Monday 30 January 2017

Stav Sherez & The Intrusions

Shots thoroughly enjoyed The Intrusions from London based journalist and thriller writer Stav Sherez – Click Here to read the Shots Review

We were delighted when Stav provided a thought provoking essay, for our readers.

What is it about serial killers and cheesy pop music? While researching my latest novel, The Intrusions, I went through a lot of true crime and serial killer biographies. Most of what I read was pretty horrific, leaving a really bad taste in the mouth – but one thing kept popping up that couldn’t fail but to intrigue me: the music serial killers listened to while stalking or killing their victims. The best and worst of human actions seemed encapsulated by these two poles. I'm sure the music says something about the killer's state of mind or psychology but you'd need someone far more qualified than me to tell you what. Instead – and without meaning to stumble too far down the path of bad taste – here's some of the strange and unlikely music that serial killers listened to.

1. Richard Ramirez
Ramirez conducted one of the most bizarre, baroque, and truly depraved killing sprees in American history. The sheer repetitiveness and obsessive compulsion manifest in these crimes says a lot about serial killer pathology. The "Night Stalker" cruised the LA streets in the mid-1980s searching out victims at a terrifying rate. Several sources state that he would crank up AC/DC on his car stereo as he did so. At the home of one of his victims, he inadvertently left behind an AC/DC cap.

2. Fred West
One of the most degenerate serial killer couples in history, the Wests turned their house on Cromwell Street into a De Sade-ian experiment in depravity. Gordon Burn's Happy Like Murderers documents the terrifying descent into dark sex, murder and incest with chilling, hypnotic prose. It's probably the best true crime book I've ever read – but the most incongruous detail to emerge from its pages was how Fred would often whistle Susan Vaughn's "I Want to Be Bobby's Girl" as he was committing his atrocities.

3. Charles Manson
Manson isn't, strictly speaking, a serial killer but more along the lines of crazed cult leader sending his disciples out to do his killing for him. But he's perhaps the most famous example of not listening to pop music properly. In his Mojave desert hideaway, high on acid, Manson reportedly listened to the Beatles "Helter Skelter" for 24 hours straight. During this epic session, Manson worked out what Paul McCartney was trying to tell him: Jesus was coming and the Beatles had seen it; but Jesus first wanted Manson to make his 'song' – America would descend into race war and it was Manson's job to initiate it.

4. Dennis Nilsen
The Muswell Hill Murderer's spree of slaying and necrophilia was put to an end when the remains of several bodies were discovered clogging the drains of his house. Nlsen picked up vulnerable gay men, spiked them with drugs then strangled them and kept their bodies under his floorboards. He would often take them out and place them on an armchair and chat with them. What music did he listen to while he did this? Doom Metal? Thrash? No, apparently, it was the soothing sounds of Clannad.

5. Dean Corll
One of the most savage and sadistic serial killers ever recorded, Corll hunted young boys in 1970s Houston with the help of two accomplices (one of whom would later end up shooting him). Jack Olsen's superb The Man with the Candy details this bizarre and ritualistic killer who would strap young men to a tortureboard as the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly Wow" played in the background.

 © 2017 Stav Sherez

The Intrusions is out on 2nd February, 2017 and can be ordered from the Shots Bookstore HERE

Saturday 28 January 2017

The Talented Mr Swanson

I recall when British Publisher Faber and Faber picked up author Peter Swanson’s debut novel ‘The Girl With a Clock for a Heart’, a couple of years ago. I was startled by this noir-ish crime thriller debut, as it appealed to my inner Tom Ripley. I wrote at the time –

It will be of little surprise to hear that Hollywood has snapped up a movie option, as the narrative is written in a Spartan and terse style, that resembles a detailed screenplay, but one that the readers has to provide the camera directions, and as for lighting? There is no need, as it is noir in the literal sense. An astonishing debut from a writer that even at this early stage, is one worth marking for the future

Read More Here

I enjoyed Swanson’s writing and was delighted when Faber and Faber organised an interview with him; as I had a few questions that haunted me. The interview is archived here
Peter’s second work The Kind Worth Killing, was even more elegant and dark, and as many of us had predicted, Swanson was no ‘flash in the pan’ as he was recognised by The Crime Writers Association and Ian Fleming Publications; finding The Kind Worth Killing For - on the 2015 Steel Dagger Shortlist; as well as on the inaugural Dead Good Books Reader Awards [2015].

So what have we instore for Peter’s third novel?

Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, but after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life, her bouts of anxiety began exploding into full-blown panic attacks. When Corbin Dell, a cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the past traumas of her life.

But at Corbin's grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, but many questions of her own--and her curiosity intensifies when she meets Alan, a handsome tenant who lives across the courtyard. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey's place, yet Corbin's denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a man claiming to be the dead woman's old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed.

Corbin proclaims his innocence and calms Kate's nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment. Could Corbin really be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, but she isn't sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally fragile, her imagination full of dark images, Kate can barely trust herself, let alone a stranger she's just met. Yet the danger Kate imagines isn't nearly as twisted as what is about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real.

Shots have copies of HER EVERY FEAR with a generous discount from our bookstore here

Peter was in London last week and thanks to Faber & Faber’s Sophie Portis and Angus Cargill, I found myself invited to the launch, which was hosted in a Pub in West London. It was good to meet up with fellow literary commentators Nick Clee and John Williams, as well as catch up with Peter Swanson, a tremendous writer, who is often described, as a contemporary /updated version of Patricia Highsmith or James M Cain.

It wasn’t long before Angus Cargill of Faber & Faber [London] welcomed us to the gathering, as well as Peter saying a few words -

So if you are not familiar with the work of Peter Swanson, then click here for more information, and don’t forget, Shots Magazine’s bookstore has copies of HER EVERY FEAR with a very generous discount for our readers, so click here for your copy.

Times Crime and Thriller Writing Masterclass

Do you want to be a crime writer? A really successful crime writer? We have recruited a panel of the top names in crime and thriller publishing to share their expertise at our Crime Club Masterclass on Monday, March 20. For just £45 you can join us to learn the secrets of creating great crime and thriller fiction.

On the panel (from left):

Henry Sutton runs the University of East Anglia's MA in Crime Fiction, and has written nine novels: ask him about structure, craft and technique.

Charles Cumming is the author of eight spy thrillers, partly based on his own experiences with MI6. Charles will share his ideas about turning fact into fiction, and how to write from both experience and imagination.

Literary agent Jane Gregory has masterminded the careers of Val McDermid and Minette Walters, among others, and knows exactly what she's looking for in the next great crime writer.

Julia Wisdom edits and publishes Stuart MacBride, SJ Parris and Simon Toyne. She can tell you what publishers want and don't want.

Sophie Hannah, an international bestseller, writes intricate psychological thrillers and with the blessing of the Agatha Christie estate she has also written two brand-new Hercule Poirot novels. Who better to discuss what the modern writer can learn from Agatha Christie, and what works — and what doesn't work — to create a successful psychological thriller?

The masterclass will give all guests access to each of the panel in small groups, so there will be plenty of opportunity to have your specific questions answered.

To find out more, and to book, click here.

Friday 27 January 2017

Eva Dolan - On her most highly anticipated crime books of 2017

Author Eva Dolan shares with us her most highly anticipated paperback crime books of 2017.  Her latest novel is Watch Her Disappear.

The North Water by Ian McGuire
Not strictly a crime novel, but The North Water has more than enough grit, gore and moral hazard to keep even the most lit-fic averse reader satisfied. Set on a whaling boat, heading from Hull into the Arctic circle it pits a disgraced British Army surgeon against a villain who is no less than a force of nature. McGuire’s narrative is almost hypnotic in its quiet force and irresistible momentum and you read it with a sense of rising foreboding as the men hatch their own plans for greater glory and rewards and discontent breeds among them. The North Water was my favourite book of 2016 and one I’m sure I will reread many times in the years to come. The prose is absolutely exquisite, especially in the descriptions of the treacherous waters and icy landscape.

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
This beguiling psychological thriller heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice on the crime scene. Set on a remote island off the Norwegian fjords it’s a brooding two-hander, absolutely thrumming with sexual tension and suppressed violence. Disgraced journalist Allis takes the job of live-in housekeeper for Sigurd - a man much younger and more attractive than she was expecting when she answered his ad - who lives alone as he awaits the return of his ill wife. As the two awkwardly share the isolated house, mostly in silence, warily circling one another, the tension escalates to a point where something must give. With echoes of Daphne du Maurier, but very much an original, this book is a riveting character piece exploring psychological abuse and stubborn self-delusion. Special mention for the translation by Rosie Hedger, who has preserved the poetry in Ravatn’s beautiful prose.

