Sunday, 18 August 2019

St Hilda's Crime Fiction Weekend Part 3

(L-R Andrew Taylor, Natasha Cooper & Sarah Hilary) ©Ayo Onatade
After a brief introduction the first full day at St Hilda’s saw Andrew Taylor talking about Josephine Tey. The title of the paper being A Gathering of StrangersThe Crime Fiction of Josephine Tey.  Josephine Tey is one of the two authors that have influenced Andrew Taylor the other being Patricia Highsmith so it was quite apt that Sarah Hilary who was the second author taking part in the first session gave a paper on Patricia Highsmith.   Andrew Taylor spoke about Josephine Tey’s first novel The Man in The Queue. Interesting to note that crime writer Catherine Aird has a family connection to Josephine Tey.  Andrew Taylor suggested that if you were going to start reading Josephine Tey then he would suggest that you either start with Brat Farraror The Franchise Affair.  Sarah Hilary’s paper was entitled Uncomfortably Naked: Patricia Highsmith’s Talent for Perversion.  As Sarah explained Highsmith is a particular hero of hers.

After a brief coffee break the second session in the morning saw Nicholas Utechinn who is
Nicholas Utechinn ©Ayo Onatade
the historian for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London talk about why Sherlock Holmes was a gamechanger and an historical perspective of Sherlock Holmes and his creator Arthur Conan Doyle.  The title of his paper was‘I Suppose I am The Only One in the World’ – Sherlock Holmes  Challenges.   Holmes of course was seen as the first “forensic detective”.  He was well known for the way in which forensics played a part in his deductions. We were also informed that Sidney Paget drew over 300 drawings for the Sherlock Holmes short stories and that the Strand Magazine loved the Sherlock Holmes stories when they were first published. They way in which Holmes solved his case showed why he was the supreme gamechanger.  Nicholas Utechinn expressed the view that whilst he did not mind the parodies that were written about Holmes he was not keen on Sherlock Holmes pastiches.  There are also around 423 active Sherlock Holmes societies around the world and the first Sherlock Holmes film was shown in 1903 but it only lasted around 11 seconds. The title of the film was Sherlock Holmes Was Baffled.  An interesting titbit of information is that Nicholas Utechinn is distantly related to Basil Rathbone who played Sherlock Holmes in 14 Hollywood films between 1939 to 1946 as well as in a radio series.

After Nicholas Utechinn, Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet spoke about ‘The Small World of Simenon’.  As Graeme talked about Simenon he explained that as he was doing his research he read around 90 of his books.  Simenon.  Simenon of course was a prolific author and published around 500 novels and numerous short works. Graeme informed the audience that the first Simenon book that he read was Belle, which was not in fact a Maigret book.  In Belle, Spencer Ashby, a teacher, is charged with the murder of Belle, the daughter of a friend of his wife's wife, whom the couple has been sheltering for a month and who is strangled in his room.  Did he or did he not commit the crime?   In Belle we see the world through the eyes of Spencer Ashby and the debilitating effect that accusation of murder has on him.    French reviewers have called Graeme himself “Le Simenon écossais”. Both papers saw us listening to two authors explaining in their own ways not only the importance of their work but also the reasons why their work is so important within the genre and why they are in fact game changers. 

After lunch saw the papers take on a more non-fictional slant.  First, Scottish author Lin
Lin Anderson - ©Ayo Onatade
Anderson spoke about Forensic Fact and Fiction and the way in which she incorporates fact into her novels and her interest in forensic science. Her interest in forensic science led her to take a Diploma in Forensic Science.  At the time that she did the course she did it along side another author Alex Gray and they were the only two authors on the course. Lin Anderson and Alex Gray are the joint founders of Bloody Scotland. She also explained how her character Rhona MacLeod came into being.    One of the points raised by Lin was the fact that people go back to series because of the characters that they want to know more about.  

