Thursday, 21 October 2021

A Crystal Clear Crime - The Glencairn Glass Short Story Competition

 The Glencairn Glass launches its first ever crime short story competition with the theme:

“A Crystal Clear Crime”

For the past two years, the world’s favourite whisky glass – The Glencairn Glass – has featured as headline sponsor of the prestigious McIlvanney and Bloody Scotland Debut crime-writing prizes, celebrating the finest in Scottish crime writing talent. This week The Glencairn Glass is building on this creative collaboration by launching its very own crime short story competition, in partnership with Scottish Field Magazine.

The Glencairn Glass is looking to celebrate up-and-coming literary talent through this exclusive competition from October to December.

The competition opens for entries on 20th October and runs until 31st December, inviting all budding crime writers to build their stories around the theme: ‘A Crystal-Clear Crime’ in no more than 2000 words.

The judging panel for the inaugural competition will comprise Deborah Masson, 2020 winner of the Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year with her book ‘Hold Your Tongue’, Peter Ranscombe, Scottish Field’s drinks columnist and author of the historical thriller ‘Hare’, as well as Glencairn’s marketing director Gordon Brown, who has written eight crime novels with his latest, ‘Thirty-One Bones’, written under the pseudonym Morgan Cry. Gordon is also one of the founding directors of the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival.

Gordon Brown commented: “We’re very excited to be launching the Glencairn Glass crime short story competition, supported by the team at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival along with the Culture and Business Fund Scotland, working with Scottish Field. We are delighted to invite both experienced and novice authors, alike, to take a stab at entering (excuse the pun!) and wish all entrants the best of luck.

Three prizes will be available for the winning trio of authors: the first prize winner will receive £1000, whilst the two runners up will each receive £250. All three winners will also receive a set of six bespoke engraved Glencairn Glasses to enjoy their favourite dram with. The overall winning entry will be published by Scottish Field in spring 2022 as well as on The Glencairn Glass website.

All short story entries must be uploaded at with the competition closing at midnight on the Friday 31st December 2021. Details can also be found at The winners will be announced in March 2022.

Blood Ties and the return of Ben Devlin by Brian McGilloway


In 2011, I wrote the final words of The Nameless Dead, the fifth in the Ben Devlin series. It was a strange experience. I already knew as I wrote the book that my publisher at the time would not be continuing with the series. The book then, while always intended as another instalment in Devlin’s story, also revisited some of the characters from Borderlands, bringing the series full circle in a way so that, if it was the end, it could serve as a satisfying conclusion.

My leaving Devlin behind also reflected the status of the Border itself in some ways. When I started Devlin, in 2002/2003, the Good Friday Agreement had, in effect, facilitated the removal of the last of the military infrastructure off the border crossings. Still, after so many years, the border was still a very real presence, at a psychological level at least, even after the border posts had gone. But, as I wrote the Devlin books over the next seven or eight years, charting the development of his growing friendship with Jim Hendry in the north, that psychological border began to weaken too. In the real world, I drove back and forth across the frontier without any awareness of its presence. My children were growing up, not really knowing what it meant in any concrete way. That may be why, by the time I’d written four Devlins, I turned my attention to the North and introduced a new character in Lucy Black with Little Girl Lost. I went back to Devlin for that fifth novel in 2011 to round out his story.

And then he stopped speaking to me., just as the border itself seemed to vanish.

The Nameless Dead came out in 2012 and, with that, I was out of contract. And then, for some reason, a year later, Little Girl Lost began to take off, both here and in the US, selling over half a million copies in a few months between the two territories and offering me a chance to keep telling stories. But the readership, and my focus, seemed to be on Lucy and her stories. Once or twice, I began to write a new Devlin story but found his voice was not there. The story was not his.

Brexit changed that. All at once, the border became a feature of conversation again, of discussion in the media – over here at least, though, strangely, seemingly not in Britain. Sides were redrawn, tribal identities reasserted. The psychological border reappeared. And with that, Devlin re-emerged in my consciousness.

Devlin has always been a punchbag for me – a chance for me to work out how I feel about things, and to explore my own responses and reactions based on his. Two years ago, I lost my dad after a short illness. It left me reeling – we were very close and Devlin’s kindness and decency were very much a reflection of my father, a truly kind, gentle man himself. So, while I did not set out to write a book that reflected on the loss of my father, it was natural that when I heard Devlin’s voice again, had his story begin to compel itself on me, it should be a story of loss and grief. One that looks at how family changes over time and the relationship between fathers and their sons.

It was important to me that Devlin should be the voice who tells that story in Blood Ties. The Devlin books have always explored the borderlands – the grey areas between certainties – and Devlin himself has always reflected an awareness that, here in the border area especially, there are no simple answers, no simple definitions. Devlin is father to both his son and his own father in this book, and yet also still a son himself, learning from both his parent and child. But now his children are moving on to college and his parents have passed: all the things by which he defined himself have changed. And, in the book, he must redefine himself. Or, at the very least, learn to accommodate those changes in his own sense of self-identity.

So, identity became the key theme of the novel, as reflected by the epigraph from the wonderful Elizabeth Jennings poem of that name. Issues of victimhood and the habit (in Northern Ireland especially) of creating a hierarchy of worthiness among victims, as if one person’s grief is more deserving than another’s, feed into that same theme of how we create an identity for ourselves and how it is created for us by others. In this book, the lines between victim and perpetrator are blurred and Devlin must constantly reassess how others are defined by his community even as he tries to redefine himself.

I am grateful to have found Devlin’s voice again, though in all honesty, it is not far from my own. I’m grateful to have him as a way to work out how I feel about the world. And I’m hugely grateful that anyone else would be kind enough to continue following both of us on that journey by reading one of these stories.

