Saturday 29 June 2019

Adam Handy - The truth is out there…isn’t it?

With studies suggesting that six out of ten Britons endorse at least one conspiracy theory, the chances are someone you know harbours doubts about the moon landings or believes Area 51 houses alien spacecraft. You don’t have to be a basement-dwelling tin-hat wearer to be a believer; the power of social media means previously underground or left-field whispers can quickly amass thousands of followers and go mainstream. 
But before we’re too quick to sneer at the more outlandish theories circulating on the Internet, it’s worth remembering that throughout history powerful people and organisations have been tempted to secretly manipulate events for their own advantage, be it the US government’s Prohibition-era use of toxic additives in industrial alcohol to deter drinkers, or Volkswagen’s decade-long conspiracy to conceal excess emissions from its diesel cars. 
For crime and thriller writers, the strange world of conspiracy theory can be a rich seam of inspiration because sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction…
Government Mind Control
The tin foil hat is a common conspiracy trope - and with good reason. During the 1950s and 60s, the CIA, in co-ordination with the US Army Biological Warfare Laboratories, tested procedures that could be used in interrogations to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. The program, known as MK-ULTRA, used LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, sensory deprivation and torture on Americans in top-secret experiments at 80 institutions, including colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies. Other abandoned projects included efforts to erase memory through sub-aural frequency blasts or to control minds through hypnosis. Many individuals never gave consent for these experiments, which have been implicated in deaths and long-term mental impairment. With many of the records destroyed on CIA orders in the 1970s, the full truth may now never be known. 
Corporate Cover-ups
Companies are no strangers to conspiracy when it comes to covering up transgressions that could impact profits. Perhaps one of the longest running cover-ups concerns the link between smoking and lung cancer, which was first proven in the 1950s. The tobacco lobby spent millions of dollars, however, seeking to bury, discredit and distort the research and it wasn’t until the late 1990s that big tobacco finally admitted there could be a link. More recent scandals include Volkswagen’s emissions-tests cheating, and it recently emerged that as far back as 1980 Exxon and Shell knew fossil fuels would release high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, pushing up global temperatures. Who knows what other dirty secrets big business is hiding from us?
Medical Research
Some of the more harmful conspiracy theories currently circulating relate to medical research, whether it’s debunked claims that HIV is a government creation to control population or that vaccination programmes are responsible for autism. These claims are dangerous, leaving populations vulnerable to serious illness and death. Yet a mistrust of public health programs can be traced back to dark episodes in the past, when unethical experimentation on vulnerable populations left people sick, maimed or dead. 
Perhaps the most notorious and reprehensible of these is the Tuskegee syphilis scandal, which saw the cure for syphilis withheld from infected African-American sharecroppers in the rural South. The program ran from 1932 to 1972 and it’s estimated that more than 100 of the subjects died of tertiary syphilis as a result of not being treated with penicillin in direct contravention of federal law. President Bill Clinton made a public apology to the victims and their families in 1997, and the episode has cast a long shadow over public health programmes in the United States. 
False Flag Operations
Whenever there’s a terror attack or catastrophic accident, it doesn’t take long for shadowy forces on the Internet to claim a false flag attack, either staged by the government or some other group to win support for their aims. It doesn’t help that governments have a history of trying to manipulate public support, with the Gulf of Tonkin confrontation between the North Vietnamese and USS Maddox now widely thought to be a false flag exercise to deepen US engagement in the Vietnam War. The Pentagon of the 1960s certainly had form: Operation Northwoods, for example, envisaged fabricating acts of terrorism on US soil to trick the public into supporting a war against Cuba. President John F Kennedy pulled the plug on that one. 
For authors plotting dastardly conspiracies in their next book, sometimes it’s worth donning a tin-foil hat and exploring some of the murkier episodes of history…or the present. Conspiracies yet to revealed are almost certainly unfolding around us right now…
Black Thirteen by Adam Hamdy.
An exiled agent. A growing threat. A clandestine war.  The world is changing beyond recognition.  Radical extremists are rising and seek to enforce their ideology globally.  Governments, the military and intelligence agencies are being outmanoeuvred at every step. Borders are breaking down. Those in power are puppets.  The old rules are obsolete. To fight this war a new doctrine is needed.  In a world where nothing is at it seems, where trust is gone, one man will make the difference.  Meet Ex-MI6 agent and man in exile, Scott Pearce.  It’s time to burn the espionage rule book.  Watch Pearce light the fire.
Adam Hamdy’s conspiracy thriller, Black Thirteen, will be published by Pan Macmillan in November 2019. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson on a new book in the Private series, which is due to be published in 2020. He is the co-founder of Capital Crime, London’s new crime and thriller festival.