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid who spoke after Lin Anderson explained the complexities of forensic and real crime scenes. She also gave a
Professor Niamh Nic Daeid ©Ayo Onatade
fascinating talk on the history of forensic science (which started over 150 years ago) and the changes that were/ have been taking place.  One of the other issues that got mentioned was the way in which crime books and television programmes (better known as the “CSI effect”) have complicated trials as some people tend to believe what they have seen on television (e.g. when watching CSI) or read in a crime novel. It was explained that DNA is not found in all cases and that there have been times when counsel have had to state at the start of a trial the fact that there is no DNA! The other problem that tended to arise in trials where there is DNA is the fact that the expert witnesses are not always asked the correct questions so as to elicit the answers that are needed to explain the DNA properly.  CSI Investigators also need to learn how to communicate properly. One view that was also expressed was the fact that with the rise of forensic science it had invariably lead to the “death” of the amateur investigator.  

An exciting piece of news that was revealed was the fact that Val McDermid has been heavily involved in a new crime drama called Traces which is due to be shown on UKTV Alibi Channel in November. Traces is set in a forensic laboratory and has just finished filming. 

Mick Herron - ©Ayo Onatade
The second set of papers given in the afternoon saw Mick Herron talking about the late great Reginald Hill and his books including those written under various pseudonyms with a paper entitled ‘From Cluedo to Ludo – The Changing Games of Reginald Hill’ As Mick Herron explained, Reginald Hill did not play by the rules when it came to his writing.  Furthermore, Reginald Hill was always excited not only by other crime writers but also “serious” writers.  When thinking about Reginald Hill’s books and the way in which they were written included a lot of social history covering the last quarter of the 20thCentury. 

Will Dean (who was the last speaker of the day) spoke about Peter Høeg’s novel Miss Similla’s Feeling For Snowwhich was first published in 1993 in the United Kingdom.  A sense of place is very important for Will Dean (which is one of the reason’s why he likes Miss Similla’s Feeling for Snow) as a sense of place anchors him to the story and he eloquently expressed what it was like living with snow and ice for months on end in the remote Swedish forest where he currently lives.  For him it is cheaper to fly to
Will Dean - ©Ayo Onatade
Spain for a meal than for him to eat out locally. 

Will believes that Peter Høeg’s book not only bends and stretches the boundaries of the genre but also deals with Denmark’s post-colonial legacy.  A similar author that does this is Abir Mukherjee with his Sam Wyndham and Banerjee series set in the Raj era of India.

According to Will Dean, Peter Høeg’s agreed the ending did not work very well and Henning Mankell agreed that the one book that he would have loved to have written Miss Similla’s Feeling For Snowexcept for the ending.

The first full day at St Hilda’s is always full of wonderful papers, insightful questions and is one of the reasons why I keep on returning year after year to the crime weekend. 

The evening started with a drinks reception (this time on the lawn) which was then followed by dinner. As part of the evening entertainment at the P.D. James dinner a special mystery whodunit entitled The Game Changer, which had been written by Natasha Cooper (the Chair of the weekend this year) was performed in the dining room by a number of the speakers.  It was down to everyone else to see if they could deduce who the murderer was! Yes I do know the answer and no I am not telling just in case it is performed again elsewhere. 

Longstanding attendees of course know the drill and we all once again ended up in the SCR after dinner for the rest of the night until sleep called.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

St Hilda's Crime Fiction Weekend Part 2

As can be expected the drinks reception and the dinner was of course a lovely affair. The drinks reception was held in the South Foyer due to the weather but that did not put a damper on the event and the buzz and chatter made one realise that St Hilda’s Crime Fiction weekend has well and truly started. It is always enjoyable to meet up in the SCR
(Senior Common Room), as it is becomes the meeting place or us all during the weekend.

The after dinner speech was given by Val McDermid, which was entitled ‘From Victims, Vixens and Vamps to Valkyries, Vanquishers and Victors’. Unsurprisingly Val had everyone in fits of laughter as she spoke about “Gamechangers of the genre”.  Certainly a brilliant start to the weekend.  

After the dinner and a brief word from Natasha Cooper who is the Chair for the weekend we duly retired to the SCR where more conversation took place and a chance to mingle with the other attendees.

One always gets the feeling when attending St Hilda’s that you are in a calm and restful place. Once you walk through the gates you tend to forget that the Oxford town centre is less than 10 minutes walk away as you really can’t hear any traffic.  It is also lovely to wake up such magnificent views. 

Friday, 16 August 2019

St Hilda's Crime Fiction Weekend!

