Thursday 28 February 2019

Robert Goddard honoured with CWA Diamond Dagger

The Crime Writers’ Association is delighted to announce that Robert Goddard is to receive the 2019 CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing. The Dagger award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, said: “Robert Goddard has been entertaining crime fiction fans across the world for over thirty years. His books are notable for their breathtaking plot twists, sharp characterisation, and insights into history. It is a genuine pleasure to celebrate his illustrious career with the award of the Diamond Dagger.”

Robert Goddard said: “I’m greatly honoured to be this year’s CWA Diamond Dagger recipient, particularly since it’s an award conferred by my fellow writers, who know about the challenges of the craft from the inside. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure when trying to make a go of writing turned into a career, but it’s been a hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience and recognition like this is much appreciated. It also gives me encouragement, for which I’m very grateful, to look ahead to all those books yet to come!

Robert Goddard will be presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger at the CWA’s Dagger Awards ceremony in London on 24 October. Previous winners of the CWA Diamond Dagger include P.D. James, John Le Carre, Dick Francis, Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, and Ann Cleeves.

Robert Goddard was born in Hampshire in 1954, and educated at Price’s School Fareham, and Peterhouse, Cambridge where he read History. He pursued various career options prior to spending ten years as a local government officer. In 1986, he published his first novel, Past Caring, setting him on a fresh path. He won an Edgar for best original paperback (Long Time Coming) and Into the Blue was televised with John Thaw as Harry Barnett, who appears in three of Robert’s novels.

The CWA Diamond Dagger is selected from nominations provided by CWA members. Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime writing published in the English language.

The announcement of the award (28 February 2019) coincides with the publication of Robert’s latest title, One False Move, his 28th novel.

5 Female Sleuths by Fran Dorricott

When I was at university I had the fortune to study abroad for a year. While in North Carolina I took an amazing class called ‘Women in Detective Fiction’. We spent a good portion of the class discussing the evolution of the female detective character from Nancy Drew to Ruth Galloway, and I found a few of these characters sticking with me while I drafted After the Eclipse. One thing I learned is that I wanted to write women like these: flawed, brave and foolish in equal measure. 

Here are 5 female sleuths that have really stuck with me:

1. Kay Scarpetta – Patricia Cornwell
I first read Cornwell’s first novel when I was in my late teens and they imprinted on me. I found Scarpetta to be a perfect blend of good and bad. She is bold and clever but often her ego causes her to make foolish decisions. I instantly liked that she wasn’t perfect – and also that as the series went on her opinions changed as she grew as a character. Although I prefer Cornwell’s earlier books I will always have a soft spot for Scarpetta’s brand of criminal detection. Plus, she can cook like I can only dream! (Me and After the Eclipse’s protagonist Cassie are both terrible cooks).

2. Lisbeth Salander – Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth is one of my all-time favourite characters in any book. Right from the outset I loved how brash and unapologetic she was, and while some of her behaviour is undoubtedly problematic it was really fresh to see how Larsson portrayed a lack of interest in what anybody else thought of her. From the outside Lisbeth is incredibly hard to pin down because she seems to only be interested in money but that isn’t true either. She’s a character of many layers and I only hoped to emulate that in my own debut!

3. Amy Dunne – Gillian Flynn
Amy is perhaps one of the best, and most terrifying, characters in any psychological thriller. I love all of Flynn’s novels but Amy is a different beast altogether – and while you wouldn’t call her a detective I think she acts with some of the same attitudes as some of the best sleuths. She is, you could say, an anti-sleuth. She is dogged, is always five steps ahead of her pursuers, has the other characters (and indeed the audience) wrapped around her little finger... She is a horrible, horrible person, and yet somehow we can’t look away. 

4. V. I. Warshawski – Sara Paretsky
I’ve always found something quite attractive about Paretsky’s detective. She’s a no-nonsense badass private eye, wise-cracking and whip smart. I loved her insistence at being called V.I. instead of Vic because it called out to the part of me that was always looking for any kind of queer representation in fiction. We talked endlessly in our class about V.I.’s adoption of a more typically masculine name in her traditionally masculine-aligned profession, and while maybe a little dated now (gimme a private-eye in high heels any day) I think it makes a good point.