Friday 28 June 2019

McIlvanney long and shortlists revealed!

McIlvanney Prize Longlist 2019

It's that time of year again where Bloody Scotland reveal the McIlvanney Prize longlist for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

A Breath on Dying Embers by Denzil Meyrick (Polygon)
A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott (Transworld)
All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride (Harper Collins)
All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew (Hodder)
Breakers by Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
Broken Ground byVal McDermid (Little, Brown)
Conviction by Denise Mina (Vintage)
Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin (Orion)
In the Silence by M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound Books)
No Man’s Land by Neil Broadfoot (Little, Brown)
The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (Canongate) aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman
Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton (Polygon

McIlvanney Debut Shortlist 2019

They also have a prize for best Scottish crime debut book this year for the first time and here's the shortlist.

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew (Hodder)
Black Camp 21 by Bill Jones (Polygon)
From the Shadows by G R Halliday (Vintage)
In the Silence by M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead by Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)

Congratulations to all he nominated authors.

Thursday 27 June 2019

Jane Corry on Going Back to Prison

I first went to prison eight years ago. Not, I hasten to add, because I’d done anything wrong. I like to think of myself as quite a good girl with my only major offence being that I once parked on a double yellow line (and got caught).

No. I went to prison because my first marriage had ended and – in the same week – my regular weekly column for a woman’s magazine was terminated because the editor left. I was in dire need of regular weekly income so I applied for a job as writer in residence of a high security male prison which was advertised in a national newspaper.

Of course I didn’t want it.   The idea of going into a prison was utterly terrifying. I ‘d seen The Green Mile. So I knew – or thought I did – what going Inside was like. My fears were born out when I arrived at the prison. On the left was a rather beautiful house which turned out to be the admin building. On the right was a high wall with a large nasty coil of barbed wire and several forbidding notices outside.  I was to work in the latter.

Luckily, I messed up the interview almost as soon as I started when the governor – a kindly man who turned out to be a poet on the side – asked what I would do if I was running a writing session and a prison officer told us to leave the room. ‘I’d tell the men to finish half-way through a written sentence so that when they came back, it would be easier to pick it up again,’ I chirped. It’s actually quite a good useful writing tip but I could tell from everyone’s faces I had said the wrong thing.

‘And by that time,’ said the governor gently, ‘most of the prison might have escaped.’

Ah. I hadn’t thought of that one. From then on, I relaxed, knowing that I’d blown it. So when they rang that night to offer me the job, I was horrified. I rang a cousin who was helping me out with practical things during the divorce. ‘Go for it,’ he said. ‘What a challenge!’

Then I rang my sister. ‘You’re mad,’ she said. ‘You’re in a difficult emotional state at the moment. Why do you want to work in a depressing environment like that?’

That decided it. I accepted.

On the first day, I was given the keys to the prison. I had to wear them on my belt at all times and be sure to hand them in at the end of the day or I would be sacked on the spot. If they got stuck in a door (which did actually happen later on), I had to stay still until someone came to rescue me.  One had to be particularly careful going through double doors because there was only an inch or so between them and there were always those few seconds when both doors were open and the men on the other side could, in theory, rush through.

They never did.

I also learned, rather to my horror, that I would not be running my writing groups with any officers present. There weren’t enough staff. It would be just me and the men. Sometimes it would be me and just one man for one-to-one feedback. In practice, this was not as scary as it sounded. My writing workshops were voluntary. I was not part of the education curriculum. In fact, prisoners had to get permission from their wings to attend. (This is a very democratically-run prison with therapy in the morning and an extremely low re-offending rate, partly as a result.)  Nearly all the men I came across wanted to write rather than cause trouble.