So it is Friday and for so many of us at this time of the year it is time for our annual pilgrimage down to Oxford for the St Hilda’s Crime Fiction weekend.  If you have never been then you are missing a treat.   This year the theme is Gamechangers: Writers Who Have Transformed the Genre and the weekend is due to be chaired by Natasha Cooper.  The guest of Honour is Denise Mina.

The only downside at the moment is that it is raining but that does not hide the brilliant view from my usual room.  I love where they have put me as it allows me to look out over the River Cherwell.  

The weekend is due to start properly at 6:45pm when we all gather for a drinks reception.  Normally it would take place on the South Lawn but looking at the weather I think this year it is going to be in the South Foyer.  No matter where it is held the start of St Hilda’s is always enjoyable as you catch up with various friends and introduce the new attendees to
the weekend and for those that feel like it dress up!

This evening the guest speaker is going to be Val McDermid who is a long standing attendee of this weekend and who is also an alumna of St Hilda’s.  Her after dinner speech is entitled ‘From Victims, Vixens and Vamps to Valkyries, Vanquishers and Victors’. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Crime Fiction: A Reader's Guide by Barry Forshaw

Are you a lover of crime fiction looking for new discoveries or hoping to rediscover old favourites?  Look no further.

There are few contemporary guides that cover everything from the golden age to current bestselling writers from America, Britain and all across the world, but the award-winning Barry Forshaw, one of the UK’s leading experts in the field, has provided a truly comprehensive survey with definitive coverage.

Every major writer is included, along with many other more esoteric choices. Focusing on a key book (or books) by each writer, and with essays on key crime genres, Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide (with a foreword by Ian Rankin) is designed to be both a crime fan’s shopping list and a pithy, opinionated but unstuffy reference tool and history. Most judgements are generous (though not uncritical), and there is a host of entertaining, informed entries on related films and TV.

Currently available for pre-order from Amazon!  This is a book that should be on everyone’s bookshelf!

Monday, 12 August 2019

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to take the Stage with Ian Rankin at Bloody Scotland

Bloody Scotland is delighted to reveal that the ‘special guest’ interviewing Ian Rankin on Saturday 21 September will be First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

A self-confessed crime fiction fan, the First Minister was last seen at the Harrogate Crime Festival singing backing vocals with the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers hot from their appearance at Glastonbury.

We can’t promise any singing but can promise a fascinating conversation between two of the most iconic figures in Scotland. Ian Rankin is the man who led the Tartan Noir charge to the top of international bestseller charts. At the last count he had sold some 30 million books that have been translated into thirty-six languages and have been bestsellers around the world. As a contemporary social commentator – and thrilling storyteller – Ian Rankin has few rivals.

The First Minister said:
 “Ian Rankin is one of Scotland’s most celebrated crime writers, world-renowned for his page-turning thrillers - so it’s a real pleasure for me to interview him at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival."

Now in its eighth year, Bloody Scotland is attracting writers and audiences from around the world with its excellent programme - and I look forward to attending this year’s festival.”

Ian Rankin said:
I’ve probably done hundreds of events during my time as an author but this is a first for me. I’ve no idea what the First Minister will ask or where our conversation will lead. I just know she’s one of the best-read politicians currently gracing the world stage - and she definitely knows her crime fiction!

Tickets are selling fast. 430 tickets had already been sold for the event prior to this announcement. Capacity for the Albert Halls in Stirling is 700. The event will take place at 8pm. They are in good company, also on the bill at the Albert Halls that day are Dr David Wilson with Lin Anderson, Chris Brookmyre and Michael Robotham, Alexander McCall Smith with Alex Gray, Denise Mina and Louise Welsh and Richard Osman with Mark Billingham which has already sold out.
For further information, to request press tickets or an interview with any authors appearing at the Festival please contact fiona@brownleedonald.com07767 431 846 @brownlee_donald @bloodyscotland

Thursday, 8 August 2019

John Parker in conversation with John Connolly

We are delighted to present this exclusive feature, from writer / reviewer and Shots Magazine’s Spanish representative - John Parker, in conversation with John Connolly; so after many, many years reviewing his work, the two Johns’ finally met up.