Blood Ties by Brian McGilloway (Constable) Out Now 

How can a dead woman avenge herself on her killer twelve years after her murder? This is the puzzle facing Ben Devlin in his latest case. He is called to the scene of a murder - a man has been stabbed to death in his rented room and when his identity is discovered Devlin feels a ghost walk over his grave as he knows the name Brooklyn Harris well. As a teenager, Harris beat his then-girlfriend Hannah Row to death, and then spent twelve years in prison for the murder. As Devlin investigates the dead man's movements since his release it becomes apparent Harris has been grooming teenage girls online and then arranging to meet them. But his activities have been discovered by others, notably a vigilante, who goes straight to the top of Devlin's list of suspects... until he uncovers that Harris was killed on the anniversary of Hannah's death - just too big a coincidence in Devlin's books. So Hannah's family join the ever-growing list of suspects being interviewed by his team. And then forensics contact Devlin with the astounding news that blood found on Harris's body is a perfect match to that of Hannah Row's. Yet how can this be; the girl was murdered many years ago - and Devlin doesn't believe in ghosts.

More information about Brian McGilowaay and his books can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @BrianMcGilloway.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

More Classic Hardboiled Crime From Telos

By popular demand, Telos Publishing is reprinting two more of the classic pulp 'hardboiled' Hank Janson detective novels from the 50s. Written by and starring the Chicago Chronicle reporter Hank Janson, the books sold in their millions back in the day, and were also subject to various 'obscenity' trials and court cases for their content and 'salacious' covers.

The two new titles, Milady Took the Rap and The Jane with Green Eyes hail from 1951 and 1950 respectively, and the latter title particularly is noteworthy for it's stand on racism, with several of the characters being particularly nasty examples of the type, and a racially-motivated trial taking place.

Both titles are being reprinted intact, with a warning that the content may offend modern readers, and they also have their original cover art from acclaimed artist Reginald Heade on the front. In the case of Milady Took The Rap, this is reissued complete for the first time with the sensational cover artwork that was intended for its original September 1951 edition but was dropped prior to publication in an act of self-censorship.

'Hank Janson' was in fact a pseudonym for British author Stephen Frances, who enjoyed much success with his novels in post-war Britain.

The two titles join the others already reprinted by Telos, and also herald the publication in December of Hank Janson Under Cover, a sumptuous large format, full colour, guide to every cover that the Hank Janson books have enjoyed world-wide, including many rarities and hard-to-find editions. Author and Janson collector Stephen James Walker has scoured private collections and libraries world-wide in his search for the titles, and this book is an unparalleled work, guaranteed to appeal to pulp paperback collectors world wide.

Milady Took The Rap and The Jane with Green Eyes are published on 26 November 2021

Hank Janson Under Cover is published 4 December 2021

For more information please contact David J Howe - 07905 311 733

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Capital Crime Amazon Publishing New Voices Award Winner Announced



Capital Crime has announced London-based journalist and writer Darren Boyle as winner of the 2021 Amazon Publishing New Voices Award for his thriller The Black Pool

He will receive a £1000 cash prize, a trophy, and a potential offer of publication from Thomas & Mercer, the mystery and thriller imprint of prize sponsor Amazon Publishing, whose authors include Mark Edwards, Claire McGowan, Dreda Say Mitchell and Damien Boyd. The announcement was made by judges Victoria Haslam and Tariq Ashkanani during a digital event hosted by Capital Crime Festival Director Lizzie Curle and broadcast today. It is available to re-watch here.

Boyle has more than 20 years’ experience working in the national media in Dublin and London. The Black Pool is set in contemporary protagonist who ventures deep into the murky world of gang- is he willing to risk for the ultimate story? 

Boyle has more than 20 years’ experience working in the national media in Dublin and London. The Black Pool is set in contemporary Dublin and features a journalist protagonist who ventures deep into the murky world of organised tiger raids gang- How much is he willing to risk for the ultimate story? 

Victoria Haslam, Amazon Publishing editor and New Voices Award judge, said: ‘It’s been a complete pleasure to read our finalists for the Amazon Publishing New Voices Award – the exceptionally high standard of entries has made this an incredibly difficult decision. However, Darren’s storytelling, setting, and authentic voice really shone, and he is an exciting new voice in the crime fiction world. I am delighted that we are crowning Darren our winner for 2021! 

Tariq Ashkanani, Thomas & Mercer author and New Voices Award judge, said: ‘It was absolutely fantastic to be a part of the Capital Crime New Voices panel this year. Finding new writers that can bring their unique voice to the crime genre is so important, and is a wonderful way to shine a light on the diverse talent that’s out there. Darren Boyle’s novel The Black Pool was an instantly gripping story, told with a fabulous, quirky voice and brilliantly sharp dialogue. But the quality of all the entries was incredibly high- trying to choose a favourite was very difficult! 

Haslam and Ashkanani, together with members of the Capital Crime Advisory Board, chose the winner from a list of 10 finalists. These were announced on 13th September and decided by popular vote, with members of the Capital Crime community, including Book Club members and all Festival passholders, voting for their favourite entries online. 

The Amazon New Voices Award is open to unpublished mystery, thriller, and crime fiction manuscripts in English from writers around the world. 

In acknowledgement of the quality of this year’s entries, the judges gave two honourable mentions to the shortlisted writers Patti Buff, a native of southern Minnesota who has lived in Germany for the last twenty years (for The Ice Beneath Me), and Casey King, an Irish crime writer from County Cork (for No Time to Cry). 

Generously sponsored by Amazon Publishing for the first time this year, the New Voices Award is a flagship event of Capital Crime, the UK’s leading year-round celebration for crime and thriller fiction. Capital Crime’s live festival will return to a new and tented venue in a central London park from Thursday 29th September to Saturday 1st October 2022. The celebrated crime and thriller festival will feature a wide-ranging line-up of events focused on accessible, mainstream fiction loved by readers around the world. Limited early-bird tickets are now available to purchase here. 