However, I did have one very intelligent man who wanted individual help. On the surface, he looked like the kind of chap you’d invite to a diner party. But there was something about  him which froze me to my very soul. I later looked up his name on Google and felt pretty sick. But I carried on with our sessions and nothing happened.

One day, there wasn’t a room available for our workshops. The men – most of whom were rapists, murderers or GBH offenders - suggested I went upstairs to their communal lounge near their pads (bedrooms). I pointed out that this wasn’t allowed. ‘Why don’t you ask the signing-in officer,’ one suggested. I did, confident in the knowledge that he would say no. He said yes.

I then had a choice. I could go with the men and, if something happened, everyone would blame me for taking a risk. (I could just see the headlines about ‘naïve blonde going upstairs’). Or I could refuse and then lose the trust of these men with whom I had been working for a year. I chose the first. We had a very rewarding peaceful writing session.

On other occasions, however I was variously spat at by a prisoner; shouted at by someone because I’d lost his work (I found it the next day); and sexually intimidated  by another (the rest of the men in the group told him to leave in not such quite polite terms). 

One experience which will always stay with me, was talking to a man who had learned crime at his mother’s knee. For him,  robbery was a natural career progression. 

I helped him write  his life story which won a major national prize. This improved his self-confidence and behaviour (the whole reason for having a writer in residence) and will, with luck, help him make that transition back into society in a few years’ time.

I worked in the prison for two days a week for three years. But then I got married again and moved many miles away. I ran a couple of workshops in other prisons but they weren’t like ‘my’ prison. My heart wasn’t in it. At the same time, my novels which had until then been in the romance genre, began getting darker and darker. I kept thinking about the young women lawyers whom I used to see going into prison to visit offenders and so I began writing My Husband’s Wife which then got accepted by Penguin and became a Sunday Times best-seller. I have written three more since then, the latest of which is called I Looked Away and comes out this summer. A few months ago, MHW was optioned as a television series. I knew that my old prison hadn’t been able to afford another writer after I left, thanks to budget cuts so I decided to use the option advance to fund someone for one day a week over a year. I couldn’t afford any more than that. But it felt like the right thing to do.

I did, however, ask if I could be involved in the selection process which took place earlier this year This was much harder than I’d thought.  We advertised on social media and were deluged with applicants.  Some of them I knew personally as they were fellow writers. The governor asked me to draw up a short list but it was too hard. So I gave him twenty names and asked him to whittle it down.

Then came the tough part. I went back into my old prison to be part of the interview panel.

I hadn’t realised how daunted I would feel about going through those gates again. It was almost like doing it for the first time. Like me, the candidates were also interviewed by the prisoners themselves. I didn’t know any of them. ‘My’ men had moved on to other prisons. But their successors reminded me of how I’d felt when I first came face to face with an offender. Contrary to popular belief, prisoners aren’t all beefy with tattoos. Many look like a neighbour or a grandfather or a dad on the school run. But some do fit the stereotype. And part of the test for someone who works in a prison is to see if they can handle it.

We were then given debriefing sessions by the prisoners on what they thought of the applicants. And then we interviewed the latter about what they thought they could bring to the role. After that, the panel had to reach agreement on who to pick. Obviously I can’t go into personal detail. But I can tell you that by the end of the day, I was utterly drained. Perhaps it was because of the emotional trauma of going back into a prison environment. Maybe it was being close to offenders again. Or perhaps it was because I identified with the mixed emotions of the applicants.

I also looked back at my former self and wondered, to be honest, how I had done it. Yet at the same time, I am so glad I did. It is, hand on heart, the most rewarding job I have ever done. Many of my men told me that if I hadn’t encouraged them to write, they might have ‘clocked’ someone instead. Officers also reported that behaviour had improved.  For my part, the job had helped me step out of a sheltered middle-class life and into a very real world.   

