Thursday 31 March 2016

Lisa Lutz on Hate Mail

Lisa Lutz is best known for her series of comedic crime novels featuring the Spellman’s a family of private investigators. The first novel in the series The Spellman Files was in 2008 nominate for three Best novel awards – an Anthony Award, a Barry Award, a Macavity Award.  It was also nominated for a Dilys Award. The second novel in the series Curse of the Spellmans was nominated for an Edgar Award.  The Passenger is her third standalone novel.

I never got hate mail until I wrote a novel. Anger from strangers is a small price to pay for the luxury of writing books for a living. When I first built my author website and offered up my email for anyone to see, I was essentially inviting some kind of relationship with my readers. My general rule is to respond kindly to the positive notes and ignore the negative ones. But I still read them and take them in, and as much as I want to pretend that they have no effect on my writing or what I do, that is simply untrue.

My first book has a lot of footnotes, as do many thereafter. This was—and is—relatively uncommon for fiction, and especially for something shelved in the mystery section. Some people loved the footnotes; others, not so much. It’s fair to say my footnotes got hate mail. I recall my reaction to my first hostile missive on this front. Wow, this person is really angry, I thought. And maybe for the briefest moment I felt bad. But then something shifted internally and I thought the same thing, but with more delight. It’s so cool that I made this person so angry.  As a novelist, you hope for some kind of emotional response from the reader. Why does it have to be positive?

Some readers suggested removing the footnotes completely. Others, adopting the delicate tone of a person concerned about a loved one’s drinking, suggested that I simply cut back. Still others issued direct threats: If I refused to give up the footnotes, they would never read another book of mine again.

I never took any of these messages under advisement. But I can’t claim that they had no effect on my future work. Now there will be more footnotes! I remember thinking, with glee. And indeed, there were. Sometimes when you stand your ground, you have to take a little more ground. At least that was my thinking back then.

I’ve also had letters pleading for a certain relationship between two characters to intensify. I responded promptly, breaking them up permanently. I wasn’t deliberately trying to antagonise my readers, but it concerned me that I was writing a book about a woman asserting her independence and finding her place in the world, and my readers just wanted her to find love. That’s not what I’m about.

I quit the series when I knew I couldn’t write another good Spellman book. I shifted gears and began trying new things. Last year, How to Start a Fire was published. It’s straight fiction, but like everything I write it shares some common ground with the trajectory of crime novels. This year, with The Passenger, I fully embraced the genre. It’s a crime novel, plain and simple.

The letters (or, more frequently these days, comments on social media) still come through. The response has been generally good, but I have noticed a few interesting trends. Some readers just want the same old, same old. And I get that. Others, however, have suggested that my writing has reached a new level; that my more recent books, which are tonally darker, are also more substantial. This, I take issue with. True comedy has as much meat and as strong a point of view as any other fiction. The jokes just make it easier to digest.

Years ago I met a man at a party. He asked what I did for a living. I told him I wrote comedic novels and gave him the general premise. He was not impressed. Later, he asked me if I ever aspired to write something more serious. I felt myself go cold inside. I contained my urge to sling insults at him and just answered the question.

“No, my literary aspiration is the spit-take.”

I meant it. Even now, if I can say or write something funny enough to make a person choke (in a non-lethal manner) on his or her beverage, I feel perhaps overly satisfied by that accomplishment. At its essence, a joke is about the surprise of seeing a situation from an unexpected angle. Even the grittiest crime writer has the same goal. The end result might be a gasp instead of a laugh, but you want to keep your readers off-balance. You want to show them a new way of looking at the world.

 The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (£7.99 Titan Books)

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, I DIDN'T DO IT.  I DON'T HAVE AN ALIBI, SO YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT...With her husband's dead body still warm, Tanya Dubois has only one option: run. When the police figure out that she doesn't officially exist, they'll start asking questions she can't answer. Desperate to keep the past buried, she adopts and sheds identities as she flees.  Along the way she meets a cop with unknown motives and a troubled woman who sees through her disguise-and who may be friend or foe.  But ultimately she is alone, and the past can no longer be ignored...

You can find more information about Lisa Lutz on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @lisalutz and find her on Facebook.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Under the Shadow of MI6: Shots investigate Bonnier-Zaffre

The Shots team were delighted to be invited to a literary party hosted on the banks of the Thames, overlooking the MI6 building from ‘The Spying Room’; upstairs at The Morpeth Arms

The gathering was organised by Bonnier-Zaffre Publishing, a new team masterminded by Mark Smith, the literary entrepreneur who most recently was the CEO and founder of Quercus Publishing [now an imprint at Hodder and Stoughton].  Mark Smith is well known in the industry thanks in no part to this book.

