Monday 31 August 2015

2015 Davitt Awards

The 2015 Davitt Awards were announced on Saturday 15th August in Melbourne.  The Awards are now in their 15th year and author Sophie Hannah presented the Awards at the gala dinner.

Adult Fiction
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Young Adult Fiction
Every Word by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)

Children’s Novels
Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell (HarperCollins Australia)

Non Fiction
Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington (HarperCollins Australia)

Debut Novel
Intruder by Christine Bongers (Woolshed Press – a Random House imprint)

The awards are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

The shortlist of all the nominated books can be found here.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Sunday 30 August 2015

Noir in the North

Noir in the North
16-17 November 2016
University of Iceland

The Killing, WallanderThe Girl with the Dragon TattooMiss Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Nordic Noir has been a dominant part of global detective fiction, film and television in the past two decades. But what are the parameters of this genre, both historically and geographically? What is noirish and what is northern about Nordic Noir? This conference invites proposals which either investigate the specifics of noir in a particular text or which interrogate more broadly the notion of Nordic Noir.

Can Nordic Noir be used to identify, for example, some aspects of the work of other Nordic authors, such as Halldór Laxness, Isak Dinesen or Vilhem Moberg? What is the relationship between earlier Scandinavian crime fiction, such as that by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, and Nordic Noir? How does work like the Shetland novels by Ann Cleeves fit within the parameters of Nordic Noir?  What part has translation played in the history and global circulation of Nordic Noir?

More broadly, the conference will address the following questions: How does Nordic Noir challenge the traditional critical histories of noir? What new genealogies of noir can complicate the Anglo-American dominance of noir? Are there geographical limitations to noir and how does it function transnationally? Where does the north begin for noir? What are the peripheral boundaries in the East and West? Does noir complicate traditional literary histories modelled on geographical boundaries? What specific images of the north are associated with Nordic Noir? How do sex and gender operate in Nordic Noir? What is Nordic noir’s relationship with particular national pasts, identities, or collective and cultural memory? What connections are there be, for example, between Nordic Noir and Continental existentialism, European Romanticisms, or fin-de-siècle literatures?

This major international conference will consolidate work to date on Nordic Noir and seek to deepen our understanding of the genre, both in relation to traditional histories, but also in drawing on new theoretical and geographical understandings.

The Crime Studies Network, in collaboration with the Centre for Studies in Memory and Literature at the University of Iceland and with the University of Newcastle, will host Noir in the North in Reykjavik in November 2016. This conference is held in conjunction with the Iceland Noir Crime Fiction Festival (17-19 November).

Individual proposals for 20-minute papers/3 x 20 minute paper panels are invited.  We welcome proposals on novels, films, television series, graphic novels and other forms.  Send a short title, a 250-word proposal, and a 100-word biographical note to by 15 November 2015. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by 15 January 2016.

Keynote Speakers
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Bruce Robbins (Columbia University)
Mary Evans (London School of Economics)

Conference Organisers
Stacy Gillis (University of Newcastle)
Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir (University of Iceland)

Saturday 29 August 2015

A Partnership with the Reader

Today’s guest blog is by author Edward Wilson.  He is the author of 5 novels the most recent being A Very British Ending.

The great thing about crime fiction is that it involves the reader. The classic English murder mystery provides a taunting list of red herrings and cryptic clues that test the reader’s powers of perception and attention to detail. The reader becomes a sleuth.

As a writer of spy fiction, I want to involve the reader at every level. At the end of The Murder at the Vicarage we know who killed Colonel Protheroe. But at the end of my books, I want the reader to still be guessing who was or was not a Soviet mole – a mystery, by the way, still much debated by non-fiction writers. The fictionalised ghost of Kim Philby weaves in and out of my books like a malevolent grinning imp. Was he a double agent betraying Britain or a triple agent betraying Moscow? Why was he still on MI6’s payroll years after he had been uncovered as ‘The Third Man’? And why was he finally allowed to slip away to Moscow just as the pincers were closing? Was, perhaps, Philby a genuine Soviet agent after all – and was MI6’s continued apparent trust in him a double bluff to convince the Sovs that their prize agent had been turned and tripled? The legendary CIA spy chief, James Jesus Angleton, described the world of espionage as ‘a wilderness of mirrors’. In the end, Angleton succumbed to clinical paranoia and had to be removed from post. I don’t want that to happen to my readers, but I do want to stretch their imaginations.