Lizzie Curle, Capital Crime Festival Director, said: “We’re very proud to be able to champion the next generation of voices in the crime fiction world with the help of Amazon Publishing and readers. Readers and crime fiction fans are at the heart of everything we do, and the Amazon Publishing New Voices Awards uses an innovative program which allows for them to vote for the book they’d like to read. Darren Boyle is their winner and we know he, and the other shortlisted writers have an exciting road ahead of them. A heartfelt thanks to all who have entered and voted in this year’s awards. 

The response to this year’s award was overwhelming: hundreds of entries from around the world, with writers from countries including France, India, Canada and the Netherlands. 

Join the conversation via | @CapitalCrime1 

Monday, 18 October 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Headline

 January 2022

Opals… In the desolate outback town of Finnigans gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please. Bodies… Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan. But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom? Secrets… As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight. Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever. Opal County is by Chris Hammer.

Real Easy is by Marie Rutkoski. It’s 1999, and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to taking anyone under her wing – after all, between her disapproving boyfriend and his daughter, who may as well be her own child, she has enough to worry about. But when Samantha overrides her better judgment to drive a new dancer home, they are run off the road. The police arrive at the scene of the accident – but find only one body. Georgia, another dancer, is drawn into the investigation as she tries to assist Holly, a detective with a complicated story of her own. As the point of view shifts from police officers and detectives to club patrons, the women circle around a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their own understanding of loss and love. As they get closer to the truth they must each confront a fundamental question: How do women live their lives knowing that men can hurt them?

February 2022

All That Lives is by James Oswald. An archaeological dig at the old South Leith parish kirkyard has turned up a mysterious body dating from around 700 years ago. The experts wonder if she wasn’t murdered and dumped, but some suspect that this gruesome discovery is a sacrifice, placed there for a specific purpose. Then a second body is unearthed. This victim went missing only thirty years ago – but the similarities between her death and the ancient body’s suggest something even more disturbing. Drawn into the investigation, McLean finds himself torn between a worrying trend of violent drug-related deaths and uncovering what truly connects these bodies. When a third body is discovered, and too close for comfort, he begins to suspect dark purpose at play – and that whoever put them there is far from finished.

March 2022

Winter, 1607. A man is struck down in the grounds of Battle Abbey, Sussex. Before dawn breaks, he is dead. Home to the Montagues, Battle has caught the paranoid eye of King James. The Catholic household is rumoured to shelter those loyal to the Pope, disguising them as servants within the abbey walls. And the last man sent to expose them was silenced before his report could reach London. Daniel Pursglove is summoned to infiltrate Battle and find proof of treachery. He soon discovers that nearly everyone at the abbey has something to hide – for deeds far more dangerous than religious dissent. But one lone figure he senses only in the shadows, carefully concealed from the world. Could the notorious traitor Spero Pettingar finally be close at hand? As more bodies are unearthed, Daniel determines to catch the culprit. But how do you unmask a killer when nobody is who they seem? Traitor in the Ice is by K J Maitland.

April 2022

It Starts at Midnight is by Harriet Tyce. New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes twelve. A lavish party in one of Edinburgh’s best postcodes is sent spiralling into chaos when two guests fall tragically from the roof, impaled on the cast iron railings below. For Tess, it was about more than reuniting with long lost friends. Recently diagnosed with an illness that could be terminal, it was her last chance to make things right. Having grown apart from her husband Marcus, she knew this would be the perfect opportunity to renew their vows, surrounded by everyone they love. Their time is running out. Tess’ closest companion Sylvie knows this better than anyone. She’s trying desperately to offer her friend some closure from the guilt that has plagued them both for decades. But as midnight approaches and the countdown begins, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want a resolution. They want revenge.

From the detective who helped catch the Golden State Killer, a memoir about investigating America's toughest cold cases, and the rewards - and toll - of a life spent solving crime. For a decade, from 1973, The Golden State Killer stalked and murdered Californians in the dead of night, leaving entire communities afraid to turn off the lights. Then he vanished, and the case remained unsolved. In 1994, when cold-case investigator Paul Holes came across the old file, he swore he would unmask GSK and finally give these families closure. Twenty-four years later, Holes fulfilled that promise, identifying 73-year-old Joseph J. DeAngelo. Headlines blasted around the world: one of America's most prolific serial killers had been caught. That case launched Paul's career into the stratosphere, turning him into an icon in the true-crime world. But while many know the story of the capture of GSK, until now, no one has truly known the man behind it all. In Unmasked: Crime Scenes, Cold Cases & My Hunt for the Golden State Killer Paul Holes takes us through his memories of a storied career and provides an insider account of some of the most notorious cases in contemporary American history, including Laci Peterson's murder and Jaycee Dugard's kidnapping. But this is also a revelatory profile of a complex man and what makes him tick: the drive to find closure for victims and their loved ones; the inability to walk away from a challenge - even at the expense of his own happiness. This is a story about the gritty truth of crime solving when there are no 'case closed' headlines. It is the story of a man and his commitment to his cases, and to the people who might have otherwise been forgotten.

June 2022

The Gatekeeper is by James Byrne. Dez’ Limerick is a “retired” British mercenary, checking out sunny Southern California when he finds himself in the wrong place at the right time, interrupting the kidnapping attempt of a military equipment corporation CEO’s daughter. Helping her to uncover a deadly plot buried within her own company, Dez exposes a sinister conspiracy that turns out to be bigger, more dangerous, and more personal at every explosive turn. 