5. Kinsey Millhone – Sue Grafton
Grafton’s series also appealed to be because of the kick-ass ex-cop private investigator at its heart. And while this alphabet will never go beyond Y due the sad death of the author, I think Millhone’s legacy is one that will last. Again, I love Millhone’s lack of interest in her physical appearance, a refreshing take after so many years reading female detectives through a male gaze, and her development over the series, showing that characters do not have to remain static in order to keep a growing following. 

My protagonist Cassie is foolish too, often short-sighted and reckless, but her heart – like many of my favourite detectives – is in the right place. It’s just a pity she doesn’t listen to more advice, but then they never do...

After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott (Published by Titan Books)
Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.  August 1999: Olive Warren is abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse. Her older sister was supposed to be watching her. Olive is never seen again.  March 2015: In desperate need of a fresh start, journalist Cassie Warren moves back to the small Derbyshire town of Bishop’s Green to live with her ailing grandmother. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big solar eclipse, Cassie suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister – that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.

More information about the author can be found on her website.  You can also follow her on Twitter @franwritesstuff.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Call for Papers - EURONOIR- Producers, Distributors and Audiences of European Crime Narratives

International Conference Call for papers

EURONOIR - Producers, distributors and audiences of European crime narratives

30 September to October 2 2019/Venue: Aalborg University

 Confirmed keynote speakers*
 Robert Saunders (Farmingdale State College, SUNY)
Arne Dahl (penname for Jan Arnald)
Annette Hill (Lund University)
Gunhild Agger (Aalborg University)
Anna Estera Mrozewicz (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Katrine Vogelsang (head of fiction, TV 2 Denmark)
Jennifer Green (executive producer, TV 2 Denmark)

Submissions are welcome as open call papers and pre-constituted panels. 
Submit your proposal (max 300 words) to through this website:-

Although a widely popular genre for over a century, crime narratives are presently experiencing an unprecedented popularity all across Europe. In the fields of literature and television, we are witnessing a deluge of episodes and series utilizing crime and violence as a central source of inspiration. Reaching into the shadows of societal construction, these narratives do more than simply fascinate readers and viewers with fantasies of extreme brutality; at best, they express a remarkable tension in social engagement worthy of a critical and scholarly response. More than any other narrative genre, the crime genre has proven able to travel across the European continent and beyond, becoming  a vehicle for cultural exchange and debate (Nestingen 2008).

As a result, the generic concept noir is now common among producers, distributors and audiences of crime fiction, and increasingly noir narratives have been located in recognizable places and regions across Europe. Several labels have been coined in order to identify different strands of EURONOIR by means of geographical qualifiers such as Mediterranean, Tartan, Catalan, Nordic etc. (Hansen, Turnbull and Peacock 2018). Besides evoking trans-border cultural exchange, crime narratives are today a strategic means in European place branding on local, regional, national and transnational levels of communication.

Such spatial labels evoke local and regional narrative/visual styles that, carefully built by authors, publishers and producers, at the same time may achieve transnational success in foreign markets. Exchange between different strands of EURONOIR is creating new opportunities for generic and cultural hybridization. The international appropriation of certain stylistic features of Nordic Noir (possibly the most popular cross media production strand on the continent for the past decade) in a great number of European crime narratives is a most interesting case in point.

Through especially the 1990’s, producers and distributors turned to international collaboration and circulation as a significant way of funding increasingly expensive film and television, here with the crime genre as an especially exploitable vehicle for international attention. In the increasing demand for crime film and television, producers turned to the vast European traditions of crime literature and utilized familiar franchises in crime narrative adaptations. The popularity of EURONOIR has since been fuelled by a plethora of translations, co-production agreements, local, regional and transnational policy changes as well as transnational distribution channels and services.

Although EURONOIR is historically linked to the degrading notion of Euro-pudding, “a co-production determined by the necessities of funding” (Eleftheriotis 2001) or even “a perversion of the system” (Liz 2015), there has been a steady rise in successful trans-European co-productions, especially within film and television production. As a result, crime narratives are now rather labelled “natural transnational cop stories” (Bondebjerg 2016), since the topicality of the genre works very well with trans-border activities. Significant trans-border television crime fiction titles are Eurocops(1988-94), Crossing Lines (2013) and The Team(2015-). As a concept, then, EURONOIR has gone from being a critical perspective on funding methods to now involve neutral references to cross-media crime fiction from somewhere in Europe (Forshaw 2013). Conceivably, EURONOIRis merely crime literature, television and film from anywhere in Europe, fostering potential social debates on a continental level.