From Spain -

Celsius 232 is a festival of literature, a festival of fantasy, horror and science-fiction. Fortunately, a lot of crime fiction can be found in these genres.  Since 2012 when George R.R. Martin visited Avilés, the festival has grown in size and stature. This year, among many others, the festival was visited by the likes of Sarah Pinborough, Hanna Jameson and John Connolly. Shots correspondent in Spain, John Parker, happens to live in Avilés, the small town where the festival takes place. He was able to interview John Connolly on Friday, 19th of July.

John Parker: You are here promoting El Frio de la Muerte which over in the UK is known as A Game of Ghosts that we Parker fans all read a couple of years ago. How are the Spanish taking to this book? I believe you sold out in Gijon at the Semana Negra?

John Connolly: I did! That was quite lovely. I assume it’s going ok. I know that Tusquets haven’t thrown me out on the street yet. That’s the main thing! Tusquets have been an incredibly supportive publisher from the beginning and have found ways to publish books that aren’t part of the Parker series simply because they are important to me as a writer and my development as a writer so they’ve been wonderful. And it’s quite nice here in Spain. Genre is taken with a degree of seriousness, I think.

John Parker: The readers of SHOTS are probably a bit more up to date than over here in Spain. You and I have done a number of online interviews but you were very busy when THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS came out (laughs out loud). You travel an awful lot!!

John Connolly: I do! Yeah, I travel more than I would like to, to be perfectly honest. I’ve been trying to travel a little bit less but that hasn’t worked out this year, certainly.

John Parker: You have South Africa to come and Australia?

John Connolly: Yeah, Australia and the Far East and then probably the States in October. So yeah, I miss my dogs and my kids.

John Parker: Sorry to hear about the death of your dog…

John Connolly: ………Poor old Coco! Yes, my other half still breaks up in tears. She really misses him.

John Parker: Ok, moving on to THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS… one of the characters, Holly tells an invented fairy-tale to her son called “The woman in the Woods” which I think worked fantastically well. Can you comment on where this story came from? Its origins? Was it something you came up with yourself or was it based on some other fairy-tale?

John Connolly: No, no but I suppose I’ve spent so long fascinated by fairy-tales and they have become such a part of the novels. It’s not just, you know books like The Book of Lost Things or the stories in the Nocturnes collections but, you know, the Americans write perfectly good crime fiction by themselves. They don’t really need some Irish bloke coming in to write imitation crime fiction and I’ve kind of come to realise over the years that I do bring something slightly European to these novels and one of them is that fascination with fairy tales and folk tales.  And so the woods in my novels are not really the Maine woods at all. They are, I realise, the woods of the fairy tales I read as a child. Because, you know, the Americans have a very practical view of the woods. You know, bad things can happen but only if you wander off the trail and you get a bit lost and you didn’t bring enough food and you forget to stay in one place so that the Rangers can find you.   Whereas I am more fascinated by the metaphoric possibilities and the mythic possibilities of fairy tales so there are things like those elements in THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS that arise quite naturally in the context of what I am writing, I suppose, because of that fascination with that history from my childhood.

John Parker: Yes, I read very recently in your second collection of short stories NOCTURNES  2, the story called The Hollow King which was originally to do with the theme of Blood, Sweat and Tears which had a real fairy-tale feel to it. I loved it.

John Connolly: Yeah, yeah! I’ve never written a … I can’t write short crime short stories. I am unable to do it. For me, crime fiction works best in the long form and supernatural fiction works best in the short form.

John Parker: Yes, you have spoken about that before..

John Connolly: Yeah, so when Mark (Billingham) asked me to do that, I said that all I can offer you is something that is going to be a fairy story or a ghost story. And at that point I think I was revising The Book of Lost Things for the tenth anniversary and so I was thinking along those lines and… ( a loud crashing noise from outside interrupts us)… Blimey!!

John Parker: You recently announced that The Book of Lost Things is being made into an animated film.

John Connolly: There is a studio that seems very intent on doing it and I agreed to, well, I offered to write the script. I think they were quite surprised. I don’t think they had conceived of me doing it. It had been, as I understood it, in the past it had been through a couple of iterations that hadn’t worked. And when I met them, I thought, actually I kind of understand what you’re trying to do and I think I can probably do it. And so they were very open to that possibility.