I am now trying to get funding for another prison, near London, where I have been running some free workshops. If My Husband’s Wife gets to the screen, I have made a promise to myself that I will use that money to continue my support. Meanwhile, if anyone knows of a philanthropist, please get in touch! Writing is a great healer both for the reader and author. Let’s help to spread the word.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Capital Crime Festival Programme

Grand Connaught Rooms, London 
26 – 28 September 2019

Registration for Capital Crime 2019 5:30pm – 7:30pm in the upper lobby 

6.30pm – 11.30pm 

Opening Drinks & New Voices Awards
Opening night drinks in the Drawing Room and Edinburgh Suite with presentation of the New Voices Award.
This event is open to weekend pass holders only.

Registration for Capital Crime 2019 8:30am – 6:30pm in the upper lobby Goldsboro Bookshop open from 9:00am – 9:30pm in the Balmoral Room 
Drawing Room Bar open from 9.00am - Midnight
9.30am – 10.20am 

The Influence of Agatha Christie - Sophie Hannah, Ruth Ware, Christopher Fowler, John Curran moderated by LC Tyler. 

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? Round 1 
Capital Crime’s unique debut quiz pits teams of debut crime and thriller authors against each other. Hosted by Paul Clayton. 
10.30am – 11.20am 

The Interrogation of Mark Billingham 
Mark Billingham is put through his paces by Graham Bartlett, an experienced police detective. 
Crime on a Global Scale 
Vaseem Khan, Leye Adenle, Craig Russell, Abir Mukherjee talk international crime with Shaun Harris. 
11:30 – 12:20pm
Are We Living in a Spy Thriller? 
Charles Cumming, Frank Gardner, Tom Bradby and Stella Rimington discuss modern espionage with Adam Hamdy. 
Author Signings
12:30pm – 1:20pm
The Truth in Pieces 
Belinda Bauer, Jane Casey, Robert Goddard and Alex North piece together a mystery with Joe Haddow. 

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? Round 2 
Capital Crime’s unique debut quiz pits teams of debut crime and thriller authors against each other. Hosted by Paul Clayton. 
1:30pm – 2:00pm
2:00pm – 2:50pm
The Psychology of Tension 
Mark Edwards & Lisa Jewell in conversation

The Genesis of an Idea 
Anthony Horowitz and Adam Hamdy build an idea from concept to pitch live on stage. 
3:00pm – 3:50pm
London, the Capital of Crime 
Martina Cole and a special guest discuss London as an iconic setting for the crime and thriller genre. 
4:00pm – 4:50pm
The Human Cost of Crime 
Ian Rankin & Don Winslow in conversation
Author Signings
5:00pm – 5:50pm
Torn From History 
Simon Mayo, Kate Mosse and Antonia Hodgson talk historical crime with Anna Mazzola 

Is Crime Fiction a Problem for Feminists? 
Killer Women members Julia Crouch, Sarah Hilary, Amanda Jennings, Colette McBeth and Kate Rhodes in conversation. 

6:00pm – 6:50pm
Peter James & Lynda La Plante 
In conversation with Barry Forshaw 

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? Grand Final 
Capital Crime’s unique debut quiz pits teams of debut crime and thriller authors against each other. Hosted by Paul Clayton. 

7:00pm – 7:50pm
Mystery Panel 
To be announced autumn 2019. 

Author Signings
8:00pm – 8:50pm
Robert Harris interviewed by Steph McGovern 

9:00pm – 9:50pm

Author Signings
10:00pm - 12:00am
Exclusive Film Screening
Open to weekend and Friday pass holders

Registration for Capital Crime 2019 8:30am – 6:30pm in the upper lobby
Goldsboro Bookshop open from 9:00am – 9:30pm in the Balmoral Room Drawing Room Bar open from 9.00am - Midnight


09:30am – 10:20am
Mystery Panel 
To be announced autumn 2019

When Women Make Murderers 
Fiona Cummins, Laura Sheppard-Robinson, CJ Tudor and Olivia Kiernan discuss the success of female crime and thriller authors with Amy McLellan 

10:30am – 11:20
Chilled to the Bone 
Ragnar Jónasson, Will Dean, Antti Tuomainen and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir discuss the enduring and global appeal of Scandi Noir with Karen Sullivan. 
Is True Crime Better than Fiction? 
Jack Flynn, William Clegg QC, Colin Sutton and Robert Bridgestock discuss true crime as an inspiration for fiction with Emma Kavanagh. 