In the new millennium, the “digital revolution” (Levy 2001) and “the Netflix effect” (McDonald and Smith-Rowsey 2016) has disrupted both  production and distribution, challenging traditional distribution channels and providing new transnational opportunities for producers and audiences. In this context, written and screened crime fiction is one of the most important market drivers of transnational cultural exchange in  Europe and beyond. Besides distributing dozens of crime titles, SVOD services also engage directly in producing crime films and serials, singling out crime narratives as an important way of penetrating local markets as well as reaching global audiences through digital streaming services.

The organizers invite speakers to present work on the production, distribution and reception of explicitly transnational European crime narratives as well as more local strands of European crime narratives production, distribution and reception. This includes significant market players and institutions in/across Europe, transcontinental creative and culture industrial processes and practices as well as more locally and regionally successful and less successful crime narratives. The conference invites papers on European crime narratives from 1989 until today.

*Thematic concerns of the conference include, but are not limited to the following topics:*

Labels and Concepts
• What do we conceptualize as EURONOIR?
• What does EURONOIR mean for producers, distributors and audiences?
• What are the major failures and pitfalls of EURONOIR?
• In which ways do the production, distribution and reception of crime narratives forge a spatial negotiation of Europe and European cultures and identities? 
• What will be the future major tendencies in European crime narratives?
• What role does national cinemas play within EURONOIR?

Producers and Markets
• What are the significant contemporary European market players in crime production and distribution?
• How has the production and distribution of the crime genre changed during the past three decades?
• How has changing funding and media policies affected the production of crime narratives?
• How has production and distribution of crime narratives been affected by new transnational streaming services?
• Where are the crime stories located, and has the location strategies of crime narratives changed?
• Do writers and producers of crime fiction have specific European audiences in mind?

Audiences and Reception
• (How) do the audiences of crime narratives conceive of Europe?
• How has the European consumption of the crime genre changed during the past three decades?
• How do audiences experience European crime fiction?
• In which ways has the critical reception of crime narratives changed?
• How does audiences’ reception of crime narratives affect the production the crime genre?• How do audiences creatively engage with European crime narratives?

The conference will include industry and keynote panels with invited speakers from European crime production and crime narratives research.

*Deadlines and practicalities*
Abstracts: Deadline: 15 April 2019
Feedback: 15 May 2019
Registration deadline: 1 August 2019 (online on the conference website)

More info: 

Conference fee: €240
Early bird registration: €175
PhD students: €125
Conference dinner: €80 (not included in the fee)
Other costs: Participants cover costs for travel, accommodation etc.

Organizing committee: Kim Toft Hansen (Aalborg University), Lynge Stegger Gemzøe (Aalborg University), Pia Majbritt Jensen (Aarhus University) and Anne Marit Waade (Aarhus University).

Academic board: Stefano Baschiera (Queens University of Belfast), Anna Keszeg (University of Debrecen), Jacques Migozzi (University of Limoges), Valentina Re (Link Campus University of Rome).

The conference is hosted by the Horizon 2020 research project DETECt: Detecting Transcultural Identity in European Popular Crime Narratives and co-financed by Aarhus University and Aalborg University.

Monday 25 February 2019

Hammett Prize nominations

The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers announced the nominees for their annual Hammett Prize for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. 

The nominees are – 

The Lonely Witnessby William Boyle (Pegasus Crime)
Under My Skinby Lisa Unger (Park Row)
Cut You Downby Sam Wiebe (Random House Canada)
November Roadby Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Paris in the Darkby Robert Olen Butler (The Mysterious Press)

Congratulations to all the nominated authors.

Sunday 24 February 2019

Ms Tree - A New Collected Edition For Max Allan Collins' Classic Private Detective

Titan Comics‘ Hard Case Crime imprint continues to release sharp, stylish crime thrillers, and 2019 is no exception. The legendary detective Ms Tree – created by Mystery Writers of America 2017 Grand Master ‘Edgar’ winner Max Allan Collins, and inker of the Eisner Award-winning Batman and Robin Adventures series and the World’s Finest graphic novel Terry Beatty – will soon be available in a collection which reprints her classic adventures.