John Parker:  Speaking of the film genre, you had a story adapted into a film starring Kevin Costner. Over here it was called La Otra Hija or The Other Daughter whereas in English it was The New Daughter.

John Connolly: Yeah, The New Daughter after the story and with a whole lot of Spanish involvement.

John Parker: Yes, it was directed by Luis Berdejo. Were you happy enough with the adaptation?

John Connolly: You know, one of the things about a short story is that you are giving someone the seeds to go and adapt it. You know, a novel is a work of contraction. If you are going to adapt it, you tend to have to excise an awful lot of material but the short stories work for expansion. So they essentially took this idea and went in the wrong direction with it. I was very flattered that they did it.

John Parker: Now, a question which you may not be able to answer but with the growth of platforms like Netflix and HBO and Disney taking over the world, now more than ever the possibility exists that we may yet see Charlie Parker on the small screen.

John Connolly: There is a script. I’ve read the script for the adaptation of the first novel. Or at least the first part of the first novel. And they have been working on this for two years. So, the company that has it is quite serious about it and is now shopping it around. And you are right. It has changed. Previously your options were that it was going to be a two-hour movie and even if it was a book you loved, two hours or two hours and ten minutes was about the limit on it.  So they didn’t tend to be very satisfactory experiences and now you have ten or twelve hours potentially in which to explore a novel. And you know the model is something like the Bosch series which is essentially a book a series. The difficulty is that now there is so much stuff being made, so much content being thrown up on the wall that I am not sure that a lot of stuff gets time to develop as it would in the past, where the space is allowed for it to maybe have its little ups or downs at the beginning before it goes on … but, we shall see. I personally think they are quite difficult books to adapt so I don’t envy them the task. 

John Parker: You said at the weekend at Semana Negra, “It’s difficult to be Catholic and completely rational”. (Laughter) Can you expand on that?

John Connolly: Yeah, well, it was that discussion about the combination of genres that I suppose I have been doing for a while and I had dinner with Otto Penzler, who I get on very well with, in New York about four or five months ago and Otto still seemed to take the view that you can create these combinations. You probably shouldn’t but you can do it but he still, after all these years, still didn’t quite approve of it. He’s from that school, you know, it’s that post-enlightenment belief in that human beings and the universe can be so understood by approaching the process of rationalism and yet people in the world are a lot stranger than that and, you know, I come from a Catholic background…

John Parker: You were brought up by the Christian Brothers as was I.

John Connolly: Yes, I was brought up by the Christian Brothers. I was an altar boy! So, I bring all of this baggage with me so I find it very difficult to accept that as the final position on human motivation, I suppose. So, you know, my novels, a bit like (James Lee) Burke who was a huge influence on me, are just suffused with Catholicism, you know, suffused with expiation and guilt. All crime fiction has redemption and possible redemption running through it but if you come from that Catholic or Christian background, that word redemption is weighted with a very different kind of baggage and we bring a different conception to it.

John Parker: OK. Going back to The Woman in the Woods and the character Pallida Mors who I think is quite a chilling creation…..did you come up with the idea for the character through readings of the Odes of Horace or were you listening to the death metal band Damned by the Pope?
(Raucous laughter)  

John Connolly: I can’t say that I listened to the death metal band. It’s not one of my favourite genres. Yeah, you know, you’re always looking for… you always have an ear out, just as you have an eye out for shiny things; you have an ear for names and details that catch you. I came across Palida Mors and I thought, well, that’ll be good, it gets put in the little list of things that might prove useful and it eventually did.

John Parker: Your latest book, A Book of Bones is enormous!

John Connolly: It is enormous! Sorry!

John Parker: Well, I love these long books. I’m a big fan of novels like The Stand by Stephen King, Ghost Story by Peter Straub, The Ceremonies by T.E.D Kline and I thought the structure of this novel was beautiful. Let’s be honest, some critics didn’t like it but for me, the structure and the way it contains stories within stories was a pure delight.