The tide’s coming in. Every wave seems to lap a little higher. Erasing, bit by bit, the traces of what I did. Kenna arrives in Sydney to surprise her best friend. But Mikki and her fiancé Jack are about to head away on a trip, so Kenna finds herself tagging along for the ride. Sorrow Bay is beautiful, wild and dangerous. A remote surfing spot with waves to die for, cut off from the rest of the world. Here Kenna meets the people who will do anything to keep their paradise a secret. Sky, Ryan, Clemente and Victor have come to ride the waves and to disappear from life. But what did they leave behind? And how will they feel about Kenna turning up unannounced? As Kenna gets drawn into their world, she sees that everyone has their own fears to overcome and secrets to hide. What has her best friend got involved in and can she protect her? Because there’s one thing that each member of the tribe keeps telling her: nobody ever leaves. A word of warning. This place isn’t perfect, nor are the people here. There’s a darkness inside all of us and The Bay has a way of bringing it out. Everyone here has their secrets but we don’t go looking for them, because sometimes it’s better not to know. The Bay is by Allie Reynolds.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Books to Look Forward to From HarperCollins

January 2022 

All For You is by Louise Jensen. Lucy: Mother. Wife. Falling to pieces . . .Aidan: Father. Husband. In too deep . . . Connor: Son. Friend. Can never tell the truth . . . Everyone in this family is hiding something, but one secret will turn out to be the deadliest of all . . . Will this family ever recover when the truth finally comes out?

They all have opinions, they all have secrets. In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret. Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce - and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home. Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Jake don't really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she's trying to hide. When the local school introduces a new inclusive curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate. But the problem with having your nose in everyone else's business is that you often miss what is happening in your own home. Other Parents is by Sarah Stovell.

February 2022

Take Your Breath Away is by Linwood Barclay. It's always the husband, isn't it? One weekend, while Andrew Mason was on a fishing trip, his wife, Brie, vanished without a trace. Most people assumed Andy had got away with murder, but the police couldn't build a strong case against him. For a while, Andy hit rock bottom - he drank too much, was abandoned by his friends, nearly lost his business, and became a pariah in the place he had once called home. Now, six years later, Andy has put his life back together. He's sold the house he shared with Brie and moved away for a fresh start. When he hears his old house has been bulldozed and a new house built in its place, he's not bothered. He's settled with a new partner, Jayne, and life is good. But Andy's peaceful world is about to shatter. One day, a woman shows up at his old address, screaming, 'Where's my house? What's happened to my house?' And then, just as suddenly as she appeared, the woman - who bears a striking resemblance to Brie - is gone. The police are notified and old questions - and dark suspicions – resurface. Could Brie really be alive after all these years? If so, where has she been? It soon becomes clear that Andy's future, and the lives of those closest to him, depends on discovering what the hell is going on. The trick will be whether he can stay alive long enough to unearth the answers...

March 2o22

The Haven is by Amanda Jennings. Winterfall Farm, spectacular and remote, stands over Bodmin Moor. Wanting an escape from the constraints of conventional life, Kit and Tara move to the isolated smallholding with their daughter and a group of friends. Searching for a purer existence, they live off-grid and work the land, and soon begin to enjoy the fruits of their labour amid the breathtaking beauty and freedom of the moor. At first this new way of life seems too good to be true, but when their charismatic leader Jeremy returns from a mysterious trip to the city with Dani, a young runaway, fractures begin to show. As winter approaches, and with it cold weather and dark nights, Jeremy's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Rules are imposed, the outside world is shunned, and when he brings a second girl back to the farm, tensions quickly reach breaking point with devastating consequences.

You get away with murder. In a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, a fisherman vanishes without trace. His remains are never found. You make people disappear. A young man jumps from a bridge in Glasgow and falls to his death in the water below. DS Max Craigie uncovers evidence that links both victims. But if he can't find out what cost them their lives, it won't be long before more bodies turn up at the morgue...You come back for revenge. Soon cracks start to appear in the investigation, and Max's past hurtles back to haunt him. When his loved ones are threatened, he faces a terrifying choice: let the only man he ever feared walk free, or watch his closest friend die... The Blood Tide is by Neil Lancaster.

April 2022

Breakneck Point is by Tina Orr Munro. CSI Ally Dymond follows the evidence wherever it leads. Her commitment to justice has cost Ally her place on the major investigations team. After exposing corruption in the ranks, she’s stuck working petty crimes on the sleepy North Devon coast. Only when the body of nineteen-year-old Janie Warren turns up in the seaside town of Bidecombe can Ally put her skills to good use. Yet the evidence she discovers contradicts the lead detective’s theory. And no one wants to listen to the CSI who landed their colleagues in prison. Time is running out to catch a serial killer no one is looking for — no one except Ally. What she doesn’t know is that he’s watching, from her side of the crime scene tape, waiting for the moment to strike. When he does, Ally will be forced to question the true nature of justice like never before.

A nightclub singer with more than one secret hastily leaves London on The Queen Mary after her best friend's husband is murdered...only to discover that death has followed her onboard, in this thrilling locked-room mystery. London, 1936. Lena Aldridge is wondering if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho, and her married lover has just dumped her. But Lena has always had a complicated life, one shrouded in mystery as a mixed-race girl passing for white in a city unforgiving of her true racial heritage. She has nothing to look forward to—until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better, and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. But when a fellow passenger is killed in a strikingly familiar way, Lena realizes that her greatest performance won't be for an audience, but for her life. Miss Aldridge Regrets is by Louise Hare.

May 2022

To The Grave by John the second in the series set in Leeds featuring half Sicilian detective Joe Romano.

June 2022 

Such a Good Mother is by Helen Monks Takhar. Rose O'Connell is barely surviving. Her relationship with her husband is on the rocks and their son has isn't fitting in at his new school, the prestigious Woolf Academy. Their tiny flat in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood--the very place Rose grew up as the daughter of an infamous local con artist--can barely contain her family. Rose can't catch a professional break either, trapped in the same junior bank teller role for years. Life as the only mom in a name tag and uniform at The Woolf's shiny school gates isn't easy. Not so for those in the elite and secretive Circle, a tight-knit group of mothers who rule the school, led by the charismatic and glamorous Amala Kaur. In exchange for supporting The Woolf's relentless fundraising and public image drives, the women enjoy lucrative business opportunities, special privileges for their children, and the admiration of the entire community. After the mysterious death of one of The Circle's members, Rose dares to hope that filling the vacancy could set her family up for success. And when Amala makes the shocking decision to invite Rose into their clique, her fortunes, self-esteem, and status soar. But the deeper Rose gets inside The Circle, the darker the secrets lurking within every perfectly Instagramable life. Far from being a dream come true, being inside The Circle could prove Rose's worst nightmare...