Inspired by Mike Hammer’s assistant Velda – as written by Max’s friend and mentor Mickey Spillane – Michael Tree (don’t call her Michelle) is a six-foot-tall, gun-toting, take-no-prisoners private eye determined to bring her husband’s killers to justice. Along the way, she deals with organised crime, double-dealing and deadly violence, while wrestling with her own personal demons.

This series has been notable for its focus on real-life issues – homophobia, abortion, mental health – and Hard Case Crime is delighted to introduce her story to new readers.

 “I am thrilled and proud that Titan is bringing out the complete collected Ms. Tree,” said author Max Allan Collins. “Terry Beatty and I created a strong female protagonist and re-established noir-ish crime fiction as a comics genre, pre-dating Frank Miller’s Sin City and everything that followed.  Ms. Tree remains the longest running private eye comic book to date, and jump-started the trend toward female private eyes, appearing before both Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone”.

Terry Beatty said, “In the 1950s, the Comics Code Authority, acting under pressure from a panicked (and misinformed) public, put an end to crime comics. In the 1980s, with Ms. Tree, Max Allan Collins and I brought crime comics back. For over a decade, and under several imprints, we continued our crusade to revive the crime and detective genres in the comic book format.   We seem to have started something”.

Max Allan Collins is also the author of the graphic novel, Road to Perdition, which led to the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks. 

His Quarry series, featuring the eponymous Vietnam-vet-turned-hitman was recently adapted into a Cinemax TV series, and he is the author of new novels in the Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series.

Ms. Tree joins Titan’s Hard Case Crime Comicsimprint, which has seen recent publications including Max's Mike Hammer: The Night I Died and Quarry’s WarTriggerman by visionary director Walter Hill (The Warriors); Peeplandby crime authors Christa Faust and Gary Phillips; a new adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Millennium;Normandy Gold by crime authors Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin; and Babylon Berlin, a graphic novel adaptation of the book that inspired the new TV show currently showing on Netflix.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award

Presented by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, the award will be given at Mystery Writers of America’s 73rd Annual Edgar® Awards in New York City on April 25, 2019

Thirty-five years ago, Sue Grafton launched one of the most acclaimed and celebrated mystery series of all time with A is for Alibi, and with it created the model of the modern female detective with Kinsey Millhone, a feisty, whip-smart woman who is not above breaking the rules to solve a case or save a life. Like her fictional alter ego, Grafton was a true original, a model for every woman who has ever said the hell with this and struck out on her own independent way.

Sue Grafton passed away on December 28, 2017, but she and Kinsey will be remembered as international icons and treasured by millions of readers across the world. Sue was adored throughout the reading world, the publishing industry, and was a longtime and beloved member of MWA, serving as MWA President in 1994 and was the recipient of three Edgar nominations as well as the Grand Master Award in 2009. G.P. Putnam’s Sons is partnering with MWA to create the Sue Grafton Memorial Award honoring the Best Novel in a Series featuring a female protagonist in a series that hallmarks Sue’s writing and Kinsey’s character: a woman with quirks but also with a sense of herself, with empathy but also with savvy, intelligence and wit.

The inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award will be presented for the first time at the 73rd Annual Edgar Awards in New York City on April 25, 2019 – the day after what would have been Sue’s 79th birthday – and will be presented annually there to honor Sue’s life and work.

The nominees for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award were chosen by the 2019 Best Novel and Best Paperback Original Edgar Award judges from the books submitted to them throughout the year. The winner will be chosen by a reading committee made up of current National board members, and will be announced at this year’s Edgars Award banquet.

The nominees for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award are:

Lisa Black, Perish, Kensington
Sara Paretsky, Shell Game, HarperCollins – William Morrow
Victoria Thompson, City of Secrets, Penguin Random House - Berkley
Charles Todd, A Forgotten Place, HarperCollins – William Morrow
Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once, HarperCollins - Harper

#1 New York Times–bestselling author Sue Grafton is published in twenty-eight countries and in twenty-six languages—including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. Books in her alphabet series, beginning with A is for Alibi in 1982 are international bestsellers with readership in the millions. Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, she also received many other honors and awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, the Anthony Award given by Bouchercon (most recently the 2018 Anthony /Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series), and three Shamus Awards. Grafton passed away on December 28, 2017.