John Connolly: You know it’s very much influenced and makes a lot of nods towards (Charles Dickens’) Bleak House which I think is the greatest novel in the English language. So, I’ve been reading a lot of 19th century fiction and what I liked was that space to create a world for people to lose themselves in it and to have all those narrative cul-de-sacs that don’t necessarily contribute hugely to the progression of the plot but have those little moments of pleasure. One of the things Dickens is great at doing, particularly in the more picaresque novels like The Pickwick Papers, is that he will have a character tell you a story just for the pleasure of telling you a story and I love that. And also it seems to reflect an element of the narrative which is that this book has been buried in other books and so you come across fragments of it in other volumes and so the idea that the reader would come across unmediated short stories… nobody says that now I’m going to tell you a short story, you get this fragment of the book and so I thought it was almost like a physical demonstration of a metaphor running through it.

John Parker: The Fractured Atlas…. It’s quite a thing NOW, I’d like to tell you something that some may find hard to believe but quite late on in the book when Parker is talking to Kevin Moon, the father of the first victim, I literally cried. I mean, I have daughters
John Connolly: Uh huh, sure, yeah, I have sons

John Parker: It was such a beautifully moving piece of writing and I thought you did it wonderfully I just wanted to mention it…

John Connolly: Thank you. It’s very nice of you to say so.

John Parker: So, I wonder where are we going to go with Charlie next?  I understand you are going to do a prequel, for want of a better word? 

John Connolly: Yes, people call it a prequel and I don’t really think of it in those terms but I’ve been saying in a lot of these Spanish interviews that every book has to be an experiment.  And every book has to try something new and I had an idea for a book that simply didn’t work in the context of the series as it stands.  And also, it seemed nice that A Book of Bones marks the full stop and an end of a sequence of six novels that kind of intertwine and come full circle. And it seemed almost like a palate cleanser as it was so different and it gives everybody a chance to draw breath, and I live in fear of becoming Season 8 of The X-Files. You have to be so tied up with the mythology of what’s gone before to enjoy the books that the idea of giving people something that doesn’t have any of this baggage, that has no supernatural elements and has a very different philosophy to it was appealing to me.

Kind of what happens to me is that halfway through the writing of one book, you get that spark of the next book and it’s just a spark, it’s nothing more than that. Once that spark happens, I am committed to it. It doesn’t become a very conscious thing of, “Well, now I’m going to sit down and write a prequel”. This is just the appropriate thing to do, the right thing to do and I’ve learnt to go along with it by this stage.

John Parker: Right. Remind us of the title.

John Connolly: The Dirty South

John Parker: Well, we had better start finishing off….

John Connolly: No, no, it’s quite all right. It’s a pleasure.

John Parker: Some years ago, Ali Karim interviewed you and asked you what you were reading and you were reading “Under The Dome” by Stephen King. What are you reading now? Any recommendations?

John Connolly: I’ve just finished a novella “To Be Taught, If Fortunate” by American SF writer, Becky Chambers which is out in August. It’s just extraordinary. I just think as a writer she is extraordinarily gifted and extraordinarily humane and I just love her books. Now I’m about to start Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” which I’ve never read.

John Parker: I must mention your radio show From ABC to XTC which I was listening to earlier today.

…….Laughter……I’ve got Living By Numbers stuck in my head

John Connolly: That’s a great song! It’s fantastic! New Musik!

John Parker: It’s just stuck there, lodged in my head, It just won’t go away.

John Connolly:……Yeah, yeah, yeah (laughs)….

John Parker: It’s like an earworm, yeah? But are you listening to anything new? Or are you still listening to older stuff? I listen to a lot of 60s, 70s and 80s stuff.

John Connolly: I suppose because of the show, I do listen to an awful lot of older stuff and I have become very conscious, as with my reading, of the gaps in my knowledge. There is just so much new stuff. You go to a book store on a Thursday in England and the shelves… the whole table’s just changed again. And part of me thinks, I haven’t even read all the old books I’m supposed to have read yet, hence ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. So, most of my listening now is older music. I don’t know enough about classical music, I don´t know enough about jazz… With the radio show what I found is that even though I grew up in that era, all the stuff missed me. I lived in Dublin. We had a couple of pirate radio stations but even then they were pretty mainstream. I didn’t really listen to John Peel. I was probably a little bit young at that stage for it and so an awful lot of peculiar little cul-de sacs of indie music passed me by so I’m engaged in a kind of process of deep excavation of the 80s.