We heard about Bonnier-Zaffre and became rather interested when Mark Smith’s name was associated with this venture, and has become CEO as reported from The Bookseller -

Bonnier Publishing Fiction will house Hot Key Books, Piccadilly Press and Zaffre. Hot Key Books and Piccadilly will remain focused on children’s fiction, while Zaffre will build an adult fiction business around women’s fiction, romance, historical fiction, crime, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror and fiction in translation.

Zaffre also has an imprint, Twenty7, which focuses exclusively on debut authors across all fiction categories.

Richard Johnson, c.e.o. of Bonnier Publishing said: “The move we are announcing today completes our strategy of covering all types of publishing by the end of 2014. Bringing someone of Mark’s reputation and standing in the industry to the group is a marker of our ambition to be a major player in the fiction market in the UK, USA and Australia.
“Mark’s experience will help, too, in all other areas of our group and he will immediately join the board of our US company, Little Bee, which starts to publish next month.”

Smith said: “I’m very excited to be building another publishing business and having Zaffre as part of the Bonnier Publishing Group feels like a perfect match of know-how and ambition. I greatly admire the quality of Bonnier’s current children’s fictionpublishing and look forward to working with the team to navigate the future. The industry is changing rapidly, which brings opportunity for new entrants and I’m looking forward to finding great stories from brilliant authors and connecting them with readers around the world.”

Read More from The Bookseller Here

We have been observing the recent successes of these new kids on the publishing block, with some intriguing acquisitions including David Young’s Stasi Child, the return of Caroline[C.J.] Carver with Spare Me The Truth, David Jackson’s new series that starts with A Tapping At My Door to name just a few of their offerings.

So as it was raining heavily [and we were close to MI6], a cabal of trench-coated book reviewers gathered along the banks of the Thames, to sip wine, and learn more about this interesting publishing house, headed by Mark Smith. Joining Ayo, Mike and I at the party were Literary Agent Oli Munson, Karen Robinson of The Times, Barry ‘Brit-Noir’ Forshaw, Maxim and Delores Jakubowski, and many, many others.

So we mingled, catching up on our reading, and now present a few photos of the party for our readers.

A treat was to finally meet up with literary scout Vanessa O'Loughlin from Dublin, though we’d been in contact for some time now, initially via twitter, it was good to finally meet.
So with the wine flowing, Mark Smith took to the stand to welcome us all to the literary party hosted by Bonnier-Zaffre publishing. Smith indicated that this ‘new’ publishing House had big plans to present a niche, carefully selected list. Though a lover of crime, thriller and mystery fiction; Smith indicated that Bonnier-Zaffre would also publish work outside of the genre, focusing on work that would appeal to a wide readership, introducing diversity into their offerings. Smith indicated that many of their non-genre titles would appeal to Crime, Mystery and Thriller readers.

Diversity is a term that would sum up their release Maestra by Lisa [L.S.] Hilton a book that just reached No 1 in the UK, an early success for Bonnier-Zaffre, with release later this year in the US from Putman; and with film rights being optioned by Columbia Pictures.  I was amused at how Mark Smith acquired this book, despite some opposition internally at Bonnier-Zappre, which was amusingly reported at The Spectator >

Bonnier Zaffre’s CEO Mark Smith recalled how Hilton had charmed him straightaway with her plentiful talents. Alas not everyone at the publishing house was so enamored, with one member of staff worrying that Hilton’s writing suggested that she suffered psychopathic tendencies. Smith says that the staffer in question went so far as to try to stop him from embarking on a worldwide pre-publication tour with Hilton:
‘Before we headed on the trips we had to discuss the plan with my colleagues. There was one in particular who had read the book and was decidedly cold on the idea.
I had a slew of emails asking me to reconsider: what if Lisa poisons you? I really hope you come back.’
Read More Here from The Spectator

So with our investigation resolved as to who are Bonnier-Zaffre, it was back to MI6 to report back, and a late night Pizza for Stotter and Karim as they discussed their own writing project[s].

More information about Bonnier-Zaffre available here

Photos © 2016 A S Karim 

Breaking News - Denise Mina Joins Harvil Secker

Harvill Secker is delighted to announce that award-winning crime writer DENISE MINA is joining the imprint. 
Harvill Secker to publish standalone novel in March 2017 and launch a new crime fiction series in 2018. 

Alison Hennessey, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker, has acquired UK & Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Peter Robinson at Rogers, Coleridge & White, for the standalone novel The Long Drop, publishing March 2017, and the first in a brand new crime series for 2018.
The Long Drop is an atmospheric literary thriller about Peter Manuel, a real-life serial killer in 1950s Glasgow, and a deeply unsettling night he spent with the husband and father of two of his victims before his arrest. Not only a brilliant character study of two men and a gripping retelling of a famous trial that saw women queueing overnight to attend, Denise Mina captures a point in time as Glasgow changes for ever.
An exclusive early extract is available to read today on NetGalley: For instructions on how to join NetGalley, click here.
Denise Mina says: I’m thrilled to be joining Harvill Secker, home to some of the finest contemporary crime writing. I look forward to a long, jolly and successful association.