Putnam is home to many bestselling fiction authors including Ace Atkins, Chloe Benjamin, C.J. Box, Eleanor Brown, Tom Clancy, Robin Cook, Robert Crais, Clive Cussler, Jeffery Deaver, Janet Evanovich, Lyndsay Faye, Frederick Forsyth, Karen Joy Fowler, Sue Grafton, W.E.B. Griffin, Jan Karon, Philip Kerr, Delia Owens, Robert B. Parker, Nick Petrie, John Sandford, Jill Santopolo, Lisa Scottoline, Kathryn Stockett, and Stuart Woods. Among its distinguished nonfiction list are Sophia Amoruso, A. Scott Berg, Cathy Guisewite, Spencer Johnson, Bobby Orr, Dolly Parton, and Eve Rodsky.

MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses more than 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website:

Friday 22 February 2019

A Thrilling Lunch with Goddard & Bradby

I was delighted to receive an invitation from Patsy Irwin and Becky Short of the Transworld Imprint from publishing conglomerate PenguinRandomHouse, for a lunch with two of their Thriller Writers, Tom Bradby and Robert Goddard. Both of these authors have penned what we could term ‘High Concept’ narratives, writing that provokes thought as the pages whip by, but more on their books Secret Service and One False Move, later.

I understood I’d be part of a journalistic cabal of bibliophiles, those who comment upon literature’s darkest avenue, the Crime and Thriller Genre, which now is one of the most important fiction sectors in Great Britain’s publishing world.

Like many, I find comfort in the vicarious thrills offered by reading works of dark fiction, be it Horror, Crime and Mystery and my favourite sector of Thriller Fiction, what is referred to as “The Weird”. When one has to manage the stresses and the mundane tasks of life, namely our work, and our personal / family lives, reading disturbing and thought-provoking fiction from the safety of your reading chair can be comforting for it provides entertainment as well as making us think. It also is helpful corralling the mind’s swirl of existential thoughts, for it calms. Sometimes we have to ‘fight fire, with fire’. It also provides distraction, a diversion from reality, and the most engrossing thriller-writing can put the reader into a trance, as they inform as well put our own problems into context.

I think Graham Greene was right when he noted in Ways to Escape –

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

The upcoming lunch generously organised by Patsy Irwin was a veritable who’s who, of thriller critics, as joining us in The Den, a private basement room in Black’s Club in Dean Street, Soho, London were, Marcel Berlins, Joe Haddow, John Williams, Barry Forshaw, Nic Clee, Mike Ripley, Jake Kerridge, Mark Sanderson and Adrian Muller (who had a taken on a John Malkovich / Hercule Poirot look). It is always a pleasure to meet up with my colleagues many who I have known for more years than it seems possible. This includes the surreal coincidence that writer and literary commentator Mark Sanderson and I attended the same primary school in Cheshire, back in the 1970s. Mark and I discovered this surreal twist of fate, of coincidence a decade ago, at a literary dinner hosted by HarperCollins, an event that still amuses me, and is recorded HERE.

On arrival at Blacks Club, Sanderson greeted me with a mischievous smile, pressing an envelope excitably into my palm. As I opened it, I laughed. It was a cast list of a musical play entitled “The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies” from our old school from 1974, when we would have been 11 years old. It was a photocopy that Mark had found lurking in his flat, a memory I had long since forgotten, a fragment of recollection of days now long since passed. Mark was keen to mention he was one of the main cast members, while I was lower down that cast list, in terms of pecking order (being an un-named gypsy musician). It appeared I played an instrument called a Psaltery, but my memory was blank. It would take the encyclopaedic knowledge of Barry Forshaw to explain that a Psaltery was an ancient stringed instrument, as none of us knew what it was, let alone how to pronounce it.

Many of us had gathered last month, as guests of Quercus Publishing’s Jon Riley, Hannah Robinson and Sophie Ransom to celebrate the launch of Peter May’s remarkable political thriller The Man with No Face by Peter May. As ever, this award-winning writer, Peter May had hit the UK top ten straight on release.