11:30am – 12:20pm
Beneath the Surface 
Elly Griffiths, Ali Land, Louise Candlish and Fiona Barton discuss how the truth is never what it seems with Erin Kelly. 
Author Signings

12:30pm – 1:20pm
Building Drama Page by Page 
Robert Glenister and special guests discuss the art of bringing an audiobook to life with Catherine Steadman. 

Britain’s Toughest Streets 
Dreda Say Mitchell, Steph Marland, Amer Anwar and MW Craven talk about how the gritty streets of Britain inspire crime fiction with David Mark. 

1:30pm – 2:00pm

2:00pm – 2:50pm
Kate Atkinson
In conversation with Jake Kerridge
The Wrong Side of the Law 
Tony Kent, Imran Mahmood, Harriet Tyce, and Steve Cavanagh talk about the shift from practising law to crime writing with Ayo Onatade. 

3:00pm – 3:50pm
The Forensic Mind 
Denise Mina and Ann Cleeves discuss what makes a great detective with Chris Ewan 

In The Mind of A Criminal 
Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, Simon Kernick and Winnie M Li discuss what makes a great fictional criminal with Jenny Blackhurst. 

4:00pm – 4:50pm
High Octane Thrillers 
James Swallow, Chris Ryan, Kimberley Howe and special guest discuss the popularity of the action thriller with Adam Hamdy. 

Author Signings

5:00pm – 5:50pm
John Connolly 
A career retrospective from the man himself. 

Changing Times 
How political and social change has been reflected in crime fiction with Mari Hannah, Joseph Knox, Stav Sherez, AA Dhand and Paul Burston. 

6:00pm – 6:50pm
Fantastic Crime 
When crime crosses genres Stuart Turton, Ben Aaronovitch and Sarah Pinborough in conversation with JD Fennell. 

Author Signings

7:00pm – 7:50pm
David Baldacci interviewed by Kimberley Howe
8:00pm – 8:50pm
Author Signings
Author Signings
9:00pm – 12:00am
Capital Crime Gala Cocktails and Readers Awards

Please note, author signings will be taking place in the Bamoral Room throughout the festival. Consult the Capital Crime programme (available at the festival) for details of when your favourite author will be signing.

David Headley's London Live interview about Capital Crime can be found here.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Dead Good Award Short List

The Nosy Parker Award for Best Amateur Detective
Who's been sticking their nose in where it doesn't belong? This award is for the civvie who can't resist mystery
 A Clean Canvas by Elizabeth Mundy
The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson
Red Snow by Will Dean
The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths
The Suspect by Fiona Barton
The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

The Jury's Out Award for Most Gripping Courtroom Drama
The stakes are high and the twists and turns are unpredictable. This award is for the book packed full of legal thrills.
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Marked for Death by Tony Kent
No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

The Dish Served Cold Award for Best Revenge Thriller
Retribution's the name of the game here. This award is for the book serving up just – or unjust – deserts.
Do No Harm by L V Hay
Final Betrayal by Patricia Gibney
Marked for Death by Tony Kent
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
The Puppet Show by M W Craven
Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

The Cancel All Plans Award for the Book You Can't Put Down
Clear your diary. Switch off your phone. Call in sick. This award is for the book that demands you keep reading.
The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson
Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan
The Night Olivia Fell by Christina Mcdonald
The Passengers by John Marrs
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
Sleep by C L Taylor

The Cat and Mouse Award for Most Elusive Villain
The hunt is on! This award is for those dastardly cunning criminals who are
particularly difficult to pin down.
Beautiful Liars by Isabel Ashdown
Do No Harm by L V Hay
The Infirmary by L J Ross
The Last of the Magpies by Mark Edwards
The Rumour by Lesley Kara
Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book
Which book do you press into the hands of everyone you meet? This award is for the novel you recommend above all others.
The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
Now You See Her by Heidi Perks
The Passengers by John Marrs
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
Sleep by C L Taylor
The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

Voting closes Wednesday 17 July 2019. Winners will be announced on Friday 19 July at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

The link to voting can be found here.