Crime fiction isn’t just about who did it, but why they did it. And so is spy fiction. The first thing they teach you at spy school is MICE. The acronym represents the four ways to recruit an agent: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Excitement. (Excitement also covers ego needs and sex; the honey-trap will always be one of the secret agent’s most important tools.)  In many ways, what motivates a person’s action is more interesting than the action itself. Everyone knows that Jack Kennedy was killed by a bullet to the head, but why? That is the question that has kept conspiracy theorists going for the past fifty years.  Applying MICE – was it I or E? Spy fiction is not just about why individuals do things, but also why governments and intelligence agencies do them. One of my books, The Midnight Swimmer, asks why Khrushchev deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba – and then asks why he withdrew them. I suggest answers, but also leave readers to come to their own conclusions. And why, you may ask, do I use fiction to pose these questions? Try finding out the truth from ‘official’ histories and sanitised files.

The most important thing a writer can do is create characters that enter and grip the readers’ imagination. Who can remember in detail a single one of Raymond Chandler’s plots? But who can forget Philip Marlowe? I think the best way to create a character, and I hope Chandler would have agreed, is from what the character says and thinks aloud. But aside from that, I think the reader should be the casting director. The reader’s own imagination should determine what the character looks like, smells like, walks like and sounds like. When characters are shown on my book jackets, they are only seen from the back. In terms of motivation, I want my characters to have an air of mystery about them which is the job of the reader to discern. One of my recurring characters, the MI6 spy chief Henry Bone, even remains an enigma to me. I know that he was a one time lover of Anthony Blunt, but was Bone ever a Soviet spy? Or did he cover up for those who were? Don’t ask me; that’s for you to decide.

My first rule as a writer is to respect my readers as thinking persons with brains of their own. I will never dumb down. My books are often complex and require concentration – and I make no apology for that.  On one occasion, however, I was too subtle – and this is an exclusive for Shots Mag readers only! If you’ve got a copy of The Whitehall Mandarin, re-read page 356. Now go back and re-read pages 25 and 26. Your call, what really happened?  Likewise, I didn’t solve two mysteries in my latest, A Very British Ending, until after the book was printed and launched. The mysteries are:

1 Why did the Army throw a ring of steel around Heathrow Airport in 1974?
   Was it in response to a terrorist threat? Or something more sinister?

2 Why were there no further military exercises at Heathrow after February,

Am I a spy writer lost in my own Wilderness of Mirrors? It doesn’t matter. Books only come alive in the creative mind of the reader.

More information about Edward Wilson can be found on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter @EfwilsonEdward

A Very British Ending by Edward Wilson
A British Prime Minister is targeted by the CIA as a threat to American interests. A secret plot unfolds on both sides of the Atlantic to remove him from power. An MI6 officer, haunted by the ghosts of an SS atrocity, kills a Nazi war criminal in the ruins of a U-boot bunker. The German turns out to be a CIA asset being rat-lined to South America. As a hungry Britain freezes in the winter of 1947, a young cabinet minister negotiates a deal with Moscow trading Rolls-Royce jet engines for cattle fodder and wood. Both have made powerful enemies with long memories. The fates of the two men become entwined as one rises through MI6 and the other to Downing Street. It is the mid-1970s and a coup d état is imminent.  A Very British Ending is the Wolf Hall of power games in modern Britain. Senior MI6 officers, Catesby and Bone, try to outwit a cabal of plotters trying to overthrow the Prime Minister.