I was also delighted to learn that Barry Forshaw has a new work Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide coming out before year-end, as he shared the cover with us. And as this lunch was a celebration of Thriller Writing, it was apt to have the authority that is Mike Ripley on-hand with his witty commentary on the genre. For an amusing as well as an informative look at the history of the British Thriller, Ripley’s KISS KISS, BANG BANG is a beautiful book  a real labour of love from HarperCollins – more info HERE

So once the greetings were warmly exchanged, we took to our seats. I found myself sitting beside John Williams, and the radio and events broadcaster Joe Haddow. I always enjoy the company of Haddow, as he is a very funny guy, life enhancing with an uncommon wit. He made me laugh when he remarked that I have a great face for Radio.

I was eagerly anticipating this thriller lunch as I wondered about Tom Bradby’s return to Publishing with his Novel Secret Service, an extraordinary Geopolitical Thriller which was due out on the 30th of May. It is a book I relished, as it provided me vicarious entertainment while it made me think deeply, as I noted in my review -

It’s been a decade since Tom Bradby published a novel. He’s been busy screenwriting and working as a broadcast journalist for the British news network ITN, but I am delighted to report that his latest novel SECRET SERVICE has been worth the wait, and the anticipation.
Secret Service is an international thriller that has urgency straited throughout its prescient fusion of geo-politics, and the personal lives of people caught in the shadows of those events, the geo-politics of the world stage. It also casts a compassionate eye, as it makes the reader think beyond what is presented, to uncover the reality beneath the veneer that masks our lives and the lives of others, namely the powerful, as well as those we love, and those we fear.

Read the full review of Tom Bradby’s Secret Service from Shots HERE

Many only know of Tom Bradby for his political journalism, as he is a familiar face on TV with the news network ITN, and that background is evident in the urgency of his prose in Secret Service. I first became aware of his work in 2005, when he was interviewed my friend, the editor of The Rap Sheet, Jeff Peirce featured at January Magazine, from the extraordinary writer and literary commentator Linda Richards. I would warn you, never play poker with Richards as I discovered during the 2014 Boucheron late night Poker Tournament in Long Beach. Linda Richards is very good, perhaps too good, even when playing poker blind-folded.

You can access Jeff Peirce’s interview with Tom Bradby, archived HERE

At one point, Mike Ripley and I found ourselves seated with Political Journalist / Broadcaster Tom Bradby. During our conversation we got talking about thriller writing and of thriller fiction. The conversation got around to who we read, and who we consider ‘the point men and women’ in thriller writing. I mentioned to Bradby that Mike Ripley and I attended Philip Kerr’s funeral last year [which I detailed HERE]. Bradby’s eyes grew animated as he told us that he was a huge, huge fan of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels. He’d read them all, some, several times, and then the three of us talked, and we talked, and we talked until we could talk no more about those Philip Kerr novels, those treasures that featured a former German Soldier turned Detective, called Gunther.

Tom Bradby considers those Bernie Gunther novels, like many of us, as sitting at the high table, shoulder to shoulder with the masters of the crime and thriller genre.
I told Bradby that I was apprehensive as well as eager (as counter intuitive as that may appear), to crack the spine of METROPOLIS, that final novel from Philip Kerr, the one that sat at the edge of my office desk, the one I wrote about HERE

Later, I took particular delight in talking with Robert Goddard, a prolific novelist who’s work I have grown fond of, very fond. I was first introduced to his work by Patsy Irwin, many years ago, though it would take a chance encounter at Theakstons’ Crime Writing Festival 2017, that my enthusiasm reached the heights it has today. It was during that event I learned that Robert Goddard was penning what could be termed a ‘full-on’ high concept thriller entitled ‘Panic Room’. Of course, some would consider his earlier work ‘thrilling’, and is indeed just that, however there has been intense debate over the years as to what exactly a thriller novel is. Ian Fleming suggested “one simply has to turn the pages” for a novel to be considered a thriller. Last year the judges at Ian Fleming Publications selected Attica Locke’s extraordinary Bluebird Bluebird as the thriller novel of 2018, for the Crime Writers Association’s CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger – Click HERE for more information. David Morrell, one of the co-founders of International Thriller Writers inc, gave a more nuanced definition of what defines a novel as a thriller, and his essay can be downloaded as a .pdf HERE from Crimespree Magazine.  