John Parker: The last thing I read of yours was the essay “I Live Here” which is at the end of Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2; I loved it and I thought why can’t John do his own “Danse Macabre” like Stephen King ?........Laughter......You talk about anecdotes. I mean there are a lot of anecdotes about your feelings on Herbert Van Thal, on Doctor Who, Jekyll and Hyde and I am convinced there is a whole new audience waiting to read this book.  Would it interest you to do that?

John Connolly: I suppose I wrote Horror Express for kind of the same reasons, to explore that idea of nostalgia and those formative influences on me when I was a teenager particularly so , yeah Horror Express came but . you know the problem with Horror Express, it was supposed to be 15 or 20,000 words long but 42,000 words later and six months of research, I suddenly thought, my God, this has got a little bit out of hand. So down the line, very possibly but I still think Danse Macabre may be the final word. I think it’s such a lovely book.

John Parker: Oh yeah, I love it.

John Connolly:  Yeah, it really is. It was a pleasure to read.  

John Parker: Ok, John, that’s all we’ve got time for

John Connolly: Well, thank you. It was my pleasure.  It was really great to put a face on you after all these years.

John Parker: Well, yes, indeed …at last, at last Thank you very much.

John Connolly: You are welcome. And why did you end up in Avilés ….?

John Parker: It’s a long story….laughing……

And the two Johns' head to the bar……

Shots Magazine pass thanks to Tusquets, John Connolly’s Spanish publisher and the organisers of the festival, particularly Jorge Iván Argiz who made Celsius 232 happen.      
And to Shots reviewer and our Spanish representative John Parker, who is a Graduate-qualified English/Spanish Teacher, owner and director of CHAT ENGLISH, an English Language Centre in Avilés on the north coast of Spain John is a voracious reader, and has loved horror fiction for many, many years.

Remember to book your seat for this year’s inaugural Capital Crime Convention, to be hosted in London  26 – 28TH September as John Connolly is one of the guests at the event – more information HERE

A listing of John’s book reviews and features at Shots Magazine is available HERE and a final thanks to Kerry Hood and the team at John’s British Publisher Hodder and Stoughton, because they are a fine group of people, and we miss Kerry so much.

Photos (c) 2019 John Parker, Ali Karim, Ayo Ontade and Hodder & Stoughton 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The CWA Announces a New Annual Dagger Award for Publishers

The world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers, which honours the very best in crime writing, has created a new Dagger category for the first time in over a decade.

The new prestigious Dagger will be awarded annually to the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year. The CWA is one of the UK’s most prominent organisations for the promotion of crime writing, founded in 1953 by John Creasey.

Publishers and specific imprints are being nominated by a representative group of leading book reviewers, booksellers, festival organisers, bloggers, literary agents and journalists, with the eventual winner to be designated from the shortlist by the CWA Board.

The Daggers are regarded by the publishing world as the foremost British awards for crime-writing.

Maxim Jakubowski, Honorary Vice-Chair of the CWA, said: “As part of the ongoing process of keeping the CWA in the forefront when it comes to crime writing and crime publishing, we felt this was an overdue category in our Daggers, and it becomes the first new Dagger to be created in well over a decade. Publishing houses and imprints are very important to the genre and are instrumental in keeping crime, mystery and thriller writing at the forefront of the reading public's consciousness, and fully deserve the recognition.

The award criteria is primarily for excellence and diversity in a crime publishing programme. Factors such as developing careers, a focus on new authors, sustaining existing authors and the quality of promotional efforts will be judged. The award will also look at support for authors, proactive collaboration with the book trade (booksellers, agents, festivals) and general positivity of involvement with the crime and mystery writing field.

Synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century, the Daggers started in 1955 with its first award going to Winston Graham, best known for Poldark.

The new Dagger follows news of the CWA refreshing its Dagger judging panels for 2019/20. New judges feature respected names including the author and former Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell, the Emeritus Professor of Medieval Literature Edward James, broadcaster Angela Rippon, and Head Reviewer at LoveReading, Liz Robinson. 

The shortlist for the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year will be announced later this summer.

The winner be announced at the Dagger awards ceremony, alongside the winners of the existing Dagger categories, on October 24. Widely considered as the crime writing event of the year, the ceremony will take place at the Grange City Hotel, London.  Booking is now open for the Dagger awards ceremony. Details available here: