chris Simmons of Crimesquad, Ayo Onatade, Barry Forshaw and Jake Kerridge of The Telegraph amongst others, I thanked Peter for his time and proceeded to reminisce with Mike Stotter over our own adventures at New York’s Thrillerfest in 2007.

So before leaving I thanked Bookseller and Literary Agent David Headley for hosting the event as well as Lucy Ramsey and Nicci Praca from Quercus Publishing for their fine selection of wine, and giving Shots the opportunity to meet Peter Spiegelman on a rare trip to London.

If you’ve not read Peter Spiegelman, you’re in for a big treat if you pre-order ‘Thick as Thieves’.
Photo © 2011 Ali Karim “The Telegraph Crime Fiction Critic Jake Kerridge, Mike Stotter with Peter Spiegelman at Goldsboro Books, London”

Monday 11 July 2011

Russell's 'Dead End'

CWA Dagger nominee Leigh Russell who writes the Geraldine Steel crime series has the third novel in series ‘Dead End’ out now in Paper as well Ebook.

Leigh sent Shots Ezine her thoughts on writing ‘minor characters’ which may be of interest to aspiring writers -


Crime writers deliberately lead their detectives – and readers – off on red herrings, to distract them from solving a case. I wonder how many authors find themselves led off task by minor characters who catch their creator’s attention, sometimes out of all proportion to their role in the book. I have to admit I’m a sucker for weird characters… (in case my husband read this I hasten to add that I’m talking about my fictional characters here!)

As a writer of psychological thrillers, I’m fascinated by people. While my carefully planned plots are described as “clever” (Marcel Berlins, writing in The Times) and I’ve been praised for “a natural ability to build a solid plot” (American Library Association) and many more in a similar vein, I confess to allowing my characters to develop as I go along.

It has to be believable that my minor characters would carry out the actions they need to perform in order to fulfil their part in the plot but with my interest in character it’s perhaps not surprising that minor characters sometimes grow on the page and take on a life of their own. So there’s a tension between character and plot that can be a real challenge to resolve.

I’ve always thought that creating minor characters has parallels with writing short stories, a snapshot of a life encapsulated in a few words that continues in the imagination beyond the pages of the book.

Where do they come from, these characters who appear out of nowhere? None of my characters is consciously based on a real person; they are composites of a myriad of characteristics, traits and eccentricities, theories and possibilities, churning in my subconscious. It seems to me that writers are similar to visual artists, interested in observing life.

I store details in my mind wherever I go. It might be a man who walks with a lunging gait, legs moving from the hips, or a woman with chiselled cheekbones above a double chin. One day these small details might appear in one of my books, helping to bring a minor character to life.

My debut thriller, Cut Short, grew out of the sudden image of a killer who somehow arrived in my head fully formed. I wrote somewhere that he crawled off my pen onto the page…

More information available here

New York Thrills!

The Shots Team haven’t been able to make Thrillerfest this year, but were delighted to see the results from the annual thriller awards from International Thriller Writers [ITW].

The awards were presented during a gala banquet and celebration held on Saturday, July 9 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, the International Thriller Writers announced the winners of the 2011 Thriller Awards –

Best Hard Cover Novel:BAD BLOOD, John Sandford
Also nominated: The Reversal, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown); Edge, by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster); The Burying Place, by Brian Freeman (Minotaur); and Skin, by Mo Hayder (Grove)

Best Paperback Original Novel:THE COLD ROOM, J.T. Ellison
Also nominated: Down Among the Dead Men, by Robert Gregory Browne (St. Martin’s); You Can’t Stop Me, by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens (Pinnacle); Torn Apart, by Shane Gericke (Pinnacle); and The Venice Conspiracy, by John Trace (Hachette Digital)

Best First Novel:STILL MISSING, Chevy Stevens

Also nominated: The Things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley (Random House); The Poacher’s Son, by Paul Doiron (Minotaur); The Insider, by Reece Hirsch (Berkley); and Drink the Tea, by Thomas Kaufman (Minotaur)

Best Short Story:THE GODS FOR VENGEANCE CRY, Richard Helms
Also nominated: “Second Wind,” by Mike Carey (from The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Christopher Golden; St. Martin’s); “Blue on Black,” by Michael Connelly (The Strand Magazine); “Madeeda,” by Harley Jane Kozak (from Crimes By Midnight, edited by Charlaine Harris; Berkley); “Chasing the Dragon,” by Nicolas Kaufman (ChiZine Magazine); and “Long Time Dead,” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (The Strand Magazine)

Also receiving special recognition during the ThrillerFest VI Awards Banquet:
R.L. Stine, ThrillerMaster - in recognition of his legendary career and outstanding contributions to the thriller genre

Joe McGinniss, True Thriller Award
Karin Slaughter, Silver Bullet Award

The Shots team – pass their best regards to all the winners and the nominated.