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Flying Solo? Mike Ripley on writing his latest ‘Albert Campion’ mystery.

When I was first tempted to continue the adventures of Margery Allingham’s famous detective Albert Campion, almost ten years ago now, I had at least the starting point of a couple of introductory chapters written by her first ‘continuation author’, her husband, Pip Youngman Carter, who died in 1969, three years after Margery.

Asked to continue the series, placing an ageing, quintessentially ‘Golden Age’ sleuth in the Swinging Sixties (or thereabouts), I started Mr Campion’s Fox from scratch, saying that I hoped ‘to fly solo with, and do justice to, a great fictional character.’

With the publication of my ninth ‘Campion’ this month, which contains several flying scenes, it struck me that I have never really flown ‘solo’ with these stories.

For a start, thanks to Margery Allingham, I had wonderful, ready-made, resident cast of characters, notably Campion himself; Amanda, his wife of thirty years (in my timeframe); that solid and dependable policeman Charles Luke; the retired spymaster L.C. Corkran; and, of course, Magersfontein Lugg, that most magnificent of indestructible sidekicks. There was also Rupert, Campion’s son, who was coming of age and available to do some of the heavy lifting - or the ‘running, jumping and shooting’ (as Margery put it) which may be now beyond an elderly gentleman detective. And in one of his continuations, Youngman Carter had given Rupert a girlfriend, Perdita Browning, whom I made his wife, which opened the possibility of a ‘next generation’ of Campions.

Given such a repertory company, I could hardly be said to be flying solo when it came to creating characters. All I had to do was come up with a few plots, research the period I was writing about and stay on track with those much-loved characters, and none of that was done ‘solo’.

To keep faith with Margery’s characters, I had fabulous sources I could call on, the most important being Margery’s own Campion novels and short stories, and to avoid mistakes or fill in any gaps, I had the members of the Margery Allingham Society, who were far more versed in the Campion canon than I was. In addition, I had access to the Allingham archives now lodged in the Albert Sloman Library at Essex University, which gave me a fund of ideas and plot points, including, cheekily, allocating Margery’s passport number to an East German spy!

At work in the Allingham archive at Essex University

In an attempt to recreate the flavour of the original books, I decided to have, as often as possible, maps of the locations - mostly found (roughly) in Margery’s beloved East Anglia - mentioned in the story. There I was supremely fortunate in tapping in to the skills of Roger Johnson, an Allingham Society stalwart and a noted Sherlockian scholar, who has done fantastic work illustrating the topography in eight of the nine novels so far. Between us we have tried to capture the geography of Margery’s fictional world, though we might have invented extra parts of Suffolk..

Roger Johnson’s map for Mr Campion’s Fox.

And when it comes to basic plot ideas, especially on Mr Campions Wings, I had, literally, a flying lesson from my long time ‘technical advisor’ (i.e. on anything which remotely involves anything mechanical), research scientist and inventor, Tim Coles. Actually, more than just a flying lesson. 

Tim and I go back a long way, having met in Cambridge in 1971 whilst both of us worked vacation jobs in Joshua Taylor, the city’s poshest department store. (I think Tim was in ‘Electricals’ and I was in ‘Pots, Pans and Glassware’). His family home was on Barton Road - and the house features in the book - and he had a private pilot’s licence, hence the flying lessons. He had even, in a previous life when I was writing my ‘Angel’ series, taught me how to con my way into a local flying club and hotwire a light aircraft; purely for literary purposes, of course.

On one of our regular hook-ups, Tim said he had come up with a method of murder in an engineering workshop, though he was not sure how to get away with it. He was also keen on a Cambridge setting and, being a city of bicycles, had also thought up a bizarre form of velocipede (it’s in the book) which would have certainly appealed to Margery Allingham’s sense of the ridiculous. Given that Margery had decided, back in the 1930s, to give Amanda Campion (née Fitton) a career in aeronautical engineering and that Cambridge had been a kindergarten for spies, I was sure I could cook up something from these ingredients and the year 1965, for various reasons, virtually chose itself and fitted my Campion timeline perfectly.

But I still wasn’t quite ready to fly solo. There was one particular aspect of aircraft design and development in the 1960s I needed help understanding - an aspect which would be of interest to spies and worth murdering for.

Naturally I turned to another old pal, one who knew about both aircraft and spying, Len Deighton.

Now this wasn’t the first time I had picked the encyclopaedic brain of Mr Deighton. Some years ago, over lunch, our conversation had somehow ranged from the economic history of Florence under the Medicis to a currency scam in Vichy France during World War II and the basic plot of Mr Campion’s War began to take shape.

Ripley and Deighton plotting over lunch.

When I explained to Len what I was after, and the help I needed on (very) technical aspects of jet engines and aircraft design, he politely demurred, saying he was not up to speed on such things - however, he knew a man who was, his son Antoni, an aeronautical engineer in America. Antoni turned out to be an enthusiastic and incredibly patient teacher, answering my idiotic questions about hi-bypass engines and teaching me more about air-flow and wing design than I ever thought possible. 

I have made sure that Tim Coles and Antoni Deighton received advance copies of Mr Campion’s Wings (Severn House, 28th October), to give them plenty of time to discover all the mistakes I made despite their expert advice.

All of which goes to prove that when writing a novel, no-one ever flies solo and in my case, especially not with Margery Allingham looking over my shoulder.