Alison Hennessey, Senior Editor, says: ‘I couldn’t be more excited to be bringing Denise to the Harvill Secker list. I have been a huge admirer of hers for years and with The Long Drop she has produced her best work yet – a compelling and unnerving literary thriller, laced with brilliant vignettes and wonderfully black humour that is destined to be one of the must-reads of 2017; I can’t wait to share it with readers.’ 

Liz Foley, Publishing Director, says: 'We have long admired Denise's work so this really is a dream come true for us at Harvill Secker and Vintage. The Long Drop is a completely brilliant, captivating book that I still can't stop thinking about and everyone here is extremely excited about preparing for our publication.’


Tuesday 29 March 2016

Isabelle Grey on the shadowy world of the criminal armourer

It seemed only appropriate, when invited to contribute to Shots, to share what I uncovered about the shady activities of criminal armourers when researching my second DI Grace Fisher thriller, Shot Through The Heart.

Although there were 7,709 offences involving firearms recorded in England and Wales in 2013-14, and one gangland boss (now deceased) once boasted that he had more guns than the police, there are few convictions of the men who put illicit weapons - and ammunition - on the streets.

It’s relatively easy to buy a shotgun or Second World War revolver acquired during domestic burglaries which will cost as little as a couple of hundred pounds (or can be swopped for drugs); a ‘boxed’ handgun – new and unused – will be five or six times the price.

Handguns appear to be popular amongst the image-conscious nightclub crowd, partly because they are easier to conceal. Revolvers are preferred to semi-automatics because, if used, they don’t discharge spent ammunition which could be forensically matched to the gun – an important consideration when unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon carries a minimum 5-year mandatory prison sentence.

Crime reporter Duncan Campbell told me that when he was writing a story for the Guardian about how easy it is to buy a gun in Britain, the newspaper’s lawyers warned him not even to touch the item he was offered in case he left himself open to prosecution.

Street styles come and go, but a Sterling, Uzi or MP5 submachine gun will set the buyer back two or three thousand pounds. However, they eat up ammunition, which can be difficult and expensive to replace, with much of it probably now coming in from Eastern Europe or Russia. A supply of bullets for an illegal weapon may well cost more than the gun itself and, with often only one full load of ammo included in the purchase price, many fashion accessory guns are in fact seldom fired.

In Shot Through The Heart it was relatively easy to have DI Fisher find out all sorts of arcane detail about how different types of bullet are made, but far harder to discover how a criminal armourer actually operates.

Police believe that Grant Wilkinson, jailed for life in 2008 for converting replica weapons into working guns, was responsible for guns used in more than fifty shootings, including at least eight murders. One of his guns – although not the murder weapon – was used in an armed robbery in 2005 in which PC Sharon Beshenivsky was killed and PC Teresa Milburn wounded.

Like Wilkinson, Anthony Mitchell also specialised in reactivating Mac-10s, sub-machine pistols that can empty a 30-round clip in under two seconds. His guns were used in murders and robberies as well as gang feuds in London and Manchester. Jailed for eight years in 1999, Mitchell, a skilled craftsman, had also been a licensed firearms dealer and a special constable with Sussex police. He and his mates liked to video themselves dressing up in paramilitary-style boiler suits and conned their way into police shooting contests in Europe and America.

Among Mitchell’s ‘quartermasters’ were William Greenwood and his son who were thought to have sold thousands of deactivated weapons along with the kits needed to convert them. They joked with an undercover detective that, if he bought ten pistols, he’d get one free. Father and son, who had previously run a rural antiques shop, were each jailed in 2004 for seven years.

I found it impossible not to be intrigued by the personal details about these criminals, and also by the extent to which any of them felt personally responsible for the grief and carnage caused by their commercial transactions.

Although protected by a network of fixers, couriers and salesmen, some had been betrayed by those closest to them when associates were apprehended by the police and offered deals as informants.

A shadowy criminal world offering hypocrisy, moral complexity and betrayal; place it out in the isolated landscape of the Essex marshes where Dickens set the haunting opening chapters of Great Expectations and what more could a crime writer wish for?

Shot Through The Heart is published by Quercus on 24 March 2016

When a lone shooter claims the lives of five people on Christmas Day before turning the gun on himself, it's up to DI Grace Fisher to find out, not who did it, but why and how.  Tracing the illegal weapon and its deadly load of homemade bullets, she soon uncovers a toxic web of police corruption, personal vendettas and revenge. But when the enemy is within, who will believe her?  As threats to her safety mount up and the strain of secrecy begins to wreck her friendships, Grace must decide how far she wants to pursue justice - and at what cost.