Photo © Ali Karim 2007 Hyatt New York

Friday 8 July 2011


promotional poster for Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo
The US film version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is gathering a lot of internet exposure even before its release. Recently the trailer was posted from an anonymous source before Sony took it down.
Director David Fincher’s English-language take on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling murder mystery novel will be R-Rated, which has been a given since it was announced that the filmmaker responsible.
Daniel Craig, who plays crusading Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist, sat down recently with Esquire to chat about a variety of subjects, pertaining to both his personal and professional life. However, it was the actor’s comments about Fincher’s next dark work of cinematic art that were perhaps the most intriguing.
“It’s not that [David Fincher] simply showed me footage that was horribly graphic. It was stuff that was happening, or had happened. And somehow you don’t see it… There’s more than one way to sense violence… Much more powerful ways than seeing it step-by-step.”

But there is a rather excellent interview with him in ScreenRant

TGWTDT is scheduled for November release in the UK.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Forthcoming books to look forward to from Headline in August

88 Killer is the exciting second serial killer thriller from Oliver Stark - featuring series characters NYPD detective, Tom Harper, and police psychologist, Denise Levene.
Three unconnected crimes are about to be linked in the most chilling way imaginable. The abduction of a teenage girl, heading towards a bus stop. A woman shot, point-blank during a brutal robbery. A young man tortured, his body found wrapped in barbed wire. With nothing to indicate that the three are connected, NYPD detective Tom Harper and psychologist Denise Levene must look beyond the s urface to find a killer ’s true motivation. And they believe that they have found a murderer conditioned to hate and willing to go to any lengths to make his victims suffer. The killer has nothing to lose. Harper and Levene have one chance
to catch him. Sometimes hate is just the beginning . . .

You Belong to me by Karen Rose
When forensic pathologist Lucy Trask stumbles across a mutilated body by the chess tables in her local Baltimore park, its face so badly damaged it is unrecognisable, her sole concern is that it might be her old school teacher Mr Pugh. When the corpse is identified, Lucy is shocked to discover that the victim is actually another man from her past. Who killed him and why his skin is burnt with the number ‘1’ is unclear but it’s evident that someone is demanding Lucy’ s attention. The discovery of a second branded body raises worrying questions: how many more lives may be at r isk before the killer ’s final message is revealed? And can Lucy solve the killer’s gruesome puzzle before their thirst for revenge is complete?

Simon’s Spurrier's first novel, Contract, was published in 2007, and in A Serpent Uncoiled he returns with a bang with a wry, witty, utterly unique take on the classic private eye novel.
Dan Shaper’s sins are a sickness. Sharper is a former underworld enforcer who now scrapes a living as a private detective. So far, so conventional. He needs to straighten-up and rebuild his life however an emotional breakdown has left him with a tenuous grip on reality and his life is about to get a whole lot stranger… Razor sharp, dark and delusional, he’s tasked to prevent the murder of George Glass, an eccentric old man who knows he’s going to be killed but can’t remember why. Normally Sharper would recoil from Glass’s senile brand of New Age salvation, but the case is as tantalizing as it is lucrative. Adrift amidst liars and thugs, Sharper must push his capsizing mind beyond its limits: stalked not only by a unique and terrifying murderer, but by the ghosts of his own brutal past.

The Stranger you Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

Keye Street is small, tough and a brilliant FBI agent – but she can’t handle her life. She’s a superb criminal profiler, with two university degrees and has been a rising star with the organization. She’s also attractive, tough and has brilliant instincts when it comes to reading criminal minds. Now Keye Street has set up on her own. She’ s a recovering alcoholic, an obsessive adrenalin junkie who surrounds herself with oddballs, who wants to sleep with her best friend but still sleeps with her ex-husband. She’ s potentially violent - and quite possibly dangerous. But in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s a serial killer on the loose, and the local police department need her to play their game!

Nine Inches by Bateman is one to look forward to in October!
Dan Starkey, the ducking and diving hapless investigator, takes centre stage again in this brilliant new novel by the award-winning master of comic crime. Radio shock-jock and self-styled people’s champion Jack Caramac is used to courting controversy – but when his four-year-old son is kidnapped for just one hour, and then sent back with a warning note, he knows he may have finally gone too far. Jack has no choice but to turn to Dan Starkey for help. Recently chucked by his long-suffering wife Patricia, Dan has finally given up on journalism and is now providing a boutique, bespoke service for important people with difficult problems. Dan resolves to catch whoever kidnapped Jack’s son - and very soon finds himself in the middle of a violent feud between rival drug gangs, pursued by jealous husbands, unscrupulous property developers and vicious killers as the case spirals ever more out of his control.