                                                                                      Margery Allingham 1904-1966

Mr Campion's Wings by Mike Ripley (Severn House) Published 28 October 2021 £20.99

A gruesome discovery at an aircraft hanger leads Albert Campion into a turbulent mystery set in Cambridge in the middle of the Cold War. "I have often said that my wife is a constant surprise to me." Cambridge, 1965. The honorary doctorate ceremony for Albert Campion's wife takes a dramatic turn when Lady Amanda is arrested by Special Branch for breaking the Official Secrets Act. Never before having taken much interest in his wife's work in cutting-edge aircraft design, Mr Campion sets out to discover more about the top-secret Goshawk Project in which Amanda is involved. He quickly realizes he is not the only one keen to learn the secrets of the project. When a badly mutilated body is discovered at the Goshawk Project's hangar - the result, it would appear, of a bizarre accident - Campion is drawn into a turbulent mix of industrial espionage and matters of national security. And as he attempts to get to the bottom of the deadly goings-on, it seems that the bicycles and punts are almost as dangerous as the aircraft . . .

Friday, 15 October 2021

Sights and Sounds of Storytelling by Onyeka Nwelue


I wrote The Strangers of Braamfontein, because of my fascination of telling the human story, whether through cinema or book.

The Strangers of Braamfontein is a novel set in present day Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg.

It tells the story of Osas, a young and impressionable Nigerian painter, who escapes poverty and hardship in Benin City, and through the help of a travel agent, finds his way to Johannesburg. To survive, Osas must, out of necessity, live rough and spontaneously. In Braamfontein he encounters the Nigerian Janus-faced Chike, the Zimbabwean Machiavellian Chamai, the pawky Don Papi, the duplicitous Ruth, the savvy April and the fiendish Detectives Jiba and Booysen. Each encounter presents a never-ending string of adventures that lead him further into the dark and twisty underbelly of Johannesburg.

Aside portraying young characters who are both original and energetic, The Strangers of Braamfontein boldly grapples with issues that we don’t always get to tell, even though they pervade the larger part of our society. I am talking about violence, sex, drugs, murder, prostitution, bribery, religion and betrayal. These are the major themes this story seeks to explore through the lives of immigrants: the Nigerian drug-dealers, assassins, prostitutes, scammers, cultists, the Ethiopian human traffickers, the Congolese kidnappers, down to the Zimbabwean homosexual prostitutes and drunks; there are also the Malawian forgers, Angolan and Francophone syndicates, down to the South African blackmailers and gangs. These issues are quite urgent, and that is why I used a 19-year old Osas to set the path that I beat in the story.

A certain US publisher, who read the manuscript of The Strangers of Braamfontein after a mutual friend sent it to him, said: “It has taken me until now to read his novel – I have been struggling to keep my publishing house going during the economic downturn, and it has been hard! Can you offer me any advice? This is a new world for me, but I do very much want to publish African literature if I can. The dialogue in the book is in Nigerian Pidgin English. I completely understand that this lends realism to the book – and I grant that a reader of standard English has some obligation to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone in trying to comprehend this sort of dialect, but it does make a portion of the book unintelligible.”

He also went on to say, “The narration is generally speaking OK but even the English prose needs a lot of work.”

I lived in Mexico and Italy and find their literature quite alluring. Somehow, I thought there is no way I would write a work of fiction like a British author, because I am not British. In what way can I communicate as an African? As a Nigerian? Why would I write a story about Nigerians and not use Nigerian expressions? It was when I realized that all those revisions suggested by the editors were a way of rejecting the book, that I thought it is important to have this story out there. As a result, I set up Abibiman publishing to publish the book, as well as other works of literature, particularly from African voices, that choose to write in an authentic style and expression.

The Strangers of Braamfontein is my way of encouraging people to be authentic, to live the way they would and should, culturally. The idea of setting the dialogue in different languages is to discover and mine the originality in mimicking people: as an anthropologist, I spend my time, sitting at airports and parks, listening to people speak. This, I thought, would be the beauty of the book. It can only spark people to go find the meanings of words, to learn a new language and to learn about people.

The Strangers of Braamfontein by Onyeka Nweleue (published by Abibiman Publishing) Out Now

Osas is a young and impressionable Nigerian painter, who escapes poverty and hardship in Benin City, into the chaotic and crime-ridden belly of Johannesburg, through the help of a travel agent. But to survive, he must live a life of adventure and spontaneity and criminality. As Osas walks through the corners of Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg, he encounters the Nigerian Janus-faced Chike, the Zimbabwean Machiavellian Chamai, the pawky Papi, the duplicitous Ruth, the saavy April and the fiendish Detectives Jiba and Booysen, leading to a bolt from the blue. 

A review of The Strangers of Braamfontein can be found here.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Olly Jarvis on Using His Expertise


How thriller writer Olly Jarvis drew on his expertise as a criminal barrister to write his latest thriller

Like most people, I knew something about the famous characters in history and their accomplishments – from Boudica to Napoleon, Plato to Isaac Newton. All from different places in the world, and in time. What if there was a link, a common denominator that could explain their exploits? 

In my other life as a criminal defence barrister, my job is to persuade juries. To give them an interpretation of the facts that fits with my client’s case. It’s not easy, particularly when the evidence is stacked against the defendant. And of course, there is always prosecution counsel, presenting his or her own spin on the evidence. It’s not a perfect system, but the jury, in my opinion, gets it right 99.9% of the time.

There are similarities between the court process and writing a novel – can the writer persuade the reader to come on a journey through 100,000 words? When defending a trial, the case can be lost with one ill-judged question in cross-examination. With a novel, one illogical action by a character, or a clunky piece of dialogue and the author can lose the reader. This challenge goes to the heart of what I have tried to say with The Genesis Inquiry – not to persuade a jury, but the reader, of something extraordinary in our history. A whole new way of looking at the world. Something that I found more staggering, the deeper my research went. 