A Very British Ending by Edward Wilson is out now (£14.99, Arcadia Books)

Friday 28 August 2015

Hold the front page: when a Journalist Solve Crimes By Peter Bartram

Today's guest blog is by author and journalist Peter Bartram. He has written over 3000 articles for a wide range of newspapers and magazines.  Headline Murder is the first of a series of crime novels set in Brighton during the "swingin sixties".

When I sat down to write a crime mystery for the first time, I decided to make my protagonist a journalist rather than a detective. I’ve been a journalist all my life and I’ve often thought that we had at least one thing in common with ‘tecs - we both ask a lot of questions.

I don’t know whether detectives read much Rudyard Kipling, but journalists, at least, know the poem about the “six honest serving men” - what? why? when? how? where? who? They’re the questions you ask when you’re pursuing a story - and, I imagine, a suspect.

But while opposites attract, similarities repel. And I suppose the fact that journalists and detectives have the same question-asking skills is one of the reasons why relationships between them are sometimes strained. I discovered this at first hand at one point in my own career. I’d written a story which had made some politicians uncomfortable and the attorney-general of the day instructed two very senior police officers to interview me.

We met by invitation in a room at a convenient police station. Tea and biscuits were served. And then we spent an hour dancing around each other - with me largely answering a question with a question. Nothing ever came of it. To their credit, the officers made it clear they didn’t like being used as handy tools to clear up politicians’ dirty work. I carried on finding stories that sometimes didn’t please powerful people.

Anyway, as I say, the protagonist in the first of what I hope will be a series, is Colin Crampton, a crime reporter on an imaginary newspaper - the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Crampton is part avenging angel, part gutter journalist. He’s passionate about fighting for justice and righting wrongs. But he doesn’t care how he does.

My books and short stories are set in the 1960s, long before some journalists discovered phone hacking - and ended up in court as a result. But sixties’ newspaper people had more than enough scams up their sleeves - and Crampton is an enthusiast for using them. Not always successfully.

Journalists and detectives may spend a lot of time asking the same questions. But, in other respects, they’re different - in the ways they get their stories or solve their cases. Crampton is a journalist who needs to solve a case - generally one the cops have bungled - in order to get his stories. But that introduces an interesting new dynamic into the way the plot develops.

Because Crampton doesn’t just have to solve the case - he has to do it in a way which makes sure he can scoop the story before other journalists beat him to a headline. It creates new opportunities for suspense and - because Crampton has a journalist’s cynicism - a few laughs as well. My own career started on a newspaper in the 1960s and that experience has proved useful in creating the atmosphere - a newsroom where a fug of cigarette smoke lingers under fluorescent lights and 20 journalists hammering sit-up-and-beg typewriters sounds like a machine gun attack.

Those were the days. If you listen carefully enough, you might even hear the ghost of an editor cry: “Hold the front page!”

Headline Murder
A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery

It's August 1962, and Colin Crampton, the Brighton Evening Chronicle's crime reporter, is desperate for a front-page story. But it's the silly season for news – and the only tip-off Crampton has is about the disappearance of the seafront's crazy-golf proprietor, Arnold Trumper. Crampton thinks the story is about as useful as a set of concrete water-wings. But when he learns that Trumper's vanishing act is linked to an unsolved murder, he scents a front-page scoop. Crampton has to overcome dangers they never mentioned at journalism school before he writes his story. Headline Murder will keep you guessing – and smiling – right to the last page.

Headline Murder is published by Roundfire Books in the UK and US. Paperback £9.99/$16.95; E-book £4.99/$7.99

More information about the Colin Crampton series can be found on the website.  You can also find out more information on his Facebook page.

Thursday 27 August 2015

At The End of the Hallway with Lori Roy

Lori Roy's debut novel, Bent Road, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book.  Her second novel, Until She Comes Home was a finalist for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel and was named a New York Times Editors' Choice. 
I’m often asked to describe the novels I write. Some reviewers have called my work literary suspense. Others have called it noir or Southern gothic.  No matter how it’s labeled, my novels, and much of all crime fiction, are about ordinary people who find themselves fearful of something or someone, and as a result, must make decisions that could save them or destroy them. 