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto
This award winning author has previously written two excellent books in the Anna Fekete series, which have explored the social and racial frictions in modern Finnish society, but her latest instalment sees the steely but troubled Fekete returning to her family’s native Serbia for a much needed break. When her handbag is stolen and the thief turns up dead local police are quick to close the case, but Fekete has doubts and begins her own investigation. With the current migrant crisis unfolding in the background this compelling and strongly written novel is also very timely, a must for readers who like their Nordic Noir with a little less ice and a lot more fire.

Crush by Frederic Dard
Originally published in the 1950’s, Crush is one of those slim but perfectly formed French noir novels, very much in the mould of Georges Simenon’s romans durs. Bored teenager Louise Lacroix sees a more exciting life to be had within the household of glamorous American couple, the Roolands, and charms her way into their employment and elegant home as a maid. But, all is not as it seems. With its unreliable narrator, plush suburban setting and twisty ending Crush is the perfect choice for fans of domestic noir who feel like stepping back to an earlier incarnation of the genre. Huge credit here to Pushkin Press for their outstanding Vertigo list, which is throwing up some fantastic lost gems and packaging them rather beautifully, too.

The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson
Fans of Patricia Highsmith will already know about her stay in the quiet Suffolk countryside – setting for one of her lesser read novels, A Suspension of Mercy – and Jill Dawson has brought a fictionalised version of this period alive in The Crime Writer. Grumpy, odd and obsessing over the visit of her married lover, Pat conjures prowlers out of the darkness and reluctantly prepares for an interview with a journalist, which, in finest Highsmith fashion, goes bad. Dawson’s version of Highsmith is horribly convincing and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in the conceit of dropping the author into a plotline she might have written herself, subtly blending fact and fiction and never letting the reader feel too certain about where the line is.

Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Mullen’s critically acclaimed novel feels like an important read in the current political climate, given that it focuses on the first black police officers recruited in Atlanta during the late 1940s and how the two-tier system on the streets translated inside the station house. Virtually powerless – no right to arrest white suspects or drive a squad car – Boggs and Smith find themselves investigating the murder of a black woman last seen with a wealthy white man, when nobody else is interested in tracking down her killer. Mullen writes crisp, efficient prose, almost terse in places, which captures the tension in the air as change seems to be coming. This is crime writing of the highest calibre, intelligent, important stuff, covering issues – like systemic racism and police corruption – which should be behind us by now but, sadly, seem to be on the rise.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina
With a back catalogue of fiercely realist crime novels it was maybe inevitable that at some point Denise Mina would put her considerable talent towards fictionalising a true life case. Here she tackles the infamous Glasgow serial killer, Peter Manuel, who was hanged in 1958 for his crimes, taking us back to the first murderers he committed, wiping out the Watts family, all bar the father William, the inevitable prime suspect. Who innocently turns to Manuel for help. This literary thriller displays all of Mina’s usual psychological insight and flair for character and has award-winner written all over it.

Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin
This is the much anticipated follow up to Celestin’s CWA Dagger-winning debut The Axeman’s Jazz, which saw a young Louis Armstrong chasing down a serial killer in jazz era New Orleans, alongside a fearsome secretary from the Pinkterton Agency who harboured ambitions of being a real detective. In Dead Man’s Blues Ida is back on the case and the action has moved to Capone’s Chicago where a trio of crimes challenge our heroes; the poisoning of a group of city bigwigs, the mutilation of a gangster and a disappeared heiress. Prepare yourself a fast paced narrative which comes stuffed with period detail, and even more jazz.  

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Published this week in paperback, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a hugely satisfying second novel by Ruth Ware and showcases her love for golden age crime novels in a much more immediate way than her debut did. It follows lifestyle journalist Lo Blacklock as she embarks on a press trip aboard a new luxury cruise ship which is heading to see the Northern Lights. Lo, traumatised by a recent break-in at home, needs a getaway but is she really ready for one? When she hears a woman go overboard but finds nobody is missing from the ship, Lo can accept that she imagined it or…investigate the crime. This is a great mystery, channelling Agatha Christie through a Conde Nast filter, you’ll tear through it and love every minute.

Fever City by Tim Baker
Another favourite from last year now available in paperback, Fever City is a debut which reads like the work of a far more mature writer, such is the level of confidence and complexity on show in this fresh take on the Kennedy assassination. Spanning multiple narratives and timelines, which are interwoven with delicate skill, the story gradually reveals a conspiracy which encompasses the intelligence community, the mafia, bent cops and tenacious hacks, femme fatales and movie stars and missing children. It is a staggering accomplishment, complex but never cluttered, evocative, compelling and written with real style.

Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan and is published by Harvill Secker.  
You can run from your past.  But you can’t run from murder.  The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.  With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene.  Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer.  Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal...

You can follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan


Who Killed Helen Fields

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness.  

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

Helen Fields, author of Perfect Remains, has gone missing. Here is a video diary that she's managed to record over ten days. Watch her last words. Can you tell who's behind this?



Thursday 26 January 2017

2016 Agatha Award Nominees

2016 Agatha Nominees. Congratulations to all of the nominees. The Agatha Awards will be presented on April 29, 2017, at the Malice Banquet. Winners in each category will be decided via onsite ballot by the attendees of Malice Domestic 29.
Best Contemporary Novel
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Best Historical Novel
Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao (Berkley)
Get Me to the Grave on Time by D.E. Ireland (Grainger Press)
Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel
Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press)
The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (Forge Books)

Best Nonfiction
Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats by Jane K. Cleland (Writer's Digest Books)
A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden's 25 Years in the Maine Woods by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora (Skyhorse Publishing)
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland

Best Short Story
"Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story" by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
"The Best-Laid Plans" by Barb Goffman in Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional (Wildside Press)
"The Mayor and the Midwife" by Edith Maxwell in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 (Down & Out Books)
"The Last Blue Glass" by B.K. Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
"Parallel Play" by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Press)

Best Children/Young Adult
Trapped: A Mei-hua Adventure by P.A. DeVoe (Drum Tower Press)
Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster)
Tag, You're Dead by J C Lane (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos (Balzer & Bray)
The Secret of the Puzzle Box: The Code Busters Club by Penny Warner (Darby Creek)

H/T Mystery Fanfare

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Inspiration behind Her Every Fear for Shots by Peter Swanson

I’ve always been a fan of the genre I think of as “apartment gothic,” those books or movies in which the city apartment becomes a threatening, claustrophobic place. My favorite is Rosemary’s Baby, the terrific supernatural novel by Ira Levin that was turned into Roman Polanski’s masterpiece. In both the book and the film, the apartment building, The Bramford, which is loosely (or not so loosely) based on The Dakota in New York City, is central to the premise of the book.

Yes, the real villains of Rosemary’s Baby might be the coven of Satanists looking to recruit a young married couple for their nefarious purposes, but they only exist because The Bramford does, with its history of horror and mayhem. And in her spacious, elegant apartment, Rosemary becomes trapped in a nightmare.

I thought about Rosemary’s Baby when I began to plot out my new novel, Her Every Fear. In my book, Kate Priddy is a Londoner who agrees to swap apartments with a second cousin from the United States for six months. She’s never met him before but she agrees, partly to try and overcome a near-debilitating anxiety issue. When she arrives she finds a high-ceilinged turn-of-the-century apartment with a few secrets of its own. I very much wanted the apartment to not only serve as a crucial piece of the plot, but also as its own character. Kate doesn’t trust the regular inhabitant of the apartment—her cousin Corbin—but she’s not sure she trusts the apartment itself.

There are many other examples of “apartment gothic” that served as inspiration for this book. Ira Levin penned another one himself, his last book, called Sliver, a book that delves into the theme of voyeurism, something I also explore in Her Every Fear. And Roman Polanski made two other films—The Tenant and Repulsion—in which residents of an apartment go through as much turmoil as Rosemary does.

There are others. I’m very fond of Wait Until Dark, the play about a blind woman in a Greenwich Village apartment fending off drug dealers. That play is by Frederick Knott, who also wrote Dial M for Murder, another thriller set entirely in one apartment. I even like the books or movies that aren’t quite first rate; there’s a Doris Day film called Midnight Lace, in which a newlywed living on Grosvenor Square in London begins to suspect someone stalking. You can probably guess the rest.

I think what I like most about this type of story is that when you take away the safety of a home you leave your main character in a terrible position. There is nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. It’s why haunted house stories are popular as well. Of course, the problem with haunted house stories, always, is how to get the inhabitants to stay in the house. Why don’t they run? That’s why I think that a lot of the best “apartment gothic” stories involve inhabitants who are not sure if they danger they perceived is real or imagined. Rosemary begins to sense the truth, but can’t quite believe it. Kit Preston, the character played by Doris Day in Midnight Lace, doesn’t know if she is actually being stalked, or if it’s all in her head. They begin to doubt their own minds. And they stick it out to find out if the creatures in the shadows are real or not.

 Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)