There are some remarkable patterns in the history of humanity, inevitably culminating in invasions and clashes of cultures, all based on some perceived difference between peoples. We still see it today.

When I was at school, I learnt about various religions, but not from the perspective of their similarities. It seems to be a human characteristic that we spend so much time focusing on the differences between us. Populations so often obsess over what they see as crucial distinctions between cultures and creeds. As I looked more deeply at ancient manuscripts and books, I learnt of so many forgotten links that join us together. The threads of history began to intertwine the further back I went. I had to unlearn what I had been taught and look at the evidence afresh, just as I would approach a new brief. 

A picture began to emerge that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I had the premise for an international thriller. Could there really be one undiscovered truth that links everything in our past, and provides the key to our future? Is there one critical place in time that set the tone for our epoch? A starting point. To my astonishment, I found such a place. I will leave it to the reader to decide if I’m right.

Who is Ella Blake?

The central characters in The Genesis Inquiry go on a life or death journey to uncover the truth about our past and ultimately, who we are and where we came from. 

The heroine, Ella Blake, is a top barrister with a PhD in history, but not the typical high-flyer one might expect. She’s battered and bruised from a long career of fighting trials. I wanted a modern-day protagonist that I recognised from my own experience of courts and robing rooms. Many criminal lawyers’ mental health is hanging by a thread. It’s only recently that the legal profession, like many other sectors, began to recognise and address issue of wellbeing. It’s not easy to manage the daily stresses and challenges of life in the courtroom.

Ella is a great lawyer who has given her life to her job, but at a cost - mental health, family relationships and more. Deeply flawed, but a good person with an innate sense of right and wrong. The dysfunctional relationship with her daughter, Lizzie, a headstrong student is another layer of conflict in the novel. 

The Genesis Inquiry is crime/mystery thriller but it’s also a story of redemption, of second chances, not just for Ella, but for all of us.

I hope you enjoy the ride…

The Genesis Inquiry by Olly Jarvis published by Hobeck Books (Out Now)

Is there one last undiscovered, great truth? A moment zero, a place in time that links all cultures and creeds? A revelation that will unite us all and change the way we see history forever. Brilliant but burnt-out barrister Ella Blake accepts an apparently simple brief: investigate the mysterious disappearance of an African American polymath from his rooms at Cambridge University. The Inquiry quickly becomes the greatest challenge of her life – solving the mystery of Genesis. Facing danger at every turn, can Ella find the answers to the riddles and clues left by the missing genius? Reunited with her estranged daughter, the Inquiry sends them on a quest across the world and through ancient texts. What is the secret that binds us all? Who is behind the dark forces that will stop at nothing to prevent the world from knowing the truth?

Olly Jarvis is a novelist and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now based in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the English criminal courtroom. His debut novel, Death By Dangerous was longlisted for the CWA 2016 Debut Dagger. He went on to write the acclaimed Jack Kowalski series, set in Manchester. Cut-throat Defence and Unconvicted. For more information about his books visit his website.

Olly is also the creator of The Crime Hub, a website that brings together the different mediums of crime fiction, true crime and the realities of the Criminal Justice System. Contributors include Ann Cleaves, Stephen Fry, Alfred Molina and many more. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Claire Gradidge on the Inspiration for Treachery at Hursley Park House


Inspiration strikes at strange times – and in strange ways. For Treachery at Hursley Park House, the second novel in my WWII series of crime novels set in and around the small market town of Romsey, it came as a vivid image of the opening scene. A party is being held in a stately home on the longest night of the year. Music, laughter, voices drift out into the frosty park where a young man lies drowned, a fragment of paper clutched in his hand. 

I’ve always loved the austere glamour of a winter landscape. Though I had no idea where the image had sprung from, I had already decided on a winter setting for the book – specifically 1942/3, when the tide of war was beginning to turn in Britain’s favour. A further influence may have been my fascination with the idea of the outsider – in this book, it’s not only the dead boy who is left out in the cold. 

I knew I needed to find a setting for the story that would take my readers further afield than Romsey. While my first novel, The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, (published as a result of winning the 2019 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller) had been set almost entirely in the town where I was born and brought up, for the second novel, I wanted to stretch my characters’ wings – and their roles. But the rest, at this stage, was still a mystery. What had happened, and how would my investigators, Jo (Josephine) Fox and coroner Bram Nash get involved?

Then came the part of writing that seduces me every time – researching the history, locality and real-life accounts I needed to provide the background for my story. 

Hursley Park House – approximately six miles from Romsey – had been requisitioned late in 1940 by the Ministry of Aircraft Production following the air raids of September that year which had effectively destroyed the Woolston and Itchen works in Southampton where the Spitfire was designed and manufactured. Production of the aircraft was moved into innumerable small factories and works throughout the region, while the design and management team of Supermarine were relocated to Hursley. This real-life history provided me with the perfect location for my opening scene: a Victorian sunken garden with a central pool. 

In my story, Jo is recruited to work undercover, investigating the leak of secrets from Hursley Park. Meanwhile, Bram becomes involved in finding out more about the young man’s death: not an accidental drowning as originally ruled, but a murder. Though their investigations begin separately, they soon interconnect, each discovering vital elements of the evidence they need to identify and track down the traitor – and killer.

A play, Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory – and a Heritage Open Day at Hursley Park House (now the HQ of IBM) played an important part in the development of the story, giving me fresh insights into the history of Supermarine’s occupation of Hursley House. I was lucky that both came before the first Covid lockdown was imposed – while the ‘Stay at home’ message was good for my writing output, it did put a hitch in some of the research. Like the protagonists of my story, I had to ask myself ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ Instead of travelling, I was able to find out about patterns of habitation and trace the byways that connected the various village settings of the story by studying old maps (courtesy of the National Library of Scotland), an unexpected pleasure for someone with relatively little sense of direction! 