I was twenty-one years old and sitting in the lobby of a corporate building in Miami Beach when I first experience a real fear that could have destroyed me. I was due to graduate soon from Kansas State University and had flown to Miami for a job interview.  As was standard for the corporate world in the eighties, I wore a blue jacket and skirt, a white silk blouse and chunky pearl earrings.  My interviewer was already an hour late, and the receptionist who sat behind a mahogany desk twice apologised for the delay.  I was afraid to tell her I would have to leave soon or risk missing my flight home. Instead, I sat quietly, hands resting in my lap and watched the clock.

If there had been windows in the lobby, I would have heard the Atlantic Ocean. But there were none.  Dark wood paneling covered the walls, and every few feet, a brass sconce threw a spot of light on the red carpeting underfoot. Somewhere down a long hallway, a door opened and a man appeared in the lobby.  He’ll see you now,” the woman said.  I picked up my briefcase, which was empty except for a pad of paper and two blue pens, and followed the man.  Like the lobby, the hallway we walked down was lined with dark paneling and light only by a few sconces.  The man dipped his head toward a set of heavy, double doors at the end of the narrow passageway.  That’s his office,” the man said.  

Once inside the man’s office, which had only a single door, he was polite enough to mute the television, but he left it on so he could watch the stock prices that rolled across the screen.  We work six and a half days a week,” he said, scanning my resume. “We take off Sunday afternoons to do laundry.” I nodded. I was from the Midwest and knew about hard work.  Then he told me about those who had come before me.  They had graduate degrees, and yet they didn’t last.  He wasn’t sure I would last either.  He figured this by the look of me.  I would have figured the same.  Besides,” he said, and again dipped his head off in the direction of those double doors.  He’ll worry about your ticking clock.” I was only twenty-one but I knew what he meant.  This probably isn’t for you,” he said.  I caught a cab and made my flight home in plenty of time.

Once back in Kansas, I graduated and eventually accepted a different job. I was relieved to have not been offered the position on Miami Beach. Though I was young and had only been on a handful of interviews, I had sensed trouble was lurking inside those dark rooms and behind those double doors at the end of the hallway. Maybe it was the absence of light in a place that should have been flooded with sunshine that frightened me. Or maybe it was the blood red carpets, or the brass sconces, or maybe it was the woman who poked at her typewriter with long, white fingernails. Something had triggered my instinct to flee that day, and that something had been right.  Some years later, a book would be published. A wildly successful book called DEN OF THIEVES.  Along with countless others, I read the tales of insider trading and scandals that defined a decade of greed. There among the pages, I found the name of the man who had been behind the double doors at the end of the hall.  Regardless of how my work is labeled, this is the fear—the subtle, lingering, all-too-relatable fear—I hope to conjure. 

More information about Lori Roy and her books can be found on her website.  You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @LORIROYauthor

Let Me Die in His Footsteps

Everyone knows Hollerans don't go near Baines. Aunt Juna was the start of all the hatred between the families, and even though she's been gone a good many years, the hatred has stayed put.  On a dark Kentucky night in 1952, exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses over into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, it’s been that way since Joseph Carl Baine was hanged in 1936. But local superstition says that tonight Annie can see her future in the Baines’ well. Armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well and at the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water. What she sees instead, there in the moonlight, is a dead woman.  Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for. Suddenly the events of 1936, events that have twisted and shaped the lives of Annie and all her kin, are brought back into the present. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into her eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. And if Annie is to save herself, her family and this small Kentucky town, she must face the terrible reality of what happened all those years ago.  Let Me Die in His Footsteps is inspired by the true story of the last lawful public hanging in the United States.

Let Me Die in HIs Footsteps by Lori Roy is published on 27th August by Text Publishing (£10.99)