Anyway, I was intrigued and read Panic Room, agreeing with Keith Miles, who reviewed it for Shots Magazine, stating -

Clever plotting, meticulous detail, all too credible characters and a wry sense of humour make this another classic Goddard novel”

Read the full review HERE

Then after putting the book down, as it was a breathless read, and most assuredly fitted into both Ian Fleming, as well as David Morrell’s definition of what denotes a novel as being a thriller; the invitation to lunch arrived in my door. It was one that made me recall a thriller lunch from last year that Patsy Irwin and Alison Barrow had organised with writers Belinda Bauer, Joseph Knox and Robert Goddard.

It was an excellent lunch, which I recorded HERE

So we come to what Robert Goddard has in store for his readers later this coming month, a rather intriguing novel entitled ONE FALSE MOVE, which I read and closed my review with 

Robert Goddard’s affable and seemingly simplistic novel, like that game ‘Go’ (that forms the spine of this novel) is anything but simple. One False Move is literary Morphine, dangerously addictive but offering a distraction from the darkness of this world, by holding a black mirror to its surface, to reveal a darker truth.

Highly recommended, as Robert Goddard is what we term a ‘writer’s writer’, and for readers that translates into literary gold. He has produced a thought-provoking novel that thrills vicariously as the pages turn like the moves in a game of ‘Go’, played by a grandmaster at the height of his powers.

Read the full review at Shots Magazine HERE

Over coffee I was able to have a good talk with Robert, and one of the themes he explores in his work “Identity” - who we really are, and who are the people that interact with us, beneath their surface veneer, the faces and persona they show the world, with small talk.

I had told Robert an amusing story, relating to the last time I was with Patsy Irwin. It was on Tuesday 18th of September last year. I had driven into London to celebrate the launch of Martin Edwards’ extraordinary Gallows Court, a change in direction for this writer, a man also known for his remarkable knowledge of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. Though many of us consider ourselves well-read, few can match Martin Edwards’ knowledge of Crime and Mystery novels of the past.

Anyway, the invitation for Martin Edwards’ Gallows Court came from the publishers Head of Zeus, but when I arrived at the venue, a basement in a North London Waterstones Bookshop, I was puzzled as I could not recognise any of the faces seated in the crowd. My confusion was relieved a tad, when from the corner of my eye I spotted Patsy Irwin, seated in the centre of the gathering. She was waving at me, indicating for me to come over and take the vacant seat next to her.

“Fancy seeing you here” Patsy said as I took my seat, a little confused as I could not recognise anyone else seated at the book launch, so I echoed Patsy’s sentiment.
“Yes, fancy seeing you here” I said and then we engaged in small talk, about the last time we met; a few weeks ago, with Lee Child during Theakstons’ crime-writing festival (Harrogate), and the early days when she worked in publicity with Lee, and how he had become one the world’s greatest thriller writers.  

And so, we continued our small talk, as I was still confused why none of my crime-fiction reviewing colleagues were present, and I noticed Patsy was also looking at me with a slightly confused eye.

“I didn’t think this launch would of interest to you” she said.

“Well I wasn’t aware that you were a fan of Martin Edwards’ writing either.” I said in reply, especially as it appeared peculiar to me why someone as senior as Patsy Irwin, in PenguinRandomHouse would be attending a book launch of a rival publisher, Head of Zeus.

But as we both deploy a British sensibility, and gentile manners, we just smiled and carried on talking, even if we were both a little confused. As Patsy talked to someone seated behind us, my confusion grew as I listened into the conversation. Patsy and this unknown stranger were talking about Barack Obama. Oh well I thought, at least I wasn’t seated among Trump supporters.