My first book had been written as part of a PhD thesis, and I’d had the luxury of a relaxed academic deadline in which to write – and rewrite – the novel. Winning the Richard & Judy prize – and getting the book ready for commercial publication – introduced me to the keener pressures of real-life publishing deadlines. I was hugely supported by my agent Rowan Lawton and then editor Katherine Armstrong in what felt like a whirlwind of edits and page proofs. It turned out to be good practice for what lay ahead. While I had always planned The Unexpected Return to be the first of a series, it wasn’t until June 2020 that my publisher, Bonnier, confirmed they wanted a further two books featuring Bram and Jo. With a deadline for the ms of Treachery at Hursley Park House set for the end of 2020, it was as well my inciting image – that drowned boy in a winter garden – proved such a strong foundation to build on.

I’m currently working on the third novel in the series, set around D Day. In this, the action of the book is once again focused on Romsey. Jo will have some huge challenges, both personal and professional, to overcome if she is to bring a killer to justice once more. 

Treachery at Hursley Park House by Claire Gradidge (Bonnier Zaffre) Out Now DECEMBER 1942. As the war rages on, the accidental death of a young man is almost unremarkable. Except this young man was patrolling the grounds of Hursley Park House, where teams are designing crucial modifications to the Spitfire - and he was found clutching part of a blueprint. JANUARY 1943. Josephine Fox is given a code name and a mission as she is seconded to Hursley: uncover the network responsible for information leaks to the enemy. And when the dead man's father visits Bram Nash convinced that his son was innocent of espionage and the victim of murder, her friend is also drawn into the investigation. But as Jo and Bram circle closer to the truth, danger is closing in around them...

Friday, 8 October 2021

For The thrillers That Will Mess With Your Head by Liz Lawler


Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith was the first psychological thriller I ever read. The plot was utterly brilliant. Two men meet on a train, and by the end of their journey they have formed a twisted plan to swap murders. They can’t possibly get caught for their actions, because they are complete strangers to their intended victims. There is only one problem with their plan. Only one of them is a psychopath. This was not a whodunit, but about motivations in the mind of a killer.

It was probably ten years later before I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s take on the story. My dad didn’t read at all, he left school when he was ten and a half, and he wanted me to see this great film. I remember telling him I’d read the book, and him replying, ‘I bet you wish you’d known there was a film.’ Like it was a hardship for me to have read it when I could have just watched it.

Patricia Highsmith put me on the road to reading every other type of thriller story thereafter. My interest never waned. I think it’s the satisfaction of seeing all the clues comes together that keeps me glued this genre. After the thrill of chasing for the conclusion in my mind. I think I would have enjoyed being a detective. And in fact wanted to join the police when I was 18. My mum said I was too short. That I had to be five foot four. But even if I were half an inch taller, becoming a police officer was never on the cards. My mum had other plans for me. I was to be a nurse.

She was right, of course. I was a natural from day one. I found it easy to communicate with patients and put them at their ease. Nursing is a very hands on job and the last thing a patient needs is to feel self-conscious. As one minute you’re looking at their face, the next you’re inspecting their bottom. As that then causes problems. You don’t want someone with a broken hip, or worse, trying to cover up their privates or refusing to use a bedpan. 

So nursing was then my career and for many years it’s what I did.

Until one day after working a night shift, I came home intending only to take the children to school and myself then to bed, I picked up a pen and notebook and began writing a story. I don’t know what triggered it. Nothing in particular stands out from that night. It was a normal night for accident and emergency. I just remember feeling edgy, and having this need to write. Once started it then became impossible to stop. I was drawn in by characters I was creating and feeling an excitement building from where this plot was going. Weeks passed and every notepad I possessed had been filled in. Until one day it was finally finished. When I knew there was nothing more to be said. There was only one thing then left to do, and that was to read it.

It was after doing this when writing truly began for me. I enjoyed the story. It was bizarre, because even knowing what was to happen, I was feeling a tension and was wanting to get to the end to see everything turn out all right.

So I look back and ask myself how did it ever begin? Was it my love of reading that started it? Or was it something deeper that scratched at the surface? Repressed feelings? Or from a study of human nature? Nursing exposes you to traumatic events. Severe injuries, death, suicide and suffering. To characters with psychological complexities. Why does that woman stay with him? Why keep letting him beat her up? Why is that teenager self-harming? Why won’t that child sit with her mummy? Why did that lad kick another lad’s head?

With every patient you end up taking a little bit of their story away with you. Because you care and you feel and because what happened is real. I think one possibility, is that having stored away lots of memories, my mind decided to have a sort out. To free up some space in the hard drive. To save it from a crash.

The Silent Mother by Liz Lawler (Bookoutre) Out Now

I’m so very sorry. But your son is dead.’ As I hear the words every mother dreads my pulse races and I go cold. But even as my world turns upside down I know the things I’m being told just don’t add up. I have to find out what really happened the night my beautiful boy died… The police tell me it was a tragedy no one could have prevented. But then they reveal the terrible things Tom was keeping from me. The person they describe is nothing like the decent, honest man I raised. Newly qualified as a doctor, Tom had such a bright future ahead of him. A mother knows her own child. And I’m determined to prove my son’s innocence. It’s the last thing I will ever be able to do for him. So I have come to the city where he lived and moved into his empty flat under a different name. When I discover his diary, it becomes clear his death wasn’t an accident. And as I get to know Tom’s friends and neighbours I realise they’re all keeping secrets. But as I get closer to the truth, I realise my life is in danger too…

You can find follow her on Twitter @AuthorLizLawler

Author Bio-

Liz Lawler grew up sharing pants, socks, occasionally a toothbrush, sleeping four to a bed. Born in Chatham and partly raised in Dublin, she is one of fourteen children. She spent over twenty years as a nurse and has since fitted in working as a flight attendant, a general manager of a five star hotel, and is now working with trains. She became an author in 2017 when her debut novel Don’t Wake Up was published by Twenty7.