More information about Isabelle Grey and her books can be found on her website.  You can also follow her on Twitter @IsabelleGrey.

Monday 28 March 2016

Criminal Snippets

Gerald Gilbert in The Independent explains why the adaptation of John Le Carré's The Night Manager was worth the twenty-year wait. Meanwhile Jasper Rees in the Telegraph explains why the final episode of The Night Manager had a superb climax.

Also in the Independent Max Wallis lists the 10 best spy novels.

If you are a mystery buff as well as a traveller then you will be interested in Deutsche Welle’s Travel Tips for Mystery Buffs.

According to The Bookseller the debut crime series by former criminal barrister Helen Fields is to be published by Avon and introduces readers to half French half Scottish former Interpol officer Luc Callanach, and detective inspector Ava Turner.  The first book in the series Perfect Remains will be published in December 2016.

Transworld are according to The Bookseller to republish the late James Crumley’s classic novel The Long Good Kiss with a new introduction by Ian Rankin.  First published in 1978 the new edition will be published in April 2016.

The latest Jason Bourne book is to be published by Head of Zeus.  According to The Bookseller.  Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Enigma, will be published this summer.

Headline have also according to The Bookseller bought the rights to a psychological domestic noir thriller Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen.  Initially due to be published in digital in November it will be published in mass market in April 2017.

According to the BBC, Tim Roth and Samantha Morton have been cast in a new three part series of Rillington Place, which will be filmed in Scotland and London.  The three-part drama is based on the real-life multiple murders undertaken by John Christie in Notting Hill in the 1940s and Fifties.

ITV have commissioned an eight-part thriller Paranoid. A conspiracy thriller, Paranoid, tells the story of a female GP who is murdered in a rural children’s playground with an abundance of eyewitnesses. A group of detectives embark on what seems to be a straightforward murder investigation, but as they delve deeper into the case they are quickly drawn into the twists and turns of an ever-darkening mystery, which takes them unexpectedly across Europe.

Sad to hear that on 19 March Japanese mystery writer Shizuko Natsuki whose 1973 novel (Johatsu) Disappearance won the Japanese won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award has died.

Best of???  According to Taste of Cinema the 10 Best Sherlock Holmes movies can be found here.  The 20 best South Korean thriller movies are here.

Interesting article in the Concord Monitor commenting on the fact that police shootings of blacks influence the crime fiction genre.

Alison Flood in The Guardian reviews Jonathan Moore’s novel The Poison Artist.

With the new ITV Maigret being shown this evening (28 March) French Today published sometime ago (which is certainly worth reading) an essay on how to follow in the footsteps of the fictional Maigret in the City of Light. 

Sarah Paretsky talks to Prose ‘n’ Cons about her writing and the state of publishing today.

Friday 25 March 2016

One-day Symposium: “New Approaches to Studying Crime Narratives”

October 14, 2016
University of Tampere, Finland

First Call for Papers

We invite proposals for paper presentations on new approaches to studying crime narratives. We want to encourage participants to introduce and discuss new methodological and theoretical perspectives on how to study literary, televisual and filmic crime narratives, and also to consider recent developments in the field of crime writing itself. The symposium understands crime narratives in a wide sense, as ranging from detective fiction, spy stories, and thrillers to true crime. The symposium also welcomes proposals focusing on crime narratives from various language areas and cultural spheres. We would like to welcome proposals which address the following topics (however, the list is by no means exhaustive):

●        setting, space and spatiality
●        reconsidering the postcolonial and imperial turns
●        beyond the ethnic boom
●        the crossroads between crime studies and disability studies
●        studies on crime and affect
●        crime fiction and brutality
●        crime fiction and translation
●        crime and transmedia storytelling
●        new generic directions
●        crime narrative, history and memory
●        crime and tourism
●        Nordic noir
●        music in crime narratives

The Symposium’s keynote speaker:

Dr Christiana Gregoriou, English Language, University of Leeds, UK.

Participants may contribute with a presentation (20 min + discussion).

Please submit your proposal (max 300 words) and a short biographical statement (including name, email address, institutional affiliation) to and as attachments in rtf or doc format by May 31, 2016. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by June 17th, 2016. Participants should register for the symposium before August 22, 2016. The language of the symposium is English.

There is no conference fee, and participants are expected to cover all costs for travel, accommodation and subsistence themselves.

After the conference authors of some selected papers will be invited to take part in a book to be published by an international publishing house.

Dr Maarit Piipponen, Degree Programme in English Language, Literature and Translation, University of Tampere, Finland

Dr Tiina Mäntymäki, English Studies, University of Vaasa, Finland

Tiina Mäntymäki, Ph.D.
Research Manager
English Studies
Head of English Studies
University of Vaasa
P.O. Box 700, FI-65101 VAASA
Tel. +358 (0)29 449 8337
Email tiina.mantymaki(a)