I picked up my cell-phone and called Martin Edwards. His phone went straight to voicemail. Glancing at my watch, I saw it was fifteen minutes before he would welcome everyone to the launch of Gallows Court, so it was unsurprising that his phone was off. I tried Ayo Onatade and then Mike Stotter, and again their phones went to Voicemail. I grew anxious and pulled out my invitation, a printed email from Suzanne Sangster of Head of Zeus, and checked, I was at the correct venue as well as on the right date. When Patsy turned back, I asked her about this book launch unfolding the email invitation. She furrowed her brow and said, this is the correct venue, Waterstones, and the date is right, but she was here for a book launch for Transworld’s publication of Becky Dorey-Stein’s ‘From the Corner of the Oval Office, The author was Barack Obama’s stenographer she added “I was wondering why you were here, as I didn’t think this book would interest you,” and she roared laughing.

My cell-phone chirped. It was Mike Stotter, asking where I was, as the Martin Edwards’ book launch was about to start. I told him I was in a basement room, in a Waterstones bookshop in North London.

He replied laughing “no you idiot, did you not get the email?”

“What email?”

“The email from Head of Zeus on the change of venue. It’s at Hatchards in Piccadilly.”

“Cack. I’m in the wrong place” I said to Patsy, and passed my apologies as I discreetly left the throng of guests who wanted to listen to Barack Obama’s stenographer.

I said farewell to Patsy and briskly headed off to Hatchards in the Westend.

I managed to catch the close of Martin Edwards’ launch, and get my copy of Gallows Court signed. My surreal tale of being at Barack Obama’s stenographer’s book launch in error, brought much amusement to Martin Edwards, Mike Stotter, Ayo Onatade and many others present, especially Simon Brett, who roared laughing.

I later learned that Suzanne Sangster had sent an email to everyone regarding the change in venue, but I must have assumed it was purely a reminder email, and not read it.
Robert Goddard was amused, and said he also had a case of being in the wrong place, however how his tale ended somewhat differently, somewhat perplexingly.

Robert recalled going to a house party a little while ago. He and his wife had arrived a little late, and it was dark as they made their way to the house. At the door a teenage girl let them in, and then went back upstairs leaving Robert and his wife downstairs with a clutch of other guests. They soon found themselves exchanging small talk and banter, as they sipped their wine glasses. Robert mentioned to his wife that he didn’t seem to recognise anyone at the party. She told him they should mingle, and so they did. After a lengthy conversation with another couple, where the weather was discussed in inordinate detail (as only the English can, making conversations about the weather into an art form), a older woman appeared and started chatting to them, and after more discussion on the temperate climate in Cornwall, she inquired as to how they had met. At first Robert explained how he had meet his wife, and the context of their meeting, all those years ago. Robert noticed (as novelists do) that there appeared a slight air of confusion in the woman’s eyes.

“No.” She said quietly, and with a hint of impatience. “No, I meant how WE met.” Her eyes pointed to her husband (who came over to join his wife), and then to Robert’s wife.

“I’m not sure?” Robert replied.

“In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever met before.” Robert’s wife added.

The woman looked at her husband, who now had the same confused expression as she did.

“So exactly who are you?” She asked, her irritation now unrestrained.

Robert introduced himself and his wife, at which point the woman reached over and took their wine glasses and asked them to leave.

It appeared that by genuine error, Robert and his wife had got the address wrong for the party they were attending. And by sheer fluke, had knocked on a door of a house that had a party, occurring at the same time, but further down the street from the Goddard’s intended destination.

We laughed, and Robert said though amusing, he found the woman reaching for their wine glasses somewhat perplexing. He had told her that he had made a genuine mistake, and assumed she’d laugh with him, but instead she took back the wine, but did so in a somewhat angry manner, showing them the door.

“It’s as if the woman assumed, we were professional gate-crashers” Robert said, as we both laughed at the anecdote, and I thought of my own mix-up at the Barack Obama’s stenographer’s book launch.  

Soon it was time to pass my thanks to Patsy Irwin and Becky Short of Transworld Publishing for their excellent lunch discussing thriller fiction.

And we would indicate that it is well worth uncovering Tom Bradby’s return to thriller novels with SECRET SERVICE – more information HERE; Robert Goddard’s thought provoking ONE FALSE MOVE and for the Thriller Reader, I’d heartily steer you toward Mike Ripley’s wonderful labour of love, KISS KISS BANG BANG, more information HERE or the equally insightful work AMERICAN NOIR from Barry Forshaw HERE.

Photos © 2019 Ali Karim